2283. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 195–197.
Tuesday evening. [31 March 1846]
If people were always as grateful to other people for being just kind to themselves, .. what a grateful world we should have of it! The actual good you get out of me, may be stated at about two commas & a semi-colon—do I overstate it, I wonder? You, on the other side, never overstate anything .. never enlarge .. never exaggerate!– In fact, the immense ‘worldly’ advantages which fall to you from me, are plain to behold—. Dearest, what nonsense you talk sometimes, for a man so wise! nonsense as wonderful in its way for ‘Robert Browning’, as the dancing of polkas!– The worst is, that it sets me wishing impotently, to do some really good helpful thing for you—and I cannot, cannot. The good comes to me from you, & will not go back again. Even the loving you, .. which is all I can, … have I not had to question of it again & again … “Is that good?” Now see.
I shall be anxious to hear your own thoughts of the ‘Soul’s tragedy’ when you have it in print. You liked Luria better for seeing it printed—and I must have you like the Tragedy in proportion. It strikes me. It is original, as they say– There is something in it awakening .. striking:—and when it has awakened, it wont let you go to sleep again immediately.
And of yourself, not a word. You might have said one word—but you have been in London which makes me hope that you are perhaps a little better .. or at least not worse. Oh, I do not hope much while you are about this printing– You are sure not to be well– That is to be accepted as a necessary consequence—it cannot be otherwise. The comfort is, that the whole will be put away in a week or ten days, & that then I may set myself to hope for you, as the roses to blow in June. Fit summer-business, that will be! And you will help me, & walk & take care.
What do you think I have been doing today to Mr Kenyon? Sending him the “enchanted poetry” which such as you are never to see .. the translation about Hector & Andromache!—yes, really. Yet after all it is not that I like him so much better than you .. I do not indeed .. it is just that Miss Thomson & her book are of consequence to him, & that he hears through Miss Bayley & herself of the attempt here & the failure there, .. & so, being interested altogether, he asked me to let him see what I did with Homer. And it is not much. Old Homer laughs his translators to very scorn .. & he does not spare me, for being a woman. Surpassingly & profoundly beautiful that scene is. I have tried it in blank verse. About a year ago, when I had a sudden fit of translating, I made an experiment on the first fifty lines of the Iliad in a rhymed measure which seemed to me rather nearer to the Greek cadence than our common heroic verse– Listen to what I remember–
Thus he spake in his prayer: and Apollo gave ear to the whole;
And came down from the steep of Olympus, with wrath in his soul;
On his shoulder the bow, & the quiver fast woven by fate,
And the darts hurtled on, as he trod, with the thrill of his hate
And the step of his godhead. Like night did he travel below—
And he sate down afar from the ships, and drew strong to the bow–
And so we get to the arrows you talked of .. ah, do you remember .. do you remember? .. which were to kill my dogs & mules, you said! But they did’nt. I have an enchanted dog (“which nobody can deny”!) and am not far to seek in my Apollo.
Today I had a letter from Miss Mitford who says that, inasmuch as she does not go to Paris, she shall come for a fortnight to London & “see me everyday”.!! No time is fixed—but I look a little aghast. Am I not grateful & affectionate? Is it right of you, not to let me love anyone as I used to do? Is it in that sense that you kill the dogs & mules? Perhaps. The truth is, I would rather she did not come—far rather. And she may not, after all— … now I am ashamed of myself thoroughly.
I have not been down stairs today .. the weather seemed so doubtful. Tomorrow, if it is possible, I will .. must .. do it. So .. goodbye till the day after!—thursday. May God bless you everyday! & if only as I think of you, .. you wd not lose much! Your Ba–
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 10FN10 AP1 1845 A.
Dockets, in RB’s hand: 143.; + Thursday, April 2. 1846. / 3–5½. p.m. (56).
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 576–578.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. See the preceding letter, note 1. Most of EBB’s notes were of a technical rather than substantive nature.
3. RB had first mentioned the polka, a relatively new dance at the time, in letter 1888; and in letter 2131, EBB mentions that her brother George “thought it worth while going to Mr. Talfourd’s yesterday, just to see the author of the ‘Paracelsus’ dance the polka” (see also letter 2133).
4. In letter 2274, RB had called EBB’s translations for Miss Thomson “enchanted poetry.”
5. These lines from the Iliad (I, 43–50) formed part of lot 166 in Browning Collections (see Reconstruction, D1235; now at Wellesley).
6. See letter 1906, note 2.