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229.  Mary Moulton-Barrett to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 1, 240–242.

[Hope End]

Tuesday night April 3 d [sic for 4] [1826] [1]

My beloved Elizth As I have but a poor opinion of words, when they are expected to set down very faithfully matters of the heart, I will not impose upon them, the whole burden of the pleasure & interest your letter afforded me: You Poets know enough of the eloquence of silence to make you most useful correspondents to dull writers like me, who perhaps can feel, better than they can speak. You need not check your imaginings on the topics of my gratification from the affecte spirit of your letters. My admiration of the wise & moderate reception of Ly M’s observations, [2] & above all, of my gratitude, & surprize at dearest Mrs M[oulton]’s affecte generosity towards you: for tho’ her acts of generous affection are indeed too many to admit of ordinary wonder at any of them, yet this is of so serious a magnitude, that it cannot but make us feel more strongly than ever, that there can scarcely be such another Grand Mother in the world—& we have the comfort of believing, that there cannot be a more grateful Grandchild, which is the only just recompense she can receive for all her disinterested love in this world!– What have I to tell you in return for this truly delightful letter, my darling Ba! only I believe the cheering tidings that we are at length thawed by this first delightful day of spring, as Arabel & I experienced as we toiled over Wellington Heath, [3] she in her plaids, & me, in my pilgrims suit of grey, & lined gloves, all which, ungrateful as we are for the debts we owe them, we vowed to discard, in this first sunny hour of prosperity! Would it not be very possible for you & dearest Addles to enjoy the luxury of bathing now, for the probably short remainder of your happy visit! Indeed it seems an advantage that it would be a great pity to lose, & I believe it is a very desirable season to bathe, particularly on that warm shore, & when the weather is fine: if Granny & Treppy should not disapprove, pray try it—if only a few dips, they would be of use to you, if not to Hentta I must say that you acquit yourself most satisfactorily on the score of Lord Byron– & I wish your answer could be put in, in your own words, wherever the objection may be made which doubtless it will in many cases, tho’ not with Ly M’s sincerity [4] She certainly should have seen it, only that they are gone to London– Papa met Mrs Drummond yesterday, who said she had only just been able to procure her poem, & that she was going to send out two copies immediately to Malta to Lord Hastings Sisters or Daughters, who are very literary [5] – Col: & Mrs Money called here the other day, & spoke of it in high eulogium; something more, I might have extracted from Col: M. who is not only capable of forming an opinion, of his own, but has candor enough to avow it, only Mrs Watson was here at the same time, & as she has a good deal to say, & sat next the Colonel, I could not penetrate him further– Mrs W. spoke with great anxiety of Mrs Simpson who is to be confined again in July, & the dangerous symptoms of her former confinements, are so certain to occur again, that every apprehension is entertained for her– she has two boys, & a most kind Husband– (I am in hopes the poem will fall into |Millonans| hands, thro Mr Boissier who is his Curate) [6] – that is par paranthese—now to return to Mrs W: she told me that Mrs S— consantly sees poor Mrs R. Scarlett– five weeks ago, no hope was entertained for Robert, & his own spirits were dreadfully affected by the prospect– he is however a little better again; [7] The little Blissets & their Father [8] are with Mrs S—lovely children, tho’ not like the Mother. This is a gala day—Mr Daly’s grand annual party—tea at four, & the milk in the Dairy, invited with the company, to assist in the crumpets– Nothing can exceed Seppe’s important bustle of preparation, but Octavius lowers the dignity of the assembly extremely by persisting in it that he is going to drink tea with “pigs farm!”– Arabel bustled thro’ her music lesson in all speed, that she might adjourn to her toilette, but you will have sufficient recollections of the enchanting fête– Mrs Trant & Henry are coming today for a day or two, (Lent being over), so that there is altogether an extraordinary sensation here– I rejoice to hear that Mrs T. has had a letter from James, giving an excellent account of himself, of the crops, & of his happiness in Mont Serrat, [9] with which he is delighted– Dominic is still in the Reading gay world—he seemed to think Malvern deplorably dull—— Pray write to Sam more at length; he complains of your letters being short, tho’ you must not for the world, hint to him that I told you so—— I do not hear any thing more of dearest Papa’s journey [10] —thank God he is well & cheerful—— I fear Mary is not stronger: They are going directly to Tunbridge I fancy, I trust with benefit to her– after that Sam seems uncertain where to go—but I trust here: Henttas dear Mrs Lennard, is going abroad, pour s’amuser: [11] The Ernle Moneys are in London, & come some day this week to Marcle— Expectation is on tiptoe to see the girls, & divers are the conjectures how far they may be reconciled to their quiet parsonage, after seeing the world & collecting all its most attractive accomplishments— I must manage to go to see them, & will give you all details– Poor Mrs Webb is a little better—— Great is our surprise to hear that Mrs Wakeman [12] has let Malvern for a year to a Mr Burns a Catholic, because she is too poor to keep up both houses: he comes in May, & she goes to Sarnsfield– poor Miss Harper is to occupy a room at Mr Jenkin’s opposite– she is much the same, never likely to be well– it is sad to think that the good old lady must be so imposed upon by her steward & people about her, as to be so straigthened [sic]– I send you poor Miss Price’s kind note, which is we think very gratifying with regard to the poem, tho’ most painfully descriptive of her own heart rending anxieties!– Dominic has presented his Mother with his Grand Mothers little poney carriage & poney, in which we are to take a drive tomorrow– Mrs T– has taken her house at M[alvern]— for another year, & says she would not live in London for the world! She is looking very well & happy—& Henry quite agreeable– James says he found Trants like a cullender, but he has made it as tight as a bottle, & has established himself comfortably for two years– I finish while Jane curls & brushes my hair, so do not wonder at the strange variety in my letters– The united loves from all here, to all your loved circle–

My own dear Ba’s & Hentta’s fondly affecte

Mother

Take care of Miss P’s note because I want to preserve all opinions I can collect of the [13] poem.

Addressed and franked by EBB’s uncle on integral page: Tunbridge Wells. April nine / 1826. / Miss Barrett / Mrs Moulton’s / Paragon / Hastings / S M Barrett / [and in Mary Moulton-Barrett’s hand, on reverse when folded] Ba–

Publication: None traced.

Manuscript: British Library.

1. Year determined from frank. If Mary Moulton-Barrett correctly named the day as Tuesday, it was 4 April.

2. Lady Margaret Maria Cocks (1791–1849), daughter of the 1st Earl Somers of Eastnor Castle, and herself a poetess.

3. Two miles N. of Ledbury, bordering the Hope End estate and within walking distance of the main house.

4. Apparently a response to Lady Margaret’s criticism of EBB’s “Stanzas on the Death of Lord Byron,” recently republished in An Essay on Mind (pp. 117–119).

5. Francis, 1st Marquis of Hastings (1754–1826), was at this time Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Malta. Although he had two sisters still living, both were married and unlikely to be in Malta; it was probably his four unmarried daughters who were “very literary.”

6. Probably the Rev. Peter Edward Boissier of Malvern Wells. The other clergyman mentioned (Millonan?) has not been identified.

7. Robert Scarlett (1794–1861) was the eldest son of James Scarlett (later Lord Abinger) and his wife Louise. Mary Moulton-Barrett wrote to Henrietta on 11 April 1826 (SD550) that she had had “a most distressing account of poor Robert Scarlett who is in a state of hopeless decline & general decay … His doating Parent is distracted with her grief.”

8. Joseph Blisset lived with his family at Letton Court, Hanmer’s Cross, between Hereford and Hay-on-Wye.

9. The Trants had an estate in Montserrat, in the West Indies.

10. According to family letters, he was in London.

11. “To enjoy herself.” Mrs. Lennard has not been identified.

12. James Best, in A Description of Malvern … (1825), identified Mrs. Wakeman as a Roman Catholic who had the gift of one of the local ecclesiastical livings (Little Malvern). Because of her faith, she was able to make a nomination, but the formal presentation of the living had to be made for her by Earl Somers (p. 175).

13. Underscored five times.

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