2288. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 203–205.
Friday. [Postmark: 3 April 1846]
Dearest, your flowers make the whole room look like April, they are so full of colours .. growing fuller & fuller as we get nearer to the sun. The wind was melancholy too, all last night—oh, I think the wind melancholy, just as you do,—or more than you do perhaps .. for having spent so many restless days & nights close on the sea-shore in Devonshire, I seem now always to hear the sea in the wind, voice within voice!– But I like a sudden wind, not too loud, .. a wind which you hear the rain in rather than the sea .. and I like the half cloudy half sunny April weather, such as we have it here in England, with a west or south wind—I like & enjoy that; & remember vividly how I used to like to walk or wade nearly up to my waist in the wet grass or weeds, with the sun overhead, & the wind darkening or lightening the verdure all round.
But none of it was happiness, dearest dearest– Happiness does not come with the sun or the rain. Since my illness, when the door of the future seemed shut & locked before my face, & I did not tire myself with knocking any more, .. I thought I was happier, .. happy, I thought .. just because I was tranquil unto death. Now I know life from death, .. & the unsorrowful life for the first time since I was a woman; though I sit here on the edge of a precipice in a position full of anxiety & danger. What matter, … if one shuts one’s eyes, & listens to the birds singing? Do you know, I am glad .. I could almost thank God .. that Papa keeps so far from me .. that he has given up coming in the evening .. I could almost thank God. If he were affectionate, & made me, or let me, feel myself necessary to him, .. how should I bear (even with any reason on my side) to prepare to give him pain—?. So that the Pisa business last year, by sounding the waters, was good in its way .. & the pang that came with it to me, was also good—. He feels!—he loves me .. but it is not (this, I mean to say) to the trying degree of feeling & love .. trying to me. Ah, well!– In any case, I should have ended, probably, in giving up all for you .. I do not profess otherwise. I used to think I should, if ever I loved anyone .. & if the love of you is different from, it is greater than anything preconceived .. divined.
Mrs Jameson the other day, brought out a theory of hers which I refused to receive, & which I thought to myself, she would apply to me some day, with the rest of what Miss Mitford calls “those good for nothing poets & poetesses”. She maintained, (Mrs Jameson did) that “artistical natures never learn wisdom from experience .. that sorrow teaches them nothing .. leaves no trace at all .. that the mind is modified in no way by passion .. suffering”. Which I disbelieved quite, & ventured to say on the other side, that [“]although practically a man or woman might not be wiser, through perhaps the interception of a vivid apprehension of the present, which might put back the influence of the future over actions, .. yet that it was impossible for a selfconscious nature (which all these artistic natures are) & a sensitive nature, not to receive some sort of modification from things suffered—” “No—” she said, “they did not! she had known & loved such!—& they were like children, all of them, & essentially immature”. But she did not persuade me– What is inequality of nature, as Dugald Stewart observed it, (& did he not say that men of genius had lop-sided minds?) is different, I think, from immaturity in her sense of the word. We were talking of her friend Mrs Butler, which brought us to the subject. Presently she will say of you & me .. “Just see there! she meant no harm, poor thing, I dare say .. but she acts like a child!– And, for him, his is the imbecility of most regent genius .. such as I am to live to see confessed imperial, or I die a disappointed woman”.!
Do you hear? I do, distinctly. You, in the meantime, are looking at the “locks” .. just as poor Louis Seize did when they were preparing his guillotine.
May God bless you my own dearest– Think of me a little; as you say!
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 8NT8 AP3 1846 E.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 144.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 581–582.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. An allusion to Bro’s death while sailing in Babbacombe Bay.
2. See letter 2004, note 6.
3. Frances (“Fanny”) Anne Butler (née Kemble) and her husband had separated the previous September; they were divorced in 1849.
4. Louis XVI had an amateur interest in locks (see letter 2294).