2293.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 212–214.


Sunday. [5 April 1846][1]

It seems to me the safest way to send back the proofs by the early monday post: you may choose perhaps to bring the sheet corrected, into town when you come, & so I shall let you have what you sent me, before you come to take it .. though I thought first of waiting. Tomorrow I shall force you to tell me how you like the Tragedy now! For my part, it delights me—& must raise your reputation as a poet & thinker .. must. Chiappino is highly dramatic in that first part, & speaks so finely sometimes, that it is a wrench to one’s sympathies to find him overthrown. Do you know, that, as far as the temper of the man goes, I am acquainted with a Chiappino[2] .. just such a man, in the temper, the pride & the bitterness .. not in other things. When I read your manuscript I was reminded—but here in print, it seems to grow nearer & nearer. My Chiappino has tired me out at last—I have borne more from him than women ought to bear from men, because he was unfortunate & embittered in his nature & by circumstances, & because I regarded him as a friend of many years. Yet, as I have told him, anyone, who had not such confidence in me, would think really ill of me through reading the insolent letters which he has thought fit to address to me on what he called a pure principle of adoration– At last I made up my mind (& shall keep it so) to answer no letter of the kind—. Men are ignoble in some things, past the conceiving of their fellows. Again & again I have said .. ‘Specify your charge against me’—but there is no charge. With the most reckless & dauntless inconsistency I am lifted half way to the skies, & made a mark there for mud pellets—so that I have been excited sometimes to say quite passionately .. ‘If I am the filth of the earth, tread on me—if I am an angel of Heaven, respect me—but I cant be both, remember’! See where your Chiappino leads you .. & me! Though I shall not tell you the other name of mine– Whenever I see him now, I make Arabel stay in the room—otherwise I am afraid—he is such a violent man. A good man though, in many respects, & quite an old friend. Some men grow incensed with the continual pricks of ill-fortune, like mad bulls—some grow tame & meek.

Well—I did not like the spirit of the Athenæum remarks either. I like what you say. These literary men are never so well pleased, as in having opportunities of barking against one another—&, for the Athenæum people, if they wanted to be didactic as to morals, they might have taken occasion to be so out of their own order, & in their own country. And then to bring in Balzac so![3] The worst of Balzac (who has not a fine moral sense at any time, great & gifted as he is) the very worst of him, is his bearing towards his literary brothers .. the manner in which he, who can so nobly present genius to the reverence of humanity, in scientific men, .. (as he describes them in his books ..) always dishonors & depreciates it in the man of letters & the poet. See his “Grand homme de province à Paris”,[4] one of the most powerful of his works!—but the remark is true everywhere. I go on writing as if I were not to see you directly– It is past four oclock—& if Mr Kenyon does not come today, he may come tomorrow, & find you, who were here last thursday to his knowledge!– Half I fear.

Observe the proof. Since you have two, you say, I have not scrupled to write down on this ever so much improvidence, which you will glance at & decide upon finally.[5]

‘Grateful’ .. ‘grateful’ .. what a word that is. I never would have such a word on any proof that came to me for correction. Do not use such inapplicable words—do not, dearest!—for you know very well in your understanding (if not in your heart) that if such a word is to be used by either of us, it is not by you– My word, I shall keep mine– I am ‘grateful’—you cannot be ‘grateful’ .. for ineffable reasons ..


“Pour bonnes raisons

Que l’on n’ose dire,

Et que nous taisons.”[6]

For the rest, it is certainly very likely that you may “want all your faculties, & more” … to bear with me .. to support me with graceful resignation: & who can tell whether I may not be found intolerable after all?

By the way (talking of St Catherine’s wheels & the like torments) you wrote “gag” .. did you not? .. where the proof says “gadge”[7]—I did not alter it. More & more I like Luria.

Your Ba–

Mr Kenyon has been here—so our Monday is safe.

Address: Robert Browning Esqre.

Postmark: None. Letter was sent with proofsheets under separate cover sheet.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 146.; + Monday, Apr. 6. / 3–5¾.p.m. (57.)

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 589–591.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Dated by EBB’s reference to the article in The Athenæum of 4 April.

2. i.e., George Barrett Hunter; for a biographical sketch, see vol. 3, pp. 315–316.

3. The report in The Athenæum contained the following reference to Balzac: “Till now, we were disposed to regard M. de Balzac’s frightful delineation of the literary world of Paris as the fiction of an offended vanity, left behind in the career of bad popularity. But the facts disclosed in the Court of Justice of Rouen exceed in moral degradation all that even he has imagined or copied.” The novelist was one of Dujarier’s pallbearers.

4. The central figure in Balzac’s 1839 novel is Lucien de Rubempré, an aspiring provincial poet who goes to Paris filled with high ideals and dreams of fame. But, manipulated by his own ambition and faced with a corrupt literary world of hack writers and greedy journalists, he abandons his ideals and reveals himself to be a pathetic weakling. In a letter to Miss Mitford in December 1844, EBB wrote that “It was not Paris that destroyed him: it is not provinicial life that will save him. He bears his ruin within. He is incomplete as an intellectual being—& his curse is, to have aspiration without power” (see letter 1794).

5. This proof with EBB’s notes is not extant. It may be what RB is referring to in letter 2296.

6. “For good reasons / Which we dare not tell, / And which we keep secret.” We have been unable to identify the source of this quotation.

7. In A Soul’s Tragedy, I, 332. See RB’s explanation in letter 2309.


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