2294. RB to EBB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 214–216.
Sunday. [5 April 1846]
I sent you some even more than usual hasty, foolish words,—not caring much, however—for dearest Ba shall have to forgive my shortcomings every hour in the day,—it is her destiny, and I began unluckily with that stupidest of all notions,—that about the harm coming of genius &c so I fell with my subject and we rolled in the mud together,—pas vrai? But there were so many other matters alluded to in your dearest, (because last) letter—there are many things in which I agree with you to such a tremblingly exquisite exactness, so to speak, that I hardly dare cry out lest the charm break, the imaginary oscillation prove incomplete and your soul, now directly over, pass beyond mine yet, and not stay! Do you understand, dear soul of my soul, dearest Ba? Oh, how different it all might be! In this House of Life,—where I go, you go,—where I ascend, you run before,—where I descend, it is after you– Now, one might have a piece of Ba, but a very little of her, and make it up into a Lady and a Mistress, and find her a room to her mind, perhaps where she should sit and sing, “warble, eat and dwell,” like Tennyson’s blackbird—and to visit her there with due honor one might wear the finest of robes, use the courtliest of ceremonies,—and then,—after a time, leave her there and go, the door once shut, without much blame, to throw off the tunic and put on Lord Compton’s blouse and go whither one liked—after, to me, the most melancholy fashion in the world– How different with us! If it were not, indeed,—what a mad folly would marriage be! Do you know what quaint thought strikes me, out of old Bunyan on this very subject? He says (with another meaning, though) “who would keep a cow, that may buy milk at a penny the quart”—(elegant allusion)– Just so,—whoever wants “a quart” of this other comfort, as solace or whatever it may be, (at breakfast or tea time, too)—why not go and “buy” the same, and having discussed it, drink claret at dinner at his club? Why did not Mr Butler read Fanny Kemble’s verses, paying his penny of intellectual labour, and see her play “Portia” at night, and make her a call or ride with her in the middle of the day,—why “keep the cow”? But—don’t you know they prescribe to some constitutions the perpetual living in a cow-house? the breath, the unremitting influence is every thing,—not the milk .. (now, Ba—Ba is suddenly Ιω πλανωμενη—and Mrs Jameson is the gadfly—and I am laughed at—not too cruelly, or the other lock of hair becomes mine—with which locks, and not with Louis Seize iron knicknack ones, I rather think I was occupied last time, last farewell-taking—)
From all which I infer … that I shall see you to-morrow! Yes, or I should not have the heart to be so glad & absurd.
Well, to-morrow makes amends—dear, dear Ba! Why do you persist in trying to turn my head so? It does not turn, I look the more steadfastly at the feet & the ground, for all your trying and trying! But something shocking might happen,—would happen, if it were not written that I am to get nothing but good from Ba,—and who, who began calling names, who used the word “flatterer” first?
Bless you my own dearest flatterer– I love you with heart and soul– Are you down-stairs to day?—it is warm, the rain you like—yes, you are down I think– God keep you wherever you are!
Your own RB
I went last night to Lord Compton’s father’s Soirée,—and for all our deep convictions, and philosophic rejoicing, I assure you that, of the two or three words that we interchanged,—congratulations on the bright fortune of his son formed no part,—any more than intelligence about ordering Regiments to India whenever I meet the relatives of the ordered. —And yesterday morning I planted a full dozen more rose-trees, all white—to take away the yellow-rose reproach!
Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St.
Postmark: PD 10FN AP6 1846 B.
Docket, in EBB’s hand: 151.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 591–593.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. “Not so?”
3. Perhaps an allusion to “House of Life” in Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici (1643), pt. 2, sect. 13; a copy of Thomas Browne’s Works (1686), which contained Religio Medici, sold as lot 422 in Browning Collections (see Reconstruction, A316).
4. Tennyson, “The Blackbird” (1842), line 4.
5. See letter 2289, note 2.
6. Cf. John Bunyan, The Life and Death of Mr. Badman, Presented to the World in a Familiar Dialogue between Mr. Wiseman and Mr. Attentive (1680), p. 293.
7. Fanny Kemble Butler and her husband Pierce Butler had been informally separated since late 1843—a more permanent separation took place when Mrs. Butler sailed for England in September 1845. The couple finally divorced in 1849.
8. “Ever-wandering Io.” The priestess Io was seduced by Zeus, who changed her into a heifer to hide her from Hera. Hera, however, was not deceived, and sent a gadfly to pursue and torment Io. Æschylus gives an account of her wanderings in Prometheus Bound, as does EBB in her translation thereof.
9. See the penultimate paragraph of letter 2288.
10. EBB applied this term to RB in letter 1900.
11. The Athenæum of 11 April 1846 (no. 963, p. 373) reported that “The concluding Soirée, on Saturday last, of the President of the Royal Society, the Marquis of Northampton, had as usual a brilliant attendance.” See letter 2220, note 2.
12. See letter 2285, note 8, and letter 2289, note 1.
13. See 2229, note 7.