2297. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 220–222.
Tuesday evening [7 April 1846]
In my disagree .. able letter this morning, I forgot to write how, after you went away, & I came to read again the dedication, I admired it more & more—it is most graceful & complete. Landor will be gratified & grateful .. he, allowably: and only you shall be ‘hateful’ .. & only to me, dearest, .. so that it does’nt matter much. As to Ogniben, you understand best of course– I understood the “laughing gently to himself”, though I omitted to notice the Italics– I perfectly understood that it was the bystander’s observation.
Your letter came so late tonight that I despaired of it—the postman fell into a trance somewhere I fancy, & it was not till nine oclock that the knock (equal to the tapping of a fairy’s wand) came to the door. Now I have two letters to thank you for together .. for the dear one on monday, which lay in the shadows of your coming, &, so, was a little, little, less thought of than it could have been under any other possible circumstance .. & for this letter tonight. Well! & for Mr Buckingham’s voyage, if you will & can conveniently, (I use that word for my sake, not for your sake—because I think of you & not of him!) but if you can without inconvenience make enquiries about these vessels, why I shall be glad, & shall set it to your account as one goodness more. It would be easy for him (& you should have done it, in your voyage—) to take with him those potted meats, & portable soups & essences of game which would prevent his being reduced to common fare with the sailors. Then a mattress is as portable as the soups, nearly– Apart from the assafœdita, he may endure, I should think. Do you know, I was amused at myself yesterday, after the first movement, for liking to hear you say that “dry biscuits satisfied” you—because, after all, I should not be easy to see you living on dry biscuits .. Ceres & Bacchus forbid!– Oh– I dont profess to apply, out of a pure poetical justice, Lord Byron’s Pythagoreanism to the ‘nobler half of creation’:—do not be afraid!—but it is rather desecrating & disenchanting to mark how certain of those said Nobilities turn upon their dinners as on the pivot of the day, for their good pleasure & good temper besides. Did you ever observe a lord of creation knit his brows together because the cutlets were underdone, shooting enough fire from his eyes to overdo them to cinders .. “cinder blast” them, as Æschylus wd have it? Did you ever hear of the litany which some women say through the first course .. low to themselves .. Perhaps not! it does not enter into your imagination to conceive of things, which nevertheless are.
Not that I ever thought of you with reference to such—oh no, no!– But every variety of the “Epicuri de grege porcus”, I have a sort of indisposition to .. even as the animal itself (pork of nature & the kitchen) I avoid like a Jewish woman– Do you smile? And did I half (or whole) make you angry this morning through being so didactic & detestable? Will you challenge me to six paces at Chalk Farm, & will you “take aim” this time & put an end to every sort of pretence in me to other approaches between us two? Tell me if you are angry, dearest! I ask you to tell me if you felt (for the time even) vexed with me .. I want to know .. I need to know. Do you not know what my reflection must reasonably be? .. That if, apart from provocation & excitement, you believe in the necessity of such & such resources, .. provoked & excited you would apply to them.—there could be no counteracting force .. no help nor hope.
So I spoke my mind—& you are vexed with me, which I feel in the air. May God bless you dearest, dearest! Forgive, as you can, best,
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 10FN10 AP8 1846 A.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 148.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 599–600.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. In letter 2277, RB had expressed his vexation that he could not dedicate one of the last two numbers of Bells and Pomegranates to EBB. The dedication in Bells and Pomegranates, No. VIII is as follows: “I dedicate / These last attempts for the present at dramatic poetry / To a Great Dramatic Poet / ‘Wishing what I write may be read by his light;’ / —If a phrase originally addressed, by not the least worthy of his contemporaries / To Shakespeare, / May be applied here, by one whose sole privilege is in a grateful admiration, / To Walter Savage Landor. / March 29, 1846.”
3. An allusion to the instructions of Pythagoras to his followers to avoid eating meat and beans in order to keep their bodies pure. Byron was known to adopt strange diets to combat his natural inclination to gain weight (DNB).
4. Cf. Prometheus Bound, lines 410–424 in EBB’s revised translation published in Poems (1850). Her gloss here differs from both the 1833 and revised translations.
5. Underscored three times.
6. “A hog from Epicurus’s herd” (Horace, Epistles, I, iv, 16, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough).
7. Located on the south side of Primrose Hill and just above Regent’s Park, Chalk Farm became fashionable as a location for duels in the late eighteenth century because of its proximity to London and its secluded rural character (Old and New London, [1873–78], 5, 291–293). In a letter to Alfred Domett (no. 1847), RB referred to the famous duel between John Scott, editor of the London Magazine, and John Gibson Lockhart, editor of Blackwood’s, which took place at Chalk Farm in 1821 and resulted in Scott’s death.