2303.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 232–234.


Friday Mg [Postmark: 10 April 1846]

Dearest, sweetest, best—how can you, seeing so much, yet see that “possibility”—I leave off loving you! and be “angry” and “vexed” and the rest! Well—take care I don’t answer fairly & plainly that I can do all this,—as the poor women used to confess in their bewilderment when grave judges asked “by which of the thirty-seven ways they were accustomed to signify their desire of his presence to Asmodeus”[1]—&c. &c. But I cannot jest, nor trifle here. I protest in the most solemn way I am capable of conceiving, that I am altogether unable to imagine how or whence or why any possible form of anger or vexation or any thing akin can or could or should or shall ever rise in me to you—it is a sense hitherto undreamed of, a new faculty—altogether an inexplicable, impossible feeling. I am not called on, surely, to suppose cases of pure impossibility? To say, “if you did thus or thus,”—what I know you could no more do than go and kill cows with your own hand, and dig up kale grounds?[2] But I can fancy your being angry with me, very angry—and speaking the truth of the anger—that is to be fancied: and God knows I should in that case kiss my letters, here, till you pleased to judge me not unworthy to kiss the hem of your garment again.[3] My own Ba! My election is made, or God made it for me,—and is irrevocable. I am wholly yours. —I see you have yet to understand what that implies,—but you will one day. And in this, just said, I understand serious anger, for serious offences; to which, despite my earnest endeavour, who shall say I may not be liable? What are you given me for but to make me better—and, in that, happier? If you could save my soul, “so as by fire,”[4] would your dear love shrink from that? But in the matter we really refer to … Oh, Ba, did I not pray you at the beginning to tell me, the instant you detected anything to be altered by human effort? to give me that chance of becoming more like you and worthier of you? And here where you think me gravely in the wrong, and I am growing conscious of being in the wrong,—one or two repetitions of such conduct as yours, such “disagreeable letters”, and I must “leave off” … When I do that on such ground .. I need imprecate no foolish curse on my head,—the very worst will be in full operation. —I only wrote to justify an old feeling, exercised only in the case of others I have heard of,—men called “cool murderers,” “deliberate imbruers of their hands in” &c &c—and I meant just to say,—well,—I, and others, despise your society and only go into it now to be the surer that when we leave it, we were not excluded—the children turn from the grapes because their teeth are set on edge, what ever may be the foxes[’] pretext:[5] but, for your own devoted followers,—be a little more merciful, and while you encourage them to spend a dozen years’ in a law suit, lest they lose a few pounds, .. but I won’t repeat the offence, dear: you are right and I am wrong and will lay it to heart, and now kiss, not your feet this time, because I am the prouder, far from the more humble, by this admission and retractation–


Your note arrives here. Ba,—it would have been “better for me,” that? Oh, dearest, let us marry soon, very soon, and end all this! If I could begin taking exceptions again, I might charge you with such wild conventionalism, such wondrous perversity of sight—or blindness rather! Can you, now, by this time, tell me or yourself that you could believe me happy with any other woman that ever breathed? I tell you, with out affectation, that I lay the whole blame to myself, .. that I feel that if I had spoken my love out sufficiently—all this doubt could never have been possible. You quite believe I am in earnest, know my own mind and speak as I feel, on these points we disputed about—yet I am far from being sure of it, or so it seems now—but, as for loving you,—there I mistake, or may be wrong, or may, or might or ..

Now kiss me, my best—dearest beloved! It seems I am always understood so—the words are words, and faulty, and inexpressive, or wrongly expressive,—but when I live under your eyes, and die, you will never mistake,—you do not now, thank God, say to me—“you want to go elsewhere, for all you say the visit seems too brief”—and, “you would change me for another, for all you profess”– Never do you say such things—but when I am away, all the mistaking begins—let it end soon, soon, dearest life of my life, light of my soul, heart’s joy of my heart!

You feel I must see you to-morrow if possible—at all events I will call for the parcel– (What made you suppose I was engaged to morrow night?– The saying that I should meet my sea faring friend, perhaps?[)]– But that is to be here—he comes here: at all events, I recollect no other engagement: if I had one with Death himself, <I almost think I could go,>[6]—folly! But let the parcel be ready (to put into my hand at once) and I will venture at 3. o’clock.

In truth—all yesterday I was very unwell,—going about sight-seeing with a friend & his lady-cousins, and afterward dining with them– I came home dead with intense boring– I rarely remember to have suffered so much. Today I am rather better,—much better, indeed– If I can but see you for a few minutes to-morrow!

May God bless you, dearest—and show you the truth in me, the one truth which I dare hope compensates for so much that is to be forgiven: when I told you at the beginning I was not worthy, was infinitely lower &c you seemed incredulous! well now, you see! I, that you would persist in hoping better things of, held such opinions as those—and so you begin setting me right, and so I am set far on towards right—is not all well, love? And now go on, when I give next occasion, and tell me more, and let me alter more, and thank you,—if I can, more,—but not, not love you more, you, Ba, whom I love wholly,—with all my faculties, all my being. May God bless you, again—it all ends there—!

Your own RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole St.

Postmark: 8NT8 AP10 1846 A.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 155.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 611–614.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. We have been unable to trace RB’s reference to Asmodeus.

2. See letter 2298.

3. Cf. Matthew 9:20–22.

4. I Corinthians 3:15.

5. RB’s images are taken from Ezekiel 18:2 and Æsop’s fable of the fox and the grapes.

6. RB has deleted the passage in angle brackets.


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