2305.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 235–238.


Sunday.– [12 April 1846][1]

I will not speak much of the letter, as you desire that I should not. And because everything you write must be answered in some way & sense, .. must have some result, .. there is the less need of words in the present case. Let me say only then, ever dearest, dearest, that I never felt towards you as I felt when I had read that letter .. never loved you so entirely!—that it went to my heart, & stayed there, & seemed to mix with the blood of it … believe this of me, dear dearest beloved! For the rest, there is no need for me to put aside carefully the assumption of being didactic to you .. of being better than you, so as to teach you! … ah, you are so fond of dressing me up in pontifical garments! (“for fun,” as the children say!)—but because they are too large for me, they drop off always of themselves, .. they do not require my pulling them off: these extravagances get righted of their own accord– After all, too, you, .. with that præternatural submissiveness of yours, .. you know your power upon the whole, & understand, in the midst of the obeisances, that you can do very much what you please, with your High priest. Ει τις αισθησις[2] in the ghosts of the tribe of Levi, let them see & witness how it is!–

And now, do you see. It was just natural that when we differed for the first time I should fall into low spirits. In the night, at dream-time, when instead of dreams, “deep thought falleth upon man”,[3] suddenly I have been sad even to tears, do you know, to think of that: & whenever I am not glad, the old fears & misgivings come back——no, you do not understand, you cannot, perhaps! But dear, dearest, never think of yourself that you have expressed ‘insufficiently’ your feelings for me– Insufficiently!!– No words but just your own, between heaven & earth, could have persuaded me that one such as you, could love me!—& the tongue of angels could not speak better words for that purpose, than just yours. Also, I know that you love me .. I do know it, my only dearest, & recognize it in the gratitude of my soul:—& it is through my want of familiarity with any happiness .. through the want of use in carrying these weights of flowers, that I drop them again & again out of weak hands. Besides the truth is, that I am not worthy of you—& if you were to see it just as I see it, why there would be an end .. there, .. I sometimes think reasonably.

Well—now I shall be good for at least a fortnight. Do I not teaze you & give you trouble? I feel ashamed of myself sometimes. Let me go away from myself to talk of Mr Kenyon, therefore!–

For he came today, & arrived in town on friday evening—(what an escape on saturday!) & said of you, … with those detestable spectacles .. like the Greek burning glasses,[4] turned full on my face .. “I suppose now that Mr Browning’s book is done & there are no more excuses for coming, he will come without excuses.” Then, after talk upon other subjects, he began a long wandering sentence, the end of which I could see a mile off, about how he “ought to know better than I, but wished to enquire of me” .... what, .. do you suppose?.. why, “what, Mr Browning’s objects in life were– Because Mrs Procter[5] had been saying that it was a pity he had not seven or eight hours a day of occupation.” &c &c. It is a good thing to be angry, as a refuge from being confounded: I really could say something to that. And I did say that you “did not require an occupation as a means of living .. having simple habits & desires .. nor as an end of living, since you found one in the exercise of your genius! & that if Mr Procter had looked as simply to his art as an end, he would have done better things–”

Which made Mr Kenyon cry out .. “Ah now! you are spiteful! and you need not be, for there was nothing unkind in what she said”– “But absurd”! .. I insisted—“seeing that to put race horses into dray carts, was not usually done nor advised”.

You told me she was a worldly woman, & here is a proof, sent back to you. But what business have worldly women to talk their dust & ashes over high altars in that way? I was angry & sinned not[6]—angry for the moment. Then Mr Kenyon agreed with me, I think, & illustrated the subject by telling me how Wordsworth had given himself to the service of the temple from the beginning—“though,” observed Mr Kenyon, “he did not escape so from worldliness”. But William Wordsworth is not Robert Browning. Mr Kenyon spoke of your family & of yourself with the best & most reverent words.

And all this reminds me of what I have often & often mused about saying to you, & shrunk back, & torn the paper now & then … You know the subject you wanted to discuss, on saturday. Now whenever the time shall come for discussing that subject, let this be a point agreed upon by both of us– The peculiarity of our circumstances will enable us to be free of the world .. of our friends even .. of all observation & examination, in certain respects: now let us use the advantage which falls to us from our misfortune,—&, since we must act for ourselves at last, let us resist the curiosity of the whole race of third persons .. even the affectionate interest of such friends as dear Mr Kenyon, .. & put it into the power of nobody to say to himself or to another, .. “she had so much, & he, so much, in worldly possessions—or she had not so much & he had not so much–” Try to understand what I mean. As it is not of the least importance to either of us, as long as we can live, whether the sixpence, we live by, came most from you or from me .. & as it will be as much mine as yours, & yours as mine, when we are together .. why let us join in throwing a little dust in all the winking eyes round .. oh, it is nonsense & weakness, I know—but I would rather, rather, see winking eyes than staring eyes. What has anybody to do with us? Even my own family .. why should they ever see the farthest figure of our affairs, as to mere money? There now—it is said, .. what I have had in my head so long to say. And one other word resumes my meditations on ‘the subject’ which will not be ripe for discussion for ever so many months … & that other word is .. that if ever I am to wrong you so much as to be your’s so, it is on the condition of leaving England within the fewest possible half hours afterwards. I told you that, long ago—so bear it in mind. I should not dare breathe in this England. Think! There is my father .. & there is your’s! Do you imagine that I am not afraid of your family ..?—& should be still more, if it were not for the great agony of fear on the side of my own house. Ah—I must love you unspeakably .. even to dare think of the possibility of such things. So we will not talk of them now. I write what I write, to throw it off my mind & have done. Bear it in yours, but do not refer to it—I ask you not to refer to it.

A long straggling letter, this is– I shall have mine tomorrow– And you will tell me if wednesday or thursday shall be our day,—& above all, tell me how you are. Then the book will come. Remember to send one to Mrs Jameson! I write in haste .. in haste—but one may think of you either in haste or at leisure, without blotting the air. Love me, beloved .. do not leave off to see if I deserve it. I am at least (which is—at most) your very own–

Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.

Postmark: PD 10FN AP13 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 152.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 614–617.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. “If there be any perception.”

3. Cf. Job 4:13.

4. Archimedes is known to have invented various instruments of warfare, including, according to legend, enormous reflectors used to set Roman ships on fire during the siege of Syracuse.

5. Anne Benson Procter (née Skepper, 1799–1888), was the daughter of Thomas Skepper and Miss Benson (afterwards Mrs. Basil Montagu). As the wife of “Barry Cornwall,” she “was long the centre of a highly cultivated circle, which delighted in her shrewdness and wit” (DNB).

6. Cf. Ephesians 4:26.


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