2310.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 242–245.


Monday. [13 April 1846] [1]

Ever dearest I have your two letters; observe there are only two “great lights” [2] to rule the day & the night, I am not likely to hear from you again before tomorrow. Then you want Mrs Jameson’s direction .. (it is just Mrs Jameson, Ealing!) [3] & here is the last ‘Bell & Pomegranate’:—&, for all these reasons, I must write without waiting,—I will not wait for the night. Thank you for the book, thank you! I turn over the leaves ever so proudly. Tell me how I can be proud of you, when I cannot be proud of your loving me:—I am certainly proud of you. One of my first searches was for the note explanatory of the title—& I looked, & looked, & looked, at the end, at the beginning, at the end again. At last I made up my mind that you had persisted in not explaining, or that the printer had dropped the manuscript. Why what could make you thrust that note on all but the title page of the ‘Soul’s Tragedy’? [4] Oh—I comprehend. Having submitted to explain, quite at the point of the bayonet, you determined at least to do it where nobody could see it done. Be frank & tell me that it was just so. Also—the poor ‘Soul’s Tragedy’, you have repudiated so from the Bells & Pomegranates .. pushing it gently aside. Well—you must allow it to be a curious dislocation—only it is not important—and I like the note, all, except the sentence about ‘Faith & Works,’ which does not apply I think, .. that instance. ‘Bells & Pomegranates’ is a symbolic phrase—which the other is not at all, however much difficult & doubtful theological argument may have arisen from it as a collective phrase. So I am the first critic, you see, notwithstanding that Mr Forster waylaid the first copy. [5] Ah no! I shall have my gladnesses out of the book presently, beyond the imagination of any possible critic. Who in the world, shall measure gladnesses with me?

Tell me– I was going to write that “Tell me” in my yesterday’s letter, but at last I was hurried, & could not .. did you come into London on sunday? did you walk past this house on the other side of the street, about two oclock? Because just then, I and Flush went down stairs. The drawingroom had nobody in it, & the window being wide open, I walked straight to it to shut it– And there, across the street, walked somebody … I am so nearsighted that I could only see a shadow in a dimness .. but the shadow had or seemed to have, a sign of you, a trace of you .. & instead of shutting the window I looked after it till it vanished——. No, it was not you. I feel now that it was not you; & indeed yesterday I felt it was not you. But, for the moment, it made my heart stop beating, .. that insolent shadow, .. which pretended to be you & was’nt. Some one, I dare say, who “has an occupation eight or nine hours a day” [6] & never does anything! I may speak against him, for deceiving me—it[’]s a pure justice.

To go back to the book .. you are perfectly right about ‘gadge’, [7] & in the view you take of the effect of such words. You misunderstood me if you fancied that I objected to the word—it was simply my ignorance which led me to doubt whether you had written ‘gag’– Of course, the horror of those specialities is heightened by the very want of distinct understanding they meet with in us:—it is the rack in the shadow of the vault. Oh—I fully agree.

And now .. dearest dearest .. do not bring reason to me to prove … what, to prove? I never get anything by reason on this subject, be very sure!—& I like better to feel that unreasonably you love me .. to feel that you love me as, last year, you did. Which I could not feel, last year, a whole day or even half a day together. Now the black intervals are rarer .. which is of your goodness, beloved, & not of mine. For me, you read me indeed a famous lesson about faith, .. & set me an example of how you “believed” ..!: but it does not apply, this lesson,—it does not resemble, this example!—inasmuch as what you had to believe .. viz .. that roses blow in June .. was not quite as difficult as what I am called to believe, .. viz .. that St Cecilia’s angel-visitant had a crown of roses on, which eternally were budding & blowing. [8] But I believe .. believe .. & want no ‘proof’ of the love, but just itself to prove it,—for nothing else is worthy. On the other side, I have the audacity to believe, as I think I have told you, that no woman in the world could feel for you exactly what .. <I feel>, [9]  .. but, here, too, I had better shun the reasons, .. the ‘bonnes raisons’ which ‘le roy notre sire’ [10] cannot abide– What foolishness I am writing really!– And is it to be for a ‘year’, or a ‘month’—or a week,––better still? or we may end by a compromise for the two hours on wednesdays, .. if it goes on so,—more sensibly.

I have heard today from Miss Martineau & from Mrs Jameson, both—one talking Mesmer & the other Homer. I sent her (Mrs J.) two versions of the daughters of Pandarus, [11] the first in the metre you know, & the second in blank verse, .. & she does not decide which she likes best, she says graciously, whereas I could not guess which I liked worst, when I sent them on saturday. Do let her have ‘Luria’ at once. She will take the right gladness in it, even as she appreciates you with the right words & thoughts. But surely you use too many stamps? Have you a pair of scales like Zeus & me? [12] —only mine are broken; or I would send you an authority on this important subject, as well as an opinion.

How did you not get my letter, pray, by the first post on monday? You ought to have had it! it was not my fault. And thinking of “causas rerum”, [13]  .. I was to “catch cold”, I suppose, on saturday, because you went away?—there was no stronger motive. I did not however catch cold–—ah, how you make me giddy with such words, as if I did really “hang over a gulph”! [14] —not with fear though!– Is it possible, I say to myself, that I can be so much to him? to him! May God bless him! There was no harm meant by the black seal, I think? Tell me too of the headache, & whether the dinner is for wednesday, & whether, in that case, it is still to be preferred, with all its close clipping, to thursday. Meantime the letter grows as if there was no such thing as shears!–

Your own Ba.

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

Postmark: 10FN10 AP14 1846 M.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 153.; + Wednesday, Apr. 15. / 3–5¾. p.m. (59).

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 619–622.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Genesis 1:16.

3. “Ealing–” is one of the addresses for Mrs. Jameson in RB’s earliest extant address book; see vol. 9, p. 392.

4. RB’s explanatory note about the title Bells and Pomegranates appeared on the verso of the title page for A Soul’s Tragedy, which followed Luria in the pamphlet:

Here ends my first series of “Bells and Pomegranates,” and I take the opportunity of explaining, in reply to inquiries, that I only meant by that title to indicate an endeavour towards something like an alternation, or mixture, of music with discoursing, sound with sense, poetry with thought; which looks too ambitious, thus expressed, so the symbol was preferred. It is little to the purpose that such is actually one of the most familiar of the Rabbinical (and Patristic) acceptations of the phrase; because I confess that, letting authority alone, I supposed the bare words, in such a juxtaposition, would sufficiently convey the desired meaning. “Faith and good works” is another fancy, for instance, and perhaps no easier to arrive at; yet Giotto placed a pomegranate fruit in the hand of Dante, and Raffaelle crowned his Theology (in the Camera della Segnatura) with blossoms of the same; as if Bellari and Vasari would be sure to come after, and explain that it was merely “simbolo delle buone opere—il qual Pomagranato fu pero usato nelle veste del Pontefico appresso gli Ebrei.” R.B.

5. Presumably RB’s presentation copy to Forster of Luria and A Soul’s Tragedy, which is at the Victoria and Albert Museum (see Reconstruction, C231).

6. See letter 2305.

7. See note 2 in the preceding letter.

8. Early representations of St. Cecilia show her wearing a wreath of roses on her head, presumably placed there by the angel that protected her.

9. The passage in angle brackets has been obliterated.

10. “Good reasons” which “the king our sire.” See the end of letter 2293.

11. See letter 2304, note 2.

12. See letter 1992, note 2, for EBB’s earlier allusion to “Zeus with the scales.”

13. “Causes of things.”

14. See RB’s comment at the end of letter 2306.


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