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2317.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 253–256.

[London]

Thursday evening. [16 April 1846] [1]

Ah, the chesnut tree: do you think that I never saw the chesnut tree before? Long ago, I did .. a full year ago or more,—more! A voice talked to me of the “west wind” which “set dancing the baby cones of my chesnut tree” [2] ––nearly I remember the words. Do you, the time? It was early in the morning—“before seven”, said the voice!—too early in the morning for my dream to be .. because a dream, .. says Lord Brougham when he tries at philosophy, .. a dream, if ever so long a dream, is all contained in the last moment of sleep, at the turn towards waking .. so, late & not early! [3]

No—you did not tell me of Wordsworth—not at least, after that reading. Perhaps if Hatcham should not be swept away in the Railway “scirocco”, [4] I may see the “hill” or the “rise” at some distant day—shall I, do you think? I would rather see it than Wordsworth’s mountains—“for reasons, for reasons” as you say. And talking of reasons, & reasonable people in general, I thought, .. after you went away on wednesday & I began to remember how you had commended your own common sense & mine, .. I thought that it might be very well for you to do it, .. inasmuch as nobody else would, for you––ὑπερ σου [5] as the theological critics intensify ὑπερ to the genitive, ‘for reasons, for reasons’.

How ‘Luria’ takes possession of me more & more! Such a noble work! .. of a fulness, a moral grandeur!—& the language everywhere worthy. Tell me what you hear the people say– I shall be anxious, which you will not be .. but, to me, you will forgive it. The Soul’s Tragedy is wonderful—it suggests the idea of more various power than was necessary to the completion of Luria .. though in itself not a comparable work– But you never wrote more vivid dramatic dialogue than that first part—it is exquisite art, it appears to me. Tell me what the people say!—and tell me what the gods say .. Landor, for instance! [6]

Mr Kenyon has not been here—& I dare not, even in a letter, be the first to talk to anyone of you. It is foolish of me perhaps—but if I whisper your name I expect to be directly answered by all the thunders of Heaven & cannons of earth. [7] When I was writing to Miss Martineau the other day, <for full ten minutes> [8] I held the pen ready charged with ink over a little white place, just to say “have you read,” .. or “have you heard” … & at last I could’nt write one word of those words .. I believe I said something about landed proprietors & agrarian laws instead.

So you “felt” that I was down stairs today! See how wrong, feeling may be, when it has to do with such as I. For, dearest, notwithstanding your bright sunshine I did not go down stairs .. only opened the window & let in the air– I have not been quite as well .. as far as just sensation goes .. as usual, these few days—but it is nothing, a passing common headache, as I told you, .. & your visit did good rather than harm, & tomorrow you may think of me as in the drawingroom. Oh, I might have been there today, or yesterday, or the day before! but it was pleasanter to sit in the chair & be idle, so I sate! But you did not see me in my gondola chair—not you! you were thinking of the lambs instead, & looking over the wall to the “blossomed trees” .. (what trees? cherrytrees? appletrees? peartrees?) & so, altogether, you lost your second sight of me & made mistakes. Ever dearest, is your head better? You will not say. You are afraid to say, perhaps, that you were ill, through writing too many notes & not going out to take the right exercise. Ah, do remember me for that good! I heard yesterday that “Mr Browning looked very pale as he came up stairs”– Which comes of Mr Browning’s writing when he should be walking!—now does’nt it?

Do you go to Mr Sergeant Talfourd’s on monday? & would it be better therefore if you came here on tuesday? You could come on the next saturday all the same .. consider! Nobody shall leap into lions’ dens for me! [9] —so let us measure the convenience of things, as Miss Mitford would in marriages. “Convenance”, though, she would say .. which is more foolish than ‘convenience’ as I write it. She asserts that every marriage in her experience, beginning by any sort of love, has ended miserably—thus run her statistics in matrimony. Add, that she thinks .. she told me last autumn .. that all men without exception are essentially tyrants,—& that poets are a worse species of men, .. seeing that, all human feelings, they put into their verses, & leave them there … add this, & this, .. & then calculate how, if I consulted her on our prospects, (shall I?) she would see for me an infinite succession of indefinite thumbscrews & gadges!!– Well—I am not afraid .. except for you sometimes! for myself I accept my chances for life under the ‘peine forte et dure’. [10] And I wont speak to Miss Mitford, if you dont to Mr Kenyon .. & I beseech you to avoid by every legitimate means the doing that .. oh, do not [11]  ever speak that to him!

May God bless you my beloved! Walk for my sake, & be well .. try to be well! For me, I am so without trying, .. just as I am

Your own Ba–

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

Postmark: 10FN10 AP17 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 155.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 628–630.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. See letter 1906.

3. In A Discourse of Natural Theology to John Charles Earl Spencer (1835) by Henry Peter Brougham, Lord Brougham and Vaux (1788–1868), he states that “we only dream during the instant of transition into and out of sleep” (Section V, “Moral or Ethical Branch of Natural Theology,” p. 117).

4. “Wind,” usually an oppressively hot and humid wind. Although the cutting for the London and Croydon line ran adjacent to the Brownings’ house at New Cross, there were “low hills close by,” as described by RB when he wrote to Monclar in 1840 (letter 809) to inform him of the family’s move to this house. EBB’s first recorded visit to New Cross occurred in August 1851.

5. “In your behalf.”

6. For RB’s response, see the following letter. For Landor’s comments, see letter 2313.

7. Cf. Hamlet, I, 2, 126–128.

8. EBB has interpolated the words in angle brackets above the line.

9. EBB is alluding to RB’s “The Glove.”

10. A medieval torture that involved the pressing of heavy weights onto a prone victim.

11. “Not” is underscored three times.

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