2318.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 256–258.


Friday. [Postmark: 17 April 1846]

No, my own dearest, I did not see you sit in your chair, nor in mine, yesterday—did I write nothing about your walking with me by the garden wall, and on the hill, and looking down on London? And afterward you went with me, indeed, to Talfourd’s (last night was that purgatorial business,—how could I make you think it related to Monday? If I have to put the least thing into words, so I put it always! .. Being just like the family of somebody—“who were one & all so stupid” said he—“that if you bade them spell AB they answered BA [1]  .. nay, I spell Happiness, and Blessing, and all other good words if ever so many letters by that same Ba!)—but I want to go on and say you kept me from such an undiluted evening of misery (because I saw you thro’ it all)—oh, such an evening!– It shall be the last, I think—and the going out is so near,—the bonnet is bought! [2] And you pretend not to know I would walk barefoot till I dropped, if so I might attain to the sight of you, and it—do let me say, for gratitude’s sake—it is like the sign of spring in Shelley’s Prometheus—


“When mild winds shake the elder-brake,

And the wandering herdsmen know

That the white thorn soon will blow[”] [3]

—that the flower of my life will blow!

Now let me try and answer everything in Ba’s darling letters and so not be “vexed” afterward,—recollecting how she asked this, or bade me be sure to reply to that—and how I answered, spelling AB for BA! First, there is a famous contrivance against fly tormentors,—a genuine canopy, gnat-repelling enclosure of muslin which covers your bed wholly, and into which once introduce yourself dexterously (because the plagues try to follow slily) and lo, you are in a syren’s isle within the isle, a world cut off from the outer one—by that fine hazy cloudlike gauze—a delight it is! only, if you let one persisting critic of a buzzer lie perdue—he will have you at a glorious advantage! (not that one ever bit me, in England or elsewhere) and now—your letters,—Miss Bennet’s letter—that you received “just after I had gone”—will you be edified if I tell you what I received the moment I got home? (once, before hand .. my experience or yours, which would you rather not have?[)] My sister pointed with immense solemnity to a packet,—then delivered a message, and then .. but hear the message: a “Mrs George Sharp” [4] (unless I mistake the name) lives next door to Dickens and awfully respects him—she asks one aunt of mine, to ask another, to ask my sister, to ask me .. who have never seen or heard of this Mrs George, .. me,—who am, she has understood, a friend of Dickens’,—to get inserted in the Daily News some paragraph of a reasonable length in recommendation of the accompanying packet of cough-drops, (lozenges, or pills—for I was not rightly instructed which)– My fee, I suppose, being the said packet of pills! <All comment is beyond me.> [5]

Well, but your Miss Bennet—what a wretched, disgusting sfacciataccia! [6] I would not be accessory to keeping those soapy bubbles of stupid vanity from bursting, by sparing a rough finger,—certainly not. How “ought you to be grateful, perhaps?” For what, on earth?

Dearest, dearest Ba; a “passing” headache of “these few days”—what can I say, or do? May God bless you, and care for all. Still, the comfort continues: it is not that you have made an effort, and so grown worse.

I am pretty well,—I half determine to go and see Carlyle to-night,—so to forget a hasty resolution against all <…> [7] company (—“other” company I had written .. as if to honour it—Ba’s is one company, and those peoples’—“another”!)—I think I will go.

I spoke about Mr Kenyon,—because I never would in my life take a step for myself—(if that could be)—apart from your good—without being guided by you where possible—much more, therefore,—in a matter directly concerning you,—you rather than me,—did I want your opinion as to the course most proper, in the event of &c[.] I do not think it likely he will speak, or I shall have to answer .. but if that did happen, and you were not at hand, my own dearest,—how I should be grieved if, answering wrongly, I gave you annoyance! Here I seem to understand your wish.

My Ba, my only, utterly dear love, may God reward you for your blessings to me—my whole heart turns to you—and is your own. I kiss you, dearest. This morning a very ordinary motivetto in the overture to “Nabuco” [8] seemed to tell you more than I ever shall– I sit and speak to you by that now!


No letters yet from “anybody” [9] —the few received are laudatory however– I will send you one from the old sailor-friend I told you of [10] — but, mark! you must not send it back, to show my eyes & grieve my heart, [11] when the bulky letter proves to be only this—returned! Landor’s in due time, I suppose! This I send is to make you laugh .. My Ba’s dear laugh can hurt nobody, not even my friend here—who has praised her poems more [12] to me, there’s my consolation,—Consuelo–

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St.

Postmark: 8NT8 AP17 1846 A.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 160.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 630–632.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Cf. Love’s Labour’s Lost, V, 1, 47–50.

2. A reference to her report in letter 2314 of “having chosen one a little like a quaker’s.”

3. Prometheus Unbound (1820), I, 793–795.

4. Edmund Sharp, a solicitor, lived next door to Dickens at 2 Devonshire Terrace, but we have been unable to trace any further information about Mrs. Sharp and her “cough-drops.”

5. RB has interpolated the passage in angle brackets above an obliterated passage, about half a line long.

6. “Shameless woman.”

7. At this point, RB has crossed through “other.”

8. The shortened, and more commonly-known, title of Verdi’s opera Nabucodonosor (1842).

9. i.e., responding to Luria and A Soul’s Tragedy, the eighth and last number of the Bells and Pomegranates series.

10. Capt. Pritchard (see letter 2309, note 5), for whose remarks EBB thanks RB in the following letter.

11. Cf. Macbeth, IV, 1, 110.

12. RB has underscored this word an indeterminate number of times for emphasis.


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