Correspondence

2319.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 258–260.

[London]

Friday [17 April 1846][1]

But, dearest of all, you never said a word about monday. So I did not misunderstand—I only misguessed. Because you did not mention any day, I took it into my head that you might perhaps be invited for monday, & make an effort, which would make a fatigue, to go there & come here. I am glad you went to Carlyle’s—and where is Tennyson, & the dinner at Mr Forster’s all this while? And how did the Talfourds torment you so? was it that you were very unwell?—— I fear you were unwell .. For me, I have recovered from my dreadful illness of the last day or two .. I knew I should survive it after all .. & today, just that I might tell you, I went down stairs with Flush, he running before as when we walk together through the gate. I opened the drawingroom door,—when instead of advancing he stopped short .. & I heard strange voices .. & then he drew back & looked up in my face exactly as if to say, “No! This will not do for us!—we had better go home again”. Surely enough, visitors were in the room .. & he & I returned upon our steps. But think of his sense! Flush beats us both in “common sense”, dearest, we must acknowledge, let us praise each other for it ever so. Next to Flush we may be something, but Flush takes the pas,[2] as when he runs down stairs.

Today Mr Kenyon came, spectacles & all. He sleeps in those spectacles now, I think. Well, & the first question was .. “Have you seen Mr Browning? And what did he come for again, pray?” “Why I suppose”, I said, “for the bad reason my visitors have in general, when they come to see me”– Then, very quickly I asked about Luria, & if he had read it & what he thought of it—upon which, the whole pomegranate was pulled out of his pocket, & he began to talk like the agreeable man he can be when he does’nt ask questions & look discerningly through spectacles. Luria was properly praised indeed– A very noble creation, he thought it, & heroically pathetic .. & much struck he seemed to be, with the power you had thrown out on the secondary characters, lifting them all to the height of humanity, justifying them by their own lights– Oh—he saw the goodness, & the greatness .. the art, & the moral glory .. we had a great deal of talk. And when he tried to find out a few darknesses, I proved to him that they were clear noonday blazes instead, & that his eyes were just dazzled. Then the ‘Soul’s Tragedy’ made the right impression—a wonderful work it is for suggestions, & the conception of it as good a test of a writer’s genius, as any we can refer to. We talked & talked– And then he put the book into his pocket to carry it away to some friend of his, unnamed: and we had some conversation about poets in general & their way of living, .. of Wordsworth & Coleridge .. I like to hear Mr Kenyon talk of the gods and how he used to sit within the thunder-peal. Presently .. leaning up against the chimneypiece .. he said quietly .. “Do you not think .. oh, I am sure I need not ask you .. in fact I know your thoughts of it .. but how strikingly upright & loyal in all his ways & acts Mr Browning is! .. how impeccable as a gentleman” &c &c and so on & on .. I do not tell you any more, because I should be tired perhaps .. (do you understand? …) & this is not the first time, nor second, nor third time, that he has spoken of you personally, so .. & as no man could use more reverent language of another. And all this time, what has become of Walter Savage Landor? I shall be vexed in another day. He may be from home perhaps—there must be a reason.

Vive Pritchard! & thank you for letting me see what he wrote–

Oh—& you shall see what I did not send yesterday—I shall make you read this one sheet of Mrs Paine’s letter, because it really touched me, & because I am bound to undo the effects of my light speaking. As for the overpraise of myself, the overkindness in every respect, .. why we know how “sermons are found in stones”[3] … yet no praise to the stones on that account! But you shall read what I send, both for her sake & mine, .. because I like you to read it.

My own dearest, do you mind what I say, & take exercise? You are vexing yourself with those notes, as I see from here. Now take care—follow my example, & be well—if not, there will be no use in wellness to me! May God bless you! Do you remember when you wrote first to me “May God bless you & me in that!”[4] It was before we met. Can you guess what I thought?– I have the whole effect in my memory distinctly. I felt with a bitter feeling, that it was quite a pity to throw away such beautiful words out of the window into the dark. ‘Bitterly’ does not mean anything wrong or harsh, you know. But there was something painful .. as if the words were too near, for the speaker to be so far. Well—I am glad in looking back .. yes, glad .. glad to be certain at my heart, that I did not assume anything .. stretch out my hand for anything .. dearest! ....

It is always when one is asleep that the dream-angels come. Watchers see nothing but ghosts.

Yet I shall see you on monday, & shall watch & wait as those who wait for the morning[5] .. that is, the monday-morning! Till when & ever after, I am

Your own Ba–

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

Postmark: PD 10FN AP18 1846 A.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 156.; + Monday. April 20. / 3–6¾ p.m. (60.)

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 633–635.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. “Precedence” (OED).

3. Cf. As You Like It, II, 1, 17.

4. At the end of letter 1906.

5. Cf. Psalm 130:6

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