2324.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 267–268.


Tuesday evening. [21 April 1846][1]

‘Vanity’! I never saw in you, my very dearest, even the short morning shadow of ‘vanity’. ‘Vanity’ is not of you!– You work as the cedars grow, upward, & without noise, & without turning to look on the darkness you cause upon the ground. It is only because you are best & dearest that you let me see the letters … yes, & besides, because I have a little a right to have them sent to me, .. since they concern me more than you, .. & are, after a fashion, my letters. My letters? what am I saying? My letters, my true letters, are different indeed—& one of them came tonight to prove so!

But Mr Chorley’s & the illegible man’s whose name begins with a D (or does’nt) both gave me pleasure. If Mr Chorley did not read Luria at once, he speaks of you in the right words—& the naval illegible man, with his downright earnest way of being impressed, makes a better critic than need be sought for in the Athenæum synod. And what a triumph (after all!) & what a privelege, & what a good deed, .. is this carrying of the light down into the mines among the workmen, .. this bringing down of the angels of the Ideal into the very depth of the Real, where the hammer rings on the rough stone. The mission of Art, like that of Religion, is to the unlearned .. to the poor & to the blind—to make the rugged paths straight, & the wilderness to blossom as the rose[2]—at least it seems so to me– —And now, pray, why am I not to hear what Carlyle said? will you tell me? wont you tell me? how shall I persuade you? If I can or not, I will say God bless him too .. since he spoke the right word to do you good. For the manifest advance in clearness & directness of expression[3] .. I quite forgot to take notice of what you said to me .. O you, who never flatter!, about being the cause of it .. I!– Now do observe that the ‘Soul’s Tragedy’, which is as light as day, I never touched with my finger, except in one place, I think .. to say .. “just here there is a little shade”.[4] The fact is, that your obscurities, .. as far as they concern the medium, .. you have been throwing off gradually & surely this long while—you have a calmer mastery over imagery & language, & it was to be expected that you should. For me, I am the fly on the chariot,[5] .. “How we drive!” Shall I ever, ever, ever, be of any use or good to you? … see what a thought you have thrown me into, from that height!! Shall I ever, ever, be of any use, any good .. & not, rather, the contrary to these? Love is something: & it is something to love you better than a better woman could: but .. but ..

There is no use nor good in writing so, & you with a headache too! Why how could you get that headache? First with not walking,—then with walking—!! And reading Balzac .. But you had been writing notes perhaps? or Carlyle had talked too ‘bracingly’? or you fasted too long, being too late for his tea kettle? The headache came at any rate– Did it go? tell me, dearest beloved! say how you are. And let me hear if your mother continues to be better– How happy that change must make you all! and shall I not thank God that it makes you happy?

Mr Kenyon has not been here, & I have nothing, nothing, to tell you. The east wind has kept guard at the door, so that I should not go out, .. & nothing has happened, .. I seem not to have drawn breath scarcely, since we parted– ‘Parted!’ what a word! As if we could!—in the full sense! I have written to Miss Bayley to ask her to come on any day except saturday.

Shall the thirty six Bas love you all together in that one Ba who is your own—?

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

Postmark: 10FN10 AP22 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 158.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 642–644.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Cf. Isaiah 40:4 and 35:1.

3. See letter 2321.

4. Here EBB wrote and marked out “Then I was.” For the text of her brief notes on A Soul’s Tragedy, see vol. 11, p. 399.

5. “It was prettily devised of Æsop; ‘the fly sat upon the axle-tree of the chariot wheel, and said, What a dust do I raise!’,” “Of Vain Glory” in The Essays of Francis Bacon (1597).


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