2327.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 271–273


Thursday– [Postmark: 23 April 1846]

Dear, dear Ba, I was never very ill, and now am very much better,—quite well, indeed– I mean to coöperate with your wishes, and my doctor’s doings, which are luckily gentle enough,—and so, how should I fail of bringing into subjection this restive, ill-conditioned head of mine?

This morning I have walked to town and back—leaving myself barely time to write—but just before going out, I got your letter, for which I was waiting,—and the joy of it, the entire delight, carried me lightly out and in again[.] Ah, my own Ba,—of the two “extravagances which you never write nor speak”,—after all, if I must, I concede the praises, and eagle-soaring and,—and—because, if I please, I can say, if you do persist in making me, “why, it may be so,—how should I know, or Ba not know?– And as a man may suppose himself poor” and yet be rightful owner to a wonderful estate somewhere (see novels &c)—so, I, the intellectually poor” &c &[c]. —But, dearest, if you say “my letters tire you” .. say that again .. and then what unknown gadge ought to stop the darling mouth? How does honey dew bind up the rose from opening? Moreover it is one peculiarity of my mind that it loses no pleasure,—must not forego the former for the latter pleasure: how shall I explain? I believe that, when I should have been your husband for years,—years—if I were separated from you for a day and a letter came—I think my heart would move to it just as it now does—because now, when I see you, know what that blessing is—still the very oldest first flutter of delight at “Miss Barrett’s” writing,—it is all here, all!

Shall my heart flutter, then, tomorrow, my dear dear heart’s heart? And it shall be not April when I read it—your letter—but June and May—if it tells me you are well, as I am well,—now, if I say that, can you doubt what I consider my present state? But be better, dear Ba, and make me better– I should like to breathe and move and live by your allowance and pleasure—being your very very own


I see this morning a characteristic piece of news in the paper– President Polk, with an eye to business, gets his brother, a tall gaunt hungry man, appointed Ambassador to Naples—why not? [1] So he arrives a year ago,—finds the Neapolitans speak Italian, or else French, or else German—that is, the Diplomatic Body at Naples don’t speak English—on which discovery, Polk secundus sees he may as well amuse himself, so goes to Paris for half a year,—then to Rome where he is now, seeing sights—who could tell the Italians were not able to talk English? Is not that American entirely? Carlyle told me of an American who was commissioned by some learned body of his countrymen to ask two questions .. “What C’s opinion was—as to a future state?”—and next “What relation Goethe was to Goethe’s mother’s husband?”– [2]

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St.

Postmark: 8NT8 AP23 1846 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 165.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 647–648.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. In an article entitled “Notable Visitors in the Eternal City,” The Daily News of 23 April 1846 noted the presence of “the tall gaunt figure of Mr. Polk (brother to the Yankee President),” and said that “the presence of this gentleman in Europe is one of the beautiful illustrations of democratic exemption from that well-known Roman vice nepotism. Here is an individual sent out at the expense of the all-repudiating Republic, in the high capacity of its envoy at the Court of Naples; for which employment his qualifications appear to be that he is absolutely incapable of interchanging his ideas in any European dialect spoken on this continent—a sense of which incapacity seems to have suggested to him the uselessness of his sojourning in Naples, for he has been all this year in Paris or elsewhere” (p. 5). William Hawkins Polk (1815–62) was appointed minister to Naples on 13 March 1845. He served in that capacity until 31 August 1847.

2. According to Carlyle’s biographer, David Alec Wilson, the version of this story, attributed to Jane Welsh Carlyle, is that an American interrupted Carlyle’s dinner in order to ask a single question: “what was the relationship that existed between Goethe and the mother of Goethe’s son?” (Carlyle on Cromwell and Others, 1925, p. 318).


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