2332. RB to EBB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 281–283.
Monday. [Postmark: 27 April 1846]
Oh yes,—that paper is by Chorley, no doubt– I read it, and quite wonder at him– I suppose he follows somebody’s “lead”—writes as he is directed—because I well remember what he said on lending me “Le Compagnon.” Then, there is that other silly expenditure of pen & ink on the English poets, or whatever they are—and in such work may a man spend his youth and not a few available energies—sad work altogether!
My love, I have done a fair day’s work this Monday,—whoever may be idle– I thought I would call on Forster this morning—he was out .. and I crossed over to Moxon’s (not seeing him, neither) and thence walked home—so that to tell you I am well is superfluous enough, is it not? But while the sun shone brightliest,—(and it shines now)—I said “The cold wind is felt thro’ it all,—She keeps the room!” The wind is unremitting,—savage. Do you bear it, dearest, or suffer, as I fear?– (Speaking of Forster .. you see the “Examiner”—I believe? or I will send it directly of course.) I entirely agree with you in your estimate of the comparative value of French & English Romance-writers. I bade the completest adieu to the latter on my first introduction to Balzac, whom I greatly admire for his faculty, whatever he may choose to do with it. Do you know a little sketch “La Messe de l’Athée,”—most affecting to me. And for you, with your love of a “story,” what an unceasing delight must be that very ingenious way of his—by which he connects the new novel with its predecessors—keeps telling you more and more news yet of the people you have got interested in, but seemed to have done with– Rastignac, Me d’Espard, Desplein etc.—they keep alive, moving—is it not ingenious? Frédéric Soulié I know a little of—(I let this reading drop some ten years ago)—and only George Sand’s early works: by the way,—the worst thing of all in that blessed article we have been referring to, is the spiteful and quite uncalled for introduction of the names of A. de Musset and De La Mennais—what have the English families to do with that?– Did you notice a stanza quoted from some lachrymose rhymester to be laughed at—(in the Article on Poetry—) in which the writer complains of the ill treatment of false friends—“for” says he—“I have felt their bangs”– The notion of one’s friend “banging” one,—is exhilarating when one reflects that he might get a little pin, and prick, prick after this fashion—no, it is probably a manner of writing,—meant for the week’s life and the dozen readers. Here is a note from his sister, by the way.
Now, dearest—dearest, good bye till to-morrow– I think of you all day, and, if I dream, dream of you—and the end of the thinking and of the dreaming is still new love, new love of you, my sweetest, only beloved! So I kiss you and bless you from my heart of hearts–
Ever your RB
Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St
Postmark: 8NT8 AP27 1846 E.
Docket, in EBB’s hand: 169.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 657–659.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. The article on French novelists; see letter 2330, note 3. The marked file of The Athenæum, now at City University (London), identifies H.F. Chorley as the author of this article.
2. We have been unable to trace Chorley’s comments to RB regarding Sand’s Le Compagnon du Tour de France, which had appeared in 1841; however, he was generally fair toward Sand in his reviews of her works, though perhaps overly concerned with their moral implications.
3. RB refers to a review of The Zoology of the English Poets, corrected by the Writings of Modern Naturalists (1846) by Robert Hassell Newell, B.D. in The Athenæum for 25 April 1846 (no. 965, p. 415).
4. See note 6 in the preceding letter.
5. Published in 1836.
6. The surgeon Desplein, a principal character in La Messe de l’Athée, appears frequently in La Comédie Humaine; Eugène de Rastignac, the promising hero of Père Goriot (1834–35), becomes one of the many dandies in La Comédie Humaine; and the Marquise d’Espard, who first appears in L’Interdiction (1836), recurs often as a queen of Parisian society.
7. Referring to Sand’s characters, Chorley’s review contained the following: “There are lovely descriptions and picturesque characters in ‘The Miller of Angibault:’—and even, too, in that weaker tale, ‘The Crime of Master (thus to translate “Monsieur”) Anthony,’ touches of truth, and life, and nature, as well as impossible peasants who talk in as good poetry—shall we say, as Alfred de Musset?—and entertain as extensive ideas of social progress and perfectibility as M. de Lamennais.” The poet, novelist, and playwright, Alfred de Musset (1810–57) had a well-known affair with George Sand that began in 1833 and ended the following year. Félicité Robert de Lamennais (1782–1854), a social and religious writer and reformer, was a strong influence on Sand’s writing in the late 1830’s and early 1840’s, as evidenced in novels such as Spiridion (1838) and La Compagnon du Tour de France (1841).
8. RB is referring to, and quotes from an article entitled “Poetry for the Million,” which appeared in the same issue of The Athenæum as Chorley’s review of French novels (25 April 1846, no. 965, pp. 419–420). Thomas Kibble Hervey has been identified as the author of the article.
9. Mary Ann Chorley (1801–63) and her mother came from Liverpool the previous year to live in London, where they resided with John Rutter Chorley.