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2338.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 289–291.

[London]

Friday. [Postmark: 1 May 1846]

I am delighted with the verses & quite surprised by Mr Arnould’s, having expected to find nothing but love & law in them, & really there is a great deal besides. Hard to believe, it was, that a university prize poet (who was not Tennyson) could write such good verses: but he wrote them of you, & that was enough inspiration for him, I suppose, as it would be for others, my own dearest– How I delight in hearing you praised!—it is such a delightful assent to the word which is in me, in the deepest of me– You know that mysterious pleasure we have, in listening to echoes!—we hear nothing new, nothing we have not said ourselves—yet we stand on the side of the hill & listen .. listen .. as if to the oracles of Delphi– The very pleasure of it all is in the repetition .. the reverberation.

When you had gone yesterday & I had taken my coffee, .. holding my book .. ‘La Gorgone’ a sea-romance by Landelle, [1]  .. (those little duodecimo books are the only possible books to hold in one’s hand at coffee-times .. & the people at Rolandi[’]s library sent me this, which is not worth much, I think, but quite new & very marine,) .. holding my book at one page, as if fixed .. transfixed, .. by a sudden eternity, … well, after all that was done with, coffee & all, .. in came George, & told me that the day before he had seen Tennyson at Mr Vennables’ house, or chambers rather. Mr Vennables was unwell, & George went to see him, & while he was there, came the poet. He had left London for a few days he said, & meant to stay here for a time .. “hating it perfectly” like your Donne [2]  .. ‘seeming to detest London’, said George .. ‘abusing everything in unmeasured words.’ Then he had been dining at Dickens’s, & meeting various celebrities, & Dickens had asked him to go with him (Dickens) to Switzerland, where he [is] going, to write his new work: [3] ‘but’, laughed Tennyson, “if I went, I should be entreating him to dismiss his sentimentality, .. & so we should quarrel & part, & never see one another any more– It was better to decline—& I have declined”. When George had told his story, I enquired if Tennyson was what was called an agreeable man—happy in conversation. And the reply was … “yes—but quite inferior to Browning! He neither talks so well,” observed George with a grave consideration & balancing of the sentences, .. “nor has so frank & open a manner. The advantages are all on Browning’s side, I should say” .. Now dear George is a little criticised you must know in this house for his official gravity & dignity—my sisters murmur at him very much sometimes .. poor dear George!—but he is good & kind, & high & right minded, as we all know, & I, for my part, never thought of criticising him yesterday when he said those words rather … perhaps .. barristerially, .. had they been other words.

My other words must go by my next letter—I am to write to you again presently, you are to be pleased to remember .. & that letter may reach you, for aught I can guess, at the same moment with this. In the meantime, ever beloved, I am your Ba.

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

Postmark: 6EV6 MY 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 164.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 666–667.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. La Gorgonne (6 vols., 1844) by Guillaume Joseph Gabriel de La Landelle (1812–86).

2. Cf. Donne, “Satyre II” (1633), lines 1–2.

3. Dickens began work on Dombey and Son in 1846 at Lausanne.

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