Correspondence

2339.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 291–293.

[London]

Friday. [Postmark: 1 May 1846]

I go to you, my Ba, with heart full of love, so it seems; yet I come away always with a greater capacity of holding love,—for there is more, and still more,—that seems too! At the beginning, I used to say (most truly) that words were all inadequate to express my feelings,—now, those very feelings seem, as I see them from this present moment,—just as inadequate in their turn to represent what I am conscious of now. I do feel more, widelier, strangelier .. how can I tell you? You must believe,—my only, only beloved! I daresay I have said this before, because it has struck me repeatedly,—and, judging by past experience, I shall need to say it again, and often again. Am I really destined to pass my life sitting by you? And you speak of your hesitation at trusting in miracles! Oh, my Ba, my heart’s,—soul’s Ba, I am so far guiltless of presumption, let come what will, that I never for one moment cease to be .. tremblingly anxious, I will say,—and conscious that the good is too great for me in this world. You do not like me to write so,—I know—but there is a safety in it—the presumptuous walk blindfold among pits, to a proverb—and no one shall record that of me. And if I have cares and scruples of this kind at times, or at all times—I have none where most other people would have very many. I never ask myself, as perhaps I should,—“will she be happy, too?”– All that seems removed from me, far above my concernment. She .. you, my Ba .. will make me so entirely happy, that it seems enough to know—my palm trees grow well enough without knowing the cause of the sun’s heat. Then I think again, that your nature is to make happy and to bless, and itself to be satisfied with that. So instead of fruitless speculations how to give you back your own gift, I will rather resolve to lie quietly and let your dear will have its unrestricted way. —All which I take up the paper determining not to write,—for it is foolish, poor endeavour at best, but,—just this time it is written. May God bless you–

RB.

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I called on Moxon, who is better, and reports cheeringly. Then I went to my friend’s, and thence home, not much tired. I have to go out (to day) with my sister but only next door[1]—tomorrow I hear from you, love, and on Monday—(unless a pressing engagement &c—ah!)–

What do you say to this little familiar passage in the daily life of friend Howitt,[2]—for which I am indebted to Moxon. Howitt is book making about Poets, it seems—where they were born, how they live, “what relation their mothers’ sons are to their fathers”[3]—etc. In the prosecution of this laudable object he finds his way to Ambleside, calls on Wordsworth “quite promiscuously” as Mrs Malaprop says,[4]—meaning nothing at all: and so after a little ordinary complimenting and play-talk, our man of business speaks to good earnest, but dexterous questioning .. all for pure interest in poetry and Mr W. “So, sir, after that school .. if I understand .. you went to .. to ..?—” and so on. Mr Wordsworth the younger having quicker eyes than his father detected a certain shuffling move[me]nt between the visitor’s right hand and some mysterious region between the chair’s back and his coat pocket .. glimpses of a pencil case and paper note book were obtained– He thought it,—(the son)—high time to go and tell Mrs Wordsworth,—who came in and found the good old man in the full outpouring of all those delightful reminiscences hitherto supposed the exclusive property of Miss Fenner,[5] no doubt! Mrs W. “desired to speak with William for a moment’[’]—(the old William)—and then came the amazement, horror &c &c[.] And last of all came Mr Howitt’s bow and “so no more at present from your loving” &c[.][6] —Seriously, see my instinct—instinct—instinct thrice I write it and thank my stars! Moxon said, Howitt is “just going to call on Tennyson for information—having left his card for that purpose”. —“And one day he’ll call on you” quoth Moxon, who is but a sinister prophet, as you may have heard– Dii meliora piis![7] It is fair enough in Tennyson’s case, for he is apprised by Howitt’s self of the purpose of his visit: but to try and inveigle Wordsworth into doing what he would hate most .. to his credit be it said—why, it is abominable—abominable!

Then I heard another story—his wife, Mary, finds out,—at all events, translates Miss Bremer. Another publisher gets translated other works,—or may be the same,—as who shall say him nay? Howitt writes him a letter, (which is shown my informant,) wherein “rogue”, “thief”, “rascal” and similar elegancies dance pleasantly thro’ period after period––[8]

“Come out from among them my soul, neither be thou a partaker of their habitations!”[9]

From all which I infer .. I may kiss you, may I not, love Ba? It is done, may I or may I not.

Ever your own—

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole St

Postmark: PD 8NT MY1 1846 C.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 171.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 667–670.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. See letter 2274, note 5.

2. William Howitt’s Homes and Haunts of the Most Eminent British Poets, which included chapters on Wordsworth and Tennyson, was published in two volumes in 1847.

3. See letter 2327, note 2.

4. This particular malapropism cannot be traced in The Rivals.

5. Sic, for Fenwick; see letter 2203, note 8.

6. Mary Howitt’s account of her husband’s visit to Wordsworth, in a letter to Margaret Gillies, makes no mention of any unpleasantness (Mary Howitt, An Autobiography, ed. Margaret Howitt, 1889, II, 32).

7. “Heaven grant a happier lot to the good” (Vergil, Georgics, III, 513, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough).

8. In a letter to an unidentified correspondent, dated 8 October 1843, Mary Howitt explained that “A publisher in London, a low fellow, has brought out the remainder of Mdlle. Bremer’s works for one-and-sixpence each, the very books we are now translating. It is very mortifying, because no one knew of these Swedish novels till we introduced them … we must write almost night and day to get ours out, that we may have some little chance …” (Mary Howitt, An Autobiography, II, 5).

9. Cf. Genesis 49:5–6.

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