2341.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 295–297.


Saturday. [Postmark: 2 May 1846]

No, my Ba, your letter came as it ought last night; and the promise it contained of another made me restless all the morning—to no purpose,—nothing more comes—yet—for there is a “peradventure” yet unwithdrawn. When I do not hear from you,—as now,—I always fancy there was some signal reason why I ought to have heard .. that “to-morrow,” I could better bear the not hearing .. tho’ never, never do yesterday’s letters slip by a hair’s breadth from the place in my affection they once take,—they could not have been dispensed with,—but the imaginary letter of tomorrow could, by contrast with to-days exigencies .. till to-morrow really comes and is found preferring such claims of its own—such claims—

This letter I have got, and will try and love enough for two .. I can do no harm by trying .. this I do not mean to say that I expected– May I say “in heart-playing”,[1] .. now, Ba, it will be a fancy, which you can pounce on and poke your humming-bird bill thro’, like a needle, in a very “twinkling”, and so shall my flower’s eye be ruined for ever, and when it turns black and shrivels up as dead flowers do, you can triumph and ask “are these your best flowers, best feelings for me?”– But now, after this deprecation, you will be generous and only hover above, using the diamond eye rather than the needle-bill,—and I will go on and dare say that I should like, for one half second, not to love you, and then feel all the love lit up in a flame to the topmost height, at the falling of such a letter on my heart: don’t you know that foolish boys sometimes play at hanging themselves—suspend themselves by the neck actually for such a half second as this of my fancying—that they may taste the luxury of catching back at existence, and being cut down again? —There is a notable exemplification,—a worthy simile! It all comes, I suppose, from the joy of being rid handsomely of my dinners and in a fair way for Monday .. nothing between but letters,—I shall continue to hope! At sea it always sounds pleasantly to hear .. after passing Cape This and Isle the other, “now, next land we make is—Italy, or England, or Greece”.

Moxon told me Tennyson was still in Town. —Switzerland?[2] He is a fortnight going to wherever a Train takes him—“for,” says Moxon, “he has to pack up, and is too late, and next day” .. I daresay he unaffectedly hates London where this pococuranteism would entail all manner of disagreeabilities. If I caught rightly .. that is, now apply rightly, a word or two I heard .. one striking celebrity at Dickens’ dinner was—Lord Chesterfield—literary, inasmuch as a great “maker up of books”—for the Derby.[3] Macready may have been another personage—they, Tennyson and he, may “fadge,” in Shakespearian phrase,[4] if the writer of the Two Voices &c considers Home’s Douglas[5] exquisite poetry,—otherwise,—it is a chance!

But with respect to your Brother .. first of all,—nay, and last of all, for it all is attributable to that– I feel his kindness, in its way, as I feel yours,—as truly, according to its degree and claim: but—“now think what I would speak!”–[6] When he really does see me one day,—no longer embarrassed as under the circumstances I could not but have been on these two or three occasions when we met,—he will find something better than conversational powers to which I never pretended—and what he will accept in preference,—a true, faithful desire of repaying his goodness—he will find it, that is, because it must be there, and I have confidence in such feelings making sooner or later their way.


So now, at 2½ p.m, I must (here is the Post .. from you? Yes—the letter is here at last. I was waiting,—now to read,—no, kissing it comes first[)].


And now .. I will not say a word, my love of loves, my dearest dearest Ba,—not one word—but I will go out and walk where I can be alone, and think out all my thought of you, and bless you and love you with nothing to intercept the blessing and the love. I will look in the direction of London and send my heart there .. Dear, dear love, I kiss you and commend you to God.

Your very own—.

I am very well—quite well, dearest.

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole St

Postmark: 8NT8 MY2 1846 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 172.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 672–674.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. EBB, “Catarina to Camoëns,” line 14.

2. Tennyson left England for Switzerland on 2 August (The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson, ed. Cecil Y. Lang and Edgar F. Shannon, Jr., Cambridge, Mass., 1981–90, 1, 258).

3. George Stanhope, 6th Earl of Chesterfield (1805–66), was an owner of thoroughbred racehorses, whose entries won the Oaks and St. Leger in 1838.

4. “Get on well.” Actually, Shakespeare uses “fadge” in a slightly different way, (i.e., to refer to events or situations rather than persons) in Twelfth Night, II, 2, 33 and Love’s Labour’s Lost, V, 1, 147. See letter 2309 where RB refers to the word “fadge” as “old & obsolete.”

5. Douglas: a tragedy (Edinburgh, 1757), by the Scottish cleric John Home (1722–1808), was first produced in Edinburgh in 1756 and subsequently in London in 1757. Macready had played the role of Norval to the Lady Randolph of Sarah Siddons. Tennyson’s “Two Voices” first appeared in Poems (1842).

6. Cf. Macbeth, V, 1, 79.


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