Correspondence

2342.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 297–299.

[London]

Sunday. [3 May 1846][1]

When I said one more letter might come before to-morrow, I forgot. How used I to manage in the early “day of small things”[2]—comparatively—when letters came once a week at most, and yet I felt myself so rich, dearest!

I want you to remember, Ba, what I shall be nearly sure to forget when closer to you than now; tell me to-morrow– If I chance to see Mrs Jameson in the course of the week what am I to say; that is, what have you decided on saying? Does she know that you write to me? Because there is a point of simple good taste to be preserved .. I must not listen with indifference if I am told that “her friend Miss B.” thought well of the last number– But she must know we write, I think,—<I> never make any secret of that, when the subject is brought forward–

Here is warm May weather, my Ba,—I <do> not shiver by sympathy as I fancy you going down stairs. I shall hope to see the sweet face look its .. now, what? “Best” would be altogether an impertinence,—unless you help my meaning, which is “best”, too.

I received two days ago a number of the People’s Journal—from our illustrious contemporary, Bennet! Bennet figures where Barrett might have fronted the world. Fact! I will cut you out his very original lyric—observe the felicitous emendation in the author’s own blue-ink[3] .. that supplemental trochee makes a musical line of it! Mary Howitt follows with a pretty, washy, very meritorious Lyric of Life– There is a “guilty one”. “Name her not!” “Virtue turns aside for shame[.]”

 

She was born of guilty kin–

Her life’s course hath guilty been–

Unto school she never went–

And whate’er she learned was sin,–

Let her die![4]

And so on—what pure nonsense! Who cries “let her die” in the whole world now? thank God, nobody– The sin of the world (of the lookers-on, not the causers of the wrong) consists, in these days, in looking on and asking “How can we help her dying—or factory children’s dying—or evicted Irish peasantry’s dying?”– What ails these Howitts of a sudden, that they purvey this kind of cat-lap,—they that once did better? William Howitt grinds here an article on May day,[5]—past human power of reading of course, but I just noticed that not a venerablest commonplace was excused on account of its age—the quotations from Chaucer, Spenser, Herrick got once more into rank & file with the affecting alacrity shown the other day at a review of the Chelsea Invalids! Oh, William, “Let them die!”

So goodbye till to-morrow, my dearest– I love you and bless you, ever, and am your

RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole St

Postmark: 10FN10 MY4 1846 A.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 174.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 674–675.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Zechariah 4:10.

3. Enclosed was a cutting from The People’s Journal of 2 May 1846 containing William Cox Bennett’s “Cry of the Spring Flower-Seller” (p. 244). In the line “Pleasant hours you spent in the green fields long ago,” the word “April” has been inserted in blue ink after “green.”

 

CRY OF THE SPRING FLOWER-SELLER.

By W. C. Bennett.

 

“Buy My Flowers!”

Violets, violets—here, see, I bring;

Primroses, wet from the woods of the spring;

Lilies, the whitest that silver our vallies;

Come out from your courts, from the gloom of your alleys—

Buy my flowers!

 

Here’s pleasure a selling!—my blossoms come buy—

Cheap enough for the low, choice enough for the high—

Buy my flowers!

 

Come, make your close rooms and your dark windows gay,

With thoughts of their dwellings on banks far away;

And the hours of work, long so sluggish for many a day,

Through the thoughts that they bring, shall trip lightly away—

Buy my flowers!

 

And into the heart of the city they’ll bring

The country, the meadows, the woodlands, and Spring;

Pleasant hours you spent in the green fields long ago,

On stiles that you loved, and in lanes well you know—

Come and buy!

 

The poorest may buy them, the richest they’ll please—

There’s ne’er a one sells brighter blossoms than these—

There’s ne’er a one sells such sweet flowers as I—

Buy my flowers!

 

Greenwich.

 

4. RB quotes from the first of two poems by Mary Howitt that appeared under the heading “Lyrics of Life.” Subtitled “No. IV.—Judgment” and “The Heart of the Outcast,” they were printed opposite Bennett’s poem in the same issue of The People’s Journal (p. 245).

5. “May-Day” by William Howitt appeared on pp. 240–242.

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