2344. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 300–302.
Tuesday. [5 May 1846]
Dearest, it has just come into my head that I should like to carry this letter to the post myself—but no, I shall not be able. Probably the post is far out of reach, & even if it were within reach, my grand scheme of walking in the streets is scarcely a possible thing today, for I must keep watch in the house from two till five for Lady Margaret Cocks, an old friend of mine, who was kind to me when I was a child, in the country, & has not forgotten me since, when, two months in the year, she has been in the habit of going to London. A good, worthy person, with a certain cultivation as to languages & literature, but quite manquée on the side of the imagination .. talking of the poets, as a blind woman of colours, calling ‘Pippa Passes’ “pretty & odd”, & writing herself ‘poems’ in heaps of copy books which every now & then she brings to show me … ‘odes’ to Hope & Patience & all the cardinal virtues, with formulas of “Begin my Muse” in the fashion ended last century. She has helped to applaud & scold me since I could walk & write verses,—& when I was so wicked as to go to dissenting chapels besides, she reproached me with tears in her eyes,—but they were tears of earnest partizanship, & not of affection for me, .. she does not love me after all, nor guess at my heart, and I do not love her, I feel– Woe to us! for there are good & unloveable people in the world, & we cannot help it for our lives.
In the midst of writing which, comes the Leeds Miss Heaton, who used to send me those long confidential letters à faire fremir, & beg me to call her ‘Ellen’, & as this is the second time that she has sent up her card, in an accidental visit to London, I thought I would be goodnatured for once, & see her– An intelligent woman, with large black eyes & a pleasant voice, & young .. manners provincial enough, for the rest, & talking as if the world were equally divided between the “Congregationalists” & the “Churchpeople.” She assured me that Dr Vaughan was “very much annoyed” at the article on my poems which ‘crept’ into his review, & that it was fully intended to recant at length on the first convenient opportunity– “And really,” she said, “it seems to me that you have as many admirers among churchmen as among dissenters”—! There’s glory!—and I kept my countenance. Lost it though, five minutes afterwards, when she observed pathetically, that a “friend of hers who had known Mr Browning quite intimately, had told her he was an infidel … more’s the pity, when he has such a genius”. I denied the particular information of your intimate friend, a little more warmly perhaps than was necessary, .. but what could be expected of me, I wonder?
I shall write again to you tonight, you know, & this is enough for two oclock. Now will you get my letter on this tuesday? Do you think of me .. love me? And are you well today? The flowers look beautiful though you put their heads into the water instead of their feet.
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 10FN10 MY6 1846 A.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 166.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 677–679.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. Margaret Maria Cocks (1792–1849) was the daughter of the 1st Earl Somers of Eastnor Castle, near EBB’s girlhood home of Hope End. Her address is given as 4 Lower Berkeley Street in EBB’s address book (see vol. 9, p. 386).
3. This is the first of many references in the Brownings’ correspondence to Ellen Heaton (1816–94), a woman from Leeds, whose sizeable inheritance enabled her to collect art, including that of several Pre-Raphaelites, such as D.G. Rossetti and Arthur Hughes. Some of these works were commissioned by her on the recommendation of John Ruskin. She also used her wealth to travel, and it was in Italy where her association with the Brownings developed. Her friendship with RB continued after EBB’s death.
4. “To make you shudder.”
5. Robert Vaughan (1795–1868) was a Congregationalist divine who founded The British Quarterly Review in 1845, and for twenty years was its editor. EBB is referring to the review of her Poems (1844), which appeared in the issue for 1 November 1845 (see letter 2086, note 4). For the full text of this review, see vol. 11, pp. 344–350.
6. We have been unable to identify conclusively who this friend might have been, but one possibility is Fanny Haworth.