2345.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 302–304.


Tuesday evening. [5 May 1846][1]

But, my own only beloved, I surely did not speak too “insistingly” yesterday– I shrank from your question as you put it, because you put it wrong. If you had asked me instead, whether I meant to keep my promise to you, I would have answered ‘yes’ without hesitation: but the form you chose, referred to you more than to me, & was indeed & indeed a foolish form of a question, my own dearest! For the rest .. ah, you do not see my innermost nature, .. you! .. you are happily too high, & cannot see into it .. cannot perceive how the once elastic spring is broken with the long weights! .. you wonder that it should drop, when you, who lifted it up, do not hold it up!—you cannot understand! .. you wonder! And I wonder too .. on the other side! I wonder how I can feel happy & alive .. as I can, through you! how I can turn my face toward life again .. as I can, for you! .. & chiefly of all, how I can ever imagine .. as I do, sometimes .. that such a one as you, may be happy perhaps with such a one as I! .. happy!

Do not judge me severely, you, to whom I have given both hands, for your own uses & ends!—you, who are more to me than I can be to you, even by your own statement—better to me than life .. or than death even, as death seemed to me before I knew you.

Certainly I love you enough, & trust you enough, if you knew what God knows. Yet, .. “now hear me”. I shall not be able to please you, I think, by a firm continued belief of <this engagement’s>[2] being justifiable, until the event wholly has justified it .. I mean, .. until I shall see you not less happy for having lived near me for six months or a year—should God’s mercy permit such justification. Do not blame me– I cannot help it .. I would if I could, help it. Everytime you say, as in this dearest letter, ever dearest, that you have been happy on such a day through being with me, I have a new astonishment––it runs through me from head to feet .. I open my eyes astonished, whenever my sun rises in the morning, as if I saw an angel in the sun. And I do see him, in a sense. Ah—if you make a crime to me of my astonishments, it is all over indeed! can I help it, indeed? So forgive me! let it not be too great a wrong to be covered by a pardon. Think that we are different, you & I—and do not think that I would send you to “money & worldly advancement” .. do not think so meanly of my ambition for you–

Dearest dearest!—do you ever think that I could fail to you? Do you doubt for a moment, ever .. ever, .. that my hand might peradventure “shake less” in being loosed from yours? Why, it might—and would!– Dead hands do not shake at all:—& only so, could my hand be loosed from yours through a failing on my part– It is your hand, while you hold it: while you choose to hold it, & while it is a living hand.

Do you know what you are to me, .. you? We talk of the mild weather doing me good .. of the sun doing me good .. of going into the air as a means of good! Have you done me no good, do you fancy, in loving me & lifting me up? has the unaccustomed divine love & tenderness been nothing to me? Think! Mrs Jameson says earnestly .. said to me the other day, .. that ‘love was only magnetism’. And I say in my heart, that, magnet or no magnet, I have been drawn back into life by your means & for you .. that I see the dancing mystical lights which are seen through the eyelids .. & I think of you with an unspeakable gratitude always—always! No other could have done this for me: it was not possible, except by you.

But, no—do not, beloved, wish the first days here again– You saw your way better in them than I did– I had too bitter feelings sometimes:—they looked to me like an epigram of destiny! as if “He who sitteth on high should laugh her to scorn—should hold her in derision”[3]—as why not? My best hope was that you should be my friend after all. We will not have them back again .. those days! And in these, you do not love me less but more?– Would it be strange to thank you? I feel as if I ought to thank you!

I have written, written, & have more to write, yet must end here now– The letter I wrote this morning & gave to my sister to leave in the post, she was so naughty as to forget, & has been well scolded as a consequence,—but the scolding did not avail, I fear, to take the letter to you tonight,—there is no chance! Mrs Jameson came today when I was engaged with Lady Margaret Cocks & I could not see her—and Mr Kenyon came, when I could see him & was glad. I am tired with my multitude of visitors—oh, so tired!

Why are you melancholy, dear, dearest? Was it my fault? could that be?– No—you were unwell, I think .. I fear. Say how you are,—& believe that you may answer your own questions, for that I never can fail to you– If two persons have one will on a matter of that sort, they need not be thwarted here in London——so answer your own questions.

Wholly & ever yours I am–

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

Postmark: 10FN10 MY6 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 167.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 679–681.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. The passage in angle brackets is interpolated above the line.

3. Cf. Psalm 2:4.


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