Correspondence

2347.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 306–307.

[London]

Wednesday evening. [6 May 1846][1]

Now, dearest, you are close by & I am writing to you as if you were ever so far off– People are not always the better, you see, for being near one another. There’s a moral to put on with your gloves—and if you were not quite sufficiently frightened by Mrs Jameson’s salutation, it may be of some use to you perhaps—who knows?

She left word yesterday that she should come today or tomorrow, & as today she did’nt, I shall hear of you from her tomorrow .. that is, if you go to her breakfast, which you will do I dare say, supposing that you are not perfectly ill & exhausted by what came before– Ah—you do not say how you are—& I know what that means. Even the music was half lost in the fatigue .. that is what you express by “stupefaction”– And then to have to dine at Mr Procter’s without music .. say how you are .. do not omit it this time.

Nor think that I shall forget how tomorrow is the seventh of May .. your month .. as you call it somewhere .. in Sordello, I believe[2] .. so that I knew before, you had a birthday there .. & I shall remember it tomorrow & send you the thoughts which are yours, & pray for you that you may be saved from March-winds .. ever dearest!

I am glad you heard the music after all: it was something to hear, as you describe it.

Today I had a book sent to me from America by the poetess Mrs Osgood.[3] Did you ever hear of a poetess Mrs Osgood? .. and her note was of the very most affectionate, & her book is of the most gorgeous, all purple & gold .. and she tells me .. oh, she tells me .. that I ought to go to New York, only “to see Mr Poe’s wild eyes flash through tears” when he reads my verses. It is overcoming to think of, even .. is’nt it? Talking of poetesses, such as Mrs Osgood & me, .. Miss Heaton, .. the friend of your intimate friend, .. told me yesterday that the poetess proper of the city of Leeds was “Mrs A” .. “Mrs A”? said I with an enquiring innocense. “Oh,” .. she went on, .. (divining sarcasms in every breath I drew) .. “oh! I dare say, you would’nt admit her to be a real poetess. But as she lives in Leeds & writes verses, we call her our poetess! & then, really, Mrs A is a charming woman– She was a Miss Roberts .. & her Spirit of the Woods, & of the Flowers has been admired, I assure you–.” Well—in a moment I seemed to remember something,—because only a few months since, surely I had a letter from somebody who once was a spirit of the woods or ghost of the Flowers. Still, I could not make out Mrs A ..! “Certainly” I confessed modestly, “I never did hear of a Mrs A .. and yet, & yet” … A most glorious confusion I was in .. when suddenly my visitor thought of spelling the name.—“Hay” said she. Now conceive that!– The Mrs Hay who came by solution, had both written to me & sent me a book on the Lakes quite lately .. ‘by the author of the Spirit of the Woods’[4] .. There, was the explanation! And my Leeds visitor will go back & say that I denied all knowledge of the charming Mrs A the Leeds poetess, & that it was with the greatest difficulty I could be brought to recognize her existence. Oh, the arrogance & ingratitude of me!! And Mrs A .. being “a churchwoman” …!! will expose me of course to the churchwardens!. May you never fall into such ill luck!– You could not expect me to walk to the post office afterwards—now could you?

What nonsense & foolishness I take it into my head to send you sometimes.

I was down stairs today but not out of the house. Now you are talking, now you are laughing—I think that almost I can hear you when I listen hard .. at Mr Procter’s!–[5]

Do you, on the other side, hear me? .. & how I am calling myself your very own

Ba–

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

Postmarks: 12NN12 MY7 1846 A; 1AN1 MY7 1846.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 168.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 683–684.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Sordello, II, 296–297.

3. A reference to Poems (New York, 1846) by Frances Sargent Osgood (née Locke, 1811–50), Poe’s friend to whom he addressed several poems. Her Poems was bound in purple, gold-stamped, and its pages gilt-edged.

4. Recollections of the Lakes, and Other Poems, by the author of “The Moral of Flowers [1833],” and “The Spirit of the Woods [1837], i.e., Rebecca Hey (née Roberts, 1797–1867), was published in 1841.

5. Procter lived at 13 Upper Harley Street, a very short distance from 50 Wimpole Street.

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