2348.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 307–309.


Thursday. [Postmark: 7 May 1846]

No, dearest,—I got Mrs Jameson’s leave to put the breakfast off till tomorrow—and this morning, instead of resting as I had intended, I wisely went to town, to get a call on Forster off my mind. I have walked there and back again .. see the weakness you pity! I cheat you, my Ba, of all that pity .. yet when I have got it, however unjustly, I lay it to my heart–

And I was at Mrs Procter’s last night– Kinglake and Chorley—with a little of Milnes & Coventry Patmore—but no Howitts: because they have a sick child,—dying, I am afraid. On my return I found a note from Horne, who is in London of a sudden for a week.

Oh,—“The Daily News” passes into the redoubtable hands of Mr Dilke; and the price is to be reduced to 2d½, in emulation of the system recently adopted by the French Journals. [1] Forster continues to write,—on the new Editor’s particular entreaty,—I rather think the scheme will succeed—Dilke having the experience the present régîme wants—he will buy his privileges cheaply, too– So that Chorley may possibly be employed. Here ends my patronage of it, at all events—not another number do I groan over!

Patmore told me in his quiet way that his criticisms,—his book on which he had been expending a world of pains, is altogether superseded by the appearance of “Ulrici on Shakespeare”. [2] “The very words of many of his more important paragraphs are the same”– That astounds one a little, does it not?

And what, what do you suppose Tennyson’s business to have been at Dickens’—what caused all the dining and repining? He has been sponsor to Dickens’ child, in company with Count D’Orsay, and accordingly the novus homo [3] glories in the prænomina [4]  .. Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson Dickens! Ah, Charlie, if this don’t prove to posterity that you might have been a Tennyson and were a D’Orsay .. why, excellent labour will have been lost! You observe, “Alfred” is common to both the godfather and the—devil father, as I take the Count to be: so Milnes has been goodnaturedly circulating the report that in good truth it is the Alfred of neither personage, but of—Mr Alfred Bunn! When you remember what the form of sponsorship is, to what it pledges you in the ritual of the Church of England—and then remember that Mr Dickens is an enlightened Unitarian, [5] —you will get a curious notion of the man, I fancy.

Have you not forgotten that birthday? Do, my Ba, forget it—my day, as I told you, is the 20th—my true, happiest day! But I thank you all I can, dearest– All good to me comes thro’ you, or for you—every wish and hope ends in you– May God bless you, ever dear Ba.

Your own RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole St

Postmark: 8NT8 MY7 1846 H.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 177.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 685–686.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. After a very short term as editor of The Daily News, Dickens resigned on 9 February 1846; Forster succeeded him in the position. About this time Dilke gave up the editorship of The Athenæum and was called in as a “consulting physician” to help the failing newspaper. He lowered the price by half, and the circulation soon increased from 4000 to more than 22,000. Dilke remained with The Daily News until 1849 (The Papers of a Critic; Selected from the Writings of the Late Charles Wentworth Dilke, 1875, I, 60–61).

2. Shakspeare’s Dramatic Art and His Relation to Calderon and Goethe (1846) by Alexander James William Morrison (1806–65), a translation of Ueber Shakspeare’s dramatische Kunst und sein Verhältniss zu Calderon und Göthe (1839) by Herman Ulrici. Patmore seems to corroborate RB’s report here in a footnote to an article in The North British Review (XII, 1849, 116), in which he states that he had “rediscovered” Ulrici’s views regarding “the central theme or ground-idea … of each play [he was then ‘engaged in writing a work upon the subject’] … when the translation of Ulrici’s work came out.” Morrison’s translation was enthusiastically reviewed in The Athenæum of 9 May 1846 (no. 967, pp. 469–470).

3. “Upstart.”

4. “The first name.”

5. The ritual of baptism in the Church of England requires a profession of faith in the Trinity, which would be contrary to the ideas of a Unitarian. RB’s reference to D’Orsay as “devil father” alludes to the renunciation of Satan in “The Ministration of Publick Baptism of Infants” in The Book of Common Prayer.


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