2349. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 309–311.
May 7th 1846–
Beloved, my thoughts go to you this morning, loving & blessing you!– May God bless you for both His worlds—not for this alone. For me, if I can ever do or be anything to you, it will be my uttermost blessing of all I ever knew, or could know, as He knows. A year ago, I thought, with a sort of mournful exultation, that I was pure of wishes. Now, they recoil back on me in a spring-tide .. flow back, wave upon wave, .. till I should lose breath to speak them!—and it is nothing, to say that they concern another … for they are so much the more intensely mine, & of me. May God bless you, very dear! dearest.
So I am to forget today, I am told in the letter. Ah!—. But I shall forget & remember what I please. In the meanwhile I was surprised while writing thus to you this morning .. as a good deed to begin with .. by Miss Bayley’s coming– Remembering the seventh of May, I forgot thursday, which she had named for her visit, & altogether she took me by surprise. I thought it was wednesday!– She came—& then, Mr Kenyon came, .. and as they both went down stairs together, Mrs Jameson came up. Miss Bayley is what is called strong-minded, & with all her feeling for art & Beauty, talks of utility like a Utilitarian of the highest, & professes to receive nothing without proof, like a reasoner of the lowest. She told me with a frankness for which I did not like her less, that she was a materialist of the strictest order, & believed in no soul & no future state. In the face of those conclusions, she said, she was calm & resigned. It is more than I could be, as I confessed. My whole nature would cry aloud against that most pitiful result of the struggle here—a wrestling only for the dust, & not for the crown. What a resistless melancholy would fall upon me if I had such thoughts!—& what a dreadful indifference– All grief, to have itself to end in!—all joy, to be based upon nothingness! all love, to feel eternal separation under & over it!—dreary & ghastly, it wd be! I should not have strength to love you, I think, if I had such a miserable creed. And for life itself, .. would it be worth holding on such terms, .. with our blind Ideals making mocks & mows at us wherever we turned? A game to throw up, this life would be, as not worth playing to an end!
There’s a fit letter for the seventh of May! but why was thursday the seventh, & not wednesday rather, which would have let me escape visitors? I thank God that I can look over the grave with you, past the grave, .. & hope to be worthier of you there at least.
Mrs Jameson did not say much, being hoarse & weak with a cold .. but she told me of having met you at dinner, & found you “very agreeable”. Also, .. beginning by a word about Professor Longfellow, who has married, it appears, & is a tolerably merciful husband for a poet .. (“solving the problem of the possibility of such a thing,” said she!) .. beginning so, she dropped into the subject of marriage generally, & was inclined to repropose Lady Mary Wortley Montague’s septennial act—— .. which might be a reform perhaps! .... what do you think? Have I not, altogether, been listening to improving & memorable discourse on this seventh of May? The ninth’s will be more after my heart.
I like Mrs Jameson .. mind!—and I like her views on many subjects.– Exclusive of the septennial marriage act, though.
How you amuse me by your account of the sponsorship! the illustrious d’orsay with his paletot reputation, in a cleft stick of Alfred … Tennyson! Bunn in the distance! A curious combination it makes really .. & you read it like a vatis that you are!–
So, good night—dearest!– I think of you behind all these passing clouds of subjects, my poet of the Lyre & Crown!
Look down on your own Ba.
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 10FN10 MY8 1846 E.
Dockets, in RB’s hand: 169 [altered from “165”].; + Saty May 9. / 3–5¾. p.m. (64.)
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 686–688.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Underscored twice.
2. Longfellow’s first wife, Mary Storer Potter, had died in 1835. He married Frances Elizabeth Appleton in 1843.
3. Mary Wortley Montagu was in favour of instituting the Turkish custom “that every married person should have the liberty of declaring, every seventh year, whether they choose to continue to live together in that state for another seven years or not” (Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters, of Books and Men; Collected from the Conversations of Mr. Pope, and other Eminent Persons of His Time. By The Rev. Joseph Spence, ed. Samuel Waller Singer, 1820, Section VI, p. 231).
4. “Poet,” “prophet,” or “seer.”
5. See letter 1975, note 7.