Correspondence

2352.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 313–315.

[London]

Sunday. [10 May 1846][1]

Dearest when you use such words as “eligible …” (investment .. was it?) & I do not protest seriously & at length, it is through the very absurdity & unnaturalness .. as if you were to say that the last comet was made of maccaroni, & Arrago[2] stood by, he would not think it worth while to confute you. Talking the worldly idiom, as you will tell me you just meant to do in those words, & considering the worldly considerations, why still the advantage is with you—I can do nothing that I can see, but stand in your sunshine. I solemnly assure you that only the apparent fact of your loving me, has overcome the scruple which, on this ground, made me recoil from … Well! there is no use now in talking. But for you to talk of what is eligible & ineligible for me, is too absurd—indeed it is. You might be richer, to be sure—but I like it better as it is, a hundred times– I should choose it to be so, if it were left to my choice. In every other respect, using the world’s measures, .. or the measure of the angel who measured the heavenly Jerusalem,[3] .. you are beyond me .. above me—& nothing but your love for me could have brought us to a level– My love for you could not have tried, even! Now, if I teaze you with saying such things over & over, it is the right punishment for what you said yesterday about “eligible marriages”–—now, is’nt it?

But your conclusion then, was right. For if you were twice yourself, with a duchy of the moon to boot, it would avail nothing. We should have to carry all this underground work on precisely the same. Miserable it is, nevertheless——only, I keep my eyes from that side, as far as I can. I keep my eyes on your face. Yesterday Henrietta told me that Lady Carmichael,[4] a cousin of ours, met her at the Royal Academy & took her aside to ‘speak seriously to her’ .. to observe that she looked thin & worried, & to urge her to act for herself .. to say too, that Mrs Bayford,[5] an old hereditary friend of ours, respected by us all for her serene, clear-headed views of most things, .. & ‘of the strictest sect,’ too, for all domestic duties,—“did not like, as a mother, to give direct advice, but was of opinion that the case admitted certainly & plainly of the daughter’s acting for herself.” In fact, it was a message, sent under cover of a supposed irresponsibility. Which is one of a hundred proofs to show how this case is considered exceptional among our family friends, & that no very hard judgment will be passed at the latest. Only, on other grounds, I shall be blamed .. & perhaps by another class of speakers. As for telling Mr Kenyon … it is most unadvisable,—both for his sake & ours. Did you never hear him talk of his organs of caution? We should involve him in ever so many fears for us, & force him to have his share of the odium at last. Papa would not speak to him again while he lived. And people might say, ‘Mr Kenyon did it all’. No—if we are to be selfwilled, let us be selfwilled .. at least, let me! for you, of course, are free to follow your judgement in respect to your own friends. And then, it is rather a matter of feeling with me after all, that as I cannot give my confidence to my father, I should refuse it to others. I feel that a little.

Henrietta will do nothing, I think, this year—there are considerations of convenience to prevent it,—& it is better for us that it should be so,—& will not be worse for her in the end. I wish that man were a little nobler, higher .. more of a man! He is amiable, goodnatured, easy-tempered, of good intentions in the main: but he eats & drinks & sleeps, & shows it all when he talks. Very popular in his regiment, very fond of his mother—there is good in him of course: & for the rest ....

Dearest .. to compare others with you, would be too hard upon them– Besides, each is after his kind. Yet .. as far as love goes .. & although this man sincerely loves my sister, I do believe, .. I admit to myself, again & again, that if you were to adopt such a bearing towards me, as he does to her, I should break with you at once. And why? Not because I am spoilt, .. though you knit your brows & think so .. nor because I am exacting & offensible, .. though you may fancy that too. Nor because I hold loosely by you .. dearest beloved .. ready at a caprice to fall away. But because then I should know you did not love me enough to let you be happy hereafter with me .. you, who must love according to what you are!—greatly, as you write Lurias!

Tomorrow, shall you be at Mr Kenyon’s? Tomorrow I shall hear. Nothing has happened since I saw you– May God bless you.

Your own, I am–

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

Postmark: 10FN10 MY11 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 170.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 690–692.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Dominique François Jean Arago (1786–1853), who proved the relationship of the aurora borealis to magnetic forces, was appointed Director of the French Royal Observatory in 1830. He was well-known for popularizing astronomy in a series of lectures delivered at the Royal Observatory between 1812 and 1845.

3. Cf. Revelation 21:15–17.

4. Louisa Charlotte Carmichael (née Butler, 1817–99) was the daughter of EBB’s maternal aunt, Lady Frances Butler (née Graham-Clarke) and Sir Thomas Butler. Louisa Butler had married Sir James Robert Carmichael in 1841.

5. Frances Bayford (née Heseltine), EBB’s mother’s first cousin.

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