2353. RB to EBB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 315–316.
Sunday. [10 May 1846]
I am always telling you, because always feeling, that I can express nothing of what goes from my heart to you, my Ba: but there is a certain choice I have all along exercised, of subjects on which I would try and express somewhat—while others might be let alone with less disadvantage. When we first met, it was in your thought that I loved you only for your poetry .. I think you thought that: and because one might be imagined to love that and not you,—because everybody must love it, indeed, that is worthy, and yet needs not of necessity love you,—yet might mistake, or determine to love you thro’ loving it .. for all these reasons, there was not the immediate demand on me for a full expression of my admiration for your intellectuality,—do you see?—rather, it was proper to insist as little as possible on it, and speak to the woman, Ba, simply—and so I have tried to speak,—partly, in truth, because I love her best, and love her mind by the light and warmth of her heart—reading her verses, saying “and these are Ba’s”,—not kissing her lips because they spoke the verses. But it does not follow that I have lost the sense of any delight that has its source in you, my dearest, dearest,—however I may choose to live habitually with certain others in preference. I would shut myself up with you, and die to the world, and live out fifty long,—long lives in bliss through your sole presence—but it is no less true that it will also be an ineffable pride,—something too sweet for the name of pride,—to avow myself, before anyone whose good opinion I am solicitous to retain, as so distinguished by you—it is too sweet, indeed,—so I guard against it,—for frequent allusion to it, might, .. (as I stammer, and make plain things unintelligible) .. might cause you to misconceive me, .. which would be dreadful .. for after all, Ba’s head has given the crown its worth,—though a wondrous crown it is, too!– All this means .. the avowal we were speaking of, will be a heart’s pride—above every other pride whenever you decide on making such an avowal. You will understand as you do ever your own
—On getting home I found letters and letters—the best being a summons to meet Tennyson at Moxon’s on Tuesday,—and the frightfullest .. nay, I will send it. Now, Ba, hold my hand from the distant room, tighter than ever, at about 8. o’clock on Wednesday, .. for I must go, I fear. “Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking ..” &c &c “ἐα, ἐα, ἀπεχε, φευ.” Then Mr Kenyon writes that his friend Commodore Jones is returned to England in bad health and that he must away to Portsmouth and see him. So I do not go on Monday. While I was away Chorley’s brother (John Chorley) called,—having been put to the trouble of a journey hither for nothing.
I have been out this morning—to church with my sister—and the sun shone almost oppres[s]ively,—but now all is black, and threatening. How I send my heart after your possible movements, my own all-beloved! Care for yourself, and for me. But a few months more,—if God shall please! May He bless you.
Ever your own RB
Hail and rain—at a quarter to four o’clock!
Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole St.
Docket, in EBB’s hand: 173.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 692–694.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. “Ah, ah, refrain, alas!” The “frightfullest” letter was an invitation to the 57th anniversary dinner of the Royal Literary Fund on 13 May. RB was asked to speak for the dramatists in response to a toast made by Thomas Noon Talfourd; it was one of RB’s rare attempts at public speaking.
3. William Jones died on 24 May 1846 at Haslar Hospital in Gosport. He had entered the Navy in 1805 and attained the rank of Captain in 1828. On 27 June 1843 he was appointed “to the Penelope steam-frigate … He continued in that ship on the coast of Africa, latterly with the broad pendant of Commodore, until within a short time of his death” (A Naval Biographical Dictionary, 1849, p. 595). His death was reported in the leading newspapers for 26 May 1846 (see letter 2383).
4. John Rutter Chorley (1806–67) contributed to The Athenæum between 1846 and 1854. He gave and bequeathed his extensive collection of Spanish plays to the British Museum.