2363.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 331–332.


Friday evening. [15 May 1846] [1]

Not even do you yawn in vain then, O you!– And this, then, is what Cicero called ‘oscitans sapientia’? [2] The argument of the yawn ought in fact, to be conclusive—!

But, dearest, if it was “intolerable” to see you yawn yesterday, still less supportable was it today when I had all the yawning to myself, & proved nothing by it. Tired I am beyond your conceiving of .. tired!– You saw how I broke off in my letter to you this morning. Well—that was Miss Heaton, [3] who came yesterday & left the packet you saw, & came again today & sate here exactly three hours. Now imagine that! Three hours of incessant restless talking!– At the end I was blanched, as everybody could see, & Mrs Jameson who came afterwards for five minutes & was too unwell herself to stay, seriously exhorted me not to exert myself too much lest I should pay the penalty. And I had not been down stairs even—only been ground down in the talking-mill. Arabel told her too, before she came up stairs, that I was expecting a friend– ‘Oh’ .. said she to me, “I shall go away directly anyone comes.” And again presently .. “Pray tell me when I ought to go away”!—(as if I could say Go. She deserved it, but I couldn’t!) And then .. “How good of you to let me sit here & talk!” So good of me, when I was wishing her … only at Leeds in the High Street, between a dissenter & a churchman—anywhere but opposite to my eyes! Yet she has very bright ones, & cheeks redder than your roses,—& she is kind & cordial … as I thought in the anguish of my soul, when I tried to be grateful to her. Certainly I should have been more so, if she had stayed a little less, talked a little less—it is awful to think how some women can talk!– Happily she leaves London tomorrow morning, & will not be here again until next year, if then. She talked biography too … ah, I did not mean to tell you—but it is better to tell you at once & have done .. only she desired me not to mention it .. only she little knew what she was doing!– You will not mention it. She told me that “her informant about Mr. Browning, .. was a lady to whom he had been engaged .. that there had been a very strong attachment on both sides, but that everything was broken off by her on the ground of religious differences—that it happened years ago & that the lady was married.” [4] At first I exclaimed imprudently enough (but how could it be otherwise?) that it was not true—but I caught at the bridle in a minute or two & let her have it her own way. Do not answer this—it is nonsense, I know—but it helped to tire me with the rest. Was’nt it a delightful day for me? At the end of the three hours, she threw her arms round me & kissed me some half dozen times & wished me ‘goodbye’ till next year. Wilson found me standing in the middle of the room, looking as she said, “like a ghost”. And no wonder! The “vile wind” out of doors was nothing to it.

Dearest, you are well? Your letter says nothing. Only one more letter, & then monday. Ah—it is the sweetest of flattery to say that you “need” me—but is’nt it difficult to understand? Yet while you even fancy that you have such a need, you may be sure (let Charles Fox break his promises ever so!) [5] of

your own Ba–

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

Postmark: 10FN10 MY16 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 174.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 705–706.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. “Yawning Philosophy” (Cicero, De Oratore, II, xxxiii, 145, trans. E.W. Sutton).

3. See letter 2344, note 3.

4. See the following letter for RB’s reaction.

5. The passage in parentheses has been added above the line.


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