2366.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 335–336.


Sunday– [17 May 1846] [1]

(Day before to-morrow!)

How kind to write to me and help me thro’ the gloomy day with a light! I could certainly feel my way in the dark and reach to-morrow without very important stumbling, but now I go cheerfully on, spite of a little headache & weariness: “need you”? I should hate life apart from you,—knowing what I say, I should hate it—the life of my soul as seen apart from that of the mere body .. to which, to the necessities of which, no human being ever ministered before, and which, now that I have known you, I myself cannot provide for,—or could not, were you removed,—even after the imperfect fashion of former times. If you ask Mrs Jameson she will tell you, if she has thought it worth remembering, that I once two or three years ago, explained to her that I could not believe in “love”, nor understand it,—nor be subject to it consequently. I said—“all you describe as characteristics of the passion—I should expect to find in men more easily and completely”—now I know better, and my year’s life spent in this knowledge makes all before it look pale and all after, if an after could come,—look black

Why do I write so? I am rather dull, this horrible day, and cling to you the closelier.


All you write about Art is most true. Carlyle has turned and forged, reforged on his anvil that fact that “no age ever appeared heroic to itself” [2]  .. and so, worthy of reproduction in Art by itself .. I thought after Carlyle’s endeavours nobody could be ignorant of that,—nobody who was obliged to seek the proof of it out of his own experience .. The cant is, that “an age of transition” is the melancholy thing to contemplate and delineate—whereas the worst thing of all to look back on are times of comparative standing still, rounded in their impotent completeness– So the Young England [3] imbeciles hold that “belief” is the admirable point—in what, they judge comparatively immaterial! The other day I took up a book two centuries old in which “glory”, soldiering, “rushing to conquer” and the rest, were most thoroughly “believed in”—and if by some miracle the writer had conceived and described some unbeliever, unable to “rush to conquer the Parthians” &c, it would have been as tho’ you found a green bough inside a truss of straw– [4]

But you know–

And I know one thing, one, but one—I love you, shall love you ever, living and dying

your own—

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole St

Postmark: 10FN10 MY18 1846 A.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 184.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 709–710.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. RB is referring to EBB’s remarks in the preceding letter; cf. Aurora Leigh, V, 154–156.

3. The faction within the Tory party, led by Disraeli, which sought to revive the importance and prominence of the aristocracy, and thereby diminish the growing economic and political power of the middle class.

4. We have been unable to trace the book to which RB alludes.


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