Correspondence

2379.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 12, 354–355.

[London]

Sunday– [24 May 1846][1]

When you came yesterday I had scarcely done my grumbling over the Athenæum, which really seems to me to select its subjects from the things least likely to interest & elevate. It goes on its own level perhaps—but to call itself a journal of art & literature afterwards, is too much to bear patiently when one turns it over & considers. Lady Hester Stanhope’s physician, antiquities of the mayors of London, stories recollected from the magazines by Signor Marcotti[2]—& this is literature .. art! Without thinking of Luria, it is natural & righteous to be angry even after the sun has gone down. These are your teachers, O Israel!– Mr Dilke may well fly to the Daily News for congenial occupation and leave literature behind him, & nobody hang on the wheels of his chariot, crying, ‘Come back, Mr Dilke’.

Talking of chariots, George met you, he said, yesterday, wheeling down Oxford Street, .. (this he told me when he came in) .. going as fast as an express train, & far too fast, of course, either to recognize or be recognized.

Oh—I forgot to tell you one thing about the review in the Methodist Quarterly. You observe there some very absurd remarks about Tennyson—but, just there, is an extract from the ‘Spirit of the Age’, about his ‘coming out of himself as the nightingale from under the leaves,’ .. you see that? Well .. it is curious that precisely what is quoted there, is some of my writing, when I contributed to Mr Horne’s book[3]. It amused me to recognize it, (as you did not George) .. but I was vexed too at the foolish deduction, because....

In the midst I had to hold my sunday-levee, when for the only day in the week & for one half hour I have to see all my brothers & sisters at once: on the week days, one being in one place & one in another, & the visits to me only coming by twos & threes. Well, & Alfred, who never had said a word to me before, gave me the opportunity of saying “no, no, it is not true”[4]—followed hard by a remark from somebody else, that “of course Ba must know, as she & Mr Browning are such very intimate friends,” & a good deal of laughter on all sides: on which, without any transition & with an exceeding impertinence, Alfred threw himself down on the sofa & declared that he felt inclined to be very ill, .. for that then perhaps (such things being heard of) some young lady might come to visit him, to talk sympathetically on the broad & narrow guage!– Altogether, I shall leave you for the future to … contradict yourself! I did not mean to do it this time, only that Alfred forced me into it. But he said … [‘]‘How the Miss Cokers[5] praised him! … [‘]It was delightful,’ they cried, ‘to see a man of such a great genius, condescend to little people like them’”– So they are better than the Athenæum, & I shall not have them spoken of ungently, mind, even if they do romance a little wildly, & marry me, next time, to the man in the moon.

In the meantime, dearest, it is no moonshine that I was out walking today again, & that I walked up all those stairs with my own feet on returning. I sate down on the stairs two or three times, but I could not rest in the drawing room because somebody was there, & I was not carried, as usual—see how vainglorious I am. And what a summer-sense in the air—& how lovely the strips of sky between the houses!– And yet I may tell you truly, that, constantly, through these vivid impressions, I am thinking & feeling that mournful & bitter would be to me this return into life, apart from you, apart from the consideration of you. How could ever I have borne it, I keep feeling constantly. But you are there, in the place of memory. Ah—you said yesterday that you were not ungrateful! I[6] cannot say so. I blame myself often. And yet again I think that the wrong may be pardoned to me, for that those affections had worked out on me their uttermost pang .. nearly unto death I had felt them: & now if I am to live, it must be by other means—or I should die still, & not live. Also I owe you gratitude—do I not owe you gratitude? Then, I cannot help it .. right or wrong, I cannot help it .. you are all to me, &, beloved—whichever way I look, I only can see you. If wrong, it is not for you to be severe on me,—

Your own

Ba–

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

Postmarks: 12NN12 MY25 1846; 1AN1 MY25 1846 C.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 181.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 726–728.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. A rather short review of The Blackdown Papers (1846) by Luigi Mariotti appeared in The Athenæum—officially named The Athenæum: Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts—for 23 May (no. 969, pp. 521–522). The same issue gave over two pages (pp. 522–524), in a second notice, to the Travels of Lady Hester Stanhope, Narrated by Her Physician (1846); and the lead review was of De Antiquis Legibus Liber, Being a Chronicle of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London (pp. 517–519).

3. For EBB’s remarks on Tennyson in Horne’s A New Spirit of the Age, see vol. 8, Appendix IV, p. 367. For the text of the review in The Methodist Quarterly Review, see vol. 11, pp. 355–360.

4. i.e., that RB was to marry Miss Campbell.

5. See letter 2216, note 1.

6. Underscored twice.

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