2388.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 5–7.


Friday. [29 May 1846] [1]

I have your letter .. you who cannot write!– The contrariety is a part of the ‘miracle’. After all it seems to me that you can write for yourself pretty well—rather too well I used to think from the beginning. But if you persist in the proposition about my doing it for you, leaving room for your signature … shall it be this way?–

Show me how to get rid of you.

(signed) RB

Now is’nt it I who am .. not ‘balancing my jewel’ .. over the gulph [2]  .. but actually tossing it up in the air out of sheer levity of joyousness?– Only it is not perhaps such dangerous play as it looks: there may be a little string perhaps, tying it to my finger. Which, if it is not imprudence in act, is impudence in fact, you see!–

Dearest, I committed a felony for your sake today—so never doubt that I love you. We went to the Botanical Gardens, where it is unlawful to gather flowers, & I was determined to gather this [3] for you, & the gardeners were here & there .. they seemed everywhere .. but I stooped down & gathered it– Is it felony, or burglary on green leaves—or what is the name of the crime?—would the people give me up to the police I wonder? Transie de peur, [4] I was, .. listening to Arabel’s declaration that all gathering of flowers in those gardens is highly improper,—and I made her finish her discourse, standing between me & the gardeners .. to prove that I was the better for it.

How pretty those gardens are, by the way! We went to the summerhouse & sate there, & then on, to the empty seats where the band sit on your high days. What I enjoy most to see, is the green under the green .. where the grass stretches under trees. That is something unspeakable to me, in the beauty of it. And to stand under a tree & feel the green shadow of the tree! I never knew before the difference of the sensation of a green shadow & a brown one– I seemed to feel that green shadow through & through me, till it went out at the soles of my feet & mixed with the other green below. Is it nonsense, or not?– Remember that by too much use we lose the knowledge, & apprehension of things, & that I may feel therefore what you do not feel.

But in everything I felt you—& always, dearest beloved, you were nearer to me than the best.

Well,—to go on with my story– Coming home & submitting to be carried up stairs because I was tired, the news was that Miss Bayley had waited to see me three quarters of an hour. Then she sate with me an hour—and oh, such kind, insisting, persisting plans about Italy!– I did not know what to say, so I was niaise [5] & grateful, & said ‘thank you, thank you’ as I could. Did Mrs Jameson tell you of her scheme of going to Florence for two years & to Venice for one, taking her niece [6] with her in order to an “artistical education”? And Mr Bezzi who is the “most accurate of men”, furnishes the details of necessary expences, & assures her in his programme that she may ‘walk in silk attire’ [7] & drive her carriage like an English aristocrat, for three hundred a year, at Florence—but the place is English-ridden .. filled & polluted. Sorrento is better—or even Pisa– We will keep our Siren-isles to ourselves .. will we not?

And now tell me––Was there not a picture of Sirens by Etty, exhibited years ago [8]  .. which was also “abominable,” as I thought when I saw it? Is it the same picture returning like a disquieted ghoule .. much more that, than like a Siren at all? If it is the same, .. I remember it was scarcely to be looked at for hideousness .. though I heard some carnivorous connaisseurs praising the ‘colouring’!! Foreigners might refer such artistical successes to our national ‘beef’ … ‘le bifteak’ ideal. The materialism of Art.

Can you love me so? do you?—will you always?– And is any of that love ‘lost’, do you think, .. as the saying is? Indeed it is not. I put golden basins all round (the reverse shape of lachrymatories) to catch every drop as it falls, .. so that when we two shall meet together in the new world, I may look in your face (as I cannot at this moment) & say ‘None of the love was lost, though all of it was undeserved’. May God bless you, dearest, best! My heart is in you, I think– You would laugh to see the books I take up .. first, Strafford .. then Suetonius to see about your Cæsar .. then the Naples book [9]  .. Oh, but I find you out in the Statesmen .. for all the dim light.

Your very own


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

Postmark: 10FN10MY301846E.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 185.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 740–742.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. See the penultimate paragraph in letter 2306 and the first paragraph in letter 2385.

3. A pansy, now preserved at ABL (see Reconstruction, H565).

4. “Paralyzed with fear.”

5. “Simple,” or “silly.”

6. Gerardine Bate (afterwards Macpherson, 1829?–78) was the eldest child of Mrs. Jameson’s sister Louisa. Gerardine and her aunt left England for Italy in the second week of September 1846. Stopping in Paris, they were contacted by RB when he and EBB arrived there a week later on 21 September. Soon after, it was arranged that they would all travel to Italy as one party. After separating in Pisa, Gerardine and her aunt journeyed on to Florence and then on to Rome, but the “artistical education” was cut short by a year when they decided to return to England in the autumn of 1847. Gerardine Macpherson’s biography of her aunt, Memoirs of the Life of Anna Jameson, was published posthumously in 1878.

7. Susanna Blamire, “The Siller Croun” in The Poetical Works of Miss Susanna Blamire (Edinburgh, 1842), line 1.

8. “Ulysses and the Sirens” was exhibited in 1837 at the Royal Academy, and was seen by EBB when she attended the exhibition with John Kenyon (see letter 570). It is not the same work as the one mentioned by RB in the preceding letter. “Ulysses and the Sirens” was described by The Spectator for 6 May 1837 as “a disgusting combination of voluptuousness and loathsome putridity—glowing in colour and wonderful in execution, but conceived in the worst possible taste.”

9. Notes on Naples and Its Environs (1838) by a Traveller; “Strafford” refers to RB’s contribution to Lives of Eminent British Statesmen (see letter 2374, notes 3 and 4, respectively). “Your Cæsar” is a reference to Lives of the First Twelve Caesars (1796) by C. Suetonius Tranquillus (trans. A. Thomson); RB’s copy sold as lot 1122 in Browning Collections (see Reconstruction, A2229).


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