2402. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 27–29.
Sunday. [7 June 1846]
This is the first word I have written out of my room, these five years, I think .. if I dare count anything beyond two .. for I do know that one comes after two .. (now just see what I have written!) that two comes after one, I meant to say, .. as well as a mathematician. I am writing now in the back-drawing room, half out of the window for air,—driven out of my own territory by the angel of the sun this morning. Oh—it is so hot—& the darkness does not help when the lack is just of air .. there is a thick mist lacquered over with light—it is cauldron-heat, rather than fire-heat. So different in the country it must be! Well, everybody being at church or chapel, I knew I could have this room to myself, without fear even of the dreadful knocker .. more awful to me than the famous knocks which used to visit the Wesley family—so here I curl up my feet ‘more meo’ on the settee, & help to keep the sabbath by resting upon you. Would Miss Goldsmid call it as ‘profane’ as anything in your poems? But it will not be more profane for that—as I could prove if we wanted proofs—only we do not.
Such flowers as you brought me yesterday—such roses!– The roses are best, as coming from your garden!– When I began to arrange them, I thought I never saw such splendid roses anywhere—they are more beautiful than what you brought last year surely!– It seems so to me. Dearest, how did you get home, & how are you? & how is your mother? Remember to answer my questions, if you please.
After you were gone I received from Mr Lough a very gracious intimation that if I would go to see his studio, his statue of the queen & other works, he would take care that no creature should be present, he would uncover all the works & provide a clear solitude for me—he ‘would not do it for a Duchess,’ he said, but he ‘would for me!’ Now what am I to say. My sisters tell me that I can go quite easily—the place is very near—& there are no stairs. Well, I think I must go. It is very kind & considerate, & there would be a pleasure, of course– Do you know that statues have more power over me than all the pictures & all the colours thereof which the world can show? Mr Kenyon told me once that it was a pure affectation of mine to say so—& for my own part I could not see for a long while what was the reason of a most unaffected preference. I think I see it now. Painting flatters the senses & makes the Ideal credible in a vulgar way– But with Sculpture it is different—& there is a grand audacity in the power of an Ideal which, appealing directly to the Senses, & to the coarsest of them, the Touch, as well as the Sight, yet forces them to receive Beauty through the door of an Abstraction which is a means abhorrent to them– Have I written what I mean, I wonder, or do you understand it, without? Then there is a great deal, of course[,] in that grand white repose! Like the Ideas of the Platonic system, those great sculptures seem—when looked at from a distance–
When you were gone yesterday, & I had had my coffee & put on my bonnet, I went, with the intention of walking out, as far as the drawingroom, & there, failed: not even with your recommendation in my ears, beloved, could I get any further. Notwithstanding all my flatteries (meaning the flatteries of me!) I was not at best & strongest, yesterday, nor am even today, though it is nothing to mind or to mention—only I think I shall not try to walk out in this heat even today, & yesterday it seemed impossible. So I came back & lay on my own sofa, & presently began to read ‘Le Comte de Monte Cristo,’ the new book by Dumas, (observe how I waste my time—while you learn how not to fortify cities, out of Machiavelli!—) & really he amuses me with his Monte Cristo .. six volumes I am glad to see—he is the male Scheherazade certainly. Now that the hero is safe in a dungeon (of the Chateau d’If) it will be delightful to see how he will get out—somebody knocks at the wall already. Only the narrative is not always very clear to me, inasmuch as, when I read, I unconsciously interleave it with such thoughts of you as make very curious cross readings .. j’avais cru remarquer quelques infidelités .. he really seems to love me—l’homme n’est jamais qu’un homme .. never was any man like him—ses traits étaient bouleversés .. the calmest eyes I ever saw .. So, Dumas or Machiavelli, it is of the less consequence what I read, I suppose, while I apply so undestractedly.
May God bless you, ever beloved!– I think of you, I love you– I forgot again your Strafford—Mr. Forster’s Strafford, I beg his pardon for not attributing to him other men’s works. Not that I mean to be cross—not to him, even.
I am your own–
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: JU8 1846.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 192.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 761–763.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. According to the “Meteorological Diary” in The Gentleman’s Magazine (July 1846, p. 112), the noon temperature for 6 and 7 June was 80 degrees; the 11 P.M. reading for the latter date was 79 degrees.
3. It is recorded that the Wesley family began to hear “strange knockings” in their home at Epworth, all except Mr. Wesley; but one night he “was awakened by loud and distinct knocks, which seemed to be in the next room, with a pause at every third stroke” (Robert Southey, Life of Wesley, 2nd ed., 1820, I, 21–27).
4. “According to my custom.”
5. Presumably Anna Maria Goldsmid (1805–89), who had translated Gotthold Solomon’s Twelve Sermons in 1839, in the preface of which she expressed her “hope that from their perusal, many of her Christian countrymen may derive a better knowledge than they previously possessed, of the actuating faith of the Jew.” According to the DNB, she was a friend of Lord Brougham, Robert Owen, Mendelssohn, and Sir Moses Montefiore. It is possible that RB had referred to her, but since her father was a friend of Miss Mitford (see letter 1970, note 4), EBB’s knowledge might have come from that source.
6. Perhaps these are “the first fruits, first blossoms” he hoped for from the roses he mentioned planting in letter 2276.
7. Lough had been commissioned to execute a statue of Queen Victoria for the new Royal Exchange. The over-sized figure of the Queen was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1845. Although the statue was placed in the Royal Exchange as planned, it was criticised, particularly for the choice of marble, and eventually it was replaced. EBB declined Lough’s invitation as indicated in letter 2405. She had referred to Lough in “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship,” line 117.
8. See letter 2221, note 6.
9. “I had believed I observed several infidelities.”
10. “A man is never more than a man.”
11. “His features were distorted.”
12. See letter 2393, note 1.