Correspondence

2403.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 29–30.

[London]

Sunday. [7 June 1846][1]

One thing you said yesterday which I want to notice and protest against, my Ba– You charged me with speaking depreciatingly of myself because you had set the example– “I should not have thought of it but that you began.” Now I am tired, just at this moment, and submissive altogether, and hopeful besides, on the whole,—so I will let you off with a simple but firmest of protests,—I did not think of imitating you, but spoke as I felt and knew,—and feel and know still– The world, generally, will inform you of this in its own good time and way, so .. taceo![2] (The last opinion of the world’s on the respective value of people and people, is unhappily too decisive. “And, after all, Mr Langton is quite as good as the Duke’s daughter .. for he will have full twenty thousand a-year!”)[3] —I suspect I was going to turn a pretty phrase and tell you I have only a heart .. as the play-books prescribe,—when the said heart pricks me as if I reserved something—so I will confess to owning a “forehead and an eye”—one advantage over Pope, to whom folks used to remark “Sir, you have an eye”[4]—and no more—whereas yesterday evening after leaving Ba, while I settled myself in the corner of our omnibus to think of her, a spruce gentleman stretched over, and amid the rumbling begged my pardon for being forced to remark that my forehead and eye interested him deeply, phrenologist as he was,—and he was sure I must needs be somebody .. besides a passenger to Greenwich! So if Ba will trust in phrenology!—I will at least not be unkind to her as to the learned man—who left the vehicle in due time, lamenting that in return for his own confidence and pink bill (“Mr Hamilton, phrenologist & lecturer” &c &c) I would not break my obstinate reserve and augustly pronounce “Am I a Beefeater now?”

Assez de sottises:[5] Ba, my Ba, I am happy in you beyond hope of expression—you know how happy .. And have not I some shade of a right,—I who loved the dear, dear pale cheek and the thin hand,—a right to be blessed in the wonders I see .. so long as I continue to be thankful to God whose direct doing I know it to be: how can I ever doubt the rest … the so easy matters remaining—I will not doubt more, I think.

Tell me, write of yourself, love: remember the fierce heat .. and never go up the long stairs—or, at least, rest at proper intervals. I think of the Homeric stone heaved nearly to the hill-top and then![6] .. an accident now would be horrible,—think, and take every precaution—because it is my life, (if that will influence you) my whole happiness you are carrying safely or letting slip. May God overwatch all and care for us!

Good bye, best beloved,—I fear I ought to go to Mrs Jameson’s tonight: there is a breakfast engagement for Wednesday, to meet this & the other notable,—and a simple “at home” promised to anybody calling this evening—and my pride won’t let me accept one, nor my liking to Mrs J. suffer me to refuse both .. Yet the fatigue! I have been at church today, seeing people faint.

Your own, your own RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole Street.

Postmark: 12NN12 JU8 1846 D.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 201.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 764–765.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. “I am silent.”

3. Probably a reference to the marriage of William Henry Gore Langton (1824–73), grandson and heir of Colonel Gore Langton, to Lady Anne Elizabeth Mary Grenville, only daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Buckingham, on 9 June 1846 at St. George’s Church, Hanover Square.

4. Cf. Pope, An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (1734), line 118.

5. “Enough nonsense.”

6. The punishment of Sisyphus was to roll an enormous stone up a hill, but before he could push it over the top it would roll down again, thus making his torment everlasting (Odyssey, XI, 593–600).

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