Correspondence

2411.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 43–45.

[London]

Friday. [Postmark: 12 June 1846]

When I am close to you, in your very room, I see thro’ your eyes, and feel what you feel—but after, the sight widens with the circle of outside things– I cannot fear for a moment what seemed redoubtable enough yesterday—nor do I believe that there will be two opinions anywhere in the world as to your perfect right to do as you please under the present circumstances: people are not quite so tolerant to other people’s preposterousness, and that which yourself tell me exceeds anything I ever heard of or imagined—but, dearest, on twice thinking, one surely ought not to countenance it as you propose: why should not my father & mother know? What possible harm can follow from their knowing? Why should I wound them to the very soul and for ever, by as gratuitous a piece of unkindness as if,—no,—there is no comparison will do! Because, since I was a child I never asked for the least or greatest thing within the compass of their means to give, but given it was,—nor for liberty but it was conceded, nor for confidence but it was bestowed– I dare say they would break their hearts at such an end of all!– For in any case they will take my feeling for their own with implicit trust—& if I brought them a beggar, or a famous actress even, they would believe in her because of me,—if a Duchess, or Miss Hudson, or Lady Selina Huntingdon[1] rediviva .. they would do just the same, sorrow to say!– As to any harm or blame that can attach itself to them,—it is too absurd to think of! What earthly control can they have over me? They live here,—I go my own way, being of age and capability. How can they interfere?

And then, blame for what, in either God’s or the devil’s name? I believe you to be the one woman in the world I am able to marry because able to love. I wish, on some accounts, I had foreseen the contingency of such an one’s crossing my path in this life—but I did not,—and on all ordinary grounds preferred being free and poor, accordingly. All is altered now. Does anybody doubt that I can by application in proper quarters obtain quite enough to support us both in return for no extraordinary expenditure of such faculties as I have? If it is to be doubted, I have been greatly misinformed, that is all. Or, setting all friends and their proposals, and the rest of the hatefulness aside—I should say that so simple a procedure as writing to anybody .. Lord Monteagle,[2] for instance, who reads and likes my works, as he said at Moxon’s two days ago on calling there for a copy to give away .. surely to write to him, “when you are minister next month, as is expected, will you give me for my utmost services about as much as you give Tennyson for nothing?”—this would be rational and as easy as all rationality: let me do so, and at once, my own Ba! And do you, like the unutterably noble creature I know you, transfer your own advantages to your brothers or sisters .. making if you please a proper reservation in the case of my own exertions failing, as failure comes everywhere– So shall the one possible occasion of calumny be removed and all other charges go for the simple absurdities they will be—I am entirely in earnest about this, and indeed had thought for a moment of putting my own share of the project into immediate execution—but on consideration,—no! So I will live and so die with you: I will not be poorly endeavouring to startle you with unforeseen generosities, catch you in pretty pitfalls of magnanimities, be always surprising you, or trying to do it– No, I resolve to do my best, thro’ you—by your counsel, with your help, under your eye .. the most strenuous endeavour will only approximate to an achievement of that,—and to suppose a superfluousness of devotion to you (as all these surprises do) would be miserably foolish. So, dear, dear Ba, understand and advise me: I took up the paper with ordinary feelings .. but the absurdity and tyranny suddenly flashed upon me .. it must not be borne—indeed its only safety in this instance is in its impotency. I am not without fear of some things in this world—but the “wrath of man,”[3] all the men living put together, I fear as I fear the fly I have just put out of the window—but I fear God—and am ready, he knows, to die this moment in taking his part against any piece of injustice & oppression– So I aspire to die!

See this long letter, and all about a truism, a plain palpable common-place matter about which you agree with me, you the dear quiet Ba of my heart, with me that make all this unnecessary fuss! See what is behind all the “’bated breath and whispered humbleness!”[4]—but it is right, after all, to revolt against such monstrous tyranny. And I ought not, I feel, to have forgotten the feelings of my father & mother as I did: because I know as certainly as I know anything that if I could bring myself to ask them to give up everything in the world, they would do it and cheerfully.

So see, and forgive your own

RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole Street.

Postmark: 8NT8 JU12 1846 E.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 204.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 775–777.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Selina Hastings (née Shirley, 1707–91), Countess of Huntingdon, was converted to Methodism by her sister-in-law, Lady Hastings, in support of which she devoted her life and considerable wealth. “Miss Hudson” probably refers to a daughter of George Hudson (1800–71), known as the “Railway King,” because of the vast wealth he amassed from his speculation on the development of the railways. According to the DNB, “the aristocracy of London crowded his parties at Albert Gate, Knightsbridge” about this time.

2. Thomas Spring Rice (1790–1866), created 1st Baron Monteagle (1839) after serving as Secretary to the Treasury in Grey’s administration and Chancellor of the Exchequer in Melbourne’s second administration, subsequently retired from active participation in public life. No assistance from Monteagle was ever forthcoming; although, from the tone of RB’s remark, it seems unlikely that he was hopeful of receiving help from Monteagle.

3. Psalm 76:10.

4. Merchant of Venice, I, 3, 124.

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