2414.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 49–51.


Saturday morning. [13 June 1846] [1]

I wrote last night when my head was still struggling & swimming between two tides of impressions received from the excitement & fatigue of the day. Mr Kenyon (dear Mr Kenyon in his exquisite kindness!) took me to see the strange new sight (to me!) of the Great Western [2]  .. the train coming in: & we left the carriage & had chairs—& the rush of the people & the earth-thunder of the engine, almost overcame me .. not being used to such sights & sounds in this room, remember!! .. & afterwards I read & answered your letter with a whirling head. I cannot be sure how I answered it, my head whirled so. I only hope .. hope .. hope .. that it did not seem unworthily of your goodness & generosity—for that would be unworthy of my perception of them & reverence for them, besides. You do not, in particular, I do hope, misunderstand my reasons for refusing to improve what you call my “advantages,” by turning them into disadvantages for you. Really it struck me at the moment & strikes me new every time I think of it, that it would be monstrous in me to stop at such an idea long enough to examine it. To do such a thing would complete the ‘advantages’ of my alliance––if that is a desire of yours. And if I were to be ill afterwards, there would be the crown of the crown. Now ask yourself if I ought––

I cannot conceive of the possibility of a ‘calumny’ on such a pretext—there seems no room for it. You will however have it in your power hereafter without injury to either of us, to do yourself full justice in this particular,––only neither now nor hereafter shall I consent to let in sordid withering cares into your life,—God has not made it so, & it shall not be so by an act of mine.

And after all, shall we be so much .. so much too rich?—do you fancy that Miss Kilmansegg is made of brass compared to me? [3] It is not so bad, be very sure. If Arabel should not offend Papa, she will be richer hereafter than we are .. yet not rich even so. Why are you fanciful in that way? People are more likely to say that I have taken you in. The sign of the Red Dragon!—as you suggested once yourself! [4]

I could make you laugh, if it were not too hot to laugh, with telling you how I really do not know what my ‘advantages’ are—specifically—so many, & so many. I am not ‘allowed’ to spend what I might—but the motive is of course a kind one .. there is no mistaking that. Poor Papa!– He attends just to those pecuniary interests which no one cares for, with a scrupulous attention. Nearly two hundred a year of ship shares I never touch– Then there is the interest of six thousand pounds (not less at any rate) in the funds—& I referred to the principal of that, when I said yesterday, that when we had ceased to need it, it might return to my family, since it came from them, if you chose. [5] But this is all air—& nothing shall be said of it now—& whatever may be said hereafter, shall come from you, & be your word rather than mine. So I beseech you, by your affection for me, to speak no more of this hateful subject, which I have entered for a moment lest you should exaggerate to yourself & mistake me for the least in the world of an heiress. As to Lord Monteagle, we can do without him, I think—and unless he would give us a house to keep, or something of that sort, at Sorrento or Ravenna, I do not exactly see what he can do for us. To make an agreement with a periodical, would be more a possibility perhaps—but it is not a necessity—there is no sort of need, in fact—& why should you be tormented “in the multitude of the thoughts within you,” [6] utterly in vain?

As to your family .. I understand your natural desire of giving your confidence at the fullest, to your father & mother, who deserve & claim it .. I understand that you should speak & listen to them, & cross no wish of theirs, & in nothing displease & pain them. But I do not understand the argument by which you involve this question with other questions .. when you say, for instance, that I “ought not to countenance the preposterousness & tyranny”. How do I seem to countenance what I revolt from? Do you mean that we ought to do what we are about, openly? It is the only meaning I can attach to your words. Well– If you choose it to be so, knowing what I have told you, let it be so. I can however, as I said yesterday, answer only for my will & mind, & not for my strength & body—and if the end should be different from the end you looked for, you will not blame me, being just, .. any more than I shall blame myself. May God bless you, ever dearest!–

I am your own as ever.

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

Postmarks: 1846JU158Mg8A; 10FN10JU151846A.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 197.; + Monday, June 15. / 3–5¾. 5m. p.m. (71.) [sic, for 72].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 781–783.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. The new and enlarged engine built by Daniel Gooch, and operated by the Great Western Line. EBB and Kenyon saw the locomotive come in prior to its “experimental trip,” which, according to The Times of 15 June was made on the 13th of June in the presence of the company chairman and officers. The train was “driven by the chief engineer, Mr. Brunel” (p. 8).

3. A reference to Hood’s satirical poem “Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg” (1840–41), the main subject of which is a wealthy heiress who has an artificial leg of solid gold.

4. See the second paragraph of letter 2195.

5. For an account of EBB’s income, see letter 2030, note 2.

6. Cf. Paradise Regained (1671), I, 196–197.


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