2422. RB to EBB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 59–62.
Wednesday Mg [Postmark: 17 June 1846]
My own Ba, I release you from just as much as you would easily dispense me from observing in that mutual promise: indeed, it has become one unnecessary for our present relation and knowledge: it was right at the beginning for either to say to the other, using calm words, “it is your good I seek, not mine[”] and as, if it were demonstrated that I should secure yours at the expense of mine by leaving you I would endeavour to do it: so, you assure me, you would act by me. The one point to ascertain, therefore, is—what will amount to a demonstration—and I, for my part, apprize you that no other person in the world can by any possibility know so much of me as to be entitled to pronounce in the matter—to say “it is for good or for evil”—therefore, you will no more be justified in giving up to that kind of demonstration what I consent you shall give up to one clearly furnished by myself, the only authentic one—than you would be justified in paying my money, entrusted to you, on the presentation of a cheque signed by somebody else .. somebody who loves me better than himself, my best of friends, truest of advisers &c &c[.] It skills not, boots not– “John Smith” is not R.B., nor B.A. and because R.B. or B.A. shall be instantly attended to,—[“]the counterfeit must be refused.”– Just this, so rational and right, I understood you to bid me promise—and so much you have promised me, a proper precaution for the earlier time when the friend might seem to argue with some plausibility “really I understand my friend[’]s interests better than you can”– But now, who dares assure me that? I disbelieve it: one only knows better, can ever know better—yourself: and I will obey yourself. So with me—I know better my own good than you do yet, I think—when I tell you that good requires such a step as you speak of, you shall acquiesce; I will tell you on the instant, as you, in your own case, should tell me on the instant. I needed not ask you to promise, as I foolishly did, that you would not act in the saddest of ways—professing to see what could never be, and believe what must be untrue. At the beginning, at the first day, suppose Mr Kenyon had said—you prevent his getting such a place, which brings in so much honor and wealth—or marrying such a person who would effect the same—you might have assented then, in your comparative ignorance, just as you could not have objected had he said, “If you hold Mr B. to his engagement to come here on the Derby Day you will ruin him assuredly, for his heart and soul are on “the turf” and his betting-book will go to wreck.” —To this you could never bring yourself to pretend an assent—it would be no argument if he went on saying—“Why, A & B & C, go to races and bet on them”—you know I do not: so you know my estimate of honour and wealth and the rest, apart .. I will not say from the love of you,—but from my own life as I had traced it years ago, and as it is still traced for me to its end,—your love coming to help it in every smallest particular, to supply the undreamed-of omissions in the plan of it, and remove the obstructions best seen now that they are removed or removable: there is a calmest of “calm” statements of the good of you to me.
My dearest Ba, you say “let us both think”—think of this, you! Do not for God’s sake introduce an element of uncertainty and restlessness and dissatisfaction into the feeling whereon my life lies .. to speak for myself, this matter is concluded, done with,—I am yours, you are mine, and not to give rise to refinements upon refine-ments as to what is the being most of all each other[’]s, which might end in your loving me best while I was turned a Turk in the East, or my .. you know the Inquisition does all for the pure love of the victim[’]s soul: let us have common sense—and think, in its most ordinary exercise, what would my life be worth now without you—as I,—putting on your own crown, accepting your own dearest assurance,—dare believe your life would be incomplete now without mine: so you have allowed me to believe. Then our course is plain. If you dare make the effort, we will do as we propose,—if not, not: I have nothing to do but take your hand .. there is not one difficulty in my path,—nor in yours on my account,—that is, for me. If I change my views, and desire hereafter what I altogether turn from now,—in what conceivable respect will your being my wife hinder me? If I accept the Embassy which Young England in the person of Milnes has promised me—you shall offer no impediment: if I rather aspire to “dine out” here in London, you shall stay at home and be goodnatured. I shall attain to all these delights just as easily with you as without you, I suppose; “no—I cannot marry some other woman and by her means and connections and connexions”– —No—because,—first and least of all, I begin by drawing on myself the entire cataract of shame and disgrace in the mouth of the world,—direct accusation, or rather condemnation, against which not a word can be urged in mitigation, because all would be the pure simple truth. —I do this, who have been fretfully wincing under the mere apprehension of catching a mere spatter or two of gossiping scandal—which a very few words would get rid of, seeing that, in fact, the falseness of the imputation will be apparent to everybody with eyes to see: for after all, here I am, living to my own pleasure and my father & mother’s, and at liberty to do so for ever, as mortals say. Well, and so having gone under the whole real cataract instead of the impertinence of the half a dozen sprinklings from the mop at the nursery-window which an upward look and cry will stop at once,—so having mended the matter, I commit a sin which .. I turn and ask you, should you be ever at peace with God and yourself if you sate still and suffered me to commit,—not on account of me and my harm to follow in both worlds,—but in mere justice to your “neighbour,”—on whom you would see inflicted this infamous wrong?
Dear, dear, dear Ba, I kiss you, kiss my heart out unto you,—best love, one love! See above what I will not think over again, look over again .. but what then? Can I be quiet when I hear the least, least motion about my treasure, and my heart that is there, with it? Then no more, I beseech you, love, never one word more of all that! Whenever I can hear such words calmly, I shall be fit for agreeing to them,—let all be, now! These two kindest of letters both come in together to my blessing—my entire blessing! I was writing the last line when they came—I will just say now, that the Greenwich affair is put off till Friday. Do not I understand Miss Bayley! And do I understand you, my Ba, when I venture this time .. because of the words and the pain I shall not hide that they did give me, .. to feel that, even beyond my kissing you, you kiss this one time your own
My mother is much better, and out—she is walking with my sister– I am very well .. in the joy perhaps .. but really much better—& have been so.
My two hundredth letter from her.! I, poor?
Address: Miss Barrett, / 50 Wimpole St.
Postmark: 8NT8 JU17 1846 B.
Docket, in EBB’s hand: 208.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 792–795.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. From the context, it seems unlikely that RB intended this statement seriously. Milnes was not closely aligned with Disraeli and “Young England,” nor was he in any position to provide such assistance to RB. In fact, the previous winter Milnes had been passed over by Peel for an under-secretaryship in the foreign office. Nevertheless, again in 1847, in a letter to Milnes from Pisa, dated 31 March, referring to the state of affairs in Italy and the possibility of an English embassy to Pius IX, RB wrote that he “should like to have to remember that I asked you, whose sympathy I am sure of, to mention in the proper quarter, should you see an occasion, that I would be glad and proud to be secretary to such an Embassy, and to work like a horse in my vocation.” No embassy was ever sent to Pio Nono, and at the time of this latter request, Milnes was in no better position to assist RB.
2. Cf. Matthew 6:21.
3. See docket in preceding letter.