Correspondence

2430.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 73–76.

[London]

Monday evening. [22 June 1846][1]

Well—I did look everywhere for you today,—but not more than I always do—always I do, when I go out, look for you in the streets .. round the corners!– And Mrs Jameson came alone & she & I were alone at Mr Rogers’s, & you must help me to thank her some day for her unspeakable kindness to me, though she did not leap to the height of the inspiration of managing to let us see those pictures together. Ah—if she had, it would have been too much– As it is, she gave me a great deal of pleasure in the kindest of ways .. & I let it be pleasure, by mixing it with enough thoughts of you .. (otherwise how could it be pleasure?)—& she showed the pictures, & instructed me, really taking pains & instructing me .. & telling me how Rubens painted landscapes .. as how should my ignorance guess? .. & various other unknown things. The first word as we reached the door, frightened me—for she said that perhaps we might see Mr Rogers .. which was a little beyond our covenant—but we did not see him, & I suppose the Antinous on the staircase is not at all like him.[2] Grand it is, in its serene beauty. On a colossal scale, in white marble. For the pictures, they are full of wonder & divinity—each giving the measure of a man’s soul. And think .. sketches from the hand of Michael Angelo & Raphael![3] And a statuette in clay, alive with the life of Michael Angelo’s finger[4]—the blind eyes looking .. seeing .. as if in scorn of all clay! And the union of energy & meditation in the whole attitude!—— You have seen the marble of that figure in Florence. Then, a divine Virgin & child,[5] worn & faded to a shadow of Raphael’s genius, as Mrs Jameson explained to me—and the famous Ecce Homo of Guido[6] .. and Rubens’ magnificent “version,” as she called it, of Andrea Mantegna’s Triumph of Julius Caesar.[7] So triumphing to this day!– And Titian,[8] & Tintoretto[9] .. & what did not strike me the least, .. a portrait of Rembrandt by himself,[10] which if his landscapes, as they say, were “dug out of nature”, looks as if it were dug out of humanity. Such a rugged, dark, deep subterraneous face, .. yet inspired—! seeming to realize that God took clay & breathed into the nostrils of it. There, are both the clay, & the divinity! And think! I saw the agreement between the bookseller & Milton for the sale of Paradise Lost! with Milton’s signature & seal!—and “Witnessed by William Greene, Mr Milton’s servant”.[11] How was it possible not to feel giddy with such sights!– Almost I could have run my head against the wall, I felt, with bewilderment—and Mrs Jameson must have been edified, I have thought since, by my intense stupidity. I saw too the first edition of Paradise Lost. The rooms are elegant, with no pretension to splendour .. which is good taste, a part of the good taste everywhere. Only, on the chimney piece of the dining room, were two small busts, beautiful busts, white with marble, .. & representing––now, whom, of gods & men, would you select for your Lares .. to help your degestion & social merriment? … Caligula & Nero in childhood.![12] The ‘childhood’ is horribly suggestive to me! On the sideboard, is Pope’s bust, by Roubillac[13]—a too expressive, miserable face—drawn, with disease & bitter thoughts, & very painful, I felt, to look at. These things I liked least, in the selection & arrangement. Everything beside was admirable: & I write & write of it all as if I were not tired—but I am .. & most with the excitement & newness. Mrs Jameson breakfasted with Mr Rogers yesterday, she said, & met the countess Hahn-Hahn, who was talking of modern literature when her host suddenly stopped her with a question .. “Did you ever read Addison?”[14]

How late it is. Must I have done, before I have half done?

What I did not tell you yesterday, is very much in my thoughts .. do you know? I, too, “see what I know & testify what I have felt .. and, as far as my faculties of perception go,” .. I am confident that you had better not look for a single reason for loving me. Which is worst? A bad reason, or no reason at all? A bad reason, I think—& accept the alternative. Ah .. my own only beloved– And how you write to me tonight! I will read what you tell me in Landor .. but no words of inspired lips or pen .. no poet’s word, of the divinest, .. ever went to my heart as yours in these letters! Do I not love you? am I not your own? And while deserving nothing of all of it, I feel it at least––respond to it—my heart is in your hand. May God bless you .. “& me in that,”[15]—because even He could not bless me without that. Which He knows.

Your own.

But there is much beauty in Faustina—oh, surely!–

The lilies, all in blow except one .. which is blowing.

Are we going to have a storm tonight? It lightens .. lightens!

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

Postmark: PD 10FN JU23 1846.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 204.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 806–809.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. This work is described as “a fine colossal bust of Antinous, in the character of Bacchus: A modern Italian work. Executed for Thomas Hope, Esq.” in Christie’s Catalogue of The Very Celebrated Collection of Works of Art: The Property of Samuel Rogers, Esq., Deceased (1856), lot 833, p. 83.

3. Mrs. Jameson describes these in her Companion to the Most Celebrated Private Galleries of Art in London (1844), pp. 404–405:

“Michael Angelo.—Study, in black chalk, for one of the grand seated figures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. From the Lawrence collection.

Raphael.—Study for two figures in the famous ‘Entombment,’ in the Palazzo Borghese. Slightly, but most beautifully drawn with a pen. From the Crozat collection and that of Sir T. Lawrence. In Passavant’s Catalogue of Raphael’s Drawings, No. 343.

Study.—Madonna and Child, with St. John. Drawing, in red chalk; apparently a first thought for the Madonna del Cardellino.

Part of the Cartoon for the large Holy Family painted for Francis I., and now in the Louvre. It contains the figure of Christ.”

4. “The small model, by Michael Angelo, of his famous seated statue of Lorenzo de’ Medici, Duke of Urbino, called ‘Il Pensiero.’ It is in terra-cotta. From the collection of Mr. Locke, of Norbury Park. The statue itself, in marble, is in the Chapel Dei Depositi, in the Church of San Lorenzo, at Florence” (Jameson, Companion, p. 411).

5. “Raphael (Sanzio, or Santi), b. 1483; d. 1520. The Virgin and Child.—The Virgin, seen half-length, in a grey robe, with dark red sleeves and blue drapery, a light veil falling from her head, supports the infant Christ, standing; one hand is round his waist, the other sustains his left foot; his left hand rests on her neck; landscape background. Most charming, for the sweet, affectionate, serious expression of the Madonna, and the infantine beauty of the Child.

Since 1721 in the Orleans Gallery, whence it was purchased by G. Hibbert, Esq., for 500 guineas; it was then in the possession of Henry Hope, Esq., and at his sale, in 1816, purchased by Mr. Rogers.

By some attributed to Timoteo Viti d’Urbino” (Jameson, Companion, p. 399).

6. “Guido Reni, b. 1575; d. 1642. A Head of Christ—crowned with thorns. An exceedingly fine sketch. From Mr. West’s collection. Engraved by Sharp, with the inscription—‘Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow’” (Jameson, Companion, p. 396).

7. “Rubens (Sir Peter Paul), b. 1577; d. 1640. Triumphal Procession—after Andrea Mantegna. A picture, for many reasons, both remarkable and interesting.

When Rubens was painting at Mantua, (from 1601 to 1607,) under the patronage of the Duke Vicenzio Gonzaga, ‘The Triumph of Julius Caesar,’ now at Hampton Court, still adorned the ducal palace, in all its freshness and beauty, and Rubens, from one of the most beautiful compartments of the frieze, painted this copy for himself. His lively and dramatic genius has produced some variations. Thus, instead of the sheep for sacrifice, which in the original are seen in the right-hand corner, quietly walking by the side of the elephant, Rubens has introduced a lion and a panther, which last appears to growl at the elephant, and the latter turns round to strike him with his trunk. The forms, though more slender and graceful than is usual with Rubens, are yet ampler than the severe antique elegance of Mantegna, in the original picture; while the richness and harmony of the colour lend certainly a great charm to this classic composition. Rubens kept this copy in his own possession; after his death it was sold, and during the revolutionary war it was purchased, by Mr. Champernowne, from the Balbi Palace, at Genoa. It was then valued at 800 gs., but was sold from his collection, in 1820, for 335 gs.” (Jameson, Companion, p. 407).

8. Mrs. Jameson identifies three Titians in Rogers’s collection: “La Gloria di Tiziano”; “Charles V. on Horseback”; and a “Noli me tangere” (Jameson, Companion, pp. 401–403).

9. “The Miracle of St. Mark” is the only work by Tintoretto listed by Mrs. Jameson (Companion, pp. 400–401).

10. “Portrait of Rembrandt—when about sixty, in a brown cloak, bordered with fur, and a velvet cap on his head; he wears a gold chain and medal. Executed in a free, sketchy, and most masterly style” (Jameson, Companion, p. 406).

11. This document, dated 27 April 1667, indicating that Milton was to receive £10 for the publication of Paradise Lost, was bequeathed to the British Museum by Rogers. Rogers’s copy of the first edition of Paradise Lost is described in Christie’s sale catalogue of Rogers’s estate (1856) as “the original edition of 1667, with the title page dated 1669, with the argument and address to the reader by S. Simmons.” It sold for £4.

12. These two works are not mentioned in Mrs. Jameson’s description of Rogers’s collection, nor are they listed in other accounts of Rogers’s art collection, including Treasures of Art in Great Britain (1854, II, 73–82), by Gustav Friedrich Waagen, and Tour of a German Artist in England (1836, pp. 190–195) by Johann David Passavant, nor are the busts listed in Christie’s sale Catalogue of Rogers’s collection.

13. “A bust of Pope, modelled from nature, by Roubilliac, of which Sir Robert Peel possesses the marble” (Jameson, Companion, p. 411).

14. Monckton Milnes was also one of the guests at Rogers’s breakfast, and according to Milnes’s biographer, “Rogers had called Countess Hahn and Bystram ‘the ugliest pair of adulterers he had ever had in his house’” (James Pope-Hennessy, Monckton Milnes: The Years of Promise 1809–1851, 1949, p. 224).

15. EBB is quoting RB from a letter written in May 1845; see the final sentence of letter 1906.

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