Correspondence

2432.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 77–78.

[London]

Tuesday Mg [Postmark: 23 June 1846]

I was just on the point of answering your dear letter, in all the good spirits it might be expected to wake in me, when the sad news of poor Haydon’s death stopped all; much I feel it, for the light words of my own about his extravagance, as I had been told of it, but very much more on your account, who were so lately in communication with him– I earnestly hope,—I will trust—you have not been rudely apprised of this–[1] I am happy to remember that you do not see the newspaper in the morning,—others will see it first: perhaps there may be no notice in the Chronicle at all, or on the other hand, a more circumstantial one than this in the Times which barely says—“that B R H. died suddenly at his residence—yesterday morning. He was in his usual health on the previous evening, and it is believed that his decease was hastened by pecuniary embarrassment”—and he is called “the unfortunate gentleman”[2]—which with the rest implies the very worst, I fear. If by any chance this should be the first intimation you receive of it .. do not think me stupid nor brutal,—for I thought again and again as to the right course to take .. whether it would not be best to be silent altogether and wait and see .. but in that case I should have surprised you more by my cold letter,—such an one as I could bring myself to write,—for how were it possible to speak of pictures and indifferent matters when you perhaps have been shocked, made ill by this news? If I have done wrong, forgive me, my own best, dearest Ba– I would give the world to know how you are. The storm too, and lightning may have made you even more than ordinarily unfit to be startled and grieved– God knows and must help you! I am but your devoted

RB

How glad I am you told me you had never seen him. And perhaps he may be after all a mere acquaintance .. anything I will fancy that is likely to relieve you of pain! Dearest dearest!——

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole Street.

Postmark: 8NT8 JU23 1846 O.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 213 [altered from “212”].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 810–811.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. The first news of Haydon’s suicide had reached EBB from her brother Alfred, as she explains in the following letter. Years later, RB recounted that he was not the first to break the news to EBB (RB to William Angus Knight, 27 July 1882; MS at Morgan):

… I remember all those sad circumstances connected with the last doings of poor Haydon. He never saw my wife, but interchanged letters with her occasionally. On visiting her, the day before the painter’s death, I found her room occupied by a quantity of studies,—sketches and portraits, which, together with paints, palettes and brushes, he had chosen to send in apprehension of an arrest, or, at all events, an ‘execution’ in his own house. The letter which apprised her of this step said, in excuse of it, ‘they may have a right to my goods,—they can have none to my mere work-tools and necessaries of existence’—or words to that effect. The next morning I read the news in the ‘Times,’ and myself hastened to break the news at Wimpole Street, but had been anticipated. Every article was at once sent back, no doubt: I remember noticing Wordsworth’s portrait—it never belonged to my wife, certainly at any time. She possessed an engraving of the Head—I suppose a gift from poor Haydon....

2. RB is quoting from the report of Haydon’s death, which appeared in The Times for 23 June 1846 (p. 8).

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