2436. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 82–84.
Friday morning. [Postmark: 26 June 1846]
Arabel insists on my going out in the carriage, but I will not, I say, before I have written my letter—& while we talk, the rain comes down like a guardian angel, & I cannot go out before I have written my letter, as is apparent to all. Dearest, you did me such good yesterday with seeing you & hearing you, that I slept better & am better altogether, & after a little change into the air, shall be well– and how is your head? Now do not forget to tell me particularly. Say too whether you found your friend & had the right quantity of talk and got home without being the worse for him .. or me!
I have not had the heart to look at the newspapers, but hear that Sir Robert Peel has provided liberally for the present necessities of the poor Haydons. And do you know, the more I think the more I am inclined to conclude that the money-distress was merely an additional irritation, & that the despair leading to the revolt against life, had its root in disappointed ambition. The world did not recognize his genius, & he punished the world by withdrawing the light– If he had not that thought in him, I am wrong. The cartoon business, & his being refused employment in the houses of parliament .. that was bitter: & then came his opposition with Tom Thumb & the dwarf’s triumph .. he talked bitterly of that in a letter to me of last week. He was a man, you see, who carried his whole being & sensibility on the outside of him,—nay, worse than so, since in the thoughts & opinions of the world. All the audacity & bravery & self-exaltation which drew on him so much ridicule,—were an agony in disguise—he could not live without reputation, & he wrestled for it, struggled for it, kicked for it, forgetting grace of attitude in the pang. When all was vain, he went mad & died. Poor Haydon! He measures things differently now! & Let us now be right & just in our admeasurement of what he was—for, with all his weaknesses, he was not certainly far from being a great man.
It is hope & help, to be able to look away from all such thoughts, to you, dearest beloved, who do not partake of the faults & feeblenesses of these lower geniuses—there is hope & help for the world in you—& if for the world, why for me indeed much more. You do not know .. ah, you do not know .. how I look up to you & trust perfectly in you. You are above all these clouds—your element is otherwise—men are not your taskmasters that you should turn to them for recompense. ‘Shall I always think the same of you,’ you asked yesterday. But I never think the same of you,—because day by day you look greater & feel dearer– Only there is a deep gulph of another question, close beside that, which suggests itself, & makes me shudder to look down.
And now, the rain is over, & I shall dine briefly, & go out in the carriage.
May God bless you .. “tres bon”!—tres cher, pour cause!
Toute à toi—pour toujours.
carried to p. office by <Ba> 3 o’clock
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 5EV5 JU26 1846.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 206.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 817–818.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. The “French friend” referred to in letter 2440.
2. According to a report of Haydon’s death given in The Times of 25 June 1846, Peel immediately provided £200 from the Royal Bounty Fund to Haydon’s widow so “that the family might not be molested before a public appeal could be made in their behalf” (p. 8).
3. Charles Sherwood Stratton (1838–83), nicknamed “General Tom Thumb” by P.T. Barnum, was playing in Egyptian Hall, where Haydon’s paintings were being exhibited. Tom Thumb achieved great fame and popularity in England, and was even received by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. In a journal entry for 13 April 1846, Haydon recorded that “they rush by thousands to see Thumb” (Pope, V, 531); and on 1 June Haydon noted that he had been “obliged to withdraw my Pictures for Tom Thumb with the loss of £111. 8s. 10d” (V, 547). According to Haydon’s biographer, Eric George, the first week of Haydon’s exhibition he took in £7 13s, while Tom Thumb brought in £600 (The Life and Death of Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1948, p. 282).
4. “‘Very well’!—most dear, for good reason! / All for you—forever.”
5. EBB made this notation on the verso of the envelope, incorporating her seal, “Ba.”