2442.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 90–91.


Sunday. [28 June 1846] [1]

My last letter will have answered this of yours, my dearest,—I agree in all you say: and sooner or later comes to the same thing, if to any possible increase of difficulty is brought a proportionate increase of strength to undergo it—as let us hope will be the case! So you see you have to “understand” and understand me,—I keep your faculty in constant exercise, now with seeming to wish for postponement, and now, for anticipation! And all the time do I really “grow greater” in your eyes? I might grow less, woefully,—“for reasons—for reasons”–

The sea will not be frozen, beside .. which makes me think to tell you that Carlyle is wanting to visit only one foreign country—Iceland. The true cradle of the North men and their virtues .. all that is worth a north man’s caring to see is there, he thinks, and nowise in Italy– Perhaps! Indeed, so I reason and say[.] —Did I not once turn on myself and speak against the Southern spirit, and even Dante, just because of that conviction? [2] —(or imperfect conviction, whence the uneasy exaggeration)– Carlyle thinks modern Italy’s abasement a direct judgment from God– “Here is a nation in whose breast arise men who could doubt, examine the new problems of the Reformation &c—trim the balance at intervals, and throw overboard the accumulation of falsehood—all other nations around, less favoured, are doing it laboriously for themselves .. now is the time for the acumen of the Bembos, the Bentivoglios [3] and so forth .. and these and their like, one and all, turn round, decline the trouble, say “these things may be true, or they may not .. meantime let us go on verse making, painting, music-scoring”—to which all the nation accedes as if relieved of a trouble—upon which God bids the Germans go in and possess them,—pluck their fruits and feel their sun after their own hard work.” —Carlyle said the sense of this, between two huge pipe-whiffs, the other afternoon.

“Pluck their fruits”—some four years ago I planted .. or held straight while my mother planted, a fig-tree,—for love of Italy! This year it bears its first fruit .. a single one! What does that bode?

Since I wrote the last paragraph, the wind took my thoughts away, as it always does, and I saw you again as I used to see, before I knew you,—so very substanceless, faint, unreal—when I was struck by the reality again,—by this paper,—by to-morrow’s visit I shall pay .. it was as if someone had said “but that star is your own”–

I fancied you just what I find you– I knew you from the beginning.

Let me kiss you, dearest dearest–

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole Street.

Postmark: PD 10FN JU29 1846 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 217 [altered from “216”].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 822–823.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. See the penultimate paragraph of letter 1897.

3. Guido Cardinal Bentivoglio (1579–1644) is best remembered for Della Guerre di Fiandra, which was translated into English in 1654, and which was recommended by EBB to Miss Mitford for a proposed tragedy (see letter 816). Pietro Cardinal Bembo (1470–1547) was an Italian humanist who dedicated a dialogue on love to Lucrezia Borgia entitled Gli Asolani (1505). He was secretary to Queen Cornaro, who was exiled to Asolo. RB refers to him in The Ring and the Book, VI, 1666.


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