2446.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 95–97.


Tuesday evening. [30 June 1846] [1]

Thank you for letting me see dear Mr Kenyon’s letter. He loves you, admires you, trusts you. When what is done cannot be undone, then, he will forgive you besides—that is, he will forgive both of us, & set himself to see all manner of good where now he would see evil if we asked him to look. So we will not, if you please, ask him to look, on the encouragement of ever so many more kind notes,—pleasant as they are to read, & worthy to trust to, under certain conditions. Dear Mr Kenyon—but how good he is! And I love him more (shall it be under-love?) because of his right perception & understanding of you– No one among men sets you higher than he does as a man & as a poet—even if he misses the subtle sense, sometimes.

So you dine with him .. dont you? And I shall have you on wednesday instead of thursday! yes, certainly. And on saturday, of course, next time.

In the carriage, today, I went first to Mr Kenyon’s, & as he was not at home, left a card for a footstep. Then Arabel & Flush & I proceeded on our way to Mr Boyd’s in St John Wood, & I was so nervous .. so anxious for an excuse for turning back .. that .. can you guess what Arabel said to me?– “Oh Ba,”—she said, “such a coward as you are, never will be .. married, while the world lasts”. Which made me laugh if it did not make me persevere .. for you see by it what her notion is of an heroic deed! So, there, I stood at last, at the door of poor Mr Boyd’s dark little room, & saw him sitting .. as if he had not moved these seven years .. these seven heavy, changeful years. Seeing him, my heart was too full to speak at first, but I stooped & kissed his poor bent-down forehead, which he never lifts up, his chin being quite buried in his breast. Presently we began to talk of Ossian & Cyprus wine, & I was forced, as I would not have Ossian for a god, to take a little of the Cyprus,—there was no help for me, nor alternative: so I took as little as I could, while he went on proving to me that the Adamic fall & corruption of human nature (Mr Boyd is a great theologian) were never in any single instance so disgustingly exemplified as in the literary controversy about Ossian; every man of the Highland society having a lost soul in him,—& Walter Scott [2] … oh, the woman who poisoned all her children the other day, is a saint to Walter Scott, [3]  .. so we need not talk of him any more. “Arabel!—how much has she taken of that wine? not half a glass”. “But Mr Boyd, you would not have me be obliged to carry her home.”

That visit being over, we went into the Park, Hyde Park, & drove close to the serpentine, & then returned. Flush would not keep his head out of the window (his favorite pleasure) all the way, because several drops of rain trickled down his ears. Flush has no idea of wetting his ears:—his nose so near, too!

Right you are, I think, in opposition to Miss Martineau, though your reasons are too gracious to be right .. except indeed as to the physical inaptitude, which is an obvious truth. Another truth (to my mind) is, that women, as they are, (whatever they may be) have not mental strength any more than they have bodily,—have not instruction, capacity, wholeness of intellect enough. To deny that women, as a class, have defects, is as false I think, as to deny that women have wrongs.

Then you are right again in affirming that the creators have no business there, with the practical men—you should not be there for instance. And I (if I am to be thought of) would be prouder to eat cresses & maccaroni (dearest—there is a manufactory of maccaroni & writing paper at Amalfi close by—observe that combination! maccaroni & writing paper!) I would be prouder to eat cresses & maccaroni with you as you, than to sit with diamonds in my ears, under the shelter of the woolsack, you being a law-lord & parliamentary maker of speeches! By the way, I could’nt have diamonds in my ears: they never were bored for it .. as I never was born for it. A physical inaptitude, here too!

Shall I say what you tell me .. “You never seriously believed” .... shall I? I will, if you like. But it is not Ceva, if you like—it is Cava .. La Cava .. in my map, & according to my authorities. Otherwise, the place is the same—four miles from Salerno, I think, & ‘enchantingly beautiful’. It is worth an enquiry certainly, this enchanting place which has no English in it, with porticos like Bologna, & too little known to be spelt correctly by the most accomplished geographers. Ah—your head is ‘dizzy’, my beloved! Tell me how it is now. And tell me how your mother is. I think of you—love you. I, who am discontented with myself, .. selfcondemned as unworthy of you in all else .. am yet satisfied with the love I have for you—it seems worthy of you, as far as an abstract affection can go, without taking note of the personality loving–

Do you see the meaning through the mist? Do you accept

your very own Ba?

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

Postmark: 10FN10 JY1 1846.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 210.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 827–829.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. In an unsigned Edinburgh Review article for July 1805 Scott argued that the poems had no true originals, that there had been no Ossian or Fingal, but that Scotland could be proud instead of Macpherson himself.

3. Doubtless a reference to the story of Mary Pimlett, reported in The Times for 12 May 1846. She poisoned two of her children and attempted to poison a third before being caught. Her motive was evidently her desire to obtain “funeral money” provided by the Liverpool Victoria Legal Burial Society, to which she subscribed both her children shortly before their death.


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