Correspondence

2450.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 101–102.

[London]

Wednesday. [Postmark: 1 July 1846]

Dearest—dearest, you did once, one time only, call me by my name—Robert; and tho’ it was to bid “R. not talk extravagances” (your very words) still the name so spoken became what it never had been before to me. I never am called by any pet-name, nor abbreviation, here at home or elsewhere .. oh, best let it alone .. it is one of my incommunicable advantages to have a Ba of my own, and call her so—indeed, yes, my Ba! I write “dearest”, and “most dearest”, but it all ends in—“Ba”, and the “my” is its framework, its surrounding arm—Ba,—my own Ba! “Robert” is in Saxon, (ni fallor), “famous in counsel”,[1] so let him give a proof of his quality in counselling you to hold your good, happy inspiration about La Cava (my French mapmaker must have had Ceva in Piedmont in his head)[2] for at such a place, so situate, we renounce not one sight at Salerno, nor Amalfi, nor Sorrento .. four miles .. the distance between your House and Highgate, perhaps! Cava,—the hollow of a hill,—and such hills and such hollows are in that land! Oh, let it be La Cava—or Seven Dials,[3] with you!

I past thro’ Seven Dials this morning—and afterward, by your house,—with a heart full of thoughts,—not fuller than usual, but they were more stirring and alive, near their source. I called at Mrs Procter’s door .. (proceeding from Forster’s)—and then on Mrs Jameson whom I found and talked with pleasantly till a visitor came .. I do extremely appreciate her, delight in her .. to avoid saying “love”—I was never just to her before, far from it: I saw her niece, a quiet earnest looking little girl.[4] But did it not please me to call in at Moxon’s and hear that (amongst other literary news dexterously enquired after) “Miss Barrett’s poems were selling very well and would ere long be out of print”—and, after that pleasure, came the other of finding dear, generous, noble Carlyle had sent his new edition of Cromwell, three great volumes, with his brave energetic assurance of “regards” & “many” of them, in black manly writing on the first page.[5] So may he continue to like me till he knows you,—when it will be “mine” instead of me, that he shall love—“love”? I let the whole world love you—if they can overtake my love, .. as I read on, about the visit to Mr Boyd, I thought, “I trust she will kiss his forehead”,—and I will kiss yours—thus—for that, too,—in gratitude for that. You dear, good, blessing of a Ba, how I kiss you!–

RB

I am quite well to-day, and my mother is quite well. The good account of the visit is enough to make me happy on a Wednesday—leading to a Saturday! Then my two letters!

I did not see Moxon—only the Brother—who tells odd stories drily; one made me laugh to-day– Poor Mr Reade, Landor’s love, sent a book to Campbell the Poet,[6] and then called on him … to discover him in the very act of wiping a razor on a leaf torn out of the book, laid commodiously by his toilet-table for the express purpose.

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole Street.

Postmark: 8NT8 JY1 1846.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 219.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 829–831.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. “If I mistake not” (Ovid, Fasti, IV, 623). According to A Dictionary of First Names (1990) by Patricia Hanks and Flavia Hodges, Robert is Germanic in origin, and was “introduced into Britain by the Normans. This one is composed of the nearly synonymous elements hrod fame + berht bright, famous. It had a native Old English predecessor of similar form (Hreodbeorht), which was supplanted by the Norman name” (p. 283).

2. See letter 2444, note 4.

3. A junction in the West End, between Soho and Covent Garden, where seven streets meet. Originally there was a column housing a clock with seven faces; however, it was removed in 1773, and eventually replaced by one that has seven sun dials on it.

4. See letter 2388, note 6.

5. The second edition of Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches: with Elucidations had just been published in three volumes on 16 June. This copy, inscribed by Carlyle, sold as lot 599 in Browning Collections (see Reconstruction, A731).

6. Thomas Campbell (1777–1844) is best remembered for The Pleasures of Hope (1799). EBB had corresponded with him when he was editor of The New Monthly Magazine (see letters 115 and 181), and she sent a manuscript to him for his opinion (see letters 167 and 171). John Edmund Reade (1800–70) was often criticised for plagiarism. In a review by Landor of Reade’s A Record of the Pyramids in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine of July 1842, Landor dismissed Reade’s claim that his poetry would live by saying “That depends, in great measure, on the quality of the paper,” a somewhat prophetic remark in light of the anecdote recorded here by RB.

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