2455. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 108–110.
Thursday evening. [2 July 1846]
But, ever dearest, I do so fear that I shall not be able to get to Mrs Jameson’s tomorrow at all! not at twelve, I fear, I fear. Our visitors are to arrive late tonight, too late for me to see them: &, for me to go away at twelve in the morning, just about the hour when they might reasonably expect to have & to hold me, .. seems altogether unlawful, according to my sisters. Yet the temptation is strong. Would half past twelve be too early for you, if I could manage to go at twelve? Ah—but I shall not be able, I do fear. Just see how it becomes possible & impossible at once for us to touch hands! I could almost wring mine, to see! For I could dare the spectacles, the hypothetical spectacles, or the eyes discerning without them: she has no idea to begin with—& you would not say “Ba! let us order the mules,” I suppose. If I went, it would be, alone—but probably I shall not be able—so you had better not think of me, & pay your visit at your own hour ‘after the devices of your heart’.
In the meanwhile,—quite you make me laugh by your positiveness about the name-calling. Well—if ever I did such a thing, it was in a moment of unconsciousness all the more surprising, that, even to my own soul, in the lowest spirit-whisper, I have not been in the habit of saying ‘Robert’, speaking of you. You have only been The One. No word ever stood for you– The Idea admitted of no representative—the words fell down before it & were silent. Still such very positive people must be right of course—they always are. At any rate it is only one illusion more—and some day I expect to hear you say & swear that you saw me fly out of one window & fly in at another. So much for your Cleopatra’s Roman pearls, oh my famous in council!—& appreciator of sour vinegar!——
Dear Miss Mitford came at two today & stayed until seven, & all those hours you were not once mentioned. I had not courage .. & she perhaps avoided an old subject of controversy .. I do not know. It is singular that for this year past, you are not mentioned between us, while other names come up like grass in the rain. No single person will be more utterly confounded than she, when she comes to be aware of what you are to me now—&, that, I was thinking today, while she talked to never a listener. She will be confounded, & angry perhaps—it will be beyond her sympathies; or if they reach so far, the effort to make them do so, will prove a more lively affection for me, than, with all my trust in her goodness, I dare count on. Yet very good & kind & tender, she was to me today. And very variously intelligent & agreeable. Do you know, I should say that her natural faculties were stronger than Mrs Jameson’s—though the latter has a higher aspiration &, in some ways, a finer sensibility of intellect. You would certainly call her superior to her own books—certainly you would: She walks strongly on her two feet in this world—but nobody shall see her (not even you) fly out of a window. Too closely she keeps to the ground, I always feel. Now Mrs Jameson can ‘aspire’ like Paracelsus; & believes enough in her own soul, to know a poet when she sees one. Ah—but all cannot be all.
Miss Mitford wrung a promise from me——that “if I were well enough & in England next summer, I would go to see her”. So remember. Isn’t it a promise for two?
Only we shall be mule-riding in those days—unless I shall have tired you—— Shall you be tired of me in one winter, I wonder? My programme is, to let you try me for one winter, & if you are tired (as I shall know without any confession on your side) why then I shall set the mule on a canter & leave you in La Cava, & go & live in Greece somewhere all alone, taking enough with me for bread & salt. Is it a jest, do you think? Indeed it is not. It is very grave earnest, be sure. I believe that I never could quarrel with you,—but the same cause would absolutely hinder my living with you if you did not love me. We could not lead the abominable lives of ‘married people’ all round—you know we could not– I at least know that I could not, & just because I love you so entirely. Then, you know, you could come to England by yourself .. and .. “Where’s Ba”?—— “Oh, she’s somewhere in the world, I suppose– How can I tell?” And then Mrs Jameson would shake her head, & observe that the problem was solved exactly as she expected .. & that artistical natures smelt of sulphur & brimstone, without any exceptions.
Am I laughing? am I crying? who can tell. But I am not teazing, .. Robert! .. because, my Robert, if gravely I distrusted your affection, I could not use such light-sounding words on the whole—now could I? It is only the supposition of a possible future .. just possible .. (as the end of human affections passes for a possible thing) .. which made me say what I would do in such a case.
But I am yours—your own: and it is impossible, in my belief, that I can ever fail to you so as to be less yours, on this side the grave or across it. So, I think of impossibilities .. whatever I may, of possibilities!
Will it be possible to see you tomorrow, I wonder! I ask myself & not you.
And if you love me only nearly as much (instead of the prodigal ‘more’) afterward, I shall be satisfied, & shall not run from you further than to the bottom of the page.
Where you see me as your own Ba
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 10FN10 JY3 1846 A.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 212.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 834–837.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. Cf. Proverbs 19:21.