Correspondence

2471.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 133–134.

[London]

Tuesday. [Postmark: 7 July 1846]

Dearest, the first thing to say is the deep joyfulness of expecting to see you, really, to-morrow– Mind, the engagement with Mr Kenyon is nothing in the way, if you cannot let me stay the usual time—I can call, pass away the interval easily .. this is a superfluous word to your goodness which is superfluous in these “old ways of Ba’s”—dear Ba, whom I kiss with perfect love—and shall soon kiss in no dream! Landor is all well enough in one sentence .. happily turned that is,—but I am vexed at his strange opinion of Göthe’s poem,[1]—and the more, that a few years ago he wrote down as boldly that nothing had been written so “Hellenic” these two thousand years .. (in a note to the “Satire on the Satirists”[)][2]—and of these opinions I think the earlier much nearer the truth. Then he wrote so, because Wordsworth had depreciated Goethe—now, very likely, some maladroit applauder has said Landor’s own Iphigenia[3] is worthy of Goethe,—or similar platitudes.

Yes, dearest, you are quite right, and my words have a wrong sense, and one I did not mean they should bear, if they object to confessions, and autobiographies in general– Only the littlenesses and temporary troubles,—the petty battle with foes, which is but a moment’s work however the success may be,—all that, might go when the occasion, real or fancied, is gone– I would have the customary “habits”, as we say, of the man preserved .. and if they were quilted, and stiffened with steel and bristling all over with the offensive and defensive weapons the man judged necessary for his safety,—they should be composed and hung up decently,—telling the true story of his life. But I should not preserve the fretful gesture,—lift the arm, as it was angrily lifted to keep off a wolf .. which now turns out to have been only Flush in a fever of vigilance .. half-drew the sword which .. ah, let me have done with this! You understand, if I do not. For the bust-story,[4]—the telling that, if it were true, is nearly as bad as inventing it. That poor woman is the hack-block of a certain class of redoubtable braggarts—there are such stories by the dozen in circulation .. All may have been misconception .. “advances”—to induce one more painter to introduce her face in his works.

My time is out .. I had much to say, but this letter of mine arrived by the afternoon post,—shame on the office! Tomorrow!

Bless you, ever dearest dearest–

Your own–

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole Street.

Postmark: 8NT8JY71846O.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 225 [altered from “224”].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 854–856.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. A reference to Landor’s letter to EBB (no. 2464).

2. In a note to line 271 of A Satire on Satirists, and Admonition to Detractors (1836), Landor wrote: “Two thousand years and more had elapsed, and nothing like the pure Grecian had appeared in the world until the Iphigeneia of Goethe, excepting a few verses of Catullus and Horace. We English have indeed somewhat more than an equivalent in Shakespeare and Milton; the Italians in Dante but the Iphigeneia is fairly worth all the poetry of the Continent since the Divina Commedia.”

3. A reference to Landor’s “Iphigeneia,” which was no. XI in the “Hellenics” in The Works of Walter Savage Landor (1846), II, 482–483. This poem had first appeared as “The Shades of Agamemnon and of Iphigeneia” in Landor’s Pericles and Aspasia (1836).

4. See letter 2466, note 4.

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