Correspondence

2482.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 153–155.

[London]

Monday morning [13 July 1846][1]

I must write .. even if you come tomorrow. Dearest, if I told you all that nonsense on saturday, it was for the sake of telling you all & of hearing you say “What nonsense” afterwards. I never began by disguising anything from you .. did I? I always wished you to see how the arrows would strike out at us from that bush & this bush. At us. For, granting that you seriously thought it possible for such motives to divide me from you, … ah, granting it, .. & you may well ask my pardon!——

The world! the world could as soon catch me with a ‘line’ so baited, as you could catch a trout with a silver sixpence at the end of a string. Not only do I think with you entirely on that subject, but I always thought like you .. Always I have hated all their worldly systems, & not merely now, & since I have loved you. With a hundred a year between us, I would have married you, if you had not been afraid– And so, think whether directly or ‘indirectly’ I am likely to be frightened into the breach of an engagement by what I repeated to you or by what is like unto it. No—my weaknesses are of a different class altogether.

The talk I talked over again to you, seemed to burn in my ears the longer on that saturday, because, while it was being originally talked between Papa & my aunt, (touching Arabella Hedley’s marriage), he had brought a paper for me to sign about some money placed on a railway, (not speculatively) .. & my aunt, by way of saying a lively thing, exclaimed, “Is that your marriage-settlement, my dear?” .. which made me so nervous that I wrote my name wrong & vexed Papa into being almost cross with me. So one word got entwined with another, & all seemed to hang around me—— Do you understand?

But you do not, how you pained me when you said that. Ah—I thought I saw you gone .. “so far, so far”, as you said, .. & myself left–

Yet I should deserve it of course, if I were to give you up for the sake of that! .. or for any other motive, .. except your advantage .. your own. I should deserve everything in such a case, but should feel nothing .. not even my punishment.– Could I?—being without a heart?

Ah—after all my mistrust, did I ever mistrust you so? I have doubted your power to love me as you believed you loved me, perhaps—but your will to be true to one you loved, without reference to worldly influences, I never doubted, nor could– I think I will let you beg my pardon; you unjust, dearest––

To so much over-praise, there should be a little wronging, too .. & therefore you are not, after all, ‘unjust’ .. only ‘dearest!’ ....

Such a letter, besides, you have written, .. & there are two of them today! You will not go from me, I think, “so far, so far”– You will not leave me behind, with the harpoon in me, to make red the salt wilderness of waters–

Altogether, then, I forgive you, Robert—& it is glorious for me to have something to forgive you for, who are the best so out of measure! .. I sieze the opportunity.

And you come tomorrow! Which is right .. right! I was afraid that you would not come!– And Mrs Jameson is perfectly uncertain as you may read in this new note which reached me with yours tonight.

All the Hedleys have dined here– Tomorrow will be clear of them .. pure of them, I was going to write .. but I thought of Mrs Hedley’s beaming affectionate face .. (so still lovely, she looked this evening, when she came up stairs to kiss me!) .. & could not say such a wronging word. You would like her—you could not help it.

I was in the carriage today in Oxford Street .. & a sealed letter was thrown exactly at my head, my aunt & cousin & Henrietta being with me—a sealed letter sealed with arms (not of Agincourt!) & directed “For your perusal”. Guess the meaning of that!– Why just a tract by the Revd Villiers of that parish,[2] upon the enormous wickedness of frequenting plays & balls!!– Perhaps I looked as if my sole had entered into the secret of the Polka-dancers!—who can say?

So, goodnight, dearest dearest!

I cannot give myself again to you,

being your own–

Of course this was written with the poker, as you will see by the calligraphy.

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

Postmark: 10FN10 JY14 1846 A.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 223.; + Tuesday, July 14. / 3.5m–6.p.m. (77.) [sic, for 78].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 873–875.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Henry Montagu Villiers (1813–61), the younger brother of the 4th Earl of Clarendon, an “extreme low churchman” (DNB), was rector of St. George’s, Bloomsbury, from 1841 to 1846. He was eventually translated to the see of Durham in 1861. EBB is referring to a sermon entitled Balls and Theatres; or, The Duty of Reproving the Works of Darkness, which he preached in St. George’s on 15 March 1846, and which, according to a prefatory note, some of his parishioners thought should be “circulated in a cheap form.”

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