Correspondence

2493.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 172–173.

[London]

Sunday. [19 July 1846][1]

Dearest Ba’s face of yesterday, with the smiles and perfect sweetness,—oh, the comfort it is to me thru’ this day of my especial heaviness! I don’t know when I have felt more stupid, and I seem to keep the closelier to you, Ba. Is that one of my felicities of compliment? I think if you were here I should lay my head on your bosom, my own beloved, and never raise it again. In your last letter, you speak of those who care less for you than for “a glass of claret”. There is something sublime,—at all events, astounding, in the position we occupy each of us,—I, and those less-carers,—standing in respect to each other so like England and Owhyhee[2]—at which, they told me when I was a boy, I should be pretty sure to arrive, if I dug a hole just thro’ the earth, dropped to the centre and then, turning round, climbed straight up!

I left here, yesterday, without taking the prints of Dumas & Hugo—there is a head “for remembering” and justifying your commendations! Chorley says, you see, my acquisitions are rather accumulated than digested[3]—or words to that effect: I am sure at this moment the stupid, heavy head knows not one thing,—as a clear point of knowledge, taken in and laid by, orderly and separately. So let me say here, while I do remember, that a letter from Forster puts off his visit & Moxon’s till Monday—should any reason therefore, prevent your confirming to me the gift of Tuesday, this other day will lie open—but only in that case, I trust—because Tuesday objects not to Saturday, does it? While Wednesday looks grave, and Thursday frowns downright on the same! Friday remember, is Mr Kenyon’s day.

I wish, dearest, you would tell me precisely what you have written[4]—all my affectionate pride in you rises at once when I think of your poetry, that is and that is to be– You dear, dear Ba, can you not write on my shoulder while my head lies as you permit?

I found at home on my return yesterday my friend Pritchard who brought me an old notice of Rachel by Jules Janin[5]—of course there is no believing a word—but he does say that she was,—at the time he wrote,—perfectly ignorant of the most ordinary rules of grammar,—that, for instance, on meeting him she remarked—(alluding to her having played previously at another theatre than the T. Français)—“C’était moi que j’était au Gymnase!”[6]—to which he ought to have answered, he thinks, “Je le savions!”– I will bring her portrait, too, if you please—and this memoir, untrustworthy as it is.

I will go now and walk about, I think—did you go out, as you promised, love? Ah, dearest,—you to wonder I could look up to you for ever as you stand,—you who once wrote to me that, in order to verify a date about Shelley in a book I lent you, “you had accomplished a journey to the other end of the room, even”![7] And now! I thankfully know this to be miraculous—nor have I to ask my spiritual director’s opinion thereon—to whom, how on earth can one surrender one’s private right of judgment when it is only by the exercise of that very right that I select him from the multitude of would-be directors of me and the whole world? What but a deliberate act of judgment takes up Dr Pusey of Oxford rather than Mr Fox of Finsbury[8]—and is it for that pernicious first step that I determine on never risking a second?

Bless you, ever dearest—and do you bless your

very own RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole Street.

Postmark: 10FN10 JY20 1846 A.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 234.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 886–887.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. i.e, Hawaii.

3. Chorley’s review of Pippa Passes in the People’s Journal of 18 July 1846, contained the following comments: “Mr. Browning is not clear. His obscurities, however, do not arise from affectation, but from the over-richness of a mind embossed and encrusted, so to say, with the learning and imagery of all schools, all countries, of all periods … working rather by the accumulation than by the digestion of his materials.” For the complete text of this review, see pp. 398–400.

4. This request and EBB’s response at the end of letter 2497 strongly suggest that the Sonnets from the Portuguese were well in progress by this time.

5. A review of Andromaque, which had appeared in the Journal des Débats of 10 September 1838.

6. RB has slightly misquoted from Janin’s article, which reads as follows: “Je la recontre l’autre jour, et elle me dit:—C’est moi que j’etait t’au Gymnase!, à quoi j’ai dû répondre: Je le savions!” Rachel should have said: “C’etait moi qui étais au Gymnase!,” to which the correct reponse would be “Je le savais!”

7. A reference to the beginning of letter 2051.

8. Pusey was one of the chief spokesmen of the Oxford Movement, which emphasized dogma and ritual, and which, to Non-Conformists such as W.J. Fox, smacked of Romanism.

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