Correspondence

2494.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 174–175.

[London]

Sunday– [19 July 1846][1]

Dearest, the leaf of yesterday was folded down quite smoothly & softly– A dinner party swept the thought of you out of people’s minds. Otherwise I was prepared to be a little afraid,—for my aunt said to Arabel, upon being dispensed with so cavalierly from this room, .. (said in the passage, Arabel told me, with a half-laugh) “Pray which of Ba’s lovers may this be?” So Arabel had to tell the name of the visitor. But the dinner party set all right, & this morning I was asked simply whether it had been an agreeable visit, & what you had written, & banalities after such a fashion. Oh, and I went out—remembering your desire .. was it not a desire, dearest, dearest? I went out, any way—but the wind blew, & I had to hold my veil against my mouth, doubled & trebled .. with as many folds, indeed, as Ajax’s shield[2] .. to keep myself in breathing order. The wind always gives me a sort of strangling sensation, which is the effect, I suppose, of having weak lungs. So it was not a long walk, but I liked it because you seemed to be with me still,—& Arabel who walked with me, was “sure, without being told, that I had had a happy visit, just from my manner”. The wisest of interpreters, I called her, & pour cause.[3]

If ever I mistake you, Robert, doing you an injustice, .. you ought to be angry I think, rather & more with me than with another—— I should have far less excuse it appears to me, for making such a mistake, than any other person in the world. I thought so yesterday when you were speaking, & now upon consideration I think so with an increasing certainty. Is it your opinion that the members of our own family, .. those who live with us always, .. know us best? They know us on the side we offer to them .. a bare profile .. or the head turned round to the ear—yes!—they do not, except by the merest chance, look into our eyes. They know us in a conventional way .. as far from God’s way of knowing us, as from the world’s– Mid-way, it is .. & the truest & most cordial & tender affection will not hinder this from being so partial a knowledge. Love! I love those at the present moment, .. who love me .. (& tenderly on both sides) .. but who are so far from understanding me, that I never think of speaking myself into their ears .. of trying to speak myself. It is wonderful, it is among the great mysteries of life, to observe how people can love one another in the dark, blindly .. loving without knowing. And, as a matter of general observation, if I sought to have a man or woman revealed to me in his or her innermost nature, I would not go to the family of the person in question—though I should learn there best, of course, about personal habits, & the social bearing of him or her. George Sand delighted me in one of her late works, where she says that the souls of bloodrelations seldom touch except at one or two points– Perfectly true, that is, I think—perfectly.

Remember how you used to say that I did not know you .. which was true in a measure .. yet I felt I knew you, & I did actually know you, in another larger measure. And if now you are not known to me altogether, it is my dulness which makes me unknowing——

But I know you—& I should be without excuse if ever I wronged you with a moment’s injustice—I do not think I ever could depreciate you for a moment,—that would not be possible. There are other sins against you (are they against you?) which bring their own punishment! You shall never be angry with me for those.

While I was writing, came Mr Kenyon. As usual he said that there was no use in his coming .. that you had taken his place, & so on. He was in high good humour, though, & spirits, & I did not mind much what he was pleased to say– More I minded, that he means “to stay in London all the summer” .. which I cant be glad of, .. though I was glad at his not persisting in going to Scotland against his own wishes. But he might like to go somewhere else—it would be a pleasure, that, in which I should sympathize—! the more shame for me!

Mr Chorley pleases me more than he ever pleased me before! Only as an analysis, he has done curiously with Pippa.[4] But it is good appreciation, good & righteous, & he has given me altogether, a great, great deal of pleasure– As to the letter,[5] I liked that too in its degree——and the advice is wise for the head, if foolish for the work. How can wise people be so foolish?

I am going out to walk now with Henrietta, & shall put this letter into the post with my own hand. It is seven p∙m. May God bless you– Do say how you are, dear, dearest! I am your very own Ba.

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

Postmark: 10FN10 JY20 1846 A.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 228.; + Tuesday July 21. / 3–6.p.m. (79.) [sic, for 80].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 888–890.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Iliad, VII, 219ff.

3. “With good reason.”

4. See note 3 in the preceding letter.

5. From RB’s comment in the fifth paragraph of letter 2496, it is apparent that this is a reference to his letter from Domett (no. 2193).

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