Correspondence

2506.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 191–194.

[London]

Sunday– [26 July 1846][1]

Why should you ask such a question of me yesterday, as to whether I loved you as much then as ever? Love you as much? Why should I not love you more? .. to give question for question. And it does seem to me, too, that my question is more reasonable than yours– ‘Is it afternoon at six oclock’, you might have asked in the same breath with yours, and touched, so, as questionable a matter–

Tell me how the evening passed at Mr Kenyon’s. I have seen nobody yet—not him, not Mrs Jameson.

Seen nobody? Except all the Hedleys, who have just left my room. Do you know, the pomp & circumstance the noise & fuss & publicity of this marriage of theirs happen just in time to make me satisfied with “quite the other principle” as you said—the system they are carrying out, is detestable to its own extreme. Fifty or sixty people are to breakfast at Fenton’s Hotel, .. with processions ‘to & fro’ .. which altogether, though the bride will bear it very well, (for she has been used to be a Belle exofficio, & this business has been arranged by her & for her—otherwise they would have all been in Paris) is likely, I think, to half kill the bride’s mother– My poor aunt wonders how she will get through it– To have to part with her daughter in that crowd!– So barbarous a system, it is, this system of public marriages,—under whatever light considered. Both my sisters are invited,—& so was I! (in vain) & Henrietta officiates as a bridesmaid. Did I tell you that Arabella Hedley is a glorious convert to Puseyism,[2] as might have been expected, & talked here like a theologian a few days since, & “considered the dissenters in a most dangerous position” much to the amusement of my brothers.

What am I writing of all this time? Dearest, how did you get home yesterday through the ambush at Mr Kenyon’s? Tell me everything. And know that I love you ‘as much’, my own beloved!—you may know it.

When Flush came into the room & had spoken to me (in the Flush-language) & had examined your chair, he suddenly fell into a rapture & reminded me that the cakes you left, were on the table. So I explained thoroughly to him that you had brought them for him, & that he ought to be properly ashamed therefore for his past wickedness, & make up his mind to love you & not bite you for the future—& then, he was allowed to profit from your goodness to him. How over-good of you!– It is an encouragement to throw coffee-cups,[3] .. such over-goodness!

Nobody knew of your being here yesterday—at least, not that I know!—— So tuesday looks brightly, at a distance. At a distance! The day after tomorrow!—— Ah, it seems too near!– Too near, in the sense of saying ‘Too good .. to be true’.

I will write the paper as you bid me. Only, in the face of all that is to come, I solemnly tell you that neither I nor mine .. certainly not I .. will consent to an act of injustice, disinheriting my last hours (whenever they shall come) of a natural satisfaction. You are noble in all things—but this will not be in your power—— I will not discuss it so as to teaze you—. Your reputation is dear to me of course .. the thoughts which men shall have of you in the least matter, I would choose to keep clean .. free from every possible taint. But it will be obvious to all, that if you pleased, you might throw out of the windows everything called mine, the moment after our marriage—interest & principal——why not? And if you abstain from this, & after your own death allow the sum which originally came from my family, to relapse there .. why it is all of pure generosity on your part—& they will understand it as I do, .. as generosity .. as more than justice. Well—let that be! It is your act, & not mine, letting it be—& I have no objection to show you what my wishes are, (mere wishes) so helping you to carry out such an act in the best way. I send you the paper therefore—to that end—& only that end– There, you must stop– I never will consent to the extravagance you propose about yourself.[4] You shall not, if you love me, think of carrying it out. If I thought you could be so hard on me, .. do you know, I would rather throw it all up now into the hands of my sisters, & be poor with you at once—I could bear that so much better than the thoughts of leaving you to be poor. Or, would you be easier, dearest .. if a part were relinquished now? would it make you easier .. & would you promise me, so, that what is mine should be accepted as yours to the end? The worst is that if I were ill, I shd be a burden to you, & thus we might have reasons for regret. Still it shall be as pleases you best—— But I must be pleased a little too– It is fair that I should.

Certainly you exaggerate to yourself the position. What would have become of you if you had loved a real heiress instead? That would have been a misfortune– As it is, while you are plotting how to get rid of these penny pieces, everybody will be pitying you for having fixed yourself in such conditions of starvation– You, who might have married Miss Burdett Coutts!——

See how I teaze you!—first promising not to teaze you! But always I am worse than I meant to be. Was’nt it your fault a little for bringing up this horrible subject?—but here is the paper—the only sort of ‘settlement’ we shall have!– Always I have said & sworn that I never, if I married, wd have a settlement—and now I thank God to be able to keep my word soThis only is a settlement of the question–

Beloved, how is your head? I love you out of the deepest of my heart, & shall not cease.

Your very own Ba–

Is this what is called a document?[5] It seems to me that I have a sort of legal genius—& that I should be on the Woolsack in the Martineau-Parliament–[6] But it seems, too, rather bold to attach such a specification to your name—— Laugh & pardon it all!–

[Enclosure, in EBB’s hand]

In compliance with the request of Robert Browning, who may possibly become my husband, that I would express in writing my wishes respecting the ultimate disposal of whatever property I possess at this time, whether in the funds or elsewhere, .. I here declare my wishes to be .. that he, Robert Browning, .. having, of course, as it is his right to do, first held & used the property in question for the term of his natural life, .. should bequeath the same, by an equal division, to my two sisters, or, in the case of the previous death of either or both of them, to such of my surviving brothers as most shall need it by the judgement of my eldest surviving brother.

Elizabeth Barrett Barrett.

Wimpole Street. July. 1846–

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

Postmark: 10FN10 JY27 1846 E.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 232; ×××.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 901–904.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. See EBB’s comments in the seventh paragraph of letter 2501.

3. Another reference to the anecdote recounted by EBB in letter 2372.

4. In the postscript to letter 2413, RB’s comments indicate that he had proposed returning EBB’s money to her family in the event of her death, but she extracted an assurance from him that he would not return the money. From the context here, and from EBB’s enclosure, it seems that they reached a compromise that RB would keep the money for his lifetime, but upon his death, it would revert to her family.

5. See the enclosure above.

6. An allusion to Harriet Martineau’s outspoken views on a woman’s rights to an equal voice in lawmaking. The woolsack refers to the Lord Chancellor’s seat in the House of Lords.

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