Correspondence

2516.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 208–211.

[London]

Thursday evening– [30 July 1846][1]

Well, then,—it was’nt, after all, so extravagant of me to make the proposition about ‘four months’—? How innocent people may be treated like guilty ones, through no mistake even, of theirs!–

But I hold to my first impression about Mr Kenyon, whatever your second ones may be. I know him entirely, & his views of life, & his terrors of responsibility .. his irresolution, his apprehensiveness. He never would ‘shake his head’ good-naturedly, .. until he could do nothing else. Just in proportion to the affection he bears each of us, would he labour to drive us apart. And by the means you describe!—— And we who can forsee & analyze those means from this distance, would not, either of us, resist the actual process!– Therefore .. do not suffer yourself, ever dearest, to be drawn into any degree of confidence there!—It would end miserably, I know .. see .. am confidently sure. Let him, on the contrary, see the thing done, before he sees it at all, & then he will see the best of it .. the good in it .. then we shall stand on the sunshiney side of his philosophy & have all the benefit of that, instead of having to endure, as we should now, the darkness of his irresolution & the weight of his over-caution. Observe of dear Mr Kenyon, that, generous & noble as he is, he fears like a mere man of the world. Moreover he might find very rational cause for fearing, in a distant view of this … ‘most rational’ of marriages!—oh, but I am wrong in my quotation!—this only rational marriage that ever was heard of!—!!—it is so, I think.

Where do you guess that I was today? In Westminster Abbey!– But we were there at the wrong hour, as the service was near to begin .. & I was so frightened of the organ, that I hurried & besought my companions out of the door after a moment or two. Frightened of the organ!—yes, just exactly that—& you may laugh a little as they did. Through being so disused to music, it affects me quite absurdly– Again the other day, in the drawing room, because my cousin sang a song from the “Puritani”,[2] of no such great melancholy, I had to go away to finish my sobbing by myself– Which is all foolish & absurd, I know—but people cannot help their nerves, & I was ready to cry today, only to think of the organ, without hearing it– I, who do not cry easily, either! and all Arabel’s jests about how I was sure of my life even if I should hear one note, .. did not reassure me in the least. We walked within the chapel .. merely within .. & looked up & looked down!– How grand—how solemn! Time itself seems turned to stone there! Then we stood where the poets are laid .. oh, it is very fine, it is better than Laureateships & pensions. Do you remember what is written in Spenser’s monument—“Here lyeth, .. in expectation of the second coming of Jesus Christ, .. Edmond Spenser, having given proof of his divine spirit in his poems—”[3] something to that effect,—& it struck me as being earnest & beautiful, & as if the writer believed in him. We should not dare now a days, to put such words on a poet’s monument– We should say .. the author of such a book .. at most!– Michael Drayton’s inscription has crept back into the brown heart of the stone .. all but the name & a date, which somebody has renewed with black lines .. black as ink.[4]

Dearest, it will not do at all .. the going at eight oclock in the morning. I could not leave this house—it would not be possible. And then, why should we wish even, for that long passage to no end, .. Southampton or Brighton being, each of them, accessible & unobjectionable. As for the expense, it is nearly equal, by railway or sea–

For Mrs Jameson, I mentioned her because you did once, & because her being so kind reminded me of it– I thought perhaps you might like her being with us, (how should I know?) in which case–– Well—but you do not wish it, .. & indeed I do not. Therefore she shall go by herself .. dear Mrs Jameson .. I will however write to her, which I have not done yet– It is not so easy as you think, perhaps, to write at once so much & so little.

Why not tell me how you are, Robert? When you do not, I fancy that you are not well!– Say how you are, & love me till saturday—& even afterwards–

Your very own Ba–

As to forgiveness——ought I to have been angry when I was not? All I felt in that letter, was, that you loved me—and as to your pretending to think that it was ‘show & acting’ on my part, I knew you did not really, & could not:—but at any rate I was the farthest possible from being angry—& the very farthest possible, peradventure!

 

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

Postmark: PD 10FN JY31 1846 A.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 236.; + Saturday, Aug. 1. / 3–6.5m. p.m. (82) [sic, for 83].[5]

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 917–919.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. I Puritani, Bellini’s last opera, had premiered in January 1835.

3. “Heare Lyes (Expecting The Second Comminge Of Ovr Saviovr Christ Iesvs) The Body of Edmond Spencer, The Prince Of Poets In His Tyme, Whose Divine Spirrit Needs Noe Othir Witnesse Then The Works Which he Left Behinde Him. He Was Borne In London, In The Yeare 1553, And Died In The Yeare 1598.”

4. The inscription is reported to have been written by Ben Jonson: “Michaell Draiton, Esqr A Memorable Poet Of This Age, Exchanged His Lavrell For A Crowne Of Glorye, A°. 1631.

 

Doe, Piovs Marble, Let Thy Readers Knowe,

What They, And What Their Children Owe

To Draitons Name; Whose Sacred Dvst

Wee Recommend Vnto Thy Trvst:

Protect His Memry, And Preserve His Storye:

Remaine A Lasting Monvment Of His Glorye;

And When Thy Rvines Shall Disclame

To Be The Treas’rer Of His Name;

His Name, that Cañot Fade, Shall Be

An Everlasting Monvment to Thee.”

5. RB’s visit was extended past the usual three hours due to a violent storm that afternoon, which EBB mentions in letter 2519, and RB describes some of the damaging effects in letter 2520. Moreover, because RB’s delayed departure meant that EBB’s father saw him, the following visit was kept short to avoid a recurrence.

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