2519. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 215–218.
Sunday morning & evening [2 August 1846]
Ever dearest, you were wet surely? The rain came before you reached the front door; & for a moment (before I heard it shut) I hoped you might return– Dearest, how I blame myself for letting you go—for not sending for a cab in despite of you! I was frightened out of all wisdom by the idea of who was down stairs & listening perhaps, & watching—as if the cab would have made you appear more emphatically you!– And then you said “the rain was over”—and I believed you as usual. If this is’nt a precedent of the evils of too much belief ....!!
Altogether, yesterday may pass among the ‘unsatisfactory days,’ I think—for if I was not frightened of the storm, (& indeed I was not, much!) of the state of affairs down in the provinces, I was most sorely frightened—uneasy the whole time. I seem to be with you, Robert, at this moment, more than yesterday I was .. though if I look up now, I do not see you sitting there! But when you sate there yesterday, I was looking at Papa’s face as I saw it through the floor, & now I see only yours—.
Dearest, he came into the room at about seven, before he went to dinner– I was lying on the sofa & had on a white dressing gown, to get rid of the strings .. so oppressive the air was,—for all the purifications of lightning– He looked a little as if the thunder had passed into him, & said, “Has this been your costume since the morning, pray?” “Oh no”—I answered—“only just now, because of the heat”. “Well”, he resumed, with a still graver aspect .. (so displeased, he looked, dearest!) “it appears, Ba, that that man has spent the whole day with you”. To which I replied as quietly as I could, that you had several times meant to go away, but that the rain would not let you,—& there, the colloquy ended. Brief enough!—but it took my breath away .. or <…> what was left, by the previous fear. And think how it must have been a terrible day, when the lightning of it made the least terror––
I was right too about the message– He took up the fancy that I might be ill perhaps with fear .. “& only Mr Browning in the room”!!!—which was not to be permitted. He was peremptory with Arabel, she told me.
Well—now we need not talk any more of it—it has made one of us uncomfortable long enough. Shall you dare come on tuesday after all? He will be out– If he is not .. if my aunt should not be .. if a new obstacle should occur .. why you shall hear on tuesday– At any rate I shall write, I think. He did not see you go yesterday—he had himself preceded you by an hour .. at five oclock .. which if it had been known, would have relieved me infinitely. Yet it did not prevent .. you see .. the appalling commentary at seven!– No.
With all the rest, I am afraid besides of Mr Chorley & his idea about your ‘mysteriousness’. Let Mr Kenyon hold that thread in one hand, &, in the other, the thread Henrietta gave him so carelessly, why he need not ask you for information– Which reminds me of the case you put to me, Robert—and certainly you could not help a confession, in such possible circumstances. Only, even granting the circumstances, you need not confess more than is wrung from you—need you? Because Mr Kenyon would undo us–
Before yesterday’s triple storms, I had a presentiment which oppressed me during two days .. a presentiment that it would all end ill, through some sudden accident or misery of some kind. What is the use of telling you this? I do not know. I will tell you besides, that it cannot .. shall not .. be, by my fault or failing– I may be broken indeed, but never bent–
If things should go smoothly, however, I want to say one word, once for all, in relation to them. Once or twice you have talked as if a change were to take place in your life through marrying,—whereas I do beg you to keep in mind that not a pebble in the path changes, nor is pushed aside because of me. If you should make me feel myself in the way, should I like it, do you think? And how could I disturb a single habit or manner of yours .. as an unmarried man, .. through being within call—I? The best of me is, that I am really very quiet & not difficult to content—having not been spoilt by an excess of prosperity even in little things. It will be prosperity in the greatest, if you seem to be happy—believe that, & leave all the rest. You will go out just as you do now .. when you choose, & as a matter of course, & without need of a word. You will be precisely as you are now in everything,—lord of the house-door-key & of your own ways! so that when I shall go to Greece, you shall not feel yourself much better off than before I went– That shall be a reserved vengeance, Robert–
While I write, comes Mr Kenyon,—& through a special interposition of guardian-angels, he has broken his spectacles & carries them in his hand. On which, I caught at the opportunity & told him that they were the most unbecoming things in the world, & that fervently (& sincerely) I hoped never to see them mended. The next word was .. “Did you see Browning yesterday?” “Yes”. “I thought so. I intended to come myself, but I thought it probable that he would be here, & so I stayed away”–
Now—I confess to you that that thought carries me a good way over to your impression– It is at least ‘suspicious’, that he who knew you were with me on saturday & tuesday, should expect to find you again on the next saturday– Oh—how uncomfortable!—the miracle of the broken spectacles not saving one from the discomfort of the position open to the bare eyes!–
He talked of you a little—asked what you were doing—praised you as usual .. for inexhaustible knowledge & general reasonableness, this time. Did I not think so? Yes—of course I thought so.
Presently he made me look aghast by just this question– “Is there an attachment between your sister Henrietta & Capt Cook?”—(put as abruptly as I put it here.) My heart leapt up .. as Wordsworth’s to the rainbow in the sky—but there was a recoil in my leap– “Why, Mr Kenyon!”—I said, .. “what extraordinary questions, opening into unspeakable secrets, you do ask!”
“But I did not know that it was a secret. How was I to know? I have seen him here very often, & it is a natural enquiry which I might have put to anybody in the house touching a matter open to general observation. I thought the affair might be an arranged one by anybody’s consent.”
“But you ought to know,” I answered, “that such things are never permitted in this house– So much for the consent. As for the matter itself you are right in your supposition—but it is a great secret,—& I entreat you not to put questions about it to anybody in or out of the house—” Something to that effect I believe I said—I was frightened .. frightened .. & not exactly for Henrietta! What did he mean? Had he too in his mind …
He touched on Mrs Jameson .. just touched. He had desired my sisters to tell me– He thought I had better write a note to thank her for her kindness. He had told her that if I had any thoughts of Italy they could be accomplished only by a sea-voyage, which was impossible to her.”
I briefly expressed a sense of the kindness & said that I meant to write. On which, the subject was changed in mutual haste, as seemed to me.
Is not this the book of the chronicles ..? And you shall hear again on tuesday, if the post shd be faithful to me that morning. I might be inclined to put off our tuesday’s meeting, but Mrs Hedley remains in London for a few days after her daughter’s marriage, & “means to see a great deal” of me—therefore wednesday, thursday, friday, .. where should we look, from tuesday? But I must consider & will write. May God bless you!—— Do say how you are after that rain. In storm & in calm,
& ever & ever I am your own Ba
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 10FN10 AU3 1846 A.
Docket, in RB’s hand: 237.
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 921–924.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. Here EBB wrote and crossed out “the remains of.”
3. Cf. Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up” (1807), line 1.