2527.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 231–233.


Thursday Mg [Postmark: 6 August 1846]

No, dearest,—the post brought me no letter till early this morning, a few hours before the second arrival: so, in case of any unexpected stoppage in our visit-affairs, if the post can have been to blame, always be sure it is; if I do not arrive at any time when I ought to arrive, having been sent for—there is the great instance and possibility, which you are to remember! However at present, post naufragia tutus sum [1] with my two treasures.

Thank you, dearest, for all that kind care of answering. Will you now let me lay it all quietly up in my head to mature, before I .. really think upon it, much more, speak of it? If one can do both once for all, what a blessing! But a little leaven of uncertainty and apprehension, just enough to be tasted bitterly in the whole lump of our life,—that cannot be too diligently guarded against while there is time.

Well, love, your excursion to Kensington was a real good, well purchased by my early going—and I am glad the great event stood before all eyes and mouths– I seem to notice that you do not leave the house quite so often as, say, a month ago; and that you are not the better for it. Of course you cannot go out in storm and rain. Will you do what is best for my Ba, you who say you love me,—that is, love her?

Don’t I sympathize with Horne, and see with his eyes, and want with his senses! But why can he not want after the two months, I ask selfishly—seeing, or fancying I see, this inconvenience .. that, as his report will probably be the latest to the world, it would be advisable for you to look as well as possible,—would it not?– It would not do for him to tell people “All I can say is, that a few weeks only before it happened, she appeared to me thus & thus”—while, on the other hand, if you receive him in the drawing room,—there are difficulties too.

You never told me how yesterday’s thunder affected you—nor how your general health is—yet I will answer you that I am very well to-day—about to go to Mrs Procter’s, alas—it is good that this letter cannot reach you before eight or nine o’clock– I should fail to deny myself the moment’s glance at the window—if you could be prayed to stand there! But it is past praying for now– I told you that I have excused myself to Mrs Jameson on the ground of some kind of uncertainty that rules the next fortnight’s engagements– Who shall say what a fortnight may not bring forth? I shall not mind Mr Kenyon being of the party to-night, should it be so ordered .. for, if he asks me, I can say with dignity—“No,—I did not call to-day,—meaning to call on Saturday, perhaps”– “Well, there is some forbearance,” he will think! However, he will not be present, I prophesy, and Chorley will .. or no, perhaps, Rachel’s Jeanne d’Arc [2] may tempt him. —Important to Ba, very! Almost as much as to me—so at once to the really, truly, exclusively important thing, by comparison– Love me ever, dearest dearest, as I must ever love you,—and take my heart, as if it were a better offering– Also write to me and tell me that Saturday is safe .. will it be safe? Your aunt may perhaps leave you soon—and one observation of hers would be enough to ruin us—consider and decide!

Since these words were written, my mother, who was out, entered the room to confirm a horrible paragraph in the paper– You know our light momentary annoyance at the storm on Saturday,—it is over for us. The next day, Mr Chandler, the cultivator of camellias at Wandsworth, died of grief at the loss from the damage to his conservatories and flowers—which new calamity added to the other, deprived his eldest son, and partner, of his senses .. “he was found to be raving mad on Monday” are the words of the “Times”. My mother’s informant called theirs “the most amiable of families”– [3]

How strange—and a few weeks ago I read, in the same paper, a letter from Constantinople—wherein the writer mentioned that he had seen (I think, that morning) Pacha somebody, whose malpractices had just drawn down on him the Sultan’s vengeance, and who had been left with barely his life,—having lost his immense treasures, palaces and gardens &c along with his dignity,—the writer saw this old man selling slices of melon on a bridge in the city,—and on stopping in wonderment to praise such constancy, the Turk asked him with at least equal astonishment, whether it was not fitter to praise Allah who had lent him such wealth for forty years, than to repine that he judged right to recall it now? [4]

Could we but practise it, as we reason on it! May God continue me that blessing I have all unworthily received .. but not, I trust, insensibly received!

May he keep you, dearest dearest


Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole Street.

Postmark: 8NT8 AU6 1846 O.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 247.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 938–940.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. “I am safe after the shipwreck.”

2. The Athenæum for 15 August (no. 981, p. 845) said: “It may be questioned whether a feebler play was ever sustained by a great actress than M. Alexandre Soumet’s ‘Jeanne d’Arc,’—which Mdlle. Rachel gave yesterday week.” The marked file of The Athenæum, now at City University (London), identifies H.F. Chorley as the author of this review.

3. The story to which RB refers appeared in The Times for 6 August 1846 (p. 7).

4. This story corresponds precisely with Browning’s “The Melon-Seller” in Ferishtah’s Fancies (1884). RB also told Mrs. Orr that this story came from a letter in The Times (Mrs. Sutherland Orr, A Handbook to the Works of Robert Browning, 1885, p. 332); however, we have been unable to find this story in any of the numerous letters from a Constantinople correspondent that appeared in The Times for this period.


National Endowment for the Humanities - Logo

Editorial work on The Brownings’ Correspondence is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This website was last updated on 4-03-2020.

Copyright © 2020 Wedgestone Press. All rights reserved.