Correspondence

2533.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 243–245.

[London]

Monday morning [10 August 1846][1]

Then let it be tuesday. It will correct, too, my stupidity to Mr Kenyon, for easily you may reply to his certain question, that you had not been here on wednesday but meant to go on friday instead– Ah well! By the time all this is over we shall be fit to take a degree in some Jesuits college—we shall have mastered all the points of casuistry. To wash one’s hands of it, & then throw away the water, will be something gained at least.

Dearest, no, indeed!—there is nothing for your goodness to do in that badness I told you of,[2] & which you describe so precisely in your word, ‘drunkeness’ of mind– It is precisely that, & no more nor less—a throwing off of moral restraint .. a miserable degradation– One may get angry, frightened, disgusted—but, after all, compassion comes in:——& who would think of fighting a delirious man with a sword? It would be a cruelty, like murder. There is a fine nature too, under these ruins of the will,—& a sensibility which strikes inwards & outwards—(no one else should have any sensibility, within a thousand miles–) Think of a sort of dumb Rousseau,—with the Confessions in him, pining evermore to get out!–[3] A miserable man, first by constitution & next by fortune—seeing only the shadow, for the sun,—the nettles in the field,—& breathing hard when he stands among garden-roses, to attain to smelling the onions over the wall. I have told him sometimes that he had a talent for anger!—‘indignatio facit orationes:’[4] & that is his pleasure, ‘par excellence’,—to be let talk against this abuse or that abuse, this class of men or that class of men, this or that world’s misery or offence— .. he will rise up in it & be eloquent & happy. Otherwise .. mecreants we must be, he thinks, who dare to be happy in this vale of tears—— Life is a long moan to him. And is not such a man enough punished? For me, I have not had the heart to take quite the position I ought to have done, looking only to his most outrageous bearing towards myself—although he talks of my scorn & sarcasms, as if I had shown myself quite equal to self defence. An old, old friend, too!—known as a friend these twelve or thirteen years! And then, men are nearly all the same in the point of wanting generosity to women. It is a sin of sex, be sure—& we have our counter-sins & should be merciful. So I have been furiously angry, & then relented—by turns,—as I could. Oh yes—it was he who followed you up stairs. There was an explosion <…>[5] that day among the many—and I had to tell him as a consequence, that if he chose to make himself the fable & jest of the whole house, he was the master, but that I should insist upon his not involving my name in the discussion of his violences. Wilson said he was white with passion as he followed you, & that she in fear trembled so she could scarcely open the door. He was a little ashamed afterwards, & apologized in a manner for what sufficiently required an apology—. Before a servant too!– But that is long ago—& at that time, he knew nothing for a certainty. Is it possible to be continuously angry with any one who proves himself so much the weaker? The slave of himself .. of his own passions[6] .. is too unhappy for the rod of another—man or woman.

Mr Chorley—Mr Chorley!—how could he utter such words![7] Men seem imbecile sometimes—understandings have they, & understand not.

Monday night–

Dearest, I have your last letter– Thank you out of my heart!—though you are not a prophet, dear dearest—not about Mr Kenyon at least. See how far you are from the truth-well, with that divining hazel which you wave to & fro, before my eyes– Mr Kenyon instead of too much remembering us, has forgotten me today– I waited an hour with my bonnet on, & he did not come. And then came a note! He had had business—he had forgotten me—he wd come tomorrow– Which I, thinking of you, wrote back a word against, & begged him to come rather on thursday or saturday, or monday—— Is that right, dearest? Your coming tomorrow will be very right.

But when you say that there can be no love except “from beneath” … is it right? is it comforting to hear of? No, no—indeed! How unhappy I should be if I accepted your theory! So I accept rather your love, beloved ..

Trusting to be yours–

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

Postmark: 10FN10 AU11 1846.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 243.; + Tuesday. 11. August. / 3–6–p.m. (85.) [sic, for 86].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 951–953.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. EBB is responding to RB’s remarks about Hunter in the fourth paragraph of letter 2531.

3. An allusion to Les Confessions de Jean Jacques Rousseau (1782).

4. “Indignation produces discourses” (cf. “facit indignatio versum,” “indignation will prompt my verse,” Juvenal, Satires, I, 79, trans. G.G. Ramsay).

5. EBB wrote and crossed out “in consequence.”

6. Cf. Hamlet, III, 2, 72.

7. Presumably a response to the conversation with Chorley, which RB reported in the second paragraph of letter 2531.

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