2536. EBB to RB
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 249–250.
Wednesday evening. [12 August 1846]
‘Did I ever receive such a letter’? Never—except from you– It is a question easily answered.
As to other question[s], about the communion of contrarieties, I agree with you, thought for thought, in all your thinking about it—only adding one more reason to the reasons you point out … There is another reason at the bottom of all, I think—I cannot but think—: & it is, just, that, when women are chosen for wives, they are not chosen for companions—that when they are selected to be loved, it is quite apart from life—“man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart”. A German professor selects a woman who can merely stew prunes—not because stewing prunes & reading Proclus make a delightful harmony, but because he wants his prunes stewed for him & chooses to read Proclus by himself. A fulness of sympathy, a sharing of life, one with another, .. is scarcely ever looked for except in a narrow conventional sense. Men like to come home & find a blazing fire & a smiling face & an hour of relaxation. Their serious thoughts, & earnest aims in life, they like to keep on one side– And this is the carrying out of love & marriage almost everywhere in the world—& this, the degrading of women by both.
For friendship .. why Like seeks Like in friendship very openly– To ‘have sympathies’ with a person, is a good banal current motive for friendship. Yet (for the minor points) a man with a deficiency of animal spirits may like the society of a man who can amuse him, & the amusing man may have pleasure again in the sense of using a faculty & conferring a benefit. It is happily possible to love down, & even across a chasm—or the world would be more loveless than it is– I have loved & still love people a thousand souls off—as you have & do, of course:—but to love them better on that account, would be strange & difficult.
Always I know, my beloved, that I am unworthy of your love in a hundred ways—yet I do hold fast my sense of advantage in one,— .. that, as far as I can see, I see after you .. understand you, divine you .. call you by your right name. Then it is something to be able to look at life itself as you look at it—(I quite sigh sometimes with satisfaction at that thought!) there will be neither hope nor regret away from your footsteps. Dearest—I feel to myself sometimes, ‘Do not move, do not speak—or the dream will vanish’! So fearfully like a dream, it is! Like a reflection in the water, of an actual old, old dream of my own, too, .. touching which, .. now silent voices used to say “That romantic child”!——
What did you mean to say about my not believing in your nature .. in your feelings .. what did you & could you mean yesterday? Was it because of my speech about the ‘calm eyes’? Ah—you!– I did not think to make so impressive a speech when I made it .. for this is not the first time, Robert, you have quoted Hansard for it. Well! I shall not rise to explain after all. Only I do justice to the whole subject .. eyes inclusively .. “whatever you may think” as you said yesterday with ever such significance.
No—yes—now I will ask you one thing. Common eyes will carry an emotion of a soul—&, so, not be calm, of course. Calm ones I know, will carry the whole soul & float it up against yours, till it loses footing and … That is a little of what I meant by the calm in the eyes,—& so I will ask you whether I could wrong by such meaning, any depth in the nature.
At this moment you are at Mr Kenyon’s—& you did not, I think, go up this street. Perhaps you will go home through it—but I shall not see—I cannot watch, being afraid of the over-watchers– May God bless you my own dearest! You have my heart with you as if it lay in your hand!– I told you once that I never could love (in this way of love) except upward very far & high—but you are not like me in it, I thank God,—since you can love me. Love me, dearest of all—do not tire. I am your very own
Another Bennett!!——yet the same.! To friday!
Address: Robert Browning Esqre / New Cross / Hatcham / Surrey.
Postmark: 10FN10 AU13 1846 A.
Dockets, in RB’s hand: 245.; + Friday, Aug. 14. / 3–6.p.m. (86.) [sic, for 87].
Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 957–959.
Manuscript: Wellesley College.
1. Date provided by postmark.
2. Underscored twice.
3. Byron, Don Juan, I, cxciv, 1.
4. A 5th-century Neoplatonist writer.
5. Cf. Keats, “The Eve of St. Agnes” (1820), line 306.
6. From 1774 until 1892 the official reports of Parliamentary proceedings were published by Messrs. Hansard.