Correspondence

2537.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 250–252.

[London]

Thursday. [Postmark: 13 August 1846]

Dearest Ba, I love you wholly and forever—how shall the charm ever break?

My two letters! I think we must institute solemn days whereon such letters are to be read years hence .. when I shall ask you,—(all being known, many weaknesses you do not choose to see now, and perhaps some strength and constancy you cannot be sure of—(for the charm may break, you think)) .. “if you stood there” .. at Wimpole St, in the room .. would you whisper “Love, I love you, as before?”. Oh, how fortunately, fortunately the next verse comes with its sweetest reassurance![1]

When I have chosen to consider the circumstances of the altered life I am about to lead with you (.. “chosen”, because you have often suggested drawbacks, harms to my interest &c which I have really been forced to take up and try to think over seriously, lest I should be unawares found treating what had undoubtedly come from you, with disrespect,)—I never, after all the considering in my power, was yet able to fancy even the possibility of their existence– I will not revert to them now—nor to the few real inconveniences which I did apprehend at the beginning but which never occurred to you: at present I take you, and with you as much happiness as I seem fit to bear in this world,—the one shadow being the fear of its continuance– Or if there is one thing I shall regret .. it is just that which I should as truly lose if I married any Miss Campbell of them all—rather, then should really lose, what now is only modified,—transferred partly and the rest retainable– There was always a great delight to me in this prolonged relation of childhood almost .. nay altogether—with all here. My father & I have not one taste in common, one artistic taste .. in pictures, he goes, “souls away”, to Brauwer, Ostade, Teniers[2] .. he would turn from the Sistine Altar piece[3] to these,—in music, he desiderates a tune “that has a story connected with it,” whether Charles II’s favorite dance of “Brose and butter”[4] or .. no matter,—what I mean is, that the sympathy has not been an intellectual one– I hope if you want to please me especially, Ba, you will always remember I have been accustomed, by pure choice, to have another will lead mine in the little daily matters of life. If there are two walks to take (to put the thing at simplest) you must say, “This one” and not “either” .. because though they were before indifferently to be chosen,—after that speech, one is altogether better than the other, to me if not to you. When you have a real preference which I can discern, you will be good enough to say nothing about it, my own Ba! Now, do you not see how, with this feeling, which God knows I profess to be mine without the least affectation,—how much my happiness would be disturbed by allying myself with a woman to whose intellect, as well as goodness, I could not look up?– In an obedience to whose desires, therefore, I should not be justified in indulging? It is pleasanter to lie back on the cushions inside the carriage and let another drive—but if you suspect he cannot drive?

Nothing new at Mr Kenyon’s yesterday. I arrived late—to a small party—Thackeray & Procter[5]—pleasant as usual. I took an opportunity of mentioning that I had come straight from home– Did you really look from the window, dearest? I was carried the other way, by the New Road .. but I thought of you till you may have felt it!

And indeed you are “out” again as to my notions of your notions, you dearest Ba! I knew well enough that by “calmness” you did not mean absence of passion– I spoke only of the foolish popular notion.

Tomorrow there would seem to be no impediment whatever—and I trust to be with you, beloved—but before, I can kiss you as now,—loving you as ever—ever–

Your own RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole St.

Postmark: 8NT8 AU13 1846.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 252 [altered from “251”].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 959–961.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. “Catarina to Camoëns,” lines 19–20.

2. RB, Sr.’s interest in the Dutch masters is well documented. As indicated in letter 1851 (see note 12), there was in RB’s collection of prints and drawings “‘Boors Carousing by Ostade’” of his “father’s doing.” A set of four drawings copied from, or imitative of, works of Dutch artists, one of which is a sketch from Teniers, sold in Browning Collections (see Reconstruction, J22); and a biographical essay entitled “Adriaan Brauwer” by RB, Sr. is now at ABL (see Reconstruction, J60).

3. “The Last Judgement” by Michaelangelo.

4. We have been unable to trace the source for RB’s assertion that this traditional Scottish folk dance was “Charles II’s favorite dance.”

5. In his diary entry for 12 August 1846, Thackeray recorded a “pretty dinner at Kenyon’s.” He also noted that he “asked Procter, him [Kenyon] & Browning to Garrick on Wednesday next” (The Letters and Private Papers of William Makepeace Thackeray, ed. Gordon N. Ray, Cambridge, Mass., 1945–46, 2, 247).

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