2538.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 252–255.


Saturday morning– [15 August 1846] [1]

A bright beautiful day this is, on which you do not come—it seems as if you ought to have come on it by rights. Dearest, you did not meet Mr Kenyon yesterday after you left me? I fancied that you might, &, so, be detected in the three hours, to the fullest length of them—it seemed possible. Now I look forward to the driving instead of to you—& he has just sent to desire me to be ready at a quarter to three, & not later, as was fixed in your hearing.– And why, pray, should you be glad that I am going on this excursion? I should have liked it, if we had been living in the daylight: but with all these “shadows, clouds & darkness”, [2] it is pleasanter to me to sit still & see nobody—& least, Mr Kenyon. Oh, that somebody would spirit him away gently, very gently, so as to do him no manner of harm, in achieving the good for me!—for both you & me. Did you say “Do you pity me” to me?! I did not tell you yesterday that I have another new fear .. an American lady who in her time has reviewed both you & me, it seems, comes to see me .. is about to come to see me [3]  .. armed with a letter of introduction from Mr Mathews—& in a week, I may expect her perhaps. She is directed too, towards Mr Horne. Observe the double chain thrown across the road at my feet– I am entreated to show her attention & introduce her to my friends .. things out of the question as I am situated. Yet I have not boldness to say “I will not see you”– I almost must see her, I do fear. Mr Mathews ought to have felt his way a little, before throwing such a weight on me—. He is delighted with your Bells & Pomegranates (to pass from his frailties to his merits) & her review of them is sent to me, he says——only that I do not receive it.

Dearest, when I told you yesterday, after speaking of the manycoloured theologies of the house, that it was hard to answer for what I was, .. I meant that I felt unwilling, for my own part, to put on any of the liveries of the sects. The truth, as God sees it, must be something so different from these opinions about truth—these systems which fit different classes of men like their coats, & wear brown at the elbows always!– I believe in what is divine & floats at highest, in all these different theologies—& because the really Divine draws together souls, & tends so to a unity, I could pray anywhere & with all sorts of worshippers, from the Sistine chapel to Mr Fox’s, those kneeling & those standing. Wherever you go, in all religious societies, there is a little to revolt, & a good deal to bear with—but it is not otherwise in the world without,—&, within, you are especially reminded that God has to be more patient than yourself after all. Still you go quickest there, where your sympathies are least ruffled & disturbed—& I like, beyond comparison best, the simplicity of the dissenters .. the unwritten prayer, .. the sacraments administered quietly & without charlatanism! & the principle of a church, as they hold it, I hold it too, quite apart from state-necessities .. pure from the Law. Well—there is enough to dissent from among the dissenters—the Formula is rampant among them as among others—you hear things like the buzzing of flies in proof of a corruption—& see every now & then something divine set up like a post for men of irritable minds & passions to rub themselves against, calling it a holy deed—you feel moreover bigotry & ignorance pressing on you on all sides, till you gasp for breath like one strangled—. But better this, even, than what is elsewhere—this being elsewhere too in different degrees, besides the evil of the place. Public & social prayer is right & desirable—& I would prefer as a matter of custom, to pray in one of these chapels, where the minister is simple-minded & not controversial,—certainly wd prefer it. Not exactly in the Socinian chapels, nor yet in Mr Fox’s—not by preference. The Unitarians seem to me to throw over what is most beautiful in the Christian Doctrine,—but the Formulists on the other side, stir up a dust, in which it appears excusable not to see. When the veil of the body falls, how we shall look into each other’s faces, astonished, .. after one glance at God’s!– [4]

Have I written to you more than too much about my doxy? I was a little, little, uncomfortable in the retrospect of yesterday, lest my quick answer should have struck you as either a levity or an evasion—& have you not a right to all my thoughts of all things? For the rest, we will be married just as you like .. volo quid vis: [5] & you will see by this profession of faith that I am not likely much to care either way. There are some solemn & beautiful things in the Ch. of England Marriage-service, as I once heard it read, the only time I was present at such a ceremony—but I heard it then in the abbreviated customary form .. & not as the Puseyites (who always bring up the old lamps against a new) [6] choose to read it, they say, in spite of custom—Archdeacon Hale [7] with an inodorous old lamp, displeased some of the congregation from Fenton’s Hotel, I hear– But we need not go to the Puseyites at least. And after all, perhaps the best will be what is easiest– Something is sure to happen——something must surely happen to put an end to it all … before I go to Greece!–

May God bless you, ever dearest! Tell me if you get this letter today, saturday.

Your very own Ba–

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

Postmark: Illegible.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 246.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 961–963.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Dated by EBB’s reference to not wanting to see Kenyon, to which RB responds in the following letter.

2. We have been unable to trace the source of this quotation.

3. Margaret Fuller (1810–50), an American writer, had just arrived in England, but she did not come to London until after the Brownings had left for Italy in September 1846. She had reviewed A Drama of Exile in the New-York Daily Tribune of 4 January 1845 (for the text, see our vol. 10, pp. 357–362); and she reviewed RB’s poetry in the same newspaper for 1 April and 10 July 1846 (for the text, see our vol. 12, pp. 377–384 and pp. 397–398 in this volume).

4. Cf. II Corinthians 3:16 and 18. In offering suggestions for “Sources and Influences” of Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day, DeVane contends that EBB “had anticipated the matter of her husband’s poem.” DeVane quotes most of this paragraph and says that “Here, in compact prose, the substance of Christmas-Eve is hinted, and even the magnificent scene of the Day of Judgment in Easter-Day is suggested” (p. 198).

5. “My wish is the same as yours.”

6. Probably an allusion to the magician taking the lamp in the story of “Alla ad Deen, or the Wonderful Lamp” in The Arabian Nights (trans. Jonathan Scott, 1811, 5, 19).

7. According to the marriage certificate, the marriage of Arabella Hedley and James Bevan was solemnized by William Hale Hale (1795–1870), Archdeacon of London.


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