2539.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 255–257.


Saturday. [Postmark: 15 August 1846]

My very, very dearest,—many, if not all, of those things for which I want the words when too close to you, become quite clear at a little distance– How simple, for instance, it is to admit—that is our case,—my own, only Ba once discovered, the circumstances of the weakness and retirement were, on the whole, favorable rather than otherwise! Had they been unfavorable .. I do not think a few obstacles would have discouraged me .. but this way has been easier—better—and now all is admitted! By themselves, the circumstances would never obtain more than the feeling properly due to them—do you think one particle of love goes with the pity and service to a whole Hospital of Incurables? So let all the attraction of that kind pass for what it is worth, and for no more. If all had been different, and I had still perceived you and loved you, then there might, perhaps,—or probably—be as different an aim for me,—for my own peculiar delight in you .. I should want to feel and be sure of your love, in your happiness .. certainly in your entire happiness then as now—but I should aspire to find it able to support itself in a life altogether different from the life in which I had first seen you—if you loved me you would need to be happy in quiet and solitude and simplicity, and privation .. then I should know you loved me, knowing how you had been happy before! But now, do you not see that my utmost pride and delight will be to think you are happy, as you were not,—in the way you were not: if you chose to come out of a whirl of balls and parties and excursions and visitings—to my side, I should love you as you sate still by me; but now, when you stand up simply, much more walk .. I will consider, if you let me, every step you take that brings you pleasure,—every smile on your mouth, and light on your eyes—as a directest obedience to me .. all the obedience you can ever pay me .. you shall say in every such act “this I do on purpose to content you!” I hope to know you have been happy .. that shall prove you loved me, at the end.

Probably you will not hear anything today from Mr Kenyon, as your sister is to be present: do you really imagine that those eyes and spectacles are less effective than the perceptions of your “Treppy”? [1]

By the way, hear an odd coincidence—you heard that foolish story of Thackeray and Mr “Widdicomb” [2]  .. which I told just to avoid a dead silence and guilty blankness of face. As I was returning I met Thackeray (with Doyle—H.B.) [3] and was energetically reminded of our dinner .. he is in very earnest, Mr Kenyon may assure himself. Presently I reached Charing Cross—and stood waiting for my omnibus– There is always a crowd of waiters. In a moment there passes an extraordinary looking personage—a policeman on duty at this police-requiring spot saunters up to me, of all others, and says (on some miraculous impulse, no doubt)—with an overflowing impressible grin, “D’ye know him, Sir?”– “No—who may he be?” “He’s—Widdicomb”!– “He goes now to Astley’s, and afterward, to Vauxhall—there’s a good likeness of him in the painting of the Judge & Jury Club” [4]  .. here my omnibus arrives .. “Thank you” I said—and there was an end of the communication. Now for how many thousand years may I walk the streets before another inspired policeman addresses me without preface and tells me, that is the man I have just been talking of to somebody else? Let me chronicle Mr W’s glories .. his face is just Tom Moore’s, plus two painted cheeks, a sham moustache, and hair curled in wiry long ringlets,—Thackeray’s friend was a friend indeed, “warning every man and teaching every man” [5] —the tête à tête would have been portentous.

Now, dearest, you cannot return me such delectabilities so must even be content to tell me what happens today and what is said and done, and surmised—and how you are .. three times over, how you are, dearest dearest! And I will write to-morrow, and kiss you meanwhile, as now, as ever– Bless you, love–

Your RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole Street.

Postmark: 8NT8 AU15 1846 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: 252.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 964–966.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. See EBB’s comments about Mary Trepsack in the second paragraph of letter 2535.

2. John Esdaile Widdicomb (1784–1854) was riding master at Astley’s Amphitheatre for more than 30 years.

3. “H.B.” was the signature used by the popular political caricaturist John Doyle (1797–1868). According to the DNB, “the utmost pains were taken to preserve a strict incognito, and with such success that almost to the last the identity of the author was unknown” (DNB).

4. “It was at the Garrick’s Head, in Bow Street, that the most prominent of the ‘Judge and Jury’ Societies in vogue during the mid-19th century are chiefly associated” (Bryant Lillywhite, London Coffee Houses, 1963, p. 224).

5. Colossians 1:28.


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