Correspondence

2542.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 260–262.

[London]

Sunday morning [16 August 1846][1]

Your sight of Widdicomb was highly dramatic—& the policeman ‘intersit nodo’[2] as well as any god of them all. What a personnage, Widdicomb must be! Think of the mental state of a man, who could gravely apply to his own face, false moustachios & rouge before a looking-glass. There is something in it to wonder over, as over the megalosaurie & prodigious of ridicules. Mind—when I talked of rouge improving a complexion for the nonce, I was thinking of women,—not of men, in whom that sort of colouring (even if it were natural) is detestable, or, to measure one’s language, very ugly indeed– I have seen a man, of whom it was related that he painted his lips—so that at dinner, with every course, was removed a degree of bloom, .. the lips paled at the soup, grew paler at the mutton, became white at the fricandeau & ghastly at the pudding—till with the orange at desert, his nearest neighbours drew back their chairs a little, expecting him to fall flat in a fainting-fit. But he was very rich, & could only talk charmingly out of those painted lips– There were women who “could’nt conceive why people should call him a fool”– To every Bottom’s head, (not to wrong Bottom by such a comparison) there will be a special Titania[3]—see if there will not!——

So you go on wednesday to this club-dinner, really.[4] And you come to me also on wednesday– Does that remain decided? I have had a letter from that poor Chiappino,[5] to desire a “last interview” .. which is promised to be “pacific”——. Oh—such stuff!! Am I to hold a handkerchief to my eyes & sob a little? Your policeman is necessary to the full development of the drama, I think. And I forgot to tell you that there were two things in which I had shown great want of feeling—one, the venturing to enclose your verses—the other .. (now listen!) the other .. the having said that “I was sincerely sorry for all his real troubles”. Which I do remember having said once, when I was out of patience—as how can anyone be patient continually?—& how was I especially to condole with him in lawn & weepers, on the dreadful fact of your existence in the world? Well—he has real troubles unfortunately, & he is going away to live in a village somewhere– Poor Chiappino! A little occupation would be the best thing that could happen for him: it would be better than prosperity without it– When a man spins evermore on his own axis, like a child’s toy I saw the other day, .. what is the use of him but to make a noise? No greater tormentor is there, than selflove, .. even to self– And no greater instance of this, than this!

Dearest beloved, to turn away from the whole world to you .. when I do, do I lose anything .. or not rather gain all? Sometimes I feel to wish that I had more to sacrifice to you, so as to prove something of what is in me—but you do not require sacrifice .. it is enough, you say, that I should be happy through you. How like those words are to you!—how they are said in your own idiom!– And for myself, I am contented to think that, .. if such things can really satisfy you, .. you would find with difficulty elsewhere in the world than here, a woman as perfectly empty of life & gladness, except what comes to her from your hands– Many would be happy through you—but to be happy through only you, is my advantage .. my boast– In this, I shall be better than the others.

Why, if you were to drive me from you after a little, in what words could I reproach you, but just in these .. “you might have left me to die before”. Still I should be your debtor, my beloved, as now I am

Your very own

Ba–

I told you that I was going to the chapel one sunday——but I have not been yet. I had not courage– May God bless you!

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

Postmark: 10FN10 AU17 1846 E.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 248.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 970–971.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. “[May] untie the knot,” an allusion to Horace, Ars Poetica, lines 191–192, trans. H. Rushton Fairclough.

3. Cf. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, III, 1.

4. i.e., to the Garrick Club with Thackeray and Kenyon (see letter 2537, note 5).

5. See letter 2531, note 5.

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