2555.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 286–288.


Sunday Afternoon. [23 August 1846] [1]

This time, they brought me your letter at six o’clock yesterday evening: was I startled, or no, do you think, as I received it! But all proved right, and kind as ever, or kinder. By the post-mark, I see you did go out. [2] Can you care in this way for my disappointments and remedy them? If I did not love you, how I would begin now! Every day shows me more to love in you, dearest, and I open my arms as wide as I can .. “incomprehensible” Ba, as Donne would say! [3] —Also he would say much better things, however.

What a visitation! Miss Martineau is the more formidable friend, however– Mrs. Jameson will be contented with a little confidence, you see, and ask no questions—but I doubt if you arrange matters so easily with the new-comer. Because no great delicacy can be kept alive with all that conceit—and such conceit! A lady told me a few weeks ago that she had seen a letter in which Miss M. gave as her reason for not undertaking then, during the London season, this very journey which empty London is to benefit from now, “that at such a time she should be mobbed to death”—whereupon the lady went on to comment, “Miss M. little knows what London is, and how many nearly as notable objects may be found to divert its truculence from herself–” Tom Thumb, and Ibrahim Pacha, to wit–

Why do you suspect that you “teaze me” when you say “there will remain too much use for the word ‘painful’”? Do you not know more of me by this time, my own Ba? When I have spoken of the probable happiness of our future life,—of the chances in our favour from a community of tastes and feelings,—I have really done it on your account, not mine– I very well know that there would be an exquisite, secret happiness through pain with you, or for you—but it is not for me to insist on that, with that divine diffidence in your own worth which meets me wherever I turn to approach you, and puts me so gently aside .. so I rather retire and content myself with occupying the ground you do concede .. and since you will only hear of my being happy in the obvious, ordinary way, I tell you, with perfect truth, that you, and only you, can make me thus—that only you, of all women, look in the direction that I look, and feel as I feel, and live for the ends of my life,—and beside that, see with my eyes the most natural and immediate way of reaching them, thro’ a simple life, retirement from the world here, (not from the real world)—travel, and the rest. But all the while I know .. do not you know, Ba? … that the joy’s essence is in the life with you, for the sake of you, not of the mere vulgar happiness,—and that if any of our calculations should fail, it will be a surprise, a delight, a pride to me to take the new taste you shall prescribe, or leave the old one you forbid– My life being yours, what matters the change which you effect in it?

—Here, you mean not even so much as this by your “painful”—“Elopement”! Let them call it “felony” or “burglary”—so long as they don’t go to church with us, and propose my health after breakfast! Now you fancy this a gratuitous piece of impertinence, do you not, Ba? You are wrong, sweet: I speak from directest experience—having dreamed, the night before last, that we were married, and that on adjourning to the house of a friend of mine, his brother, a young fop I know slightly, made a speech, about a certain desk or dressing-case, which he ended by presenting to me in the name of the house! Whereto I replied in a strain of the most alarming fluency—(all in the dream, I need not tell you) [4] —“and then I woke”– Oh, can I have smiled, higher up in the letter, at Miss Martineau’s over-excitability on the subject of “mobbing”? here, the greatest coward is the wisest man .. even the suspicion of such mobs ought to keep people at their lakes, or send them to their Pisas.

By the way, Byron speaks of plucking oranges in his garden at Pisa [5]  .. I saw just a courtyard with a high wall—which may have been a garden .. but a gloomier one than the palace, even, warrants. They have painted the front fresh staring yellow and changed its name .. there being another Casa Lanfranchi on the other side of the Arno. [6]

Now I will kiss you, dearest: used you to divine that, at the very beginning, I have sometimes shortened the visit in order to arrive at the time of taking your hand?

You will write to me to-night, I think– Tuesday is our day, remember. May God bless you, my very very dearest–

Your RB

That sonnet will not turn up—it is neither in Vasari, nor Dolce, nor Castiglione .. probably in Richardson’s Painting which somebody has borrowed—but I will find it yet, knowing that it must be near at hand. [7]

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole Street.

Postmark: 10FN10 AU24 1846 B.

Docket, in EBB’s hand: None. [8]

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 992–994.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. EBB’s letters usually had a Marylebone postmark, but this one was postmarked “Regent St.”

3. Doubtless a reference to The First Anniversarie (1612), lines 469–470.

4. An allusion to his dislike of public speaking, as indicated in letter 2359.

5. In a letter to Thomas Moore written from Pisa, dated 16 November 1821, Byron writes that “I can walk down into my garden, and pluck my own oranges” (Thomas Moore, Letters and Journals of Lord Byron: with Notices of His Life, 1830, II, 558). As noted in letter 2552, RB was rereading Moore’s accounts of Byron.

6. According to Murray’s Hand-Book for Travellers in Northern Italy (1847) the “Palazzo Lanfranchi, now Toscanelli, … was for some time the residence of Lord Byron” (p. 459).

7. We are unable to provide further information about the sonnet to which RB refers. The editors of the Longman edition of RB’s works follow Kintner’s suggestion that it might allude to something in manuscript, as opposed to a printed work, and link this reference to RB’s poem “Eyes, calm beside thee.” Giorgio Vasari (1511–74) was the author of Delle vite de’ più eccelenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori (1550). We take Dolce to refer to the Italian author Ludovico (Luigi) Dolce (1508–68), who is remembered for his dramatic works, as well as several minor treatises, including Dialogo della pittura (1557). Castiglione may refer to Baldassare Castiglione (1478–1529), an Italian writer, whose treatise Il Cortegiano (1528) is the best remembered of his works. Jonathan Richardson (1665–1745), a British portrait painter, was the author of An Essay on the Theory of Painting (1715) and Two Discourses: I. An Essay on the Whole Art of Criticism as it Relates to Painting. II. An Argument in behalf of the Science of a Connoisseur (1779).

8. Beginning with this letter, EBB stopped assigning letter sequence numbers on the envelopes. If EBB had continued numbering, she would have recorded 286 letters received from RB. She wrote 283 to him.


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