Correspondence

2561.  RB to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 297–300.

[London]

Wednesday Morning. [Postmark: 26 August 1846]

Dearest, I do think it will be only prudent to stay away till Friday for those reasons: Oh, how I feel what a Ba, mine is .. how truly peerless a lady .. when I find instinctively at this minute while I write, that the proper course will be to seem as little affected by this enforced absence as possible .. that knowing my love, she would understand any comfort I take from the eventual good of the arrangement– I have not to dwell on the present sorrow of it, lest she disbelieve me! I am your very own, dearest dearest, with you or away from you. Both your notes came together just now .. how can I thank and love you enough? I might have guessed that at the end you would thank me for my own letters .. that is your “trick of fence”,[1] discovered, remember! But when you read the “red-leaved tablets of the heart”[2] .. then be satisfied .. “praise,” nothing in me to you can deserve.

I have learned all particulars about the steamer. There are only two classes of passengers .. Servants being the second. The first pay, for the voyage to Leghorn £21—the second, £14,5s all expenses included except during the stay at Genoa. No reduction “it is feared” could be made in the case of so small a party—but by booking early, a separate cabin might be secured, at no additional expense. In the event of any obstacle, the passage paid for may be postponed till the departure of the next, or any future vessel of the company– Now, you see, these rates, though moderate, I think—(the ordinary term of the passage to Genoa is eleven days)—are yet considerably above those of the other method—by at least £20, I should say. The voyage is long, supremely tiresome, and in all respects so much less interesting than the French route, that the whole scheme can only be constructed for those to whom any other mode of travel is impossible—the one question to be asked therefore is .. are you really convinced that you need not be treated as one of these? And on further consideration, there arise not a few doubts as to whether the sea-voyage be not the more difficult of the two—the roughness is all between here & Gibraltar—and in the case of that affecting you more seriously than we hope, there would be no possibility of escaping from the ship: whereas, should you be indisposed on the other route, we can stop at once and stay for any period. Then, the “shiftings” are only three or four, and probably accompanied by no very great fatigue beyond the notion that a shifting there is– Above all, you would get the first of the sea in a little experiment, soon made and over,—so that if it proved unfavorable to you, there might be an end of the matter at once. So that after all, the cheaper journey may be the safer– But all does not rest with you quite, as I was going to say .. all my life is bound up with the success of this measure .. therefore, think and decide, my Ba!

Would there be an advantage in Mrs Jameson accompanying us—to Orleans, at least? Would the circumstances of our marriage alter her desire, do you think? She has often wished to travel with me, also. She must suspect the truth. I doubt whether it is not, in such cases as hers’, where no responsibility is involved, whether it is not better policy, as well as the more graceful, to communicate what is sure to be discovered—so getting thanks & sympathy instead of neither. All is for you to consider.

And now, dearest, I will revert, in as few words as I can, to the account you gave me, a short time since, of your income.[3] At the beginning, if there had been the necessity I supposed, I should have proposed to myself the attainment of something like such an amount, by my utmost efforts, before we could marry. We could not under the circumstances begin with less—so as to be free from horrible contingencies,—not the least of which would be the application for assistance afterward .. after we marry, nobody must hear of us. In spite of a few misgivings at first, I am not proud, or rather, am proud in the right place. I am utterly, exclusively proud of you: and though I should have gloried in working myself to death to prove it, and shall be as ready to do so at any time a necessity shall exist, yet at present I shall best serve you, I think, by the life by your side, which we contemplate. I hope and believe, that by your side I shall accomplish something to justify God’s goodness and yours: and, looking at the matter in a worldly light, I see not a few reasons for thinking that—unproductive as the kind of literature may be, which I should aim at producing, yet, by judicious management, and profiting by certain favorable circumstances,—I shall be able to realize an annual sum quite sufficient for every purpose .. at least in Italy.

As I never calculated on such a change in my life, I had the less repugnance to my father’s generosity, that I knew that an effort at some time or other might furnish me with a few hundred pounds which would soon cover my very simple expenses. If we are poor, it is to my father’s infinite glory, who, as my mother told me last night, as we sate alone, “conceived such a hatred to the slave-system in the West Indies”, (where his mother was born, who died in his infancy,) that he relinquished every prospect,—supported himself, while there, in some other capacity, and came back, while yet a boy, to his father’s profound astonishment and rage—one proof of which was, that when he heard that his son was a suitor to her, my mother—he benevolently waited on her uncle[4] to assure him that his niece ‘would be thrown away on a man so evidently born to be hanged’!—those were his very words. My father on his return, had the intention of devoting himself to art, for which he had many qualifications and abundant love—but the quarrel with his father,—who married again and continued to hate him till a few years before his death,—induced him to go at once and consume his life after a fashion he always detested. You may fancy, I am not ashamed of him.

I told my mother, who told him. They have never been used to interfere with, or act for me—and they trust me. If you care for any love, purely love,—you will have theirs—they give it you, whether you take it or no. You will understand, therefore, that I would not accept even the £100 we shall want: I said, “you shall lend it me .. I will pay it back out of my first literary earnings: I take it, because I do not want to sell my copyrights, or engage myself to write a play, or any other nuisance”– Surely I can get fifty pounds next year, and the other fifty in due course!

So, dearest, we shall have plenty for the journey—and you have only to determine the when and the how.

Oh, the time! Bless you, ever dearest! I love you with all my heart and soul–

RB

Address: Miss Barrett, / 50. Wimpole Street.

Postmark: 8NT8 AU26 1846.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 1003–06.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Cf. Twelfth Night, III, 4, 284.

2. Cf. II Corinthians 3:3, as well as “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship,” lines 165–166.

3. In letter 2526.

4. John Maynard suggests that this was probably a relative of RB’s maternal grandmother, Sarah Revell (see Maynard, p. 361).

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