Correspondence

2567.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 309–312.

[London]

Friday evening– [28 August 1846][1]

Will you come, dearest, after all? Judge for both of us. The Hedleys go tomorrow morning & we shall not see them after tonight when they are dining here: but Mr Kenyon has not paid his visit, & may come tomorrow, or may take sunday which he is fond of doing——is it worth while to be afraid of Mr Kenyon? What do you think? I leave it to your wisdom which is the greatest. Perhaps he may not come till monday—yet he may.

Dearest, I have had all your thoughts by turns, or most of them, .. & each one has withered away without coming to bear fruit. Papa seems to have no more idea of my living beyond these four walls, than of a journey to Lapland– I confess that I thought it possible he might propose the country for the summer, or even Italy for the winter—in a “late remorse”[2]—but no, nothing! & there is not a probability of either now, as I see things– My brothers “wish that something could be arranged”—a wish which I put away quietly as often as they bring it to me. And for my uncle & aunt, they have been talking to me today—& she, with her usual acuteness in such matters, observing my evasion, said, “Ah Ba, you have arranged your plans more than you would have us believe– But you are right not to tell us– Indeed I would rather not hear. Only dont be rash, that is my only advice to you.”

I thought she had touched the truth, & wondered—but since then, from another of her words, I came to conclude that she imagined me about to accept the convoy of Henrietta & Captain Cook!—— She said in respect to them—“I only say, that your father’s consent ought to be asked, as a form of respect to him”. Which, in their case, should be, I think:—and should also in ours, but for the peculiar position of one of us– My uncle urged me to keep firm & go to Italy, and my aunt, though she wd not advise, she said, yet thought that I “ought to go”, & that to live on in this fashion in this room, was lamentable to contemplate– Both of them approved of the French route, & urged me to go to them in Paris—“And”, said my uncle kindly, “when once we have you, we shall not bear to part with you, I think”.

(Do you really imagine, by the way, that to appear in Paris for one half minute to a single soul, would be less detestable to me than to you?– I shall take care that nobody belonging to me there, shall hear of my being within a hundred miles—and why need we stay in Paris the half minute? Not, unless you pause to demand an audience of Mr Chorley at the Barriere des Etoiles.[3])

While we were talking, Papa came into the room– My aunt said, “How well she is looking.” “Do you think so?” he asked. “Why, .. do not you think so? Do you pretend to say that you see no surprising difference in her?” “Oh, I dont know”, he went on to say .. “she is mumpish, I think”. Mumpish!

“She does’nt talk” resumed he–

“Perhaps she is nervous” .. my aunt apologized. I said not one word. When birds have their eyes put out, they are apt to be mumpish.

Mumpish!– The expression proved a displeasure– Yet I am sure that I have shown as little sullenness as was possible– To be very talkative & vivacious under such circumstances as these of mine, would argue insensibility, & was certainly beyond my power.

I told her gently afterwards that she had been wrong in speaking of me at all—a wrong with a right intention,—as all her wrongings must be. She was very sorry to have done it, she said, & looked sorry.

Poor Papa!– Presently I shall be worse to him than ‘mumpish’ even. But then, I hope, he will try to forgive me, as I have forgiven him, long ago.

My own beloved .. do you know that your letter caught me in the act of wondering whether the absence would do me harm with you, according to that memorable theory. And so, in the midst, came the solution of the doubt—you do not love me less. Nay, you love me more—ah, but if you say so, I am capable of wishing not to see you for a month added to the week! For did I not once confess to you that I loved your love as much as I loved you .. or very, very, very nearly as much?. Not precisely so much.

Confiteor tibi[4] But I will sing a penitential psalm low to myself, & do the act of penance by seeing you tomorrow if you choose to come,—& then you shall absolve me & give me the Benedicite,[5] which, if you come, you cannot keep back, because it comes with you of necessity.

Not a word of your head, nor of your mother! You should come, I think, tomorrow, if only to say it. Yet let us be wise to the end– Be you wise to the end, & decide between saturday & monday. And I, for my part, promise to go to Italy, only with you—do not be afraid.

And for your poetry, I believe in it as ‘golden water’—& the ‘singing tree’[6] does not hide it from me with all the overdropping branches & leaves– In fact, the chief inconvenience we are likely to suffer from, in the way of income, is the having too much– Dont you think so? But in that case, we will buy an island of our own in one of those purple seas,—& inherit the sun—or perhaps the shadow, .. of Calypso’s cave.[7]

So do not be uneasy, dearest! not even lest I should wish to spend three weeks in Paris, to show myself at the Champs Elysées & the opera, & gather a little glory after what you happily call “our adventure”.

Our adventure, indeed! But it is you who are adventurous in the matter,—& as any Red Cross Knight of them all, whom you exceed in their chivalry proper.

Chiappino little knew how right he was, when he used to taunt me with my “New Cross Knight”. He did. Ah!– Even if he had talked of ‘Rosie Cross,’[8] he would not have been so far wide. The magic ‘saute aux yeux’.[9]

And now, will you come tomorrow I wonder, or not? The answer is in you–

And I am your own, ever & as ever!

And you thought I was dying with a desire to tell Mrs Jameson!!——I!

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

Postmark: 10FN10AU291846A.

Dockets, in RB’s hand: 261.; + August 29, Saturday. / 3–5m. p.m (88.) [sic, for 89].

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 1016–19.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto the Fourth (1818), stanza 137, line 9.

3. The barrières, or gates of the old city wall of Paris have disappeared since the extension of Paris in the 1860’s. The present-day Place Charles de Gaulle, site of the Arc de Triomphe, is near the former site of the gate of the same name.

4. “I confess to thee,” the opening words of the liturgical General Confession; cf. Psalm 32:5, which is one of the seven “penitential Psalms” EBB mentions here, the others being Psalms 6, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.

5. “Blessing.”

6. See letter 2421, note 4.

7. Calypso was the queen of the island Ogygia, on which Ulysses was shipwrecked for seven years.

8. An allusion to Rosicrucians. Hunter’s pun on the hero of Spenser’s Faerie Queene and RB’s less than fashionable neighbourhood gives way to EBB’s reference to “‘Rosie Cross’,” which could also be taken as an allusion to RB as the author of Paracelsus.

9. “Leaps to the eyes.”

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