Correspondence

2580.  EBB to RB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 13, 332–334.

[London]

Thursday evening. [3 September 1846][1]

Ever dearest, you are not well—that is the first thing!– And that is the thing I saw first, when, opening your letter, my eyes fell on the ending sentence of it,—which disenchanted me in a moment from the hope of the day. Dearest—you have not been well for two or three days, it is plain,—& now you are very, very unwell—tell me if it is not so? I beseech you to let me hear the exact truth about you, for I am very uneasy, & it is dreadful to doubt about knowing the exact truth in all such cases. How everything goes against me this week! I cannot see you. I cannot comfort myself by knowing that you are well– And then poor Flush! You must let him pass as one of the evils, & you will, I know,—for I have not got him back yet—no, indeed–

I should have done it. The archfiend, Taylor,[2] the man whom you are going to spend your life in persecuting, (the life that belongs to me, too!) came last night to say that they would accept six pounds, six guineas, with half a guinea for himself, considering the trouble of the mediation,—& Papa desired Henry to refuse to pay, & not to tell me a word about it——all which I did not find out till this morning. Now it is less, as the money goes, than I had expected, & I was very vexed & angry, & wanted Henry to go at once & conclude the business—only he would’nt, talked of Papa, & persuaded me that Taylor would come today with a lower charge– He has not come—I knew he would not come,—& if people wont do as I choose, I shall go down tomorrow morning myself & bring Flush back with me– All this time he is suffering & I am suffering. It may be very foolish– I do not say it is not—or it may even be “awful sin”, as Mr Boyd sends to assure me—but I cannot endure to run cruel hazards about my poor Flush for the sake of a few guineas, or even for the sake of abstract principles of justice—I cannot– You say that I cannot, .. but that you would. You would!– Ah dearest—most pattern of citizens, but you would not– I know you better. Your theory is far too good not to fall to pieces in practice– A man may love justice intensely; but the love of an abstract principle is not the strongest love—now is it? Let us consider a little, putting poor Flush out of the question. (You would bear, you say, to receive his head in a parcel—it would satisfy you to cut off Taylor’s in return)– Do you mean to say that if the banditti came down on us in Italy & carried me off to the mountains, &, sending to you one of my ears, to show you my probable fate if you did not let them have … how much may I venture to say I am worth? .. five or six scudi,—(is that reasonable at all?) .. would your answer be “Not so many crazie,”[3]—& would you wait, poised upon abstract principles, for the other ear, & the catastrophe,—as was done in Spain not long ago?[4] Would you, dearest? Because it is as well to know beforehand, perhaps——

—Ah—how I am teazing you, my beloved, when you are not well– But indeed that life of yours is worthy of better uses than to scourge Taylor with, even if I should not be worth the crazie–

I have seen nobody & heard nothing– I bought a pair of shoes today lined with flannel, to walk with on the bare floors of Italy in the winter– Is not that being practical & coming to the point? I did it indeed!–

May God bless you– I love you always & am your own–

Write of yourself, I do pray you—& also, how is your mother?

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

Postmark: 10FN10 SP4 1846 A.

Docket, in RB’s hand: 266.

Publication: RB-EBB, pp. 1039–41.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Date provided by postmark.

2. Taylor had been involved in the two earlier incidents when Flush was stolen (see letter 1380, note 3).

3. A crazia was an Italian copper coin worth a few pence, and a scudo a silver coin worth a few shillings.

4. An allusion to an incident which occurred in February 1845, in which brigands robbed a diligence en route from Girona to Barcelona, and took several passengers hostage, including a M. Massot. A few days after the attack, his mother received a demand from the bandits for a large ransom, with the accompanying threat that if she did not comply, “she should receive her son’s ears, and if that did not reduce her to compliance, they would send her his eyes, and if those did not succeed she would at last have his mutilated head.” The incident ended in the mutilation and death of M. Massot. A report of the trial of the bandits appeared in The Morning Chronicle of 8 April 1846.

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