2652.  EBB to James & Julia Martin

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 14, 111–113.

Collegio Ferdinando.

Feb. 1. 1847.

I should have written before to thank you both, my very dear friends, for your letter & all the kindness & comfort in it, .. but for the last ten days I have had a new uneasiness, in Wilson’s illness .. my maid whom we brought from England—& of course the responsibility made itself felt painfully. The English physician has however left off his daily visits now, & she is out of bed for a few hours everyday,—& we have assurances that, with care, she will do well for the future. It was very near being a “gastric fever”, .. arising from the neglected effect of our stormy passage from Marseilles & her severe sickness, four months ago. She said nothing to me till she could not help it, & then, would not see a physician, till I was frightened out of my wits one night by her sinking down on the sofa while she was undressing me. So this has finished reversing the world for me, & I have been learning all these days what it is possible to do for oneself in the matter of one’s own hair & other people’s medecines—only the anxiety was so much the worse, that it took away the thought of the fatigue altogether, .. & Robert was as anxious as I, or more perhaps, being anxious for me besides– It has been his department to see to the fire & carry the teakettle here & there … I bid him observe what he has come to!—— Still, it is all over now (or as nearly as possible) thank God .. and, throughout it, I have been quite well, & am entirely so at this moment, with the advantage of having learnt a little more of “constitutional independence,” in my own experience. And now let me thank you, my dear Mr Martin, my dear friend, for your goodness in everyway .. believe me I never shall forget it. I had a letter from Sette, before I had yours, written in a light way, which half pleased me (that he should write at all in a kind tone) & half vexed me for the manner. I will explain exactly what vexed me .. I would not have you think that I cannot make allowances, or that I am “stiff”, & expect impossible concessions. But when they write to me, as Sette did, as to somebody who had done a foolish thing without meaning the least harm, through being overpersuaded by somebody else who was the real criminal .. when that is insinuated, & expressed by interlineations & the rest, … I appeal to you if it becomes me to accept any such kindness. So I answered Sette (all this before your note came!) affectionately but frankly, to the effect that whatever had been done (whether ill or well, we need not now discuss) had been done by me willingly & by choice & with both my eyes open, & that therefore I would not submit to be set on one side, when blame was to be given .. that moreover, I was here with my husband, & that if they still loved me enough to mean me any kindness, they must extend it to him at the same time. Was it wrong, dearest Mrs Martin, to say this? was it wrong, my dear friends? I would concede anything but the one point they wish to wring from me——in their blind ignorance (the excess of which consoles me almost) of the man with whom it is their honour to have any connection. As to my not having given them my confidence, .. if I had not loved them too tenderly for it, they might not have had that reason for complaint. But I love them tenderly now, & will be patient, & take your advice & not be too exacting– George has not written—poor George!– I will let him say again that I have “sacrificed all delicacy & honour”, if he will graciously forgive me at last, & vouchsafe the tips of his fingers to Robert. Really it makes me half laugh & half cry when I think of some of these absurdities, the reason for which, is passed even in this absurd world!– So, .. instead, .. let me ask how you find yourselves at Pau & whether you feel nearer the sun. The weather here is mild & wet. I have been out only once or twice in January, .. this from simple precaution, for I am very well, & we are full of schemes .. of seeing Venice for instance, in the summer. Then we are reading (much at the latest) Custine’s Russia,[1] & it has been proposed that when we go to the East, we may return by Odessa to Moscow & Petersburg, .. observing to do so by sunlight of course!– So you may guess what our schemes are. Tell me in return how you both are, which is the single kindness your last letter forgot. Dear uncle Hedley! he is always good to me. Mrs Hedley too wrote to me very kindly when she did write. Does Fanny Hanford delight in Rome? & will she return without seeing Venice? That wd be a shame. Our Pope is winning golden opinions on all sides, for a liberal Pope that is. Do you get books at Pau? Have you read Jules Janin’s graceful book upon Italy?[2] written a few years since. May God bless you both. Do write. Robert’s regards to his & my dear friends–

Your grateful & affectionate


Address, on integral page: À Madame / Madame Martin / Poste Restante / Pau / Basses Pyrenées / France.

Publication: None traced.

Manuscript: Wellesley College

1. La Russie en 1839 by Astolphe, Marquis de Custine, was published in 1843, and an English translation appeared the following year. In a letter written in November 1844, EBB asked Julia Martin if she knew about this book; see letter 1761, note 7.

2. Voyage en Italie (1839).


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