Correspondence

2826.  EBB to Henrietta Moulton-Barrett

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 16, 35–41.

[Florence]

Dec 22– [1849][1]

My ever dearest Henrietta, I have your little note today & thank you for it much & much. Upbraid me as you please, but I cant be easy .. satisfied in the fancies of my heart .. about Papa– Does the “oppression of the chest in the cold weather” proceed from the cold, or from what supposed cause? I am afraid of the affection which he had, some years ago, of water[2] .. you remember! the symptom of swelling of the feet, taken in combination with the oppression of the chest, alarms me. There’s the truth. As to my folly in expecting him to be as strong as he used—— Why, Henrietta, it certainly is not age which makes him weaker– Robert’s father is older than mine, and if he were to hear what I have heard, he wd be uneasy as I cant help being, & he knows it. Mr Kenyon is several years older than Papa—yet how “brilliant” he is, by all the accounts we receive!– Besides the fact is that Papa is not well—he has such & such symptoms—and the weakness manifestly relates to these & to nothing else– Three years ago, he was in absolute health & strength as you very well know—and less than two years ago .. nay, one year and a quarter ago from this moment, .. I was told by truthful persons who had not seen him since Sidmouth days, that they did not observe the slightest change except in his being fatter. So the change has taken place only in the last year– I beseech you to write a little oftener & let me hear of him everything. Oh I wonder that you shd wonder at my being anxious. I dont & wont “make miseries,” Henrietta,—I only look at facts– It is natural that I should look anxiously at these facts. As to age, age, age—it certainly is’nt age which produces the change I ask about,—and even if he were ten, fifteen, or twenty years older than he is, I appeal to you whether that consideration would not be a cause for more anxiety rather than less on his account. Now, I wont say any more about it—only do let me hear more frequently .. oh, do, .. you dearest, kindest people, both of you. See how much oftener I write than you, either of you, do, because you are two, & I .. one—so that for every single letter of yours, Henrietta, or your’s, Arabel, I send at least two. Perhaps you call that an audacious calculation, after my silence which vexed you so: but its a true calculation in spite of the silence, & however insolently put forward. For the silence, forgive me! It shant happen again, if I can help it. Forgive that, & forgive too what I have written today, which is’nt too amusing certainly. I shall not yield to bad spirits .. I will try to exaggerate nothing. You, in the meanwhile, will make allowance for me, & understand what it is to look at some subjects from certain positions, & with the length of Europe between me & the dearly loved– May God allow for us all.

Now you will want to know about my health & the rest of me—so I shall hasten to tell you that I am going on perfectly well & am at the end of my doubts. There is plenty of life & movement[3]—so I am to set it down, I suppose, as a miraculous baby who has an especial vocation & particular determination towards playing a part in this world of ours– I could’nt believe it possible that I could go on under the circumstances—&, a few days after sending off my last letter, I heartily repented writing it, .. thinking <from a certain symptom>[4] that all must be at an end– Madme Biondi however, came the day she went to Parma, & wd insist on a great deal of the harm’s arising from my favorite arm chair, which was too low, she said, & required an injurious effort in rising from it: so I let myself be arranged on the sofa, very obediently & sceptically, though it quite vexed me—let the comfortable chair go to the wall for the season, & began a course of minute precautions which seemed to me utterly thrown away– Since then, everything has been justified– There’s no mistaking the movement, &, of course, this is more final evidence than a mere increase of size which might be imputable to such various causes– Mrs Ogilvy confessed to me the day before yesterday, that she was “perfectly astonished”—she had given it up!– Yet she had only heard an account of my attack—no reasonable person who had witnessed it, could have hoped for a happy end– I fainted quite away from the mere hemorrhage .. not from pain .. there was scarcely any pain: but the fainting, I think, gave the turn to the attack. I dare say it was the happiest thing that could have happened to me– God knew best & sent it– It seems to me, I must have overstrained myself at Lucca, where I could’nt step out of doors without climbing out of doors, .. & then, I had taken a little wine & water for some time, & wine never agrees with me. I dont think I shall ever touch it again .. being a species of incarnated gunpowder .. that’s clear. As well as possible I am now, and hoping that the poor little resolute creature may not be weakened by the peril she has run– ‘She’ the pen wrote without thought! A good omen. She has two pairs of blue & pink boots, the prettiest that ever were seen & worked by the dearest of hands by the subtlest of arts, (how you did such beautiful intricacy, I cant imagine) ready to put on– Kind, kind, dearest, dearest Henrietta & Arabel! How can you be so kind over the extremity of kindness? Clara Lindsay delivered this proof of it & I looked in wonder at the beautiful little shoes, .. considering whether the hearts or the hands had had most to do with them. But you dont know Wiedeman yet. He always escapes you through being too large or too small– Arabel’s frock went over his head & feet—and now, the said feet, though they will go into the shoes certainly cant be trusted there for fear of making holes in five minutes .. the ‘fitting’ is too tight. I was provoked to let him miss his shoes—particularly as he admired them excessively (he loves all bright colours) & held them fast in his fists with a decided spirit of proprietorship—but they must go to baby the second; Wiedeman must resign. So yours is the first contribution to the little wardrobe, which we are beginning to set about .. the fragments of the old one being small & shattered– I mean to make amends for the fault committed last time in deference to somebody’s statistical views, & to have French cambric night caps .. because they are so much seen, & because the difference in the whole expense wont exceed two or three shillings. Cambric is cheap here. For the rest, I shall only have bed gowns (we have a pretty pattern) & it is hard for a baby to wear anything else for the first two months .. after which, the short frocks come in, .. & your shoes will just do for that revolutionary period. Wiedeman is obliged now to have soles sewn on to his—he is never happy for long together without getting down to walk– He sits by himself on the carpet, surrounded by what we call his toys .. penny rattles & whistles & pieces of stick, .. his delight being to knock things together & make a noise .. and if a chair happens to be near, up he gets, pulling himself up by it, .. & thumping on it with his fists. So, he can stand quite firmly– The day he was nine months old, he said, “ba, ba, ma, ma,” .. & the next morning, came out “mama” quite clearly. Oh, I dont think he attaches any idea to the word—he generally says it when he is in difficulties, .. under circumstances of peculiar irritation: but of course it’s the beginning of articulation, & so we are delighted. When I conjecture that he attaches no meaning to the ‘word’, I dont mean that when other people say ‘Mama’ he attaches no meaning to that. For months past, he has understood all our names perfectly. The noise he makes, you wd be surprised at, .. he screams (not cries .. understand .. he never cries, little angel!) screams for everything he wants & for everybody he loves– His lungs are undeniably strong, with all which, he has only three teeth .. the fourth glittering in the gum though, but certainly not out– Mrs Ogilvy’s baby at fifteen months, has five teeth– The teeth seem to me to come later in Italy– I shall never dare to wean Wiedeman in May; it will be unsafe, I think; & just think of us with two wet nurses at once!– You have not answered what I asked about Arlette? Does she nurse still? Has she put her baby into merino frocks this winter? Give her my love. Dear Bummy wont bear Tunbridge Wells—you will see. Clara Lindsay is looking immense. The balia wanted to know if she was my aunt!– We sent Wiedeman to see her, because he was out upon both occasions of her visits to me, and he behaved very well & kissed everybody except Mr Lindsay’s little boy[5] who struck him as being rather objectionable– I told you how fond he was of kissing—he kisses me four or five or six times together sometimes—he thinks it good fun. As to kissing your picture & Arabel’s, there’s no end of that, I assure you. Mr Lindsay has a niece of his, besides Emily’s girl,[6] & a sort of half-boy-tutor with his little son, and they have masters—& when Wilson went to the house, she said it looked like a school. Poor Julia[7] has had returns of her suffering since she came. They have chosen a house without sun, & she went out on bad days, & is disappointed in the climate– The fact is, this is not a climate for imprudent people. It is Italy, & the winter is short & the sunshine glorious—but there are winds like swords, & you must avoid them if you wish to live– I dare say we shall see very little of the Lindsays—we see little of anybody. The Ogilvies though living in the same house,[8] we have less intercourse with, than we had at Lucca, with a mountain between us. This house is like a town—& people who have apartments in it are only like neighbours in the same London street. So Arabel need not be alarmed for our privacy, you observe. There is a Signor Paulo Emilio Guidicci,[9] a literary man, who comes at coffee time very often & exercises our Italian. And then .. Mr Stewart[10] who lectures on Shakespeare—a very gentlemanly & refined Scotchman who has married an Italian wife– Miss Fuller the American authoress, established at Rome during the republic, & very useful in the hospitals during the siege, & who had sent us several Americans with letters of introduction from herself, suddenly astounded us with an announcement that she was in Florence with her husband & child!!– The child, fifteen months old, .. the husband a noble marquis of Rome … nobody suspecting a word of it!!– She had given birth to the child somewhere up in the mountains, .. & the noble Roman was active at the siege, it appears– Rather a romantic proceeding, it must be confessed, .. & I am glad she did not still longer delay the declaration of her marriage; which further delay had been in her plans. The husband is kind-looking & gentlemanly enough for the “sort of thing” .. very like Mr Bezzi,[11] Robert says,—the lady, one of the very plainest women I ever saw in my life, & talking fluent Italian with a pure Boston accent. Still she is a woman of undeniable talent & eloquence, with a great deal of generous & womanly goodness in her beside, I dare say—though, as Robert observed, it was a clear case of “we keeps a husband”, .. the noble Roman sitting by in meek silence, while she discoursed. So much for the Marquis & Marchioness Ossoli.

Other new acquaintances of ours, are Mr & Mrs Wooley[12]—he is a clergyman .. a simple man overflowing with all the creams of human kindheartedness, .. liberal & not ill informed—rather a wandering shepherd, it must be confessed, but doing good in other ways– We were drawn together, partly through their being friends of the Ogilvies, & partly from the communion of babies .. their’s being the ‘sposa’[13] of ours by contract of nurses. We resisted the acquaintance some time, but when I was ill they came & left cards of enquiry—so of course Robert had to return the visit when he could– Sophia Cottrell has again been here—better apparently, but much altered,—as pale as this paper, she who was like a rose in the summer. She insisted on seeing Wiedeman—I made some excuses– “Oh,” she said, “dont think I am so selfish”. Poor Sophia! Mrs Gordon has never been here, nor has Robert yet called on her, though she has for some time been established in her apartment. I long to hear what is new in dearest Trippy’s business, & whether anything has been arranged– Tell me of Trippy,—how she is, dear thing, .. & give her a heap of kisses from me: you dont mention her in the little note; & I long to hear that her mind is at ease & her health good– Always mention her. Tell her that I wish her a very happy new year– May God bless her. I dearly love her. I fancy her at your Christmas dinner, & wish I could help to put on her cap—that’s one of my Christmas wishes for myself! May the rest not be as vain.

<You heard of> Mrs Garrow’s death at Torquay.[14] Mrs Tom Trollope has not been well, & the physicians insist on her living in Italy– So the whole three families, the Maternal Trollope, the two Filials, and Mr Garrow, have sent to provide themselves with an unfurnished apartment in Florence where they intend to reside for the future. It seems to me that dear uncle Hedley could not do better than this, he who was always so peculiarly well here. I am very sorry to have such an uncomfortable account of him .. very, .. & am inclined to write to Tours again notwithstanding the dispiriting fatality about letters lost & unanswered.– Madme Biondi is at Parma with the Duchess, & will be absent two months, she said. Sophia Cottrell & I will want her too nearly at the same time, I fear .. though she maintains that I am sure to be first– I hope I shall, for I shall neither like to do without Madme Biondi, nor to prevent Sophia from having her—the last, I would not for the world. Sophia told me that she had engaged a wet nurse already for the coming baby—an excess of providence certainly– ‘Not,’ she added, “that my first angel suffered from the want of that.” I hastily said, .. “oh, no, no”. Of course it is better that she shd think so—but the case was too clear a one– I am quite uneasy about Nelly Jago’s child[15]—quite! Dear dearest Henrietta, if I have not written before about the subject most interesting to you, it is not that I do not painfully feel the whole interest. I think of you, I pray for you, I love you. May God bless you to the uttermost. That immediate prospect you speak of, seems to me scarcely an available thing for you .. the candidates must be many. Do not therefore build too heavy a hope on it. If the hope is realized, I shall be overjoyed .. but if not, scarcely surprised. East Indian affairs are a little out of the sphere, it strikes me. May I ask one thing—“are all debts paid?” So much depends on that. Also, if Papa shd be unwell, you ought to defer vexing him—remember his health. My heart & affections are divided– I do not know what to say. May God bless you & guide you. I think of Wimpole Street painfully just now—there are thoughts which haunt & pierce me. Arabel’s letter is a lamp to look at from the end of a sort of darkness, & I look to it–

Will you both write oftener? <Wilso>n’s spirits are much recovered, & she looks better than she <has> done for nearly a year– I hope & trust she will get well <ov>er it–[16] Give my love to Surtees & Susan—and love to Mr<s Or>me, remembering Christmas! and love to dear Lizzie—& <to w>homsoever else shall care to be loved. Robert’s love with <that> of your own attached Ba–

Best love to dear Minny. How is she? How, too, is Crow & the children?– Such blots & mistakes I send you! through Roberts talking.

Address: Care of Miss Tripsack / (Miss Barrett) / 12. Beaumont Street / Devonshire Place / New Road / London.

Publication: Huxley, pp. 115–117 (in part).

Manuscript: Armstrong Browning Library and Camellia Collection.

1. Year provided by postmark.

2. In the autumn of 1834; see letter 493.

3. See letter 2821, note 3.

4. Bracketed passage is interpolated above the line. “Last letter” refers to letter 2819.

5. William Bayford Lindsay (b. 1839) was the son of Martin Lindsay and his first wife Sophia (d. 1840), youngest daughter of Jonathan Harrison of Lewes.

6. Presumably, one of four daughters of Clara Lindsay’s sister Emily Butler (née Bayford, 1806–76) and Charles George Butler (1793–1867). We have been unable to identify Martin Lindsay’s niece or his son’s tutor.

7. Julia Bayford (afterwards de Salis Soglio, 1814–98), youngest daughter of John and Frances Bayford.

8. Upon the Ogilvys’ return to Florence from Bagni di Lucca in October, they had leased the top floor of Palazzo Guidi (see EBB-EAHO, p. xxx).

9. Paolo Emiliani Giudici (1812–72), an Italian scholar who was later (1859) appointed Secretary of the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence.

10. James Montgomery Stuart.

11. Giovanni Aubrey Bezzi (1795–1879), an Italian friend of John Kenyon’s who had lived many years in England (he was at this time professor of Italian at the recently formed Queen’s College in Harley Street, London) and who had on occasion borrowed books from EBB (see letter 792).

12. Thomas Lamplugh Wolley (1806–57) was elected churchwarden of the English Church in Florence in 1849. He and his wife, Emily Frances Wolley (née Elton) had two children, Arthur Lamplugh and Rhoda Florence. The Wolleys returned to England in May 1850.

13. “Bride.”

14. On 4 November 1849.

15. Eleanor Elizabeth Consuelo Jago, born on 7 October 1849.

16. As alluded to in letter 2832, the engagement between Wilson and Egidio Righi had been broken off.

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