3075.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 18, 179–182.

58. Welbeck street.

Friday– [30 July 1852] [1]

I want to hear about you again, dear dearest Miss Mitford, and I cant hear– Will you send me a line or word? Oh, I do hope you will be able to say .. “Better .. getting well.” It will be joy to my heart if you say so. Do you know, I was nervous about your last letter, lest the writing of it should have fatigued you when the efficient remedy was rest. Now, dont tire yourself with writing at length to me, if writing does tire you. Send me a word, & that shall be enough. Only I must have a word, because I hunger & thirst [2] for it.

The weather is good for nobody, & therefore not for you. Oppressive, stifling weather .. strangling weather, I think. People have nervous headaches & low spirits & “maladies de langeur” [3] all round us. I dare say it is very bad weather for you & that you dont gather strength as you would do if things were otherwise. Ah! perhaps so!

I mean to go down to see you one day, but certainly we must account it right not to tire you while you are weak, & not to spoil our enjoyment by forestalling it. Two months are full of days—we can afford to wait. Meantime let us have a little gossip such as the gods allow of.

Dear Mr Kenyon has not yet gone to Scotland, though his intentions still stand north. He passed an evening with us some evenings ago, & was brilliant & charming, (the two things together), & good & affectionate at the same time. Mr Landor was staying with him—(perhaps I told you that) & went away into Worcestershire .. assuring me, when he took leave of me, that he never would enter London again. A week passes .. and lo! Mr Kenyon expects him again. Resolutions are not always irrevocable, you observe.

I must tell you what Landor said about Louis Napoleon. You are aware that he loathed the first Napoleon [4] & that he hates the French nation—also, he detests the present state of French affairs, & has foamed over in the Examiner “in prose & rhyme” [5] on the subject of them. [6] Nevertheless, he who calls ‘the Emperor’ “an infernal fool” expresses himself to this effect about the president. “I always knew him to be a man of wonderful genius. I knew him intimately, & I was persuaded of what was in him. When people have said to me, ‘How can you like to waste your time with so trifling a man’ I have answered, If all your Houses of Parliament, putting their heads together, could make a head equal to this trifling man’s head, it would be well for England.”

It was quite unexpected to me to hear Mr Landor talk so.

He .. Mr Landor .. is looking as young as ever, as full of life & passionate energy.

Did Mr Horne write to you before he went to Australia? Did I speak to you about his going? Did you see the letter which he put into the papers as a farewell to England? I think of it all sadly. [7]

Mazzini came to see us the other day, with that pale spiritual face of his, & those intense eyes, full of melancholy illusions. I was thinking while he sate there, on what Italian turf he would lie at last, with a bullet in his heart——or perhaps with a knife in his back—for to one of those ends it will surely come. Mrs Carlyle came with him– She is a great favorite of mine—full of thought & feeling & character, it seems to me. [8]

London is emptying itself, & the relief will be great in a certain way,—for one gets exhausted sometimes. Let me remember whom I have seen—Mrs Newton Crosland, who spoke of you very warmly—Miss Mulock, who wrote the “Ogilvies” (that series of novels) [9] & is interesting, gentle & young, & seems to have worked half her life away in spite of youth. Mr Field[s], I have not seen—only heard of. [10] Miss Clarke .. no .. but I am to see her, [11] I understand, & that she is an American Corinna in yellow silk, but pretty. [12] We drove out to Kensington with Mon[c]kton Milnes & his wife, and I like her .. she is quiet & kind, & seems to have accomplishments—and we are to meet Fanny Kemble at the Procters some day next week. Many good faces .. but the best wanting! Ah—I wish, Lord Stanhope who shows the spirits of the sun in a Chrystal ball, could show us that? Have you heard of the chrystal ball? We went to meet it & the seer, the other morning, with sundry of the believers & unbelievers .. among the latter, chief among the latter, Mr Chorley, who was highly indignant & greatly scandalized, particularly on account of the combination sought to be established by the Lady of the house, between lobster salad & Oremus spirit of the sun. For my part, I endured both luncheon & spiritual phenomena, with great equanimity. It was very curious altogether to my mind, as a sign of the times, if in no other respect of philosophy. But I love the marvellous. Write my word to me, I beseech you, & love me & think of me, as I love & think of you. God bless you. Robert’s love.

Your ever affecte


Yes—Henrietta expects her second child[—]she is gone to Taunton—but Arabel sends her warm regards to you. I shall try & go to see your picture[.] [13]

Address: Miss Mitford / Swallowfield / near Reading.

Publication: EBB-MRM, III, 363–366.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. This letter is postmarked 31 July 1852, a Saturday.

2. Cf. Matthew 5:6.

3. “Wasting diseases.”

4. EBB had first-hand knowledge of this loathing. In 1836 Landor had presented her with a Greek epigram that portrayed Napoleon I as a monster (see letter 762, note 18).

5. Cf. Paradise Lost, I, 16.

6. During the previous nine months, Landor had published two poems in The Examiner vilifying France and Louis Napoleon. The latter is called “vile” and “traitor” in “To the President of France” for refusing to give sanctuary to the fleeing Hungarian revolutionary Lajos Kossuth: “O brow of brass! O heart of stone! / Dost thou of Europe’s sons alone / Repell the exile from thy shore” (11 October 1851, p. 644). In “Invitation of France to the Pope,” which appeared not long after the coup d’état, France remembers the Pope Pius (VII) who crowned Napoleon emperor and now calls on the current Pope Pius (IX) to crown a new Napoleon, who “without a blush outlies / Thee and all thy perjuries” (13 December 1851, p. 791). In the same issue, Landor concluded a short prose piece entitled “Tranquillity in Europe” with a sarcastic picture of a “happy” Italy in Austrian chains and the motto: “Pope Pius he is God, and Louis is his Prophet” (p. 789). A week later in The Examiner, on the day of the plebiscite to confirm Louis Napoleon as the head of France, Landor asked: “M. de Montalembert calls upon all good Frenchmen to vote for this traitor, perjurer, and murderer: for what services? For cannonading Rome and Paris; for setting up God’s image (such doubtless is Pio Nono) on the ruins of the two finest cities in the world” (“Finality?” 20 December 1851, p. 804).

7. Unhappy with his marriage and his staff position at Household Words, Horne had determined to seek his fortune in the Australian gold fields. The separation from his wife would become permanent. Horne’s “farewell to England” was written on board the Kent in Plymouth Sound on 9 June 1852 and appeared two days later in The Daily News. He explained his departure for Australia by “the fact of twenty years of public indifference. This has continued nearly unbroken, so far as my substantive works are concerned … . With this record I take my leave” (p. 5).

8. Mrs. Carlyle discussed the visit in a letter to John A. Carlyle: “Oh such a fuss the Brownings made over Mazzini this day!” She described EBB as “true and good, and the most womanly creature” (SD1590).

9. The novels written by Dinah Mulock as of the date of this letter, The Ogilvies (1849), Olive (1850), and The Head of the Family (1852), are independent works with unique characters and stories.

10. In a letter to Miss Mitford, dated 24 June [sic, for July] [1852], Fields wrote: “I have not seen Mrs. Browning yet. ‘Sordello’ himself I met a few days ago at Mr. Kenyon’s” (see SD1588).

11. Sara Jane Clarke (afterwards Lippincott, 1823–1904), who wrote under the pseudonym Grace Greenwood, was an American poet and journalist. She had been contributing articles and letters to periodicals since 1844. Some of these had been collected in Greenwood Leaves (Boston, 1850) and Greenwood Leaves (2nd series, Boston, 1852). She was the Washington correspondent for The Saturday Evening Post and a writer for The National Era, an abolitionist weekly. Miss Clarke, on a European tour, stayed in London during the summer of 1852 but did not meet the Brownings there or later in Paris where she arrived on 20 October, only three days before their departure for Italy. She finally met the poets at Casa Guidi in May 1853.

12. A reference to Corinne, ou l’Italie (1807) by Anne Louise Germaine de Staël (née Necker, 1766–1817). The title character is a beautiful and talented poet, admired by women writers of the time as a model of success. In referring to “yellow silk,” EBB may have had in mind a description of Mme. de Staël that appeared in Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child, ed. Bettina von Arnim (3 vols., 1837–39): “She was dressed as Corinne; a turban of aurora and orange-coloured silk, a dress of the same, with an orange tunic, girded so high as to leave little room for her heart” (I, 338).

13. A portrait of Miss Mitford painted by John Lucas (1807–74) in the spring of 1852, which delighted the subject. In a letter to Charles Boner, dated 20 May 1852, Miss Mitford wrote: “The thing is a wonder of truth and ideality. The expression sweet, and calm, and happy—looking not as I suppose I ever do—but as one might fancy it just possible I might do when thinking of some one whom I loved” (Memoirs and Letters of Charles Boner, ed. R.M. Kettle, 1871, I, 228–229). As can be seen in SD1580, Miss Mitford gave the portrait to James Thomas Fields. In the letter from Fields cited above in note 10, he wrote that he had called at Lucas’s studio to see the painting. Evidently, EBB too could have seen it there, in St. John’s Wood, though there is no evidence that she did. The present whereabouts of the portrait is unknown. A preliminary sketch, inscribed “Drawn at Swallowfield April 12th 1852 John Lucas,” is at the National Portrait Gallery, London. It is reproduced facing p. 176.


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