3102.  EBB to Julia Martin

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 18, 205–207.

58. Welbeck street

Thursday. [Postmark: 2 September 1852]

My dearest Mrs Martin, your letters always make me glad to see them, but this time the pleasure was tempered by an undeniable pain in the conscience. Oh—I ought to have written long, & long ago. I have another letter of yours unanswered. Also, there was a proposition in it to Robert of a tempting character, and he put off the ‘no’, the ungracious-sounding ‘no,’ as long as he could– He would have liked to have seen Mrs Flood as well as you—she is a favorite with us both. But he finds it impossible to leave London—we have had no less than eight invitations into the country, & we are forced to keep to London in spite of all “babbling about” & from “green fields.”[1] Once we went to Farnham & spent two days with Mr & Mrs Paine there in that lovely, heathy country, & met Mr Kingsley the “Christian socialist,” author of “Alton Locke,” “Yeast,”[2] &c. It is only two hours from town (or less) by railroad, & we took our child with us & Flush, & had a breath of fresh air which ought to have done us good but did’nt. Few men have impressed me more agreeably than Mr Kingsley. He is original & earnest, & full of a genial & almost tender kindliness which is delightful to me. Wild & theoretical in many ways he is of course, but I believe he could not be otherwise than good & noble, let him say or dream what he will. You are not to confound this visit of ours to Farnham with the “sanitary reform” pic nic (!) to the same place, at which the newspapers say we were present.[3] We were invited, .. that is true, .. but did not go, nor thought of it. I am not up to pic nics, .. nor down to some of the company perhaps .. who knows? Dont think me grown too, suddenly, scornful, without being sure of the particulars.

I am glad you like Ibbit– I never could get at her in Paris.

Will the Floods really go south? We talk still of Rome, Rome, for the winter, but the journey is so expensive that we are by no means sure of our financial possibilities. The probability seems to me that we shall not be able to go, in which case, our alternative is Paris, & we shall comfort ourselves by seeing you on your way to Pau.

Mr Tennyson has a little son, & wrote me such three happy notes on the occasion, that I really never liked him so well before. I do like men who are not ashamed to be happy beside a cradle. Mon[c]kton Milnes had a brilliant christening luncheon, and his baby was made to sweep in India muslin & Brussels’ lace among a very large circle of admiring guests. Think of my vanity turning my head completely & admitting of my taking Wiedeman there, (because of an express invitation). He behaved like an angel, everybody said, & looked very pretty, I said myself, .. only he disgraced us all at last by refusing to kiss the baby, on the ground of his being “troppo grande”–[4] He has learnt quantities of English words, & is in consequence more unintelligible than ever. Poor darling. I am in pain about him today. Wilson goes to spend a fortnight with her mother, & I dont know how I shall be comforter enough– There will be great wailing & gnashing of teeth[5] certainly, & I shall be in prison for the next two weeks, & have to do all the washing & dressing myself.

Henrietta writes cheerfully about her new house, which they seem to have furnished really to the point of comfort. I shall be so very happy when the news of her confinement shall come, & it is very soon to be looked for–

Give my love to the Peytons. I confess to you that to leave Italy & settle down at the Bartons would be difficult for me,—though the confession drop me low in your esteem on the points of patriotism & good sense. Have I the gypsey-blood in me, I wonder? The dwelling in tents[6] is what I rejoice in. As to London, Arabel is my joy in it after all .. the rest is very, very tiring, though it includes every sort of kindness on the part of many.

I mean to write to Papa again before I go. With a sinking of heart & utter hopelessness, I say that.

I saw Miss Martineau’s Mr Atkinson the other day, and could perceive nothing striking or commanding in his eyes or countenance, such as I looked for—nothing of the authority of eye, for instance, which is so peculiar in Dr Elliotson.

You are beginning to think of Pau, are you not? We shall remain for three weeks at least where we are, & then .. remains the doubt. God bless you. You are far too remunerative, Robert says. He declares he can have only paid three francs & a half for the book,[7] & so we return the supernumerary stamps. Our love to dear Mr Martin—& believe me, dearest friends both of you,

your ever affectionate Ba

 Address: Mrs Martin / Colwall / Great Malvern.

Publication: LEBB, II, 83–84 (in part).

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Cf. Henry V, II, 3, l7.

2. Yeast: A Problem (1851) appeared serially in Fraser’s Magazine from July to December 1848. It contains many of Kingsley’s anti-Roman Catholic and socialist views.

3. The Morning Chronicle of 23 August 1852 (p. 4) reported that on 21 August “an al fresco dinner” was held “on the gathering grounds near Farnham, whence it is proposed to draw … water supplies for the metropolis.” The affair was hosted by Frederick Oldfield Ward, a friend and correspondent of RB’s. The Chronicle included a list of the guests who were “invited” rather than “present”; among these were “Mr. and Mrs. Browning,” as well as the R.M. Milneses, Charles Kingsleys, George Leweses, Louis Blanc, and Herbert Spencer. We have been unable to trace a newspaper that listed the Brownings as “present.”

4. “Too big.”

5. Cf. Matthew 13:42.

6. Genesis 25:27.

7. This may refer to a purchase RB made in Paris when he helped relocate his father and sister in mid-July. The Brownings had earlier tried to procure a copy of My Novel for Mrs. Martin (see the beginning of letter 3012).


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