Correspondence

3323.  Anna Brownell Jameson to EBB

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 20, 72–74.

Ealing. Middlesex.

Jany. 12. 1854–

Your dear welcome letter, my kind friend—reached me on the 2d of this month—if the New Year had not commenced on a Sunday I should have received it on the first—it was however the first letter I received in the year—a dear propitious letter—& yet here is the 12th and I have not answered it—nor even thanked you for it—all that you tell me of my dear Child & your own—how welcome to my heart—as regards my Geddie—I have long thought as you do—she has made an independent life—shall I call it so? at least worked out as every human creature must—her own being– I thought her too young to chuse or to judge—but the pliability of the character had adapted itself to the position—& if she be a good & a happy woman—what can I desire for her more?– One great object with me this last year was to reach Italy—one supreme duty has prevented it—but I shall see my darling some day or other & find her, I hope all that you describe her—not the child—but the woman—loving, enduring, working, fulfilling her appointed duties. I desire for her no more—— if what you call the “artistic” view of the matter be not that of “God & wise men”[1]—what is it worth?—we artists should not place the “artistic”—in contradistinction to the true, the wise, the good—— I was grieved by the death of her first baby for her sake—yet I think that this great grief has endeared her & her husband to each other as nothing else could—so all is well as God has ordered it–

All you say of your dear Child—so charming that I more & more lament that he grows up without knowing & loving his “Anty Nina”—but speak to him of me sometimes & say I send him a kiss—no twenty kisses– I should like to give him one every morning–

Your letter finds me just where I was when I last wrote to you—waiting near the sick bed of my mother till it shall please God to take her. There is no hope—at least the medical people give us none. She is quite helpless—& the mind, hitherto clear, seems to be sinking now with the physical powers. I do not wish this state to be prolonged, but God’s will be done!—owing to my being every day in Bruton Street (where my mother is) I have twice, to my great regret, missed seeing your sister who has called upon me most kindly—also Mr Kenyon—but I saw Miss Bailey yesterday and Louisa Mackenzie dined with me tête-à-tête on the 9th & we talked about you—wishing we could all meet again somewhere—she is looking handsome—but not, I think, as if she were quite well or happy—she is as usual devoted to her mother– Mrs Procter I see often & she is most kind to me– I see of course very few people & go no where so I have little news for you that can in any way interest you—table turning and spirit rapping are here quite out of fashion. I am convinced, as you can be, of an external intelligence. I see it. I feel it every where & have no need of chairs or tables as mediums—while between me & the spiritual world higher spirits & intellect—such as yourself & your husband & other gifted beings stand as interpreters– I believe as humanity progresses it will become more spirit & less matter—but it is slow work. Mean time here is the Turkish question to set our material & political world in a blaze–[2] I am afraid to say more lest my letter should never reach you–

There is a review of Thackeray in the Edinburgh which I do not much like[3]—and as yet I do not like his new book[4]—there is to me a sneering ungenial spirit in it which provokes & saddens me—how strange that he who would show up so effectually the dark deficiency of elevated sympathies in Swift[’]s character & genius[5]—should sin in a similar manner! O how I wish your dear gifted husband with his unmeasurably wide horizon & unfathomable depths of tenderness would write down to the understandings of the people!—farewell dearest Ba– I am glad you have seen and like Fanny Kemble–

Ever your affecte Anna

Keep in mind that your letters are a comfort to me—no matter how short.

Address, on integral page: Italie via Belgium– / Mrs Browning / Rome / via di Bocca / di Leone. / No 43 3d Piano.

Publication: None traced.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. See the end of the first paragraph in letter 3307.

2. A state of war had existed between Turkey and Russia since early October. Following a succession of Turkish victories, Russia retaliated by destroying the Turkish fleet at Sinope on 30 November 1853. This action was widely perceived in England and France as a massacre, and much debate ensued in the House of Commons regarding an appropriate response. The Times of 6 January 1854 (p. 8) announced that the combined fleets of England and France, which had been stationed in the Bosphorus, had been ordered into the Black Sea, as a show of force, and would have probably entered it on the third or fourth depending on the weather. It was later confirmed that the fleets did enter the Black Sea on 3 January.

3. The Edinburgh Review of January 1854 (pp. 196–243) carried an article by N.W. Senior (as attributed in The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals) that reviewed Thackeray’s last four works: Vanity Fair (1848), The History of Pendennis (1849–50), The History of Henry Esmond (1852), and The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century (1853).

4. The English Humourists was Thackeray’s newest book, published on 4 June 1853. Mrs. Jameson did not read The Newcomes (see letter 3320, note 10) until its release in book form (see her letter to EBB, 18 February [1856], ms at Wellesley).

5. Mrs. Jameson refers to Thackeray’s harsh but not unkind assessment of Jonathan Swift’s character in the first chapter of The English Humourists of the Eighteenth Century (1853), which is based on his series of six lectures delivered in Great Britain and the United States, 1851–53. In Thackeray’s view, Swift seemed nearly incapable of love and compassion: “It was not merely by the sarcastic method that Swift exposed the unreasonableness of loving and having children. In Gulliver, the folly of love and marriage is urged by graver arguments and advice. In the famous Lilliputian kingdom, Swift speaks with approval of the practice of instantly removing children from their parents and educating them by the State. … In fact, our great satirist was of opinion that conjugal love was unadvisable, and illustrated the theory by his own practice and example—God help him” (p. 34–35). In concluding, Thackeray surmised that Swift must have had some “tenderness … locked up in the caverns of his gloomy heart. … But it was not good to visit that place. … He shrank away from all affections sooner or later. Stella and Vanessa both died near him, and away from him. He had not heart enough to see them die. He broke from his fastest friend, Sheridan; he slunk away from his fondest admirer, Pope. … He was always alone—alone and gnashing in the darkness, except when Stella’s sweet smile came and shone upon him. When that went, silence and utter night closed over him” (pp. 53–54).

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