390.  EBB to Hugh Stuart Boyd

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 2, 270–271.

[Hope End]

Friday night. [Docket: December 1830]

My dear Mr Boyd,

Papa says that you may keep what you mentioned to me as long as you like, if it is English,—but that if it is Irish, he does not understand how business is transacted in Ireland, sufficiently well to pass any opinion upon it.

I hope you did not think me unkind or disobliging this morning in seeming to hesitate at first about making the application for Payne Knight’s work, [1] to Sir Robert Price. I have been uncomfortable since about it—I mean about my hesitation. Do not write to Mr Barker just at present, unless you have particular occasion for doing so,—and as soon as ever Sir Robert Price returns from London which he is sure to do very soon, on the prorogation of Parliament, I will write to him & ask him to lend me the book in question. He has always seemed inclined to oblige me, & I dare say he will lend me the book,—and I can prevent any & every unpleasantness, by begging him not to do so in the case of his feeling the slightest objection or reluctance in the matter. In that case, you can take advantage of Mr Barker’s offer! Now mind you do not write to him now,—for, not only have I no objection to write to Sir Robert Price, but I am quite & decidedly resolved on doing so,—& will have my own way.

It was very nearly dark when we got home; and yet no vote of censure was passed upon us,—as no questions were asked, & therefore, by a happy consequence, no answers returned. Besides the circumstance of leaving Malvern late, we were detained on the road longer than we usually are, principally by the poney, which had lost its taste for moving forwards; and also by Mrs Trant, whom we found fasting upon oysters, & in a lower deep than the lowest deep of anxiety about me—the deeper, as she has for so many months found it, & still continues to find it, utterly impossible to go four miles to see me. So we stayed a few minutes at South Lodge,—and then on descending into our own vallies, were intercepted again by Mr Peyton. He had a long account to give us of the incendiaries [2] —and as we & they were near home, we stopped to listen to it. The night before last, a workman of his, the same Abbotts who was honored by the ghostly visitation, announced to him, when he was in his slippers, (you see how long Mr Peyton’s details must have detained us) that six men had just entered his rick yard. So Mr Peyton instantly went out, slippers & all, with two loaded pistols & a regiment of servants, to the supposed scene of action, previously stationing two of his little boys at the front door, loaded with two loaded guns—(the boys & the guns were equally likely I should think to go off!) and Mrs Peyton in a garret, with her hand on the alarm bell!—— Did you ever hear anything so awful? And must it not be rather provoking to people who undertake to tell the story, that nobody was in the rick yard after all,—and that tho’ the whole household sate up all night, not an enemy was heard or seen? Should not you be inclined to suspect that Abbotts saw only the ghosts of the incendiaries?—— Do not reproach me for leading you along “passages which lead to nothing” [3] —for these passages did lead to something! at least Mr Peyton’s passage from his house to his rick yard, led to his catching a violent cold, the effects of which were quite perceptible, when I had the fortune, good or bad, of meeting with him this morning.

I hear that Papa did relieve the beggars with whom he was parleying when I left home. He was working his machine all today!!! and Mr Martin has lowered his rents for two months, till the danger is over! I wonder which of them, the over-brave or the over-cowardly, will escape. Perhaps neither.

Arabel having come into the room, has just observed, “your writing is rather difficult to read backwards”,—and as this letter is besides to be read at the Post Office, it may as well be ended before it has talked any more scandal.

Ever believe me

Yours very affectionately

E B Barrett.

[Continued in Arabella Moulton-Barrett’s hand] I never read her letter backwards or forwards!

[In EBB’s hand]

Saturday morning.

Papa said at breakfast today, “Are you going to Malvern today Ba?” To this of course I said no! “What! not going to Malvern! I thought you always went there every fine day. You ought to go, by rights.”

Address, on integral page: Hugh Stuart Boyd Esqr / Great Malvern.

Docket, in unidentified hand: Dec 1830.

Publication: EBB-HSB, pp. 109–111.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Carmina Homerica (1808).

2. The burning of haystacks and barns to protest the distressed condition of agricultural workers had become widespread enough to occasion a debate in the House of Commons. Reporting the debate, The Times of 16 November said: “it is obvious, that neither the assembling of the Magistracy, nor the revival of the Yeomanry, nor the intervention of regular troops, are calculated to meet these occult outrages … The farmers must themselves watch their property.”

3. Gray’s poem, “A Long Story” (1753), line 8.


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