Correspondence

4280. EBB & RB to Sarianna Browning

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 25, 291–293.

[In RB’s hand] Rome, 43 Bocca di Leone.

Friday 26. Nov. [1858] [1]

Dearest Sis. You received a letter written the last thing on Wednesday 18th [2] We started next day, with perfectly fine mild weather & every sort of comfort-& got to our first night’s stage, Poggio Bagnoli, with great ease: with the same advantages, next day we passed Arezzo & reached Camuscia [3] -& on Saturday slept at Perugia-having found the journey delightful: Sunday was rainy but just as mild, so Ba did not suffer at all-we slept at Spoleto: rain again on Monday-we reached Terni early in the day in order to go to the Falls-but the thing was impossible for Ba. Eckley, his Mother in Law, & I went, however,-getting drenched but they were very fine-the rain & melted snow having increased the waters extraordinarily: on Tuesday we had fine weather again to Civita Castellana-there we found that on the previous day, while we were staying at Terni, a carriage was stopped & robbed in the road we otherwise should have pursued- They said such a thing had not happened for years. On Wednesday afternoon, 4 o’clock we reached Rome, with beautiful weather-so it had been for four out of our seven days. Ba bore the journey singularly well: of course she has thus had a week of open air, beside the change, which always benefits her-we always had the windows of the carriage open. We passed Wednesday night at an Hôtel [4] in order to profit by any information friends might be able to furnish-but we ended by returning to the rooms here we occupied before, of which we knew the virtues;-a blaze of sun on the front rooms-& absolute healthiness. Rents are enormous. We pay only 10 dollars a month more than before, in consideration of the desire the old landlady had to get us again-to anybody else the price would have been 20 more-60 in all-for what we used to pay 40: the Eckleys took good rooms and pay 1000 [5] (£210 or 15) for six months-one can’t do that. The best is that they have thoroughly cleaned & painted the place and everything is very satisfactorily arranged. We take the apartment for 4 months-meaning to be at liberty to go to Naples if we like. We have no fire this morning while I write; but it is before breakfast & Ba may like the sight of one, tho’ I rather think she will not. Rome looks very well & I hope we shall have a happier time of it than before. [6] Many friends are here & everybody is very kind. The Eckleys were extravagantly good to us-something beyond conception almost. We have seen Miss Cushman, Hatty, Leighton, Cartwright, the Storeys [sic], Page & his new (third) wife. Gibson-beside the Brackens [7] & Mrs Mackenzie; & there are others I shall see to day. Ferdinando was sent on by sea with the luggage, & met us at the gate. It has been an expensive business altogether, but I think we shall not regret it. I daresay you have mild weather at Paris also: these premature beginnings of cold break down, & leave the rest of the year the warmer if not the better for them. Dearest Sis, write and tell me all the news of your two selves: do you hear anything about Reuben’s leaving London? Anything of Lady Elgin? How is Madame Milsand?

I will send you the last “Ath:” I have received-but break off here rather abruptly in order to let Ba write- Goodbye. God bless you both. Kindest love to Milsand.

Yours ever affecy RB

[Continued by EBB]

My dearest Sarianna I dont know whether this letter from Rome will surprise you, but we have done it at last. Our journey was most prosperous, the wonderful in-rush of winter which buried all Italy in snow & for some days rendered the possibility of any change of quarters so more than doubtful (I myself gave it up for days) having given away to an inrush of summer as wonderful. The change was so pleasant that I bore with perfect equanimity the lamentations of certain English acquaintance of ours in Florence who declared it was the most frightful & dangerous climate that could be, .. that now one was frozen to death, & the next day burnt & melted, & that people could’nt be healthy under such transitions. But all countries of the south are subject to the same, of course-wherever there is a southern sun, & mountains to retain snow- Even in Paris you complain of something a little like it, because of the sun. We left Florence in a blaze of sunshine accordingly, & there & everywhere found the country transfigured back into summer-except for two days of April rain. Of the kindness of our dear friends Mr & Mrs Eckley, I am moved when I try to speak. They humiliate me by their devotion. Such generosity & delicacy, combined with so much passionate sentiment .. (there is no other word) are difficult to represent. The Americans are great in some respects. Not that Americans generally are like these-but that these could scarcely be .. English for instance. That mixture of enthusiasm & simplicity, we have not.

Our journey was delightful, & not without some incidents which might have been accidents. We were as nearly as possible thrown once into a ditch, & once down a mountain-precipice .. the spirited horses plunging on one side .. but at last Mr Eckley lent us his courier who sate on the box by the coachman & helped him to manage better. Then there was a fight between our oxen-drivers, one of them attempting to stab the other with a knife, & Robert rushing in between till Peni & I were nearly frantic with fright. No harm happened however except that Robert had his trowsers torn- And we escaped afterwards certain banditti who stopped a carriage only the day before on the very road we travelled, & robbed it of sixty two scudi.

Here at Rome, we are still fortunate-for with enormous prices rankling round us, we get into our old quarters at eleven pounds a month. The rooms are smaller than our ambition would fain climb to-(one climbs, also, a little too high on the stairs-) but on the whole, the quiet, healthfulness & sunshine are excellent things, particularly in Rome, & we are perfectly contented.

I heard from Arabel just before I left Florence, & then she was in Delamere Terrace, missing at first our social evenings a good deal she said, as she was quite alone, having had only one morning visit from one of my brothers, (they are in the country) & one from an acquaintance-otherwise she had seen literally nobody, except in the way of business. She was so occupied that she had “no time to feel dull,” she added- She may well be satisfied with her part in life indeed. People deep in worldly gossip have always time to feel dull.- Peni hated leaving Florence, poor child-but he is rosy & gay enough now.

I forget to tell you that Ferdinando took the luggage by sea, had a storm, & nearly a concussion with another vessel .. the great peril of these shores & seas.

Rome is so full, that I am proceeding to lock up my doors throughout the day. I cant live without some use of life. Here must come the break. May God bless you both. Pen’s love with mine to the dear nonno & yourself.

Ba-

Address, in RB’s hand: France / Mademoiselle Browning. / 151. Rue de Grenelle, / Faubg St Germain, / Paris.

Publication: LEBB, II, 295-298 (in part).

Manuscript: Lilly Library.

1. Year provided by postmark.

2. Sic, for 17th. The Brownings left Florence on Thursday, 18 November 1858.

3. Now spelled “Camucia,” it is described in Murray’s A Handbook for Travellers in Central Italy (1857) as “a post-station with an Inn at the junction of the post-road with some country roads leading to towns in different parts of the [Chiana] valley” (part I, p. 236).

4. See letter 4278, note 4.

5. Underscored twice.

6. RB alludes to the death of Joe Story on the day after the Brownings’ arrival in Rome five years before (see letter 3292).

7. Annette Bracken and her uncle William Bracken (1809–91), the youngest brother of Isa Blagden’s father, Thomas Bracken. William had resigned the previous year from his position as Collector of Sea Customs at Calcutta for the Bengal Civil Service. In the Brownings’ address book of this period (AB-4), he is listed at 88 Via delle Quattro Fontane.

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