433.  EBB to Hugh Stuart Boyd

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 2, 332–333.

Hope End.

December 1. 1831.

My dearest friend,

I think I had better tell you about the ts & ss, without waiting for the opportunity of forgetting them again. You know my Isocrates is a bad edition.[1] In it, there is sometimes a double tau & sometimes a double sigma quite ad libitum. For instance, there is thalatta on one part of a page, & thalassa on another—“how happy could I be with either”.[2] The sun seems to be undeviatingly preferred to the ksun.

In both Simpson’s[3] & Hutchinson’s[4] editions of Zenophon [sic], the double tau takes the place of the double sigma,—and sun of ksun.

I have found that passage in the Apologetick, which I hunted for in vain yesterday,—at least I think I have found it. You will be able to decide whether it is the right one or not, when I see you next. To’d eu nikato.[5] I hope the seeing next, may be seeing soon. No letter today, and no Papa! and we thought that one of them was certain to arrive! But I dare say you will excuse my sending you all the groans of Testy & Sensitive;[6] and will prefer a very good & true story about the unknown tongues.[7] Now listen. Archdeacon Probin or Probbin[8] (I am not sure of the spelling) is the father of those inspired twins, respecting whom, you will recollect, Papa wrote to me. The Archdeacon has been lately in some little difficulty as to his temporal affairs,—and in the midst of it, up came the two children. “Papa!—never mind about your business—dont think about it! The Spirit says that the world is coming to an end”. Therefore the archdeacon, being a believer in their inspiration, <…>[9] did’nt mind about his business—did’nt think about his business—& .. lost his estate!!– As soon as he had heard of the loss, up came the children again—“Papa! we have made a mistake. The Spirit says that the world is not coming to an end”!– If I had been the archdeacon, I would have requested them to deliver their future prophecies in the unknown tongue. Would not you?

Ever yours affectionately

E B Barrett.

Best love to Mrs Boyd & Annie.

Address, on integral page: H S Boyd Esqr / Ruby Cottage / Malvern Wells.

Publication: Diary, p. 292.

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. EBB’s 1613 edition of Isocrates by Hieronymus Wolf (1516–80) sold as lot 785 in Browning Collections. It is now owned by the Library Company of Philadelphia (Reconstruction, A1293).

2. The Beggar’s Opera (1728), II, 13, by John Gay (1685–1732).

3. Bolton Simpson’s 1741 edition of Xenophon’s Memorabilium Socratis Dictorum was given to EBB by Boyd in April 1829. It formed lot 1232 in Browning Collections and is now at ABL (Reconstruction, A2507).

4. The 1812 and 1825 editions of Xenophon by Thomas Hutchinson (1698–1769) sold as lots 1230 and 1231 in Browning Collections. The former is now at the University of California at Berkeley (see Reconstruction, A2505 and A2506).

5. “But may the good prevail” (Æschylus, Agamemnon, 121).

6. A reference to James Beresford’s The Miseries of Human Life; or, the Groans of Samuel Sensitive and Timothy Testy (1806).

7. A reference to the much-discussed occurrences in October at the Regent’s Square church, London, during sermons by the Rev. Edward Irving. Sundry members of the congregation purported to have been inspired to speak in an unknown tongue by the Holy Spirit, and this sparked off a storm of theological argument. These two lines, taken from a “magnificent burst” quoted in The Kentish Gazette, 1 November 1831, illustrate the “gift” claimed by 15 of Irving’s flock: “Hippo—gerosto—hippo—booros—senoote / Foorime Oorin Hoopo Tanto Noostin—”

8. John Probyn, Archdeacon of Llandaff (1761–1843).

9. About half a line obliterated, apparently by EBB.


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