Correspondence

511.  EBB to Hugh Stuart Boyd

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 3, 147–149.

[Sidmouth]

Tuesday. [ca. October 1835][1]

My dear friend,

Thank you for your very kind invitation. We are like stubble before the wind—uncertain as to our movements; but if we do go to London, whether I am able to stay with you or not, I shall be quite able as well as willing to “drink delicious poison”[2] from your Chinese green tea tecum[3] as you kindly propose, on many an evening,—and lose our Chinese contraries, in our Greek sympathies. I need not say how very very glad I shall be to see you, and hear you, and read to you, and perceive how far you have proceeded in forgetting me since we parted at Sidmouth—your “boat upon the shore”, and my “barque upon the sea”.[4] Don’t expect—even if you expect me—to find me improved in anything—albeit I have read Collins upon necessity. You know, women never do improve—after a certain point. I am just as obstinate and fanatical as I used to be, and as uncomprehending of the mathematics—and what is worse, with a besetment of Calvinism,—so that, if dear Mr Boyd has not a great deal of patience besides the green tea, perhaps I had better stay away. The best of me is, that I am intending to read Plato very devotedly when I go to London if I ever go, and to procure a Plato, if I ever procure one. Since I saw you, I have read nothing of him—nor of Plotinus.[5] Lately, I have been reading Hebrew, and writing verses—for the most part. But the verses are very miscellaneous (not a poem) and I dare say you would not care much for any of them.

You will have heard of the arrival of my dear Bro. It has been a great joy to me. He looks so well, and is so happy to be back again,—almost as happy as I am to see him. On the passage home he nearly died a glorious death by poison. Now, can you guess what poison? Green tea?—— No!—something more “high fantastical”[6] than even your’s from China.—a dolphin which had hung in the moonshine.! The moonshine poisoned the dolphin, and the dolphin poisoned Bro; and poor Brozie grew quite black and swollen in the face. Would it not have been a glorious death—to die of a dolphin and moonshine? But I dare say you think the story moonshine altogether. And so did I, before I heard Bro’s asseverations.

Did you ever hear of Dr Wardlaw’s treatise upon infant baptism?[7] It is very clearly and forcibly written,—and altho’ I cannot bring my mind to agree with him upon all points, yet I think that the main question is placed by him in a satisfying light. What he says of the εν, I mean the indeterminate use of the εν in the Greek testament, I had just been marking on the fly leaf of my testament. It means by or with much oftener than in.[8] And to look away from verbal circumstances, the whole spirit of the Scriptures seems to me to “suffer little children”[9] to approach the baptismal ordinnance [sic]. But you will contradict me—you who are a baptist, and write Laments over the Church of England’s adversities.[10]

Another book, I want to ask you about, is Binney’s Dissent no schism.[11] Or did I ask you about it before? It is not longer than a pamphlet, and is very philological, (as to the exact & scriptural sense of the word schism) and very convincing; and you ought to have it read to you.

A few weeks ago, Dr Payne of Exeter,[12]—the academician & metaphysician you know,—called here,—and while we were talking of Stuart’s work on the Romans,[13] I observed that he held an opinion not altogether orthodox, of the non-eternity of the Sonship of Christ. “If you call that opinion unorthodox”, said Dr Payne, “I myself am among the heterodox. I feel that a rejection of the doctrine of the eternal Sonship keeps me from Arianism.”[14] He then went on to tell me that the opinion was gaining ground,—and that he was lately present at a meeting of ministers in London, where the only individual, orthodox according to my view, was Dr Pye Smith.[15] I am very sorry for it. Have you observed among your friends any similar bending and breaking?– Dr Payne is a delightful man, highly cultivated, and gentle & pleasing in his manners—and dearer, I believe, to the heart of Jesus than even to his human friends. He has within a year, given his two daughters to be wives to missionaries in the East & West Indies—and gladly given them—altho’ the parting appears to have weighed his head nearer to the grave. Give my love to dear Annie—and to Miss Boyd. Papa is in London. By this time, you will have wished me in New Zealand.

Dear Mr Boyd’s affectionate friend.

Publication: EBB-HSB, pp. 214–216 (in part).

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. Dated by reference to Boyd’s invitation to visit him when EBB moved to London.

2. Cf. Punica, III, 580, by Silius Italicus (fl. 1st century A.D.).

3. “With thee.”

4. Byron’s “To Thomas Moore” (1821), stanza 1.

5. Plotinus (ca. 204–ca. 270), neo-Platonist philosopher, who claimed to have attained a state of mystical union with God. His extant works include On the Nature and Origin of Evil and On the Descent of the Soul.

6. Twelfth Night, I, 1, 15.

7. A Dissertation on the Scriptural Authority, Nature, and Uses, of Infant Baptism (1825) by Ralph Wardlaw (1779–1853).

8. Wardlaw considers the use and meaning of the preposition εν on pp. 169 ff. of his book, in the course of a discussion of the scriptural authority for total baptismal immersion. He held that, although εν was translated as “in” in Matthew 3:6 and Mark 1:5, where John baptized in the river Jordan, the expression could equally have meant “with,” signifying pouring rather than immersion.

9. Mark, 10:14.

10. A reference to Boyd’s gloomy prediction, in his preface to The Fathers Not Papists, that the Church of England might cease to exist (p. xxvi).

11. Dissent Not Schism (1835) by Thomas Binney (1798–1874), Non-Conformist divine, whose observation that “the church of England damned more souls than she saved” sparked furious discussion.

12. George Payne (1781–1848), theological tutor at the Western Academy, Exeter.

13. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1832) by Moses Stuart (1782–1852).

14. The followers of Arius, Presbyter of Alexandria in the 4th century, held that the Father and Son were distinct beings, and that the Son, though divine, was not equal to the Father. This was held to be heresy at the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.).

15. John Pye Smith (1774–1851), Non-Conformist divine, author of Scripture Testimony to the Messiah (1818–21), a solid defence of the Trinitarian doctrine.

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