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546.  EBB to Julia Martin

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 3, 203–207.

74. Gloucester Place.

Decr 7th 1836.

My dearest Mrs Martin,

Indeed I have long felt the need of writing to you (I mean the need to myself) and altho so many weeks & even months have past away in silence, they have not done so in lack of affection & thought.

I had wished very much to have been able to tell you in this letter where we had taken our house, or where we were going to take it. We remain however in our usual state of conscious ignorance,—altho’ there is a good deal of talking & walking about a house in Wimpole Street—which, between ourselves,—I am not very anxious to live in, on account of the gloominesses of that street & of that part of the street—whose walls look so much like Newgate’s turned inside out. I wd rather go on, in my old way, inhabiting castles in the air than that particular house: nevertheless if it is decided upon, I dare say I shall contrive to be satisfied with it, & sleep & wake very much as I should in any other. It will certainly be a point gained, to be settled somewhere,—and I do long to sit in my own armchair—strange as it will look out of my own room—& to read from my own books.——

You have heard, I dare say, that we have a new root in London, on account of Daisy’s connection with the university. He attends the Latin Greek & Moral Philosophy classes,—& next to a Professor, is the greatest man we have. Sette & Ockyta are the only home students just now. They are not less rosy for being Londoners. As to Henry, he wd not do for one of Richardson’s heroes at all. He is always, when he writes, under a dreadful necessity of doing so,—& his letters come once in two months, with a French mile between every line. [1] He is not either, particularly demonstrative,—& it is only by implication that we can make out the satisfactory fact of his being well & contented. His return to us is not thought of yet, and I dare say another year will separate us still. The accounts from the West Indies continue very satisfactory—altho’ my dear uncle has been very ill from repeated fevers. But he was better, & able to change the air. For our own particular parts, our healths continue good—none of us, I think, the worse for fog or wind. As to wind, we were almost elevated into the prerogative of pigs in the late storm. We could almost see it,—& the feeling it, might have been fatal to us. Bro & I were moralizing about shipwrecks, in the dining room, when down came the chimney thro’ the skylight, into the entrance passage. You may imagine the crashing effect of the bricks bounding from the staircase downwards breaking the stone steps in the process—in addition to the falling in of twenty four large panes of glass, frames & all! We were terrified out of all propriety,—& there has been a dreadful calumny about Henrietta & me—that we had the hall door open for the purpose of going out into the street with our hair on end, if Bro had not encouraged us by shutting the door & locking it. I confess to opening the door—but deny the purpose of it—at least, maintain that I only meant to keep in reserve a way of escape, in case, as seemed probable, the whole house was on its way to the ground. Indeed we should think much of the mercy of the escape. Bro had been on the staircase only five minutes before. Sarah the housemaid was actually there. She looked up accidentally & saw the nodding chimneys,—& ran down into the drawing room to Papa, shrieking, but escaping with one graze of the hand from one brick. How did you fare in the wind? I never much imagined before that anything so true to nature as a real live storm could make itself heard in our streets. But it has come too surely, & carried away with it, besides our chimney, all that was left to us of the country, in the shape of the Kensington Garden trees.——

Now do write to me, dearest Mrs Martin, & soon, & tell me all you can of your chances & mischances, & how Mr Martin is getting on with the parish, & yourself with the parishioners. But you have more the name of living at Colwall than the thing. You seem to me to lead a far more wandering life than we, for all our homelessness & ‘pilgrim shoon’. Why you have been in Ireland, since I last said a word to you, even upon paper.!——

Arabel had a letter yesterday from Charlotte Peyton which told us of Mrs Barker’s removal to Mrs Palmer’s. I am glad of it for some reasons, & do not doubt that she will be happier in this new & quiet residence. Will you tell her, that we do not forget her, & that she shall hear from some of us before much more time passes.——

And so Haffield is to be sold to Mr Giles? [2] I sometimes think that a pilgrim’s life is the wisest,—at least the most congenial to the “uses of this world”. [3] We give our sympathies & associations to our hills & fields; & then the Providence of God gives them to another. It is better perhaps, to keep a stricter identity, by calling only our thoughts our own.

Was there anybody in the world who ever loved London for itself? Did Dr Johnson in his paradise of Fleet Street, love the pavement & the walls? I doubt that—whether I ought to do so, or not: tho’ I don’t doubt at all that one may be contented & happy here,—& love much in the place– But the place & the priveleges of it dont mix together in one’s love—as is done among the hills & by the seaside.

I or Henrietta must have told you that one of my priveleges has been to see Wordsworth twice. He was very kind to me, & let me hear his conversation: I went with him & Miss Mitford to Chiswick—& thought all the way that I must certainly be dreaming. I saw her almost every day of her week’s visit to London—(this was all long ago,—while you were in France,—) & she, who overflows with warm affections & generous benevolences, showed me every present & absent kindness, professing to love me, & asking me to write to her. Her novel is to be published soon after Christmas,—& I believe a new tragedy is to appear about the same time, “under the protection of Mr Forrest”. [4] Papa has given me the two first volumes of Wordsworth’s new edition. [5] The engraving in the first, is his own face. You might think me affected if I told you all I felt in seeing the living face. His manners are very simple; & his conversation not at all prominent—if you quite understand what I mean by that. I do myself—for I saw at the same time—Landor, the brilliant Landor! & felt the difference between great genius & eminent talent. All these visions have past now. I hear & see nothing, except my doves & the fireplace: & am doing little else than <…> write all day long. And then people ask me what I mean in <…> I hope you were among the six who understood or half understood my Poet’s Vow—that is, if you read it at all. Uncle Hedley made a long pause at the first part!–

But I have been reading too—Sheridan Knowles’s play of the ‘Wreckers’. [6] It is full of passion & pathos,—& made me shed a great many tears. How do you get on with the reading society? Do you see much or anything of Lady Margaret Cocks, from whom I never hear now. I promised to let her have Ion, if I could, before she left Reigate—but the person to whom it was lent, did not return it to me in time. Will you tell her this, if you do see her, & give her my kind regards at the same time.——

Dear Bell was so sorry not to have seen you. If she had, you would have thought her looking very well, notwithstanding the thinness; perhaps in some measure, on account of it .. & in eminent spirits. I have not seen her in such spirits for very very long. And there she is, down at Torquay, with the Hedleys & Butlers—making quite a colony of it—& everybody, in each several letter, grumbling in an undertone at the dulness of the place. What wd I give to see the waves once more! But perhaps if I were there, I should grumble too. It is a happiness to them to be together,—& that, I am sure, they all feel.

Mrs Gosset, [7] —the heroine of the elopement, you know,—is very pretty, very lively, & very graceful. The hero is, in my mind, a person one wd be much more likely to run away from, than with—but not exactly out of terror. They have a small house in Westminster,—& a baby so large as to be quite out of proportion. [8] Nevertheless the money is quite enough,—& I dare say, they may be as happy as people in general think it necessary to be, under such circumstances. It is however a pity that romances should break off in the middle.

Henrietta was at what she thought a very pleasant party at Mr Tulk’s, [9] a few evenings ago,—& if she could do so, rather oftener, wd be better pleased with London. She practises & draws. Arabel has made a good deal of progress in her drawing, lately—& they have both been copying some beautiful engravings of scenery in the Holy Land. Dear Papa walks about looking for houses—& never will, perhaps, quite like London, altho’ his resolution is to remain it. Poor dear Brozie sighs for the hills—& I for the sea, in concert!–

I must say—you must <let> me—how glad I was to see Mr Martin’s name, as <a> supporter of the Bible Society. After all, it must come to t<his—>men are united or severed, by their sympathy or non-<sympa>thy on those things which do not pass with the wo<rld.> May God bless both of you!

Tell me how the Cliffes look to you? Our—everybody’s affectionate remembrances. Henrietta mentions herself particularly. And believe me, dearest Mrs Martin,

Your affectionate

EBB–

Oh that you would call me Ba!–

Address, on integral page: Mrs Martin / Colwall / Ledbury / Herefordshire.

Publication: LEBB, I, 41–44 (in part).

Manuscript: Wellesley College.

1. At this time, Henry was travelling on the Continent, with a tutor (see letter 583).

2. Haffield House, just outside Ledbury, on the Gloucester Road. As there were several families named Giles in the locality, we have not been able to make a positive identification of this Mr. Giles. It is possible that he was the husband-to-be of EBB’s Hope End friend and neighbour, Eliza Cliffe.

3. Hamlet, I, 2, 134.

4. Edwin Forrest (1806–72), the American actor who later engaged in a fierce feud with Macready, was appearing at Drury Lane, performing on 32 nights between 17 October and 19 December. As Spartacus in The Gladiator, he was stated to be “more spirited than any tragic actor now on the stage” (The Times, 18 October 1836). He was committed to return to Drury Lane the following February, when he planned to introduce Miss Mitford’s new play, Otto of Wittelsbach.

5. These two volumes, together with four others published later, formed lot 1223 of Browning Collections (see Reconstruction, A2493).

6. The Wrecker’s Daughter (1836) by James Sheridan Knowles (1784–1862), first performed at Drury Lane on 29 November 1836.

7. EBB’s cousin, Arabella Sarah Butler, had married Ralph Allen Gosset, son of Sir William Gosset, Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons.

8. William Butler Gosset, the first of four children, had been born on 27 June 1836.

9. Charles Augustus Tulk (1786–1849), author and Swedenborgian, sometime Member of Parliament and currently county magistrate for Middlesex, was the father of twelve children. He later visited the Brownings frequently in Italy, where two of his married daughters resided.

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