Correspondence

676.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 4, 111–112.

Torquay.

Wednesday. [?19] [December 1838][1]

I do from my heart congratulate you my very dearest Miss Mitford!—yes, & my own self too—I having received two notes of a gladder character than with all my habitual hopefulness I had dared to hope– May the day which gave you to your beloved father prove indeed the one of his restoration to you! & oh! may the blessing of the Giver rest upon either gift!——

Will Mr May[2] frown over the cream! If he do, it need do no harm! If he do not, it may serve to tempt the dear invalid to take some additional sustenance—tho’ “for your sake” be so far the stronger charm. Tell me whether he is permitted to take any of this cream—because you know I shall feel exultant to be permitted on my part, to send him more—& it is but fair that I as well as those happier friends who can be near you, shd be able to accomplish some little service.

The silence had begun to make me so afraid! And I was repentant too for not having thought in time of asking you to depute Mary Anne[3] to write a word to me in the event of your being unequal to do so! I must beseech you not to wear yourself out with watching. I fear you are doing it. Pray do not! Give your place to another sometimes—I beseech that of you dearest Miss Mitford—not for your own sake—knowing the vanity of such an adjuration to you—but for the very sake of your dear invalid! Consider dearest Miss Mitford! The strength of love is not the strength of body actually—tho’ it serves so often & so well in its stead—& when the excitement of this time is over, you are likely, nay, certain, without some precaution, to be utterly exhausted, & from such exhaustion unfit & unable to support & cheer him in the progress of convalescence! While he is taking food for your sake, you must take rest for his! Do consider this dearest Miss Mitford!

I am better than I have been—for I have not been very well—& only emerged from an imprisonment of ten days in my bedroom, this day! But all the imprisonment was not necessary—only precautionary on account of the east wind! I hear from Wimpole Street that Mr Kenyon is confined to the house with rheumatism!——

I do trust to have better & better accounts. I seem to prophecy in my heart that I shall—& yet I am fearful sometimes lest you shd be too sanguine & make pain for yourself. God’s will is best—& we are best when we feel so!—and we shall feel so some day if we do not on this!——

Your ever affectionate

Elizabeth B Barrett

Publication: EBB-MRM, I, 108–109.

Manuscript: Armstrong Browning Library.

1. The first paragraph appears to refer to Miss Mitford’s birthday, 16 December; the following Wednesday was the 19th.

2. George May (1799–1884) was the medical attendant to both Miss Mitford and her father up to the time of their respective deaths. He took up residence in Reading in 1822 and shortly thereafter was appointed surgeon to the Reading Dispensary. In 1835, he was elected to the Borough Corporation. When the Royal Berkshire Hospital was established in 1839, he was appointed to the medical staff, and he remained associated with the hospital until his death. His obituary in The Berkshire Bell and Counties’ Review (1884, p. 99) said that he arrived in Reading with less than half-a-crown, and attained his subsequent prominence “solely by reason of his skill and integrity.”

3. Miss Mitford’s new maid, replacing Martha, who left Miss Mitford’s service when she married.

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