Infomotions, Inc.The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846 / Browning, Robert, 1812-1889

Author: Browning, Robert, 1812-1889
Title: The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Letters of Robert Browning and
Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846, Edited by
Robert B. Browning

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Title: The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846

Author: Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett

Editor: Robert B. Browning

Release Date: July 2, 2005 [EBook #16182]

Language: English

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[Illustration: Robert Browning

from an oil painting by Gordigiani]


In considering the question of publishing these letters, which are all
that ever passed between my father and mother, for after their
marriage they were never separated, it seemed to me that my only
alternatives were to allow them to be published or to destroy them. I
might, indeed, have left the matter to the decision of others after my
death, but that would be evading a responsibility which I feel that I
ought to accept.

Ever since my mother's death these letters were kept by my father in a
certain inlaid box, into which they exactly fitted, and where they
have always rested, letter beside letter, each in its consecutive
order and numbered on the envelope by his own hand.

My father destroyed all the rest of his correspondence, and not long
before his death he said, referring to these letters: 'There they are,
do with them as you please when I am dead and gone!'

A few of the letters are of little or no interest, but their omission
would have saved only a few pages, and I think it well that the
correspondence should be given in its entirety.

I wish to express my gratitude to my father's friend and mine, Mrs.
Miller Morison, for her unfailing sympathy and assistance in
deciphering some words which had become scarcely legible owing to
faded ink.




The correspondence contained in these volumes is printed exactly as it
appears in the original letters, without alteration, except in respect
of obvious slips of the pen. Even the punctuation, with its
characteristic dots and dashes, has for the most part been preserved.
The notes in square brackets [] have been added mainly in order to
translate the Greek phrases, and to give the references to Greek
poets. For these, thanks are due to Mr. F.G. Kenyon, who has revised
the proofs with the assistance of Mr. Roger Ingpen, the latter being
responsible for the Index.


PORTRAIT OF ROBERT BROWNING                 _Frontispiece_
  _After the picture by Gordigiani_







_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              New Cross, Hatcham, Surrey.
                              [Post-mark, January 10, 1845.]

I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,--and this is
no off-hand complimentary letter that I shall write,--whatever else,
no prompt matter-of-course recognition of your genius, and there a
graceful and natural end of the thing. Since the day last week when I
first read your poems, I quite laugh to remember how I have been
turning and turning again in my mind what I should be able to tell you
of their effect upon me, for in the first flush of delight I thought I
would this once get out of my habit of purely passive enjoyment, when
I do really enjoy, and thoroughly justify my admiration--perhaps even,
as a loyal fellow-craftsman should, try and find fault and do you some
little good to be proud of hereafter!--but nothing comes of it all--so
into me has it gone, and part of me has it become, this great living
poetry of yours, not a flower of which but took root and grew--Oh, how
different that is from lying to be dried and pressed flat, and prized
highly, and put in a book with a proper account at top and bottom,
and shut up and put away ... and the book called a 'Flora,' besides!
After all, I need not give up the thought of doing that, too, in time;
because even now, talking with whoever is worthy, I can give a reason
for my faith in one and another excellence, the fresh strange music,
the affluent language, the exquisite pathos and true new brave
thought; but in this addressing myself to you--your own self, and for
the first time, my feeling rises altogether. I do, as I say, love
these books with all my heart--and I love you too. Do you know I was
once not very far from seeing--really seeing you? Mr. Kenyon said to
me one morning 'Would you like to see Miss Barrett?' then he went to
announce me,--then he returned ... you were too unwell, and now it is
years ago, and I feel as at some untoward passage in my travels, as if
I had been close, so close, to some world's-wonder in chapel or crypt,
only a screen to push and I might have entered, but there was some
slight, so it now seems, slight and just sufficient bar to admission,
and the half-opened door shut, and I went home my thousands of miles,
and the sight was never to be?

Well, these Poems were to be, and this true thankful joy and pride
with which I feel myself,

                                      Yours ever faithfully,

                                           ROBERT BROWNING.

Miss Barrett,[1]
  50 Wimpole St.
R. Browning.

[Footnote 1: With this and the following letter the addresses on the
envelopes are given; for all subsequent letters the addresses are the
same. The correspondence passed through the post.]

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                           50 Wimpole Street: Jan. 11, 1845.

I thank you, dear Mr. Browning, from the bottom of my heart. You meant
to give me pleasure by your letter--and even if the object had not
been answered, I ought still to thank you. But it is thoroughly
answered. Such a letter from such a hand! Sympathy is dear--very dear
to me: but the sympathy of a poet, and of such a poet, is the
quintessence of sympathy to me! Will you take back my gratitude for
it?--agreeing, too, that of all the commerce done in the world, from
Tyre to Carthage, the exchange of sympathy for gratitude is the most
princely thing!

For the rest you draw me on with your kindness. It is difficult to get
rid of people when you once have given them too much pleasure--_that_
is a fact, and we will not stop for the moral of it. What I was going
to say--after a little natural hesitation--is, that if ever you emerge
without inconvenient effort from your 'passive state,' and will _tell_
me of such faults as rise to the surface and strike you as important
in my poems, (for of course, I do not think of troubling you with
criticism in detail) you will confer a lasting obligation on me, and
one which I shall value so much, that I covet it at a distance. I do
not pretend to any extraordinary meekness under criticism and it is
possible enough that I might not be altogether obedient to yours. But
with my high respect for your power in your Art and for your
experience as an artist, it would be quite impossible for me to hear a
general observation of yours on what appear to you my master-faults,
without being the better for it hereafter in some way. I ask for only
a sentence or two of general observation--and I do not ask even for
_that_, so as to tease you--but in the humble, low voice, which is so
excellent a thing in women--particularly when they go a-begging! The
most frequent general criticism I receive, is, I think, upon the
style,--'if I _would_ but change my style'! But _that_ is an objection
(isn't it?) to the writer bodily? Buffon says, and every sincere
writer must feel, that '_Le style c'est l'homme_'; a fact, however,
scarcely calculated to lessen the objection with certain critics.

Is it indeed true that I was so near to the pleasure and honour of
making your acquaintance? and can it be true that you look back upon
the lost opportunity with any regret? _But_--you know--if you had
entered the 'crypt,' you might have caught cold, or been tired to
death, and _wished_ yourself 'a thousand miles off;' which would have
been worse than travelling them. It is not my interest, however, to
put such thoughts in your head about its being 'all for the best'; and
I would rather hope (as I do) that what I lost by one chance I may
recover by some future one. Winters shut me up as they do dormouse's
eyes; in the spring, _we shall see_: and I am so much better that I
seem turning round to the outward world again. And in the meantime I
have learnt to know your voice, not merely from the poetry but from
the kindness in it. Mr. Kenyon often speaks of you--dear Mr.
Kenyon!--who most unspeakably, or only speakably with tears in my
eyes,--has been my friend and helper, and my book's friend and helper!
critic and sympathiser, true friend of all hours! You know him well
enough, I think, to understand that I must be grateful to him.

I am writing too much,--and notwithstanding that I am writing too
much, I will write of one thing more. I will say that I am your
debtor, not only for this cordial letter and for all the pleasure
which came with it, but in other ways, and those the highest: and I
will say that while I live to follow this divine art of poetry, in
proportion to my love for it and my devotion to it, I must be a devout
admirer and student of your works. This is in my heart to say to
you--and I say it.

And, for the rest, I am proud to remain

                                  Your obliged and faithful

                                       ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

Robert Browning, Esq.
  New Cross, Hatcham, Surrey.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 New Cross, Hatcham, Surrey.
                                 Jan. 13, 1845.

Dear Miss Barrett,--I just shall say, in as few words as I can, that
you make me very happy, and that, now the beginning is over, I dare
say I shall do better, because my poor praise, number one, was nearly
as felicitously brought out, as a certain tribute to no less a
personage than Tasso, which I was amused with at Rome some weeks ago,
in a neat pencilling on the plaister-wall by his tomb at
Sant'Onofrio--'Alla cara memoria--di--(please fancy solemn interspaces
and grave capital letters at the new lines) di--Torquato Tasso--il
Dottore Bernardini--offriva--il seguente Carme--_O tu_'--and no
more,--the good man, it should seem, breaking down with the overload
of love here! But my 'O tu'--was breathed out most sincerely, and now
you have taken it in gracious part, the rest will come after.
Only,--and which is why I write now--it looks as if I have introduced
some phrase or other about 'your faults' so cleverly as to give
exactly the opposite meaning to what I meant, which was, that in my
first ardour I had thought to tell you of _everything_ which impressed
me in your verses, down, even, to whatever 'faults' I could find,--a
good earnest, when I had got to _them_, that I had left out not much
between--as if some Mr. Fellows were to say, in the overflow of his
first enthusiasm of rewarded adventure: 'I will describe you all the
outer life and ways of these Lycians, down to their very
sandal-thongs,' whereto the be-corresponded one rejoins--'Shall I get
next week, then, your dissertation on sandal-thongs'? Yes, and a
little about the 'Olympian Horses,' and God-charioteers as well!

What 'struck me as faults,' were not matters on the removal of which,
one was to have--poetry, or high poetry,--but the very highest poetry,
so I thought, and that, to universal recognition. For myself, or any
artist, in many of the cases there would be a positive loss of time,
peculiar artist's pleasure--for an instructed eye loves to see where
the brush has dipped twice in a lustrous colour, has lain insistingly
along a favourite outline, dwelt lovingly in a grand shadow; for these
'too muches' for the everybody's picture are so many helps to the
making out the real painter's picture as he had it in his brain. And
all of the Titian's Naples Magdalen must have once been golden in its
degree to justify that heap of hair in her hands--the _only_ gold
effected now!

But about this soon--for night is drawing on and I go out, yet cannot,
quiet at conscience, till I report (to _myself_, for I never said it
to you, I think) that your poetry must be, cannot but be, infinitely
more to me than mine to you--for you _do_ what I always wanted, hoped
to do, and only seem now likely to do for the first time. You speak
out, _you_,--I only make men and women speak--give you truth broken
into prismatic hues, and fear the pure white light, even if it is in
me, but I am going to try; so it will be no small comfort to have your
company just now, seeing that when you have your men and women
aforesaid, you are busied with them, whereas it seems bleak,
melancholy work, this talking to the wind (for I have begun)--yet I
don't think I shall let _you_ hear, after all, the savage things about
Popes and imaginative religions that I must say.

See how I go on and on to you, I who, whenever now and then pulled, by
the head and hair, into letter-writing, get sorrowfully on for a line
or two, as the cognate creature urged on by stick and string, and then
come down 'flop' upon the sweet haven of page one, line last, as
serene as the sleep of the virtuous! You will never more, I hope, talk
of 'the honour of my acquaintance,' but I will joyfully wait for the
delight of your friendship, and the spring, and my Chapel-sight after

                                 Ever yours most faithfully,

                                      R. BROWNING.

For Mr. Kenyon--I have a convenient theory about _him_, and his
otherwise quite unaccountable kindness to me; but 'tis quite night
now, and they call me.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                           50 Wimpole Street: Jan. 15, 1845.

Dear Mr. Browning,--The fault was clearly with me and not with you.

When I had an Italian master, years ago, he told me that there was an
unpronounceable English word which absolutely expressed me, and which
he would say in his own tongue, as he could not in mine--'_testa
lunga_.' Of course, the signor meant _headlong_!--and now I have had
enough to tame me, and might be expected to stand still in my stall.
But you see I do not. Headlong I was at first, and headlong I
continue--precipitously rushing forward through all manner of nettles
and briars instead of keeping the path; guessing at the meaning of
unknown words instead of looking into the dictionary--tearing open
letters, and never untying a string,--and expecting everything to be
done in a minute, and the thunder to be as quick as the lightning. And
so, at your half word I flew at the whole one, with all its possible
consequences, and wrote what you read. Our common friend, as I think
he is, Mr. Horne, is often forced to entreat me into patience and
coolness of purpose, though his only intercourse with me has been by
letter. And, by the way, you will be sorry to hear that during his
stay in Germany _he_ has been 'headlong' (out of a metaphor) twice;
once, in falling from the Drachenfels, when he only just saved himself
by catching at a vine; and once quite lately, at Christmas, in a fall
on the ice of the Elbe in skating, when he dislocated his left
shoulder in a very painful manner. He is doing quite well, I believe,
but it was sad to have such a shadow from the German Christmas tree,
and he a stranger.

In art, however, I understand that it does not do to be headlong, but
patient and laborious--and there is a love strong enough, even in me,
to overcome nature. I apprehend what you mean in the criticism you
just intimate, and shall turn it over and over in my mind until I get
practical good from it. What no mere critic sees, but what you, an
artist, know, is the difference between the thing desired and the
thing attained, between the idea in the writer's mind and the [Greek:
eidolon] cast off in his work. All the effort--the quick'ning of the
breath and beating of the heart in pursuit, which is ruffling and
injurious to the general effect of a composition; all which you call
'insistency,' and which many would call superfluity, and which _is_
superfluous in a sense--_you_ can pardon, because you understand. The
great chasm between the thing I say, and the thing I would say, would
be quite dispiriting to me, in spite even of such kindnesses as yours,
if the desire did not master the despondency. 'Oh for a horse with
wings!' It is wrong of me to write so of myself--only you put your
finger on the root of a fault, which has, to my fancy, been a little
misapprehended. I do not _say everything I think_ (as has been said of
me by master-critics) but I _take every means to say what I think_,
which is different!--or I fancy so!

In one thing, however, you are wrong. Why should you deny the full
measure of my delight and benefit from your writings? I could tell you
why you should not. You have in your vision two worlds, or to use the
language of the schools of the day, you are both subjective and
objective in the habits of your mind. You can deal both with abstract
thought and with human passion in the most passionate sense. Thus, you
have an immense grasp in Art; and no one at all accustomed to consider
the usual forms of it, could help regarding with reverence and
gladness the gradual expansion of your powers. Then you are
'masculine' to the height--and I, as a woman, have studied some of
your gestures of language and intonation wistfully, as a thing beyond
me far! and the more admirable for being beyond.

Of your new work I hear with delight. How good of you to tell me. And
it is not dramatic in the strict sense, I am to understand--(am I
right in understanding so?) and you speak, in your own person 'to the
winds'? no--but to the thousand living sympathies which will awake to
hear you. A great dramatic power may develop itself otherwise than in
the formal drama; and I have been guilty of wishing, before this hour
(for reasons which I will not thrust upon you after all my tedious
writing), that you would give the public a poem unassociated directly
or indirectly with the stage, for a trial on the popular heart. I
reverence the drama, but--

_But_ I break in on myself out of consideration for you. I might have
done it, you will think, before. I vex your 'serene sleep of the
virtuous' like a nightmare. Do not say 'No.' I am _sure_ I do! As to
the vain parlance of the world, I did not talk of the 'honour of your
acquaintance' without a true sense of honour, indeed; but I shall
willingly exchange it all (and _now_, if you please, at this moment,
for fear of worldly mutabilities) for the 'delight of your

                   Believe me, therefore, dear Mr. Browning,

                        Faithfully yours, and gratefully,

                             ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

For Mr. Kenyon's kindness, as _I_ see it, no theory will account. I
class it with mesmerism for that reason.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                           New Cross, Hatcham, Monday Night.
                           [Post-mark, January 28, 1845.]

Dear Miss Barrett,--Your books lie on my table here, at arm's length
from me, in this old room where I sit all day: and when my head aches
or wanders or strikes work, as it now or then will, I take my chance
for either green-covered volume, as if it were so much fresh trefoil
to feel in one's hands this winter-time,--and round I turn, and,
putting a decisive elbow on three or four half-done-with 'Bells' of
mine, read, read, read, and just as I have shut up the book and walked
to the window, I recollect that you wanted me to find faults there,
and that, in an unwise hour, I engaged to do so. Meantime, the days
go by (the whitethroat is come and sings now) and as I would not have
you 'look down on me from your white heights' as promise breaker,
evader, or forgetter, if I could help: and as, if I am very candid and
contrite, you may find it in your heart to write to me again--who
knows?--I shall say at once that the said faults cannot be lost, must
be _somewhere_, and shall be faithfully brought you back whenever they
turn up,--as people tell one of missing matters. I am rather exacting,
myself, with my own gentle audience, and get to say spiteful things
about them when they are backward in their dues of appreciation--but
really, _really_--could I be quite sure that anybody as good as--I
must go on, I suppose, and say--as myself, even, were honestly to feel
towards me as I do, towards the writer of 'Bertha,' and the 'Drama,'
and the 'Duchess,' and the 'Page' and--the whole two volumes, I should
be paid after a fashion, I know.

One thing I can do--pencil, if you like, and annotate, and dissertate
upon that I love most and least--I think I can do it, that is.

Here an odd memory comes--of a friend who,--volunteering such a
service to a sonnet-writing somebody, gave him a taste of his quality
in a side-column of short criticisms on sonnet the First, and starting
off the beginning three lines with, of course, 'bad, worse,
worst'--made by a generous mintage of words to meet the sudden run of
his epithets, 'worser, worserer, worserest' pay off the second terzet
in full--no 'badder, badderer, badderest' fell to the _Second's_
allowance, and 'worser' &c. answered the demands of the Third;
'worster, worsterer, worsterest' supplied the emergency of the Fourth;
and, bestowing his last 'worserestest and worstestest' on lines 13 and
14, my friend (slapping his forehead like an emptied strong-box)
frankly declared himself bankrupt, and honourably incompetent, to
satisfy the reasonable expectations of the rest of the series!

What an illustration of the law by which opposite ideas suggest
opposite, and contrary images come together!

See now, how, of that 'Friendship' you offer me (and here Juliet's
word rises to my lips)--I feel sure once and for ever. I have got
already, I see, into this little pet-handwriting of mine (not anyone
else's) which scratches on as if theatrical copyists (ah me!) and
BRADBURY AND EVANS' READER were not! But you shall get something
better than this nonsense one day, if you will have patience with
me--hardly better, though, because this does me real good, gives real
relief, to write. After all, you know nothing, next to nothing of me,
and that stops me. Spring is to come, however!

If you hate writing to me as I hate writing to nearly everybody, I
pray you never write--if you do, as you say, care for anything I have
done. I will simply assure you, that meaning to begin work in deep
earnest, _begin_ without affectation, God knows,--I do not know what
will help me more than hearing from you,--and therefore, if you do not
so very much hate it, I know I _shall_ hear from you--and very little
more about your 'tiring me.'

                                      Ever yours faithfully,

                                           ROBERT BROWNING.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                            50 Walpole Street: Feb. 3, 1845.
[Transcriber's Note: So in original. Should be "Wimpole Street."]

Why how could I hate to write to you, dear Mr. Browning? Could you
believe in such a thing? If nobody likes writing to everybody (except
such professional letter writers as you and I are _not_), yet
everybody likes writing to somebody, and it would be strange and
contradictory if I were not always delighted both to hear from _you_
and to write to _you_, this talking upon paper being as good a social
pleasure as another, when our means are somewhat straitened. As for
me, I have done most of my talking by post of late years--as people
shut up in dungeons take up with scrawling mottoes on the walls. Not
that I write to many in the way of regular correspondence, as our
friend Mr. Horne predicates of me in his romances (which is mere
romancing!), but that there are a few who will write and be written to
by me without a sense of injury. Dear Miss Mitford, for instance. You
do not know her, I think, personally, although she was the first to
tell me (when I was very ill and insensible to all the glories of the
world except poetry), of the grand scene in 'Pippa Passes.' _She_ has
filled a large drawer in this room with delightful letters, heart-warm
and soul-warm, ... driftings of nature (if sunshine could drift like
snow), and which, if they should ever fall the way of all writing,
into print, would assume the folio shape as a matter of course, and
take rank on the lowest shelf of libraries, with Benedictine editions
of the Fathers, [Greek: k.t.l.]. I write this to you to show how I can
have pleasure in letters, and never think them too long, nor too
frequent, nor too illegible from being written in little 'pet hands.'
I can read any MS. except the writing on the pyramids. And if you will
only promise to treat me _en bon camarade_, without reference to the
conventionalities of 'ladies and gentlemen,' taking no thought for
your sentences (nor for mine), nor for your blots (nor for mine), nor
for your blunt speaking (nor for mine), nor for your badd speling (nor
for mine), and if you agree to send me a blotted thought whenever you
are in the mind for it, and with as little ceremony and less
legibility than you would think it necessary to employ towards your
printer--why, _then_, I am ready to sign and seal the contract, and to
rejoice in being 'articled' as your correspondent. Only _don't_ let us
have any constraint, any ceremony! _Don't_ be civil to me when you
feel rude,--nor loquacious when you incline to silence,--nor yielding
in the manners when you are perverse in the mind. See how out of the
world I am! Suffer me to profit by it in almost the only profitable
circumstance, and let us rest from the bowing and the courtesying,
you and I, on each side. You will find me an honest man on the whole,
if rather hasty and prejudging, which is a different thing from
prejudice at the worst. And we have great sympathies in common, and I
am inclined to look up to you in many things, and to learn as much of
everything as you will teach me. On the other hand you must prepare
yourself to forbear and to forgive--will you? While I throw off the
ceremony, I hold the faster to the kindness.

Is it true, as you say, that I 'know so "little"' of you? And is it
true, as others say, that the productions of an artist do not partake
of his real nature, ... that in the minor sense, man is not made in
the image of God? It is _not_ true, to my mind--and therefore it is
not true that I know little of you, except in as far as it is true
(which I believe) that your greatest works are to come. Need I assure
you that I shall always hear with the deepest interest every word you
will say to me of what you are doing or about to do? I hear of the
'old room' and the '"Bells" lying about,' with an interest which you
may guess at, perhaps. And when you tell me besides, of _my poems
being there_, and of your caring for them so much beyond the tide-mark
of my hopes, the pleasure rounds itself into a charm, and prevents its
own expression. Overjoyed I am with this cordial sympathy--but it is
better, I feel, to try to justify it by future work than to thank you
for it now. I think--if I may dare to name myself with you in the
poetic relation--that we both have high views of the Art we follow,
and stedfast purpose in the pursuit of it, and that we should not,
either of _us_, be likely to be thrown from the course, by the casting
of any Atalanta-ball of speedy popularity. But I do not know, I cannot
guess, whether you are liable to be pained deeply by hard criticism
and cold neglect, such as original writers like yourself are too often
exposed to--or whether the love of Art is enough for you, and the
exercise of Art the filling joy of your life. Not that praise must not
always, of necessity, be delightful to the artist, but that it may be
redundant to his content. Do you think so? or not? It appears to me
that poets who, like Keats, are highly susceptible to criticism, must
be jealous, in their own persons, of the future honour of their works.
Because, if a work is worthy, honour must follow it, though the worker
should not live to see that following overtaking. Now, is it not
enough that the work be honoured--enough I mean, for the worker? And
is it not enough to keep down a poet's ordinary wearing anxieties, to
think, that if his work be worthy it will have honour, and, if not,
that 'Sparta must have nobler sons than he'? I am writing nothing
applicable, I see, to anything in question, but when one falls into a
favourite train of thought, one indulges oneself in thinking on. I
began in thinking and wondering what sort of artistic constitution you
had, being determined, as you may observe (with a sarcastic smile at
the impertinence), to set about knowing as much as possible of you
immediately. Then you spoke of your 'gentle audience' (_you began_),
and I, who know that you have not one but many enthusiastic
admirers--the 'fit and few' in the intense meaning--yet not the
_diffused_ fame which will come to you presently, wrote on, down the
margin of the subject, till I parted from it altogether. But, after
all, we are on the proper matter of sympathy. And after all, and after
all that has been said and mused upon the 'natural ills,' the anxiety,
and wearing out experienced by the true artist,--is not the _good_
immeasurably greater than the _evil_? Is it not great good, and great
joy? For my part, I wonder sometimes--I surprise myself wondering--how
without such an object and purpose of life, people find it worth while
to live at all. And, for happiness--why, my only idea of happiness, as
far as my personal enjoyment is concerned, (but I have been
straightened in some respects and in comparison with the majority of
livers!) lies deep in poetry and its associations. And then, the
escape from pangs of heart and bodily weakness--when you throw off
_yourself_--what you feel to be _yourself_--into another atmosphere
and into other relations where your life may spread its wings out new,
and gather on every separate plume a brightness from the sun of the
sun! Is it possible that imaginative writers should be so fond of
depreciating and lamenting over their own destiny? Possible,
certainly--but reasonable, not at all--and grateful, less than

My faults, my faults--Shall I help you? Ah--you see them too well, I
fear. And do you know that _I_ also have something of your feeling
about 'being about to _begin_,' or I should dare to praise you for
having it. But in you, it is different--it is, in you, a virtue. When
Prometheus had recounted a long list of sorrows to be endured by Io,
and declared at last that he was [Greek: medepo en prooimiois],[1]
poor Io burst out crying. And when the author of 'Paracelsus' and the
'Bells and Pomegranates' says that he is only 'going to begin' we may
well (to take 'the opposite idea,' as you write) rejoice and clap our
hands. Yet I believe that, whatever you may have done, you _will_ do
what is greater. It is my faith for you.

And how I should like to know what poets have been your sponsors, 'to
promise and vow' for you,--and whether you have held true to early
tastes, or leapt violently from them, and what books you read, and
what hours you write in. How curious I could prove myself!--(if it
isn't proved already).

But this is too much indeed, past all bearing, I suspect. Well, but if
I ever write to you again--I mean, if you wish it--it may be in the
other extreme of shortness. So do not take me for a born heroine of
Richardson, or think that I sin always to this length, else,--you
might indeed repent your quotation from Juliet--which I guessed at
once--and of course--

    I have no joy in this contract to-day!
    It is too unadvised, too rash and sudden.

                                      Ever faithfully yours,

                                           ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 1: 'Not yet reached the prelude' (Aesch. _Prom._ 741).]

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Hatcham, Tuesday.
                             [Post-mark, February 11, 1845.]

Dear Miss Barrett,--People would hardly ever tell falsehoods about a
matter, if they had been let tell truth in the beginning, for it is
hard to prophane one's very self, and nobody who has, for instance,
used certain words and ways to a mother or a father _could_, even if
by the devil's help he _would_, reproduce or mimic them with any
effect to anybody else that was to be won over--and so, if 'I love
you' were always outspoken when it might be, there would, I suppose,
be no fear of its desecration at any after time. But lo! only last
night, I had to write, on the part of Mr. Carlyle, to a certain
ungainly, foolish gentleman who keeps back from him, with all the
fussy impotence of stupidity (not bad feeling, alas! for _that_ we
could deal with) a certain MS. letter of Cromwell's which completes
the collection now going to press; and this long-ears had to be 'dear
Sir'd and obedient servanted' till I _said_ (to use a mild word)
'commend me to the sincerities of this kind of thing.'! When I spoke
of you knowing little of me, one of the senses in which I meant so was
this--that I would not well vowel-point my common-place letters and
syllables with a masoretic _other_ sound and sense, make my 'dear'
something intenser than 'dears' in ordinary, and 'yours ever' a
thought more significant than the run of its like. And all this came
of your talking of 'tiring me,' 'being too envious,' &c. &c., which I
should never have heard of had the plain truth looked out of my letter
with its unmistakable eyes. _Now_, what you say of the 'bowing,' and
convention that is to be, and _tant de facons_ that are not to be,
helps me once and for ever--for have I not a right to say simply that,
for reasons I know, for other reasons I don't exactly know, but might
if I chose to think a little, and for still other reasons, which, most
likely, all the choosing and thinking in the world would not make me
know, I had rather hear from you than see anybody else. Never you
care, dear noble Carlyle, nor you, my own friend Alfred over the sea,
nor a troop of true lovers!--Are not their fates written? there! Don't
you answer this, please, but, mind it is on record, and now then, with
a lighter conscience I shall begin replying to your questions. But
then--what I have printed gives _no_ knowledge of me--it evidences
abilities of various kinds, if you will--and a dramatic sympathy with
certain modifications of passion ... _that_ I think--But I never have
begun, even, what I hope I was born to begin and end--'R.B. a
poem'--and next, if I speak (and, God knows, feel), as if what you
have read were sadly imperfect demonstrations of even mere ability, it
is from no absurd vanity, though it might seem so--these scenes and
song-scraps _are_ such mere and very escapes of my inner power, which
lives in me like the light in those crazy Mediterranean phares I have
watched at sea, wherein the light is ever revolving in a dark gallery,
bright and alive, and only after a weary interval leaps out, for a
moment, from the one narrow chink, and then goes on with the blind
wall between it and you; and, no doubt, _then_, precisely, does the
poor drudge that carries the cresset set himself most busily to trim
the wick--for don't think I want to say I have not worked hard--(this
head of mine knows better)--but the work has been _inside_, and not
when at stated times I held up my light to you--and, that there is no
self-delusion here, I would prove to you (and nobody else), even by
opening this desk I write on, and showing what stuff, in the way of
wood, I _could_ make a great bonfire with, if I might only knock the
whole clumsy top off my tower! Of course, every writing body says the
same, so I gain nothing by the avowal; but when I remember how I have
done what was published, and half done what may never be, I say with
some right, you can know but little of me. Still, I _hope_ sometimes,
though phrenologists will have it that I _cannot_, and am doing
better with this darling 'Luria'--so safe in my head, and a tiny slip
of paper I cover with my thumb!

Then you inquire about my 'sensitiveness to criticism,' and I shall be
glad to tell you exactly, because I have, more than once, taken a
course you might else not understand. I shall live always--that is for
me--I am living here this 1845, that is for London. I write from a
thorough conviction that it is the duty of me, and with the belief
that, after every drawback and shortcoming, I do my best, all things
considered--that is for _me_, and, so being, the not being listened to
by one human creature would, I hope, in nowise affect me. But of
course I must, if for merely scientific purposes, know all about this
1845, its ways and doings, and something I do know, as that for a
dozen cabbages, if I pleased to grow them in the garden here, I might
demand, say, a dozen pence at Covent Garden Market,--and that for a
dozen scenes, of the average goodness, I may challenge as many
plaudits at the theatre close by; and a dozen pages of verse, brought
to the Rialto where verse-merchants most do congregate, ought to bring
me a fair proportion of the Reviewers' gold currency, seeing the other
traders pouch their winnings, as I do see. Well, when they won't pay
me for my cabbages, nor praise me for my poems, I may, if I please,
say 'more's the shame,' and bid both parties 'decamp to the crows,' in
Greek phrase, and _yet_ go very lighthearted back to a garden-full of
rose-trees, and a soul-full of comforts. If they had bought my greens
I should have been able to buy the last number of _Punch_, and go
through the toll-gate of Waterloo Bridge, and give the blind
clarionet-player a trifle, and all without changing my gold. If they
had taken to my books, my father and mother would have been proud of
this and the other 'favourable critique,' and--at least so folks
hold--I should have to pay Mr. Moxon less by a few pounds,
whereas--but you see! Indeed I force myself to say ever and anon, in
the interest of the market-gardeners regular, and Keatses proper,
'It's nothing to _you_, critics, hucksters, all of you, if I _have_
this garden and this conscience--I might go die at Rome, or take to
gin and the newspaper, for what _you_ would care!' So I don't quite
lay open my resources to everybody. But it does so happen, that I have
met with much more than I could have expected in this matter of kindly
and prompt recognition. I never wanted a real set of good hearty
praisers--and no bad reviewers--I am quite content with my share.
No--what I laughed at in my 'gentle audience' is a sad trick the real
admirers have of admiring at the wrong place--enough to make an
apostle swear. _That_ does make me savage--_never_ the other kind of
people; why, think now--take your own 'Drama of Exile' and let _me_
send it to the first twenty men and women that shall knock at your
door to-day and after--of whom the first five are the Postman, the
seller of cheap sealing-wax, Mr. Hawkins Junr, the Butcher for orders,
and the Tax-gatherer--will you let me, by Cornelius Agrippa's
assistance, force these five and these fellows to read, and report on,
this 'Drama'--and, when I have put these faithful reports into fair
English, do you believe they would be better than, if as good, as, the
general run of Periodical criticisms? Not they, I will venture to
affirm. But then--once again, I get these people together and give
them your book, and persuade them, moreover, that by praising it, the
Postman will be helping its author to divide Long Acre into two beats,
one of which she will take with half the salary and all the red
collar,--that a sealing-wax vendor will see red wafers brought into
vogue, and so on with the rest--and won't you just wish for your
_Spectators_ and _Observers_ and Newcastle-upon-Tyne--Hebdomadal
_Mercuries_ back again! You see the inference--I do sincerely esteem
it a perfectly providential and miraculous thing that they are so
well-behaved in ordinary, these critics; and for Keats and Tennyson to
'go softly all their days' for a gruff word or two is quite
inexplicable to me, and always has been. Tennyson reads the
_Quarterly_ and does as they bid him, with the most solemn face in the
world--out goes this, in goes that, all is changed and ranged. Oh me!

Out comes the sun, in comes the _Times_ and eleven strikes (it _does_)
already, and I have to go to Town, and I have no alternative but that
this story of the Critic and Poet, 'the Bear and the Fiddle,' should
'begin but break off in the middle'; yet I doubt--nor will you
henceforth, I know, say, 'I vex you, I am sure, by this lengthy
writing.' Mind that spring is coming, for all this snow; and know me
for yours ever faithfully,

                                                R. BROWNING.

I don't dare--yet I will--ask _can_ you read this? Because I _could_
write a little better, but not so fast. Do you keep writing just as
you do now!

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                       50 Wimpole Street, February 17, 1845.

Dear Mr. Browning,--To begin with the end (which is only
characteristic of the perverse like myself), I assure you I read your
handwriting as currently as I could read the clearest type from font.
If I had practised the art of reading your letters all my life, I
couldn't do it better. And then I approve of small MS. upon principle.
Think of what an immense quantity of physical energy must go to the
making of those immense sweeping handwritings achieved by some persons
... Mr. Landor, for instance, who writes as if he had the sky for a
copybook and dotted his _i_'s in proportion. People who do such things
should wear gauntlets; yes, and have none to wear; or they wouldn't
waste their time so. People who write--by profession--shall I
say?--never should do it, or what will become of them when most of
their strength retires into their head and heart, (as is the case with
some of us and may be the case with all) and when they have to write a
poem twelve times over, as Mr. Kenyon says I should do if I were
virtuous? Not that I do it. Does anybody do it, I wonder? Do _you_,
ever? From what you tell me of the trimming of the light, I imagine
not. And besides, one may be laborious as a writer, without copying
twelve times over. I believe there are people who will tell you in a
moment what three times six is, without 'doing it' on their fingers;
and in the same way one may work one's verses in one's head quite as
laboriously as on paper--I maintain it. I consider myself a very
patient, laborious writer--though dear Mr. Kenyon laughs me to scorn
when I say so. And just see how it could be otherwise. If I were
netting a purse I might be thinking of something else and drop my
stitches; or even if I were writing verses to please a popular taste,
I might be careless in it. But the pursuit of an Ideal acknowledged by
the mind, _will_ draw and concentrate the powers of the mind--and Art,
you know, is a jealous god and demands the whole man--or woman. I
cannot conceive of a sincere artist who is also a careless one--though
one may have a quicker hand than another, in general,--and though all
are liable to vicissitudes in the degree of facility--and to
entanglements in the machinery, notwithstanding every degree of
facility. You may write twenty lines one day--or even three like
Euripides in three days--and a hundred lines in one more day--and yet
on the hundred, may have been expended as much good work, as on the
twenty and the three. And also, as you say, the lamp is trimmed behind
the wall--and the act of utterance is the evidence of foregone study
still more than it is the occasion to study. The deep interest with
which I read all that you had the kindness to write to me of yourself,
you must trust me for, as I find it hard to express it. It is sympathy
in one way, and interest every way! And now, see! Although you proved
to me with admirable logic that, for reasons which you know and
reasons which you don't know, I couldn't possibly know anything about
you; though that is all true--and proven (which is better than
true)--I really did understand of you before I was told, exactly what
you told me. Yes, I did indeed. I felt sure that as a poet you fronted
the future--and that your chief works, in your own apprehension, were
to come. Oh--I take no credit of sagacity for it; as I did not long
ago to my sisters and brothers, when I professed to have knowledge of
all their friends whom I never saw in my life, by the image coming
with the name; and threw them into shouts of laughter by giving out
all the blue eyes and black eyes and hazel eyes and noses Roman and
Gothic ticketed aright for the Mr. Smiths and Miss Hawkinses,--and hit
the bull's eye and the true features of the case, ten times out of
twelve! But _you_ are different. _You_ are to be made out by the
comparative anatomy system. You have thrown out fragments of _os_ ...
_sublime_ ... indicative of soul-mammothism--and you live to develop
your nature,--_if_ you live. That is easy and plain. You have taken a
great range--from those high faint notes of the mystics which are
beyond personality ... to dramatic impersonations, gruff with nature,
'gr-r-r- you swine'; and when these are thrown into harmony, as in a
manner they are in 'Pippa Passes' (which I could find in my heart to
covet the authorship of, more than any of your works--), the
combinations of effect must always be striking and noble--and you must
feel yourself drawn on to such combinations more and more. But I do
not, you say, know yourself--you. I only know abilities and faculties.
Well, then, teach me yourself--you. I will not insist on the
knowledge--and, in fact, you have not written the R.B. poem yet--your
rays fall obliquely rather than directly straight. I see you only in
your moon. Do tell me all of yourself that you can and will ... before
the R.B. poem comes out. And what is 'Luria'? A poem and not a drama?
I mean, a poem not in the dramatic form? Well! I have wondered at you
sometimes, not for daring, but for bearing to trust your noble works
into the great mill of the 'rank, popular' playhouse, to be ground to
pieces between the teeth of vulgar actors and actresses. I, for one,
would as soon have 'my soul among lions.' 'There is a fascination in
it,' says Miss Mitford, and I am sure there must be, to account for
it. Publics in the mass are bad enough; but to distil the dregs of the
public and baptise oneself in that acrid moisture, where can be the
temptation? I could swear by Shakespeare, as was once sworn 'by those
dead at Marathon,' that I do not see where. I love the drama too. I
look to our old dramatists as to our Kings and princes in poetry. I
love them through all the deeps of their abominations. But the theatre
in those days was a better medium between the people and the poet; and
the press in those days was a less sufficient medium than now. Still,
the poet suffered by the theatre even then; and the reasons are very

How true--how true ... is all you say about critics. My convictions
follow you in every word. And I delighted to read your views of the
poet's right aspect towards criticism--I read them with the most
complete appreciation and sympathy. I have sometimes thought that it
would be a curious and instructive process, as illustrative of the
wisdom and apprehensiveness of critics, if anyone would collect the
critical soliloquies of every age touching its own literature, (as far
as such may be extant) and _confer_ them with the literary product of
the said ages. Professor Wilson has begun something of the kind
apparently, in his initiatory paper of the last _Blackwood_ number on
critics, beginning with Dryden--but he seems to have no design in his
notice--it is a mere critique on the critic. And then, he should have
begun earlier than Dryden--earlier even than Sir Philip Sydney, who in
the noble 'Discourse on Poetry,' gives such singular evidence of being
stone-critic-blind to the gods who moved around him. As far as I can
remember, he saw even Shakespeare but indifferently. Oh, it was in his
eyes quite an unillumed age, that period of Elizabeth which _we_ see
full of suns! and few can see what is close to the eyes though they
run their heads against it; the denial of contemporary genius is the
rule rather than the exception. No one counts the eagles in the nest,
till there is a rush of wings; and lo! they are flown. And here we
speak of understanding men, such as the Sydneys and the Drydens. Of
the great body of critics you observe rightly, that they are better
than might be expected of their badness, only the fact of their
_influence_ is no less undeniable than the reason why they should not
be influential. The brazen kettles will be taken for oracles all the
world over. But the influence is for to-day, for this hour--not for
to-morrow and the day after--unless indeed, as you say, the poet do
himself perpetuate the influence by submitting to it. Do you know
Tennyson?--that is, with a face to face knowledge? I have great
admiration for him. In execution, he is exquisite,--and, in music, a
most subtle weigher out to the ear of fine airs. That such a poet
should submit blindly to the suggestions of his critics, (I do not say
that suggestions from without may not be accepted with discrimination
sometimes, to the benefit of the acceptor), blindly and implicitly to
the suggestions of his critics, is much as if Babbage were to take my
opinion and undo his calculating machine by it. Napoleon called poetry
_science creuse_--which, although he was not scientific in poetry
himself, is true enough. But anybody is qualified, according to
everybody, for giving opinions upon poetry. It is not so in chymistry
and mathematics. Nor is it so, I believe, in whist and the polka. But
then these are more serious things.

Yes--and it does delight me to hear of your garden full of roses and
soul full of comforts! You have the right to both--you have the key to
both. You have written enough to live by, though only beginning to
write, as you say of yourself. And this reminds me to remind you that
when I talked of coveting most the authorship of your 'Pippa,' I did
not mean to call it your finest work (you might reproach me for
_that_), but just to express a personal feeling. Do you know what it
is to covet your neighbour's poetry?--not his fame, but his poetry?--I
dare say not. You are too generous. And, in fact, beauty is beauty,
and, whether it comes by our own hand or another's, blessed be the
coming of it! _I_, besides, feel _that_. And yet--and yet, I have been
aware of a feeling within me which has spoken two or three times to
the effect of a wish, that I had been visited with the vision of
'Pippa,' before you--and _confiteor tibi_--I confess the baseness of
it. The conception is, to my mind, most exquisite and altogether
original--and the contrast in the working out of the plan, singularly
expressive of various faculty.

Is the poem under your thumb, emerging from it? and in what metre? May
I ask such questions?

And does Mr. Carlyle tell you that he has forbidden all 'singing' to
this perverse and froward generation, which should work and not sing?
And have you told Mr. Carlyle that song is work, and also the
condition of work? I am a devout sitter at his feet--and it is an
effort to me to think him wrong in anything--and once when he told me
to write prose and not verse, I fancied that his opinion was I had
mistaken my calling,--a fancy which in infinite kindness and
gentleness he stooped immediately to correct. I never shall forget the
grace of that kindness--but then! For _him_ to have thought ill of
_me_, would not have been strange--I often think ill of myself, as God
knows. But for Carlyle to think of putting away, even for a season,
the poetry of the world, was wonderful, and has left me ruffled in my
thoughts ever since. I do not know him personally at all. But as his
disciple I ventured (by an exceptional motive) to send him my poems,
and I heard from him as a consequence. 'Dear and noble' he is
indeed--and a poet unaware of himself; all but the sense of music. You
feel it so--do you not? And the 'dear sir' has let him have the
'letter of Cromwell,' I hope; and satisfied 'the obedient servant.'
The curious thing in this world is not the stupidity, but the
upper-handism of the stupidity. The geese are in the Capitol, and the
Romans in the farmyard--and it seems all quite natural that it should
be so, both to geese and Romans!

But there are things you say, which seem to me supernatural, for
reasons which I know and for reasons which I don't know. You will let
me be grateful to you,--will you not? You must, if you will or not.
And also--I would not wait for more leave--if I could but see your
desk--as I do your death's heads and the spider-webs appertaining; but
the soul of Cornelius Agrippa fades from me.

                                      Ever faithfully yours,

                                           ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Wednesday Morning--Spring!
                             [Post-mark, February 26, 1845.]

Real warm Spring, dear Miss Barrett, and the birds know it; and in
Spring I shall see you, surely see you--for when did I once fail to
get whatever I had set my heart upon? As I ask myself sometimes, with
a strange fear.

I took up this paper to write a great deal--now, I don't think I shall
write much--'I shall see you,' I say!

That 'Luria' you enquire about, shall be my last play--for it is but a
play, woe's me! I have one done here, 'A Soul's Tragedy,' as it is
properly enough called, but _that_ would not do to end with (end I
will), and Luria is a Moor, of Othello's country, and devotes himself
to something he thinks Florence, and the old fortune follows--all in
my brain yet, but the bright weather helps and I will soon loosen my
Braccio and Puccio (a pale discontented man), and Tiburzio (the Pisan,
good true fellow, this one), and Domizia the Lady--loosen all these on
dear foolish (ravishing must his folly be), golden-hearted Luria, all
these with their worldly-wisdom and Tuscan shrewd ways; and, for me,
the misfortune is, I sympathise just as much with these as with
him,--so there can no good come of keeping this wild company any
longer, and 'Luria' and the other sadder ruin of one Chiappino--these
got rid of, I will do as you bid me, and--say first I have some
Romances and Lyrics, all dramatic, to dispatch, and _then_, I shall
stoop of a sudden under and out of this dancing ring of men and women
hand in hand, and stand still awhile, should my eyes dazzle, and when
that's over, they will be gone and you will be there, _pas vrai_? For,
as I think I told you, I always shiver involuntarily when I look--no,
glance--at this First Poem of mine to be. '_Now_,' I call it, what,
upon my soul,--for a solemn matter it is,--what is to be done _now_,
believed _now_, so far as it has been revealed to me--solemn words,
truly--and to find myself writing them to any one else! Enough now.

I know Tennyson 'face to face,'--no more than that. I know Carlyle and
love him--know him so well, that I would have told you he had shaken
that grand head of his at 'singing,' so thoroughly does he love and
live by it. When I last saw him, a fortnight ago, he turned, from I
don't know what other talk, quite abruptly on me with, 'Did you never
try to write a _Song_? Of all things in the world, _that_ I should be
proudest to do.' Then came his definition of a song--then, with an
appealing look to Mrs. C., 'I always say that some day in _spite of
nature and my stars_, I shall burst into a song' (he is not
mechanically 'musical,' he meant, and the music is the poetry, he
holds, and should enwrap the thought as Donne says 'an amber-drop
enwraps a bee'), and then he began to recite an old Scotch song,
stopping at the first rude couplet, 'The beginning words are merely to
set the tune, they tell me'--and then again at the couplet about--or,
to the effect that--'give me' (but in broad Scotch) 'give me but my
lass, I care not for my cogie.' '_He says_,' quoth Carlyle
magisterially, 'that if you allow him the love of his lass, you may
take away all else, even his cogie, his cup or can, and he cares not,'
just as a professor expounds Lycophron. And just before I left
England, six months ago, did not I hear him croon, if not certainly
sing, 'Charlie is my darling' ('my _darling_' with an adoring
emphasis), and then he stood back, as it were, from the song, to look
at it better, and said 'How must that notion of ideal wondrous
perfection have impressed itself in this old Jacobite's "young
Cavalier"--("They go to save their land, and the _young
Cavalier_!!")--when I who care nothing about such a rag of a man,
cannot but feel as he felt, in speaking his words after him!' After
saying which, he would be sure to counsel everybody to get their heads
clear of all singing! Don't let me forget to clap hands, we got the
letter, dearly bought as it was by the 'Dear Sirs,' &c., and
insignificant scrap as it proved, but still it is got, to my
encouragement in diplomacy.

Who told you of my sculls and spider webs--Horne? Last year I petted
extraordinarily a fine fellow, (a _garden_ spider--there was the
singularity,--the thin clever-even-for-a-spider-sort, and they are
_so_ 'spirited and sly,' all of them--this kind makes a long cone of
web, with a square chamber of vantage at the end, and there he sits
loosely and looks about), a great fellow that housed himself, with
real gusto, in the jaws of a great scull, whence he watched me as I
wrote, and I remember speaking to Horne about his good points.
Phrenologists look gravely at that great scull, by the way, and hope,
in their grim manner, that its owner made a good end. He looks
quietly, now, out at the green little hill behind. I have no little
insight to the feelings of furniture, and treat books and prints with
a reasonable consideration. How some people use their pictures, for
instance, is a mystery to me; very revolting all the same--portraits
obliged to face each other for ever,--prints put together in
portfolios. My Polidoro's perfect Andromeda along with 'Boors
Carousing,' by Ostade,--where I found her,--my own father's doing, or
I would say more.

And when I have said I like 'Pippa' better than anything else I have
done yet, I shall have answered all you bade me. And now may _I_
begin questioning? No,--for it is all a pure delight to me, so that
you do but write. I never was without good, kind, generous friends and
lovers, so they say--so they were and are,--perhaps they came at the
wrong time--I never wanted them--though that makes no difference in my
gratitude I trust,--but I know myself--surely--and always have done
so, for is there not somewhere the little book I first printed when a
boy, with John Mill, the metaphysical head, _his_ marginal note that
'the writer possesses a deeper self-consciousness than I ever knew in
a sane human being.' So I never deceived myself much, nor called my
feelings for people other than they were. And who has a right to say,
if I have not, that I had, but I said that, supernatural or no. Pray
tell me, too, of your present doings and projects, and never write
yourself 'grateful' to me, who _am_ grateful, very grateful to
you,--for none of your words but I take in earnest--and tell me if
Spring _be not_ coming, come, and I will take to writing the gravest
of letters, because this beginning is for gladness' sake, like
Carlyle's song couplet. My head aches a little to-day too, and, as
poor dear Kirke White said to the moon, from his heap of mathematical

    'I throw aside the learned sheet;
    I cannot choose but gaze, she looks so--mildly sweet.'

Out on the foolish phrase, but there's hard rhyming without it.

                                      Ever yours faithfully,

                                           ROBERT BROWNING.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                           50 Wimpole Street: Feb. 27, 1845.

Yes, but, dear Mr. Browning, I want the spring according to the new
'style' (mine), and not the old one of you and the rest of the poets.
To me unhappily, the snowdrop is much the same as the snow--it feels
as cold underfoot--and I have grown sceptical about 'the voice of the
turtle,' the east winds blow so loud. April is a Parthian with a dart,
and May (at least the early part of it) a spy in the camp. _That_ is
my idea of what you call spring; mine, in the _new style_! A little
later comes my spring; and indeed after such severe weather, from
which I have just escaped with my life, I may thank it for coming at
all. How happy you are, to be able to listen to the 'birds' without
the commentary of the east wind, which, like other commentaries,
spoils the music. And how happy I am to listen to you, when you write
such kind open-hearted letters to me! I am delighted to hear all you
say to me of yourself, and 'Luria,' and the spider, and to do him no
dishonour in the association, of the great teacher of the age,
Carlyle, who is also yours and mine. He fills the office of a
poet--does he not?--by analysing humanity back into its elements, to
the destruction of the conventions of the hour. That is--strictly
speaking--the office of the poet, is it not?--and he discharges it
fully, and with a wider intelligibility perhaps as far as the
contemporary period is concerned, than if he did forthwith 'burst into
a song.'

But how I do wander!--I meant to say, and I will call myself back to
say, that spring will really come some day I hope and believe, and the
warm settled weather with it, and that then I shall be probably fitter
for certain pleasures than I can appear even to myself now.

And, in the meantime, I seem to see 'Luria' instead of you; I have
visions and dream dreams. And the 'Soul's Tragedy,' which sounds to me
like the step of a ghost of an old Drama! and you are not to think
that I blaspheme the Drama, dear Mr. Browning; or that I ever thought
of exhorting you to give up the 'solemn robes' and tread of the
buskin. It is the theatre which vulgarises these things; the modern
theatre in which we see no altar! where the thymele is replaced by the
caprice of a popular actor. And also, I have a fancy that your great
dramatic power would work more clearly and audibly in the less
definite mould--but you ride your own faculty as Oceanus did his
sea-horse, 'directing it by your will'; and woe to the impertinence,
which would dare to say 'turn this way' or 'turn from that way'--it
should not be _my_ impertinence. Do not think I blaspheme the Drama. I
have gone through 'all such reading as should never be read' (that is,
by women!), through my love of it on the contrary. And the dramatic
faculty is strong in you--and therefore, as 'I speak unto a wise man,
judge what I say.'

For myself and my own doings, you shall hear directly what I have been
doing, and what I am about to do. Some years ago, as perhaps you may
have heard, (but I hope not, for the fewer who hear of it the
better)--some years ago, I translated or rather _undid_ into English,
the 'Prometheus' of AEschylus. To speak of this production moderately
(not modestly), it is the most miserable of all miserable versions of
the class. It was completed (in the first place) in thirteen days--the
iambics thrown into blank verse, the lyrics into rhymed octosyllabics
and the like,--and the whole together as cold as Caucasus, and as flat
as the nearest plain. To account for this, the haste may be something;
but if my mind had been properly awakened at the time, I might have
made still more haste and done it better. Well,--the comfort is, that
the little book was unadvertised and unknown, and that most of the
copies (through my entreaty of my father) are shut up in the wardrobe
of his bedroom. If ever I get well I shall show my joy by making a
bonfire of them. In the meantime, the recollection of this sin of mine
has been my nightmare and daymare too, and the sin has been the 'Blot
on my escutcheon.' I could look in nobody's face, with a 'Thou canst
not say I did it'--I know, I did it. And so I resolved to wash away
the transgression, and translate the tragedy over again. It was an
honest straightforward proof of repentance--was it not? and I have
completed it, except the transcription and last polishing. If
AEschylus stands at the foot of my bed now, I shall have a little
breath to front him. I have done my duty by him, not indeed according
to his claims, but in proportion to my faculty. Whether I shall ever
publish or not (remember) remains to be considered--that is a
different side of the subject. If I do, it _may_ be in a
magazine--or--but this is another ground. And then, I have in my head
to associate with the version, a monodrama of my own,--not a long
poem, but a monologue of AEschylus as he sate a blind exile on the
flats of Sicily and recounted the past to his own soul, just before
the eagle cracked his great massy skull with a stone.

But my chief _intention_ just now is the writing of a sort of
novel-poem--a poem as completely modern as 'Geraldine's Courtship,'
running into the midst of our conventions, and rushing into
drawing-rooms and the like, 'where angels fear to tread'; and so,
meeting face to face and without mask the Humanity of the age, and
speaking the truth as I conceive of it out plainly. That is my
intention. It is not mature enough yet to be called a plan. I am
waiting for a story, and I won't take one, because I want to make one,
and I like to make my own stories, because then I can take liberties
with them in the treatment.

Who told me of your skulls and spiders? Why, couldn't I know it
without being told? Did Cornelius Agrippa know nothing without being
told? Mr. Horne never spoke it to my ears--(I never saw him face to
face in my life, although we have corresponded for long and long), and
he never wrote it to my eyes. Perhaps he does not know that I know it.
Well, then! if I were to say that _I heard it from you yourself_, how
would you answer? _And it was so._ Why, are you not aware that these
are the days of mesmerism and clairvoyance? Are you an infidel? I have
believed in your skulls for the last year, for my part.

And I have some sympathy in your habit of feeling for chairs and
tables. I remember, when I was a child and wrote poems in little
clasped books, I used to kiss the books and put them away tenderly
because I had been happy near them, and take them out by turns when I
was going from home, to cheer them by the change of air and the
pleasure of the new place. This, not for the sake of the verses
written in them, and not for the sake of writing more verses in them,
but from pure gratitude. Other books I used to treat in a like
manner--and to talk to the trees and the flowers, was a natural
inclination--but between me and that time, the cypresses grow thick
and dark.

Is it true that your wishes fulfil themselves? And when they _do_, are
they not bitter to your taste--do you not wish them _un_fulfilled? Oh,
this life, this life! There is comfort in it, they say, and I almost
believe--but the brightest place in the house, is the leaning out of
the window--at least, for me.

Of course you are _self-conscious_--How could you be a poet otherwise?
Tell me.

                                      Ever faithfully yours,


And was the little book written with Mr. Mill, pure metaphysics, or

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Saturday Night, March 1 [1845].

Dear Miss Barrett,--I seem to find of a sudden--surely I knew
before--anyhow, I _do_ find now, that with the octaves on octaves of
quite new golden strings you enlarged the compass of my life's harp
with, there is added, too, such a tragic chord, that which you
touched, so gently, in the beginning of your letter I got this
morning, 'just escaping' &c. But if my truest heart's wishes avail, as
they have hitherto done, you shall laugh at East winds yet, as I do!
See now, this sad feeling is so strange to me, that I must write it
out, _must_, and you might give me great, the greatest pleasure for
years and yet find me as passive as a stone used to wine libations,
and as ready in expressing my sense of them, but when I am pained, I
find the old theory of the uselessness of communicating the
circumstances of it, singularly untenable. I have been 'spoiled' in
this world--to such an extent, indeed, that I often _reason_ out--make
clear to myself--that I might very properly, so far as myself am
concerned, take any step that would peril the whole of my future
happiness--because the past is gained, secure, and on record; and,
though not another of the old days should dawn on me, I shall not have
lost my life, no! Out of all which you are--please--to make a sort of
sense, if you can, so as to express that I have been deeply struck to
find a new real unmistakable sorrow along with these as real but not
so new joys you have given me. How strangely this connects itself in
my mind with another subject in your note! I looked at that
translation for a minute, not longer, years ago, knowing nothing about
it or you, and I _only_ looked to see what rendering a passage had
received that was often in my thoughts.[1] I forget your version (it
was not _yours_, my _'yours' then_; I mean I had no extraordinary
interest about it), but the original makes Prometheus (telling over
his bestowments towards human happiness) say, as something [Greek:
peraitero tonde], that he stopped mortals [Greek: me proderkesthai
moron--to poion euron], asks the Chorus, [Greek: tesde pharmakon
nosou]? Whereto he replies, [Greek: tuphlas en autois elpidas
katokisa] (what you hear men dissertate upon by the hour, as proving
the immortality of the soul apart from revelation, undying yearnings,
restless longings, instinctive desires which, unless to be eventually
indulged, it were cruel to plant in us, &c. &c.). But, [Greek: meg'
ophelema tout' edoreso brotois]! concludes the chorus, like a sigh
from the admitted Eleusinian AEschylus was! You cannot think how this
foolish circumstance struck me this evening, so I thought I would e'en
tell you at once and be done with it. Are you not my dear friend
already, and shall I not use you? And pray you not to 'lean out of the
window' when my own foot is only on the stair; do wait a little for

                                          Yours _ever_,


[Footnote 1: The following is the version of the passage in Mrs.
Browning's later translation of the 'Prometheus' (II. 247-251 of the

_Prom._              I did restrain besides
             My mortals from premeditating death.

_Cho._ How didst thou medicine the plague-fear of death?

_Prom._ I set blind hopes to inhabit in their house.

_Cho._ By that gift thou didst help thy mortals well.]

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                              March 5, 1845.

But I did not mean to strike a 'tragic chord'; indeed I did not!
Sometimes one's melancholy will be uppermost and sometimes one's
mirth,--the world goes round, you know--and I suppose that in that
letter of mine the melancholy took the turn. As to 'escaping with my
life,' it was just a phrase--at least it did not signify more than
that the sense of mortality, and discomfort of it, is peculiarly
strong with me when east winds are blowing and waters freezing. For
the rest, I am _essentially better_, and have been for several
winters; and I feel as if it were intended for me to live and not die,
and I am reconciled to the feeling. Yes! I am satisfied to 'take up'
with the blind hopes again, and have them in the house with me, for
all that I sit by the window. By the way, did the chorus utter scorn
in the [Greek: meg' ophelema]. I think not. It is well to fly towards
the light, even where there may be some fluttering and bruising of
wings against the windowpanes, is it not?

There is an obscurer passage, on which I covet your thoughts, where
Prometheus, after the sublime declaration that, with a full knowledge
of the penalty reserved for him, he had sinned of free will and
choice--goes on to say--or to seem to say--that he had _not_, however,
foreseen the extent and detail of the torment, the skiey rocks, and
the friendless desolation. See v. 275. The intention of the poet
might have been to magnify to his audience the torment of the
martyrdom--but the heroism of the martyr diminishes in proportion--and
there appears to be a contradiction, and oversight. Or is my view
wrong? Tell me. And tell me too, if AEschylus not the divinest of all
the divine Greek souls? People say after Quintilian, that he is savage
and rude; a sort of poetic Orson, with his locks all wild. But I will
not hear it of my master! He is strong as Zeus is--and not as a
boxer--and tender as Power itself, which always is tenderest.

But to go back to the view of Life with the blind Hopes; you are not
to think--whatever I may have written or implied--that I lean either
to the philosophy or affectation which beholds the world through
darkness instead of light, and speaks of it wailingly. Now, may God
forbid that it should be so with me. I am not desponding by nature,
and after a course of bitter mental discipline and long bodily
seclusion, I come out with two learnt lessons (as I sometimes say and
oftener feel),--the wisdom of cheerfulness--and the duty of social
intercourse. Anguish has instructed me in joy, and solitude in
society; it has been a wholesome and not unnatural reaction. And
altogether, I may say that the earth looks the brighter to me in
proportion to my own deprivations. The laburnum trees and rose trees
are plucked up by the roots--but the sunshine is in their places, and
the root of the sunshine is above the storms. What we call Life is a
condition of the soul, and the soul must improve in happiness and
wisdom, except by its own fault. These tears in our eyes, these
faintings of the flesh, will not hinder such improvement.

And I do like to hear testimonies like yours, to _happiness_, and I
feel it to be a testimony of a higher sort than the obvious one.
Still, it is obvious too that you have been spared, up to this time,
the great natural afflictions, against which we are nearly all called,
sooner or later, to struggle and wrestle--or your step would not be
'on the stair' quite so lightly. And so, we turn to you, dear Mr.
Browning, for comfort and gentle spiriting! Remember that as you owe
your unscathed joy to God, you should pay it back to His world. And I
thank you for some of it already.

Also, writing as from friend to friend--as you say rightly that we
are--I ought to confess that of one class of griefs (which has been
called too the bitterest), I know as little as you. The cruelty of the
world, and the treason of it--the unworthiness of the dearest; of
these griefs I have scanty knowledge. It seems to me from my personal
experience that there is kindness everywhere in different proportions,
and more goodness and tenderheartedness than we read of in the
moralists. People have been kind to _me_, even without understanding
me, and pitiful to me, without approving of me:--nay, have not the
very critics tamed their beardom for me, and roared delicately as
sucking doves, on behalf of me? I have no harm to say of your world,
though I am not of it, as you see. And I have the cream of it in your
friendship, and a little more, and I do not envy much the milkers of
the cows.

How kind you are!--how kindly and gently you speak to me! Some things
you say are very touching, and some, surprising; and although I am
aware that you unconsciously exaggerate what I can be to you, yet it
is delightful to be broad awake and think of you as my friend.

May God bless you!

                                           Faithfully yours,

                                               ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                Tuesday Morning.
                                [Post-mark, March 12, 1845.]

Your letter made me so happy, dear Miss Barrett, that I have kept
quiet this while; is it too great a shame if I begin to want more
good news of you, and to say so? Because there has been a bitter wind
ever since. Will you grant me a great favour? Always when you write,
though about your own works, not Greek plays merely, put me in,
_always_, a little official bulletin-line that shall say 'I am better'
or 'still better,' will you? That is done, then--and now, what do I
wish to tell you first? The poem you propose to make, for the times;
the fearless fresh living work you describe, is the _only_ Poem to be
undertaken now by you or anyone that _is_ a Poet at all; the only
reality, only effective piece of service to be rendered God and man;
it is what I have been all my life intending to do, and now shall be
much, much nearer doing, since you will along with me. And you _can_
do it, I know and am sure--so sure, that I could find in my heart to
be jealous of your stopping in the way even to translate the
Prometheus; though the accompanying monologue will make amends too. Or
shall I set you a task I meant for myself once upon a time?--which,
oh, how you would fulfil! Restore the Prometheus [Greek: purphoros] as
Shelley did the [Greek: Lyomenos]; when I say 'restore,' I know, or
very much fear, that the [Greek: purphoros] was the same with the
[Greek: purkaeus] which, by a fragment, we sorrowfully ascertain to
have been a Satyric Drama; but surely the capabilities of the subject
are much greater than in this, we now wonder at; nay, they include all
those of this last--for just see how magnificently the story unrolls
itself. The beginning of Jupiter's dynasty, the calm in Heaven after
the storm, the ascending--(stop, I will get the book and give the
words), [Greek: opos tachista ton patroon eis thronon kathezet',
euthus daimosin nemei gera alloisin alla--k.t.l.],[1] all the while
Prometheus being the first among the first in honour, as [Greek:
kaitoi theoisi tois neois toutois gera tis allos, e 'go, pantelos
diorise]?[2] then the one black hand-cloudlet storming the joyous
blue and gold everywhere, [Greek: broton de ton talaiporon logon ouk
eschen oudena],[3] and the design of Zeus to blot out the whole race,
and plant a new one. And Prometheus with his grand solitary [Greek:
ego d' etolmesa],[4] and his saving them, as the _first_ good, from
annihilation. Then comes the darkening brow of Zeus, and estrangement
from the benign circle of grateful gods, and the dissuasion of old
confederates, and all the Right that one may fancy in Might, the
strongest reasons [Greek: pauesthai tropou philanthropou][5] coming
from the own mind of the Titan, if you will, and all the while he
shall be proceeding steadily in the alleviation of the sufferings of
mortals whom, [Greek: nepious ontas to prin, ennous kai phrenon
epebolous etheke],[6] while still, in proportion, shall the doom he is
about to draw on himself, manifest itself more and more distinctly,
till at the last, he shall achieve the salvation of man, body (by the
gift of fire) and soul (by even those [Greek: tuphlai elpides],[7]
hopes of immortality), and so having rendered him utterly, according
to the mythos here, _independent_ of Jove--for observe, Prometheus in
the play never talks of helping mortals more, of fearing for them
more, of even benefiting them more by his sufferings. The rest is
between Jove and himself; he will reveal the master-secret to Jove
when he shall have released him, &c. There is no stipulation that the
gifts to mortals shall be continued; indeed, by the fact that it is
Prometheus who hangs on Caucasus while 'the ephemerals possess fire,'
one sees that somehow mysteriously _they_ are past Jove's harming now.
Well, this wholly achieved, the price is as wholly accepted, and off
into the darkness passes in calm triumphant grandeur the Titan, with
Strength and Violence, and Vulcan's silent and downcast eyes, and then
the gold clouds and renewed flushings of felicity shut up the scene
again, with Might in his old throne again, yet with a new element of
mistrust, and conscious shame, and fear, that writes significantly
enough above all the glory and rejoicing that all is not as it was,
nor will ever be. Such might be the framework of your Drama, just what
cannot help striking one at first glance, and would not such a Drama
go well before your translation? Do think of this and tell me--it
nearly writes itself. You see, I meant the [Greek: meg' ophelema][8]
to be a deep great truth; if there were no life beyond this, I think
the hope in one would be an incalculable blessing _for_ this life,
which is melancholy for one like AEschylus to feel, if he could _only_
hope, because the argument as to the ulterior good of those hopes is
cut clean away, and what had he left?

I do not find it take away from my feeling of the magnanimity of
Prometheus that he should, in truth, complain (as he does from
beginning to end) of what he finds himself suffering. He could have
prevented all, and can stop it now--of that he never thinks for a
moment. That was the old Greek way--they never let an antagonistic
passion neutralise the other which was to influence the man to his
praise or blame. A Greek hero fears exceedingly and battles it out,
cries out when he is wounded and fights on, does not say his love or
hate makes him see no danger or feel no pain. AEschylus from first word
to last ([Greek: idesthe me, oia pascho][9] to [Greek: esoras me, hos
ekdika pascho][10]) insists on the unmitigated reality of the
punishment which only the sun, and divine ether, and the godhead of
his mother can comprehend; still, still that is only what I suppose
AEschylus to have done--in your poem you shall make Prometheus our way.

And now enough of Greek, which I am fast forgetting (for I never look
at books I loved once)--it was your mention of the translation that
brought out the old fast fading outlines of the Poem in my brain--the
Greek poem, that is. You think--for I must get to _you_--that I
'unconsciously exaggerate what you are to me.' Now, you don't know
what _that_ is, nor can I very well tell you, because the language
with which I talk to myself of these matters is spiritual Attic, and
'loves contractions,' as grammarians say; but I read it myself, and
well know what it means, that's why I told you I was self-conscious--I
meant that I never yet mistook my own feelings, one for
another--there! Of what use is talking? Only do you stay here with me
in the 'House' these few short years. Do you think I shall see you in
two months, three months? I may travel, perhaps. So you have got to
like society, and would enjoy it, you think? For me, I always hated
it--have put up with it these six or seven years past, lest by
foregoing it I should let some unknown good escape me, in the true
time of it, and only discover my fault when too late; and now that I
have done most of what is to be done, _any_ lodge in a garden of
cucumbers for me! I don't even care about reading now--the world, and
pictures of it, rather than writings about the world! But you must
read books in order to get words and forms for 'the public' if you
_write_, and _that_ you needs must do, if you fear God. I have no
pleasure in writing myself--none, in the mere act--though all pleasure
in the sense of fulfilling a duty, whence, if I have done my real
best, judge how heart-breaking a matter must it be to be pronounced a
poor creature by critic this and acquaintance the other! But I think
you like the operation of writing as I should like that of painting or
making music, do you not? After all, there is a great delight in the
heart of the thing; and use and forethought have made me ready at all
times to set to work--but--I don't know why--my heart sinks whenever I
open this desk, and rises when I shut it. Yet but for what I have
written you would never have heard of me--and _through_ what you have
written, not properly _for_ it, I love and wish you well! Now, will
you remember what I began my letter by saying--how you have promised
to let me know if my wishing takes effect, and if you still continue
better? And not even ... (since we are learned in magnanimity) don't
even tell me that or anything else, if it teases you,--but wait your
own good time, and know me for ... if these words were but my own, and
fresh-minted for this moment's use!...

                                      Yours ever faithfully,

                                           R. BROWNING.

[Footnote 1: Aeschylus, _Prometheus_, 228ff.:

                                'When at first
    He filled his father's throne, he instantly
    Made various gifts of glory to the gods.']

[Footnote 2: _Ib._ 439, 440:

    'For see--their honours to these new-made gods,
    What other gave but I?']

[Footnote 3: _Ib._ 231, 232:

                 'Alone of men,
    Of miserable men, he took no count.']

[Footnote 4: _Ib._ 235: 'But I dared it.']

[Footnote 5: _Ib._ 11: 'Leave off his old trick of loving man.']

[Footnote 6: _Ib._ 443, 444:

                   'Being fools before,
    I made them wise and true in aim of soul.']

[Footnote 7: _Ib._ 250: 'Blind hopes.']

[Footnote 8: _Ib._ 251: 'A great benefit.']

[Footnote 9: _Ib._ 92: 'Behold what I suffer.']

[Footnote 10: _Ib._ 1093: 'Dost see how I suffer this wrong?']

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                          50 Wimpole Street: March 20, 1845.

Whenever I delay to write to you, dear Mr. Browning, it is not, be
sure, that I take my 'own good time,' but submit to my own bad time.
It was kind of you to wish to know how I was, and not unkind of me to
suspend my answer to your question--for indeed I have not been very
well, nor have had much heart for saying so. This implacable weather!
this east wind that seems to blow through the sun and moon! who can be
well in such a wind? Yet for me, I should not grumble. There has been
nothing very bad the matter with me, as there used to be--I only grow
weaker than usual, and learn my lesson of being mortal, in a
corner--and then all this must end! April is coming. There will be
both a May and a June if we live to see such things, and perhaps,
after all, we may. And as to seeing _you_ besides, I observe that you
distrust me, and that perhaps you penetrate my morbidity and guess how
when the moment comes to see a living human face to which I am not
accustomed, I shrink and grow pale in the spirit. Do you? You are
learned in human nature, and you know the consequences of leading such
a secluded life as mine--notwithstanding all my fine philosophy about
social duties and the like--well--if you have such knowledge or if you
have it not, I cannot say, but I do say that I will indeed see you
when the warm weather has revived me a little, and put the earth 'to
rights' again so as to make pleasures of the sort possible. For if you
think that I shall not _like_ to see you, you are wrong, for all your
learning. But I shall be afraid of you at first--though I am not, in
writing thus. You are Paracelsus, and I am a recluse, with nerves that
have been all broken on the rack, and now hang loosely--quivering at a
step and breath.

And what you say of society draws me on to many comparative thoughts
of your life and mine. You seem to have drunken of the cup of life
full, with the sun shining on it. I have lived only inwardly; or with
_sorrow_, for a strong emotion. Before this seclusion of my illness, I
was secluded still, and there are few of the youngest women in the
world who have not seen more, heard more, known more, of society, than
I, who am scarcely to be called young now. I grew up in the
country--had no social opportunities, had my heart in books and
poetry, and my experience in reveries. My sympathies drooped towards
the ground like an untrained honeysuckle--and but for _one_, in my own
house--but of this I cannot speak. It was a lonely life, growing green
like the grass around it. Books and dreams were what I lived in--and
domestic life only seemed to buzz gently around, like the bees about
the grass. And so time passed, and passed--and afterwards, when my
illness came and I seemed to stand at the edge of the world with all
done, and no prospect (as appeared at one time) of ever passing the
threshold of one room again; why then, I turned to thinking with some
bitterness (after the greatest sorrow of my life had given me room and
time to breathe) that I had stood blind in this temple I was about to
leave--that I had seen no Human nature, that my brothers and sisters
of the earth were _names_ to me, that I had beheld no great mountain
or river, nothing in fact. I was as a man dying who had not read
Shakespeare, and it was too late! do you understand? And do you also
know what a disadvantage this ignorance is to my art? Why, if I live
on and yet do not escape from this seclusion, do you not perceive that
I labour under signal disadvantages--that I am, in a manner, as a
_blind poet_? Certainly, there is a compensation to a degree. I have
had much of the inner life, and from the habit of self-consciousness
and self-analysis, I make great guesses at Human nature in the main.
But how willingly I would as a poet exchange some of this lumbering,
ponderous, helpless knowledge of books, for some experience of life
and man, for some....

But all grumbling is a vile thing. We should all thank God for our
measures of life, and think them enough for each of us. I write so,
that you may not mistake what I wrote before in relation to society,
although you do not see from my point of view; and that you may
understand what I mean fully when I say, that I have lived all my
chief _joys_, and indeed nearly all emotions that go warmly by that
name and relate to myself personally, in poetry and in poetry alone.
Like to write? Of course, of course I do. I seem to live while I
write--it is life, for me. Why, what is to live? Not to eat and drink
and breathe,--but to feel the life in you down all the fibres of
being, passionately and joyfully. And thus, one lives in composition
surely--not always--but when the wheel goes round and the procession
is uninterrupted. Is it not so with you? oh--it must be so. For the
rest, there will be necessarily a reaction; and, in my own particular
case, whenever I see a poem of mine in print, or even smoothly
transcribed, the reaction is most painful. The pleasure, the sense of
power, without which I could not write a line, is gone in a moment;
and nothing remains but disappointment and humiliation. I never wrote
a poem which you could not persuade me to tear to pieces if you took
me at the right moment! I have a _seasonable_ humility, I do assure

How delightful to talk about oneself; but as you 'tempted me and I did
eat,' I entreat your longsuffering of my sin, and ah! if you would
but sin back so in turn! You and I seem to meet in a mild contrarious
harmony ... as in the 'si no, si no' of an Italian duet. I want to see
more of men, and you have seen too much, you say. I am in ignorance,
and you, in satiety. 'You don't even care about reading now.' Is it
possible? And I am as 'fresh' about reading, as ever I was--as long as
I keep out of the shadow of the dictionaries and of theological
controversies, and the like. Shall I whisper it to you under the
memory of the last rose of last summer? _I am very fond of romances_;
yes! and I read them not only as some wise people are known to do, for
the sake of the eloquence here and the sentiment there, and the
graphic intermixtures here and there, but for the story! just as
little children would, sitting on their papa's knee. My childish love
of a story never wore out with my love of plum cake, and now there is
not a hole in it. I make it a rule, for the most part, to read all the
romances that other people are kind enough to write--and woe to the
miserable wight who tells me how the third volume endeth. Have you in
you any surviving innocence of this sort? or do you call it idiocy? If
you do, I will forgive you, only smiling to myself--I give you
notice,--with a smile of superior pleasure! Mr. Chorley made me quite
laugh the other day by recommending Mary Hewitt's 'Improvisatore,'
with a sort of deprecating reference to the _descriptions_ in the
book, just as if I never read a novel--_I!_ I wrote a confession back
to him which made him shake his head perhaps, and now I confess to
_you_, unprovoked. I am one who could have forgotten the plague,
listening to Boccaccio's stories; and I am not ashamed of it. I do not
even 'see the better part,' I am so silly.

Ah! you tempt me with a grand vision of Prometheus! _I_, who have just
escaped with my life, after treading Milton's ground, you would send
me to AEschylus's. No, _I do not dare_. And besides ... I am inclined
to think that we want new _forms_, as well as thoughts. The old gods
are dethroned. Why should we go back to the antique moulds, classical
moulds, as they are so improperly called? If it is a necessity of Art
to do so, why then those critics are right who hold that Art is
exhausted and the world too worn out for poetry. I do not, for my
part, believe this: and I believe the so-called necessity of Art to be
the mere feebleness of the artist. Let us all aspire rather to _Life_,
and let the dead bury their dead. If we have but courage to face these
conventions, to touch this low ground, we shall take strength from it
instead of losing it; and of that, I am intimately persuaded. For
there is poetry _everywhere_; the 'treasure' (see the old fable) lies
all over the field. And then Christianity is a worthy _myth_, and
poetically acceptable.

I had much to say to you, or at least something, of the 'blind hopes'
&c., but am ashamed to take a step into a new sheet. If you mean 'to
travel,' why, I shall have to miss you. Do you really mean it? How is
the play going on? and the poem?

May God bless you!

                                       Ever and truly yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                Monday Morning.
                                [Post-mark, March 31, 1845.]

When you read Don Quixote, my dear romance-reader, do you ever notice
that flower of an incident of good fellowship where the friendly
Squire of Him of the Moon, or the Looking glasses, (I forget which)
passes to Sancho's dry lips, (all under a cork-tree one morning)--a
plump wine-skin,--and do you admire dear brave Miguel's knowledge of
thirsty nature when he tells you that the Drinker, having seriously
considered for a space the Pleiads, or place where they should be,
fell, as he slowly returned the shrivelled bottle to its donor, into a
deep musing of an hour's length, or thereabouts, and then ... mark ...
only _then_, fetching a profound sigh, broke silence with ... such a
piece of praise as turns pale the labours in that way of Rabelais and
the Teian (if he wasn't a Byzantine monk, alas!) and our Mr. Kenyon's
stately self--(since my own especial poet _a moi_, that can do all
with anybody, only 'sips like a fly,' she says, and so cares not to
compete with these behemoths that drink up Jordan)--Well, then ...
(oh, I must get quick to the sentence's end, and be brief as an
oracle-explainer!)--the giver is you and the taker is I, and the
letter is the wine, and the star-gazing is the reading the same, and
the brown study is--how shall I deserve and be grateful enough to this
new strange friend of my own, that has taken away my reproach among
men, that have each and all their friend, so they say (... not that I
believe all they say--they boast too soon sometimes, no doubt,--I once
was shown a letter wherein the truth stumbled out after this fashion
'Dere Smith,--I calls you "_dere_" ... because you are so in your
shop!')--and the great sigh is,--there is no deserving nor being
grateful at all,--and the breaking silence is, and the praise is ...
ah, there, enough of it! This sunny morning is as if I wished it for
you--10 strikes by the clock now--tell me if at 10 this morning you
feel any good from my heart's wishes for you--I would give you all you
want out of my own life and gladness and yet keep twice the stock that
should by right have sufficed the thin white face that is laughing at
me in the glass yonder at the fancy of its making anyone afraid ...
and now, with another kind of laugh, at the thought that when its
owner 'travels' next, he will leave off Miss Barrett along with port
wine--_Dii meliora piis_, and, among them to

                   Yours every where, and at all times yours

                        R. BROWNING.

I have all to say yet--next letter. R.B.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                Tuesday Night.
                                [Post-mark, April 16, 1845.]

I heard of you, dear Miss Barrett, between a Polka and a Cellarius the
other evening, of Mr. Kenyon--how this wind must hurt you! And
yesterday I had occasion to go your way--past, that is, Wimpole
Street, the end of it,--and, do you know, I did not seem to have leave
from you to go down it yet, much less count number after number till I
came to yours,--much least than less, look up when I did come there.
So I went on to a viperine she-friend of mine who, I think, rather
loves me she does so hate me, and we talked over the chances of
certain other friends who were to be balloted for at the 'Athenaeum'
last night,--one of whom, it seems, was in a fright about it--'to such
little purpose' said my friend--'for he is so inoffensive--now, if one
were to style _you_ that--' 'Or you'--I said--and so we hugged
ourselves in our grimness like tiger-cats. Then there is a deal in the
papers to-day about Maynooth, and a meeting presided over by Lord
Mayor Gibbs, and the Reverend Mr. Somebody's speech. And Mrs. Norton
has gone and book-made at a great rate about the Prince of Wales,
pleasantly putting off till his time all that used of old to be put
off till his mother's time;--altogether, I should dearly like to hear
from you, but not till the wind goes, and sun comes--because I shall
see Mr. Kenyon next week and get him to tell me some more. By the way,
do you suppose anybody else looks like him? If you do, the first room
full of real London people you go among you will fancy to be lighted
up by a saucer of burning salt and spirits of wine in the back ground.

Monday--last night when I could do nothing else I began to write to
you, such writing as you have seen--strange! The proper time and
season for good sound sensible and profitable forms of speech--when
ought it to have occurred, and how did I evade it in these letters of
mine? For people begin with a graceful skittish levity, lest you
should be struck all of a heap with what is to come, and _that_ is
sure to be the stuff and staple of the man, full of wisdom and
sorrow,--and then again comes the fringe of reeds and pink little
stones on the other side, that you may put foot on land, and draw
breath, and think what a deep pond you have swum across. But _you_ are
the real deep wonder of a creature,--and I sail these paper-boats on
you rather impudently. But I always mean to be very grave one
day,--when I am in better spirits and can go _fuori di me_.

And one thing I want to persuade you of, which is, that all you gain
by travel is the discovery that you have gained nothing, and have done
rightly in trusting to your innate ideas--or not rightly in
distrusting them, as the case may be. You get, too, a little ...
perhaps a considerable, good, in finding the world's accepted _moulds_
everywhere, into which you may run and fix your own fused metal,--but
not a grain Troy-weight do you get of new gold, silver or brass. After
this, you go boldly on your own resources, and are justified to
yourself, that's all. Three scratches with a pen,[1] even with this
pen,--and you have the green little Syrenusa where I have sate and
heard the quails sing. One of these days I shall describe a country I
have seen in my soul only, fruits, flowers, birds and all.

                              Ever yours, dear Miss Barrett,

                                   R. BROWNING.

[Footnote 1: A rough sketch follows in the original.]

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                Thursday Morning.
                                [Post-mark, April 18, 1845.]

If you did but know dear Mr. Browning how often I have written ... not
this letter I am about to write, but another better letter to you, ...
in the midst of my silence, ... you would not think for a moment that
the east wind, with all the harm it does to me, is able to do the
great harm of putting out the light of the thought of you to my mind;
for this, indeed, it has no power to do. I had the pen in my hand once
to write; and why it fell out, I cannot tell you. And you see, ... all
your writing will not change the wind! You wished all manner of good
to me one day as the clock struck ten; yes, and I assure you I was
better that day--and I must not forget to tell you so though it is so
long since. And _therefore_, I was logically bound to believe that you
had never thought of me since ... unless you thought east winds of me!
_That_ was quite clear; was it not? or would have been; if it had not
been for the supernatural conviction, I had above all, of your
kindness, which was too large to be taken in the hinge of a syllogism.
In fact I have long left off thinking that logic proves anything--it
_doesn't_, you know.

But your Lamia has taught you some subtle 'viperine' reasoning and
_motiving_, for the turning down one street instead of another. It was

Ah--but you will never persuade me that I am the better, or as well,
for the thing that I have not. We look from different points of view,
and yours is the point of attainment. Not that you do not truly say
that, when all is done, we must come home to place our engines, and
act by our own strength. I do not want material as material; no one
does--but every life requires a full experience, a various
experience--and I have a profound conviction that where a poet has
been shut from most of the outward aspects of life, he is at a
lamentable disadvantage. Can you, speaking for yourself, separate the
results in you from the external influences at work around you, that
you say so boldly that you get nothing from the world? You do not
_directly_, I know--but you do indirectly and by a rebound. Whatever
acts upon you, becomes _you_--and whatever you love or hate, whatever
charms you or is scorned by you, acts on you and becomes _you_. Have
you read the 'Improvisatore'? or will you? The writer seems to feel,
just as I do, the good of the outward life; and he is a poet in his
soul. It is a book full of beauty and had a great charm to me.

As to the Polkas and Cellariuses I do not covet them of course ... but
what a strange world you seem to have, to me at a distance--what a
strange husk of a world! How it looks to me like mandarin-life or
something as remote; nay, not mandarin-life but mandarin _manners_,
... life, even the outer life, meaning something deeper, in my account
of it. As to dear Mr. Kenyon I do not make the mistake of fancying
that many can look like him or talk like him or _be_ like him. I know
enough to know otherwise. When he spoke of me he should have said that
I was better notwithstanding the east wind. It is really true--I am
getting slowly up from the prostration of the severe cold, and feel
stronger in myself.

But Mrs. Norton discourses excellent music--and for the rest, there
are fruits in the world so over-ripe, that they will fall, ... without
being gathered. Let Maynooth witness to it! _if you think it worth

                                  Ever yours,

                                       ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

And _is it_ nothing to be 'justified to one's self in one's
resources?' '_That's all_,' indeed! For the 'soul's country' we will
have it also--and I know how well the birds sing in it. How glad I was
by the way to see your letter!

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                Wednesday Morning.
                                [Post-mark, April 30, 1845.]

If you did but know, dear Miss Barrett, how the 'full stop' after
'Morning' just above, has turned out the fullest of stops,--and how
for about a quarter of an hour since the ink dried I have been
reasoning out the why and wherefore of the stopping, the wisdom of it,
and the folly of it....

By this time you see what you have got in me--You ask me questions,
'if I like novels,' 'if the "Improvisatore" is not good,' 'if travel
and sightseeing do not effect this and that for one,' and 'what I am
devising--play or poem,'--and I shall not say I could not answer at
all manner of lengths--but, let me only begin some good piece of
writing of the kind, and ... no, you shall have it, have what I was
going to tell you stops such judicious beginnings,--in a parallel
case, out of which your ingenuity shall, please, pick the
meaning--There is a story of D'Israeli's, an old one, with an episode
of strange interest, or so I found it years ago,--well, you go
breathlessly on with the people of it, page after page, till at last
the end _must_ come, you feel--and the tangled threads draw to one,
and an out-of-door feast in the woods helps you ... that is, helps
them, the people, wonderfully on,--and, lo, dinner is done, and Vivian
Grey is here, and Violet Fane there,--and a detachment of the party is
drafted off to go catch butterflies, and only two or three stop
behind. At this moment, Mr. Somebody, a good man and rather the lady's
uncle, 'in answer to a question from Violet, drew from his pocket a
small neatly written manuscript, and, seating himself on an inverted
wine-cooler, proceeded to read the following brief remarks upon the
characteristics of the Moeso-gothic literature'--this ends the
page,--which you don't turn at once! But when you _do_, in bitterness
of soul, turn it, you read--'On consideration, I' (Ben, himself)
'shall keep them for Mr. Colburn's _New Magazine_'--and deeply you
draw thankful breath! (Note this 'parallel case' of mine is pretty
sure to meet the usual fortune of my writings--you will ask what it
means--and this it means, or should mean, all of it, instance and
reasoning and all,--that I am naturally earnest, in earnest about
whatever thing I do, and little able to write about one thing while I
think of another)--

I think I will really write verse to you some day--_this_ day, it is
quite clear I had better give up trying.

No, spite of all the lines in the world, I will make an end of it, as
Ophelia with her swan's-song,--for it grows too absurd. But remember
that I write letters to nobody but you, and that I want method and
much more. That book you like so, the Danish novel, must be full of
truth and beauty, to judge from the few extracts I have seen in
Reviews. That a Dane should write so, confirms me in an old
belief--that Italy is stuff for the use of the North, and no
more--pure Poetry there is none, nearly as possible none, in Dante
even--material for Poetry in the pitifullest romancist of their
thousands, on the contrary--strange that those great wide black eyes
should stare nothing out of the earth that lies before them! Alfieri,
with even grey eyes, and a life of travel, writes you some fifteen
tragedies as colourless as salad grown under a garden glass with
matting over it--as free, that is, from local colouring, touches of
the soil they are said to spring from,--think of 'Saulle,' and his
Greek attempts!

I expected to see Mr. Kenyon, at a place where I was last week, but he
kept away. Here is the bad wind back again, and the black sky. I am
sure I never knew till now whether the East or West or South were the
quarter to pray for--But surely the weather was a little better last
week, and you, were you not better? And do you know--but it's all
self-flattery I believe,--still I cannot help fancying the East wind
does my head harm too!

                                      Ever yours faithfully,

                                           R. BROWNING.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                   [Post-mark, May 2, 1845.]

People say of you and of me, dear Mr. Browning, that we love the
darkness and use a sphinxine idiom in our talk; and really you do talk
a little like a sphinx in your argument drawn from 'Vivian Grey.' Once
I sate up all night to read 'Vivian Grey'; but I never drew such an
argument from him. Not that I give it up (nor _you_ up) for a mere
mystery. Nor that I can '_see what you have got in you_,' from a mere
guess. But just observe! If I ask questions about novels, is it not
because I want to know how much elbow-room there may be for our
sympathies ... and whether there is room for my loose sleeves, and the
lace lappets, as well as for my elbows; and because I want to see
_you_ by the refracted lights as well as by the direct ones; and
because I am willing for you to know _me_ from the beginning, with all
my weaknesses and foolishnesses, ... as they are accounted by people
who say to me 'no one would ever think, without knowing you, that you
were so and so.' Now if I send all my idle questions to _Colburn's
Magazine_, with other Gothic literature, and take to standing up in a
perpendicular personality like the angel on the schoolman's needle, in
my letters to come, without further leaning to the left or the
right--why the end would be that _you_ would take to 'running after
the butterflies,' for change of air and exercise. And then ... oh ...
then, my 'small neatly written manuscripts' might fall back into my
desk...! (_Not_ a 'full stop'!.)

Indeed ... I do assure you ... I never for a moment thought of 'making
conversation' about the 'Improvisatore' or novels in general, when I
wrote what I did to you. I might, to other persons ... perhaps.
Certainly not to _you_. I was not dealing round from one pack of cards
to you and to others. That's what you meant to reproach me for you
know,--and of that, I am not guilty at all. I never could think of
'making conversation' in a letter to _you_--never. Women are said to
partake of the nature of children--and my brothers call me 'absurdly
childish' sometimes: and I am capable of being childishly 'in earnest'
about novels, and straws, and such 'puppydogs' tails' as my Flush's!
Also I write more letters than you do, ... I write in fact almost as
you pay visits, ... and one has to 'make conversation' in turn, of
course. _But_--give me something to vow by--whatever you meant in the
'Vivian Grey' argument, you were wrong in it! and you never can be
much more wrong--which is a comfortable reflection.

Yet you leap very high at Dante's crown--or you do not leap, ... you
simply extend your hand to it, and make a rustling among the laurel
leaves, which is somewhat prophane. Dante's poetry only materials for
the northern rhymers! I must think of that ... if you please ...
before I agree with you. Dante's poetry seems to come down in hail,
rather than in rain--but count me the drops congealed in one
hailstone! Oh! the 'Flight of the Duchess'--do let us hear more of
her! Are you (I wonder) ... not a 'self-flatterer,' ... but ... a

                                                 Ever yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                   Saturday Morning.
                                   [Post-mark, May 3, 1845.]

Now shall you see what you shall see--here shall be 'sound speech not
to be reproved,'--for this morning you are to know that the soul of me
has it all her own way, dear Miss Barrett, this green cool
nine-in-the-morning time for my chestnut tree over there, and for me
who only coaxed my good-natured--(really)--body up, after its
three-hours' night-rest on condition it should lounge, or creep about,
incognito and without consequences--and so it shall, all but my
right-hand which is half-spirit and 'cuts' its poor relation, and
passes itself off for somebody (that is, some soul) and is doubly
active and ready on such occasions--Now I shall tell you all about it,
first what last letter meant, and then more. You are to know, then
that for some reason, that looked like an instinct, I thought I ought
not to send shaft on shaft, letter-plague on letter, with such an
uninterrupted clanging ... that I ought to wait, say a week at least
having killed all your mules for you, before I shot down your
dogs--but not being exactly Phoibos Apollon, you are to know further
that when I _did_ think I might go modestly on, ... [Greek: omoi], let
me get out of this slough of a simile, never mind with what
dislocation of ancles! Plainly, from waiting and turning my eyes away
(not from _you_, but from you in your special capacity of being
_written_-to, not spoken-to) when I turned again you had grown
formidable somehow--though that's not the word,--nor are you the
person, either,--it was my fortune, my privilege of being your friend
this one way, that it seemed a shame for me to make no better use of
than taking it up with talk about books and I don't know what. Write
what I will, you would read for once, I think--well, then,--what I
shall write shall be--something on this book, and the other book, and
my own books, and Mary Hewitt's books, and at the end of it--good bye,
and I hope here is a quarter of an hour rationally spent. So the
thought of what I should find in my heart to say, and the contrast
with what I suppose I ought to say ... all these things are against
me. But this is very foolish, all the same, I need not be told--and is
part and parcel of an older--indeed primitive body of mine, which I
shall never wholly get rid of, of desiring to do nothing when I cannot
do all; seeing nothing, getting, enjoying nothing, where there is no
seeing and getting and enjoying _wholly_--and in this case, moreover,
you are _you_, and know something about me, if not much, and have read
Bos on the art of supplying Ellipses, and (after, particularly, I have
confessed all this, why and how it has been) you will _subaudire_ when
I pull out my Mediaeval-Gothic-Architectural-Manuscript (so it was, I
remember now,) and instruct you about corbeils and ogives ... though,
after all, it was none of Vivian's doing, that,--all the uncle kind or
man's, which I never professed to be. Now you see how I came to say
some nonsense (I very vaguely think _what_) about Dante--some
desperate splash I know I made for the beginning of my picture, as
when a painter at his wits' end and hunger's beginning says 'Here
shall the figure's hand be'--and spots _that_ down, meaning to reach
it naturally from the other end of his canvas,--and leaving off tired,
there you see the spectral disjoined thing, and nothing between it and
rationality. I intended to shade down and soften off and put in and
leave out, and, before I had done, bring Italian Poets round to their
old place again in my heart, giving new praise if I took old,--anyhow
Dante is out of it all, as who knows but I, with all of him in my head
and heart? But they do fret one, those tantalizing creatures, of fine
passionate class, with such capabilities, and such a facility of being
made pure mind of. And the special instance that vexed me, was that a
man of sands and dog-roses and white rock and green sea-water just
under, should come to Italy where my heart lives, and discover the
sights and sounds ... certainly discover them. And so do all Northern
writers; for take up handfuls of sonetti, rime, poemetti, doings of
those who never did anything else,--and try and make out, for
yourself, what ... say, what flowers they tread on, or trees they walk
under,--as you might bid _them_, those tree and flower loving
creatures, pick out of _our_ North poetry a notion of what _our_
daisies and harebells and furze bushes and brambles are--'Odorosi
fioretti, rose porporine, bianchissimi gigli.' And which of you
eternal triflers was it called yourself 'Shelley' and so told me years
ago that in the mountains it was a feast

    When one should find those globes of deep red gold--
    Which in the woods the strawberry-tree doth bear,
    Suspended in their emerald atmosphere.

so that when my Uncle walked into a sorb-tree, not to tumble sheer
over Monte Calvano, and I felt the fruit against my face, the little
ragged bare-legged guide fairly laughed at my knowing them so
well--'Niursi--sorbi!' No, no,--does not all Naples-bay and half
Sicily, shore and inland, come flocking once a year to the Piedigrotta
fete only to see the blessed King's Volanti, or livery servants all in
their best; as though heaven opened; and would not I engage to bring
the whole of the Piano (of Sorrento) in likeness to a red velvet
dressing gown properly spangled over, before the priest that held it
out on a pole had even begun his story of how Noah's son Shem, the
founder of Sorrento, threw it off to swim thither, as the world knows
he did? Oh, it makes one's soul angry, so enough of it. But never
enough of telling you--bring all your sympathies, come with loosest
sleeves and longest lace-lappets, and you and yours shall find 'elbow
room,' oh, shall you not! For never did man, woman or child, Greek,
Hebrew, or as Danish as our friend, like a thing, not to say love it,
but I liked and loved it, one liking neutralizing the rebellious stir
of its fellow, so that I don't go about now wanting the fixed stars
before my time; this world has not escaped me, thank God; and--what
other people say is the best of it, may not escape me after all,
though until so very lately I made up my mind to do without
it;--perhaps, on that account, and to make fair amends to other
people, who, I have no right to say, complain without cause. I have
been surprised, rather, with something not unlike illness of late--I
have had a constant pain in the head for these two months, which only
very rough exercise gets rid of, and which stops my 'Luria' and much
besides. I thought I never could be unwell. Just now all of it is
gone, thanks to polking all night and walking home by broad daylight
to the surprise of the thrushes in the bush here. And do you know I
said 'this must _go_, cannot mean to stay, so I will not tell Miss
Barrett why this and this is not done,'--but I mean to tell you all,
or more of the truth, because you call me 'flatterer,' so that my eyes
widened again! I, and in what? And of whom, pray? not of _you_, at all
events,--of whom then? _Do_ tell me, because I want to stand with
you--and am quite in earnest there. And 'The Flight of the Duchess,'
to leave nothing out, is only the beginning of a story written some
time ago, and given to poor Hood in his emergency at a day's
notice,--the true stuff and story is all to come, the 'Flight,' and
what you allude to is the mere introduction--but the Magazine has
passed into other hands and I must put the rest in some 'Bell' or
other--it is one of my Dramatic Romances. So is a certain 'Saul' I
should like to show you one day--an ominous liking--for nobody ever
sees what I do till it is printed. But as you _do_ know the printed
little part of me, I should not be sorry if, in justice, you knew all
I have _really_ done,--written in the portfolio there,--though that
would be far enough from _this_ me, that wishes to you now. I should
like to write something in concert with you, how I would try!

I have read your letter through again. Does this clear up all the
difficulty, and do you see that I never dreamed of 'reproaching you
for dealing out one sort of cards to me and everybody else'--but that
... why, '_that_' which I have, I hope, said, so need not resay. I
will tell you--Sydney Smith laughs somewhere at some Methodist or
other whose wont was, on meeting an acquaintance in the street, to
open at once on him with some enquiry after the state of his
soul--Sydney knows better now, and sees that one might quite as wisely
ask such questions as the price of Illinois stock or condition of
glebe-land,--and I _could_ say such--'could,'--the plague of it! So no
more at present from your loving.... Or, let me tell you I am going to
see Mr. Kenyon on the 12th inst.--that you do not tell me how you are,
and that yet if you do not continue to improve in health ... I shall
not see you--not--not--not--what 'knots' to untie! Surely the wind
that sets my chestnut-tree dancing, all its baby-cone-blossoms, green
now, rocking like fairy castles on a hill in an earthquake,--that is
South West, surely! God bless you, and me in that--and do write to me
soon, and tell me who was the 'flatterer,' and how he never was



_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                   Monday--and Tuesday.
                                   [Post-mark, May 6, 1845.]

So when wise people happen to be ill, they sit up till six o'clock in
the morning and get up again at nine? Do tell me how Lurias can ever
be made out of such ungodly imprudences. If the wind blows east or
west, where can any remedy be, while such evil deeds are being
committed? And what is to be the end of it? And what is the
reasonableness of it in the meantime, when we all know that thinking,
dreaming, creating people like yourself, have two lives to bear
instead of one, and therefore ought to sleep more than others, ...
throwing over and buckling in that fold of death, to stroke the
life-purple smoother. You have to live your own personal life, and
also Luria's life--and therefore you should sleep for both. It is
logical indeed--and rational, ... which logic is not always ... and if
I had 'the tongue of men and of angels,' I would use it to persuade
you. Polka, for the rest, may be good; but sleep is better. I think
better of sleep than I ever did, now that she will not easily come
near me except in a red hood of poppies. And besides, ... praise your
'goodnatured body' as you like, ... it is only a seeming goodnature!
Bodies bear malice in a terrible way, be very sure!--appear mild and
smiling for a few short years, and then ... out with a cold steel; and
the _soul has it_, 'with a vengeance,' ... according to the phrase!
You will not persist, (will you?) in this experimental homicide. Or
tell me if you will, that I may do some more tearing. It really,
really is wrong. Exercise is one sort of rest and you feel relieved by
it--and sleep is another: one being as necessary as the other.

This is the first thing I have to say. The next is a question. _What
do you mean about your manuscripts ... about 'Saul' and the
portfolio?_ for I am afraid of hazardously supplying ellipses--and
your 'Bos' comes to [Greek: bous epi glosse].[1] I get half bribed to
silence by the very pleasure of fancying. But if it could be possible
that you should mean to say you would show me.... Can it be? or am I
reading this 'Attic contraction' quite the wrong way? You see I am
afraid of the difference between flattering myself and being
flattered; the fatal difference. And now will you understand that I
should be too overjoyed to have revelations from the 'Portfolio,' ...
however incarnated with blots and pen-scratches, ... to be able to ask
impudently of them now? Is that plain?

It must be, ... at any rate, ... that if _you_ would like to 'write
something together' with me, _I_ should like it still better. I should
like it for some ineffable reasons. And I should not like it a bit the
less for the grand supply of jests it would administer to the critical
Board of Trade, about visible darkness, multiplied by two, mounting
into palpable obscure. We should not mind ... should we? _you_ would
not mind, if you had got over certain other considerations
deconsiderating to your coadjutor. Yes--but I dare not do it, ... I
mean, think of it, ... just now, if ever: and I will tell you why in a
Mediaeval-Gothic-architectural manuscript.

The only poet by profession (if I may say so,) except yourself, with
whom I ever had much intercourse even on paper, (if this is near to
'much') has been Mr. Horne. We approached each other on the point of
one of Miss Mitford's annual editorships; and ever since, he has had
the habit of writing to me occasionally; and when I was too ill to
write at all, in my dreary Devonshire days, I was his debtor for
various little kindnesses, ... for which I continue his debtor. In my
opinion he is a truehearted and generous man. Do you not think so?
Well--long and long ago, he asked me to write a drama with him on the
Greek model; that is, for me to write the choruses, and for him to do
the dialogue. Just then it was quite doubtful in my own mind, and
worse than doubtful, whether I ever should write again; and the very
doubtfulness made me speak my 'yes' more readily. Then I was desired
to make a subject, ... to conceive a plan; and my plan was of a man,
haunted by his own soul, ... (making her a separate personal Psyche, a
dreadful, beautiful Psyche)--the man being haunted and terrified
through all the turns of life by her. Did you ever feel afraid of your
own soul, as I have done? I think it is a true wonder of our
humanity--and fit subject enough for a wild lyrical drama. I should
like to write it by myself at least, well enough. But with him I will
not now. It was delayed ... delayed. He cut the plan up into scenes
... I mean into a list of scenes ... a sort of ground-map to work
on--and there it lies. Nothing more was done. It all lies in one
sheet--and I have offered to give up my copyright of idea in it--if he
likes to use it alone--or I should not object to work it out alone on
my own side, since it comes from me: only I will not consent now to a
_double work_ in it. There are objections--none, be it well
understood, in Mr. Horne's disfavour,--for I think of him as well at
this moment, and the same in all essential points, as I ever did. He
is a man of fine imagination, and is besides good and generous. In the
course of our acquaintance (on paper--for I never saw him) I never was
angry with him except once; and then, _I_ was quite wrong and had to
confess it. But this is being too 'mediaeval.' Only you will see from
it that I am a little entangled on the subject of compound works, and
must look where I tread ... and you will understand (if you ever hear
from Mr. Kenyon or elsewhere that I am going to write a compound-poem
with Mr. Horne) how it _was_ true, and isn't true any more.

Yes--you are going to Mr. Kenyon's on the 12th--and yes--my brother
and sister are going to meet you and your sister there one day to
dinner. Shall I have courage to see you soon, I wonder! If you ask me,
I must ask myself. But oh, this make-believe May--it can't be May
after all! If a south-west wind sate in your chestnut tree, it was but
for a few hours--the east wind 'came up this way' by the earliest
opportunity of succession. As the old 'mysteries' showed 'Beelzebub
with a bearde,' even so has the east wind had a 'bearde' of late, in a
full growth of bristling exaggerations--the English spring-winds have
excelled themselves in evil this year; and I have not been down-stairs
yet.--_But_ I am certainly stronger and better than I was--that is
undeniable--and I _shall_ be better still. You are not going away
soon--are you? In the meantime you do not know what it is to be ... a
little afraid of Paracelsus. So right about the Italians! and the
'rose porporine' which made me smile. How is the head?

                                                 Ever yours,


Is the 'Flight of the Duchess' in the portfolio? Of course you must
ring the Bell. That poem has a strong heart in it, to begin _so_
strongly. Poor Hood! And all those thoughts fall mixed together. May
God bless you.

[Footnote 1: Aeschylus, _Agamemnon_ 36: 'An ox hath trodden on my
tongue'--a Greek proverb implying silence.]

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Sunday--in the last hour of it.
                             [Post-mark, May 12, 1845.]

May I ask how the head is? just under the bag? Mr. Kenyon was here
to-day and told me such bad news that I cannot sleep to-night
(although I did think once of doing it) without asking such a question
as this, dear Mr. Browning.

Let me hear how you are--Will you? and let me hear (if I can) that it
was prudence or some unchristian virtue of the sort, and not a dreary
necessity, which made you put aside the engagement for Tuesday--for
Monday. I had been thinking so of seeing you on Tuesday ... with my
sister's eyes--for the first sight.

And now if you have done killing the mules and the dogs, let me have
a straight quick arrow for myself, if you please. Just a word, to say
how you are. I ask for no more than a word, lest the writing should be
hurtful to you.

                                   May God bless you always.

                                        Your friend,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                  [Post-mark, May 12, 1845.]

My dear, own friend, I am quite well now, or next to it--but this is
how it was,--I have gone out a great deal of late, and my head took to
ringing such a literal alarum that I wondered what was to come of it;
and at last, a few evenings ago, as I was dressing for a dinner
somewhere, I got really bad of a sudden, and kept at home to my
friend's heartrending disappointment. Next morning I was no
better--and it struck me that I should be really disappointing dear
kind Mr. Kenyon, and wasting his time, if that engagement, too, were
broken with as little warning,--so I thought it best to forego all
hopes of seeing him, at such a risk. And that done, I got rid of every
other promise to pay visits for next week and next, and told
everybody, with considerable dignity, that my London season was over
for this year, as it assuredly is--and I shall be worried no more, and
let walk in the garden, and go to bed at ten o'clock, and get done
with what is most expedient to do, and my 'flesh shall come again like
a little child's,' and one day, oh the day, I shall see you with my
own, own eyes ... for, how little you understand me; or rather,
yourself,--if you think I would dare see you, without your leave, that
way! Do you suppose that your power of giving and refusing ends when
you have shut your room-door? Did I not tell you I turned down another
street, even, the other day, and why not down yours? And often as I
see Mr. Kenyon, have I ever dreamed of asking any but the merest
conventional questions about you; your health, and no more?

I will answer your letter, the last one, to-morrow--I have said
nothing of what I want to say.

                                                  Ever yours


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                  Tuesday Morning.
                                  [Post-mark, May 13, 1845.]

Did I thank you with any effect in the lines I sent yesterday, dear
Miss Barrett? I know I felt most thankful, and, of course, began
reasoning myself into the impropriety of allowing a 'more' or a 'most'
in feelings of that sort towards you. I am thankful for you, all about
you--as, do you not know?

Thank you, from my soul.

Now, let me never pass occasion of speaking well of Horne, who
deserves your opinion of him,--it is my own, too.--He has unmistakable
genius, and is a fine, honest, enthusiastic chivalrous fellow--it is
the fashion to affect to sneer at him, of late, I think--the people he
has praised fancying that they 'pose' themselves sculpturesquely in
playing the Greatly Indifferent, and the other kind shaking each
other's hands in hysterical congratulations at having escaped such a
dishonour: _I_ feel grateful to him, I know, for his generous
criticism, and glad and proud of in any way approaching such a man's
standard of poetical height. And he might be a disappointed man
too,--for the players trifled with and teased out his very nature,
which has a strange aspiration for the horrible tin-and-lacquer
'crown' they give one from their clouds (of smooth shaven deal done
over blue)--and he don't give up the bad business yet, but thinks a
'small' theatre would somehow not be a theatre, and an actor not quite
an actor ... I forget in what way, but the upshot is, he bates not a
jot in that rouged, wigged, padded, empty-headed, heartless tribe of
grimacers that came and canted me; not I, them;--a thing he cannot
understand--_so_, I am not the one he would have picked out to
praise, had he not been _loyal_. I know he admires your poetry
properly. God help him, and send some great artist from the country,
(who can read and write beside comprehending Shakspeare, and who
'exasperates his H's' when the feat is to be done)--to undertake the
part of Cosmo, or Gregory, or what shall most soothe his spirit! The
subject of your play is tempting indeed--and reminds one of that wild
Drama of Calderon's which frightened Shelley just before his
death--also, of Fuseli's theory with reference to his own Picture of
Macbeth in the witches' cave ... wherein the apparition of the armed
head from the cauldron is Macbeth's own.

'If you ask me, I must ask myself'--that is, when I am to see you--I
will _never_ ask you! You do _not_ know what I shall estimate that
permission at,--nor do I, quite--but you do--do not you? know so much
of me as to make my 'asking' worse than a form--I do not 'ask' you to
write to me--not _directly_ ask, at least.

I will tell you--I ask you _not_ to see me so long as you are unwell,
or mistrustful of--

No, no, that is being too grand! Do see me when you can, and let me
not be only writing myself



A kind, so kind, note from Mr. Kenyon came. We, I and my sister, are
to go in June instead.... I shall go nowhere till then; I am nearly
well--all save one little wheel in my head that keeps on its

[Illustration: Music: bass clef, B-flat, _Sostenuto_]

That you are better I am most thankful.

'Next letter' to say how you must help me with all my new Romances and
Lyrics, and Lays and Plays, and read them and heed them and end them
and mend them!

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                  [Post-mark, May 16, 1845.]

But how 'mistrustfulness'? And how 'that way?' What have I said or
done, _I_, who am not apt to _be_ mistrustful of anybody and should be
a miraculous monster if I began with _you_! What can I have said, I
say to myself again and again.

One thing, at any rate, I have done, 'that way' or this way! I have
made what is vulgarly called a 'piece of work' about little; or seemed
to make it. Forgive me. I am shy by nature:--and by position and
experience, ... by having had my nerves shaken to excess, and by
leading a life of such seclusion, ... by these things together and by
others besides, I have appeared shy and ungrateful to you. Only not
mistrustful. You could not mean to judge me so. Mistrustful people do
not write as I write, surely! for wasn't it a Richelieu or Mazarin (or
who?) who said that with five lines from anyone's hand, he could take
off his head for a corollary? I think so.

Well!--but this is to prove that I am not mistrustful, and to say,
that if you care to come to see me you can come; and that it is my
gain (as I feel it to be) and not yours, whenever you do come. You
will not talk of having come afterwards I know, because although I am
'fast bound' to see one or two persons this summer (besides yourself,
whom I receive of choice and willingly) I _cannot_ admit visitors in a
general way--and putting the question of health quite aside, it would
be unbecoming to lie here on the sofa and make a company-show of an
infirmity, and hold a beggar's hat for sympathy. I should blame it in
another woman--and the sense of it has had its weight with me

For the rest, ... when you write, that _I_ do not know how you would
value, &c. _nor yourself quite_, you touch very accurately on the
truth ... and _so_ accurately in the last clause, that to read it,
made me smile 'tant bien que mal.' Certainly you cannot 'quite know,'
or know at all, whether the least straw of pleasure can go to you from
knowing me otherwise than on this paper--and I, for my part, 'quite
know' my own honest impression, dear Mr. Browning, that none is likely
to go to you. There is nothing to see in me; nor to hear in me--I
never learnt to talk as you do in London; although I can admire that
brightness of carved speech in Mr. Kenyon and others. If my poetry is
worth anything to any eye, it is the flower of me. I have lived most
and been most happy in it, and so it has all my colours; the rest of
me is nothing but a root, fit for the ground and the dark. And if I
write all this egotism, ... it is for shame; and because I feel
ashamed of having made a fuss about what is not worth it; and because
you are extravagant in caring so for a permission, which will be
nothing to you afterwards. Not that I am not touched by your caring so
at all! I am deeply touched now; and presently, ... I shall
understand. Come then. There will be truth and simplicity for you in
any case; and a friend. And do not answer this--I do not write it as a
fly trap for compliments. Your spider would scorn me for it too much.
Also, ... as to the how and when. You are not well now, and it cannot
be good for you to do anything but be quiet and keep away that
dreadful musical note in the head. I entreat you not to think of
coming until _that_ is all put to silence satisfactorily. When it is
done, ... you must choose whether you would like best to come with Mr.
Kenyon or to come alone--and if you would come alone, you must just
tell me on what day, and I will see you on any day unless there should
be an unforeseen obstacle, ... any day after two, or before six. And
my sister will bring you up-stairs to me; and we will talk; or _you_
will talk; and you will try to be indulgent, and like me as well as
you can. If, on the other hand, you would rather come with Mr. Kenyon,
you must wait, I imagine, till June,--because he goes away on Monday
and is not likely immediately to return--no, on Saturday, to-morrow.

In the meantime, why I should be '_thanked_,' is an absolute mystery
to me--but I leave it!

You are generous and impetuous; _that_, I can see and feel; and so far
from being of an inclination to mistrust you or distrust you, I do
profess to have as much faith in your full, pure loyalty, as if I had
known you personally as many years as I have appreciated your genius.
Believe this of me--for it is spoken truly.

In the matter of Shakespeare's 'poor players' you are severe--and yet
I was glad to hear you severe--it is a happy excess, I think. When men
of intense reality, as all great poets must be, give their hearts to
be trodden on and tied up with ribbons in turn, by men of masks, there
will be torture if there is not desecration. Not that I know much of
such things--but I have _heard_. Heard from Mr. Kenyon; heard from
Miss Mitford; who however is passionately fond of the theatre as a
writer's medium--_not at all_, from Mr. Horne himself, ... except what
he has printed on the subject.

Yes--he has been infamously used on the point of the 'New
Spirit'--only he should have been prepared for the infamy--it was
leaping into a gulph, ... not to 'save the republic,' but '_pour
rire_': it was not merely putting one's foot into a hornet's nest, but
taking off a shoe and stocking to do it. And to think of Dickens being
dissatisfied! To think of Tennyson's friends grumbling!--he himself
did not, I hope and trust. For you, you certainly were not adequately
treated--and above all, you were not placed with your _peers_ in that
chapter--but that there was an intention to do you justice, and that
there _is_ a righteous appreciation of you in the writer, I know and
am sure,--and that _you_ should be sensible to this, is only what I
should know and be sure of _you_. Mr. Horne is quite above the narrow,
vicious, hateful jealousy of contemporaries, which we hear reproached,
too justly sometimes, on men of letters.

I go on writing as if I were not going to see you--soon perhaps.
Remember that the how and the when rest with you--except that it
cannot be before next week at the soonest. You are to decide.

                                         Always your friend,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                  Friday Night.
                                  [Post-mark, May 17, 1845.]

My friend is not 'mistrustful' of me, no, because she don't fear I
shall make mainprize of the stray cloaks and umbrellas down-stairs, or
turn an article for _Colburn's_ on her sayings and doings
up-stairs,--but spite of that, she does mistrust ... _so_ mistrust my
common sense,--nay, uncommon and dramatic-poet's sense, if I am put on
asserting it!--all which pieces of mistrust I could detect, and catch
struggling, and pin to death in a moment, and put a label in, with
name, genus and species, just like a horrible entomologist; only I
won't, because the first visit of the Northwind will carry the whole
tribe into the Red Sea--and those horns and tails and scalewings are
best forgotten altogether. And now will I say a cutting thing and have
done. Have I trusted _my_ friend so,--or said even to myself, much
less to her, she is even as--'Mr. Simpson' who desireth the honour of
the acquaintance of Mr. B. whose admirable works have long been his,
Simpson's, especial solace in private--and who accordingly is led to
that personage by a mutual friend--Simpson blushing as only adorable
ingenuousness can, and twisting the brim of his hat like a sailor
giving evidence. Whereupon Mr. B. beginneth by remarking that the
rooms are growing hot--or that he supposes Mr. S. has not heard if
there will be another adjournment of the House to-night--whereupon Mr.
S. looketh up all at once, brusheth the brim smooth again with his
sleeve, and takes to his assurance once more, in something of a huff,
and after staying his five minutes out for decency's sake, noddeth
familiarly an adieu, and spinning round on his heel ejaculateth
mentally--'Well, I _did_ expect to see something different from that
little yellow commonplace man ... and, now I come to think, there
_was_ some precious trash in that book of his'--Have _I_ said 'so will
Miss Barrett ejaculate?'

Dear Miss Barrett, I thank you for the leave you give me, and for the
infinite kindness of the way of giving it. I will call at 2 on
Tuesday--not sooner, that you may have time to write should any
adverse circumstances happen ... not that they need inconvenience you,
because ... what I want particularly to tell you for now and
hereafter--do not mind my coming in the least, but--should you be
unwell, for instance,--just send or leave word, and I will come again,
and again, and again--my time is of _no_ importance, and I have
acquaintances thick in the vicinity.

Now if I do not seem grateful enough to you, _am_ I so much to blame?
You see it is high time you _saw_ me, for I have clearly written
myself _out_!

                                                 Ever yours,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                  [Post-mark, May 17, 1845.]

I shall be ready on Tuesday I hope, but I hate and protest against
your horrible 'entomology.' Beginning to explain, would thrust me
lower and lower down the circles of some sort of an 'Inferno'; only
with my dying breath I would maintain that I never could, consciously
or unconsciously, mean to distrust you; or, the least in the world, to
Simpsonize you. What I said, ... it was _you_ that put it into my head
to say it--for certainly, in my usual disinclination to receive
visitors, such a feeling does not enter. There, now! There, I am a
whole 'giro' lower! Now, you will say perhaps that I distrust _you_,
and nobody else! So it is best to be silent, and bear all the 'cutting
things' with resignation! _that_ is certain.

Still I must really say, under this dreadful incubus-charge of
Simpsonism, ... that you, who know everything, or at least make awful
guesses at everything in one's feelings and motives, and profess to be
able to pin them down in a book of classified inscriptions, ... should
have been able to understand better, or misunderstand less, in a
matter like this--Yes! I think so. I think you should have made out
the case in some such way as it was in nature--viz. that you had
lashed yourself up to an exorbitant wishing to see me, ... (you who
could see, any day, people who are a hundredfold and to all social
purposes, my superiors!) because I was unfortunate enough to be shut
up in a room and silly enough to make a fuss about opening the door;
and that I grew suddenly abashed by the consciousness of this. How
different from a distrust of _you_! how different!

Ah--if, after this day, you ever see any interpretable sign of
distrustfulness in me, you may be 'cutting' again, and I will not cry
out. In the meantime here is a fact for your 'entomology.' I have not
so much _distrust_, as will make a _doubt_, as will make a _curiosity_
for next Tuesday. Not the simplest modification of _curiosity_ enters
into the state of feeling with which I wait for Tuesday:--and if you
are angry to hear me say so, ... why, you are more unjust than ever.

(Let it be three instead of two--if the hour be as convenient to

Before you come, try to forgive me for my 'infinite kindness' in the
manner of consenting to see you. Is it 'the cruellest cut of all' when
you talk of infinite kindness, yet attribute such villainy to me?
Well! but we are friends till Tuesday--and after perhaps.

                                                 Ever yours,


If on Tuesday you should be not well, _pray do not come_--Now, that is
my request to your kindness.[1]

[Footnote 1: Envelope endorsed by Robert Browning:--Tuesday, May 20,
1845, 3-4-1/2 p.m.]

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                  Tuesday Evening.
                                  [Post-mark, May 21, 1845.]

I trust to you for a true account of how you are--if tired, if not
tired, if I did wrong in any thing,--or, if you please, _right_ in any
thing--(only, not one more word about my 'kindness,' which, to get
done with, I will grant is exceptive)--but, let us so arrange matters
if possible,--and why should it not be--that my great happiness, such
as it will be if I see you, as this morning, from time to time, may be
obtained at the cost of as little inconvenience to you as we can
contrive. For an instance--just what strikes me--they all say here I
speak very loud--(a trick caught from having often to talk with a deaf
relative of mine). And did I stay too long?

I will tell _you_ unhesitatingly of such 'corrigenda'--nay, I will
again say, do not humiliate me--_do not_ again,--by calling me 'kind'
in that way.

I am proud and happy in your friendship--now and ever. May God bless


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                  Wednesday Morning.
                                  [Post-mark, May 22, 1845.]

Indeed there was nothing wrong--how could there be? And there was
everything right--as how should there not be? And as for the 'loud
speaking,' I did not hear any--and, instead of being worse, I ought to
be better for what was certainly (to speak it, or be silent of it,)
happiness and honour to me yesterday.

Which reminds me to observe that you are so restricting our
vocabulary, as to be ominous of silence in a full sense, presently.
First, one word is not to be spoken--and then, another is not. And
why? Why deny me the use of such words as have natural feelings
belonging to them--and how can the use of such be 'humiliating' to
_you_? If my heart were open to you, you could see nothing offensive
to you in any thought there or trace of thought that has been
there--but it is hard for you to understand, with all your psychology
(and to be reminded of it I have just been looking at the preface of
some poems by some Mr. Gurney where he speaks of 'the reflective
wisdom of a Wordsworth and the profound psychological utterances of a
Browning') it is hard for you to understand what my mental position is
after the peculiar experience I have suffered, and what [Greek: ti
emoi kai soi][1] a sort of feeling is irrepressible from me to you,
when, from the height of your brilliant happy sphere, you ask, as you
did ask, for personal intercourse with me. What words but 'kindness'
... but 'gratitude'--but I will not in any case be _un_kind and
_un_grateful, and do what is displeasing to you. And let us both leave
the subject with the words--because we perceive in it from different
points of view; we stand on the black and white sides of the shield;
and there is no coming to a conclusion.

But you will come really on Tuesday--and again, when you like and can
together--and it will not be more 'inconvenient' to me to be pleased,
I suppose, than it is to people in general--will it, do you think?
Ah--how you misjudge! Why it must obviously and naturally be
delightful to me to receive you here when you like to come, and it
cannot be necessary for me to say so in set words--believe it of

                                                Your friend,


[Mr. Browning's letter, to which the following is in answer was
destroyed, see page 268 of the present volume.]

[Footnote 1: 'What have I to do with thee?']

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                  Friday Evening.
                                  [Post-mark, May 24, 1845.]

I intended to write to you last night and this morning, and could
not,--you do not know what pain you give me in speaking so wildly. And
if I disobey you, my dear friend, in speaking, (I for my part) of your
wild speaking, I do it, not to displease you, but to be in my own
eyes, and before God, a little more worthy, or less unworthy, of a
generosity from which I recoil by instinct and at the first glance,
yet conclusively; and because my silence would be the most disloyal of
all means of expression, in reference to it. Listen to me then in
this. You have said some intemperate things ... fancies,--which you
will not say over again, nor unsay, but _forget at once_, and _for
ever, having said at all_; and which (so) will die out between _you
and me alone_, like a misprint between you and the printer. And this
you will do _for my sake_ who am your friend (and you have none
truer)--and this I ask, because it is a condition necessary to our
future liberty of intercourse. You remember--surely you do--that I am
in the most exceptional of positions; and that, just _because of it_,
I am able to receive you as I did on Tuesday; and that, for me to
listen to 'unconscious exaggerations,' is as unbecoming to the
humilities of my position, as unpropitious (which is of more
consequence) to the prosperities of yours. Now, if there should be one
word of answer attempted to this; or of reference; _I must not_ ... I
_will not see you again_--and you will justify me later in your heart.
So for my sake you will not say it--I think you will not--and spare me
the sadness of having to break through an intercourse just as it is
promising pleasure to me; to me who have so many sadnesses and so few
pleasures. You will!--and I need not be uneasy--and I shall owe you
that tranquillity, as one gift of many. For, that I have much to
receive from you in all the free gifts of thinking, teaching,
master-spirits, ... _that_, I know!--it is my own praise that I
appreciate you, as none can more. Your influence and help in poetry
will be full of good and gladness to me--for with many to love me in
this house, there is no one to judge me ... _now_. Your friendship and
sympathy will be dear and precious to me all my life, if you indeed
leave them with me so long or so little. Your mistakes in me ... which
_I_ cannot mistake (--and which have humbled me by too much
honouring--) I put away gently, and with grateful tears in my eyes;
because _all that hail_ will beat down and spoil crowns, as well as

If I put off next Tuesday to the week after--I mean your visit,--shall
you care much? For the relations I named to you, are to be in London
next week; and I am to see one of my aunts whom I love, and have not
met since my great affliction--and it will all seem to come over
again, and I shall be out of spirits and nerves. On Tuesday week you
can bring a tomahawk and do the criticism, and I shall try to have my
courage ready for it--Oh, you will do me so much good--and Mr. Kenyon
calls me 'docile' sometimes I assure you; when he wants to flatter me
out of being obstinate--and in good earnest, I believe I shall do
everything you tell me. The 'Prometheus' is done--but the monodrama is
where it was--and the novel, not at all. But I think of some half
promises half given, about something I read for 'Saul'--and the
'Flight of the Duchess'--where is she?

You are not displeased with me? _no, that_ would be hail and lightning
together--I do not write as I might, of some words of yours--but you
know that I am not a stone, even if silent like one. And if in the
_un_silence, I have said one word to vex you, pity me for having had
to say it--and for the rest, may God bless you far beyond the reach of
vexation from my words or my deeds!

                             Your friend in grateful regard,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                  Saturday Morning.
                                  [Post-mark, May 24, 1845.]

Don't you remember I told you, once on a time that you 'knew nothing
of me'? whereat you demurred--but I meant what I said, and knew it was
so. To be grand in a simile, for every poor speck of a Vesuvius or a
Stromboli in my microcosm there are huge layers of ice and pits of
black cold water--and I make the most of my two or three fire-eyes,
because I know by experience, alas, how these tend to extinction--and
the ice grows and grows--still this last is true part of me, most
characteristic part, _best_ part perhaps, and I disown
nothing--only,--when you talked of '_knowing_ me'! Still, I am utterly
unused, of these late years particularly, to dream of communicating
anything about _that_ to another person (all my writings are purely
dramatic as I am always anxious to say) that when I make never so
little an attempt, no wonder if I _bungle_ notably--'language,' too is
an organ that never studded this heavy heavy head of mine. Will you
not think me very brutal if I tell you I could almost smile at your
misapprehension of what I meant to write?--Yet I _will_ tell you,
because it will undo the bad effect of my thoughtlessness, and at the
same time exemplify the point I have all along been honestly earnest
to set you right upon ... my real inferiority to you; just that and no
more. I wrote to you, in an unwise moment, on the spur of being again
'thanked,' and, unwisely writing just as if thinking to myself, said
what must have looked absurd enough as seen apart from the horrible
counterbalancing never-to-be-written _rest of me_--by the side of
which, could it be written and put before you, my note would sink to
its proper and relative place, and become a mere 'thank you' for your
good opinion--which I assure you is far too generous--for I really
believe you to be my superior in many respects, and feel uncomfortable
till _you_ see that, too--since I hope for your sympathy and
assistance, and 'frankness is everything in such a case.' I do assure
you, that had you read my note, _only_ having '_known_' so much of me
as is implied in having inspected, for instance, the contents, merely,
of that fatal and often-referred-to 'portfolio' there (_Dii meliora
piis!_), you would see in it, (the note not the portfolio) the
blandest utterance ever mild gentleman gave birth to. But I forgot
that one may make too much noise in a silent place by playing the few
notes on the 'ear-piercing fife' which in Othello's regimental band
might have been thumped into decent subordination by his
'spirit-stirring drum'--to say nothing of gong and ophicleide. Will
you forgive me, on promise to remember for the future, and be more
considerate? Not that you must too much despise me, neither; nor, of
all things, apprehend I am attitudinizing a la Byron, and giving you
to understand unutterable somethings, longings for Lethe and all
that--far from it! I never committed murders, and sleep the soundest
of sleeps--but 'the heart is desperately wicked,' that is true, and
though I dare not say 'I know' mine, yet I have had signal
opportunities, I who began life from the beginning, and can forget
nothing (but names, and the date of the battle of Waterloo), and have
known good and wicked men and women, gentle and simple, shaking hands
with Edmund Kean and Father Mathew, you and--Ottima! Then, I had a
certain faculty of self-consciousness, years and years ago, at which
John Mill wondered, and which ought to be improved by this time, if
constant use helps at all--and, meaning, on the whole, to be a Poet,
if not _the_ Poet ... for I am vain and ambitious some nights,--I do
myself justice, and dare call things by their names to myself, and say
boldly, this I love, this I hate, this I would do, this I would not
do, under all kinds of circumstances,--and talking (thinking) in this
style _to myself_, and beginning, however tremblingly, in spite of
conviction, to write in this style _for myself_--on the top of the
desk which contains my 'Songs of the Poets--NO. I M.P.', I
wrote,--what you now forgive, I know! Because I am, from my heart,
sorry that by a foolish fit of inconsideration I should have given
pain for a minute to you, towards whom, on every account, I would
rather soften and 'sleeken every word as to a bird' ... (and, not such
a bird as my black self that go screeching about the world for 'dead
horse'--corvus (picus)--mirandola!) I, too, who have been at such
pains to acquire the reputation I enjoy in the world,--(ask Mr.
Kenyon,) and who dine, and wine, and dance and enhance the company's
pleasure till they make me ill and I keep house, as of late: Mr.
Kenyon, (for I only quote where you may verify if you please) _he_
says my common sense strikes him, and its contrast with my muddy
metaphysical poetry! And so it shall strike you--for though I am glad
that, since you _did_ misunderstand me, you said so, and have given me
an opportunity of doing by another way what I wished to do in
_that_,--yet, if you had _not_ alluded to my writing, as I meant you
should not, you would have certainly understood _something_ of its
drift when you found me next Tuesday precisely the same quiet (no, for
I feel I speak too loudly, in spite of your kind disclaimer, but--)
the same mild man-about-town you were gracious to, the other
morning--for, indeed, my own way of worldly life is marked out long
ago, as precisely as yours can be, and I am set going with a hand,
winker-wise, on each side of my head, and a directing finger before my
eyes, to say nothing of an instinctive dread I have that a certain
whip-lash is vibrating somewhere in the neighbourhood in playful
readiness! So 'I hope here be proofs,' Dogberry's satisfaction that,
first, I am but a very poor creature compared to you and entitled by
my wants to look up to you,--all I meant to say from the first of the
first--and that, next, I shall be too much punished if, for this piece
of mere inconsideration, you deprive me, more or less, or sooner or
later, of the pleasure of seeing you,--a little over boisterous
gratitude for which, perhaps, caused all the mischief! The reasons you
give for deferring my visits next week are too cogent for me to
dispute--that is too true--and, being now and henceforward 'on my good
behaviour,' I will at once cheerfully submit to them, if needs
must--but should your mere kindness and forethought, as I half
suspect, have induced you to take such a step, you will now smile with
me, at this new and very unnecessary addition to the 'fears of me' I
have got so triumphantly over in your case! Wise man, was I not, to
clench my first favourable impression so adroitly ... like a recent
Cambridge worthy, my sister heard of; who, being on his theological
(or rather, scripture-historical) examination, was asked by the Tutor,
who wished to let him off easily, 'who was the first King of
Israel?'--'Saul' answered the trembling youth. 'Good!' nodded
approvingly the Tutor. 'Otherwise called _Paul_,' subjoined the youth
in his elation! Now I have begged pardon, and blushingly assured you
_that_ was only a slip of the tongue, and that I did really _mean_ all
the while, (Paul or no Paul), the veritable son of Kish, he that owned
the asses, and found listening to the harp the best of all things for
an evil spirit! Pray write me a line to say, 'Oh ... if _that's_ all!'
and remember me for good (which is very compatible with a moment's
stupidity) and let me not for one fault, (and that the only one that
shall be), lose _any pleasure_ ... for your friendship I am sure I
have not lost--God bless you, my dear friend!

                                                R. BROWNING.

And by the way, will it not be better, as co-operating with you more
effectually in your kind promise to forget the 'printer's error' in my
blotted proof, to send me back that same 'proof,' if you have not
inflicted proper and summary justice on it? When Mephistopheles last
came to see us in this world outside here, he counselled sundry of us
'never to write a letter,--and never to burn one'--do you know that?
But I never mind what I am told! Seriously, I am ashamed.... I shall
next ask a servant for my paste in the 'high fantastical' style of my
own 'Luria.'

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                             [May 25, 1845].

I owe you the most humble of apologies dear Mr. Browning, for having
spent so much solemnity on so simple a matter, and I hasten to pay it;
confessing at the same time (as why should I not?) that I am quite as
much ashamed of myself as I ought to be, which is not a little. You
will find it difficult to believe me perhaps when I assure you that I
never made such a mistake (I mean of over-seriousness to indefinite
compliments), no, never in my life before--indeed my sisters have
often jested with me (in matters of which they were cognizant) on my
supernatural indifference to the superlative degree in general, as if
it meant nothing in grammar. I usually know well that 'boots' may be
called for in this world of ours, just as you called for yours; and
that to bring '_Bootes_,' were the vilest of mal-a-pro-pos-ities.
Also, I should have understood 'boots' where you wrote it, in the
letter in question; if it had not been for _the relation of two
things_ in it--and now I perfectly seem to see _how_ I mistook that
relation; ('_seem to see_'; because I have not looked into the letter
again since your last night's commentary, and will not--) inasmuch as
I have observed before in my own mind, that a good deal of what is
called obscurity in you, arises from a habit of very subtle
association; so subtle, that you are probably unconscious of it, ...
and the effect of which is to throw together on the same level and in
the same light, things of likeness and unlikeness--till the reader
grows confused as I did, and takes one for another. I may say however,
in a poor justice to myself, that I wrote what I wrote so
unfortunately, _through reverence for you_, and not at all from vanity
in my own account ... although I do feel palpably while I write these
words here and now, that I might as well leave them unwritten; for
that no man of the world who ever lived in the world (not even _you_)
could be expected to believe them, though said, sung, and sworn.

For the rest, it is scarcely an apposite moment for you to talk, even
'dramatically,' of my 'superiority' to you, ... unless you mean, which
perhaps you do mean, my superiority in _simplicity_--and, verily, to
some of the 'adorable ingenuousness,' sacred to the shade of Simpson,
I may put in a modest claim, ... 'and have my claim allowed.' 'Pray do
not mock me' I quote again from your Shakespeare to you who are a
dramatic poet; ... and I will admit anything that you like, (being
humble just now)--even that I _did not know you_. I was certainly
innocent of the knowledge of the 'ice and cold water' you introduce me
to, and am only just shaking my head, as Flush would, after a first
wholesome plunge. Well--if I do not know you, I shall learn, I
suppose, in time. I am ready to try humbly to learn--and I may
perhaps--if you are not done in Sanscrit, which is too hard for me,
... notwithstanding that I had the pleasure yesterday to hear, from
America, of my profound skill in 'various languages less known than
Hebrew'!--a liberal paraphrase on Mr. Horne's large fancies on the
like subject, and a satisfactory reputation in itself--as long as it
is not necessary to deserve it. So I here enclose to you your letter
back again, as you wisely desire; although you never could doubt, I
hope, for a moment, of its safety with me in the completest of senses:
and then, from the heights of my superior ... stultity, and other
qualities of the like order, ... I venture to advise you ... however
(to speak of the letter critically, and as the dramatic composition it
is) it is to be admitted to be very beautiful, and well worthy of the
rest of its kin in the portfolio, ... 'Lays of the Poets,' or
otherwise, ... I venture to advise you to burn it at once. And then,
my dear friend, I ask you (having some claim) to burn at the same time
the letter I was fortunate enough to write to you on Friday, and this
present one--don't send them back to me; I hate to have letters sent
back--but burn them for me and never mind Mephistopheles. After which
friendly turn, you will do me the one last kindness of forgetting all
this exquisite nonsense, and of refraining from mentioning it, by
breath or pen, _to me or another_. Now I trust you so far:--you will
put it with the date of the battle of Waterloo--and I, with every date
in chronology; seeing that I can remember none of them. And we will
shuffle the cards and take patience, and begin the game again, if you
please--and I shall bear in mind that you are a dramatic poet, which
is not the same thing, by any means, with _us_ of the primitive
simplicities, who don't tread on cothurns nor shift the mask in the
scene. And I will reverence you both as 'a poet' and as '_the_ poet';
because it is no false 'ambition,' but a right you have--and one which
those who live longest, will see justified to the uttermost.... In the
meantime I need not ask Mr. Kenyon if you have any sense, because I
have no doubt that you have quite sense enough--and even if I had a
doubt, I shall prefer judging for myself without interposition; which
I can do, you know, as long as you like to come and see me. And you
can come this week if you do like it--because our relations don't come
till the end of it, it appears--not that I made a pretence 'out of
kindness'--pray don't judge me so outrageously--but if you like to
come ... not on Tuesday ... but on Wednesday at three o'clock, I shall
be very glad to see you; and I, for one, shall have forgotten
everything by that time; being quick at forgetting my own faults
usually. If Wednesday does not suit you, I am not sure that I _can_
see you this week--but it depends on circumstances. Only don't think
yourself _obliged_ to come on Wednesday. You know I _began_ by
entreating you to be open and sincere with me--and no more--I
_require_ no 'sleekening of every word.' I love the truth and can bear
it--whether in word or deed--and those who have known me longest would
tell you so fullest. Well!--May God bless you. We shall know each
other some day perhaps--and I am

                          Always and faithfully your friend,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                  [Post-mark, May 26, 1845.]

Nay--I _must_ have last word--as all people in the wrong desire to
have--and then, no more of the subject. You said I had given you
_great pain_--so long as I stop _that_, think anything of me you
choose or can! But _before_ your former letter came, I saw the
pre-ordained uselessness of mine. Speaking is to some _end_, (apart
from foolish self-relief, which, after all, I can do without)--and
where there is _no_ end--you see! or, to finish
characteristically--since the offering to cut off one's right-hand to
save anybody a headache, is in vile taste, even for our melodramas,
seeing that it was never yet believed in on the stage or off it,--how
much worse to really make the ugly chop, and afterwards come
sheepishly in, one's arm in a black sling, and find that the
delectable gift had changed aching to nausea! There! And now, 'exit,
prompt-side, nearest door, Luria'--and enter R.B.--next Wednesday,--as
boldly as he suspects most people do just after they have been soundly

I shall be most happy to see you on the day and at the hour you

                              God bless you, my dear friend,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                  Monday Morning.
                                  [Post-mark, May 27, 1845.]

You will think me the most changeable of all the changeable; but
indeed it is _not_ my fault that I cannot, as I wished, receive you on
Wednesday. There was a letter this morning; and our friends not only
come to London but come to this house on Tuesday (to-morrow) to pass
two or three days, until they settle in an hotel for the rest of the
season. Therefore you see, it is doubtful whether the two days may not
be three, and the three days four; but if they go away in time, and
if Saturday should suit you, I will let you know by a word; and you
can answer by a yea or nay. While they are in the house, I must give
them what time I can--and indeed, it is something to dread altogether.


I send you the note I had begun before receiving yours of last night,
and also a fragment[1] from Mrs. Hedley's herein enclosed, a full and
complete certificate, ... that you may know ... quite _know_, ... what
the real and only reason of the obstacle to Wednesday is. On Saturday
perhaps, or on Monday more certainly, there is likely to be no
opposition, ... at least not on the 'cote gauche' (_my_ side!) to our
meeting--but I will let you know more.

For the rest, we have both been a little unlucky, there's no denying,
in overcoming the embarrassments of a first acquaintance--but suffer
me to say as one other last word, (and _quite, quite the last this
time_!) in case there should have been anything approaching, however
remotely, to a distrustful or unkind tone in what I wrote on Sunday,
(and I have a sort of consciousness that in the process of my
self-scorning I was not in the most sabbatical of moods perhaps--)
that I do recall and abjure it, and from my heart entreat your pardon
for it, and profess, notwithstanding it, neither to 'choose' nor 'to
be able' to think otherwise of you than I have done, ... as of one
_most_ generous and _most_ loyal; for that if I chose, I could not;
and that if I could, I should not choose.

                            Ever and gratefully your friend,


--And now we shall hear of 'Luria,' shall we not? and much besides.
And Miss Mitford has sent me the most high comical of letters to
read, addressed to her by 'R.B. Haydon historical painter' which has
made me quite laugh; and would make _you_; expressing his righteous
indignation at the 'great fact' and gross impropriety of any man who
has 'thoughts too deep for tears' agreeing to wear a 'bag-wig' ... the
case of poor Wordsworth's going to court, you know.--Mr. Haydon being
infinitely serious all the time, and yet holding the doctrine of the
divine right of princes in his left hand.

How is your head? may I be hoping the best for it? May God bless you.

[Footnote 1: ... me on Tuesday, or Wednesday? if on Tuesday, I shall
come by the three o'clock train; if on Wednesday, _early_ in the
morning, as I shall be anxious to secure rooms ... so that your Uncle
and Arabel may come up on Thursday.]

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                  [Post-mark, May 28, 1845.]

Saturday, Monday, as you shall appoint--no need to say that, or my
thanks--but this note troubles you, out of my bounden duty to help
you, or Miss Mitford, to make the Painter run violently down a steep
place into the sea, if that will amuse you, by further informing him,
what I know on the best authority, that Wordsworth's 'bag-wig,' or at
least, the more important of his court-habiliments, were considerately
furnished for the nonce by _Mr. Rogers_ from his own wardrobe, to the
manifest advantage of the Laureate's pocket, but more problematic
improvement of his person, when one thinks on the astounding
difference of 'build' in the two Poets:--the fact should be put on
record, if only as serving to render less chimerical a promise
sometimes figuring in the columns of provincial newspapers--that the
two apprentices, some grocer or other advertises for, will be 'boarded
and _clothed_ like _one_ of the family.' May not your unfinished
(really good) head of the great man have been happily kept waiting for
the body which can now be added on, with all this picturesqueness of
circumstances. Precept on precept ... but then, _line upon line_, is
allowed by as good authority, and may I not draw _my_ confirming black
line after yours, yet not break pledge? I am most grateful to you for
doing me justice--doing yourself, your own judgment, justice, since
even the play-wright of Theseus and the Amazon found it one of his
hardest devices to 'write me a speech, lest the lady be frightened,
wherein it shall be said that I, Pyramus, am not Pyramus, but &c. &c.'
God bless you--one thing more, but one--you _could never have_
misunderstood the _asking for the letter again_, I feared you might
refer to it 'pour constater le fait'--

                                        And now I am yours--


My head is all but well now; thank you.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                  Friday Morning.
                                  [Post-mark, May 30, 1845.]

Just one word to say that if Saturday, to-morrow, should be
fine--because in the case of its raining I _shall not expect you_; you
will find me at three o'clock.

Yes--the circumstances of the costume were mentioned in the letter;
Mr. Rogers' bag-wig and the rest, and David Wilkie's sword--and also
that the Laureate, so equipped, fell down upon both knees in the
superfluity of etiquette, and had to be picked up by two
lords-in-waiting. It is a large exaggeration I do not doubt--and then
I never sympathised with the sighing kept up by people about that
acceptance of the Laureateship which drew the bag-wig as a corollary
after it. Not that the Laureateship honoured _him_, but that he
honoured it; and that, so honouring it, he preserves a symbol
instructive to the masses, who are children and to be taught by
symbols now as formerly. Isn't it true? or at least may it not be
true? And won't the court laurel (such as it is) be all the worthier
of _you_ for Wordsworth's having worn it first?

And in the meantime I shall see you to-morrow perhaps? or if it should
rain, on Monday at the same hour.

                                 Ever yours, my dear friend,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                  Friday Morning.
                                  [Post-mark, June 7, 1845.]

When I see all you have done for me in this 'Prometheus,' I feel more
than half ashamed both of it and of me for using your time so, and
forced to say in my own defence (not to you but myself) that I never
thought of meaning to inflict such work on you who might be doing so
much better things in the meantime both for me and for
others--because, you see, it is not the mere reading of the MS., but
the 'comparing' of the text, and the melancholy comparisons between
the English and the Greek, ... quite enough to turn you from your
[Greek: philanthropou tropou][1] that I brought upon you; and indeed I
did not mean so much, nor so soon! Yet as you have done it for me--for
me who expected a few jottings down with a pencil and a general
opinion; it is of course of the greatest value, besides the pleasure
and pride which come of it; and I must say of the translation, (before
putting it aside for the nonce), that the circumstance of your paying
it so much attention and seeing any good in it, is quite enough reward
for the writer and quite enough motive for self-gratulation, if it
were all torn to fragments at this moment--which is a foolish thing to
say because it is so obvious, and because you would know it if I said
it or not.

And while you were doing this for me, you thought it unkind of me not
to write to you; yes, and you think me at this moment the very
princess of apologies and excuses and depreciations and all the rest
of the small family of distrust--or of hypocrisy ... who knows? Well!
but you are wrong ... wrong ... to think so; and you will let me say
one word to show where you are wrong--not for you to controvert, ...
because it must relate to myself especially, and lies beyond your
cognizance, and is something which I _must know best_ after all. And
it is, ... that you persist in putting me into a false position, with
respect to _fixing days_ and the like, and in making me feel somewhat
as I did when I was a child, and Papa used to put me up on the
chimney-piece and exhort me to stand up straight like a hero, which I
did, straighter and straighter, and then suddenly 'was 'ware' (as we
say in the ballads) of the walls' growing alive behind me and
extending two stony hands to push me down that frightful precipice to
the rug, where the dog lay ... dear old Havannah, ... and where he and
I were likely to be dashed to pieces together and mix our uncanonised
bones. Now my present false position ... which is not the
chimney-piece's, ... is the necessity you provide for me in the shape
of my having to name this day, or that day, ... and of your coming
because I name it, and of my having to think and remember that you
come because I name it. Through a weakness, perhaps, or morbidness, or
one knows not how to define it, I _cannot help_ being uncomfortable in
having to do this,--it is impossible. Not that I distrust _you_--you
are the last in the world I could distrust: and then (although you may
be sceptical) I am naturally given to trust ... to a fault ... as some
say, or to a sin, as some reproach me:--and then again, if I were ever
such a distruster, it could not be of _you_. But if you knew me--! I
will tell you! if one of my brothers omits coming to this room for two
days, ... I never ask why it happened! if my own father omits coming
up-stairs to say 'good night,' I never say a word; and not from
indifference. Do try to make out these readings of me as a _dixit
Casaubonus_; and don't throw me down as a corrupt text, nor convict me
for an infidel which I am not. On the contrary I am grateful and happy
to believe that you like to come here; and even if you came here as a
pure act of charity and pity to me, as long as you _chose to come_ I
should not be too proud to be grateful and happy still. I could not be
proud to _you_, and I hope you will not fancy such a possibility,
which is the remotest of all. Yes, and _I_ am anxious to ask you to be
wholly generous and leave off such an interpreting philosophy as you
made use of yesterday, and forgive me when I beg you to fix your own
days for coming for the future. Will you? It is the same thing in one
way. If you like to come really every week, there is no hindrance to
it--you can do it--and the privilege and obligation remain equally
mine:--and if you name a day for coming on any week, where there is an
obstacle on my side, you will learn it from me in a moment. Why I
might as well charge _you_ with distrusting _me_, because you persist
in making me choose the days. And it is not for me to do it, but for
you--I must feel that--and I cannot help chafing myself against the
thought that for me to begin to fix days in this way, just because you
have quick impulses (like all imaginative persons), and wish me to do
it now, may bring me to the catastrophe of asking you to come when you
would rather not, ... which, as you say truly, would not be an
important vexation to you; but to me would be worse than vexation; to
_me_--and therefore I shrink from the very imagination of the
possibility of such a thing, and ask you to bear with me and let it be
as I prefer ... left to your own choice of the moment. And bear with
me above all--because this shows no want of faith in you ... none ...
but comes from a simple fact (with its ramifications) ... that you
know little of me personally yet, and that _you guess_, even, but very
little of the influence of a peculiar experience over me and out of
me; and if I wanted a proof of this, we need not seek further than the
very point of discussion, and the hard worldly thoughts you thought I
was thinking of you yesterday,--I, who thought not one of them! But I
am so used to discern the correcting and ministering angels by the
same footsteps on the ground, that it is not wonderful I should look
down there at any approach of a [Greek: philia taxis] whatever to this
personal _me_. Have I not been ground down to browns and blacks? and
is it my fault if I am not green? Not that it is my _complaint_--I
should not be justified in complaining; I believe, as I told you, that
there is more gladness than sadness in the world--that is, generally:
and if some natures have to be refined by the sun, and some by the
furnace (the less genial ones) both means are to be recognised as
_good_, ... however different in pleasurableness and painfulness, and
though furnace-fire leaves scorched streaks upon the fruit. I assured
you there was nothing I had any power of teaching you: and there _is_
nothing, except grief!--which I would not teach you, you know, if I
had the occasion granted.

It is a multitude of words about nothing at all, ... this--but I am
like Mariana in the moated grange and sit listening too often to the
mouse in the wainscot. Be as forbearing as you can--and believe how
profoundly it touches me that you should care to come here at all,
much more, so often! and try to understand that if I did not write as
you half asked, it was just because I failed at the moment to get up
enough pomp and circumstance to write on purpose to certify the
important fact of my being a little stronger or a little weaker on one
particular morning. That I am always ready and rejoiced to write to
you, you know perfectly well, and I have proved, by 'superfluity of
naughtiness' and prolixity through some twenty posts:--and this, and
therefore, you will agree altogether to attribute no more to me on
these counts, and determine to read me no more backwards with your
Hebrew, putting in your own vowel points without my leave! Shall it be

Here is a letter grown from a note which it meant to be--and I have
been interrupted in the midst of it, or it should have gone to you
earlier. Let what I have said in it of myself pass unquestioned and
unnoticed, because it is of _me_ and not of _you_, ... and, if in any
wise lunatical, all the talking and writing in the world will not put
the implied moon into another quarter. Only be patient with me a
little, ... and let us have a smooth ground for the poems which I am
foreseeing the sight of with such pride and delight--Such pride and

And one thing ... which is chief, though it seems to come last!... you
_will_ have advice (will you not?) if that pain does not grow much
better directly? It cannot be prudent or even _safe_ to let a pain in
the head go on so long, and no remedy be attempted for it, ... and you
cannot be sure that it is a merely nervous pain and that it may not
have consequences; and this, quite apart from the consideration of
suffering. So you will see some one with an opinion to give, and take
it? _Do_, I beseech you. You will not say 'no'? Also ... if on
Wednesday you should be less well than usual, you will come on
Thursday instead, I hope, ... seeing that it must be right for you to
be quiet and silent when you suffer so, and a journey into London can
let you be neither. Otherwise, I hold to my day, ... Wednesday. And
may God bless you my dear friend.

                                                 Ever yours,


You are right I see, nearly everywhere, if not quite everywhere in the
criticisms--but of course I have not looked very closely--that is, I
have read your papers but not in connection with a _my_ side of the
argument--but I shall lose the post after all.

[Footnote 1: Aeschylus, _Prometheus_ II.: 'trick of loving men,' see
note 3, on p. 39 above.]

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                  Saturday Morning,
                                  [Post-mark, June 7, 1845.]

I ventured to hope this morning might bring me news of you--First
East-winds on you, then myself, then those criticisms!--I do assure
you I am properly apprehensive. How are you? May I go on Wednesday
without too much [Greek: anthadia].

Pray remember what I said and wrote, to the effect that my exceptions
were, in almost every case, to the 'reading'--not to your version of
it: but I have not specified the particular ones--not written down the
Greek, of my suggested translations--have I? And if you do not find
them in the margin of your copy, how you must wonder! Thus, in the
last speech but one, of Hermes, I prefer Porson and Blomfield's
[Greek: ei med' atychon ti chala manion];--to the old combinations
that include [Greek: eutyche]--though there is no MS. authority for
emendation, it seems. But in what respect does Prometheus 'fare
_well_,' or 'better' even, since the beginning? And is it not the old
argument over again, that when a man _fails_ he should repent of his
ways?--And while thinking of Hermes, let me say that '[Greek: mede moi
diplas odous prosbales]' is surely--'Don't subject me to the trouble
of a second journey ... by paying no attention to the first.' So says
Scholiast A, and so backs him Scholiast B, especially created, it
should appear, to show there could be _in rerum natura_ such another
as his predecessor. A few other remarks occur to me, which I will tell
you if you please; _now_, I really want to know how you are, and write
for that.

                                                 Ever yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                  [Post-mark, June 9, 1845.]

Just after my note left, yours came--I will try so to answer it as to
please you; and I begin by promising cheerfully to do all you bid me
about naming days &c. I do believe we are friends now and for ever.
There can be no reason, therefore, that I should cling tenaciously to
any one or other time of meeting, as if, losing that, I lost
everything--and, for the future, I will provide against sudden
engagements, outrageous weather &c., to your heart's content. Nor am I
going to except against here and there a little wrong I could get up,
as when you _imply_ from my quick impulses and the like. No, my dear
friend--for I seem sure I shall have quite, quite time enough to do
myself justice in your eyes--Let time show!

Perhaps I feel none the less sorely, when you 'thank' me for such
company as mine, that I cannot avoid confessing to myself that it
would not be so absolutely out of my power, perhaps, to contrive
really and deserve thanks in a certain acceptation--I _might_ really
_try_, at all events, and amuse you a little better, when I do have
the opportunity,--and I _do not_--but there is the thing! It is all of
a piece--I _do not_ seek your friendship in order to do you good--any
good--only to do myself good. Though I _would_, God knows, do that

Enough of this.

I am much better, indeed,--but will certainly follow your advice
should the pain return. And you--you have tried a new journey from
your room, have you not?

Do recollect, at any turn, any chance so far in my favour,--that I am
here and yours should you want any fetching and carrying in this
outside London world. Your brothers may have their own business to
mind, Mr. Kenyon is at New York, we will suppose; here am I--what
else, _what else_ makes me count my cleverness to you, as I know I
have done more than once, by word and letter, but the real wish to be
set at work? I should have, I hope, better taste than to tell any
everyday acquaintance, who could not go out, one single morning even,
on account of a headache, that the weather was delightful, much less
that I had been walking five miles and meant to run ten--yet to you I
boasted once of polking and waltzing and more--but then would it not
be a very superfluous piece of respect in the four-footed bird to keep
his wings to himself because his Master Oceanos could fly forsooth?
Whereas he begins to wave a flap and show how ready they are to be
off--for what else were the good of him? Think of this--and

                                           Know me for yours


For good you are, to those notes--you shall have more,--that is, the
rest--on Wednesday then, at 3, except as you except. God bless you.

Oh, let me tell you--I suppose Mr. Horne must be in town--as I
received a letter two days ago, from the contriver of some literary
society or other who had before written to get me to belong to it,
protesting _against_ my reasons for refusing, and begging that 'at all
events I would suspend my determination till I had been visited by Mr.
H. on the subject'--and, as they can hardly mean to bring him express
from the Drachenfels for just that, he is returned no doubt--and as he
is your friend, I take the opportunity of mentioning the course I
shall pursue with him or any other friend of yours I may meet,--(and
everybody else, I may add--) the course I understand you to desire,
with respect to our own intimacy. While I may acknowledge, I believe,
that I correspond with you, I shall not, in any case, suffer it to be
known that I see, or have seen you. This I just remind you of, lest
any occasion of embarrassment should arise, for a moment, from your
not being quite sure how _I_ had acted in any case.--Con che, le bacio
le mani--a rivederla!

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 Tuesday Morning.
                                 [Post-mark, June 10, 1845.]

I must thank you by one word for all your kindness and
consideration--which could not be greater; nor more felt by me. In the
first place, afterwards (if that should not be Irish dialect) do
understand that my letter passed from my hands to go to yours on
_Friday_, but was thrown aside carelessly down stairs and 'covered up'
they say, so as not to be seen until late on Saturday; and I can only
humbly hope to have been cross enough about it (having conscientiously
tried) to secure a little more accuracy another time.--And then, ...
if ever I should want anything done or found, ... (a roc's egg or the
like) you may believe me that I shall not scruple to ask you to be the
finder; but at this moment I want nothing, indeed, except your poems;
and that is quite the truth. Now do consider and think what I could
possibly want in your 'outside London world'; you, who are the 'Genius
of the lamp'!--Why if you light it and let me read your romances, &c.,
by it, is not that the best use for it, and am I likely to look for
another? Only I shall remember what you say, gratefully and seriously;
and if ever I should have a good fair opportunity of giving you
trouble (as if I had not done it already!), you may rely upon my evil
intentions; even though dear Mr. Kenyon should not actually be at New
York, ... which he is not, I am glad to say, as I saw him on Saturday.

Which reminds me that _he_ knows of your having been here, of course!
and will not mention it; as he understood from me that _you_ would
not.--Thank you! Also there was an especial reason which constrained
me, on pain of appearing a great hypocrite, to tell Miss Mitford the
bare fact of my having seen you--and reluctantly I did it, though
placing some hope in her promise of discretion. And how necessary the
discretion is, will appear in the awful statistical fact of our having
at this moment, as my sisters were calculating yesterday, some forty
relations in London--to say nothing of the right wing of the enemy.
For Mr. Horne, I could have told you, and really I thought I _had_
told you of his being in England.

Last paragraph of all is, that I _don't want to be amused_, ... or
rather that I _am_ amused by everything and anything. Why surely,
surely, you have some singular ideas about me! So, till to-morrow,


Instead of writing this note to you yesterday, as should have been, I
went down-stairs--or rather was carried--and am not the worse.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 [Post-mark, June 14, 1845.]

Yes, the poem _is_ too good in certain respects for the prizes given
in colleges, (when all the pure parsley goes naturally to the
rabbits), and has a great deal of beauty here and there in image and
expression. Still I do not quite agree with you that it reaches the
Tennyson standard any wise; and for the blank verse, I cannot for a
moment think it comparable to one of the grand passages in 'Oenone,'
and 'Arthur' and the like. In fact I seem to hear more in that latter
blank verse than you do, ... to hear not only a 'mighty line' as in
Marlowe, but a noble full orbicular wholeness in complete
passages--which always struck me as the mystery of music and great
peculiarity in Tennyson's versification, inasmuch as he attains to
these complete effects without that shifting of the pause practised by
the masters, ... Shelley and others. A 'linked music' in which there
are no links!--_that_, you would take to be a contradiction--and yet
something like that, my ear has always seemed to perceive; and I have
wondered curiously again and again how there could be so much union
and no fastening. Only of course it is not model versification--and
for dramatic purposes, it must be admitted to be bad.

Which reminds me to be astonished for the second time how you could
think such a thing of me as that I wanted to read only your lyrics,
... or that I 'preferred the lyrics' ... or something barbarous in
that way? You don't think me 'ambidexter,' or 'either-handed' ... and
both hands open for what poems you will vouchsafe to me; and yet if
you would let me see anything you may have in a readable state by you,
... 'The Flight of the Duchess' ... or act or scene of 'The Soul's
Tragedy,' ... I shall be so glad and grateful to you! Oh--if you
change your mind and choose to be _bien prie_, I will grant it is your
right, and begin my liturgy directly. But this is not teazing (in the
intention of it!) and I understand all about the transcription, and
the inscrutableness of rough copies,--that is, if you write as I do,
so that my guardian angel or M. Champollion cannot read what is
written. Only whatever they can, (remember!) _I_ can: and you are not
to mind trusting me with the cacistography possible to mortal readers.

The sun shines so that nobody dares complain of the east wind--and
indeed I am better altogether. May God bless you, my dear friend.


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 [Post-mark, June 14, 1845.]

When I ask my wise self what I really do remember of the Prize poem,
the answer is--both of Chapman's lines a-top, quite worth any prize
for their quoter--then, the good epithet of 'Green Europe' contrasting
with Africa--then, deep in the piece, a picture of a Vestal in a
vault, where I see a dipping and winking lamp plainest, and last of
all the ominous 'all was dark' that dismisses you. I read the poem
many years ago, and never since, though I have an impression that the
versification is good, yet from your commentary I see I must have said
a good deal more in its praise than that. But have you not discovered
by this time that I go on talking with my thoughts away?

I know, I have always been jealous of my own musical faculty (I can
write music).--Now that I see the uselessness of such jealousy, and am
for loosing and letting it go, it may be cramped possibly. Your music
is more various and exquisite than any modern writer's to my ear. One
should study the mechanical part of the art, as nearly all that there
is to be studied--for the more one sits and thinks over the creative
process, the more it confirms itself as 'inspiration,' nothing more
nor less. Or, at worst, you write down old inspirations, what you
remember of them ... but with _that_ it begins. 'Reflection' is
exactly what it names itself--a _re_-presentation, in scattered rays
from every angle of incidence, of what first of all became present in
a great light, a whole one. So tell me how these lights are born, if
you can! But I can tell anybody how to make melodious verses--let him
do it therefore--it should be exacted of all writers.

You do not understand what a new feeling it is for me to have someone
who is to like my verses or I shall not ever like them after! So far
differently was I circumstanced of old, that I used rather to go about
for a subject of offence to people; writing ugly things in order to
warn the ungenial and timorous off my grounds at once. I shall never
do so again at least! As it is, I will bring all I dare, in as great
quantities as I can--if not next time, after then--certainly. I must
make an end, print this Autumn my last four 'Bells,' Lyrics, Romances,
'The Tragedy,' and 'Luna,' and then go on with a whole heart to my own
Poem--indeed, I have just resolved not to begin any new song, even,
till this grand clearance is made--I will get the Tragedy transcribed
to bring--

'To bring!' Next Wednesday--if you know how happy you make me! may I
not say _that_, my dear friend, when I feel it from my soul?

I thank God that you are better: do pray make fresh endeavours to
profit by this partial respite of the weather! All about you must urge
that: but even from my distance some effect might come of such wishes.
But you _are_ better--look so and speak so! God bless you.


You let 'flowers be sent you in a letter,' every one knows, and this
hot day draws out our very first yellow rose.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 [Post-mark, June 17, 1845.]

Yes, I quite believe as you do that what is called the 'creative
process' in works of Art, is just inspiration and no less--which made
somebody say to me not long since; And so you think that Shakespeare's
'Othello' was of the effluence of the Holy Ghost?'--rather a startling
deduction, ... only not quite as final as might appear to somebodies
perhaps. At least it does not prevent my going on to agree with the
saying of _Spiridion_, ... do you remember?... 'Tout ce que l'homme
appelle inspiration, je l'appelle aussi revelation,' ... if there is
not something too self-evident in it after all--my sole objection! And
is it not true that your inability to analyse the mental process in
question, is one of the proofs of the fact of inspiration?--as the
gods were known of old by not being seen to move their feet,--coming
and going in an equal sweep of radiance.--And still more wonderful
than the first transient great light you speak of, ... and far beyond
any work of _re_flection, except in the pure analytical sense in which
you use the word, ... appears that gathering of light on light upon
particular points, as you go (in composition) step by step, till you
get intimately near to things, and see them in a fullness and
clearness, and an intense trust in the truth of them which you have
not in any sunshine of noon (called _real_!) but which you have _then_
... and struggle to communicate:--an ineffectual struggle with most
writers (oh, how ineffectual!) and when effectual, issuing in the
'Pippa Passes,' and other master-pieces of the world.

You will tell me what you mean exactly by being jealous of your own
music? You said once that you had had a false notion of music, or had
practised it according to the false notions of other people: but did
you mean besides that you ever had meant to despise music
altogether--because _that_, it is hard to set about trying to believe
of you indeed. And then, you _can_ praise my verses for music?--Why,
are you aware that people blame me constantly for wanting
harmony--from Mr. Boyd who moans aloud over the indisposition of my
'trochees' ... and no less a person than Mr. Tennyson, who said to
somebody who repeated it, that in the want of harmony lay the chief
defect of the poems, 'although it might verily be retrieved, as he
could fancy that I had an ear by nature.' Well--but I am pleased that
you should praise me--right or wrong--I mean, whether I am right or
wrong in being pleased! and I say so to you openly, although my belief
is that you are under a vow to our Lady of Loretto to make giddy with
all manner of high vanities, some head, ... not too strong for such
things, but too low for them, ... before you see again the embroidery
on her divine petticoat. Only there's a flattery so far beyond praise
... even _your_ praise--as where you talk of your verses being liked
&c., and of your being happy to bring them here, ... that is scarcely
a lawful weapon; and see if the Madonna may not signify so much to
you!--Seriously, you will not hurry too uncomfortably, or
uncomfortably at all, about the transcribing? Another day, you know,
will do as well--and patience is possible to me, if not 'native to the

Also I am behaving very well in going out into the noise; not quite
out of doors yet, on account of the heat--and I am better as you say,
without any doubt at all, and stronger--only my looks are a little
deceitful; and people are apt to be heated and flushed in this
weather, one hour, to look a little more ghastly an hour or two after.
Not that it _is_ not true of me that I am better, mind! Because I am.

The 'flower in the letter' was from one of my sisters--from Arabel
(though many of these poems are _ideal_ ... will you understand?) and
your rose came quite alive and fresh, though in act of dropping its
beautiful leaves, because of having to come to me instead of living on
in your garden, as it intended. But I thank you--for this, and all, my
dear friend.


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 Thursday Morning.
                                 [Post-mark, June 19, 1845.]

When I next see you, do not let me go on and on to my confusion about
matters I am more or less ignorant of, but always ignorant. I tell
you plainly I only trench on them, and intrench in them, from
gaucherie, pure and respectable ... I should certainly grow
instructive on the prospects of hay-crops and pasture-land, if
deprived of this resource. And now here is a week to wait before I
shall have any occasion to relapse into Greek literature when I am
thinking all the while, 'now I will just ask simply, what flattery
there was,' &c. &c., which, as I had not courage to say then, I keep
to myself for shame now. This I will say, then--wait and know me
better, as you will one long day at the end.

Why I write now, is because you did not promise, as before, to let me
know how you are--this morning is miserably cold again--Will you tell
me, at your own time?

God bless you, my dear friend.


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 Thursday Evening.
                                 [Post-mark, June 20, 1845.]

If on Greek literature or anything else it is your pleasure to
cultivate a reputation for ignorance, I will respect your desire--and
indeed the point of the deficiency in question being far above my
sight I am not qualified either to deny or assert the existence of it;
so you are free to have it all your own way.

About the 'flattery' however, there is a difference; and I must deny a
little having ever used such a word ... as far as I can recollect, and
I have been trying to recollect, ... as that word of flattery. Perhaps
I said something about your having vowed to make me vain by writing
this or that of my liking your verses and so on--and perhaps I said it
too lightly ... which happened because when one doesn't know whether
to laugh or to cry, it is far best, as a general rule, to laugh. But
the serious truth is that it was all nonsense together what I wrote,
and that, instead of talking of your making me vain, I should have
talked (if it had been done sincerely) of your humbling me--inasmuch
as nothing does humble anybody so much as being lifted up too high.
You know what vaulting Ambition did once for himself? and when it is
done for him by another, his fall is still heavier. And one moral of
all this general philosophy is, that if when your poems come, you
persist in giving too much importance to what I may have courage to
say of this or of that in them, you will make me a dumb critic and I
shall have no help for my dumbness. So I tell you beforehand--nothing
extenuating nor exaggerating nor putting down in malice. I know so
much of myself as to be sure of it. Even as it is, the 'insolence'
which people blame me for and praise me for, ... the 'recklessness'
which my friends talk of with mitigating countenances ... seems
gradually going and going--and really it would not be very strange
(without that) if _I_ who was born a hero worshipper and have so
continued, and who always recognised your genius, should find it
impossible to bring out critical doxies on the workings of it. Well--I
shall do what I can--as far as _impressions_ go, you understand--and
_you_ must promise not to attach too much importance to anything said.
So that is a covenant, my dear friend!--

And I am really gaining strength--and I will not complain of the
weather. As long as the thermometer keeps above sixty I am content for
one; and the roses are not quite dead yet, which they would have been
in the heat. And last and not least--may I ask if you were told that
the pain in the head was not important (or was) in the causes, ... and
was likely to be well soon? or was not? I am at the end.


Upon second or third thoughts, isn't it true that you are a little
suspicious of me? suspicious at least of suspiciousness?

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 Sunday Afternoon.
                                 [Post-mark, June 23, 1845.]

And if I am 'suspicious of your suspiciousness,' who gives cause,
pray? The matter was long ago settled, I thought, when you first took
exception to what I said about higher and lower, and I consented to
this much--that you should help seeing, if you could, our true
intellectual and moral relation each to the other, so long as you
would allow _me_ to see what _is_ there, fronting me. 'Is my eye evil
because yours is not good?' My own friend, if I wished to 'make you
vain,' if having 'found the Bower' I did really address myself to the
wise business of spoiling its rose-roof,--I think that at least where
there was such a will, there would be also something not unlike a
way,--that I should find a proper hooked stick to tear down flowers
with, and write you other letters than these--quite, quite others, I
feel--though I am far from going to imagine, even for a moment, what
might be the precise prodigy--like the notable Son of Zeus, that _was_
to have been, and done the wonders, only he did not, because &c. &c.

But I have a restless head to-day, and so let you off easily. Well,
you ask me about it, that head, and I am not justified in being
positive when my Doctor is dubious; as for the causes, they are
neither superfluity of study, nor fancy, nor care, nor any special
naughtiness that I know how to amend. So if I bring you 'nothing to
signify' on Wednesday ... though I hope to do more than that ... you
will know exactly why it happens. I will finish and transcribe the
'Flight of the Duchess' since you spoke of that first.

I am truly happy to hear that your health improves still.

For me, going out does me good--reading, writing, and, what is
odd,--infinitely most of all, _sleeping_ do me the harm,--never any
very great harm. And all the while I am yours


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 [Post-mark, June 24, 1845.]

I had begun to be afraid that I did not deserve to have my questions
answered; and I was afraid of asking them over again. But it is worse
to be afraid that you are not better at all in any essential manner
(after all your assurances) and that the medical means have failed so
far. Did you go to somebody who knows anything?--because there is no
excuse, you see, in common sense, for not having the best and most
experienced opinion when there is a choice of advice--and I am
confident that that pain should not be suffered to go on without
something being done. What I said about _nerves_, related to what you
had told me of your mother's suffering and what you had fancied of the
relation of it to your own, and not that I could be thinking about
imaginary complaints--I wish I could. Not (either) that I believe in
the relation ... because such things are not hereditary, are they? and
the bare coincidence is improbable. Well, but, I wanted particularly
to say this--_Don't bring the 'Duchess' with you on Wednesday._ I
shall not expect anything, I write distinctly to tell you--and I would
far far rather that you did not bring it. You see it is just as I
thought--for that whether too much thought or study did or did not
bring on the illness, ... yet you admit that reading and writing
increase it ... as they would naturally do any sort of pain in the
head--therefore if you will but be in earnest and try to get well
_first_, we will do the 'Bells' afterwards, and there will be time for
a whole peal of them, I hope and trust, before the winter. Now do
admit that this is reasonable, and agree reasonably to it. And if it
does you good to go out and take exercise, why not go out and take it?
nay, why not go _away_ and take it? Why not try the effect of a little
change of air--or even of a great change of air--if it should be
necessary, or even expedient? Anything is better, you know ... or if
you don't know, _I_ know--than to be ill, really, seriously--I mean
for _you_ to be ill, who have so much to do and to enjoy in the world
yet ... and all those bells waiting to be hung! So that if you will
agree to be well first, I will promise to be ready afterwards to help
you in any thing I can do ... transcribing or anything ... to get the
books through the press in the shortest of times--and I am capable of
a great deal of that sort of work without being tired, having the
habit of writing in any sort of position, and the long habit, ...
since, before I was ill even, I never used to write at a table (or
scarcely ever) but on the arm of a chair, or on the seat of one,
sitting myself on the floor, and calling myself a Lollard for dignity.
So you will put by your 'Duchess' ... will you not? or let me see just
that one sheet--if one should be written--which is finished? ... up to
this moment, you understand? finished _now_.

And if I have tired and teazed you with all these words it is a bad
opportunity to take--and yet I will persist in saying through good and
bad opportunities that I never did 'give cause' as you say, to your
being 'suspicious of my suspiciousness' as I believe I said before. I
deny my 'suspiciousness' altogether--it is not one of my faults. Nor
is it quite my fault that you and I should always be quarrelling about
over-appreciations and under-appreciations--and after all I have no
interest nor wish, I do assure you, to depreciate myself--and you are
not to think that I have the remotest claim to the Monthyon prize for
good deeds in the way of modesty of self-estimation. Only when I know
you better, as you talk of ... and when _you_ know _me_ too well, ...
the right and the wrong of these conclusions will appear in a fuller
light than ever so much arguing can produce now. Is it unkindly
written of me? _no_--I _feel_ it is not!--and that 'now and ever we
are friends,' (just as you think) _I_ think besides and am happy in
thinking so, and could not be distrustful of you if I tried. So may
God bless you, my ever dear friend--and mind to forget the 'Duchess'
and to remember every good counsel!--Not that I do particularly
confide in the medical oracles. They never did much more for _me_
than, when my pulse was above a hundred and forty with fever, to give
me digitalis to make me weak--and, when I could not move without
fainting (with weakness), to give me quinine to make me feverish
again. Yes--and they could tell from the stethoscope, how very little
was really wrong in me ... if it were not on a vital organ--and how I
should certainly live ... if I didn't die sooner. But then, nothing
_has_ power over affections of the chest, except God and his
winds--and I do hope that an obvious quick remedy may be found for
your head. But _do_ give up the writing and all that does harm!--

                                 Ever yours, my dear friend,


Miss Mitford talked of spending Wednesday with me--and I have put it
off to Thursday:--and if you should hear from Mr. Chorley that he is
coming to see _her and me together on any day_, do understand that it
was entirely her proposition and not mine, and that certainly it won't
be acceded to, as far as _I_ am concerned; as I have explained to her
finally. I have been vexed about it--but she can see him down-stairs
as she has done before--and if she calls me perverse and capricious
(which she will do) I shall stop the reflection by thanking her again
and again (as I can do sincerely) for her kindness and goodness in
coming to see me herself, so far!--

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 Tuesday Morning,
                                 [Post-mark, June 24, 1845.]

(So my friend did not in the spirit see me write that _first_ letter,
on Friday, which was too good and true to send, and met, five minutes
after, its natural fate accordingly. Then on Saturday I thought to
take health by storm, and walked myself half dead all the
morning--about town too: last post-hour from this Thule of a
suburb--4 P.M. on Saturdays, next expedition of letters, 8 A.M. on
Mondays;--and then my real letter set out with the others--and, it
should seem, set at rest a 'wonder whether thy friend's questions
deserved answering'--de-served--answer-ing--!)

Parenthetically so much--I want most, though, to tell you--(leaving
out any slightest attempt at thanking you) that I am much better,
quite well to-day--that my doctor has piloted me safely through two or
three illnesses, and knows all about me, I do think--and that he talks
confidently of getting rid of all the symptoms complained of--and
_has_ made a good beginning if I may judge by to-day. As for going
abroad, that is just the thing I most want to avoid (for a reason not
so hard to guess, perhaps, as why my letter was slow in arriving).

So, till to-morrow,--my light through the dark week.

                            God ever bless you, dear friend,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 Tuesday Evening.
                                 [Post-mark, June 25, 1845.]

What will you think when I write to ask you _not_ to come to-morrow,
Wednesday; but ... on Friday perhaps, instead? But do see how it is;
and judge if it is to be helped.

I have waited hour after hour, hoping to hear from Miss Mitford that
she would agree to take Thursday in change for Wednesday,--and just as
I begin to wonder whether she can have received my letter at all, or
whether she may not have been vexed by it into taking a vengeance and
adhering to her own devices; (for it appealed to her esprit de sexe on
the undeniable axiom of women having their way ... and she might
choose to act it out!) just as I wonder over all this, and consider
what a confusion of the elements it would be if you came and found her
here, and Mr. Chorley at the door perhaps, waiting for some of the
light of her countenance;--comes a note from Mr. Kenyon, to the
effect that _he_ will be here at four o'clock P.M.--and comes a final
note from my aunt Mrs. Hedley (supposed to be at Brighton for several
months) to the effect that _she_ will be here at twelve o'clock, M.!!
So do observe the constellation of adverse stars ... or the covey of
'bad birds,' as the Romans called them, and that there is no choice,
but to write as I am writing. It can't be helped--can it? For take
away the doubt about Miss Mitford, and Mr. Kenyon remains--and take
away Mr. Kenyon, and there is Mrs. Hedley--and thus it _must be for
Friday_ ... which will learn to be a fortunate day for the
nonce--unless Saturday should suit you better. I do not speak of
Thursday, because of the doubt about Miss Mitford--and if any harm
should happen to Friday, I will write again; but if you do not hear
again, and are able to come then, you _will_ come perhaps then.

In the meantime I thank you for the better news in your note--if it is
really, really to be trusted in--but you know, you have said so often
that you were better and better, without being really better, that it
makes people ... 'suspicious.' Yet it is full amends for the
disappointment to hope ... here I must break off or be too late. May
God bless you my dear friend.


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 12. Wednesday.
                                 [Post-mark, June 25, 1845.]

Pomegranates you may cut deep down the middle and see into, but not
hearts,--so why should I try and speak?

Friday is best day because nearest, but Saturday is next best--it is
next near, you know: if I get no note, therefore, Friday is my day.

Now is Post-time,--which happens properly.

God bless you, and so your own


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 Thursday Evening.
                                 [Post-mark, June 27, 1845.]

After all it must be for Saturday, as Mrs. Hedley comes again on
Friday, to-morrow, from _New Cross_,--or just beyond it, Eltham
Park--to London for a few days, on account of the illness of one of
her children. I write in the greatest haste after Miss Mitford has
left me ... and _so_ tired! to say this, that if you can and will come
on Saturday, ... or if not on Monday or Tuesday, there is no reason
against it.

                                         Your friend always,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 Friday Morning.
                                 [Post-mark, June 27, 1845.]

Let me make haste and write down _To-morrow_, Saturday, and not later,
lest my selfishness be thoroughly got under in its struggle with a
better feeling that tells me you must be far too tired for another
visitor this week.

What shall I decide on?

Well--Saturday is said--but I will stay not quite so long, nor talk
nearly so loud as of old-times; nor will you, if you understand
anything of me, fail to send down word should you be at all
indisposed. I should not have the heart to knock at the door unless I
really believed you would do that. Still saying this and providing
against the other does not amount, I well know, to the generosity, or
justice rather, of staying away for a day or two altogether. But--what
'a day or two' may not bring forth! Change to you, change to me--

Not all of me, however, can change, thank God--

                                                  Yours ever


Or, write, as last night, if needs be: Monday, Tuesday is not so long
to wait. Will you write?

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 Friday Evening.
                                 [Post-mark, June 28, 1845.]

You are very kind and always--but really _that_ does not seem a good
reason against your coming to-morrow--so come, if it should not rain.
If it rains, it _concludes_ for Monday ... or Tuesday; whichever may
be clear of rain. I was tired on Wednesday by the confounding
confusion of more voices than usual in this room; but the effect
passed off, and though Miss Mitford was with me for hours yesterday I
am not unwell to-day. And pray speak _bona verba_ about the awful
things which are possible between this now and Wednesday. You continue
to be better, I do hope? I am forced to the brevity you see, by the
post on one side, and my friends on the other, who have so long
overstayed the coming of your note--but it is enough to assure you
that you will do no harm by coming--only give pleasure.

                                 Ever yours, my dear friend,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                            [June 30, 1845.]

I send back the prize poems which have been kept far too long even if
I do not make excuses for the keeping--but our sins are not always to
be measured by our repentance for them. Then I am well enough this
morning to have thought of going out till they told me it was not at
all a right day for it ... too windy ... soft and delightful as the
air seems to be--particularly after yesterday, when we had some winter
back again in an episode. And the roses do not die; which is quite
magnanimous of them considering their reverses; and their buds are
coming out in most exemplary resignation--like birds singing in a
cage. Now that the windows may be open, the flowers take heart to live
a little in this room.

And think of my forgetting to tell you on Saturday that I had known of
a letter being received by somebody from Miss Martineau, who is at
Ambleside at this time and so entranced with the lakes and mountains
as to be dreaming of taking or making a house among them, to live in
for the rest of her life. Mrs. Trollope, you may have heard, had
something of the same nympholepsy--no, her daughter was 'settled' in
the neighbourhood--_that_ is the more likely reason for Mrs. Trollope!
and the spirits of the hills conspired against her the first winter
and almost slew her with a fog and drove her away to your Italy where
the Oreadocracy has gentler manners. And Miss Martineau is practising
mesmerism and miracles on all sides she says, and counts on Archbishop
Whately as a new adherent. I even fancy that he has been to see her in
the character of a convert. All this from Mr. Kenyon.

There's a strange wild book called the Autobiography of Heinrich
Stilling ... one of those true devout deep-hearted Germans who believe
everything, and so are nearer the truth, I am sure, than the wise who
believe nothing; but rather over-German sometimes, and redolent of
sauerkraut--and _he_ gives a tradition ... somewhere between mesmerism
and mysticism, ... of a little spirit with gold shoebuckles, who was
his familiar spirit and appeared only in the sunshine I think ...
mottling it over with its feet, perhaps, as a child might snow. Take
away the shoebuckles and I believe in the little spirit--don't _you_?
But these English mesmerists make the shoebuckles quite conspicuous
and insist on them broadly; and the Archbishops Whately may be drawn
by _them_ (who can tell?) more than by the little spirit itself. How
is your head to-day? now really, and nothing extenuating? I will not
ask of poems, till the 'quite well' is _authentic_. May God bless you
always! my dear friend!


After all the book must go another day. I live in chaos do you know?
and I am too hurried at this moment ... yes it is here.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                            Tuesday Morning.

How are you--may I hope to hear soon?

I don't know exactly what possessed me to set my next day so far off
as Saturday--as it was said, however, so let it be. And I will bring
the rest of the 'Duchess'--four or five hundred lines,--'heu, herba
mala crescit'--(as I once saw mournfully pencilled on a white wall at
Asolo)--but will you tell me if you quite remember the main of the
_first_ part--(_parts_ there are none except in the necessary process
of chopping up to suit the limits of a magazine--and I gave them as
much as I could transcribe at a sudden warning)--because, if you
please, I can bring the whole, of course.

After seeing _you_, that Saturday, I was caught up by a friend and
carried to see Vidocq--who did the honours of his museum of knives and
nails and hooks that have helped great murderers to their purposes--he
scarcely admits, I observe, an implement with only one attestation to
its efficacy; but the one or two exceptions rather justify his
latitude in their favour--thus one little sort of dessert knife _did_
only take _one_ life.... 'But then,' says Vidocq, 'it was the man's
own mother's life, with fifty-two blows, and all for' (I think)
'fifteen francs she had got?' So prattles good-naturedly Vidocq--one
of his best stories of that Lacenaire--'jeune homme d'un caractere
fort avenant--mais c'etait un poete,' quoth he, turning sharp on _me_
out of two or three other people round him.

Here your letter breaks in, and sunshine too.

Why do you send me that book--not let me take it? What trouble for

An old French friend of mine, a dear foolish, very French heart and
soul, is coming presently--his poor brains are whirling with mesmerism
in which he believes, as in all other unbelief. He and I are to dine
alone (I have not seen him these two years)--and I shall never be able
to keep from driving the great wedge right through his breast and
descending lower, from riveting his two foolish legs to the wintry
chasm; for I that stammer and answer hap-hazard with you, get
proportionately valiant and voluble with a mere cupful of Diderot's
rinsings, and a man into the bargain.

If you were prevented from leaving the house yesterday, assuredly
to-day you will never attempt such a thing--the wind, rain--all is
against it: I trust you will not make the first experiment except
under really favourable auspices ... for by its success you will
naturally be induced to go on or leave off--Still you are _better_! I
fully believe, dare to believe, _that_ will continue. As for me, since
you ask--find me but something _to do_, and see if I shall not be
well!--Though I _am_ well now almost.

How good you are to my roses--they are not of my making, to be sure.
Never, by the way, did Miss Martineau work such a miracle as I now
witness in the garden--I gathered at Rome, close to the fountain of
Egeria, a handful of _fennel_-seeds from the most indisputable plant
of fennel I ever chanced upon--and, lo, they are come up ... hemlock,
or something akin! In two places, moreover. Wherein does hemlock
resemble fennel? How could I mistake? No wonder that a stone's cast
off from that Egeria's fountain is the Temple of the God Ridiculus.

Well, on Saturday then--at three: and I will certainly bring the
verses you mention--and trust to find you still better.

Vivi felice--my dear friend, God bless you!


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                  Wednesday-Thursday Evening
                                  [Post-mark, July 4, 1845.]

Yes--I know the first part of the 'Duchess' and have it here--and for
the rest of the poem, don't mind about being very legible, or even
legible in the usual sense; and remember how it is my boast to be able
to read all such manuscript writing as never is read by people who
don't like caviare. Now you won't mind? really I rather like blots
than otherwise--being a sort of patron-saint of all manner of
untidyness ... if Mr. Kenyon's reproaches (of which there's a
stereotyped edition) are justified by the fact--and he has a great
organ of order, and knows 'disorderly persons' at a glance, I suppose.
But you won't be particular with _me_ in the matter of transcription?
_that_ is what I want to make sure of. And even if you are not
particular, I am afraid you are not well enough to be troubled by
writing, and writing and the thinking that comes with it--it would be
wiser to wait till you are quite well--now wouldn't it?--and my fear
is that the 'almost well' means 'very little better.' And why, when
there is no motive for hurrying, run any risk? Don't think that I will
help you to make yourself ill. That I refuse to do even so much work
as the 'little dessert-knife' in the way of murder, ... _do_ think! So
upon the whole, I expect nothing on Saturday from this distance--and
if it comes unexpectedly (I mean the Duchess and not Saturday) _let_
it be at no cost, or at the least cost possible, will you? I am
delighted in the meanwhile to hear of the quantity of 'mala herba';
and hemlock does not come up from every seed you sow, though you call
it by ever such bad names.

Talking of poetry, I had a newspaper 'in help of social and political
progress' sent to me yesterday from America--addressed to--just my
name ... _poetess, London_! Think of the simplicity of those wild
Americans in 'calculating' that 'people in general' here in England
know what a poetess is!--Well--the post office authorities, after
deep meditation, I do not doubt, on all probable varieties of the
chimpanzee, and a glance to the Surrey Gardens on one side, and the
Zoological department of Regent's Park on the other, thought of
'Poet's Corner,' perhaps, and wrote at the top of the parcel, 'Enquire
at Paternoster Row'! whereupon the Paternoster Row people wrote again,
'Go to Mr. Moxon'--and I received my newspaper.

And talking of poetesses, I had a note yesterday (again) which quite
touched me ... from Mr. Hemans--Charles, the son of Felicia--written
with so much feeling, that it was with difficulty I could say my
perpetual 'no' to his wish about coming to see me. His mother's memory
is surrounded to him, he says, 'with almost a divine lustre'--and 'as
it cannot be to those who knew the writer alone and not the woman.' Do
you not like to hear such things said? and is it not better than your
tradition about Shelley's son? and is it not pleasant to know that
that poor noble pure-hearted woman, the Vittoria Colonna of our
country, should be so loved and comprehended by some ... by one at
least ... of her own house? Not that, in naming Shelley, I meant for a
moment to make a comparison--there is not equal ground for it.
Vittoria Colonna does not walk near Dante--no. And if you promised
never to tell Mrs. Jameson ... nor Miss Martineau ... I would confide
to you perhaps my secret profession of faith--which is ... which is
... that let us say and do what we please and can ... there _is_ a
natural inferiority of mind in women--of the intellect ... not by any
means, of the moral nature--and that the history of Art and of genius
testifies to this fact openly. Oh--I would not say so to Mrs. Jameson
for the world. I believe I was a coward to her altogether--for when
she denounced carpet work as 'injurious to the mind,' because it led
the workers into 'fatal habits of reverie,' I defended the carpet work
as if I were striving _pro aris et focis_, (_I_, who am so innocent of
all that knowledge!) and said not a word for the poor reveries which
have frayed away so much of silken time for me ... and let her go
away repeating again and again ... 'Oh, but _you_ may do carpet work
with impunity--yes! _because_ you can be writing poems all the

Think of people making poems and rugs at once. There's complex
machinery for you!

I told you that I had a sensation of cold blue steel from her
eyes!--And yet I really liked and like and shall like her. She is very
kind I believe--and it was my mistake--and I correct my impressions of
her more and more to perfection, as _you_ tell me who know more of her
than I.

Only I should not dare, ... _ever_, I think ... to tell her that I
believe women ... all of us in a mass ... to have minds of quicker
movement, but less power and depth ... and that we are under your
feet, because we can't stand upon our own. Not that we should either
be quite under your feet! so you are not to be too proud, if you
please--and there is certainly some amount of wrong--: but it never
will be righted in the manner and to the extent contemplated by
certain of our own prophetesses ... nor ought to be, I hold in
intimate persuasion. One woman indeed now alive ... and only _that_
one down all the ages of the world--seems to me to justify for a
moment an opposite opinion--that wonderful woman George Sand; who has
something monstrous in combination with her genius, there is no
denying at moments (for she has written one book, Leila, which I could
not read, though I am not easily turned back,) but whom, in her good
and evil together, I regard with infinitely more admiration than all
other women of genius who are or have been. Such a colossal nature in
every way,--with all that breadth and scope of faculty which women
want--magnanimous, and loving the truth and loving the people--and
with that 'hate of hate' too, which you extol--so eloquent, and yet
earnest as if she were dumb--so full of a living sense of beauty, and
of noble blind instincts towards an ideal purity--and so proving a
right even in her wrong. By the way, what you say of the Vidocq museum
reminds me of one of the chamber of masonic trial scenes in
'Consuelo.' Could you like to see those knives?

I began with the best intentions of writing six lines--and see what is
written! And all because I kept my letter back ... from a _doubt about
Saturday_--but it has worn away, and the appointment stands good ...
for me: I have nothing to say against it.

But belief in mesmerism is not the same thing as general unbelief--to
do it justice--now is it? It may be super-belief as well. Not that
there is not something ghastly and repelling to me in the thought of
Dr. Elliotson's great bony fingers seeming to 'touch the stops' of a
whole soul's harmonies--as in phreno-magnetism. And I should have
liked far better than hearing and seeing _that_, to have heard _you_
pour the 'cupful of Diderot's rinsings,' out,--and indeed I can fancy
a little that you and how you could do it--and break the cup too

Another sheet--and for what?

What is written already, if you read, you do so meritoriously--and
it's an example of bad writing, if you want one in the poems. I am
ashamed, you may see, of having written too much, (besides)--which is
_much_ worse--but one writes and writes: _I_ do at least--for _you_
are irreproachable. Ever yours my dear friend, as if I had not written
... or _had_!


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                   Monday Afternoon.
                                   [Post-mark July 7, 1845.]

While I write this,--3 o'clock you may be going out, I will hope, for
the day is very fine, perhaps all the better for the wind: yet I got
up this morning sure of bad weather. I shall not try to tell you how
anxious I am for the result and to know it. You will of course feel
fatigued at first--but persevering, as you mean to do, do you
not?--persevering, the event must be happy.

I thought, and still think, to write to you about George Sand, and
the vexed question, a very Bermoothes of the 'Mental Claims of the
Sexes Relatively Considered' (so was called the, ... I do believe, ...
worst poem I ever read in my life), and Mrs. Hemans, and all and some
of the points referred to in your letter--but 'by my fay, I cannot
reason,' to-day: and, by a consequence, I feel the more--so I say how
I want news of you ... which, when they arrive, I shall read
'meritoriously'--do you think? My friend, what ought I to tell you on
that head (or the reverse rather)--of your discourse? I should like to
match you at a fancy-flight; if I could, give you nearly as pleasant
an assurance that 'there's no merit in the case,' but the hot weather
and lack of wit get the better of my good will--besides, I remember
once to have admired a certain enticing simplicity in the avowal of
the Treasurer of a Charitable Institution at a Dinner got up in its
behalf--the Funds being at lowest, Debt at highest ... in fact, this
Dinner was the last chance of the Charity, and this Treasurer's speech
the main feature in the chance--and our friend, inspired by the
emergency, went so far as to say, with a bland smile--'Do not let it
be supposed that we--_despise_ annual contributors,--we
_rather_--solicit their assistance.' All which means, do not think
that I take any 'merit' for making myself supremely happy, I rather
&c. &c.

Always rather mean to deserve it a little better--but never shall: so
it should be, for you and me--and as it was in the beginning so it is
still. You are the--But you know and why should I tease myself with

Let me send this off now--and to-morrow some more, because I trust to
hear you have made the first effort and with success.

                                 Ever yours, my dear friend,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                  [Post-mark, July 8, 1845.]

Well--I have really been out; and am really alive after it--which is
more surprising still--alive enough I mean, to write even _so_,
to-night. But perhaps I say so with more emphasis, to console myself
for failing in my great ambition of getting into the Park and of
reaching Mr. Kenyon's door just to leave a card there vaingloriously,
... all which I did fail in, and was forced to turn back from the
gates of Devonshire Place. The next time it will be better
perhaps--and this time there was no fainting nor anything very wrong
... not even cowardice on the part of the victim (be it recorded!) for
one of my sisters was as usual in authority and ordered the turning
back just according to her own prudence and not my selfwill. Only you
will not, any of you, ask me to admit that it was all
delightful--pleasanter work than what you wanted to spare me in taking
care of your roses on Saturday! don't ask _that_, and I will try it
again presently.

I ought to be ashamed of writing this I and me-ism--but since your
kindness made it worth while asking about I must not be over-wise and
silent on my side.

_Tuesday._--Was it fair to tell me to write though, and be silent of
the 'Duchess,' and when I was sure to be so delighted--and _you knew
it_? _I_ think not indeed. And, to make the obedience possible, I go
on fast to say that I heard from Mr. Horne a few days since and that
_he_ said--'your envelope reminds me of'--_you_, he said ... and so,
asked if you were in England still, and meant to write to you. To
which I have answered that I believe you to be in England--thinking it
strange about the envelope; which, as far as I remember, was one of
those long ones, used, the more conveniently to enclose to him back
again a MS. of his own I had offered with another of his, by his
desire, to _Colburn's Magazine_, as the productions of a friend of
mine, when he was in Germany and afraid of his proper fatal
onymousness, yet in difficulty how to approach the magazines as a
nameless writer (you will not mention this of course). And when he was
in Germany, I remember, ... writing just as your first letter came ...
that I mentioned it to him, and was a little frankly proud of it! but
since, your name has not occurred once--not once, certainly!--and it
is strange.... Only he _can't_ have heard of your having been here,
and it _must_ have been a chance-remark--altogether! taking an
imaginary emphasis from my evil conscience perhaps. Talking of evils,
how wrong of you to make that book for me! and how ill I thanked you
after all! Also, I couldn't help feeling more grateful still for the
Duchess ... who is under ban: and for how long I wonder?

                            My dear friend, I am ever yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                  Wednesday Morning.
                                  [Post-mark, July 9, 1845.]

You are all that is good and kind: I am happy and thankful the
beginning (and worst of it) is over and so well. The Park and Mr.
Kenyon's all in good time--and your sister was most prudent--and you
mean to try again: God bless you, all to be said or done--but, as I
say it, no vain word. No doubt it was a mere chance-thought, and _a
propos de bottes_ of Horne--neither he or any other _can_ know or even
fancy how it is. Indeed, though on other grounds I should be all so
proud of being known for your friend by everybody, yet there's no
denying the deep delight of playing the Eastern Jew's part here in
this London--they go about, you know by travel-books, with the tokens
of extreme destitution and misery, and steal by blind ways and
by-paths to some blank dreary house, one obscure door in it--which
being well shut behind them, they grope on through a dark corridor or
so, and then, a blaze follows the lifting a curtain or the like, for
they are in a palace-hall with fountains and light, and marble and
gold, of which the envious are never to dream! And I, too, love to
have few friends, and to live alone, and to see you from week to week.
Do you not suppose I am grateful?

And you do like the 'Duchess,' as much as you have got of it? that
delights me, too--for every reason. But I fear I shall not be able to
bring you the rest to-morrow--Thursday, my day--because I have been
broken in upon more than one morning; nor, though much better in my
head, can I do anything at night just now. All will come right
eventually, I hope, and I shall transcribe the other things you are to

To-morrow then--only (and that is why I would write) do, do _know_ me
for what I am and treat me as I deserve in that _one_ respect, and _go
out_, without a moment's thought or care, if to-morrow should suit
you--leave word to that effect and I shall be as glad as if I saw you
or more--_reasoned_ gladness, you know. Or you can write--though that
is not necessary at all,--do think of all this!

                               I am yours ever, dear friend,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 [Post-mark, July 12, 1845.]

You understand that it was not a resolution passed in favour of
formality, when I said what I did yesterday about not going out at the
time you were coming--surely you do; whatever you might signify to a
different effect. If it were necessary for me to go out every day, or
most days even, it would be otherwise; but as it is, I may certainly
keep the day you come, free from the fear of carriages, let the sun
shine its best or worst, without doing despite to you or injury to
me--and that's all I meant to insist upon indeed and indeed. You see,
Jupiter Tonans was good enough to come to-day on purpose to deliver
me--one evil for another! for I confess with shame and contrition,
that I never wait to enquire whether it thunders to the left or the
right, to be frightened most ingloriously. Isn't it a disgrace to
anyone with a pretension to poetry? Dr. Chambers, a part of whose
office it is, Papa says, 'to reconcile foolish women to their
follies,' used to take the side of my vanity, and discourse at length
on the passive obedience of some nervous systems to electrical
influences; but perhaps my faint-heartedness is besides traceable to a
half-reasonable terror of a great storm in Herefordshire, where great
storms most do congregate, (such storms!) round the Malvern Hills,
those mountains of England. We lived four miles from their roots,
through all my childhood and early youth, in a Turkish house my father
built himself, crowded with minarets and domes, and crowned with metal
spires and crescents, to the provocation (as people used to observe)
of every lightning of heaven. Once a storm of storms happened, and we
all thought the house was struck--and a tree was so really, within two
hundred yards of the windows while I looked out--the bark, rent from
the top to the bottom ... torn into long ribbons by the dreadful fiery
hands, and dashed out into the air, over the heads of other trees, or
left twisted in their branches--torn into shreds in a moment, as a
flower might be, by a child! Did you ever see a tree after it has been
struck by lightning? The whole trunk of that tree was bare and
peeled--and up that new whiteness of it, ran the finger-mark of the
lightning in a bright beautiful rose-colour (none of your roses
brighter or more beautiful!) the fever-sign of the certain
death--though the branches themselves were for the most part
untouched, and spread from the peeled trunk in their full summer
foliage; and birds singing in them three hours afterwards! And, in
that same storm, two young women belonging to a festive party were
killed on the Malvern Hills--each sealed to death in a moment with a
sign on the chest which a common seal would cover--only the sign on
them was not rose-coloured as on our tree, but black as charred wood.
So I get 'possessed' sometimes with the effects of these impressions,
and so does one, at least, of my sisters, in a lower degree--and
oh!--how amusing and instructive all this is to you! When my father
came into the room to-day and found me hiding my eyes from the
lightning, he was quite angry and called 'it disgraceful to anybody
who had ever learnt the alphabet'--to which I answered humbly that 'I
knew it was'--but if I had been impertinent, I _might_ have added that
wisdom does not come by the alphabet but in spite of it? Don't you
think so in a measure? _non obstantibus_ Bradbury and Evans? There's a
profane question--and ungrateful too ... after the Duchess--I except
the Duchess and her peers--and be sure she will be the world's Duchess
and received as one of your most striking poems. Full of various power
the poem is.... I cannot say how deeply it has impressed me--but
though I want the conclusion, I don't _wish_ for it; and in this, am
reasonable for once! You will not write and make yourself ill--will
you? or read 'Sybil' at unlawful hours even? Are you better at all?
What a letter! and how very foolishly to-day

                                                 I am yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 Sunday Morning.
                                 [Post-mark, July 14, 1845.]

Very well--I shall say no more on the subject--though it was not any
piece of formality on your part that I deprecated; nor even your
over-kindness exactly--I rather wanted you to be really, wisely kind,
and do me a greater favour then the next great one in degree; but you
must understand this much in me, how you can lay me under deepest
obligation. I daresay you think you have some, perhaps many, to whom
your well-being is of deeper interest than to me. Well, if that be
so, do for their sakes make every effort with the remotest chance of
proving serviceable to you; nor _set yourself against_ any little
irksomeness these carriage-drives may bring with them just at the
beginning; and you may say, if you like, 'how I shall delight those
friends, if I can make this newest one grateful'--and, as from the
known quantity one reasons out the unknown, this newest friend will be
one glow of gratitude, he knows that, if you can warm your finger-tips
and so do yourself that much real good, by setting light to a dozen
'Duchesses': why ought I not to say this when it is so true? Besides,
people profess as much to their merest friends--for I have been
looking through a poem-book just now, and was told, under the head of
Album-verses alone, that for A. the writer would die, and for B. die
too but a crueller death, and for C. too, and D. and so on. I wonder
whether they have since wanted to borrow money of him on the strength
of his professions. But you must remember we are in July; the 13th it
is, and summer will go and cold weather stay ('_come_' forsooth!)--and
now is the time of times. Still I feared the rain would hinder you on
Friday--but the thunder did not frighten me--for you: your father must
pardon me for holding most firmly with Dr. Chambers--his theory is
quite borne out by my own experience, for I have seen a man it were
foolish to call a coward, a great fellow too, all but die away in a
thunderstorm, though he had quite science enough to explain why there
was no immediate danger at all--whereupon his younger brother
suggested that he should just go out and treat us to a repetition of
Franklin's experiment with the cloud and the kite--a well-timed
proposition which sent the Explainer down with a white face into the
cellar. What a grand sight your tree was--_is_, for I see it. My
father has a print of a tree so struck--torn to ribbons, as you
describe--but the rose-mark is striking and new to me. We had a good
storm on our last voyage, but I went to bed at the end, as I
thought--and only found there had been lightning next day by the bare
poles under which we were riding: but the finest mountain fit of the
kind I ever saw has an unfortunately ludicrous association. It was at
Possagno, among the Euganean Hills, and I was at a poor house in the
town--an old woman was before a little picture of the Virgin, and at
every fresh clap she lighted, with the oddest sputtering muttering
mouthful of prayer imaginable, an inch of guttery candle, which, the
instant the last echo had rolled away, she as constantly blew out
again for saving's sake--having, of course, to _light the smoke_ of
it, about an instant after that: the expenditure in wax at which the
elements might be propitiated, you see, was a matter for curious
calculation. I suppose I ought to have bought the whole taper for some
four or five centesimi (100 of which make 8d. English) and so kept the
countryside safe for about a century of bad weather. Leigh Hunt tells
you a story he had from Byron, of kindred philosophy in a Jew who was
surprised by a thunderstorm while he was dining on bacon--he tried to
eat between-whiles, but the flashes were as pertinacious as he, so at
last he pushed his plate away, just remarking with a compassionate
shrug, 'all this fuss about a piece of pork!' By the way, what a
characteristic of an Italian _late_ evening is Summer-lightning--it
hangs in broad slow sheets, dropping from cloud to cloud, so long in
dropping and dying off. The 'bora,' which you only get at Trieste,
brings wonderful lightning--you are in glorious June-weather, fancy,
of an evening, under green shock-headed acacias, so thick and green,
with the cicalas stunning you above, and all about you men, women,
rich and poor, sitting standing and coming and going--and through all
the laughter and screaming and singing, the loud clink of the spoons
against the glasses, the way of calling for fresh 'sorbetti'--for all
the world is at open-coffee-house at such an hour--when suddenly there
is a stop in the sunshine, a blackness drops down, then a great white
column of dust drives straight on like a wedge, and you see the acacia
heads snap off, now one, then another--and all the people scream 'la
bora, la bora!' and you are caught up in their whirl and landed in
some interior, the man with the guitar on one side of you, and the boy
with a cageful of little brown owls for sale, on the other--meanwhile,
the thunder claps, claps, with such a persistence, and the rain, for a
finale, falls in a mass, as if you had knocked out the whole bottom of
a huge tank at once--then there is a second stop--out comes the
sun--somebody clinks at his glass, all the world bursts out laughing,
and prepares to pour out again,--but _you_, the stranger, _do_ make
the best of your way out, with no preparation at all; whereupon you
infallibly put your foot (and half your leg) into a river, really
that, of rainwater--that's a _Bora_ (and that comment of yours, a
justifiable pun!) Such things you get in Italy, but better, better,
the best of all things you do not (_I_ do not) get those. And I shall
see you on Wednesday, please remember, and bring you the rest of the
poem--that you should like it, gratifies me more than I will try to
say, but then, do not you be tempted by that pleasure of pleasing
which I think is your besetting sin--may it not be?--and so cut me off
from the other pleasure of being profited. As I told you, I like so
much to fancy that you see, and will see, what I do as _I_ see it,
while it is doing, as nobody else in the world should, certainly, even
if they thought it worth while to want--but when I try and build a
great building I shall want you to come with me and judge it and
counsel me before the scaffolding is taken down, and while you have to
make your way over hods and mortar and heaps of lime, and trembling
tubs of size, and those thin broad whitewashing brushes I always had a
desire to take up and bespatter with. And now goodbye--I am to see you
on Wednesday I trust--and to hear you say you are better, still
better, much better? God grant that, and all else good for you, dear
friend, and so for R.B.

                                                 ever yours.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 [Post-mark, July 18, 1845.]

I suppose nobody is ever expected to acknowledge his or her 'besetting
sin'--it would be unnatural--and therefore you will not be surprised
to hear me deny the one imputed to me for mine. I deny it quite and
directly. And if my denial goes for nothing, which is but reasonable,
I might call in a great cloud of witnesses, ... a thundercloud, ...
(talking of storms!) and even seek no further than this table for a
first witness; this letter, I had yesterday, which calls me ... let me
see how many hard names ... 'unbending,' ... 'disdainful,' ... 'cold
hearted,' ... 'arrogant,' ... yes, 'arrogant, as women always are when
men grow humble' ... there's a charge against all possible and
probable petticoats beyond mine and through it! Not that either they
or mine deserve the charge--we do not; to the lowest hem of us! for I
don't pass to the other extreme, mind, and adopt besetting sins 'over
the way' and in antithesis. It's an undeserved charge, and unprovoked!
and in fact, the very flower of self-love self-tormented into ill
temper; and shall remain unanswered, for _me_, ... and _should_, ...
even if I could write mortal epigrams, as your Lamia speaks them. Only
it serves to help my assertion that people in general who know
something of me, my dear friend, are not inclined to agree with you in
particular, about my having an 'over-pleasure in pleasing,' for a
besetting sin. If you had spoken of my sister Henrietta indeed, you
would have been right--_so_ right! but for _me_, alas, my sins are not
half as amiable, nor given to lean to virtue's side with half such a
grace. And then I have a pretension to speak the truth like a Roman,
even in matters of literature, where Mr. Kenyon says falseness is a
fashion--and really and honestly I should not be afraid ... I should
have no reason to be afraid, ... if all the notes and letters written
by my hand for years and years about presentation copies of poems and
other sorts of books were brought together and 'conferred,' as they
say of manuscripts, before my face--I should not shrink and be
ashamed. Not that I always tell the truth as I see it--_but_ I _never
do_ speak falsely with intention and consciousness--never--and I do
not find that people of letters are sooner offended than others are,
by the truth told in gentleness;--I do not remember to have offended
anyone in this relation, and by these means. Well!--but _from me to
you_; it is all different, you know--you must know how different it
is. I can tell you truly what I think of this thing and of that thing
in your 'Duchess'--but I must of a necessity hesitate and fall into
misgiving of the adequacy of my truth, so called. To judge at all of a
work of yours, I must _look up to it_, and _far up_--because whatever
faculty _I_ have is included in your faculty, and with a great rim all
round it besides! And thus, it is not at all from an over-pleasure in
pleasing _you_, not at all from an inclination to depreciate myself,
that I speak and feel as I do and must on some occasions; it is simply
the consequence of a true comprehension of you and of me--and apart
from it, I should not be abler, I think, but less able, to assist you
in anything. I do wish you would consider all this reasonably, and
understand it as a third person would in a moment, and consent not to
spoil the real pleasure I have and am about to have in your poetry, by
nailing me up into a false position with your gold-headed nails of
chivalry, which won't hold to the wall through this summer. Now you
will not answer this?--you will only understand it and me--and that I
am not servile but sincere, but earnest, but meaning what I say--and
when I say I am afraid, you will believe that I am afraid; and when I
say I have misgivings, you will believe that I have misgivings--you
will _trust_ me so far, and give me liberty to breathe and feel
naturally ... according to my own nature. Probably, or certainly
rather, I have one advantage over you, ... one, of which women are not
fond of boasting--that of _being older by years_--for the 'Essay on
Mind,' which was the first poem published by me (and rather more
printed than published after all), the work of my earliest youth, half
childhood, half womanhood, was published in 1826 I see. And if I told
Mr. Kenyon not to let you see that book, it was not for the date, but
because Coleridge's daughter was right in calling it a mere 'girl's
exercise'; because it is just _that_ and no more, ... no expression
whatever of my nature as it ever was, ... pedantic, and in some things
pert, ... and such as altogether, and to do myself justice (which I
would fain do of course), I was not in my whole life. Bad books are
never like their writers, you know--and those under-age books are
generally bad. Also I have found it hard work to _get into
expression_, though I began rhyming from my very infancy, much as you
did (and this, with no sympathy near to me--I have had to do without
sympathy in the full sense--), and even in my 'Seraphim' days, my
tongue clove to the roof of my mouth,--from leading so conventual
recluse a life, perhaps--and all my better poems were written last
year, the very best thing to come, if there should be any life or
courage to come; I scarcely know. Sometimes--it is the real truth--I
have haste to be done with it all. It is the real truth; however to
say so may be an ungrateful return for your kind and generous words,
... which I _do_ feel gratefully, let me otherwise feel as I will, ...
or must. But then you know you are liable to such prodigious mistakes
about besetting sins and even besetting virtues--to such a set of
small delusions, that are sure to break one by one, like other
bubbles, as you draw in your breath, ... as I see by the law of my own
star, my own particular star, the star I was born under, the star
_Wormwood_, ... on the opposite side of the heavens from the
constellations of 'the Lyre and the Crown.' In the meantime, it is
difficult to thank you, or _not_ to thank you, for all your
kindnesses--[Greek: algos de sigan]. Only Mrs. Jameson told me of Lady
Byron's saying 'that she knows she is burnt every day in effigy by
half the world, but that the effigy is so unlike herself as to be
inoffensive to her,' and just so, or rather just in the converse of
_so_, is it with me and your kindnesses. They are meant for quite
another than I, and are too far to be so near. The comfort is ... in
seeing you throw all those ducats out of the window, (and how many
ducats go in a figure to a 'dozen Duchesses,' it is profane to
calculate) the comfort is that you will not be the poorer for it in
the end; since the people beneath, are honest enough to push them back
under the door. Rather a bleak comfort and occupation though!--and you
may find better work for your friends, who are (some of them) weary
even unto death of the uses of this life. And now, you who are
generous, _be_ generous, and take no notice of all this. I speak of
myself, not of you so there is nothing for you to contradict or
discuss--and if there were, you would be really kind and give me my
way in it. Also you may take courage; for I promise not to vex you by
thanking you against _your_ will,--more than may be helped.

Some of this letter was written before yesterday and in reply of
course to yours--so it is to pass for two letters, being long enough
for just six. Yesterday you must have wondered at me for being in such
a maze altogether about the poems--and so now I rise to explain that
it was assuredly the wine song and no other which I read of yours in
_Hood's_. And then, what did I say of the Dante and Beatrice? Because
what I referred to was the exquisite page or two or three on that
subject in the 'Pentameron.' I do not remember anything else of
Landor's with the same bearing--do you? As to Montaigne, with the
threads of my thoughts smoothly disentangled, I can see nothing
coloured by him ... nothing. Do bring all the _Hood_ poems of your
own--inclusive of the 'Tokay,' because I read it in such haste as to
whirl up all the dust you saw, from the wheels of my chariot. The
'Duchess' is past speaking of here--but you will see how I am
delighted. And we must make speed--only taking care of your head--for
I heard to-day that Papa and my aunt are discussing the question of
sending me off either to Alexandria or Malta for the winter. Oh--it
is quite a passing talk and thought, I dare say! and it would not _be_
in any case, until September or October; though in every case, I
suppose, _I_ should not be much consulted ... and all cases and places
would seem better to me (if I were) than Madeira which the physicians
used to threaten me with long ago. So take care of your headache and
let us have the 'Bells' rung out clear before the summer ends ... and
pray don't say again anything about clear consciences or unclear ones,
in granting me the privilege of reading your manuscripts--which is all
clear privilege to me, with pride and gladness waiting on it. May God
bless you always my dear friend!


You left behind your sister's little basket--but I hope you did not
forget to thank her for my carnations.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                                   [no date]

I shall just say, at the beginning of a note as at the end, I am yours
_ever_, and not till summer ends and my nails fall out, and my breath
breaks bubbles,--ought you to write thus having restricted me as you
once did, and do still? You tie me like a Shrove-Tuesday fowl to a
stake and then pick the thickest cudgel out of your lot, and at my
head it goes--I wonder whether you remembered having predicted exactly
the same horror once before. 'I was to see you--and you were to
understand'--_Do_ you? do you understand--my own friend--with that
superiority in years, too! For I confess to that--you need not throw
that in my teeth ... as soon as I read your 'Essay on Mind'--(which of
course I managed to do about 12 hours after Mr. K's positive refusal
to keep his promise, and give me the book) from preface to the 'Vision
of Fame' at the end, and reflected on my own doings about that time,
1826--I did indeed see, and wonder at, your advance over me in
years--what then? I have got nearer you considerably--(if only
nearer)--since then--and prove it by the remarks I make at favourable
times--such as this, for instance, which occurs in a poem you are to
see--written some time ago--which advises nobody who thinks nobly of
the Soul, to give, if he or she can help, such a good argument to the
materialist as the owning that any great choice of that Soul, which it
is born to make and which--(in its determining, as it must, the whole
future course and impulses of that soul)--which must endure for ever,
even though the object that induced the choice should
disappear--owning, I say, that such a choice may be scientifically
determined and produced, at any operator's pleasure, by a definite
number of ingredients, so much youth, so much beauty, so much talent
&c. &c., with the same certainty and precision that another kind of
operator will construct you an artificial volcano with so much steel
filings and flower of sulphur and what not. There is more in the soul
than rises to the surface and meets the eye; whatever does _that_, is
for this world's immediate uses; and were this world _all, all_ in us
would be producible and available for use, as it _is_ with the body
now--but with the soul, what is to be developed _afterward_ is the
main thing, and instinctively asserts its rights--so that when you
hate (or love) you shall not be so able to explain 'why' ('You' is the
ordinary creature enough of my poem--_he_ might not be so able.)

There, I will write no more. You will never drop _me_ off the golden
hooks, I dare believe--and the rest is with God--whose finger I see
every minute of my life. Alexandria! Well, and may I not as easily ask
leave to come 'to-morrow at the Muezzin' as next Wednesday at three?

God bless you--do not be otherwise than kind to this letter which it
costs me pains, great pains to avoid writing better, as
truthfuller--this you get is not the first begun. Come, you shall not
have the heart to blame me; for, see, I will send all my sins of
commission with _Hood_,--blame _them_, tell me about them, and
meantime let me be, dear friend, yours,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 [Post-mark, July 21, 1845.]

But I never _did_ strike you or touch you--and you are not in earnest
in the complaint you make--and this is really all I am going to say
to-day. What I said before was wrung from me by words on your part,
while you know far too well how to speak so as to make them go
deepest, and which sometimes it becomes impossible, or over-hard to
bear without deprecation:--as when, for instance, you talk of being
'grateful' to _me_!!--Well! I will try that there shall be no more of
it--no more provocation of generosities--and so, (this once) as you
express it, I 'will not have the heart to blame' you--except for
reading my books against my will, which was very wrong indeed. Mr.
Kenyon asked me, I remember, (he had a mania of sending my copybook
literature round the world to this person and that person, and I was
roused at last into binding him by a vow to do so no more) I remember
he asked me ... 'Is Mr. Browning to be excepted?'; to which I answered
that nobody was to be excepted--and thus he was quite right in
resisting to the death ... or to dinner-time ... just as you were
quite wrong after dinner. Now, could a woman have been more curious?
Could the very author of the book have done worse? But I leave my sins
and yours gladly, to get into the _Hood_ poems which have delighted me
so--and first to the St. Praxed's which is of course the finest and
most powerful ... and indeed full of the power of life ... and of
death. It has impressed me very much. Then the 'Angel and Child,' with
all its beauty and significance!--and the 'Garden Fancies' ... some of
the stanzas about the name of the flower, with such exquisite music in
them, and grace of every kind--and with that beautiful and musical use
of the word 'meandering,' which I never remember having seen used in
relation to _sound_ before. It does to mate with your '_simmering_
quiet' in Sordello, which brings the summer air into the room as sure
as you read it. Then I like your burial of the pedant so much!--you
have quite the damp smell of funguses and the sense of creeping things
through and through it. And the 'Laboratory' is hideous as you meant
to make it:--only I object a little to your tendency ... which is
almost a habit, and is very observable in this poem I think, ... of
making lines difficult for the reader to read ... see the opening
lines of this poem. Not that music is required everywhere, nor in
_them_ certainly, but that the uncertainty of rhythm throws the
reader's mind off the _rail_ ... and interrupts his progress with you
and your influence with him. Where we have not direct pleasure from
rhythm, and where no peculiar impression is to be produced by the
changes in it, we should be encouraged by the poet to _forget it
altogether_; should we not? I am quite wrong perhaps--but you see how
I do not conceal my wrongnesses where they mix themselves up with my
sincere impressions. And how could it be that no one within my hearing
ever spoke of these poems? Because it is true that I never saw one of
them--never!--except the 'Tokay,' which is inferior to all; and that I
was quite unaware of your having printed so much with Hood--or at all,
except this 'Tokay,' and this 'Duchess'! The world is very deaf and
dumb, I think--but in the end, we need not be afraid of its not
learning its lesson.

Could you come--for I am going out in the carriage, and will not stay
to write of your poems even, any more to-day--could you come on
Thursday or Friday (the day left to your choice) instead of on
Wednesday? If I could help it I would not say so--it is not a caprice.
And I leave it to you, whether Thursday or Friday. And Alexandria
seems discredited just now for Malta--and 'anything but Madeira,' I go
on saying to myself. These _Hood_ poems are all to be in the next
'Bells' of course--of necessity?

May God bless you my dear friend, my ever dear friend!--


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 Tuesday Morning.
                                 [Post-mark, July 22, 1845.]

I will say, with your leave, Thursday (nor attempt to say anything
else without your leave).

The temptation of reading the 'Essay' was more than I could bear: and
a wonderful work it is every way; the other poems and their

And you go out still--so continue better!

I cannot write this morning--I should say too much and have to be
sorry and afraid--let me be safely yours ever, my own dear friend--


I am but too proud of your praise--when will the blame come--at Malta?

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 [Post-mark, July 25, 1845.]

Are you any better to-day? and will you say just the truth of it? and
not attempt to do any of the writing which does harm--nor of the
reading even, which may do harm--and something does harm to you, you
see--and you told me not long ago that you knew how to avoid the harm
... now, did you not? and what could it have been last week which you
did not avoid, and which made you so unwell? Beseech you not to think
that I am going to aid and abet in this wronging of yourself, for I
will not indeed--and I am only sorry to have given you my querulous
queries yesterday ... and to have omitted to say in relation to them,
too, how they were to be accepted in any case as just passing thoughts
of mine for _your_ passing thoughts, ... some right, it may be ...
some wrong, it must be ... and none, insisted on even by the thinker!
just impressions, and by no means pretending to be judgments--now
_will_ you understand? Also, I intended (as a proof of my fallacy) to
strike out one or two of my doubts before I gave the paper to you--so
_whichever strikes you as the most foolish of them, of course must be
what I meant to strike out_--(there's ingenuity for you!). The poem
did, for the rest, as will be suggested to you, give me the very
greatest pleasure, and astonish me in two ways ... by the
versification, mechanically considered; and by the successful
evolution of pure beauty from all that roughness and rudeness of the
sin of the boar-pinner--successfully evolved, without softening one
hoarse accent of his voice. But there is to be a pause now--you will
not write any more--no, nor come here on Wednesday, if coming into the
roar of this London should make the pain worse, as I cannot help
thinking it must--and you were not well yesterday morning, you
admitted. You _will_ take care? And if there should be a wisdom in
going away...!

Was it very wrong of me, doing what I told you of yesterday? Very
imprudent, I am afraid--but I never knew how to be prudent--and then,
there is not a sharing of responsibility in any sort of imaginable
measure; but a mere going away of so many thoughts, apart from the
thinker, or of words, apart from the speaker, ... just as I might give
away a pocket-handkerchief to be newly marked and mine no longer. I
did not do--and would not have done, ... one of those papers singly.
It would have been unbecoming of me in every way. It was simply a
writing of notes ... of slips of paper ... now on one subject, and now
on another ... which were thrown into the great cauldron and boiled up
with other matter, and re-translated from my idiom where there seemed
a need for it. And I am not much afraid of being ever guessed
at--except by those Oedipuses who astounded me once for a moment and
were after all, I hope, baffled by the Sphinx--or ever betrayed;
because besides the black Stygian oaths and indubitable honour of the
editor, he has some interest, even as I have the greatest, in being
silent and secret. And nothing _is mine_ ... if something is _of me_
... or _from_ me, rather. Yet it was wrong and foolish, I see
plainly--wrong in all but the motives. How dreadful to write against
time, and with a side-ways running conscience! And then the literature
of the day was wider than his knowledge, all round! And the
booksellers were barking distraction on every side!--I had some of the
mottos to find too! But the paper relating to you I never was
consulted about--or in _one particular way_ it would have been
better,--as easily it might have been. May God bless you, my dear


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 Friday Morning.
                                 [Post-mark, July 25, 1845.]

You would let me _now_, I dare say, call myself grateful to you--yet
such is my jealousy in these matters--so do I hate the material when
it puts down, (or tries) the immaterial in the offices of friendship;
that I could almost tell you I was _not_ grateful, and try if that way
I could make you see the substantiality of those other favours you
refuse to recognise, and reality of the other gratitude you will not
admit. But truth is truth, and you are all generosity, and will draw
none but the fair inference, so I thank you as well as I can for this
_also_--this last kindness. And you know its value, too--how if there
were another _you_ in the world, who had done all you have done and
whom I merely admired for that; if such an one had sent me such a
criticism, so exactly what I want and can use and turn to good; you
know how I would have told you, my _you_ I saw yesterday, all about
it, and been sure of your sympathy and gladness:--but the two in one!

For the criticism itself, it is all true, except the over-eating--all
the suggestions are to be adopted, the improvements accepted. I so
thoroughly understand your spirit in this, that, just in this
beginning, I should really like to have found some point in which I
could cooeperate with your intention, and help my work by disputing the
effect of any alteration proposed, if it ought to be disputed--_that_
would answer your purpose exactly as well as agreeing with you,--so
that the benefit to me were apparent; but this time I cannot dispute
one point. All is for best.

So much for this 'Duchess'--which I shall ever rejoice in--wherever
was a bud, even, in that strip of May-bloom, a live musical bee hangs
now. I shall let it lie (my poem), till just before I print it; and
then go over it, alter at the places, and do something for the places
where I (really) wrote anyhow, almost, to get done. It is an odd fact,
yet characteristic of my accomplishings one and all in this kind, that
of _the poem_, the real conception of an evening (two years ago,
fully)--of _that_, not a line is written,--though perhaps after all,
what I am going to call the accessories in the story are real though
indirect reflexes of the original idea, and so supersede properly
enough the necessity of its personal appearance, so to speak. But, as
I conceived the poem, it consisted entirely of the Gipsy's description
of the life the Lady was to lead with her future Gipsy lover--a _real_
life, not an unreal one like that with the Duke. And as I meant to
write it, all their wild adventures would have come out and the
insignificance of the former vegetation have been deducible only--as
the main subject has become now; of course it comes to the same thing,
for one would never show half by half like a cut orange.--

Will you write to me? caring, though, so much for my best interests as
not to write if you can work for yourself, or save yourself fatigue. I
_think_ before writing--or just after writing--such a sentence--but
reflection only justifies my first feeling; I _would_ rather go
without your letters, without seeing you at all, if that advantaged
you--my dear, first and last friend; my friend! And now--surely I
might dare say you may if you please get well through God's
goodness--with persevering patience, surely--and this next winter
abroad--which you must get ready for now, every sunny day, will you
not? If I venture to weary you again with all this, is there not the
cause of causes, and did not the prophet write that 'there was a tide
in the affairs of men, which taken at the E.B.B.' led on to the
fortune of

                                                   Your R.B.

Oh, let me tell you in the bitterness of my heart, that it was only 4
o'clock--that clock I enquired about--and that, ... no, I shall never
say with any grace what I want to say ... and now dare not ... that
you all but owe me an extra quarter of an hour next time: as in the
East you give a beggar something for a few days running--then you miss
him; and next day he looks indignant when the regular dole falls and
murmurs--'And, for yesterday?'--Do I stay too long, I _want_ to
know,--too long for the voice and head and all but the spirit that may
not so soon tire,--knowing the good it does. If you would but tell me.

God bless you--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                  [Post-mark, July 28, 1845]

You say too much indeed in this letter which has crossed mine--and
particularly as there is not a word in it of what I most wanted to
know and want to know ... _how you are_--for you must observe, if you
please, that the very paper you pour such kindness on, was written
after your own example and pattern, when, in the matter of my
'Prometheus' (such different wearying matter!), you took trouble for
me and did me good. Judge from this, if even in inferior things, there
can be gratitude from you to me!--or rather, do not judge--but listen
when I say that I am delighted to have met your wishes in writing as I
wrote; only that you are surely wrong in refusing to see a single
wrongness in all that heap of weedy thoughts, and that when you look
again, you must come to the admission of it. One of the thistles is
the suggestion about the line

    Was it singing, was it saying,

which you wrote so, and which I proposed to amend by an intermediate
'or.' Thinking of it at a distance, it grows clear to me that you were
right, and that there should be and must be no 'or' to disturb the
listening pause. Now _should_ there? And there was something else,
which I forget at this moment--and something more than the something
else. Your account of the production of the poem interests me very
much--and proves just what I wanted to make out from your statements
the other day, and they refused, I thought, to let me, ... that you
are more faithful to your first _Idea_ than to your first _plan_. Is
it so? or not? 'Orange' is orange--but _which half_ of the orange is
not predestinated from all eternity--: is it _so_?

_Sunday._--I wrote so much yesterday and then went out, not knowing
very well how to speak or how to be silent (is it better to-day?) of
some expressions of yours ... and of your interest in me--which are
deeply affecting to my feelings--whatever else remains to be said of
them. And you know that you make great mistakes, ... of fennel for
hemlock, of four o'clocks for five o'clocks, and of other things of
more consequence, one for another; and may not be quite right besides
as to my getting well '_if I please_!' ... which reminds me a little
of what Papa says sometimes when he comes into this room unexpectedly
and convicts me of having dry toast for dinner, and declares angrily
that obstinacy and dry toast have brought me to my present condition,
and that if I _pleased_ to have porter and beefsteaks instead, I
should be as well as ever I was, in a month!... But where is the need
of talking of it? What I wished to say was this--that if I get better
or worse ... as long as I live and to the last moment of life, I shall
remember with an emotion which cannot change its character, all the
generous interest and feeling you have spent on me--_wasted_ on me I
was going to write--but I would not provoke any answering--and in one
obvious sense, it need not be so. I never shall forget these things,
my dearest friend; nor remember them more coldly. God's goodness!--I
believe in it, as in His sunshine here--which makes my head ache a
little, while it comes in at the window, and makes most other people
gayer--it does _me_ good too in a different way. And so, may God bless
you! and me in this ... just this, ... that I may never have the
sense, ... intolerable in the remotest apprehension of it ... of
being, in any way, directly or indirectly, the means of ruffling your
smooth path by so much as one of my flint-stones!--In the meantime you
do not tire me indeed even when you go later for sooner ... and I do
not tire myself even when I write longer and duller letters to you (if
the last is possible) than the one I am ending now ... as the most
grateful (leave me that word) of your friends.


How could you think that I should speak to Mr. Kenyon of the book? All
I ever said to him has been that you had looked through my
'Prometheus' for me--and that I was _not disappointed in you_, these
two things on two occasions. I do trust that your head is better.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 [Post-mark, July 28, 1845.]

How must I feel, and what can, or could I say even if you let me say
all? I am most grateful, most happy--most happy, come what will!

Will you let me try and answer your note to-morrow--before Wednesday
when I am to see you? I will not hide from you that my head aches now;
and I have let the hours go by one after one--I am better all the
same, and will write as I say--'Am I better' you ask!

                  Yours I am, ever yours my dear friend R.B.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 [Post-mark, July 31, 1845.]

In all I say to you, write to you, I know very well that I trust to
your understanding me almost beyond the warrant of any human
capacity--but as I began, so I shall end. I shall believe you remember
what I am forced to remember--you who do me the superabundant justice
on every possible occasion,--you will never do me injustice when I sit
by you and talk about Italy and the rest.

--To-day I cannot write--though I am very well otherwise--but I shall
soon get into my old self-command and write with as much 'ineffectual
fire' as before: but meantime, _you_ will write to me, I hope--telling
me how you are? I have but one greater delight in the world than in
hearing from you.

God bless you, my best, dearest friend--think what I would speak--

                                                  Ever yours


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                [Post-mark, August 2, 1845.]

Let me write one word ... not to have it off my mind ... because it is
by no means heavily _on_ it; but lest I should forget to write it at
all by not writing it at once. What could you mean, ... I have been
thinking since you went away ... by applying such a grave expression
as having a thing 'off your mind' to that foolish subject of the
stupid book (mine), and by making it worth your while to account
logically for your wish about my not mentioning it to Mr. Kenyon? You
could not fancy for one moment that I was vexed in the matter of the
book? or in the other matter of your wish? Now just hear me. I
explained to you that I had been silent to Mr. Kenyon, first because
the fact was so; and next and a little, because I wanted to show how I
anticipated your wish by a wish of my own ... though from a different
motive. _Your_ motive I really did take to be (never suspecting my
dear kind cousin of treason) to be a natural reluctancy of being
convicted (forgive me!) of such an arch-womanly curiosity. For my own
motive ... motives ... they are more than one ... you must trust me;
and refrain as far as you can from accusing me of an over-love of
Eleusinian mysteries when I ask you to say just as little about your
visits here and of me as you find possible ... _even to Mr. Kenyon_
... as _to every other person whatever_. As you know ... and yet more
than you know ... I am in a peculiar position--and it does not follow
that you should be ashamed of my friendship or that I should not be
proud of yours, if we avoid making it a subject of conversation in
high places, or low places. There! _that_ is my request to you--or
commentary on what you put 'off your mind' yesterday--probably quite
unnecessary as either request or commentary; yet said on the chance of
its not being so, because you seemed to mistake my remark about Mr.

And your head, how is it? And do consider if it would not be wise and
right on that account of your health, to go with Mr. Chorley? You can
neither work nor enjoy while you are subject to attacks of the
kind--and besides, and without reference to your present suffering and
inconvenience, you _ought not_ to let them master you and gather
strength from time and habit; I am sure you ought not. Worse last week
than ever, you see!--and no prospect, perhaps, of bringing out your
"Bells" this autumn, without paying a cost too heavy!--Therefore ...
the _therefore_ is quite plain and obvious!--

_Friday._--Just as it is how anxious Flush and I are, to be delivered
from you; by these sixteen heads of the discourse of one of us,
written before your letter came. Ah, but I am serious--and you will
consider--will you not? what is best to be done? and do it. You could
write to me, you know, from the end of the world; if you could take
the thought of me so far.

And _for_ me, no, and yet yes,--I _will_ say this much; that I am not
inclined to do you injustice, but justice, when you come here--the
justice of wondering to myself how you can possibly, possibly, care to
come. Which is true enough to be _unanswerable_, if you please--or I
should not say it. '_As I began, so I shall end_--' Did you, as I hope
you did, thank your sister for Flush and for me? When you were gone,
he graciously signified his intention of eating the cakes--brought the
bag to me and emptied it without a drawback, from my hand, cake after
cake. And I forgot the basket once again.

And talking of Italy and the cardinals, and thinking of some cardinal
points you are ignorant of, did you ever hear that I was one of

          'those schismatiques
    of Amsterdam'

whom your Dr. Donne would have put into the dykes? unless he meant the
Baptists, instead of the Independents, the holders of the Independent
church principle. No--not '_schismatical_,' I hope, hating as I do
from the roots of my heart all that rending of the garment of Christ,
which Christians are so apt to make the daily week-day of this
Christianity so called--and caring very little for most dogmas and
doxies in themselves--too little, as people say to me sometimes, (when
they send me 'New Testaments' to learn from, with very kind
intentions)--and believing that there is only one church in heaven and
earth, with one divine High Priest to it; let exclusive religionists
build what walls they please and bring out what chrisms. But I used to
go with my father always, when I was able, to the nearest dissenting
chapel of the Congregationalists--from liking the simplicity of that
praying and speaking without books--and a little too from disliking
the theory of state churches. There is a narrowness among the
dissenters which is wonderful; an arid, grey Puritanism in the clefts
of their souls: but it seems to me clear that they know what the
'liberty of Christ' _means_, far better than those do who call
themselves 'churchmen'; and stand altogether, as a body, on higher
ground. And so, you see, when I talked of the sixteen points of my
discourse, it was the foreshadowing of a coming event, and you have
had it at last in the whole length and breadth of it. But it is not my
fault if the wind began to blow so that I could not go out--as I
intended--as I shall do to-morrow; and that you have received my
dulness in a full libation of it, in consequence. My sisters said of
the roses you blasphemed, yesterday, that they 'never saw such flowers
anywhere--anywhere here in London--' and therefore if I had thought so
myself before, it was not so wrong of me. I put your roses, you see,
against my letter, to make it seem less dull--and yet I do not forget
what you say about caring to hear from me--I mean, I do not _affect_
to forget it.

May God bless you, far longer than I can say so.


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                Sunday Evening.
                                [Post-mark, August 4, 1845.]

I said what you comment on, about Mr. Kenyon, because I feel I _must_
always tell you the simple truth--and not being quite at liberty to
communicate the whole story (though it would at once clear me from the
charge of over-curiosity ... if I much cared for _that_!)--I made my
first request in order to prevent your getting at any part of it from
_him_ which should make my withholding seem disingenuous for the
moment--that is, till my explanation came, if it had an opportunity of
coming. And then, when I fancied you were misunderstanding the reason
of that request--and supposing I was ambitious of making a higher
figure in _his_ eyes than your own,--I then felt it 'on my mind' and
so spoke ... a natural mode of relief surely! For, dear friend, I have
_once_ been _untrue_ to you--when, and how, and why, you know--but I
thought it pedantry and worse to hold by my words and increase their
fault. You have forgiven me that one mistake, and I only refer to it
now because if you should ever make _that_ a precedent, and put any
least, most trivial word of mine under the same category, you would
wrong me as you never wronged human being:--and that is done with. For
the other matter,--the talk of my visits, it is impossible that any
hint of them can ooze out of the only three persons in the world to
whom I ever speak of them--my father, mother and sister--to whom my
appreciation of your works is no novelty since some years, and whom I
made comprehend exactly your position and the necessity for the
absolute silence I enjoined respecting the permission to see you. You
may depend on them,--and Miss Mitford is in your keeping, mind,--and
dear Mr. Kenyon, if there should be never so gentle a touch of
'garrulous God-innocence' about those kind lips of his. Come, let me
snatch at _that_ clue out of the maze, and say how perfect, absolutely
perfect, are those three or four pages in the 'Vision' which present
the Poets--a line, a few words, and the man there,--one twang of the
bow and the arrowhead in the white--Shelley's 'white ideal all
statue-blind' is--perfect,--how can I coin words? And dear deaf old
Hesiod--and--all, all are perfect, perfect! But 'the Moon's regality
will hear no praise'--well then, will she hear blame? Can it be you,
my own you past putting away, _you_ are a schismatic and frequenter of
Independent Dissenting Chapels? And you confess this to _me_--whose
father and mother went this morning to the very Independent Chapel
where they took me, all those years back, to be baptised--and where
they heard, this morning, a sermon preached by the very minister who
officiated on that other occasion! Now will you be particularly
encouraged by this successful instance to bring forward any other
point of disunion between us that may occur to you? Please do not--for
so sure as you begin proving that there is a gulf fixed between us, so
sure shall I end proving that ... Anne Radcliffe avert it!... that you
are just my sister: not that I am much frightened, but there are such
surprises in novels!--Blame the next,--yes, now this _is_ to be real
blame!--And I meant to call your attention to it before. Why, why, do
you blot out, in that unutterably provoking manner, whole lines, not
to say words, in your letters--(and in the criticism on the
'Duchess')--if it is a fact that you have a second thought, does it
cease to be as genuine a fact, that first thought you please to
efface? Why give a thing and take a thing? Is there no significance in
putting on record that your first impression was to a certain effect
and your next to a certain other, perhaps completely opposite one? If
any proceeding of yours could go near to deserve that harsh word
'impertinent' which you have twice, in speech and writing, been
pleased to apply to your observations on me; certainly _this_ does go
as near as can be--as there is but one step to take from Southampton
pier to New York quay, for travellers Westward. Now will you lay this
to heart and perpend--lest in my righteous indignation I [some words
effaced here]! For my own health--it improves, thank you! And I shall
go abroad all in good time, never fear. For my 'Bells,' Mr. Chorley
tells me there is no use in the world of printing them before November
at earliest--and by that time I shall get done with these Romances and
certainly one Tragedy (_that_ could go to press next week)--in proof
of which I will bring you, if you let me, a few more hundreds of lines
next Wednesday. But, 'my poet,' if I would, as is true, sacrifice all
my works to do your fingers, even, good--what would I not offer up to
prevent you staying ... perhaps to correct my very verses ... perhaps
read and answer my very letters ... staying the production of more
'Berthas' and 'Caterinas' and 'Geraldines,' more great and beautiful
poems of which I shall be--how proud! Do not be punctual in paying
tithes of thyme, mint, anise and cummin, and leaving unpaid the real
weighty dues of the Law; nor affect a scrupulous acknowledgment of
'what you owe me' in petty manners, while you leave me to settle such
a charge, as accessory to the hiding the Talent, as best I can! I have
thought of this again and again, and would have spoken of it to you,
had I ever felt myself fit to speak of any subject nearer home and me
and you than Rome and Cardinal Acton. For, observe, you have not done
... yes, the 'Prometheus,' no doubt ... but with that exception _have_
you written much lately, as much as last year when 'you wrote all your
best things' you said, I think? Yet you are better now than then.
Dearest friend, _I_ intend to write more, and very likely be praised
more, now I care less than ever for it, but still more do I look to
have you ever before me, in your place, and with more poetry and more
praise still, and my own heartfelt praise ever on the top, like a
flower on the water. I have said nothing of yesterday's storm ...
_thunder_ ... may you not have been out in it! The evening draws in,
and I will walk out. May God bless you, and let you hold me by the
hand till the end--Yes, dearest friend!


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                [Post-mark, August 8, 1845.]

Just to show what may be lost by my crossings out, I will tell you the
story of the one in the 'Duchess'--and in fact it is almost worth
telling to a metaphysician like you, on other grounds, that you may
draw perhaps some psychological good from the absurdity of it. Hear,
then. When I had done writing the sheet of annotations and reflections
on your poem I took up my pencil to correct the passages reflected on
with the reflections, by the crosses you may observe, just glancing
over the writing as I did so. Well! and, where that erasure is, I
found a line purporting to be extracted from your 'Duchess,' with
sundry acute criticisms and objections quite undeniably strong,
following after it; only, to my amazement, as I looked and looked, the
line so acutely objected to and purporting, as I say, to, be taken
from the 'Duchess,' was by no means to be found in the 'Duchess,' ...
nor anything like it, ... and I am certain indeed that, in the
'Duchess' or out of it, you never wrote such a bad line in your life.
And so it became a proved thing to me that I had been enacting, in a
mystery, both poet and critic together--and one so neutralizing the
other, that I took all that pains you remark upon to cross myself out
in my double capacity, ... and am now telling the story of it
notwithstanding. And there's an obvious moral to the myth, isn't
there? for critics who bark the loudest, commonly bark at their own
shadow in the glass, as my Flush used to do long and loud, before he
gained experience and learnt the [Greek: gnothi seauton] in the
apparition of the brown dog with the glittering dilating eyes, ... and
as _I_ did, under the erasure. And another moral springs up of itself
in this productive ground; for, you see, ... '_quand je m'efface il
n'ya pas grand mal_.'

And I am to be made to work very hard, am I? But you should remember
that if I did as much writing as last summer, I should not be able to
do much else, ... I mean, to go out and walk about ... for really I
think I _could_ manage to read your poems and write as I am writing
now, with ever so much head-work of my own going on at the same time.
But the bodily exercise is different, and I do confess that the
novelty of living more in the outer life for the last few months than
I have done for years before, make me idle and inclined to be
idle--and everybody is idle sometimes--even _you_ perhaps--are you
not? For me, you know, I do carpet-work--ask Mrs. Jameson--and I never
pretend to be in a perpetual motion of mental industry. Still it may
not be quite as bad as you think: I have done some work since
'Prometheus'--only it is nothing worth speaking of and not a part of
the romance-poem which is to be some day if I live for it--lyrics for
the most part, which lie written illegibly in pure Egyptian--oh, there
is time enough, and too much perhaps! and so let me be idle a little
now, and enjoy your poems while I can. It is pure enjoyment and must
be--but you do not know how much, or you would not talk as you do
sometimes ... so wide of any possible application.

And do _not_ talk again of what you would 'sacrifice' for _me_. If you
affect me by it, which is true, you cast me from you farther than ever
in the next thought. _That_ is true.

The poems ... yours ... which you left with me,--are full of various
power and beauty and character, and you must let me have my own
gladness from them in my own way.

Now I must end this letter. Did you go to Chelsea and hear the divine

_Tell me the truth always_ ... will you? I mean such truths as may be
painful to me _though_ truths....

                        May God bless you, ever dear friend.


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                Friday Afternoon.
                                [Post-mark, August 8, 1845.]

Then there is one more thing 'off my mind': I thought it might be with
you as with _me_--not remembering how different are the causes that
operate against us; different in kind as in degree:--_so_ much reading
hurts me, for instance,--whether the reading be light or heavy,
fiction or fact, and _so_ much writing, whether my own, such as you
have seen, or the merest compliment-returning to the weary tribe that
exact it of one. But your health--that before all!... as assuring all
eventually ... and on the other accounts you must know! Never, pray,
_pray_, never lose one sunny day or propitious hour to 'go out or walk
about.' But do not surprise _me_, one of these mornings, by 'walking'
up to me when I am introduced' ... or I shall infallibly, in spite of
all the after repentance and begging pardon--I shall [words effaced].
So here you learn the first 'painful truth' I have it in my power to
tell you!

I sent you the last of our poor roses this morning--considering that I
fairly owed that kindness to them.

Yes, I went to Chelsea and found dear Carlyle alone--his wife is in
the country where he will join her as soon as his book's last sheet
returns corrected and fit for press--which will be at the month's end
about. He was all kindness and talked like his own self while he made
me tea--and, afterward, brought chairs into the little yard, rather
than garden, and smoked his pipe with apparent relish; at night he
would walk as far as Vauxhall Bridge on my way home.

If I used the word 'sacrifice,' you do well to object--I can imagine
nothing ever to be done by me worthy such a name.

God bless you, dearest friend--shall I hear from you before Tuesday?

                                               Ever your own


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                [Post-mark, August 8, 1845.]

It is very kind to send these flowers--too kind--why are they sent?
and without one single word ... which is not too kind certainly. I
looked down into the heart of the roses and turned the carnations over
and over to the peril of their leaves, and in vain! Not a word do I
deserve to-day, I suppose! And yet if I don't, I don't deserve the
flowers either. There should have been an equal justice done to my
demerits, O Zeus with the scales!

After all I do thank you for these flowers--and they are
beautiful--and they came just in a right current of time, just when I
wanted them, or something like them--so I confess _that_ humbly, and
do thank you, at last, rather as I ought to do. Only you ought not to
give away all the flowers of your garden to _me_; and your sister
thinks so, be sure--if as silently as you sent them. Now I shall not
write any more, not having been written to. What with the Wednesday's
flowers and these, you may think how I in this room, look down on the
gardens of Damascus, let _your Jew_[1] say what he pleases of
_them_--and the Wednesday's flowers are as fresh and beautiful, I must
explain, as the new ones. They were quite supererogatory ... the new
ones ... in the sense of being flowers. Now, the sense of what I am
writing seems questionable, does it not?--at least, more so, than the
nonsense of it.

Not a word, even under the little blue flowers!!!--


[Footnote 1: 'R. Benjamin of Tudela' added in Robert Browning's

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               Sunday Afternoon.
                               [Post-mark, August 11, 1845.]

How good you are to the smallest thing I try and do--(to show I
_would_ please you for an instant if I could, rather than from any
hope such poor efforts as I am restricted to, can please you or
ought.) And that you should care for the note that was not there!--But
I was surprised by the summons to seal and deliver, since time and the
carrier were peremptory--and so, I dared divine, almost, I should hear
from you by our mid-day post--which happened--and the answer to
_that_, you received on Friday night, did you not? I had to go to
Holborn, of all places,--not to pluck strawberries in the Bishop's
Garden like Richard Crouchback, but to get a book--and there I carried
my note, thinking to expedite its delivery: this notelet of yours,
quite as little in its kind as my blue flowers,--this came last
evening--and here are my thanks, dear E.B.B.--dear friend.

In the former note there is a phrase I must not forget to call on you
to account for--that where it confesses to having done 'some
work--only nothing worth speaking of.' Just see,--will you be first
and only compact-breaker? Nor misunderstand me here, please, ... as I
said, I am quite rejoiced that you go out now, 'walk about' now, and
put off the writing that will follow thrice as abundantly, all because
of the stopping to gather strength ... so I want no new word, not to
say poem, not to say the romance-poem--let the 'finches in the
shrubberies grow restless in the dark'--_I_ am inside with the lights
and music: but what is done, is done, _pas vrai_? And 'worth' is, dear
my friend, pardon me, not in your arbitration quite.

Let me tell you an odd thing that happened at Chorley's the other
night. I must have mentioned to you that I forget my own verses so
surely after they are once on paper, that I ought, without
affectation, to mend them infinitely better, able as I am to bring
fresh eyes to bear on them--(when I say 'once on paper' that is just
what I mean and no more, for after the sad revising begins they do
leave their mark, distinctly or less so according to circumstances).
Well, Miss Cushman, the new American actress (clever and
truthful-looking) was talking of a new novel by the Dane Andersen, he
of the 'Improvisatore,' which will reach us, it should seem, in
translation, _via_ America--she had looked over two or three proofs of
the work in the press, and Chorley was anxious to know something about
its character. The title, she said, was capital--'Only a
Fiddler!'--and she enlarged on that word, 'Only,' and its
significance, so put: and I quite agreed with her for several minutes,
till first one reminiscence flitted to me, then another and at last I
was obliged to stop my praises and say 'but, now I think of it, _I_
seem to have written something with a similar title--nay, a play, I
believe--yes, and in five acts--'Only an Actress'--and from that
time, some two years or more ago to this, I have been every way
relieved of it'!--And when I got home, next morning, I made a dark
pocket in my russet horror of a portfolio give up its dead, and there
fronted me 'Only a Player-girl' (the real title) and the sayings and
doings of her, and the others--such others! So I made haste and just
tore out one sample-page, being Scene the First, and sent it to our
friend as earnest and proof I had not been purely dreaming, as might
seem to be the case. And what makes me recall it now is, that it was
Russian, and about a fair on the Neva, and booths and droshkies and
fish-pies and so forth, with the Palaces in the back ground. And in
Chorley's _Athenaeum_ of yesterday you may read a paper of _very_
simple moony stuff about the death of Alexander, and that Sir James
Wylie I have seen at St. Petersburg (where he chose to mistake me for
an Italian--'M. l'Italien' he said another time, looking up from his
cards).... So I think to tell you.

Now I may leave off--I shall see you start, on Tuesday--hear perhaps
something definite about your travelling.

Do you know, 'Consuelo' wearies me--oh, wearies--and the fourth volume
I have all but stopped at--there lie the three following, but who
cares about Consuelo after that horrible evening with the Venetian
scamp, (where he bullies her, and it does answer, after all she says)
as we say? And Albert wearies too--it seems all false, all
writing--not the first part, though. And what easy work these
novelists have of it! a Dramatic poet has to _make_ you love or admire
his men and women,--they must _do_ and _say_ all that you are to see
and hear--really do it in your face, say it in your ears, and it is
wholly for _you_, in _your_ power, to _name_, characterize and so
praise or blame, _what_ is so said and done ... if you don't perceive
of yourself, there is no standing by, for the Author, and telling you.
But with these novelists, a scrape of the pen--out blurting of a
phrase, and the miracle is achieved--'Consuelo possessed to perfection
this and the other gift'--what would you more? Or, to leave dear
George Sand, pray think of Bulwer's beginning a 'character' by
informing you that lone, or somebody in 'Pompeii,' 'was endowed with
_perfect_ genius'--'genius'! What though the obliging informer might
write his fingers off before he gave the pitifullest proof that the
poorest spark of that same, that genius, had ever visited _him_?
_Ione_ has it '_perfectly_'--perfectly--and that is enough! Zeus with
the scales? with the false weights!

And now--till Tuesday good-bye, and be willing to get well as (letting
me send _porter_ instead of flowers--and beefsteaks too!) soon as may
be! and may God bless you, ever dear friend.


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               [Post-mark, August 11, 1845.]

But if it 'hurts' you to read and write ever so little, why should I
be asked to write ... for instance ... 'before Tuesday?' And I did
mean to say before to-day, that I wish you never would write to me
when you are not _quite well_, as once or twice you have done if not
much oftener; because there is not a necessity, ... and I do not
choose that there should ever be, or _seem_ a necessity, ... do you
understand? And as a matter of personal preference, it is natural for
me to like the silence that does not hurt you, better than the speech
that does. And so, remember.

And talking of what may 'hurt' you and me, you would smile, as I have
often done in the midst of my vexation, if you knew the persecution I
have been subjected to by the people who call themselves (_lucus a non
lucendo_) 'the faculty,' and set themselves against the exercise of
other people's faculties, as a sure way to death and destruction. The
modesty and simplicity with which one's physicians tell one not to
think or feel, just as they would tell one not to walk out in the dew,
would be quite amusing, if it were not too tryingly stupid sometimes.
I had a doctor once who thought he had done everything because he had
carried the inkstand out of the room--'Now,' he said, 'you will have
such a pulse to-morrow.' He gravely thought poetry a sort of
disease--a sort of fungus of the brain--and held as a serious opinion,
that nobody could be properly well who exercised it as an art--which
was true (he maintained) even of men--he had studied the physiology of
poets, 'quotha'--but that for women, it was a mortal malady and
incompatible with any common show of health under any circumstances.
And then came the damnatory clause in his experience ... that he had
never known 'a system' approaching mine in 'excitability' ... except
Miss Garrow's ... a young lady who wrote verses for Lady Blessington's
annuals ... and who was the only other female rhymer he had had the
misfortune of attending. And she was to die in two years, though she
was dancing quadrilles then (and has lived to do the same by the
polka), and _I_, of course, much sooner, if I did not ponder these
things, and amend my ways, and take to reading 'a course of history'!!
Indeed I do not exaggerate. And just so, for a long while I was
persecuted and pestered ... vexed thoroughly sometimes ... my own
family, instructed to sing the burden out all day long--until the time
when the subject was suddenly changed by my heart being broken by that
great stone that fell out of Heaven. Afterwards I was let do anything
I could best ... which was very little, until last year--and the
working, last year, did much for me in giving me stronger roots down
into life, ... much. But think of that absurd reasoning that went
before!--the _niaiserie_ of it! For, granting all the premises all
round, it is not the _utterance_ of a thought that _can_ hurt anybody;
while only the utterance is dependent on the will; and so, what can
the taking away of an inkstand do? Those physicians are such
metaphysicians! It's curious to listen to them. And it's wise to leave
off listening: though I have met with excessive kindness among them,
... and do not refer to Dr. Chambers in any of this, of course.

I am very glad you went to Chelsea--and it seemed finer afterwards, on
purpose to make room for the divine philosophy. Which reminds me (the
going to Chelsea) that my brother Henry confessed to me yesterday,
with shame and confusion of face, to having mistaken and taken your
umbrella for another belonging to a cousin of ours then in the house.
He saw you ... without conjecturing, just at the moment, who you were.
Do _you_ conjecture sometimes that I live all alone here like Mariana
in the moated Grange? It is not quite so--: but where there are many,
as with us, every one is apt to follow his own devices--and my father
is out all day and my brothers and sisters are in and out, and with
too large a public of noisy friends for me to bear, ... and I see them
only at certain hours, ... except, of course, my sisters. And then as
you have 'a reputation' and are opined to talk generally in blank
verse, it is not likely that there should be much irreverent rushing
into this room when you are known to be in it.

The flowers are ... so beautiful! Indeed it was wrong, though, to send
me the last. It was not just to the lawful possessors and enjoyers of
them. That it was kind to _me_ I do not forget.

You are too teachable a pupil in the art of obliterating--and _omne
ignotum pro terrifico_ ... and therefore I won't frighten you by
walking to meet you for fear of being frightened myself.

So good-bye until Tuesday. I ought not to make you read all this, I
know, whether you like to read it or not: and I ought not to have
written it, having no better reason than because I like to write on
and on. _You_ have better reasons for thinking me very weak--and I,
too good ones for not being able to reproach you for that natural and
necessary opinion.

                        May God bless you my dearest friend.


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               Tuesday Evening.
                               [Post-mark, August 13, 1845.]

What can I say, or hope to say to you when I see what you do for me?

_This_--for myself, (nothing for _you_!)--_this_, that I think the
great, great good I get by your kindness strikes me less than that

All is right, too--

Come, I WILL have my fault-finding at last! So you can decypher my
_utterest_ hieroglyphic? Now droop the eyes while I triumph: the
plains cower, cower beneath the mountains their masters--and the
Priests stomp over the clay ridges, (a palpable plagiarism from two
lines of a legend that delighted my infancy, and now instruct my
maturer years in pretty nearly all they boast of the semi-mythologic
era referred to--'In London town, when reigned King Lud, His lords
went stomping thro' the mud'--would all historic records were half as

But you know, yes, _you_ know you are too indulgent by far--and treat
these roughnesses as if they were advanced to many a stage! Meantime
the pure gain is mine, and better, the kind generous spirit is mine,
(mine to profit by)--and best--best--best, the dearest friend is mine,

                                                 So be happy


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               [Post-mark, August 13, 1845.]

Yes, I admit that it was stupid to read that word so wrong. I thought
there was a mistake somewhere, but that it was _yours_, who had
written one word, meaning to write another. 'Cower' puts it all right
of course. But is there an English word of a significance different
from 'stamp,' in 'stomp?' Does not the old word King Lud's men
stomped withal, claim identity with our 'stamping.' The _a_ and _o_
used to 'change about,' you know, in the old English writers--see
Chaucer for it. Still the 'stomp' with the peculiar significance, is
better of course than the 'stamp' even with a rhyme ready for it, and
I dare say you are justified in daring to put this old wine into the
new bottle; and we will drink to the health of the poem in it. It _is_
'Italy in England'--isn't it? But I understand and understood
perfectly, through it all, that it is _unfinished_, and in a rough
state round the edges. I could not help seeing _that_, even if I were
still blinder than when I read 'Lower' for 'Cower.'

But do not, I ask of you, speak of my 'kindness' ... my
kindness!--mine! It is 'wasteful and ridiculous excess' and
mis-application to use such words of me. And therefore, talking of
'compacts' and the 'fas' and 'nefas' of them, I entreat you to know
for the future that whatever I write of your poetry, if it isn't to be
called 'impertinence,' isn't to be called 'kindness,' any more, ... _a
fortiori_, as people say when they are sure of an argument. Now, will
you try to understand?

And talking still of compacts, how and where did I break any compact?
I do not see.

It was very curious, the phenomenon about your 'Only a Player-Girl.'
What an un-godlike indifference to your creatures though--your worlds,
breathed away from you like soap bubbles, and dropping and breaking
into russet portfolios unobserved! Only a god for the Epicurean, at
best, can you be? That Miss Cushman went to Three Mile Cross the other
day, and visited Miss Mitford, and pleased her a good deal, I fancied
from what she said, ... and with reason, from what _you_ say. And
'Only a Fiddler,' as I forgot to tell you yesterday, is announced, you
may see in any newspaper, as about to issue from the English press by
Mary Howitt's editorship. So we need not go to America for it. But if
you complain of George Sand for want of art, how could you bear
Andersen, who can see a thing under his eyes and place it under yours,
and take a thought separately into his soul and express it insularly,
but has no sort of instinct towards wholeness and unity; and writes a
book by putting so many pages together, ... just so!--For the rest,
there can be no disagreeing with you about the comparative difficulty
of novel-writing and drama-writing. I disagree a little, lower down in
your letter, because I could not deny (in my own convictions) a
certain proportion of genius to the author of 'Ernest Maltravers,' and
'Alice' (did you ever read those books?), even if he had more
impotently tried (supposing it to be possible) for the dramatic
laurel. In fact his poetry, dramatic or otherwise, is 'nought'; but
for the prose romances, and for 'Ernest Maltravers' above all, I must
lift up my voice and cry. And I read the _Athenaeum_ about your Sir
James Wylie who took you for an Italian....

    'Poi vi diro Signor, che ne fu causa
    Ch' avio fatto al scriver debita pausa.'--

                                                 Ever your


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               Friday Morning.
                               [Post-mark, August 15, 1845.]

Do you know, dear friend, it is no good policy to stop up all the
vents of my feeling, nor leave one for safety's sake, as you will do,
let me caution you never so repeatedly. I know, quite well enough,
that your 'kindness' is not _so_ apparent, even, in this instance of
correcting my verses, as in many other points--but on such points, you
lift a finger to me and I am dumb.... Am I not to be allowed a word
here neither?

I remember, in the first season of German Opera here, when 'Fidelio's'
effects were going, going up to the gallery in order to get the best
of the last chorus--get its oneness which you do--and, while perched
there an inch under the ceiling, I was amused with the enormous
enthusiasm of an elderly German (we thought,--I and a cousin of
mine)--whose whole body broke out in billow, heaved and swayed in the
perfection of his delight, hands, head, feet, all tossing and striving
to utter what possessed him. Well--next week, we went again to the
Opera, and again mounted at the proper time, but the crowd was
_greater_, and our mild great faced white haired red cheeked German
was not to be seen, not at first--for as the glory was at its full, my
cousin twisted me round and made me see an arm, only an arm, all the
body of its owner being amalgamated with a dense crowd on each side,
before, and--not behind, because they, the crowd, occupied the last
benches, over which we looked--and this arm waved and exulted as if
'for the dignity of the whole body,'--relieved it of its dangerous
accumulation of repressed excitability. When the crowd broke up all
the rest of the man disengaged itself by slow endeavours, and there
stood our friend confessed--as we were sure!

--Now, you would have bade him keep his arm quiet? 'Lady Geraldine,
you _would_!'

I have read those novels--but I must keep that word of words,
'genius'--for something different--'talent' will do here surely.

There lies 'Consuelo'--done with!

I shall tell you frankly that it strikes me as precisely what in
conventional language with the customary silliness is styled a
_woman's_ book, in its merits and defects,--and supremely timid in all
the points where one wants, and has a right to expect, some _fruit_ of
all the pretence and George Sand_ism_. These are occasions when one
does say, in the phrase of her school, 'que la Femme parle!' or what
is better, let her act! and how does Consuelo comfort herself on such
an emergency? Why, she bravely lets the uninspired people throw down
one by one their dearest prejudices at her feet, and then, like a
very actress, picks them up, like so many flowers, returning them to
the breast of the owners with a smile and a courtesy and trips off the
stage with a glance at the Pit. Count Christian, Baron Frederic,
Baroness--what is her name--all open their arms, and Consuelo will not
consent to entail disgrace &c. &c. No, you say--she leaves them in
order to solve the problem of her true feeling, whether she can really
love Albert; but remember that this is done, (that is, so much of it
as ever _is_ done, and as determines her to accept his hand at the
very last)--this is solved sometime about the next morning--or
earlier--I forget--and in the meantime, Albert gets that 'benefit of
the doubt' of which chapter the last informs you. As for the
hesitation and self examination on the matter of that Anzoleto--the
writer is turning over the leaves of a wrong dictionary, seeking help
from Psychology, and pretending to forget there is such a thing as
Physiology. Then, that horrible Porpora:--if George Sand gives _him_
to a Consuelo for an absolute master, in consideration of his services
specified, and is of opinion that _they_ warrant his conduct, or at
least, oblige submission to it,--then, I find her objections to the
fatherly rule of Frederic perfectly impertinent--he having a few
claims upon the gratitude of Prussia also, in his way, I believe! If
the strong ones _will make_ the weak ones lead them--then, for
Heaven's sake, let this dear old all-abused world keep on its course
without these outcries and tearings of hair, and don't be for ever
goading the Karls and other trodden-down creatures till they get their
carbines in order (very rationally) to abate the nuisance--when you
make the man a long speech against some enormity he is about to
commit, and adjure and beseech and so forth, till he throws down the
aforesaid carbine, falls on his knees, and lets the Frederic go
quietly on his way to keep on killing his thousands after the fashion
that moved your previous indignation. Now is that right,
consequential--that is, _inferential_; logically deduced, going
straight to the end--_manly_?

The accessories are not the Principal, the adjuncts--the essence, nor
the ornamental incidents the book's self, so what matters it if the
portraits are admirable, the descriptions eloquent, (eloquent, there
it is--that is her characteristic--what she _has_ to speak, she
_speaks out_, speaks volubly _forth_, too well, inasmuch as you say,
advancing a step or two, 'And now speak as completely _here_'--and she
says nothing)--but all _that_, another could do, as others have
done--but 'la femme qui parle'--Ah, that, is _this_ all? So I am not
George Sand's--she teaches me nothing--I look to her for nothing.

I am ever yours, dearest friend. How I write to you--page on page! But
Tuesday--who could wait till then! Shall I not hear from you?

                                          God bless you ever


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               [Post-mark, August 16, 1845.]

But what likeness is there between opposites; and what has 'M.
l'Italien' to do with the said 'elderly German'? See how little! For
to bring your case into point, somebody should have been playing on a
Jew's harp for the whole of the orchestra; and the elderly German
should have quoted something about 'Harp of Judah' to the Venetian
behind him! And there, you would have proved your analogy!--Because
you see, my dear friend, it was not the expression, but the thing
expressed, I cried out against--the exaggeration in your mind. I am
sorry when I write what you do not like--but I have instincts and
impulses too strong for me when you say things which put me into such
a miserably false position in respect to you--as for instance, when in
this very last letter (oh, I _must_ tell you!) you talk of my
'correcting your verses'! My correcting your verses!!!--Now is _that_
a thing for you to say?--And do you really imagine that if I kept that
happily imagined phrase in my thoughts, I should be able to tell you
one word of my impressions from your poetry, ever, ever again? Do you
not see at once what a disqualifying and paralysing phrase it must be,
of simple necessity? So it is _I_ who have reason to complain, ... it
appears to _me_, ... and by no means _you_--and in your 'second
consideration' you become aware of it, I do not at all doubt.

As to 'Consuelo' I agree with nearly all that you say of it--though
George Sand, we are to remember, is greater than 'Consuelo,' and not
to be depreciated according to the defects of that book, nor
classified as 'femme qui parle' ... she who is man and woman together,
... judging her by the standard of even that book in the nobler
portions of it. For the inconsequency of much in the book, I admit it
of course--and _you_ will admit that it is the rarest of phenomena
when men ... men of logic ... follow their own opinions into their
obvious results--nobody, you know, ever thinks of doing such a thing:
to pursue one's own inferences is to rush in where angels ... perhaps
... do _not_ fear to tread, ... but where there will not be much other
company. So the want of practical logic shall be a human fault rather
than a womanly one, if you please: and you must please also to
remember that 'Consuelo' is only 'half the orange'; and that when you
complain of its not being a whole one, you overlook that hand which is
holding to you the 'Comtesse de Rudolstadt' in three volumes! Not that
I, who have read the whole, profess a full satisfaction about Albert
and the rest--and Consuelo is made to be happy by a mere clap-trap at
last: and Mme. Dudevant has her specialities,--in which, other women,
I fancy, have neither part nor lot, ... even _here_!--Altogether, the
book is a sort of rambling 'Odyssey,' a female 'Odyssey,' if you like,
but full of beauty and nobleness, let the faults be where they may.
And then, I like those long, long books, one can live away into ...
leaving the world and above all oneself, quite at the end of the
avenue of palms--quite out of sight and out of hearing!--Oh, I have
felt something like _that_ so often--so often! and _you_ never felt
it, and never will, I hope.

But if Bulwer had written nothing but the 'Ernest Maltravers' books,
you would think perhaps more highly of him. Do you _not_ think it
possible now? It is his most impotent struggling into poetry, which
sets about proving a negative of genius on him--_that_, which the
_Athenaeum praises_ as 'respectable attainment in various walks of
literature'--! _like_ the _Athenaeum_, isn't it? and worthy praise, to
be administered by professed judges of art? What is to be expected of
the public, when the teachers of the public teach _so_?--

When you come on Tuesday, do not forget the MS. if any is done--only
don't let it be done so as to tire and hurt you--mind! And good-bye
until Tuesday, from


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               [Post-mark, August 18, 1845.]

I am going to propose to you to give up Tuesday, and to take your
choice of two or three other days, say Friday, or Saturday, or
to-morrow ... Monday. Mr. Kenyon was here to-day and talked of leaving
London on Friday, and of visiting me again on 'Tuesday' ... he said,
... but that is an uncertainty, and it may be Tuesday or Wednesday or
Thursday. So I thought (wrong or right) that out of the three
remaining days you would not mind choosing one. And if you do choose
the Monday, there will be no need to write--nor time indeed--; but if
the Friday or Saturday, I shall hear from you, perhaps. Above all
things remember, my dear friend, that I shall not expect you
to-morrow, except as by a _bare possibility_. In great haste, signed
and sealed this Sunday evening by


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               Monday, 7 P.M.
                               [Post-mark, August 19, 1845.]

I this moment get your note--having been out since the early
morning--and I must write just to catch the post. You are pure
kindness and considerateness, _no_ thanks to you!--(since you will
have it so--). I choose Friday, then,--but I shall hear from you
before Thursday, I dare hope? I have all but passed your house
to-day--with an Italian friend, from Rome, whom I must go about with a
little on weariful sight seeing, so I shall earn Friday.

                                                   Bless you


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               [Post-mark, August 20, 1845.]

I fancied it was just _so_--as I did not hear and did not see you on
Monday. Not that you were expected particularly--but that you would
have written your own negative, it appeared to me, by some post in the
day, if you had received my note in time. It happened well too,
altogether, as you have a friend with you, though Mr. Kenyon does not
come, and will not come, I dare say; for he spoke like a doubter at
the moment; and as this Tuesday wears on, I am not likely to have any
visitors on it after all, and may as well, if the rain quite ceases,
go and spend my solitude on the park a little. Flush wags his tail at
that proposition when I speak it loud out. And I am to write to you
before Friday, and so, am writing, you see ... which I should not,
should not have done if I had not been told; because it is not my turn
to write, ... did you think it was?

Not a word of Malta! except from Mr. Kenyon who talked homilies of it
last Sunday and wanted to speak them to Papa--but it would not do in
any way--now especially--and in a little time there will be a
decision for or against; and I am afraid of _both_ ... which is a
happy state of preparation. Did I not tell you that early in the
summer I did some translations for Miss Thomson's 'Classical Album,'
from Bion and Theocritus, and Nonnus the author of that large (not
great) poem in some forty books of the 'Dionysiaca' ... and the
paraphrases from Apuleius? Well--I had a letter from her the other
day, full of compunction and ejaculation, and declaring the fact that
Mr. Burges had been correcting all the proofs of the poems; leaving
out and emending generally, according to his own particular idea of
the pattern in the mount--is it not amusing? I have been wicked enough
to write in reply that it is happy for her and all readers ... _sua si
bona norint_ ... if during some half hour which otherwise might have
been dedicated by Mr. Burges to patting out the lights of Sophocles
and his peers, he was satisfied with the humbler devastation of E.B.B.
upon Nonnus. You know it is impossible to help being amused. This
correcting is a mania with that man! And then I, who wrote what I did
from the 'Dionysiaca,' with no respect for 'my author,' and an
arbitrary will to 'put the case' of Bacchus and Ariadne as well as I
could, for the sake of the art-illustrations, ... those subjects Miss
Thomson sent me, ... and did it all with full liberty and persuasion
of soul that nobody would think it worth while to compare English with
Greek and refer me back to Nonnus and detect my wanderings from the
text!! But the critic was not to be cheated so! And I do not doubt
that he has set me all 'to rights' from beginning to end; and combed
Ariadne's hair close to her cheeks for me. Have _you_ known Nonnus,
... _you_ who forget nothing? and have known everything, I think? For
it is quite startling, I must tell you, quite startling and
humiliating, to observe how you combine such large tracts of
experience of outer and inner life, of books and men, of the world and
the arts of it; curious knowledge as well as general knowledge ... and
deep thinking as well as wide acquisition, ... and you, looking none
the older for it all!--yes, and being besides a man of genius and
working your faculty and not wasting yourself over a surface or away
from an end. Dugald Stewart said that genius made naturally a
lop-sided mind--did he not? He ought to have known _you_. And _I_ who
do ... a little ... (for I grow more loth than I was to assume the
knowledge of you, my dear friend)--_I_ do not mean to use that word
'humiliation' in the sense of having felt the thing myself in any
_painful_ way, ... because I never for a moment did, or _could_, you
know,--never could ... never did ... except indeed when you have over
praised me, which forced another personal feeling in. Otherwise it has
always been quite pleasant to me to be 'startled and humiliated'--and
more so perhaps than to be startled and exalted, if I might choose....

Only I did not mean to write all this, though you told me to write to
you. But the rain which keeps one in, gives one an example of pouring
on ... and you must endure as you can or will. Also ... as you have a
friend with you 'from Italy' ... 'from Rome,' and commended me for my
'kindness and considerateness' in changing Tuesday to Friday ...
(wasn't it?...) shall I still be more considerate and put off the
visit-day to next week? mind, you let it be as you like it best to
be--I mean, as is most convenient 'for the nonce' to you and your
friend--because all days are equal, as to that matter of convenience,
to your other friend of this ilk,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               Wednesday Morning.
                               [Post-mark, August 20, 1845.]

Mauvaise, mauvaise, mauvaise, you know as I know, just as much, that
your 'kindness and considerateness' consisted, not in putting off
Tuesday for another day, but in caring for my coming at all; for my
coming and being told at the door that you were engaged, and _I_ might
call another time! And you are NOT, NOT my 'other friend,' any more
than this head of mine is my _other_ head, seeing that I have got a
violin which has a head too! All which, beware lest you get fully told
in the letter I will write this evening, when I have done with my
Romans--who are, it so happens, here at this minute; that is, have
left the house for a few minutes with my sister--but are not 'with
me,' as you seem to understand it,--in the house to stay. They were
kind to me in Rome, (husband and wife), and I am bound to be of what
use I may during their short stay. Let me lose no time in begging and
praying you to cry 'hands off' to that dreadful Burgess; have not I
got a ... but I will tell you to-night--or on Friday which is my day,
please--Friday. Till when, pray believe me, with respect and esteem,

Your most obliged and disobliged at these blank endings--what have I
done? God bless you ever dearest friend.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               Thursday, 7 o'clock.
                               [Post-mark, August 21, 1845.]

I feel at home, this blue early morning, now that I sit down to write
(or, _speak_, as I try and fancy) to you, after a whole day with those
'other friends'--dear good souls, whom I should be so glad to serve,
and to whom service must go by way of last will and testament, if a
few more hours of 'social joy,' 'kindly intercourse,' &c., fall to my
portion. My friend the Countess began proceedings (when I first saw
her, not yesterday) by asking 'if I had got as much money as I
expected by any works published of late?'--to which I answered, of
course, 'exactly as much'--_e grazioso_! (All the same, if you were to
ask her, or the like of her, 'how much the stone-work of the Coliseum
would fetch, properly burned down to lime?'--she would shudder from
head to foot and call you 'barbaro' with good Trojan heart.) Now you
suppose--(watch my rhetorical figure here)--you suppose I am going to
congratulate myself on being so much for the better, _en pays de
connaissance_, with my 'other friend,' E.B.B., number 2--or 200, why
not?--whereas I mean to 'fulmine over Greece,' since thunder frightens
you, for all the laurels,--and to have reason for your taking my own
part and lot to yourself--I do, will, must, and _will_, again, wonder
at _you_ and admire _you_, and so on to the climax. It is a fixed,
immovable thing: so fixed that I can well forego talking about it. But
if to talk you once begin, 'the King shall enjoy (or receive quietly)
his own again'--I wear no bright weapon out of that Panoply ... or
Panoplite, as I think you call Nonnus, nor ever, like Leigh Hunt's
'Johnny, ever blythe and bonny, went singing Nonny, nonny' and see
to-morrow, what a vengeance I will take for your 'mere suspicion in
that kind'! But to the serious matter ... nay, I said yesterday, I
believe--keep off that Burgess--he is stark staring mad--mad, do you
know? The last time I met him he told me he had recovered I forget how
many of the lost books of Thucydides--found them imbedded in Suidas (I
think), and had disengaged them from _his_ Greek, without loss of a
letter, 'by an instinct he, Burgess, had'--(I spell his name wrongly
to help the proper _hiss_ at the end). Then, once on a time, he found
in the 'Christus Patiens,' an odd dozen of lines, clearly dropped out
of the 'Prometheus,' and proving that AEschylus was aware of the
invention of gunpowder. He wanted to help Dr. Leonhard Schmitz in his
'Museum'--and scared him, as Schmitz told me. What business has he,
Burges, with English verse--and what on earth, or under it, has Miss
Thomson to do with _him_. If she must displease one of two, why is Mr.
B. not to be thanked and 'sent to feed,' as the French say prettily?
At all events, do pray see what he has presumed to alter ... you can
alter at sufficient warrant, profit by suggestion, I should think! But
it is all Miss Thomson's shame and fault: because she is quite in her
propriety, saying to such intermeddlers, gently for the sake of their
poor weak heads, 'very good, I dare say, very desirable emendations,
only the work is not mine, you know, but my friend's, and you must no
more alter it without her leave, than alter this sketch, this
illustration, because you think you could mend Ariadne's face or
figure,--Fecit Tizianus, scripsit E.B.B.' Dear friend, you will tell
Miss Thomson to stop further proceedings, will you not? There! only,
do mind what I say?

And now--till to-morrow! It seems an age since I saw you. I want to
catch our first post ... (this phrase I ought to get stereotyped--I
need it so constantly). The day is fine ... you will profit by it, I
trust. 'Flush, wag your tail and grow restless and scratch at the

God bless you,--my one friend, without an 'other'--bless you ever--


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               [Post-mark, August 25, 1845.]

But what have _I_ done that you should ask what have _you_ done? I
have not brought any accusation, have I ... no, nor _thought_ any, I
am sure--and it was only the 'kindness and considerateness'--argument
that was irresistible as a thing to be retorted, when your thanks came
so naturally and just at the corner of an application. And then, you
know, it is gravely true, seriously true, sadly true, that I am always
expecting to hear or to see how tired you are at last of me!--sooner
or later, you know!--But I did not mean any seriousness in that
letter. No, nor did I mean ... (to pass to another question ...) to
provoke you to the

    Mister Hayley ... so are _you_....

reply complimentary. All I observed concerning yourself, was the
_combination_--which not an idiom in chivalry could treat
grammatically as a thing common to _me_ and you, inasmuch as everyone
who has known me for half a day, may know that, if there is anything
peculiar in me, it lies for the most part in an extraordinary
deficiency in this and this and this, ... there is no need to describe
what. Only nuns of the strictest sect of the nunneries are rather
wiser in some points, and have led less restricted lives than I have
in others. And if it had not been for my 'carpet-work'--

Well--and do you know that I have, for the last few years, taken quite
to despise book-knowledge and its effect on the mind--I mean when
people _live by it_ as most readers by profession do, ... cloistering
their souls under these roofs made with heads, when they might be
under the sky. Such people grow dark and narrow and low, with all
their pains.

_Friday._--I was writing you see before you came--and now I go on in
haste to speak 'off my mind' some things which are on it. First ... of
yourself; how can it be that you are unwell again, ... and that you
should talk (now did you not?--did I not hear you say so?) of being
'weary in your soul' ... _you_? What should make _you_, dearest
friend, weary in your soul; or out of spirits in any way?--Do ... tell
me.... I was going to write without a pause--and almost I might,
perhaps, ... even as one of the two hundred of your friends, ...
almost I might say out that 'Do tell me.' Or is it (which I am
inclined to think most probable) that you are tired of a same life and
want change? It may happen to anyone sometimes, and is independent of
your will and choice, you know--and I know, and the whole world knows:
and would it not therefore be wise of you, in that case, to fold your
life new again and go abroad at once? What can make you weary in your
soul, is a problem to me. You are the last from whom I should have
expected such a word. And you did say so, I _think_. I _think_ that it
was not a mistake of mine. And _you_, ... with a full liberty, and the
world in your hand for every purpose and pleasure of it!--Or is it
that, being unwell, your spirits are affected by _that_? But then you
might be more unwell than you like to admit--. And I am teasing you
with talking of it ... am I not?--and being disagreeable is only one
third of the way towards being useful, it is good to remember in time.

And then the next thing to write off my mind is ... that you must not,
you must not, make an unjust opinion out of what I said to-day. I have
been uncomfortable since, lest you should--and perhaps it would have
been better if I had not said it apart from all context in that way;
only that you could not long be a friend of mine without knowing and
seeing what so lies on the surface. But then, ... as far as I am
concerned, ... no one cares less for a 'will' than I do (and this
though I never had one, ... in clear opposition to your theory which
holds generally nevertheless) for a will in the common things of life.
Every now and then there must of course be a crossing and
vexation--but in one's mere pleasures and fantasies, one would rather
be crossed and vexed a little than vex a person one loves ... and it
is possible to get used to the harness and run easily in it at last;
and there is a side-world to hide one's thoughts in, and 'carpet-work'
to be immoral on in spite of Mrs. Jameson, ... and the word
'literature' has, with me, covered a good deal of liberty as you must
see ... real liberty which is never enquired into--and it has happened
throughout my life by an accident (as far as anything is accident)
that my own sense of right and happiness on any important point of
overt action, has never run contrariwise to the way of obedience
required of me ... while in things not exactly _overt_, I and all of
us are apt to act sometimes up to the limit of our means of acting,
with shut doors and windows, and no waiting for cognisance or
permission. Ah--and that last is the worst of it all perhaps! to be
forced into concealments from the heart naturally nearest to us; and
forced away from the natural source of counsel and strength!--and
then, the disingenuousness--the cowardice--the 'vices of
slaves'!--and everyone you see ... all my brothers, ... constrained
_bodily_ into submission ... apparent submission at least ... by that
worst and most dishonouring of necessities, the necessity of _living_,
everyone of them all, except myself, being dependent in money-matters
on the inflexible will ... do you see? But what you do _not_ see, what
you _cannot_ see, is the deep tender affection behind and below all
those patriarchal ideas of governing grown up children 'in the way
they _must_ go!' and there never was (under the strata) a truer
affection in a father's heart ... no, nor a worthier heart in itself
... a heart loyaller and purer, and more compelling to gratitude and
reverence, than his, as I see it! The evil is in the system--and he
simply takes it to be his duty to rule, and to make happy according to
his own views of the propriety of happiness--he takes it to be his
duty to rule like the Kings of Christendom, by divine right. But he
loves us through and through it--and _I_, for one, love _him_! and
when, five years ago, I lost what I loved best in the world beyond
comparison and rivalship ... far better than himself as he knew ...
for everyone who knew _me_ could not choose but know what was my first
and chiefest affection ... when I lost _that_, ... I felt that he
stood the nearest to me on the closed grave ... or by the unclosing
sea ... I do not know which nor could ask. And I will tell you that
not only he has been kind and patient and forbearing to me through the
tedious trial of this illness (far more trying to standers by than you
have an idea of perhaps) but that he was generous and forbearing in
that hour of bitter trial, and never reproached me as he might have
done and as my own soul has not spared--never once said to me then or
since, that if it had not been for _me_, the crown of his house would
not have fallen. He _never did_ ... and he might have said it, and
more--and I could have answered nothing. Nothing, except that I had
paid my own price--and that the price I paid was greater than his
_loss_ ... his!! For see how it was; and how, 'not with my hand but
heart,' I was the cause or occasion of that misery--and though not
with the intention of my heart but with its weakness, yet the
_occasion_, any way!

They sent me down you know to Torquay--Dr. Chambers saying that I
could not live a winter in London. The worst--what people call the
worst--was apprehended for me at that time. So I was sent down with my
sister to my aunt there--and he, my brother whom I loved so, was sent
too, to take us there and return. And when the time came for him to
leave me, _I_, to whom he was the dearest of friends and brothers in
one ... the only one of my family who ... well, but I cannot write of
these things; and it is enough to tell you that he was above us all,
better than us all, and kindest and noblest and dearest to _me_,
beyond comparison, any comparison, as I said--and when the time came
for him to leave me _I_, weakened by illness, could not master my
spirits or drive back my tears--and my aunt kissed them away instead
of reproving me as she should have done; and said that _she_ would
take care that I should not be grieved ... _she_! ... and so she sate
down and wrote a letter to Papa to tell him that he would 'break my
heart' if he persisted in calling away my brother--As if hearts were
broken _so_! I have thought bitterly since that my heart did not break
for a good deal more than _that_! And Papa's answer was--burnt into
me, as with fire, it is--that 'under such circumstances he did not
refuse to suspend his purpose, but that he considered it to be _very
wrong in me to exact such a thing_.' So there was no separation
_then_: and month after month passed--and sometimes I was better and
sometimes worse--and the medical men continued to say that they would
not answer for my life ... they! if I were agitated--and so there was
no more talk of a separation. And once _he_ held my hand, ... how I
remember! and said that he 'loved me better than them all and that he
_would not_ leave me ... till I was well,' he said! how I remember
_that_! And ten days from that day the boat had left the shore which
never returned; never--and he _had_ left me! gone! For three days we
waited--and I hoped while I could--oh--that awful agony of three days!
And the sun shone as it shines to-day, and there was no more wind than
now; and the sea under the windows was like this paper for
smoothness--and my sisters drew the curtains back that I might see for
myself how smooth the sea was, and how it could hurt nobody--and other
boats came back one by one.

Remember how you wrote in your 'Gismond'

    What says the body when they spring
    Some monstrous torture-engine's whole
    Strength on it? No more says the soul,

and you never wrote anything which _lived_ with me more than _that_.
It is such a dreadful truth. But you knew it for truth, I hope, by
your genius, and not by such proof as mine--I, who could not speak or
shed a tear, but lay for weeks and months half conscious, half
unconscious, with a wandering mind, and too near to God under the
crushing of His hand, to pray at all. I expiated all my weak tears
before, by not being able to shed then one tear--and yet they were
forbearing--and no voice said 'You have done this.'

Do not notice what I have written to you, my dearest friend. I have
never said so much to a living being--I never _could_ speak or write
of it. I asked no question from the moment when my last hope went: and
since then, it has been impossible for me to speak what was in me. I
have borne to do it to-day and to you, but perhaps if you were to
write--so do not let this be noticed between us again--_do not_! And
besides there is no need! I do not reproach myself with such acrid
thoughts as I had once--I _know_ that I would have died ten times over
for _him_, and that therefore though it was wrong of me to be weak,
and I have suffered for it and shall learn by it I hope; _remorse_ is
not precisely the word for me--not at least in its full sense. Still
you will comprehend from what I have told you how the spring of life
must have seemed to break within me _then_; and how natural it has
been for me to loathe the living on--and to lose faith (even without
the loathing), to lose faith in myself ... which I have done on some
points utterly. It is not from the cause of illness--no. And you will
comprehend too that I have strong reasons for being grateful to the
forbearance.... It would have been _cruel_, you think, to reproach me.
Perhaps so! yet the kindness and patience of the desisting from
reproach, are positive things all the same.

Shall I be too late for the post, I wonder? Wilson tells me that you
were followed up-stairs yesterday (I write on Saturday this latter
part) by somebody whom you probably took for my father. Which is
Wilson's idea--and I hope not yours. No--it was neither father nor
other relative of mine, but an old friend in rather an ill temper.

And so good-bye until Tuesday. Perhaps I shall ... not ... hear from
you to-night. Don't let the tragedy or aught else do you harm--will
you? and try not to be 'weary in your soul' any more--and forgive me
this gloomy letter I half shrink from sending you, yet will send.

                                          May God bless you.


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               Wednesday Morning,
                               [Post-mark, August 27, 1845.]

On the subject of your letter--quite irrespective of the injunction in
it--I would not have dared speak; now, at least. But I may permit
myself, perhaps, to say I am _most_ grateful, _most grateful_, dearest
friend, for this admission to participate, in my degree, in these
feelings. There is a better thing than being happy in your happiness;
I feel, now that you teach me, it is so. I will write no more now;
though that sentence of 'what you are _expecting_,--that I shall be
tired of you &c.,'--though I _could_ blot that out of your mind for
ever by a very few words _now_,--for you _would believe_ me at this
moment, close on the other subject:--but I will take no such
advantage--I will wait.

I have many things (indifferent things, after those) to say; will you
write, if but a few lines, to change the associations for that
purpose? Then I will write too.--

May God bless you,--in what is past and to come! I pray that from my
heart, being yours


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               Wednesday Morning,
                               [Post-mark, August 27, 1845.]

But your 'Saul' is unobjectionable as far as I can see, my dear
friend. He was tormented by an evil spirit--but how, we are not told
... and the consolation is not obliged to be definite, ... is it? A
singer was sent for as a singer--and all that you are called upon to
be true to, are the general characteristics of David the chosen,
standing between his sheep and his dawning hereafter, between
innocence and holiness, and with what you speak of as the 'gracious
gold locks' besides the chrism of the prophet, on his own head--and
surely you have been happy in the tone and spirit of these lyrics ...
broken as you have left them. Where is the wrong in all this? For the
right and beauty, they are more obvious--and I cannot tell you how the
poem holds me and will not let me go until it blesses me ... and so,
where are the 'sixty lines' thrown away? I do beseech you ... you who
forget nothing, ... to remember them directly, and to go on with the
rest ... _as_ directly (be it understood) as is not injurious to your
health. The whole conception of the poem, I like ... and the execution
is exquisite up to this point--and the sight of Saul in the tent, just
struck out of the dark by that sunbeam, 'a thing to see,' ... not to
say that afterwards when he is visibly 'caught in his fangs' like the
king serpent, ... the sight is grander still. How could you doubt
about this poem....

At the moment of writing which, I receive your note. Do _you_ receive
my assurances from the deepest of my heart that I never did otherwise
than _'believe' you_ ... never did nor shall do ... and that you
completely misinterpreted my words if you drew another meaning from
them. Believe _me_ in this--will you? I could not believe _you_ any
more for anything you could say, now or hereafter--and so do not
avenge yourself on my unwary sentences by remembering them against me
for evil. I did not mean to vex you ... still less to suspect
you--indeed I did not! and moreover it was quite your fault that I did
not blot it out after it was written, whatever the meaning was. So you
forgive me (altogether) for your own sins: you must:--

For my part, though I have been sorry since to have written you such a
gloomy letter, the sorrow unmakes itself in hearing you speak so
kindly. Your sympathy is precious to me, I may say. May God bless you.
Write and tell me among the 'indifferent things' something not
indifferent, how you are yourself, I mean ... for I fear you are not
well and thought you were not looking so yesterday.

                             Dearest friend, I remain yours,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               Friday Evening.
                               [Post-mark, August 30, 1845].

I do not hear; and come to you to ask the alms of just one line,
having taken it into my head that something is the matter. It is not
so much exactingness on my part, as that you spoke of meaning to write
as soon as you received a note of mine ... which went to you five
minutes afterwards ... which is three days ago, or will be when you
read this. Are you not well--or what? Though I have tried and _wished_
to remember having written in the last note something very or even a
little offensive to you, I failed in it and go back to the worse fear.
For you could not be vexed with me for talking of what was 'your
fault' ... 'your own fault,' viz. in having to read sentences which,
but for your commands, would have been blotted out. You could not very
well take _that_ for serious blame! from _me_ too, who have so much
reason and provocation for blaming the archangel Gabriel.--No--you
could not misinterpret so,--and if you could not, and if you are not
displeased with me, you must be unwell, I think. I took for granted
yesterday that you had gone out as before--but to-night it is
different--and so I come to ask you to be kind enough to write one
word for me by some post to-morrow. Now remember ... I am not asking
for a letter--but for a _word_ ... or line strictly speaking.

                                    Ever yours, dear friend,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               [Post-mark, August 30, 1845.]

This sweet Autumn Evening, Friday, comes all golden into the room and
makes me write to you--not think of you--yet what shall I write?

It must be for another time ... after Monday, when I am to see you,
you know, and hear if the headache be gone, since your note would not
round to the perfection of kindness and comfort, and tell me so.

                                God bless my dearest friend.


I am much better--well, indeed--thank you.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               [Post-mark, August 30, 1845.]

Can you understand me _so_, dearest friend, after all? Do you see
me--when I am away, or with you--'taking offence' at words, 'being
vexed' at words, or deeds of yours, even if I could not immediately
trace them to their source of entire, pure kindness; as I have
hitherto done in every smallest instance?

I believe in _you_ absolutely, utterly--I believe that when you bade
me, that time, be silent--that such was your bidding, and I was
silent--dare I say I think you did not know at that time the power I
have over myself, that I could sit and speak and listen as I have done
since? Let me say now--_this only once_--that I loved you from my
soul, and gave you my life, so much of it as you would take,--and all
that is _done_, not to be altered now: it was, in the nature of the
proceeding, wholly independent of any return on your part. I will not
think on extremes you might have resorted to; as it is, the assurance
of your friendship, the intimacy to which you admit me, _now_, make
the truest, deepest joy of my life--a joy I can never think fugitive
while we are in life, because I KNOW, as to me, I _could_ not
willingly displease you,--while, as to you, your goodness and
understanding will always see to the bottom of involuntary or ignorant
faults--always help me to correct them. I have done now. If I thought
you were like other women I have known, I should say so
much!--but--(my first and last word--I _believe_ in you!)--what you
could and would give me, of your affection, you would give nobly and
simply and as a giver--you would not need that I tell you--(_tell_
you!)--what would be supreme happiness to me in the event--however

I repeat ... I call on your justice to remember, on your intelligence
to believe ... that this is merely a more precise stating the _first_
subject; to put an end to any possible misunderstanding--to prevent
your henceforth believing that because I _do not write_, from thinking
too deeply of you, I am offended, vexed &c. &c. I will never recur to
this, nor shall you see the least difference in my manner next Monday:
it is indeed, always before me ... how I know nothing of you and
yours. But I think I ought to have spoken when I did--and to speak
clearly ... or more clearly what I do, as it is my pride and duty to
fall back, now, on the feeling with which I have been in the
meantime--Yours--God bless you--


Let me write a few words to lead into Monday--and say, you have
probably received my note. I am much better--with a little headache,
which is all, and fast going this morning. Of yours you say nothing--I
trust you see your ... dare I say your _duty_ in the Pisa affair, as
all else _must_ see it--shall I hear on Monday? And my 'Saul' that you
are so lenient to.

                                            Bless you ever--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                          [August 31, 1845.]

I did not think you were angry--I never said so. But you might
reasonably have been wounded a little, if you had suspected me of
blaming you for any bearing of yours towards myself; and this was the
amount of my fear--or rather hope ... since I conjectured most that
you were not well. And after all you did think ... do think ... that
in some way or for some moment I blamed you, disbelieved you,
distrusted you--or why this letter? How have I provoked this letter?
Can I forgive myself for having even seemed to have provoked it? and
will you believe me that if for the past's sake you sent it, it was
unnecessary, and if for the future's, irrelevant? Which I say from no
want of sensibility to the words of it--your words always make
themselves felt--but in fulness of purpose not to suffer you to hold
to words because they have been said, nor to say them as if to be
holden by them. Why, if a thousand more such words were said by you to
me, how could they operate upon the future or present, supposing me to
choose to keep the possible modification of your feelings, as a
probability, in my sight and yours? Can you help my sitting with the
doors all open if I think it right? I do attest to you--while I trust
you, as you must see, in word and act, and while I am confident that
no human being ever stood higher or purer in the eyes of another, than
you do in mine,--that you would still stand high and remain
unalterably my friend, if the probability in question became a fact,
as now at this moment. And this I must say, since you have said other
things: and this alone, which _I_ have said, concerns the future, I
remind you earnestly.

My dearest friend--you have followed the most _generous_ of impulses
in your whole bearing to me--and I have recognised and called by its
name, in my heart, each one of them. Yet I cannot help adding that, of
us two, yours has not been quite the hardest part ... I mean, to a
generous nature like your own, to which every sort of nobleness comes
easily. Mine has been more difficult--and I have sunk under it again
and again: and the sinking and the effort to recover the duty of a
lost position, may have given me an appearance of vacillation and
lightness, unworthy at least of _you_, and perhaps of both of us.
Notwithstanding which appearance, it was right and just (only just) of
you, to believe in me--in my truth--because I have never failed to you
in it, nor been capable of _such_ failure: the thing I have said, I
have meant ... always: and in things I have not said, the silence has
had a reason somewhere different perhaps from where you looked for it.
And this brings me to complaining that you, who profess to believe in
me, do yet obviously believe that it was only merely silence, which I
required of you on one occasion--and that if I had 'known your power
over yourself,' I should not have minded ... no! In other words you
believe of me that I was thinking just of my own (what shall I call it
for a motive base and small enough?) my own scrupulousness ... freedom
from embarrassment! of myself in the least of me; in the tying of my
shoestrings, say!--so much and no more! Now this is so wrong, as to
make me impatient sometimes in feeling it to be your impression: I
asked for silence--but _also_ and chiefly for the putting away of ...
you know very well what I asked for. And this was sincerely done, I
attest to you. You wrote once to me ... oh, long before May and the
day we met: that you 'had been so happy, you should be now justified
to yourself in taking any step most hazardous to the happiness of your
life'--but if you were justified, could _I_ be therefore justified in
abetting such a step,--the step of wasting, in a sense, your best
feelings ... of emptying your water gourds into the sand? What I
thought then I think now--just what any third person, knowing you,
would think, I think and feel. I thought too, at first, that the
feeling on your part was a mere generous impulse, likely to expand
itself in a week perhaps. It affects me and has affected me, very
deeply, more than I dare attempt to say, that you should persist
_so_--and if sometimes I have felt, by a sort of instinct, that after
all you would not go on to persist, and that (being a man, you know)
you might mistake, a little unconsciously, the strength of your own
feeling; you ought not to be surprised; when I felt it was more
advantageous and happier for you that it should be so. _In any case_,
I shall never regret my own share in the events of this summer, and
your friendship will be dear to me to the last. You know I told you
so--not long since. And as to what you say otherwise, you are right in
thinking that I would not hold by unworthy motives in avoiding to
speak what you had any claim to hear. But what could I speak that
would not be unjust to you? Your life! if you gave it to me and I put
my whole heart into it; what should I put but anxiety, and more
sadness than you were born to? What could I give you, which it would
not be ungenerous to give? Therefore we must leave this subject--and I
must trust you to leave it without one word more; (too many have been
said already--but I could not let your letter pass quite silently ...
as if I had nothing to do but to receive all as matter of course
_so_!) while you may well trust _me_ to remember to my life's end, as
the grateful remember; and to feel, as those do who have felt sorrow
(for where these pits are dug, the water will stand), the full price
of your regard. May God bless you, my dearest friend. I shall send
this letter after I have seen you, and hope you may not have expected
to hear sooner.

                                                 Ever yours,


_Monday, 6 p.m._--I send in _dis_obedience to your commands, Mrs.
Shelley's book--but when books accumulate and when besides, I want to
let you have the American edition of my poems ... famous for all
manner of blunders, you know; what is to be done but have recourse to
the parcel-medium? You were in jest about being at Pisa _before or as
soon as we were_?--oh no--that must not be indeed--we must wait a
little!--even if you determine to go at all, which is a question of
doubtful expediency. Do take more exercise, this week, and make war
against those dreadful sensations in the head--now, will you?

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Tuesday Evening.
                             [Post-mark, September 3, 1845.]

I rather hoped ... with no right at all ... to hear from you this
morning or afternoon--to know how you are--that, 'how are you,' there
is no use disguising, is,--vary it how one may--my own life's

I had better write no more, now. Will you not tell me something about
you--the head; and that too, _too_ warm hand ... or was it my fancy?
Surely the report of Dr. Chambers is most satisfactory,--all seems to
rest with yourself: you know, in justice to me, you _do_ know that _I_
know the all but mockery, the absurdity of anyone's counsel 'to be
composed,' &c. &c. But try, dearest friend!

                                             God bless you--

                                                  I am yours


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Tuesday Night.
                             [Post-mark, September 3, 1845.]

Before you leave London, I will answer your letter--all my attempts
end in nothing now--

                             Dearest friend--I am yours ever


But meantime, you will tell me about yourself, will you not? The
parcel came a few minutes after my note left--Well, I can thank you
for _that_; for the Poems,--though I cannot wear them round my
neck--and for the too great trouble. My heart's friend! Bless you--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, September 4, 1845.]

Indeed my headaches are not worth enquiring about--I mean, they are
not of the slightest consequence, and seldom survive the remedy of a
cup of coffee. I only wish it were the same with everybody--I mean,
with every _head_! Also there is nothing the matter otherwise--and I
am going to prove my right to a 'clean bill of health' by going into
the park in ten minutes. Twice round the inner enclosure is what I can
compass now--which is equal to once round the world--is it not?

I had just time to be afraid that the parcel had not reached you. The
reason why I sent you the poems was that I had a few copies to give to
my personal friends, and so, wished you to have one; and it was quite
to please myself and not to please _you_ that I made you have it; and
if you put it into the 'plum-tree' to hide the errata, I shall be
pleased still, if not rather more. Only let me remember to tell you
this time in relation to those books and the question asked of
yourself by your noble Romans, that just as I was enclosing my
sixty-pounds debt to Mr. Moxon, I did actually and miraculously
receive a remittance of fourteen pounds from the selfsame bookseller
of New York who agreed last year to print my poems at his own risk and
give me 'ten per cent on the profit.' Not that I ever asked for such a
thing! They were the terms offered. And I always considered the 'per
centage' as quite visionary ... put in for the sake of effect, to make
the agreement look better! But no--you see! One's poetry has a real
'commercial value,' if you do but take it far away enough from the
'civilization of Europe.' When you get near the backwoods and the red
Indians, it turns out to be nearly as good for something as
'cabbages,' after all! Do you remember what you said to me of cabbages
_versus_ poems, in one of the first letters you ever wrote to me?--of
selling cabbages and buying _Punches_?

People complain of Dr. Chambers and call him rough and
unfeeling--neither of which _I_ ever found him for a moment--and I
like him for his truthfulness, which is the nature of the man, though
it is essential to medical morality never to let a patient think
himself mortal while it is possible to prevent it, and even Dr.
Chambers may incline to this on occasion. Still he need not have said
all the good he said to me on Saturday--he _used_ not to say any of
it; and he must have thought some of it: and, any way, the Pisa-case
is strengthened all round by his opinion and injunction, so that all
my horror and terror at the thoughts of his visit, (and it's really
true that I would rather _suffer_ to a certain extent than be _cured_
by means of those doctors!) had some compensation. How are you? do not
forget to say! I found among some papers to-day, a note of yours which
I asked Mr. Kenyon to give me for an autograph, two years ago.

May God bless you, dearest friend. And I have a dispensation from
'beef and porter' [Greek: eis tous aionas]. 'On no account' was the

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Friday Afternoon.
                             [Post-mark, September 5, 1845.]

What you tell me of Dr. Chambers, 'all the good of you' he said, and
all I venture to infer; this makes me most happy and thankful. Do you
use to attach our old [Greek: tuphlas elpidas] (and the practice of
instilling them) to that medical science in which Prometheus boasted
himself proficient? I had thought the 'faculty' dealt in fears, on the
contrary, and scared you into obedience: but I know most about the
doctors in Moliere. However the joyous truth is--must be, that you are
better, and if one could transport you quietly to Pisa, save you all
worry,--what might one not expect!

When I know your own intentions--measures, I should say, respecting
your journey--mine will of course be submitted to you--it will just be
'which day next--month'?--Not week, alas.

I can thank you now for this edition of your poems--I have not yet
taken to read it, though--for it does not, each volume of it, open
obediently to a thought, here, and here, and here, like my green books
... no, my Sister's they are; so these you give me are really mine.
And America, with its ten per cent., shall have my better word
henceforth and for ever ... for when you calculate, there must have
been a really extraordinary circulation; and in a few months: it is
what newspapers call 'a great fact.' Have they reprinted the
'Seraphim'? Quietly, perhaps!

I shall see you on Monday, then--

And my all-important headaches are tolerably kept under--headaches
proper they are not--but the noise and slight turning are less
troublesome--will soon go altogether.

                        Bless you ever--ever dearest friend.


_Oh, oh, oh!_ As many thanks for that precious card-box and jewel of
a flower-holder as are consistent with my dismay at finding you _only_
return _them_ ... and not the costly brown paper wrappages also ... to
say nothing of the inestimable pins with which my sister uses to
fasten the same!

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, September 8, 1845.]

I am in the greatest difficulty about the steamers. Will you think a
little for me and tell me what is best to do? It appears that the
direct Leghorn steamer will not sail on the third, and may not until
the middle of October, and if forced to still further delay, which is
possible, will not at all. One of my brothers has been to Mr. Andrews
of St. Mary Axe and heard as much as this. What shall I do? The middle
of October, say my sisters ... and I half fear that it may prove so
... is too late for me--to say nothing for the uncertainty which
completes the difficulty.

On the 20th of September (on the other hand) sails the Malta vessel;
and I hear that I may go in it to Gibraltar and find a French steamer
there to proceed by. Is there an objection to this--except the change
of steamers ... repeated ... for I must get down to Southampton--and
the leaving England so soon? Is any better to be done? Do think for me
a little. And now that the doing comes so near ... and in this dead
silence of Papa's ... it all seems impossible, ... and I seem to see
the stars _constellating_ against me, and give it as my serious
opinion to you that I shall not go. Now, mark.

But I have had the kindest of letters from dear Mr. Kenyon, urging

Well--I have no time for writing any more--and this is only a note of
business to bespeak your thoughts about the steamers. My wisdom looks
back regretfully ... only rather too late ... on the Leghorn vessel
of the third of September. It would have been wise if I had gone

                          May God bless you, dearest friend.


But if your head turns still, ... _do_ you walk enough? Is there not
fault in your not walking, by your own confession? Think of this
first--and then, if you please, of the steamers.

So, till Monday!--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, September 9, 1845.]

One reason against printing the tragedies now, is your not being well
enough for the necessary work connected with them, ... a sure reason
and strong ... nay, chiefest of all. Plainly you are unfit for work
now--and even to complete the preparation of the lyrics, and take them
through the press, may be too much for you, I am afraid; and if so,
why you will not do it--will you?--you will wait for another year,--or
at least be satisfied for this, with bringing out a number of the old
size, consisting of such poems as are fairly finished and require no
retouching. 'Saul' for instance, you might leave--! You will not let
me hear when I am gone, of your being ill--you will take care ... will
you not? Because you see ... or rather _I_ see ... you are _not_
looking well at all--no, you are not! and even if you do not care for
that, you should and must care to consider how unavailing it will be
for you to hold those golden keys of the future with a more resolute
hand than your contemporaries, should you suffer yourself to be struck
down before the gate ... should you lose the physical power while
keeping the heart and will. Heart and will are great things, and
sufficient things in your case--but after all we carry a barrow-full
of clay about with us, and we must carry it a little carefully if we
mean to keep to the path and not run zigzag into the border of the
garden. A figure which reminds me ... and I wanted no figure to remind
me ... to ask you to thank your sister for me and from me for all her
kindness about the flowers. Now you will not forget? you must not.
When I think of the repeated trouble she has taken week after week,
and all for a stranger, I must think again that it has been very
kind--and I take the liberty of saying so moreover ... _as I am not
thanking you_. Also these flowers of yesterday, which yesterday you
disdained so, look full of summer and are full of fragrance, and when
they seem to say that it is not September, I am willing to be lied to
just _so_. For I wish it were not September. I wish it were July ...
or November ... two months before or after: and that this journey were
thrown behind or in front ... anywhere to be out of sight. You do not
know the courage it requires to hold the intention of it fast through
what I feel sometimes. If it (the courage) had been prophesied to me
only a year ago, the prophet would have been laughed to scorn.
Well!--but I want you to see. George's letter, and how he and Mrs.
Hedley, when she saw Papa's note of consent to me, give unhesitating
counsel. Burn it when you have read it. It is addressed to me ...
which you will doubt from the address of it perhaps ... seeing that it
goes [Greek: ba ... rbarizon]. We are famous in this house for what
are called nick-names ... though a few of us have escaped rather by a
caprice than a reason: and I am never called anything else (never at
all) except by the nom de _paix_ which you find written in the
letter:--proving as Mr. Kenyon says, that I am just 'half a Ba-by' ...
no more nor less;--and in fact the name has that precise definition.
Burn the note when you have read it.

And then I take it into my head, as you do not distinguish my sisters,
you say, one from the other, to send you my own account of them in
these enclosed 'sonnets' which were written a few weeks ago, and
though only pretending to be 'sketches,' pretend to be like, as far as
they go, and _are_ like--my brothers thought--when I 'showed them
against' a profile drawn in pencil by Alfred, on the same subjects. I
was laughing and maintaining that mine should be as like as his--and
he yielded the point to me. So it is mere portrait-painting--and you
who are in 'high art,' must not be too scornful. Henrietta is the
elder, and the one who brought you into this room first--and Arabel,
who means to go with me to Pisa, has been the most with me through my
illness and is the least wanted in the house here, ... and perhaps ...
perhaps--is my favourite--though my heart smites me while I write that
unlawful word. They are both affectionate and kind to me in all
things, and good and lovable in their own beings--very unlike, for the
rest; one, most caring for the Polka, ... and the other for the sermon
preached at Paddington Chapel, ... _that_ is Arabel ... so if ever you
happen to know her you must try not to say before her how 'much you
hate &c.' Henrietta always 'managed' everything in the house even
before I was ill, ... because she liked it and I didn't, and I waived
my right to the sceptre of dinner-ordering.

I have been thinking much of your 'Sordello' since you spoke of
it--and even, I _had_ thought much of it before you spoke of it
yesterday; feeling that it might be thrown out into the light by your
hand, and greatly justify the additional effort. It is like a noble
picture with its face to the wall just now--or at least, in the
shadow. And so worthy as it is of you in all ways! individual all
through: you have _made_ even the darkness of it! And such a work as
it might become if you chose ... if you put your will to it! What I
meant to say yesterday was not that it wanted more additional verses
than the 'ten per cent' you spoke of ... though it does perhaps ... so
much as that (to my mind) it wants drawing together and fortifying in
the connections and associations ... which hang as loosely every here
and there, as those in a dream, and confound the reader who persists
in thinking himself awake.

How do you mean that I am 'lenient'? Do you not believe that I tell
you what I think, and as I think it? I may _think wrong_, to be
sure--but _that_ is not my fault:--and so there is no use reproaching
me generally, unless you can convict me definitely at the same
time:--is there, now?

And I have been reading and admiring these letters of Mr. Carlyle, and
receiving the greatest pleasure from them in every way. He is greatly
_himself always_--which is the hardest thing for a man to be, perhaps.
And what his appreciation of you is, it is easy to see--and what he
expects from you--notwithstanding that prodigious advice of his, to
write your next work in prose! Also Mrs. Carlyle's letter--thank you
for letting me see it. I admire _that_ too! It is as ingenious 'a
case' against poor Keats, as could well be drawn--but nobody who knew
very deeply what poetry _is_, _could_, you know, draw any case against
him. A poet of the senses, he may be and is, just as she says--but
then it is of the senses idealized; and no dream in a 'store-room'
would ever be like the 'Eve of St. Agnes,' unless dreamed by some
'animosus infans,' like Keats himself. Still it is all true ... isn't
it?... what she observes of the want of thought as thought. He was a
_seer_ strictly speaking. And what noble oppositions--(to go back to
Carlyle's letters) ... he writes to the things you were speaking of
yesterday! These letters are as good as Milton's picture for
convicting and putting to shame. Is not the difference between the men
of our day and 'the giants which were on the earth,' less ... far less
... in the faculty ... in the gift, ... or in the general intellect,
... than in the stature of the soul itself? Our inferiority is not in
what we can do, but in what we are. We should write poems like Milton
if [we] lived them like Milton.

I write all this just to show, I suppose, that I am not industrious as
you did me the honour of apprehending that I was going to be ...
packing trunks perhaps ... or what else in the way of 'active

Say how you are--will you? And do take care, and walk and do what is
good for you. I shall be able to see you twice before I go. And oh,
this going! Pray for me, dearest friend. May God bless you.


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                            Thursday Morning.
                            [Post-mark, September 11, 1845.]

Here are your beautiful, and I am sure _true_ sonnets; they look
true--I remember the light hair, I find. And who paints, and dares
exhibit, E.B.B.'s self? And surely 'Alfred's' pencil has not foregone
its best privilege, not left _the_ face unsketched? Italians call such
an 'effect defective'--'l'andar a Roma senza vedere il Papa.' He must
have begun by seeing his Holiness, I know, and ... _he_ will not trust
me with the result, that my sister may copy it for me, because we are
strangers, he and I, and I could give him nothing, nothing like the
proper price for it--but _you_ would lend it to me, I think, nor need
I do more than thank you in my usual effective and very eloquent
way--for I have already been allowed to visit you seventeen times, do
you know; and this last letter of yours, fiftieth is the same! So all
my pride is gone, pride in that sense--and I mean to take of you for
ever, and reconcile myself with my lot in this life. Could, and would,
you give me such a sketch? It has been on my mind to ask you ever
since I knew you if nothing in the way of _good_ portrait existed--and
this occasion bids me speak out, I dare believe: the more, that you
have also quieted--have you not?--another old obstinate and very
likely impertinent questioning of mine--as to the little name which
was neither Orinda, nor Sacharissa (for which thank providence) and is
never to appear in books, though you write them. Now I know it and
write it--'Ba'--and thank you, and your brother George, and only
burned his kind letter because you bade me who know best. So, wish by
wish, one gets one's wishes--at least I do--for one instance, you will
go to Italy

[Illustration: Music followed by ?]

Why, 'lean and harken after it' as Donne says--

Don't expect Neapolitan Scenery at Pisa, quite in the North, remember.
Mrs. Shelley found Italy for the first time, real Italy, at Sorrento,
she says. Oh that book--does one wake or sleep? The 'Mary dear' with
the brown eyes, and Godwin's daughter and Shelley's wife, and who
surely was something better once upon a time--and to go through Rome
and Florence and the rest, after what I suppose to be Lady
Londonderry's fashion: the intrepidity of the commonplace quite
astounds me. And then that way, when she and the like of her are put
in a new place, with new flowers, new stones, faces, walls, all
new--of looking wisely up at the sun, clouds, evening star, or
mountain top and wisely saying 'who shall describe _that_ sight!'--Not
_you_, we very well see--but why don't you tell us that at Rome they
eat roasted chestnuts, and put the shells into their aprons, the women
do, and calmly empty the whole on the heads of the passengers in the
street below; and that at Padua when a man drives his waggon up to a
house and stops, all the mouse-coloured oxen that pull it from a beam
against their foreheads sit down in a heap and rest. But once she
travelled the country with Shelley on arm; now she plods it, Rogers in
hand--to such things and uses may we come at last! Her remarks on art,
once she lets go of Rio's skirts, are amazing--Fra Angelico, for
instance, only painted Martyrs, Virgins &c., she had no eyes for the
divine _bon-bourgeoisie_ of his pictures; the dear common folk of his
crowds, those who sit and listen (spectacle at nose and bent into a
comfortable heap to hear better) at the sermon of the Saint--and the
children, and women,--divinely pure they all are, but fresh from the
streets and market place--but she is wrong every where, that is, not
right, not seeing what is to see, speaking what one expects to hear--I
quarrel with her, for ever, I think.

I am much better, and mean to be well as you desire--shall correct the
verses you have seen, and make them do for the present.

Saturday, then! And one other time only, do you say?

God bless you, my own, best friend.

                                                  Yours ever


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                            [Post-mark, September 11, 1845.]

Will you come on Friday ... to-morrow ... instead of Saturday--will it
be the same thing? Because I have heard from Mr. Kenyon, who is to be
in London on Friday evening he says, and therefore may mean to visit
me on Saturday I imagine. So let it be Friday--if you should not, for
any reason, prove Monday to be better still.

                                         May God bless you--

                                              Ever yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                            Saturday Morning.
                            [Post-mark, September 13, 1845.]

Now, dearest, I will try and write the little I shall be able, in
reply to your letter of last week--and first of all I have to entreat
you, now more than ever, to help me and understand from the few words
the feelings behind them--(should _speak_ rather more easily, I
think--but I dare not run the risk: and I know, after all, you will be
just and kind where you can.) I have read your letter again and
again. I will tell you--no, not _you_, but any imaginary other person,
who should hear what I am going to avow; I would tell that person most
sincerely there is not a particle of fatuity, shall I call it, in that
avowal; cannot be, seeing that from the beginning and at this moment I
never dreamed of winning your _love_. I can hardly write this word, so
incongruous and impossible does it seem; such a change of our places
does it imply--nor, next to that, though long after, _would_ I, if I
_could_, supplant one of any of the affections that I know to have
taken root in you--_that_ great and solemn one, for instance. I feel
that if I could get myself _remade_, as if turned to gold, I WOULD not
even then desire to become more than the mere setting to _that_
diamond you must always wear. The regard and esteem you now give me,
in this letter, and which I press to my heart and bow my head upon, is
all I can take and all too embarrassing, using _all_ my gratitude. And
yet, with that contented pride in being infinitely your debtor as it
is, bound to you for ever as it is; when I read your letter with all
the determination to be just to us both; I dare not so far withstand
the light I am master of, as to refuse seeing that whatever is
recorded as an objection to your disposing of that life of mine I
would give you, has reference to some supposed good in that life which
your accepting it would destroy (of which fancy I shall speak
presently)--I say, wonder as I may at this, I cannot but find it
there, surely there. I could no more 'bind _you_ by words,' than you
have bound me, as you say--but if I misunderstand you, one assurance
to that effect will be but too intelligible to me--but, as it _is_, I
have difficulty in imagining that while one of so many reasons, which
I am not obliged to repeat to myself, but which any one easily
conceives; while _any one_ of those reasons would impose silence on me
_for ever_ (for, as I observed, I love you as you now are, and _would_
not remove one affection that is already part of you,)--_would_ you,
being able to speak _so_, only say _that you_ desire not to put 'more
sadness than I was born to,' into my life?--that you 'could give me
only what it were ungenerous to give'?

Have I your meaning here? In so many words, is it on my account that
you bid me 'leave this subject'? I think if it were so, I would for
once call my advantages round me. I am not what your generous
self-forgetting appreciation would sometimes make me out--but it is
not since yesterday, nor ten nor twenty years before, that I began to
look into my own life, and study its end, and requirements, what would
turn to its good or its loss--and I _know_, if one may know anything,
that to make that life yours and increase it by union with yours,
would render me _supremely happy_, as I said, and say, and feel. My
whole suit to you is, in that sense, _selfish_--not that I am ignorant
that _your_ nature would most surely attain happiness in being
conscious that it made another happy--but _that best, best end of
all_, would, like the rest, come from yourself, be a reflection of
your own gift.

Dearest, I will end here--words, persuasion, arguments, if they were
at my service I would not use them--I believe in you, altogether have
faith in you--in you. I will not think of insulting by trying to
reassure you on one point which certain phrases in your letter might
at first glance seem to imply--you do not understand me to be living
and labouring and writing (and _not_ writing) in order to be
successful in the world's sense? I even convinced the people _here_
what was my true 'honourable position in society,' &c. &c. therefore I
shall not have to inform _you_ that I desire to be very rich, very
great; but not in reading Law gratis with dear foolish old Basil
Montagu, as he ever and anon bothers me to do;--much less--enough of
this nonsense.

'Tell me what I have a claim to hear': I can hear it, and be as
grateful as I was before and am now--your friendship is my pride and
happiness. If you told me your love was bestowed elsewhere, and that
it was in my power to serve you _there_, to serve you there would
still be my pride and happiness. I look on and on over the prospect of
my love, it is all _on_wards--and all possible forms of unkindness ...
I quite laugh to think how they are _behind_ ... cannot be encountered
in the route we are travelling! I submit to you and will obey you
implicitly--obey what I am able to conceive of your least desire, much
more of your expressed wish. But it was necessary to make this avowal,
among other reasons, for one which the world would recognize too. My
whole scheme of life (with its wants, material wants at least, closely
cut down) was long ago calculated--and it supposed _you_, the finding
such an one as you, utterly impossible--because in calculating one
goes upon _chances_, not on providence--how could I expect you? So for
my own future way in the world I have always refused to care--any one
who can live a couple of years and more on bread and potatoes as I did
once on a time, and who prefers a blouse and a blue shirt (such as I
now write in) to all manner of dress and gentlemanly appointment, and
who can, if necessary, groom a horse not so badly, or at all events
would rather do it all day long than succeed Mr. Fitzroy Kelly in the
Solicitor-Generalship,--such an one need not very much concern himself
beyond considering the lilies how they grow. But now I see you near
this life, all changes--and at a word, I will do all that ought to be
done, that every one used to say could be done, and let 'all my powers
find sweet employ' as Dr. Watts sings, in getting whatever is to be
got--not very much, surely. I would print these things, get them away,
and do this now, and go to you at Pisa with the news--at Pisa where
one may live for some L100 a year--while, lo, I seem to remember, I
_do_ remember, that Charles Kean offered to give me 500 of those
pounds for any play that might suit him--to say nothing of Mr. Colburn
saying confidentially that he wanted more than his dinner 'a novel on
the subject of _Napoleon_'! So may one make money, if one does not
live in a house in a row, and feel impelled to take the Princess's
Theatre for a laudable development and exhibition of one's faculty.

Take the sense of all this, I beseech you, dearest--all you shall say
will be best--I am yours--

Yes, Yours ever. God bless you for all you have been, and are, and
will certainly be to me, come what He shall please!


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                            [Post-mark, September 16, 1845.]

I scarcely know how to write what is to be written nor indeed why it
is to be written and to what end. I have tried in vain--and you are
waiting to hear from me. I am unhappy enough even where I am
happy--but ungrateful nowhere--and I thank you from my
heart--profoundly from the depths of my heart ... which is nearly all
I can do.

One letter I began to write and asked in it how it could become me to
speak at all if '_from the beginning and at this moment you never
dreamed of_' ... and there, I stopped and tore the paper; because I
felt that you were too loyal and generous, for me to bear to take a
moment's advantage of the same, and bend down the very flowering
branch of your generosity (as it might be) to thicken a little the
fence of a woman's caution and reserve. You will not say that you have
not acted as if you 'dreamed'--and I will answer therefore to the
general sense of your letter and former letters, and admit at once
that I _did_ state to you the difficulties most difficult to myself
... though not all ... and that if I had been worthier of you I should
have been proportionably less in haste to 'bid you leave that
subject.' I do not understand how you can seem at the same moment to
have faith in my integrity and to have doubt whether all this time I
may not have felt a preference for another ... which you are ready
'to serve,' you say. Which is generous in you--but in _me_, where were
the integrity? Could you really hold me to be blameless, and do you
think that truehearted women act usually so? Can it be necessary for
me to tell you that I could not have acted so, and did not? And shall
I shrink from telling you besides ... you, who have been generous to
me and have a right to hear it ... and have spoken to me in the name
of an affection and memory most precious and holy to me, in this same
letter ... that neither now nor formerly has any man been to my
feelings what you are ... and that if I were different in some
respects and free in others by the providence of God, I would accept
the great trust of your happiness, gladly, proudly, and gratefully;
and give away my own life and soul to that end. I _would_ do it ...
_not, I do_ ... observe! it is a truth without a consequence; only
meaning that I am not all stone--only proving that I am not likely to
consent to help you in wrong against yourself. You see in me what is
not:--_that_, I know: and you overlook in me what is unsuitable to you
... _that_ I know, and have sometimes told you. Still, because a
strong feeling from some sources is self-vindicating and ennobling to
the object of it, I will not say that, if it were proved to me that
you felt this for me, I would persist in putting the sense of my own
unworthiness between you and me--not being heroic, you know, nor
pretending to be so. But something worse than even a sense of
unworthiness, _God_ has put between us! and judge yourself if to beat
your thoughts against the immovable marble of it, can be anything but
pain and vexation of spirit, waste and wear of spirit to you ...
judge! The present is here to be seen ... speaking for itself! and the
best future you can imagine for me, what a precarious thing it must be
... a thing for making burdens out of ... only not for your carrying,
as I have vowed to my own soul. As dear Mr. Kenyon said to me to-day
in his smiling kindness ... 'In ten years you may be strong
perhaps'--or 'almost strong'! that being the encouragement of my best
friends! What would he say, do you think, if he could know or
guess...! what _could_ he say but that you were ... a poet!--and I ...
still worse! _Never_ let him know or guess!

And so if you are wise and would be happy (and you have excellent
practical sense after all and should exercise it) you must leave
me--these thoughts of me, I mean ... for if we might not be true
friends for ever, I should have less courage to say the other truth.
But we may be friends always ... and cannot be so separated, that your
happiness, in the knowledge of it, will not increase mine. And if you
will be persuaded by me, as you say, you will be persuaded _thus_ ...
and consent to take a resolution and force your mind at once into
another channel. Perhaps I might bring you reasons of the class which
you tell me 'would silence you for ever.' I might certainly tell you
that my own father, if he knew that you had written to me _so_, and
that I had answered you--_so_, even, would not forgive me at the end
of ten years--and this, from none of the causes mentioned by me here
and in no disrespect to your name and your position ... though he does
not over-value poetry even in his daughter, and is apt to take the
world's measures of the means of life ... but for the singular reason
that he never _does_ tolerate in his family (sons or daughters) the
development of one class of feelings. Such an objection I could not
bring to you of my own will--it rang hollow in my ears--perhaps I
thought even too little of it:--and I brought to you what I thought
much of, and cannot cease to think much of equally. Worldly thoughts,
these are not at all, nor have been: there need be no soiling of the
heart with any such:--and I will say, in reply to some words of yours,
that you cannot despise the gold and gauds of the world more than I
do, and should do even if I found a use for them. And if I _wished_ to
be very poor, in the world's sense of poverty, I _could not_, with
three or four hundred a year of which no living will can dispossess
me. And is it not the chief good of money, the being free from the
need of thinking of it? It seems so to me.

The obstacles then are of another character, and the stronger for
being so. Believe that I am grateful to you--_how_ grateful, cannot be
shown in words nor even in tears ... grateful enough to be truthful in
all ways. You know I might have hidden myself from you--but I would
not: and by the truth told of myself, you may believe in the
earnestness with which I tell the other truths--of you ... and of this
subject. The subject will not bear consideration--it breaks in our
hands. But that God is stronger than we, cannot be a bitter thought to
you but a holy thought ... while He lets me, as much as I can be
anyone's, be only yours.


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                            [Post-mark, September 17, 1845.]

I do not know whether you imagine the precise effect of your letter on
me--very likely you do, and write it just for that--for I conceive
_all_ from your goodness. But before I tell you what is that effect,
let me say in as few words as possible what shall stop any
fear--though only for a moment and on the outset--that you have been
misunderstood, that the goodness _outside_, and round and over all,
hides all or any thing. I understand you to signify to me that you
see, at this present, insurmountable obstacles to that--can I speak
it--entire gift, which I shall own, was, while I dared ask it, above
my hopes--and wishes, even, so it seems to me ... and yet could not
but be asked, so plainly was it dictated to me, by something quite out
of those hopes and wishes. Will it help me to say that once in this
Aladdin-cavern I knew I ought to stop for no heaps of jewel-fruit on
the trees from the very beginning, but go on to the lamp, _the_ prize,
the last and best of all? Well, I understand you to pronounce that at
present you believe this gift impossible--and I acquiesce entirely--I
submit wholly to you; repose on you in all the faith of which I am
capable. Those obstacles are solely for _you_ to see and to declare
... had _I_ seen them, be sure I should never have mocked you or
myself by affecting to pass them over ... what _were_ obstacles, I
mean: but you _do_ see them, I must think,--and perhaps they strike me
the more from my true, honest unfeigned inability to imagine what they
are,--not that I shall endeavour. After what you _also_ apprise me of,
I know and am joyfully confident that if ever they cease to be what
you now consider them, you who see now _for me_, whom I implicitly
trust in to see for me; you will _then_, too, see and remember me, and
how I trust, and shall then be still trusting. And until you so see,
and so inform me, I shall never utter a word--for that would involve
the vilest of implications. I thank God--I _do_ thank him, that in
this whole matter I have been, to the utmost of my power, not unworthy
of his introducing you to me, in this respect that, being no longer in
the first freshness of life, and having for many years now made up my
mind to the impossibility of loving any woman ... having wondered at
this in the beginning, and fought not a little against it, having
acquiesced in it at last, and accounted for it all to myself, and
become, if anything, rather proud of it than sorry ... I say, when
real love, making itself at once recognized as such, _did_ reveal
itself to me at last, I _did_ open my heart to it with a cry--nor care
for its overturning all my theory--nor mistrust its effect upon a mind
set in ultimate order, so I fancied, for the few years more--nor
apprehend in the least that the new element would harm what was
already organized without its help. Nor have I, either, been guilty of
the more pardonable folly, of treating the new feeling after the
pedantic fashions and instances of the world. I have not spoken when
_it_ did not speak, because 'one' might speak, or has spoken, or
_should_ speak, and 'plead' and all that miserable work which, after
all, I may well continue proud that I am not called to attempt. _Here_
for instance, _now_ ... 'one' should despair; but 'try again' first,
and work blindly at removing those obstacles (--if I saw them, I
should be silent, and only speak when a month hence, ten years hence,
I could bid you look where they _were_)--and 'one' would do all this,
not for the _play-acting's_ sake, or to 'look the character' ...
(_that_ would be something quite different from folly ...) but from a
not unreasonable anxiety lest by too sudden a silence, too complete an
acceptance of your will; the earnestness and endurance and
unabatedness ... the _truth_, in fact, of what had already been
professed, should get to be questioned--But I believe that you believe
me--And now that all is clear between us I will say, what you will
hear, without fearing for me or yourself, that I am utterly contented
... ('grateful' I have done with ... it must go--) I accept what you
give me, what those words deliver to me, as--not all I asked for ...
as I said ... but as more than I ever hoped for,--_all_, in the best
sense, that I deserve. That phrase in my letter which you objected to,
and the other--may stand, too--I never attempted to declare, describe
my feeling for you--one word of course stood for it all ... but having
to put down some one _point_, so to speak, of it--you could not wonder
if I took any extreme one _first_ ... never minding all the untold
portion that _led_ up to it, made it possible and natural--it is true,
'I could not dream of _that_'--that I was eager to get the horrible
notion away from never so flitting a visit to you, that you were thus
and thus to me _on condition_ of my proving just the same to you--just
as if we had waited to acknowledge that the moon lighted us till we
ascertained within these two or three hundred years that the earth
happens to light the moon as well! But I felt that, and so said
it:--now you have declared what I should never have presumed to
hope--and I repeat to you that I, with all to be thankful for to God,
am most of all thankful for this the last of his providences ... which
is no doubt, the natural and inevitable feeling, could one always see
clearly. Your regard for me is _all_ success--let the rest come, or
not come. In my heart's thankfulness I would ... I am sure I would
promise anything that would gratify you ... but it would _not_ do
that, to agree, in words, to change my affections, put them elsewhere
&c. &c. That would be pure foolish talking, and quite foreign to the
practical results which you will attain in a better way from a higher
motive. I will cheerfully promise you, however, to be 'bound by no
words,' blind to no miracle; in sober earnest, it is not because I
renounced once for all oxen and the owning and having to do with them,
that I will obstinately turn away from any unicorn when such an
apparition blesses me ... but meantime I shall walk at peace on our
hills here nor go looking in all corners for the bright curved horn!
And as for you ... if I did not dare 'to dream of that'--, now it is
mine, my pride and joy prevent in no manner my taking the whole
consolation of it at once, _now_--I will be confident that, if I obey
you, I shall get no wrong for it--if, endeavouring to spare you
fruitless pain, I do not eternally revert to the subject; do indeed
'quit' it just now, when no good can come of dwelling on it to you;
you will never say to yourself--so I said--'the "generous impulse"
_has_ worn itself out ... time is doing his usual work--this was to be
expected' &c. &c. You will be the first to say to me 'such an obstacle
has ceased to exist ... or is now become one palpable to _you_, one
_you_ may try and overcome'--and I shall be there, and ready--ten
years hence as now--if alive.

One final word on the other matters--the 'worldly matters'--I shall
own I alluded to them rather ostentatiously, because--because _that
would be_ the _one_ poor sacrifice I could make you--one I would
cheerfully make, but a sacrifice, and the only one: this careless
'sweet habitude of living'--this absolute independence of mine, which,
if I had it not, my heart would starve and die for, I feel, and which
I have fought so many good battles to preserve--for that has
happened, too--this light rational life I lead, and know so well that
I lead; this I could give up for nothing less than--what you know--but
I _would_ give it up, not for you merely, but for those whose
disappointment might re-act on you--and I should break no promise to
myself--the money getting would not be for the sake of _it_; 'the
labour not for that which is nought'--indeed the necessity of doing
this, if at all, _now_, was one of the reasons which make me go on to
that _last request of all_--at once; one must not be too old, they
say, to begin their ways. But, in spite of all the babble, I feel sure
that whenever I make up my mind to that, I can be rich enough and to
spare--because along with what you have thought _genius_ in me, is
certainly talent, what the world recognizes as such; and I have tried
it in various ways, just to be sure that I _was_ a little magnanimous
in never intending to use it. Thus, in more than one of the reviews
and newspapers that laughed my 'Paracelsus' to scorn ten years ago--in
the same column, often, of these reviews, would follow a most
laudatory notice of an Elementary French book, on a new plan, which I
'_did_' for my old French master, and he published--'_that_ was really
an useful work'!--So that when the only obstacle is only that there is
so much _per annum_ to be producible, you will tell me. After all it
would be unfair in me not to confess that this was always intended to
be _my_ own single stipulation--'an objection' which I could see,
certainly,--but meant to treat myself to the little luxury of

So, now, dearest--let me once think of that, and of you as my own, my
dearest--this once--dearest, I have done with words for the present. I
will wait. God bless you and reward you--I kiss your hands _now_. This
is my comfort, that if you accept my feeling as all but _un_expressed
now, more and more will become spoken--or understood, that is--we both
live on--you will know better _what_ it was, how much and manifold,
what one little word had to give out.

                                             God bless you--

                                                  Your R.B.

On Thursday,--you remember?

This is Tuesday Night--

I called on Saturday at the Office in St. Mary Axe--all uncertainty
about the vessel's sailing again for Leghorn--it could not sail before
the middle of the month--and only then _if_ &c. But if I would leave
my card &c. &c.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                            Wednesday Morning.
                            [Post-mark, September 17, 1845.]

I write one word just to say that it is all over with Pisa; which was
a probable evil when I wrote last, and which I foresaw from the
beginning--being a prophetess, you know. I cannot tell you now how it
has all happened--_only do not blame me_, for I have kept my ground to
the last, and only yield when Mr. Kenyon and all the world see that
there is no standing. I am ashamed almost of having put so much
earnestness into a personal matter--and I spoke face to face and quite
firmly--so as to pass with my sisters for the 'bravest person in the
house' without contestation.

Sometimes it seems to me as if it _could not_ end so--I mean, that the
responsibility of such a negative must be reconsidered ... and you see
how Mr. Kenyon writes to me. Still, as the matter lies, ... no Pisa!
And, as I said before, my prophetic instincts are not likely to fail,
such as they have been from the beginning.

If you wish to come, it must not be until Saturday at soonest. I have
a headache and am weary at heart with all this vexation--and besides
there is no haste now: and when you do come, _if you do_, I will trust
to you not to recur to one subject, which must lie where it fell ...
must! I had begun to write to you on Saturday, to say how I had
forgotten to give you your MSS. which were lying ready for you ... the
_Hood_ poems. Would it not be desirable that you made haste to see
them through the press, and went abroad with your Roman friends at
once, to try to get rid of that uneasiness in the head? Do think of
it--and more than think.

For me, you are not to fancy me unwell. Only, not to be worn a little
with the last week's turmoil, were impossible--and Mr. Kenyon said to
me yesterday that he quite wondered how I could bear it at all, do
anything reasonable at all, and confine my misdoings to sending
letters addressed to him at Brighton, when he was at Dover! If
anything changes, you shall hear from--


Mr. Kenyon returns to Dover immediately. His kindness is impotent in
the case.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                            Wednesday Evening.
                            [Post-mark, September 18, 1845.]

But one word before we leave the subject, and then to leave it
finally; but I cannot let you go on to fancy a mystery anywhere, in
obstacles or the rest. You deserve at least a full frankness; and in
my letter I meant to be fully frank. I even told you what was an
absurdity, so absurd that I should far rather not have told you at
all, only that I felt the need of telling you all: and no mystery is
involved in that, except as an 'idiosyncrasy' is a mystery. But the
'insurmountable' difficulty is for you and everybody to see; and for
me to feel, who have been a very byword among the talkers, for a
confirmed invalid through months and years, and who, even if I were
going to Pisa and had the best prospects possible to me, should yet
remain liable to relapses and stand on precarious ground to the end of
my life. Now that is no mystery for the trying of 'faith'; but a plain
fact, which neither thinking nor speaking can make less a fact. But
_don't_ let us speak of it.

I must speak, however, (before the silence) of what you said and
repeat in words for which I gratefully thank you--and which are _not_
'ostentatious' though unnecessary words--for, if I were in a position
to accept sacrifices from you, I would not accept _such_ a sacrifice
... amounting to a sacrifice of duty and dignity as well as of ease
and satisfaction ... to an exchange of higher work for lower work ...
and of the special work you are called to, for that which is work for
anybody. I am not so ignorant of the right uses and destinies of what
you have and are. You will leave the Solicitor-Generalships to the
Fitzroy Kellys, and justify your own nature; and besides, do me the
little right, (_over_ the _over_-right you are always doing me) of
believing that I would not bear or dare to do _you_ so much wrong, if
I were in the position to do it.

And for all the rest I thank you--believe that I thank you ... and
that the feeling is not so weak as the word. That _you_ should care at
all for _me_ has been a matter of unaffected wonder to me from the
first hour until now--and I cannot help the pain I feel sometimes, in
thinking that it would have been better for you if you never had known
me. May God turn back the evil of me! Certainly I admit that I cannot
expect you ... just at this moment, ... to say more than you say, ...
and I shall try to be at ease in the consideration that you are as
accessible to the 'unicorn' now as you ever could be at any former
period of your life. And here I have done. I had done _living_, I
thought, when you came and sought me out! and why? and to what end?
_That_, I cannot help thinking now. Perhaps just that I may pray for
you--which were a sufficient end. If you come on Saturday I trust you
to leave this subject untouched,--as it must be indeed henceforth.

                                                 I am yours,


No word more of Pisa--I shall not go, I think.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                            [Post-mark, September 18, 1845.]

Words!--it was written I should hate and never use them to any
purpose. I will not say one word here--very well knowing neither word
nor deed avails--from me.

My letter will have reassured you on the point you seem undecided
about--whether I would speak &c.

I will come whenever you shall signify that I may ... whenever, acting
in my best interests, you feel that it will not hurt you (weary you in
any way) to see me--but I fear that on Saturday I must be
otherwhere--I enclose the letter from my old foe. Which could not but
melt me for all my moroseness and I can hardly go and return for my
sister in time. Will you tell me?

It is dark--but I want to save the post--

                                                  Ever yours


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                            [Post-mark, September 18, 1845.]

Of course you cannot do otherwise than go with your sister--or it will
be 'Every man _out_ of his humour' perhaps--and you are not so very
'savage' after all.

On Monday then, if you do not hear--to the contrary.

Papa has been walking to and fro in this room, looking thoughtfully
and talking leisurely--and every moment I have expected I confess,
some word (that did not come) about Pisa. Mr. Kenyon thinks it cannot
end so--and I do sometimes--and in the meantime I do confess to a
little 'savageness' also--at heart! All I asked him to say the other
day, was that he was not displeased with me--_and he wouldn't_; and
for me to walk across his displeasure spread on the threshold of the
door, and moreover take a sister and brother with me, and do such a
thing for the sake of going to Italy and securing a personal
advantage, were altogether impossible, obviously impossible! So poor
Papa is quite in disgrace with me just now--if he would but care for

May God bless you. Amuse yourself well on Saturday. I could not see
you on Thursday any way, for Mr. Kenyon is here every day ... staying
in town just on account of this Pisa business, in his abundant
kindness.... On Monday then.

                                                 Ever yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                            Thursday Morning.
                            [Post-mark, September 18, 1845.]

But you, too, will surely want, if you think me a rational creature,
_my_ explanation--without which all that I have said and done would be
pure madness, I think. It _is_ just 'what I see' that I _do_ see,--or
rather it has proved, since I first visited you, that the reality was
infinitely worse than I know it to be ... for at, and after the
writing of _that first letter_, on my first visit, I believed--through
some silly or misapprehended talk, collected at second hand too--that
your complaint was of quite another nature--a spinal injury
irremediable in the nature of it. Had it been _so_--now speak for
_me_, for what you hope I am, and say how _that_ should affect or
neutralize what you _were_, what I wished to associate with myself in
you? But _as you now are_:--then if I had married you seven years ago,
and this visitation came now first, I should be 'fulfilling a pious
duty,' I suppose, in enduring what could not be amended--a pattern to
good people in not running away ... for where were _now_ the use and
the good and the profit and--

I desire in this life (with very little fluctuation for a man and too
weak a one) to live and just write out certain things which are in me,
and so save my soul. I would endeavour to do this if I were forced to
'live among lions' as you once said--but I should best do this if I
lived quietly with myself and with you. That you cannot dance like
Cerito does not materially disarrange this plan--nor that I might
(beside the perpetual incentive and sustainment and consolation) get,
over and above the main reward, the incidental, particular and
unexpected happiness of being allowed when not working to rather
occupy myself with watching you, than with certain other pursuits I
might be otherwise addicted to--_this_, also, does not constitute an
obstacle, as I see obstacles.

But _you_ see them--and I see _you_, and know my first duty and do it
resolutely if not cheerfully.

As for referring again, till leave by word or letter--you will see--

And very likely, the tone of this letter even will be
misunderstood--because I studiously cut out all vain words, protesting
&c.:--No--will it?

I said, unadvisedly, that Saturday was taken from me ... but it was
dark and I had not looked at the tickets: the hour of the performance
is later than I thought. If to-morrow does not suit you, as I infer,
let it be Saturday--at 3--and I will leave earlier, a little, and all
will be quite right here. One hint will apprise me.

                              God bless you, dearest friend.


Something else just heard, makes me reluctantly strike out

_Monday_ then?

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                            Friday Morning.
                            [Post-mark, September 19, 1845.]

It is not 'misunderstanding' you to know you to be the most generous
and loyal of all in the world--you overwhelm me with your
generosity--only while you see from above and I from below, we cannot
see the same thing in the same light. Moreover, if we _did_, I should
be more beneath you in one sense, than I am. Do me the justice of
remembering this whenever you recur in thought to the subject which
ends here in the words of it.

I began to write last Saturday to thank you for all the delight I had
had in Shelley, though you beguiled me about the pencil-marks, which
are few. Besides the translations, some of the original poems were not
in my copy and were, so, quite new to me. 'Marianne's Dream' I had
been anxious about to no end--I only know it now.--

On Monday at the usual hour. As to coming twice into town on Saturday,
that would have been quite foolish if it had been possible.

                                            Dearest friend,

                                                 I am yours,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                            [Post-mark, September 24, 1845.]

I have nothing to say about Pisa, ... but a great deal (if I could say
it) about _you_, who do what is wrong by your own confession and are
ill because of it and make people uneasy--now _is_ it right
altogether? is it right to do wrong?... for it comes to _that_:--and
is it kind to do so much wrong?... for it comes almost to _that_
besides. Ah--you should not indeed! I seem to see quite plainly that
you will be ill in a serious way, if you do not take care and take
exercise; and so you must consent to be teazed a little into taking
both. And if you will not take them here ... or not so effectually as
in other places; _why not go with your Italian friends_? Have you
thought of it at all? _I_ have been thinking since yesterday that it
might be best for you to go at once, now that the probability has
turned quite against me. If I were going, I should ask you not to do
so immediately ... but you see how unlikely it is!--although I mean
still to speak my whole thoughts--I _will do that_ ... even though
for the mere purpose of self-satisfaction. George came last night--but
there is an adverse star this morning, and neither of us has the
opportunity necessary. Only both he and I _will speak_--that is
certain. And Arabel had the kindness to say yesterday that if I liked
to go, she would go with me at whatever hazard--which is very
kind--but you know I could not--it would not be right of me. And
perhaps after all we may gain the point lawfully; and if not ... at
the worst ... the winter may be warm (it is better to fall into the
hands of God, as the Jew said) and I may lose less strength than
usual, ... having more than usual to lose ... and altogether it may
not be so bad an alternative. As to being the cause of any anger
against my sister, you would not advise me into such a position, I am
sure--it would be untenable for one moment.

But _you_ ... in that case, ... would it not be good for your head if
you went at once? I praise myself for saying so to you--yet if it
really is good for you, I don't deserve the praising at all. And how
was it on Saturday--that question I did not ask yesterday--with Ben
Jonson and the amateurs? I thought of you at the time--I mean, on that
Saturday evening, nevertheless.

You shall hear when there is any more to say. May God bless you,
dearest friend! I am ever yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                            Wednesday Evening.
                            [Post-mark, September 25, 1845.]

I walked to town, this morning, and back again--so that when I found
your note on my return, and knew what you had been enjoining me in the
way of exercise, I seemed as if I knew, too, why that energetic fit
had possessed me and why I succumbed to it so readily. You shall never
have to intimate twice to me that such an insignificant thing, even,
as the taking exercise should be done. Besides, I have many motives
now for wishing to continue well. But Italy _just now_--Oh, no! My
friends would go through Pisa, too.

On that subject I must not speak. And you have 'more strength to
lose,' and are so well, evidently so well; that is, so much better, so
sure to be still better--can it be that you will not go!

Here are your new notes on my verses. Where are my words for the
thanks? But you know what I feel, and shall feel--ever feel--for these
and for all. The notes would be beyond price to me if they came from
some dear Phemius of a teacher--but from you!

The Theatricals 'went off' with great eclat, and the performance was
really good, really clever or better. Forster's 'Kitely' was very
emphatic and earnest, and grew into great interest, quite up to the
poet's allotted tether, which is none of the longest. He pitched the
character's key note too gravely, I thought; _beginning_ with
certainty, rather than mere suspicion, of evil. Dickens' 'Bobadil'
_was_ capital--with perhaps a little too much of the consciousness of
entire cowardice ... which I don't so willingly attribute to the noble
would-be pacificator of Europe, besieger of Strigonium &c.--but the
end of it all was really pathetic, as it should be, for Bobadil is
only too clever for the company of fools he makes wonderment for:
having once the misfortune to relish their society, and to need but
too pressingly their 'tobacco-money,' what can he do but suit himself
to their capacities?--And D. Jerrold was very amusing and clever in
his 'Country Gull'--And Mr. Leech superb in the Town Master Mathew.
All were good, indeed, and were voted good, and called on, and cheered
off, and praised heartily behind their backs and before the curtain.
Stanfield's function had exercise solely in the touching up (very
effectively) sundry 'Scenes'--painted scenes--and the dresses, which
were perfect, had the advantage of Mr. Maclise's experience. And--all
is told!

And now; I shall hear, you promise me, if anything occurs--with what
feeling, I wait and hope, you know. If there is _no_ best of reasons
against it, Saturday, you remember, is my day--This fine weather, too!

                           May God bless my dearest friend--

                                Ever yours


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                            [Post-mark, September 25, 1845.]

I have spoken again, and the result is that we are in precisely the
same position; only with bitterer feelings on one side. If I go or
stay they _must_ be bitter: words have been said that I cannot easily
forget, nor remember without pain; and yet I really do almost smile in
the midst of it all, to think how I was treated this morning as an
undutiful daughter because I tried to put on my gloves ... for there
was no worse provocation. At least he complained of the undutifulness
and rebellion (!!!) of everyone in the house--and when I asked if he
meant that reproach for _me_, the answer was that he meant it for all
of us, one with another. And I could not get an answer. He would not
even grant me the consolation of thinking that I sacrificed what I
supposed to be good, to _him_. I told him that my prospects of health
seemed to me to depend on taking this step, but that through my
affection for him, I was ready to sacrifice those to his pleasure if
he exacted it--only it was necessary to my self-satisfaction in future
years, to understand definitely that the sacrifice _was_ exacted by
him and _was_ made to him, ... and not thrown away blindly and by a
misapprehension. And he would not answer _that_. I might do my own
way, he said--_he_ would not speak--_he_ would not say that he was not
displeased with me, nor the contrary:--I had better do what I
liked:--for his part, he washed his hands of me altogether.

And so I have been very wise--witness how my eyes are swelled with
annotations and reflections on all this! The best of it is that now
George himself admits I can do no more in the way of speaking, ... I
have no spell for charming the dragons, ... and allows me to be
passive and enjoins me to be tranquil, and not 'make up my mind' to
any dreadful exertion for the future. Moreover he advises me to go on
with the preparations for the voyage, and promises to state the case
himself at the last hour to the 'highest authority'; and judge finally
whether it be possible for me to go with the necessary companionship.
And it seems best to go to Malta on the 3rd of October--if at all ...
from steam-packet reasons ... without excluding Pisa ... remember ...
by any means.

Well!--and what do you think? Might it be desirable for me to give up
the whole? Tell me. I feel aggrieved of course and wounded--and
whether I go or stay that feeling must last--I cannot help it. But my
spirits sink altogether at the thought of leaving England _so_--and
then I doubt about Arabel and Stormie ... and it seems to me that I
_ought not_ to mix them up in a business of this kind where the
advantage is merely personal to myself. On the other side, George
holds that if I give up and stay even, there will be displeasure just
the same, ... and that, when once gone, the irritation will exhaust
and smooth itself away--which however does not touch my chief
objection. Would it be better ... more _right_ ... to give it up?
Think for me. Even if I hold on to the last, at the last I shall be
thrown off--_that_ is my conviction. But ... shall I give up _at
once_? Do think for me.

And I have thought that if you like to come on Friday instead of
Saturday ... as there is the uncertainty about next week, ... it would
divide the time more equally: but let it be as you like and according
to circumstances as you see them. Perhaps you have decided to go at
once with your friends--who knows? I wish I could know that you were
better to-day. May God bless you

                                                 Ever yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                            [Post-mark, September 25, 1845.]

You have said to me more than once that you wished I might never know
certain feelings _you_ had been forced to endure. I suppose all of us
have the proper place where a blow should fall to be felt most--and I
truly wish _you_ may never feel what I have to bear in looking on,
quite powerless, and silent, while you are subjected to this
treatment, which I refuse to characterize--so blind is it _for_
blindness. I think I ought to understand what a father may exact, and
a child should comply with; and I respect the most ambiguous of love's
caprices if they give never so slight a clue to their all-justifying
source. Did I, when you signified to me the probable objections--you
remember what--to myself, my own happiness,--did I once allude to,
much less argue against, or refuse to acknowledge those objections?
For I wholly sympathize, however it go against me, with the highest,
wariest, pride and love for you, and the proper jealousy and vigilance
they entail--but now, and here, the jewel is not being over guarded,
but ruined, cast away. And whoever is privileged to interfere should
do so in the possessor's own interest--all common sense
interferes--all rationality against absolute no-reason at all. And you
ask whether you ought to obey this no-reason? I will tell you: all
passive obedience and implicit submission of will and intellect is by
far too easy, if well considered, to be the course prescribed by God
to Man in this life of probation--for they _evade_ probation
altogether, though foolish people think otherwise. Chop off your legs,
you will never go astray; stifle your reason altogether and you will
find it is difficult to reason ill. 'It is hard to make these
sacrifices!'--not so hard as to lose the reward or incur the penalty
of an Eternity to come; 'hard to effect them, then, and go through
with them'--_not_ hard, when the leg is to be _cut off_--that it is
rather harder to keep it quiet on a stool, I know very well. The
partial indulgence, the proper exercise of one's faculties, there is
the difficulty and problem for solution, set by that Providence which
might have made the laws of Religion as indubitable as those of
vitality, and revealed the articles of belief as certainly as that
condition, for instance, by which we breathe so many times in a minute
to support life. But there is no reward proposed for the feat of
breathing, and a great one for that of believing--consequently there
must go a great deal more of voluntary effort to this latter than is
implied in the getting absolutely rid of it at once, by adopting the
direction of an infallible church, or private judgment of another--for
all our life is some form of religion, and all our action some belief,
and there is but one law, however modified, for the greater and the
less. In your case I do think you are called upon to do your duty to
yourself; that is, to God in the end. Your own reason should examine
the whole matter in dispute by every light which can be put in
requisition; and every interest that appears to be affected by your
conduct should have its utmost claims considered--your father's in the
first place; and that interest, not in the miserable limits of a few
days' pique or whim in which it would seem to express itself; but in
its whole extent ... the _hereafter_ which all momentary passion
prevents him seeing ... indeed, the _present_ on either side which
everyone else must see. And this examination made, with whatever
earnestness you will, I do think and am sure that on its conclusion
you should act, in confidence that a duty has been performed ...
_difficult_, or how were it a duty? Will it _not_ be infinitely harder
to act so than to blindly adopt his pleasure, and die under it? Who
can _not_ do that?

I fling these hasty rough words over the paper, fast as they will
fall--knowing to whom I cast them, and that any sense they may contain
or point to, will be caught and understood, and presented in a better
light. The hard thing ... this is all I want to say ... is to act on
one's own best conviction--not to abjure it and accept another will,
and say '_there_ is my plain duty'--easy it is, whether plain or no!

How 'all changes!' When I first knew you--you know what followed. I
supposed you to labour under an incurable complaint--and, of course,
to be completely dependent on your father for its commonest
alleviations; the moment after that inconsiderate letter, I reproached
myself bitterly with the selfishness apparently involved in any
proposition I might then have made--for though I have never been at
all frightened of the world, nor mistrustful of my power to deal with
it, and get my purpose out of it if once I thought it worth while, yet
I could not but feel the consideration, of _what_ failure would _now_
be, paralyse all effort even in fancy. When you told me lately that
'you could never be poor'--all my solicitude was at an end--I had but
myself to care about, and I told you, what I believed and believe,
that I can at any time amply provide for that, and that I could
cheerfully and confidently undertake the removing _that_ obstacle. Now
again the circumstances shift--and you are in what I should wonder at
as the veriest slavery--and I who _could_ free you from it, I am here
scarcely daring to write ... though I know you must feel for me and
forgive what forces itself from me ... what retires so mutely into my
heart at your least word ... what _shall not_ be again written or
spoken, if you so will ... that I should be made happy beyond all hope
of expression by. Now while I _dream_, let me once dream! I would
marry you now and thus--I would come when you let me, and go when you
bade me--I would be no more than one of your brothers--'_no
more_'--that is, instead of getting to-morrow for Saturday, I should
get Saturday as well--two hours for one--when your head ached I
should be _here_. I deliberately choose the realization of that dream
(--of sitting simply by you for an hour every day) rather than any
other, excluding you, I am able to form for this world, or any world I
know--And it will continue but a dream.

                                 God bless my dearest E.B.B.


You understand that I see you to-morrow, Friday, as you propose.

I am better--thank you--and will go out to-day.

You know what I am, what I would speak, and all I would do.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                            Friday Evening.
                            [Post-mark, September 27, 1845.]

I had your letter late last night, everyone almost, being out of the
house by an accident, so that it was left in the letter-box, and if I
had wished to answer it before I saw you, it had scarcely been

But it will be the same thing--for you know as well as if you saw my
answer, what it must be, what it cannot choose but be, on pain of
sinking me so infinitely below not merely your level but my own, that
the depth cannot bear a glance down. Yet, though I am not made of such
clay as to admit of my taking a base advantage of certain noble
extravagances, (and that I am not I thank God for your sake) I will
say, I must say, that your words in this letter have done me good and
made me happy, ... that I thank and bless you for them, ... and that
to receive such a proof of attachment from _you_, not only overpowers
every present evil, but seems to me a full and abundant amends for the
merely personal sufferings of my whole life. When I had read that
letter last night I _did_ think so. I looked round and round for the
small bitternesses which for several days had been bitter to me, and I
could not find one of them. The tear-marks went away in the moisture
of new, happy tears. Why, how else could I have felt? how else do you
think I could? How would any woman have felt ... who could feel at all
... hearing such words said (though 'in a dream' indeed) by such a

And now listen to me in turn. You have touched me more profoundly than
I thought even _you_ could have touched me--my heart was full when you
came here to-day. Henceforward I am yours for everything but to do you
harm--and I am yours too much, in my heart, ever to consent to do you
harm in that way. If I could consent to do it, not only should I be
less loyal ... but in one sense, less yours. I say this to you without
drawback and reserve, because it is all I am able to say, and perhaps
all I _shall_ be able to say. However this may be, a promise goes to
you in it that none, except God and your will, shall interpose between
you and me, ... I mean, that if He should free me within a moderate
time from the trailing chain of this weakness, I will then be to you
whatever at that hour you shall choose ... whether friend or more than
friend ... a friend to the last in any case. So it rests with God and
with you--only in the meanwhile you are most absolutely free ...
'unentangled' (as they call it) by the breadth of a thread--and if I
did not know that you considered yourself so, I would not see you any
more, let the effort cost me what it might. You may force me _feel_:
... but you cannot force me to _think_ contrary to my first thought
... that it were better for you to forget me at once in one relation.
And if better for _you_, can it be bad for _me_? which flings me down
on the stone-pavement of the logicians.

And now if I ask a boon of you, will you forget afterwards that it
ever was asked? I have hesitated a great deal; but my face is down on
the stone-pavement--no--I will not ask to-day--It shall be for another
day--and may God bless you on this and on those that come after, my
dearest friend.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                            [Post-mark, September 27, 1845.]

Think for me, speak for me, my dearest, _my own_! You that are all
great-heartedness and generosity, do that one more generous thing?

                                           God bless you for


What can it be you ask of me!--'a boon'--once my answer to _that_ had
been the plain one--but now ... when I have better experience of--No,
now I have BEST experience of how you understand my interests; that at
last we _both_ know what is my true good--so ask, ask! _My own_, now!
For there it is!--oh, do not fear I am '_entangled_'--my crown is
loose on my head, not nailed there--my pearl lies in my hand--I may
return it to the sea, if I will!

What is it you ask of me, this first asking?

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                            [Post-mark, September 29, 1845.]

Then _first_, ... first, I ask you not to misunderstand. Because we do
not ... no, we do not ... agree (but disagree) as to 'what is your
true good' ... but disagree, and as widely as ever indeed.

The other asking shall come in its season ... some day before I go, if
I go. It only relates to a restitution--and you cannot guess it if you
try ... so don't try!--and perhaps you can't grant it if you try--and
I cannot guess.

Cabins and berths all taken in the Malta steamer for both third and
twentieth of October! see what dark lanterns the stars hold out, and
how I shall stay in England after all as I think! And thus we are
thrown back on the old Gibraltar scheme with its shifting of steamers
... unless we take the dreary alternative of Madeira!--or Cadiz! Even
suppose Madeira, ... why it were for a few months alone--and there
would be no temptation to loiter as in Italy.

_Don't_ think too hardly of poor Papa. You have his wrong side ... his
side of peculiar wrongness ... to you just now. When you have walked
round him you will have other thoughts of him.

Are you better, I wonder? and taking exercise and trying to be better?
May God bless you! Tuesday need not be the last day if you like to
take one more besides--for there is no going until the fourth or
seventh, ... and the seventh is the more probable of those two. But
now you have done with me until Tuesday.

                                                 Ever yours,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               [Post-mark, October 1, 1845.]

I have read to the last line of your 'Rosicrucian'; and my scepticism
grew and grew through Hume's process of doubtful doubts, and at last
rose to the full stature of incredulity ... for I never could believe
Shelley capable of such a book (call it a book!), not even with a
flood of boarding-school idiocy dashed in by way of dilution.
Altogether it roused me to deny myself so far as to look at the date
of the book, and to get up and travel to the other end of the room to
confront it with other dates in the 'Letters from Abroad' ... (I, who
never think of a date except the 'A.D.,' and am inclined every now and
then to write _that_ down as 1548 ...) well! and on comparing these
dates in these two volumes before my eyes, I find that your
Rosicrucian was 'printed for Stockdale' in _1822_, and that Shelley
_died in the July of the same year_!!--There, is a vindicating fact
for you! And unless the 'Rosicrucian' went into more editions than
one, and dates here from a later one, ... which is not ascertainable
from this fragment of a titlepage, ... the innocence of the great poet
stands proved--now doesn't it? For nobody will say that he published
such a book in the last year of his life, in the maturity of his
genius, and that Godwin's daughter helped him in it! That 'dripping
dew' from the skeleton is the only living word in the book!--which
really amused me notwithstanding, from the intense absurdity of the
whole composition ... descriptions ... sentiments ... and morals.

Judge yourself if I had not better say 'No' about the cloak! I would
take it if you wished such a kindness to me--and although you might
find it very useful to yourself ... or to your mother or sister ...
still if you _wished_ me to take it I should like to have it, and the
mantle of the prophet might bring me down something of his spirit! but
do you remember ... do you consider ... how many talkers there are in
this house, and what would be talked--or that it is not worth while to
provoke it all? And Papa, knowing it, would not like it--and
altogether it is far better, believe me, that you should keep your own
cloak, and I, the thought of the kindness you meditated in respect to
it. I have heard nothing more--nothing.

I was asked the other day by a very young friend of mine ... the
daughter of an older friend who once followed you up-stairs in this
house ... Mr. Hunter, an Independent minister ... for 'Mr. Browning's
autograph.' She wants it for a collection ... for her album--and so,
will you write out a verse or two on one side of note paper ... not as
you write for the printers ... and let me keep my promise and send it
to her? I forgot to ask you before. Or one verse will do ... anything
will do ... and don't let me be bringing you into vexation. It need
not be of MS. rarity.

You are not better ... really ... I fear. And your mother's being ill
affects you more than you like to admit, I fear besides. Will you,
when you write, say how _both_ are ... nothing extenuating, you know.
May God bless you, my dearest friend.

                                                 Ever yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               [Post-mark, October 2, 1845.]

Well, let us hope against hope in the sad matter of the novel--yet,
yet,--it _is_ by Shelley, if you will have the truth--as I happen to
_know_--proof _last_ being that Leigh Hunt told me he unearthed it in
Shelley's own library at Marlow once, to the writer's horror and
shame--'He snatched it out of my hands'--said H. Yet I thrust it into
yours ... so much for the subtle fence of friends who reach your heart
by a side-thrust, as I told you on Tuesday, after the enemy has fallen
back breathless and baffled. As for the date, that Stockdale was a
notorious pirate and raker-up of rash publications ... and, do you
know, I suspect the _title-page_ is all that boasts such novelty,--see
if the _book_, the inside leaves, be not older evidently!--a common
trick of the 'trade' to this day. The history of this and 'Justrozzi,'
as it is spelt,--the other novel,--may be read in Medwin's
'Conversations'--and, as I have been told, in Lady Ch. Bury's
'Reminiscences' or whatever she calls them ... the 'Guistrozzi' was
_certainly_ 'written in concert with'--somebody or other ... for I
confess the whole story grows monstrous and even the froth of wine
strings itself in bright bubbles,--ah, but this was the scum of the
fermenting vat, do you see? I am happy to say I forget the novel
entirely, or almost--and only keep the exact impression which you have
gained ... through me! 'The fair cross of gold _he dashed on the
floor_'--(_that_ is my pet-line ... because the 'chill dew' of a place
not commonly supposed to favour humidity is a plagiarism from Lewis's
'Monk,' it now flashes on me! Yes, Lewis, too, puts the phrase into
intense italics.) And now, please read a chorus in the 'Prometheus
Unbound' or a scene from the 'Cenci'--and join company with Shelley

--From 'chill dew' I come to the _cloak_--you are quite right--and I
give up that fancy. Will you, then, take one more precaution when
_all_ proper safe-guards have been adopted; and, when _everything_ is
sure, contrive some one sureness besides, against cold or wind or
sea-air; and say '_this_--for the cloak which is not here, and to help
the heart's wish which is,'--so I shall be there _palpably_. Will you
do this? Tell me you will, to-morrow--and tell me all good news.

My Mother suffers still.... I hope she is no worse--but a little
better--certainly better. I am better too, in my unimportant way.

Now I will write you the verses ... some easy ones out of a paper-full
meant to go between poem and poem in my next number, and break the
shock of collision.

Let me kiss your hand--dearest! My heart and life--all is yours, and
forever--God make you happy as I am through you--Bless you


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               [Post-mark, October 6, 1845.]

Tuesday is given up in full council. The thing is beyond doubting of,
as George says and as you thought yesterday. And then George has it in
his head to beguile the Duke of Palmella out of a smaller cabin, so
that I might sail from the Thames on the twentieth--and whether he
succeeds or not, I humbly confess that one of the chief advantages of
the new plan if not the very chief (as _I_ see it) is just in the

Your spring-song is full of beauty as you know very well--and 'that's
the wise thrush,' so characteristic of you (and of the thrush too)
that I was sorely tempted to ask you to write it 'twice over,' ... and
not send the first copy to Mary Hunter notwithstanding my promise to
her. And now when you come to print these fragments, would it not be
well if you were to stoop to the vulgarism of prefixing some word of
introduction, as other people do, you know, ... a title ... a name?
You perplex your readers often by casting yourself on their
intelligence in these things--and although it is true that readers in
general are stupid and can't understand, it is still more true that
they are lazy and won't understand ... and they don't catch your point
of sight at first unless you think it worth while to push them by the
shoulders and force them into the right place. Now these fragments ...
you mean to print them with a line between ... and not one word at the
top of it ... now don't you! And then people will read

    Oh, to be in England

and say to themselves ... 'Why who is this? ... who's out of England?'
Which is an extreme case of course; but you will see what I mean ...
and often I have observed how some of the very most beautiful of your
lyrics have suffered just from your disdain of the usual tactics of
writers in this one respect.

And you are not better, still--you are worse instead of better ... are
you not? Tell me--And what can you mean about 'unimportance,' when you
were worse last week ... this expiring week ... than ever before, by
your own confession? And now?--And your mother?

Yes--I promise! And so, ... _Elijah_ will be missed instead of his
mantle ... which will be a losing contract after all. But it shall be
as you say. May you be able to say that you are better! God bless you.

                                                 Ever yours.

Never think of the 'White Slave.' I had just taken it up. The trash of
it is prodigious--far beyond Mr. Smythe. Not that I can settle upon a
book just now, in all this wind, to judge of it fairly.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               Monday Morning.
                               [Post-mark, October 6, 1845.]

I should certainly think that the Duke of Palmella may be induced, and
with no great difficulty, to give up a cabin under the
circumstances--and _then_ the plan becomes really objection-proof, so
far as mortal plans go. But now you must think all the boldlier about
whatever difficulties remain, just because they are so much the fewer.
It _is_ cold already in the mornings and evenings--cold and (this
morning) foggy--I did not ask if you continue to go out from time to
time.... I am sure you _should_,--you would so prepare yourself
properly for the fatigue and change--yesterday it was very warm and
fine in the afternoon, nor is this noontime so bad, if the requisite
precautions are taken. And do make 'journeys across the room,' and out
of it, meanwhile, and _stand_ when possible--get all the strength
ready, now that so much is to be spent. Oh, if I were by you!

Thank you, thank you--I will devise titles--I quite see what you say,
now you do say it. I am (this Monday morning, the prescribed day for
efforts and beginnings) looking over and correcting what you read--to
press they shall go, and then the plays can follow gently, and then
... 'Oh to be in Pisa. Now that E.B.B. is there!'--And I _shall_ be
there!... I am much better to-day; and my mother better--and to-morrow
I shall see you--So come good things together!

Dearest--till to-morrow and ever I am yours, wholly yours--May God
bless you!


You do not ask me that 'boon'--why is that?--Besides, I have my own
_real_ boons to ask too, as you will inevitably find, and I shall
perhaps get heart by your example.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               [Post-mark, October 7, 1845.]

Ah but the good things do _not_ come together--for just as your letter
comes I am driven to asking you to leave Tuesday for Wednesday.

On Tuesday Mr. Kenyon is to be here or not to be here, he
says--there's a doubt; and you would rather go to a clear day. So if
you do not hear from me again I shall expect you on _Wednesday_ unless
I hear to the contrary from you:--and if anything happens to Wednesday
you shall hear. Mr. Kenyon is in town for only two days, or three. I
never could grumble against him, so good and kind as he is--but he may
not come after all to-morrow--so it is not grudging the obolus to
Belisarius, but the squandering of the last golden days at the bottom
of the purse.

Do I 'stand'--Do I walk? Yes--most uprightly. I 'walk upright every
day.' Do I go out? no, never. And I am not to be scolded for _that_,
because when you were looking at the sun to-day, I was marking the
east wind; and perhaps if I had breathed a breath of it ... farewell
Pisa. People who can walk don't always walk into the lion's den as a
consequence--do they? should they? Are you 'sure that they should?' I
write in great haste. So Wednesday then ... perhaps!

                                        And yours every day.

You understand. Wednesday--if nothing to the contrary.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               [Post-mark, October 8, 1845.]

Well, dearest, at all events I get up with the assurance I shall see
you, and go on till the fatal 11-1/4 p.m. believing in the same, and
_then_, if after all there _does_ come such a note as this with its
instructions, why, first, it _is_ such a note and such a gain, and
next it makes a great day out of to-morrow that was to have been so
little of a day, that is all. Only, only, I am suspicious, now, of a
real loss to me in the end; for, _putting_ off yesterday, I dared put
off (on your part) Friday to Saturday ... while _now_ ... what shall
be said to that?

Dear Mr. Kenyon to be the smiling inconscious obstacle to any pleasure
of mine, if it were merely pleasure!

But I want to catch our next post--to-morrow, then, excepting what is
to be excepted!

                                     Bless you, my dearest--

                                          Your own


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               Wednesday Evening.
                               [Post-mark, October 8, 1845.]

Mr. Kenyon never came. My sisters met him in the street, and he had
been 'detained all day in the city and would certainly be here
to-morrow,' Wednesday! And so you see what has happened to Wednesday!
Moreover he may come besides on Thursday, ... I can answer for
nothing. Only if I do not write and if you find Thursday admissible,
will you come then? In the case of an obstacle, you shall hear. And it
is not (in the meantime) my fault--now is it? I have been quite enough
vexed about it, indeed.

Did the Monday work work harm to the head, I wonder? I do fear so that
you won't get through those papers with impunity--especially if the
plays are to come after ... though ever so 'gently.' And if you are to
suffer, it would be right to tongue-tie that silver Bell, and leave
the congregations to their selling of cabbages. Which is
unphilanthropic of me perhaps, ... [Greek: o philtate].

Be sure that I shall be 'bold' when the time for going comes--and both
bold and capable of the effort. I am desired to keep to the respirator
and the cabin for a day or two, while the cold can reach us; and
midway in the bay of Biscay some change of climate may be felt, they
say. There is no sort of danger for me; except that I shall _stay in
England_. And why is it that I feel to-night more than ever almost, as
if I should stay in England? Who can tell? _I_ can tell one thing.
_If_ I stay, it will not be from a failure in my resolution--_that
will_ not be--_shall_ not be. Yes--and Mr. Kenyon and I agreed the
other day that there was something of the tigress-nature very
distinctly cognisable under what he is pleased to call my

Then, on Thursday!... unless something happens to _Thursday_ ... and I
shall write in that case. And I trust to you (as always) to attend to
your own convenience--just as you may trust to me to remember my own
'boon.' Ah--you are curious, I think! Which is scarcely wise of
you--because it _may_, you know, be the roc's egg after all. But no,
it _isn't_--I will say just so much. And besides I _did_ say that it
was a 'restitution,' which limits the guesses if it does not put an
end to them. Unguessable, I choose it to be.

And now I feel as if I should _not_ stay in England. Which is the
difference between one five minutes and another. May God bless you.

                                                 Ever yours,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 11, 1845.]

Dear Mr. Kenyon has been here again, and talking so (in his kindness
too) about the probabilities as to Pisa being against me ... about all
depending 'on one throw' and the 'dice being loaded' &c. ... that I
looked at him aghast as if he looked at the future through the folded
curtain and was licensed to speak oracles:--and ever since I have been
out of spirits ... oh, out of spirits--and must write myself back
again, or try. After all he may be wrong like another--and I should
tell you that he reasons altogether from the delay ... and that 'the
cabins will therefore be taken' and the 'circular bills' out of reach!
He _said_ that one of his purposes in staying in town, was to
'_knout_' me every day--didn't he?

Well--George will probably speak before _he_ leaves town, which will
be on Monday! and now that the hour approaches, I do feel as if the
house stood upon gunpowder, and as if I held Guy Fawkes's lantern in
my right hand. And no: I shall not go. The obstacles will not be those
of Mr. Kenyon's finding--and what their precise character will be I do
not see distinctly. Only that they will be sufficient, and thrown by
one hand just where the wheel should turn, ... _that_, I see--and you
will, in a few days.

Did you go to Moxon's and settle the printing matter? Tell me. And
what was the use of telling Mr. Kenyon that you were 'quite well' when
you know you are not? Will you say to me how you are, saying the
truth? and also how your mother is?

To show the significance of the omission of those evening or rather
night visits of Papa's--for they came sometimes at eleven, and
sometimes at twelve--I will tell you that he used to sit and talk in
them, and then _always_ kneel and pray with me and for me--which I
used of course to feel as a proof of very kind and affectionate
sympathy on his part, and which has proportionably pained me in the
withdrawing. They were no ordinary visits, you observe, ... and he
could not well throw me further from him than by ceasing to pay
them--the thing is quite expressively significant. Not that I pretend
to complain, nor to have reason to complain. One should not be
grateful for kindness, only while it lasts: _that_ would be a
short-breathed gratitude. I just tell you the fact, proving that it
cannot be accidental.

Did you ever, ever tire me? Indeed no--you never did. And do
understand that I am not to be tired 'in that way,' though as Mr. Boyd
said once of his daughter, one may be so 'far too effeminate.' No--if
I were put into a crowd I should be tired soon--or, apart from the
crowd, if you made me discourse orations De Corona ... concerning your
bag even ... I should be tired soon--though peradventure not very much
sooner than you who heard. But on the smooth ground of quiet
conversation (particularly when three people don't talk at once as my
brothers do ... to say the least!) I last for a long while:--not to
say that I have the pretension of being as good and inexhaustible a
listener to your own speaking as you could find in the world. So
please not to accuse me of being tired again. I can't be tired, and
won't be tired, you see.

And now, since I began to write this, there is a new evil and
anxiety--a worse anxiety than any--for one of my brothers is ill; had
been unwell for some days and we thought nothing of it, till to-day
Saturday: and the doctors call it a fever of the typhoid character ...
not typhus yet ... but we are very uneasy. You must not come on
Wednesday if an infectious fever be in the house--_that_ must be out
of the question. May God bless you--I am quite heavy-hearted to-day,
but never less yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 13, 1845].

These are bad news, dearest--all bad, except the enduring comfort of
your regard; the illness of your brother is worst ... that _would_
stay you, and is the first proper obstacle. I shall not attempt to
speak and prove my feelings,--you know what even Flush is to me
through you: I wait in anxiety for the next account.

If after all you do _not_ go to Pisa; why, we must be cheerful and
wise, and take courage and hope. I cannot but see with your eyes and
from your place, you know,--and will let this all be one surprizing
and deplorable mistake of mere love and care ... but no such another
mistake ought to be suffered, if you escape the effects of this. I
will not cease to believe in a better event, till the very last,
however, and it is a deep satisfaction that all has been made plain
and straight up to this strange and sad interposition like a bar. You
have done _your_ part, at least--with all that forethought and counsel
from friends and adequate judges of the case--so, if the bar _will_
not move, you will consider--will you not, dearest?--where one may
best encamp in the unforbidden country, and wait the spring and fine
weather. Would it be advisable to go where Mr. Kenyon suggested, or
elsewhere? Oh, these vain wishes ... the will here, and no means!

My life is bound up with yours--my own, first and last love. What
wonder if I feared to tire you--I who, knowing you as I do, admiring
what is so admirable (let me speak), loving what must needs be loved,
fain to learn what you only can teach; proud of so much, happy in so
much of you; I, who, for all this, neither come to admire, nor feel
proud, nor be taught,--but only, only to live with you and be by
you--that is love--for I _know_ the rest, as I say. I know those
qualities are in you ... but at them I could get in so many ways.... I
have your books, here are my letters you give me; you would answer my
questions were _I_ in Pisa--well, and it all would amount to nothing,
infinitely much as I know it is; to nothing if I could not sit by you
and see you.... I can stop at that, but not before. And it seems
strange to me how little ... less than little I have laid open of my
feelings, the nature of them to you--I smile to think how if all this
while I had been acting with the profoundest policy in intention, so
as to pledge myself to nothing I could not afterwards perform with the
most perfect ease and security, I should have done not much unlike
what I _have_ done--to be sure, one word includes many or all ... but
I have not said ... what I will not even now say ... you will
_know_--in God's time to which I trust.

I will answer your note now--the questions. I did go--(it may amuse
you to write on)--to Moxon's. First let me tell you that when I called
there the Saturday before, his brother (in his absence) informed me,
replying to the question when it came naturally in turn with a round
of like enquiries, that your poems continued to sell 'singularly
well'--they would 'end in bringing a clear profit,' he said. I thought
to catch him, and asked if they _had_ done so ... 'Oh; not at the
beginning ... it takes more time--he answered. On Thursday I saw
Moxon--he spoke rather encouragingly of my own prospects. I send him a
sheetful to-morrow, I believe, and we are 'out' on the 1st of next
month. Tennyson, by the way, has got his pension, L200 per annum--by
the other way, Moxon has bought the MSS. of Keats in the possession of
Taylor the publisher, and is going to bring out a complete edition;
which is pleasant to hear.

After settling with Moxon I went to Mrs. Carlyle's--who told me
characteristic quaintnesses of Carlyle's father and mother over the
tea she gave me. And all yesterday, you are to know, I was in a
permanent mortal fright--for my uncle came in the morning to intreat
me to go to Paris in _the evening_ about some urgent business of
his,--a five-minutes matter with his brother there,--and the affair
being really urgent and material to his and the brother's interest,
and no substitute being to be thought of, I was forced to promise to
go--in case a letter, which would arrive in Town at noon, should not
prove satisfactory. So I calculated times, and found I could be at
Paris to-morrow, and back again, _certainly_ by Wednesday--and so not
lose you on that day--oh, the fear I had!--but I was sure then and
now, that the 17th would not see you depart. But night came, and the
last Dover train left, and I drew breath freely--this morning I find
the letter was all right--so may it be with all worse apprehensions!
What you fear, precisely that, never happens, as Napoleon observed and
thereon grew bold. I had stipulated for an hour's notice, if go I
must--and that was to be wholly spent in writing to you--for in quiet
consternation my mother cared for my carpet bag.

And so, I shall hear from you to-morrow ... that is, you will write
_then_, telling me _all_ about your brother. As for what you say, with
the kindest intentions, 'of fever-contagion' and keeping away on
Wednesday on _that_ account, it is indeed 'out of the question,'--for
a first reason (which dispenses with any second) because I disbelieve
altogether in contagion from fevers, and especially from typhus
fevers--as do much better-informed men than myself--I speak quite
advisedly. If there should be only _that_ reason, therefore, you will
not deprive me of the happiness of seeing you next Wednesday.

I am not well--have a cold, influenza or some unpleasant thing, but am
better than yesterday--My mother is much better, I think (she and my
sister are resolute non-contagionists, mind you that!)

God bless you and all you love! dearest, I am your


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 14, 1845.]

It was the merest foolishness in me to write about fevers and the rest
as I did to-day, just as if it could do any good, all the wringing of
hands in the world. And there is no typhus _yet_ ... and no danger of
any sort I hope and trust!--and how weak it is that habit of spreading
the cloud which is in you all around you, how weak and selfish ... and
unlike what _you_ would do ... just as you are unlike Mr. Kenyon. And
you _are_ unlike him--and you were right on Thursday when you said
so, and I was wrong in setting up a phrase on the other side ... only
what I said came by an instinct because you seemed to be giving him
all the sunshine to use and carry, which should not be after all. But
you are unlike him and must be ... seeing that the producers must
differ from the 'nati consumere fruges' in the intellectual as in the
material. You create and he enjoys, and the work makes you pale and
the pleasure makes him ruddy, and it is so of a necessity. So differs
the man of genius from the man of letters--and then dear Mr. Kenyon is
not even a man of letters in a full sense ... he is rather a Sybarite
of letters. Do you think he ever knew what mental labour is? I fancy
not. Not more than he has known what mental inspiration is! And not
more than he has known what the strife of the heart is ... with all
his tenderness and sensibility. He seems to me to _evade_ pain, and
where he suffers at all to do so rather negatively than positively ...
if you understand what I mean by that ... rather by a want than by a
blow: the secret of all being that he has a certain latitudinarianism
(not indifferentism) in his life and affections, and has no capacity
for concentration and intensity. Partly by temperament and partly by
philosophy he contrives to keep the sunny side of the street--though
never inclined to forget the blind man at the corner. Ah, dear Mr.
Kenyon: he is magnanimous in toleration, and excellent in
sympathy--and he has the love of beauty and the reverence of
genius--but the faculty of _worship_ he has not: he will not worship
aright either your heroes or your gods ... and while you do it he only
'tolerates' the act in you. Once he said ... not to me ... but I heard
of it: 'What, if genius should be nothing but scrofula?' and he doubts
(I very much fear) whether the world is not governed by a throw of
those very same 'loaded dice,' and no otherwise. Yet he reveres genius
in the acting of it, and recognizes a God in creation--only it is but
'so far,' and not farther. At least I think not--and I have a right to
think what I please of him, holding him as I do, in such true
affection. One of the kindest and most indulgent of human beings has
he been to me, and I am happy to be grateful to him.

_Sunday._--The Duke of Palmella takes the whole vessel for the 20th
and therefore if I go it must be on the 17th. Therefore (besides) as
George must be on sessions to-morrow, he will settle the question with
Papa to-night. In the meantime our poor Occy is not much better,
though a little, and is ordered leeches on his head, and is confined
to his bed and attended by physician and surgeon. It is not decided
typhus, but they will not answer for its not being infectious; and
although he is quite at the top of the house, two stories above me, I
shall not like you to come indeed. And then there will be only room
for a farewell, and I who am a coward shrink from the saying of it.
No--not being able to see you to-morrow, (Mr. Kenyon is to be here
to-morrow, he says) let us agree to throw away Wednesday. I will
write, ... you will write perhaps--and above all things you will
promise to write by the 'Star' on Monday, that the captain may give me
your letter at Gibraltar. You promise? But I shall hear from you
before then, and oftener than once, and you will acquiesce about
Wednesday and grant at once that there can be no gain, no good, in
that miserable good-bye-ing. I do not want the pain of it to remember
you by--I shall remember very well without it, be sure. Still it shall
be as you like--as you shall chose--and if you are _disappointed_
about Wednesday (if it is not vain in me to talk of disappointments)
why do with Wednesday as you think best ... always understanding that
there's no risk of infection.

_Monday._--All this I had written yesterday--and to-day it all is
worse than vain. Do not be angry with me--do not think it my
fault--but _I do not go to Italy_ ... it has ended as I feared. What
passed between George and Papa there is no need of telling: only the
latter said that I 'might go if I pleased, but that going it would be
under his heaviest displeasure.' George, in great indignation,
pressed the question fully: but all was vain ... and I am left in this
position ... to go, if I please, with his displeasure over me, (which
after what you have said and after what Mr. Kenyon has said, and after
what my own conscience and deepest moral convictions say aloud, I
would unhesitatingly do at this hour!) and necessarily run the risk of
exposing my sister and brother to that same displeasure ... from which
risk I shrink and fall back and feel that to incur it, is impossible.
Dear Mr. Kenyon has been here and we have been talking--and he sees
what I see ... that I am justified in going myself, but not in
bringing others into difficulty. The very kindness and goodness with
which they desire me (both my sisters) 'not to think of them,'
naturally makes me think more of them. And so, tell me that I am not
wrong in taking up my chain again and acquiescing in this hard
necessity. The bitterest 'fact' of all is, that I had believed Papa to
have loved me more than he obviously does: but I never regret
knowledge ... I mean I never would _un_know anything ... even were it
the taste of the apples by the Dead sea--and this must be accepted
like the rest. In the meantime your letter comes--and if I could seem
to be very unhappy after reading it ... why it would be 'all pretence'
on my part, believe me. Can you care for me so much ... _you_? Then
_that_ is light enough to account for all the shadows, and to make
them almost unregarded--the shadows of the life behind. Moreover dear
Occy is somewhat better--with a pulse only at ninety: and the doctors
declare that visitors may come to the house without any manner of
danger. Or I should not trust to your theories--no, indeed: it was not
that I expected you to be afraid, but that _I_ was afraid--and if I am
not ashamed for _that_, why at least I am, for being _lache_ about
Wednesday, when you thought of hurrying back from Paris only for it!
You _could_ think _that_!--You _can_ care for me so much!--(I come to
it again!) When I hold some words to my eyes ... such as these in
this letter ... I can see nothing beyond them ... no evil, no want.
There _is_ no evil and no want. Am I wrong in the decision about
Italy? Could I do otherwise? I had courage and to spare--but the
question, you see, did not regard myself wholly. For the rest, the
'unforbidden country' lies within these four walls. Madeira was
proposed in vain--and any part of England would be as objectionable as
Italy, and not more advantageous to _me_ than Wimpole Street. To take
courage and be cheerful, as you say, is left as an alternative--and
(the winter may be mild!) to fall into the hands of God rather than of
man: _and I shall be here for your November, remember_.

And now that you are not well, will you take care? and not come on
Wednesday unless you are better? and never again bring me _wet
flowers_, which probably did all the harm on Thursday? I was afraid
for you then, though I said nothing. May God bless you.

                                  Ever yours I am--your own.

Ninety is not a high pulse ... for a fever of this kind--is it? and
the heat diminishes, and his spirits are better--and we are all much
easier ... have been both to-day and yesterday indeed.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              Tuesday Morning,
                              [Post-mark, October 14, 1845.]

Be sure, my own, dearest love, that this is for the best; will be seen
for the best in the end. It is hard to bear now--but _you_ have to
bear it; any other person could not, and you will, I know, knowing
you--_will_ be well this one winter if you can, and then--since I am
_not_ selfish in this love to you, my own conscience tells me,--I
desire, more earnestly than I ever knew what desiring was, to be yours
and with you and, as far as may be in this life and world, YOU--and
no hindrance to that, but one, gives me a moment's care or fear; but
that one is just your little hand, as I could fancy it raised in any
least interest of yours--and before that, I am, and would ever be,
still silent. But now--what is to make you raise that hand? I will not
speak _now_; not seem to take advantage of your present feelings,--we
will be rational, and all-considering and weighing consequences, and
foreseeing them--but first I will prove ... if _that_ has to be done,
why--but I begin speaking, and I should not, I know.

                                            Bless you, love!


To-morrow I see you, without fail. I am rejoiced as you can imagine,
at your brother's improved state.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 15, 1845.]

Will this note reach you at the 'fatal hour' ... or sooner? At any
rate it is forced to ask you to take Thursday for Wednesday, inasmuch
as Mr. Kenyon in his exceeding kindness has put off his journey just
for _me_, he says, because he saw me depressed about the decision, and
wished to come and see me again to-morrow and talk the spirits up, I
suppose. It is all so kind and good, that I cannot find a voice to
grumble about the obligation it brings of writing thus. And then, if
you suffer from cold and influenza, it will be better for you not to
come for another day, ... I think _that_, for comfort. Shall I hear
how you are to-night, I wonder? Dear Occy 'turned the corner,' the
physician said, yesterday evening, and, although a little fluctuating
to-day, remains on the whole considerably better. They were just in
time to keep the fever from turning to typhus.

How fast you print your book, for it is to be out on the first of
November! Why it comes out suddenly like the sun. Mr. Kenyon asked me
if I had seen anything you were going to print; and when I mentioned
the second part of the 'Duchess' and described how your perfect
rhymes, perfectly new, and all clashing together as by natural
attraction, had put me at once to shame and admiration, he began to
praise the first part of the same poem (which I had heard him do
before, by the way) and extolled it as one of your most striking

And so until Thursday! May God bless you--

                          and as the heart goes, ever yours.

I am glad for Tennyson, and glad for Keats. It is well to be able to
be glad about something--is is it not? about something out of
ourselves. And (_in_ myself) I shall be most glad, if I have a letter
to-night. Shall I?

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 15, 1845.]

Thanks, my dearest, for the good news--of the fever's abatement--it is
good, too, that you write cheerfully, on the whole: what is it to _me_
that you write is of _me_ ... I shall never say _that_! Mr. Kenyon is
all kindness, and one gets to take it as not so purely natural a
thing, the showing kindness to those it concerns, and belongs
to,--well! On Thursday, then,--to-morrow! Did you not get a note of
mine, a hurried note, which was meant for yesterday-afternoon's

Mr. Forster came yesterday and was very profuse of graciosities: he
may have, or must have meant well, so we will go on again with the
friendship, as the snail repairs his battered shell.

My poems went duly to press on Monday night--there is not much
_correctable_ in them,--you make, or you spoil, one of these things;
that is, _I_ do. I have adopted all your emendations, and thrown in
lines and words, just a morning's business; but one does not write
plays so. You may like some of my smaller things, which stop
interstices, better than what you have seen; I shall wonder to know. I
am to receive a _proof_ at the end of the week--will you help me and
over-look it. ('Yes'--she says ... my thanks I do not say!--)

While writing this, the _Times_ catches my eye (it just came in) and
something from the _Lancet_ is extracted, a long article against
quackery--and, as I say, this is the first and only sentence I
read--'There is scarcely a peer of the realm who is not the patron of
some quack pill or potion: and the literati too, are deeply tainted.
We have heard of barbarians who threw quacks and their medicines into
the sea: but here in England we have Browning, a prince of poets,
touching the pitch which defiles and making Paracelsus the hero of a
poem. Sir E.L. Bulwer writes puffs for the water doctors in a style
worthy of imitation by the scribe that does the poetical for Moses and
Son. Miss Martineau makes a finessing servant girl her
physician-general: and Richard Howitt and the Lady aforesaid stand
God-father and mother to the contemptible mesmeric vagaries of Spencer
Hall.'--Even the sweet incense to me fails of its effect if Paracelsus
is to figure on a level with Priessnitz, and 'Jane'!

What weather, now at last! Think for yourself and for me--could you
not go out on such days?

I am quite well now--cold, over and gone. Did I tell you my Uncle
arrived from Paris on Monday, as they hoped he would--so my travel
would have been to great purpose!

Bless my dearest--my own!


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 16, 1845.]

Your letter which should have reached me in the morning of yesterday,
I did not receive until nearly midnight--partly through the
eccentricity of our new postman whose good pleasure it is to make use
of the letter-box without knocking; and partly from the confusion in
the house, of illness in different ways ... the very servants being
ill, ... one of them breaking a blood-vessel--for there is no new case
of fever; ... and for dear Occy, he grows better slowly day by day.
And just so late last night, five letters were found in the
letter-box, and mine ... yours ... among them--which accounts for my
beginning to answer it only now.

What am I to say but this ... that I know what you are ... and that I
know also what you are to _me_,--and that I should accept that
knowledge as more than sufficient recompense for worse vexations than
these late ones. Therefore let no more be said of them: and no more
_need_ be said, even if they were not likely to prove their own end
good, as I believe with you. You may be quite sure that I shall be
well this winter, if in any way it should be possible, and that I
_will not_ be beaten down, if the will can do anything. I admire how,
if all had happened so but a year ago, (yet it could not have happened
quite _so_!), I should certainly have been beaten down--and how it is
different now, ... and how it is only gratitude to you, to _say_ that
it is different now. My cage is not worse but better since you brought
the green groundsel to it--and to dash oneself against the wires of it
will not open the door. We shall see ... and God will oversee. And in
the meantime you will not talk of extravagances; and then nobody need
hold up the hand--because, as I said and say, I am yours, your
own--only not to _hurt you_. So now let us talk of the first of
November and of the poems which are to come out then, and of the poems
which are to come after then--and of the new avatar of 'Sordello,' for
instance, which you taught me to look for. And let us both be busy and
cheerful--and you will come and see me throughout the winter, ... if
you do not decide rather on going abroad, which may be better ...
better for your health's sake?--in which case I shall have your

And here is another ... just arrived. How I thank you. Think of the
_Times_! Still it was very well of them to recognise your
principality. Oh yes--do let me see the proof--I understand too about
the 'making and spoiling.'

Almost you forced me to smile by thinking it worth while to say that
you are '_not selfish_.' Did Sir Percival say so to Sir Gawaine across
the Round Table, in those times of chivalry to which you belong by the
soul? Certainly you are not selfish! May God bless you.

                                                   Ever your


The fever may last, they say, for a week longer, or even a
fortnight--but it _decreases_. Yet he is hot still, and very weak.

To to-morrow!

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 17, 1845.]

Do tell me what you mean precisely by your 'Bells and Pomegranates'
title. I have always understood it to refer to the Hebraic priestly
garment--but Mr. Kenyon held against me the other day that your
reference was different, though he had not the remotest idea how. And
yesterday I forgot to ask, for not the first time. Tell me too why you
should not in the new number satisfy, by a note somewhere, the Davuses
of the world who are in the majority ('Davi sumus, non Oedipi') with a
solution of this one Sphinx riddle. Is there a reason against it?

Occy continues to make progress--with a pulse at only eighty-four this
morning. Are you learned in the pulse that I should talk as if you
were? _I_, who have had my lessons? He takes scarcely anything yet but
water, and his head is very hot still--but the progress is quite
sure, though it may be a lingering case.

Your beautiful flowers!--none the less beautiful for waiting for water
yesterday. As fresh as ever, they were; and while I was putting them
into the water, I thought that your visit went on all the time. Other
thoughts too I had, which made me look down blindly, quite blindly, on
the little blue flowers, ... while I thought what I could not have
said an hour before without breaking into tears which would have run
faster then. To say now that I never can forget; that I feel myself
bound to you as one human being cannot be more bound to another;--and
that you are more to me at this moment than all the rest of the world;
is only to say in new words that it would be a wrong against _myself_,
to seem to risk your happiness and abuse your generosity. For _me_ ...
though you threw out words yesterday about the testimony of a 'third
person,' ... it would be monstrous to assume it to be necessary to
vindicate my trust of you--_I trust you implicitly_--and am not too
proud to owe all things to you. But now let us wait and see what this
winter does or undoes--while God does His part for good, as we know. I
will never fail to you from any human influence whatever--_that_ I
have promised--but you must let it be different from the other sort of
promise which it would be a wrong to make. May God bless you--you,
whose fault it is, to be too generous. You _are_ not like other men,
as I could see from the beginning--no.

Shall I have the proof to-night, I ask myself.

And if you like to come on Monday rather than Tuesday, I do not see
why there should be a 'no' to that. Judge from your own convenience.
Only we must be wise in the general practice, and abstain from too
frequent meetings, for fear of difficulties. I am Cassandra you know,
and smell the slaughter in the bath-room. It would make no difference
in fact; but in comfort, much.

                                             Ever your own--

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 18, 1845.]

I must not go on tearing these poor sheets one after the other,--the
proper phrases _will not_ come,--so let them stay, while you care for
my best interests in their best, only way, and say for _me_ what I
would say if I could--dearest,--say it, as I feel it!

I am thankful to hear of the continued improvement of your brother. So
may it continue with him! Pulses I know very little about--I go by
your own impressions which are evidently favourable.

I will make a note as you suggest--or, perhaps, keep it for the
closing number (the next), when it will come fitly in with two or
three parting words I shall have to say. The Rabbis make Bells and
Pomegranates symbolical of Pleasure and Profit, the gay and the grave,
the Poetry and the Prose, Singing and Sermonizing--such a mixture of
effects as in the original hour (that is quarter of an hour) of
confidence and creation. I meant the whole should prove at last. Well,
it _has_ succeeded beyond my most adventurous wishes in one
respect--'Blessed eyes mine eyes have been, if--' if there was any
sweetness in the tongue or flavour in the seeds to _her_. But I shall
do quite other and better things, or shame on me! The proof has not
yet come.... I should go, I suppose, and enquire this afternoon--and
probably I will.

I weigh all the words in your permission to come on Monday ... do not
think _I_ have not seen _that_ contingency from the first! Let it be
Tuesday--no sooner! Meanwhile you are never away--never from your
place here.

                                       God bless my dearest.

                                            Ever yours


_R.B. to E.B.B._

           Monday Morning.
           [In the same envelope with the preceding letter.]

This arrived on Saturday night--I just correct it in time for this our
first post--will it do, the new matter? I can take it to-morrow--when
I am to see you--if you are able to glance through it by then.

The 'Inscription,' how does that read?

There is strange temptation, by the way, in the space they please to
leave for the presumable 'motto'--'they but remind me of mine own
conception' ... but one must give no clue, of a silk's breadth, to the
'_Bower_,' _yet_, One day!

--Which God send you, dearest, and your


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 22, 1845.]

Even at the risk of teazing you a little I must say a few words, that
there may be no misunderstanding between us--and this, before I sleep
to-night. To-day and before to-day you surprised me by your manner of
receiving my remark about your visits, for I believed I had
sufficiently made clear to you long ago how certain questions were
ordered in this house and how no exception was to be expected for my
sake or even for yours. Surely I told you this quite plainly long ago.
I only meant to say in my last letter, in the same track ... (fearing
in the case of your wishing to come oftener that you might think it
unkind in me not to seem to wish the same) ... that if you came too
often and it was _observed_, difficulties and vexations would follow
as a matter of course, and it would be wise therefore to run no risk.
That was the head and front of what I meant to say. The weekly one
visit is a thing established and may go on as long as you please--and
there is no objection to your coming twice a week _now_ and _then_ ...
if now and then merely ... if there is no habit ... do you understand?
I may be prudent in an extreme perhaps--and certainly everybody in the
house is not equally prudent!--but I did shrink from running any risk
with that calm and comfort of the winter as it seemed to come on. And
was it more than I said about the cloak? was there any newness in it?
anything to startle you? Still I do perfectly see that whether new or
old, what it _involves_ may well be unpleasant to you--and that
(however old) it may be apt to recur to your mind with a new
increasing unpleasantness. We have both been carried too far perhaps,
by late events and impulses--but it is never too late to come back to
a right place, and I for my part come back to mine, and entreat you my
dearest friend, first, _not to answer this_, and next, to weigh and
consider thoroughly 'that particular contingency' which (I tell you
plainly, I who know) the tongue of men and of angels would not modify
so as to render less full of vexations to you. Let Pisa prove the
excellent hardness of some marbles! Judge. From motives of
self-respect, you may well walk an opposite way ... _you_.... When I
told you once ... or twice ... that 'no human influence should' &c.
&c., ... I spoke for myself, quite over-looking you--and now that I
turn and see you, I am surprised that I did not see you before ...
_there_. I ask you therefore to consider 'that contingency' well--not
forgetting the other obvious evils, which the late decision about Pisa
has aggravated beyond calculation ... for as the smoke rolls off we
see the harm done by the fire. And so, and now ... is it not advisable
for you to go abroad at once ... as you always intended, you know ...
now that your book is through the press? What if you go next week? I
leave it to you. In any case _I entreat you not to answer
this_--neither let your thoughts be too hard on me for what you may
call perhaps vacillation--only that I stand excused (I do not say
justified) before my own moral sense. May God bless you. If you go, I
shall wait to see you till your return, and have letters in the
meantime. I write all this as fast as I can to have it over. What I
ask of you is, to consider alone and decide advisedly ... for both our
sakes. If it should be your choice not to make an end now, ... why I
shall understand _that_ by your not going ... or you may say '_no_' in
a word ... for I require no '_protestations_' indeed--and _you_ may
trust to _me_ ... it shall be as you choose. _You will consider my
happiness most by considering your own_ ... and that is my last word.

_Wednesday morning._--I did not say half I thought about the poems
yesterday--and their various power and beauty will be striking and
surprising to your most accustomed readers. 'St. Praxed'--'Pictor
Ignotus'--'The Ride'--'The Duchess'!--Of the new poems I like
supremely the first and last ... that 'Lost Leader' which strikes so
broadly and deep ... which nobody can ever forget--and which is worth
all the journalizing and pamphleteering in the world!--and then, the
last 'Thought' which is quite to be grudged to that place of fragments
... those grand sea-sights in the long lines. Should not these
fragments be severed otherwise than by numbers? The last stanza but
one of the 'Lost Mistress' seemed obscure to me. Is it so really? The
end you have put to 'England in Italy' gives unity to the whole ...
just what the poem wanted. Also you have given some nobler lines to
the middle than met me there before. 'The Duchess' appears to me more
than ever a new-minted golden coin--the rhythm of it answering to your
own description, 'Speech half asleep, or song half awake?' You have
right of trove to these novel effects of rhythm. Now if people do not
cry out about these poems, what are we to think of the world?

May God bless you always--send me the next proof _in any case_.



_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 23, 1845.]

But I _must_ answer you, and be forgiven, too, dearest. I was (to
begin at the beginning) surely not '_startled_' ... only properly
aware of the deep blessing I have been enjoying this while, and not
disposed to take its continuance as pure matter of course, and so
treat with indifference the first shadow of a threatening intimation
from without, the first hint of a possible abstraction from the
quarter to which so many hopes and fears of mine have gone of late. In
this case, knowing you, I was sure that if any imaginable form of
displeasure could touch you without reaching me, I should not hear of
it too soon--so I spoke--so _you_ have spoken--and so now you get
'excused'? No--wondered at, with all my faculty of wonder for the
strange exalting way you will persist to think of me; now, once for
all, I _will_ not pass for what I make no least pretence to. I quite
understand the grace of your imaginary self-denial, and fidelity to a
given word, and noble constancy; but it all happens to be none of
mine, none in the least. I love you because I _love_ you; I see you
'once a week' because I cannot see you all day long; I think of you
all day long, because I most certainly could not think of you once an
hour less, if I tried, or went to Pisa, or 'abroad' (in every sense)
in order to 'be happy' ... a kind of adventure which you seem to
suppose you have in some way interfered with. Do, for this once,
think, and never after, on the impossibility of your ever (you know I
must talk your own language, so I shall say--) hindering any scheme of
mine, stopping any supposable advancement of mine. Do you really think
that before I found you, I was going about the world seeking whom I
might devour, that is, be devoured by, in the shape of a wife ... do
you suppose I ever dreamed of marrying? What would it mean for me,
with my life I am hardened in--considering the rational chances; how
the land is used to furnish its contingent of Shakespeare's women: or
by 'success,' 'happiness' &c. &c. you never never can be seeing for a
moment with the world's eyes and meaning 'getting rich' and all that?
Yet, put that away, and what do you meet at every turn, if you are
hunting about in the dusk to catch my good, but yourself?

_I_ know who has got it, caught it, and means to keep it on his
heart--the person most concerned--_I_, dearest, who cannot play the
disinterested part of bidding _you_ forget your 'protestation' ...
what should I have to hold by, come what will, through years, through
this life, if God shall so determine, if I were not sure, _sure_ that
the first moment when you can suffer me with you 'in that relation,'
you will remember and act accordingly. I will, as you know, conform my
life to _any_ imaginable rule which shall render it possible for your
life to move with it and possess it, all the little it is worth.

For your friends ... whatever can be 'got over,' whatever opposition
may be rational, will be easily removed, I suppose. You know when I
spoke lately about the 'selfishness' I dared believe I was free from,
I hardly meant the low faults of ... I shall say, a different
organization to mine--which has vices in plenty, but not those.
Besides half a dozen scratches with a pen make one stand up an
apparent angel of light, from the lawyer's parchment; and Doctors'
Commons is one bland smile of applause. The selfishness I deprecate is
one which a good many women, and men too, call 'real passion'--under
the influence of which, I ought to say 'be mine, what ever happens to
_you_'--but I know better, and you know best--and you know me, for all
this letter, which is no doubt in me, I feel, but dear entire goodness
and affection, of which God knows whether I am proud or not--and now
you will let me be, will not you. Let me have my way, live my life,
love my love.

When I am, praying God to bless her ever,


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 24, 1845.]

'_And be forgiven_' ... yes! and be thanked besides--if I knew how to
thank you worthily and as I feel ... only that I do not know it, and
cannot say it. And it was not indeed 'doubt' of you--oh no--that made
me write as I did write; it was rather because I felt you to be surely
noblest, ... and therefore fitly dearest, ... that it seemed to me
detestable and intolerable to leave you on this road where the mud
must splash up against you, and never cry 'gare.' Yet I was quite
enough unhappy yesterday, and before yesterday ... I will confess
to-day, ... to be too gratefully glad to 'let you be' ... to 'let you
have your way'--you who overcome always! Always, but where you tell me
not to think of you so and so!--as if I could help thinking of you
_so_, and as if I should not take the liberty of persisting to think
of you just so. 'Let me be'--Let me have my way.' I am unworthy of you
perhaps in everything except one thing--and _that_, you cannot guess.
May God bless you--

                                            Ever I am yours.

The proof does not come!

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 25, 1845.]

I wrote briefly yesterday not to make my letter longer by keeping it;
and a few last words which belong to it by right, must follow after it
... must--for I want to say that you need not indeed talk to me about
squares being not round, and of _you_ being not 'selfish'! You know it
is foolish to talk such superfluities, and not a compliment.

I won't say to my knowledge of you and faith in you ... but to my
understanding generally. Why should you say to me at all ... much
less for this third or fourth time ... 'I am not selfish?' to _me_ who
never ... when I have been deepest asleep and dreaming, ... never
dreamed of attributing to you any form of such a fault? Promise not to
say so again--now promise. Think how it must sound to my ears, when
really and truly I have sometimes felt jealous of myself ... of my own
infirmities, ... and thought that you cared for me only because your
chivalry touched them with a silver sound--and that, without them, you
would pass by on the other side:--why twenty times I have thought
_that_ and been vexed--ungrateful vexation! In exchange for which too
frank confession, I will ask for another silent promise ... a silent
promise--no, but first I will say another thing.

First I will say that you are not to fancy any the least danger of my
falling under displeasure through your visits--there is no sort of
risk of it _for the present_--and if I ran the risk of making you
uncomfortable about _that_, I did foolishly, and what I meant to do
was different. I wish you also to understand that _even if you came
here every day_, my brothers and sisters would simply care to know if
I liked it, and then be glad if I was glad:--the caution referred to
one person alone. In relation to _whom_, however, there will be no
'getting over'--you might as well think to sweep off a third of the
stars of Heaven with the motion of your eyelashes--this, for matter of
fact and certainty--and this, as I said before, the keeping of a
general rule and from no disrespect towards individuals: a great
peculiarity _in the individual_ of course. But ... though I have been
a submissive daughter, and this from no effort, but for love's sake
... because I loved him tenderly (and love him), ... and hoped that he
loved me back again even if the proofs came untenderly sometimes--yet
I have reserved for myself _always_ that right over my own affections
which is the most strictly personal of all things, and which involves
principles and consequences of infinite importance and scope--even
though I _never_ thought (except perhaps when the door of life was
just about to open ... before it opened) never thought it probable or
possible that I should have occasion for the exercise; from without
and from within at once. I have too much need to look up. For friends,
I can look any way ... round, and _down_ even--the merest thread of a
sympathy will draw me sometimes--or even the least look of kind eyes
over a dyspathy--'Cela se peut facilement.' But for another
relation--it was all different--and rightly so--and so very
different--'Cela ne se peut nullement'--as in Malherbe.

And now we must agree to 'let all this be,', and set ourselves to get
as much good and enjoyment from the coming winter (better spent at
Pisa!) as we can--and I begin my joy by being glad that you are not
going since I am not going, and by being proud of these new green
leaves in your bay which came out with the new number. And then will
come the tragedies--and then, ... what beside? We shall have a happy
winter after all ... _I_ shall at least; and if Pisa had been better,
London might be worse: and for _me_ to grow pretentious and fastidious
and critical about various sorts of _purple_ ... I, who have been used
to the _brun fonce_ of Mme. de Sevigne, (_fonce_ and _enfonce_
...)--would be too absurd. But why does not the proof come all this
time? I have kept this letter to go back with it.

I had a proposition from the New York booksellers about six weeks ago
(the booksellers who printed the poems) to let them re-print those
prose papers of mine in the _Athenaeum_, with additional matter on
American literature, in a volume by itself--to be published at the
same time both in America and England by Wiley and Putnam in Waterloo
Place, and meaning to offer liberal terms, they said. Now what shall I
do? Those papers are not fit for separate publication, and I am not
inclined to the responsibility of them; and in any case, they must
give as much trouble as if they were re-written (trouble and not
poetry!), before I could consent to such a thing. Well!--and if I do
not ... these people are just as likely to print them without leave
... and so without correction. What do you advise? What shall I do?
All this time they think me sublimely indifferent, they who pressed
for an answer by return of packet--and now it is past six ... eight
weeks; and I must say something.

Am I not 'femme qui parle' to-day? And let me talk on ever so, the
proof won't come. May God bless you--and me as I am



And the silent promise I would have you make is this--that if ever you
should leave me, it shall be (though you are not 'selfish') for your
sake--and not for mine: for your good, and not for mine. I ask it--not
because I am disinterested; but because one class of motives would be
valid, and the other void--simply for that reason.

Then the _femme qui parle_ (looking back over the parlance) did not
mean to say on the first page of this letter that she was ever for a
moment _vexed in her pride_ that she should owe anything to her
adversities. It was only because adversities are accidents and not
essentials. If it had been prosperities, it would have been the same
thing--no, not the same thing!--but far worse.

Occy is up to-day and doing well.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, October 27, 1845.]

How does one make 'silent promises' ... or, rather, how does the maker
of them communicate that fact to whomsoever it may concern? I know,
there have been many, very many unutterable vows and promises
made,--that is, _thought_ down upon--the white slip at the top of my
notes,--such as of this note; and not trusted to the pen, that always
comes in for the shame,--but given up, and replaced by the poor forms
to which a pen is equal; and a glad minute I should account _that_, in
which you collected and accepted _those_ 'promises'--because they
would not be all so unworthy of me--much less you! I would receive, in
virtue of _them_, the ascription of whatever worthiness is supposed to
lie in deep, truest love, and gratitude--

     Read my silent answer there too!

All your letter is one comfort: we will be happy this winter, and
after, do not fear. I am most happy, to begin, that your brother is so
much better: he must be weak and susceptible of cold, remember.

It was on my lip, I do think, _last_ visit, or the last but one, to
beg you to detach those papers from the _Athenaeum's gachis_. Certainly
this opportunity is _most_ favourable, for every reason: you cannot
hesitate, surely. At present those papers are lost--_lost_ for
practical purposes. Do pray reply without fail to the proposers; no,
no harm of these really fine fellows, who _could_ do harm (by printing
incorrect copies, and perhaps eking out the column by suppositious
matter ... ex-gr. they strengthened and lengthened a book of Dickens',
in Paris, by adding quant. suff. of Thackeray's 'Yellowplush Papers'
... as I discovered by a Parisian somebody praising the latter to me
as Dickens' best work!)--and who _do_ really a good straightforward
un-American thing. You will encourage 'the day of small
things'--though this is not small, nor likely to have small results. I
shall be impatient to hear that you have decided. I like the progress
of these Americans in taste, their amazing leaps, like grasshoppers up
to the sun--from ... what is the '_from_,' what depth, do you
remember, say, ten or twelve years back?--_to_--Carlyle, and Tennyson,
and you! So children leave off Jack of Cornwall and go on just to

I can't conceive why my proof does not come--I must go to-morrow and
see. In the other, I have corrected all the points you noted, to their
evident improvement. Yesterday I took out 'Luria' and read it
through--the skeleton--I shall hope to finish it soon now. It is for a
purely imaginary stage,--very simple and straightforward. Would you
... no, Act by Act, as I was about to propose that you should read it;
that process would affect the oneness I most wish to preserve.

On Tuesday--at last, I am with you. Till when be with me ever,
dearest--God bless you ever--


_R.B. to E.B.B._

           Tuesday 9 a.m.
           [In the same envelope with the preceding letter.]

I got this on coming home last night--have just run through it this
morning, and send it that time may not be lost. Faults, faults; but I
don't know how I have got tired of this. The Tragedies will be better,
at least the second--

At 3 this day! Bless you--


_E.B.B. to R.B._

I write in haste, not to lose time about the proof. You will see on
the papers here my doubtfulnesses such as they are--but silence
swallows up the admirations ... and there is no time. 'Theocrite'
overtakes that wish of mine which ran on so fast--and the 'Duchess'
grows and grows the more I look--and 'Saul' is noble and must have his
full royalty some day. Would it not be well, by the way, to print it
in the meanwhile as a fragment confessed ... sowing asterisks at the
end. Because as a poem of yours it stands there and wants unity, and
people can't be expected to understand the difference between
incompleteness and defect, unless you make a sign. For the new
poems--they are full of beauty. You throw largesses out on all sides
without counting the coins: how beautiful that 'Night and Morning' ...
and the 'Earth's Immortalities' ... and the 'Song' too. And for your
'Glove,' all women should be grateful,--and Ronsard, honoured, in
this fresh shower of music on his old grave ... though the chivalry of
the interpretation, as well as much beside, is so plainly yours, ...
could only be yours perhaps. And even _you_ are forced to let in a
third person ... close to the doorway ... before you can do any good.
What a noble lion you give us too, with the 'flash on his forehead,'
and 'leagues in the desert already' as we look on him! And then, with
what a 'curious felicity' you turn the subject 'glove' to another use
and strike De Lorge's blow back on him with it, in the last paragraph
of your story! And the versification! And the lady's speech--(to
return!) so calm, and proud--yet a little bitter!

Am I not to thank you for all the pleasure and pride in these poems?
while you stand by and try to talk them down, perhaps.

Tell me how your mother is--tell me how you are ... you who never were
to be told twice about walking. Gone the way of all promises, is that

                                                 Ever yours,


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              Wednesday Night.
                              [Post-mark, October 30, 1845.]

Like your kindness--too, far too generous kindness,--all this trouble
and correcting,--and it is my proper office now, by this time, to sit
still and receive, by right _Human_ (as opposed to Divine). When you
see the pamphlet's self, you will find your own doing,--but where will
you find the proofs of the best of all helping and counselling and
inciting, unless in new works which shall justify the
_unsatisfaction_, if I may not say shame, at these, these written
before your time, my best love?

Are you doing well to-day? For I feel well, have walked some eight or
nine miles--and my mother is very much better ... is singularly
better. You know whether you rejoiced me or no by that information
about the exercise _you_ had taken yesterday. Think what telling one
that you grow stronger would mean!

'Vexatious' with you! Ah, prudence is all very right, and one ought,
no doubt, to say, 'of course, we shall not expect a life exempt from
the usual proportion of &c. &c.--' but truth is still more right, and
includes the highest prudence besides, and I do believe that we shall
be happy; that is, that _you_ will be happy: you see I dare
confidently expect _the_ end to it all ... so it has always been with
me in my life of wonders--absolute wonders, with God's hand over
all.... And this last and best of all would never have begun so, and
gone on so, to break off abruptly even here, in this world, for the
little time.

So try, try, dearest, every method, take every measure of hastening
such a consummation. Why, we shall see Italy together! I could, would,
_will_ shut myself in four walls of a room with you and never leave
you and be most of all _then_ 'a lord of infinite space'--but, to
travel with you to Italy, or Greece. Very vain, I know that, all such
day dreaming! And ungrateful, too; with the real sufficing happiness
here of being, and knowing that you know me to be, and suffer me to
tell you I am yours, ever your own.

                                 God bless you, my dearest--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, November 1, 1845.]

All to-day, Friday, Miss Mitford has been here! She came at two and
went away at seven--and I feel as if I had been making a five-hour
speech on the corn laws in Harriet Martineau's parliament; ... so
tired I am. Not that dear Miss Mitford did not talk both for me and
herself, ... for that, of course she did. But I was forced to answer
once every ten minutes at least--and Flush, my usual companion, does
not exact so much--and so I am tired and come to rest myself on this
paper. Your name was not once spoken to-day; a little from my good
fencing: when I saw you at the end of an alley of associations, I
pushed the conversation up the next--because I was afraid of questions
such as every moment I expected, with a pair of woman's eyes behind
them; and those are worse than Mr. Kenyon's, when he puts on his
spectacles. So your name was not once spoken--not thought of, I do not
say--perhaps when I once lost her at Chevy Chase and found her
suddenly with Isidore the queen's hairdresser, my thoughts might have
wandered off to you and your unanswered letter while she passed
gradually from that to this--I am not sure of the contrary. And
Isidore, they say, reads Beranger, and is supposed to be the most
literary person at court--and wasn't at Chevy Chase one must needs

One must needs write nonsense rather--for I have written it there. The
sense and the truth is, that your letter went to the bottom of my
heart, and that my thoughts have turned round it ever since and
through all the talking to-day. Yes indeed, dreams! But what _is_ not
dreaming is this and this--this reading of these words--this proof of
this regard--all this that you are to me in fact, and which you cannot
guess the full meaning of, dramatic poet as you are ... cannot ...
since you do not know what my life meant before you touched it, ...
and my angel at the gate of the prison! My wonder is greater than your
wonders, ... I who sate here alone but yesterday, so weary of my own
being that to take interest in my very poems I had to lift them up by
an effort and separate them from myself and cast them out from me into
the sunshine where I was not--feeling nothing of the light which fell
on them even--making indeed a sort of pleasure and interest about that
factitious personality associated with them ... but knowing it to be
all far on the outside of _me_ ... _myself_ ... not seeming to touch
it with the end of my finger ... and receiving it as a mockery and a
bitterness when people persisted in confounding one with another.
Morbid it was if you like it--perhaps very morbid--but all these heaps
of letters which go into the fire one after the other, and which,
because I am a woman and have written verses, it seems so amusing to
the letter-writers of your sex to write and see 'what will come of
it,' ... some, from kind good motives I know, ... well, ... how could
it all make for me even such a narrow strip of sunshine as Flush finds
on the floor sometimes, and lays his nose along, with both ears out in
the shadow? It was not for _me_ ... _me_ ... in any way: it was not
within my reach--I did not seem to touch it as I said. Flush came
nearer, and I was grateful to him ... yes, grateful ... for not being
tired! I have felt grateful and flattered ... yes flattered ... when
he has chosen rather to stay with me all day than go down-stairs.
Grateful too, with reason, I have been and am to my own family for not
letting me see that I was a burthen. These are facts. And now how am I
to feel when you tell me what you have told me--and what you 'could
would and will' do, and _shall not_ do?... but when you tell me?

Only remember that such words make you freer and freer--if you can be
freer than free--just as every one makes me happier and richer--too
rich by you, to claim any debt. May God bless you always. When I wrote
that letter to let you come the first time, do you know, the tears ran
down my cheeks.... I could not tell why: partly it might be mere
nervousness. And then, I was vexed with you for wishing to come as
other people did, and vexed with myself for not being able to refuse
you as I did them.

When does the book come out? Not on the first, I begin to be glad.

                                                 Ever yours,


I trust that you go on to take exercise--and that your mother is still
better. Occy's worst symptom now is too great an appetite ... a
monster-appetite indeed.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, November 4, 1845.]

Only a word to tell you Moxon promises the books for to-morrow,
Wednesday--so towards evening yours will reach you--'parve liber, sine
me ibis' ... would I were by you, then and ever! You see, and know,
and understand why I can neither talk to you, nor write to you _now_,
as we are now;--from the beginning, the personal interest absorbed
every other, greater or smaller--but as one cannot well,--or should
not,--sit quite silently, the words go on, about Horne, or what
chances--while you are in my thought.

But when I have you ... so it seems ... _in_ my very heart; when you
are entirely with me--oh, the day--then it will all go better, talk
and writing too.

Love me, my own love; not as I love you--not for--but I cannot write
that. Nor do I ask anything, with all your gifts here, except for the
luxury of asking. Withdraw nothing, then, dearest, from your


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, November 6, 1845.]

I had your note last night, and am waiting for the book to-day; a true
living breathing book, let the writer say of it what he will. Also
when it comes it won't certainly come 'sine te.' Which is my comfort.

And now--not to make any more fuss about a matter of simple
restitution--may I have my letter back?... I mean the letter which if
you did not destroy ... did not punish for its sins long and long ago
... belongs to me--which, if destroyed, I must lose for my sins, ...
but, if undestroyed, which I may have back; may I not? is it not my
own? must I not?--that letter I was made to return and now turn to ask
for again in further expiation. Now do I ask humbly enough? And send
it at once, if undestroyed--do not wait till Saturday.

I have considered about Mr. Kenyon and it seems best, in the event of
a question or of a remark equivalent to a question, to confess to the
visits 'generally once a week' ... because he may hear, one, two,
three different ways, ... not to say the other reasons and Chaucer's
charge against 'doubleness.' I fear ... I fear that he (not Chaucer)
will wonder a little--and he has looked at me with scanning spectacles
already and talked of its being a mystery to him how you made your way
here; and _I_, who though I can _bespeak_ self-command, have no sort
of presence of mind (not so much as one would use to play at Jack
straws) did not help the case at all. Well--it cannot be helped. Did I
ever tell you what he said of you once--'_that you deserved to be a
poet_--being one in your heart and life:' he said _that_ of you to me,
and I thought it a noble encomium and deserving its application.

For the rest ... yes: you know I do--God knows I do. Whatever I can
feel is for you--and perhaps it is not less, for not being simmered
away in too much sunshine as with women accounted happier. _I_ am
happy besides now--happy enough to die now.

                          May God bless you, dear--dearest--

                             Ever I am yours--

The book does not come--so I shall not wait. Mr. Kenyon came instead,
and comes again on _Friday_ he says, and Saturday seems to be clear

_R.B. to E.B.B._

_Just_ arrived!--(mind, the _silent writing_ overflows the page, and
laughs at the black words for Mr. Kenyon to read!)--But your note
arrived earlier--more of that, when I write after this dreadful
dispatching-business that falls on me--friend A. and B. and C. must
get their copy, and word of regard, all by next post!--

Could you think _that_ that untoward letter lived one _moment_ after
it returned to me? I burned it and cried 'serve it right'! Poor
letter,--yet I should have been vexed and offended _then_ to be told I
_could_ love you better than I did already. 'Live and _learn_!' Live
and love you--dearest, as loves you


You will write to reassure me about Saturday, if not for other
reasons. See your corrections ... and understand that in one or two
instances in which they would seem not to be adopted, they _are_ so,
by some modification of the previous, or following line ... as in one
of the Sorrento lines ... about a 'turret'--see! (Can you give me
Horne's address--I would send then.)

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              Thursday Evening.
                              [Post-mark, November 7, 1845.]

I see and know; read and mark; and only hope there is no harm done by
my meddling; and lose the sense of it all in the sense of beauty and
power everywhere, which nobody could kill, if they took to meddling
more even. And now, what will people say to this and this and this--or
'O seclum insipiens et inficetum!' or rather, O ungrateful right hand
which does not thank you first! I do thank you. I have been reading
everything with new delight; and at intervals remembering in
inglorious complacency (for which you must try to forgive me) that Mr.
Forster is no longer anything like an enemy. And yet (just see what
contradiction!) the _British Quarterly_ has been abusing me so at
large, that I can only take it to be the achievement of a very
particular friend indeed,--of someone who positively never reviewed
before and tries his new sword on me out of pure friendship. Only I
suppose it is not the general rule, and that there are friends 'with a
difference.' Not that you are to fancy me pained--oh no!--merely
surprised. I was prepared for anything almost from the quarter in
question, but scarcely for being hung 'to the crows' so publicly ...
though within the bounds of legitimate criticisms, mind. But oh--the
creatures of your sex are not always magnanimous--_that_ is true. And
to put _you_ between me and all ... the thought of _you_ ... in a
great eclipse of the world ... _that_ is happy ... only, too happy for
such as I am; as my own heart warns me hour by hour.

'Serve _me_ right'--I do not dare to complain. I wished for the safety
of that letter so much that I finished by persuading myself of the
probability of it: but 'serve _me_ right' quite clearly. And yet--but
no more 'and yets' about it. 'And yets' fray the silk.

I see how the 'turret' stands in the new reading, triumphing over the
'tower,' and unexceptionable in every respect. Also I do hold that
nobody with an ordinary understanding has the slightest pretence for
attaching a charge of obscurity to this new number--there are lights
enough for the critics to scan one another's dull blank of visage by.
One verse indeed in that expressive lyric of the 'Lost Mistress,' does
still seem questionable to me, though you have changed a word since I
saw it; and still I fancy that I rather leap at the meaning than reach
it--but it is my own fault probably ... I am not sure. With that one
exception I _am quite_ sure that people who shall complain of darkness
are blind ... I mean, that the construction is clear and unembarrassed
everywhere. Subtleties of thought which are not directly apprehensible
by minds of a common range, are here as elsewhere in your
writings--but if to utter things 'hard to understand' from _that_
cause be an offence, why we may begin with 'our beloved brother Paul,'
you know, and go down through all the geniuses of the world, and bid
them put away their inspirations. You must descend to the level of
critic A or B, that he may look into your face.... Ah well!--'Let them
rave.' You will live when all _those_ are under the willows. In the
meantime there is something better, as you said, even than your
poetry--as the giver is better than the gift, and the maker than the
creature, and _you_ than _yours_. Yes--_you_ than _yours_.... (I did
not mean it so when I wrote it first ... but I accept the 'bona
verba,' and use the phrase for the end of my letter) ... as _you_ are
better than _yours_; even when so much yours as your own


May I see the first act first? Let me!--And you walk?

Mr. Horne's address is Hill Side, Fitzroy Park, Highgate.

There is no reason against Saturday so far. Mr. Kenyon comes
to-morrow, Friday, and therefore--!--and if Saturday should become
impracticable, I will write again.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Sunday Evening.
                             [Post-mark, November 10, 1845.]

When I come back from seeing you, and think over it all, there never
is a least word of yours I could not occupy myself with, and wish to
return to you with some ... not to say, all ... the thoughts and
fancies it is sure to call out of me. There is nothing in you that
does not draw out all of me. You possess me, dearest ... and there is
no help for the expressing it all, no voice nor hand, but these of
mine which shrink and turn away from the attempt. So you must go on,
patiently, knowing me more and more, and your entire power on me, and
I will console myself, to the full extent, with your
knowledge--penetration, intuition--_somehow_ I must believe you can
get to what is here, in me, without the pretence of my telling or
writing it. But, because I give up the great achievements, there is no
reason I should not secure any occasion of making clear one of the
less important points that arise in our intercourse ... if I fancy I
can do it with the least success. For instance, it is on my mind to
explain what I meant yesterday by trusting that the entire happiness I
feel in the letters, and the help in the criticising might not be hurt
by the surmise, even, that those labours to which you were born, might
be suspended, in any degree, through such generosity to _me_. Dearest,
I believed in your glorious genius and knew it for a true star from
the moment I saw it; long before I had the blessing of knowing it was
MY star, with my fortune and futurity in it. And, when I draw back
from myself, and look better and more clearly, then I _do_ feel, with
you, that the writing a few letters more or less, reading many or few
rhymes of any other person, would not interfere in any material degree
with that power of yours--that you might easily make one so happy and
yet go on writing 'Geraldines' and 'Berthas'--but--how can I, dearest,
leave my heart's treasures long, even to look at your genius?... and
when I come back and find all safe, find the comfort of you, the
traces of you ... _will_ it do--tell me--to trust all that as a light
effort, an easy matter?

Yet, if you can lift me with one hand, while the other suffices to
crown you--there is queenliness in _that_, too!

Well, I have spoken. As I told you, your turn comes now. How have you
determined respecting the American Edition? You tell me nothing of
yourself! It is all ME you help, me you do good to ... and I take it
all! Now see, if this goes on! I have not had _every_ love-luxury, I
now find out ... where is the proper, rationally
to-be-expected--'_lovers' quarrel_'? _Here_, as you will find! 'Irae;
amantium'.... I am no more 'at a loss with my Naso,' than Peter
Ronsard. Ah, but then they are to be _reintegratio amoris_--and to get
back into a thing, one must needs get for a moment first out of it ...
trust me, no! And now, the natural inference from all this? The
consistent inference ... the 'self-denying ordinance'? Why--do you
doubt? even this,--you must just put aside the Romance, and tell the
Americans to wait, and make my heart start up when the letter is laid
to it; the letter full of your news, telling me you are well and
walking, and working for my sake towards _the time_--informing me,
moreover, if Thursday or Friday is to be my day--.

May God bless you, my own love.

I will certainly bring you an Act of the Play ... for this serpent's
reason, in addition to the others ... that--No, I will _tell_ you
that--I can tell you now more than even lately!

                                               Ever your own



(See Vol. I., p. 270)]

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, November 11, 1845.]

If it were possible that you could do me harm in the way of work, (but
it isn't) it would be possible, not through writing letters and
reading manuscripts, but because of a reason to be drawn from your own
great line

    What man is strong until he stands alone?

What man ... what woman? For have I not felt twenty times the desolate
advantage of being insulated here and of not minding anybody when I
made my poems?--of living a little like a disembodied spirit, and
caring less for suppositious criticism than for the black fly buzzing
in the pane?--_That_ made me what dear Mr. Kenyon calls
'insolent,'--untimid, and unconventional in my degree; and not so much
by strength, you see, as by separation. _You_ touch your greater ends
by mere strength; breaking with your own hands the hampering threads
which, in your position would have hampered _me_.

Still ... when all is changed for me now, and different, it is not
possible, ... for all the changing, nor for all your line and my
speculation, ... that I should not be better and stronger for being
within your influences and sympathies, in this way of writing as in
other ways. We shall see--you will see. Yet I have been idle lately I
confess; leaning half out of some turret-window of the castle of
Indolence and watching the new sunrise--as why not?--Do I mean to be
idle always?--no!--and am I not an industrious worker on the average
of days? Indeed yes! Also I have been less idle than you think
perhaps, even this last year, though the results seem so like
trifling: and I shall set about the prose papers for the New York
people, and the something rather better besides we may hope ... may
_I_ not hope, if _you_ wish it? Only there is no 'crown' for me, be
sure, except what grows from this letter and such letters ... this
sense of being anything to _one_! there is no room for another crown.
Have I a great head like Goethe's that there should be room? and mine
is bent down already by the unused weight--and as to bearing it, ...
'Will it do,--tell me; to treat _that_ as a light effort, an easy

Now let me remember to tell you that the line of yours I have just
quoted, and which has been present with me since you wrote it, Mr.
Chorley has quoted too in his new novel of 'Pomfret.' You were right
in your identifying of servant and waistcoat--and Wilson waited only
till you had gone on Saturday, to give me a parcel and note; the novel
itself in fact, which Mr. Chorley had the kindness to send me 'some
days or weeks,' said the note, 'previous to the publication.' Very
goodnatured of him certainly: and the book seems to me his best work
in point of sustainment and vigour, and I am in process of being
interested in it. Not that he is a _maker_, even for this prose. A
feeler ... an observer ... a thinker even, in a certain sphere--but a
maker ... no, as it seems to me--and if I were he, I would rather herd
with the essayists than the novelists where he is too good to take
inferior rank and not strong enough to 'go up higher.' Only it would
be more right in me to be grateful than to talk so--now wouldn't it?

And here is Mr. Kenyon's letter back again--a kind good letter ... a
letter I have liked to read (so it was kind and good in you to let
me!)--and he was with me to-day and praising the 'Ride to Ghent,' and
praising the 'Duchess,' and praising you altogether as I liked to hear
him. The Ghent-ride was 'very fine'--and the

    Into the midnight they galloped abreast

drew us out into the night as witnesses. And then, the 'Duchess' ...
the conception of it was noble, and the vehicle, rhythm and all, most
characteristic and individual ... though some of the rhymes ... oh,
some of the rhymes did not find grace in his ears--but the
incantation-scene, 'just trenching on the supernatural,' _that_ was
taken to be 'wonderful,' ... 'showing extraordinary power, ... as
indeed other things did ... works of a highly original writer and of
such various faculty!'--Am I not tired of writing your praises as he
said then? So I shall tell you, instead of any more, that I went down
to the drawing-room yesterday (because it was warm enough) by an act
of supererogatory virtue for which you may praise _me_ in turn. What
weather it is! and how the year seems to have forgotten itself into

But after all, how have I answered your letter? and how _are_ such
letters to be answered? Do we answer the sun when he shines? May God
bless you ... it is my answer--with one word besides ... that I am
wholly and ever your


On Thursday as far as I know yet--and you shall hear if there should
be an obstacle. _Will you walk?_ If you will not, you know, you must
be forgetting me a little. Will you remember me too in the act of the
play?--but above all things in taking the right exercise, and in not
overworking the head. And this for no serpent's reason.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Two letters in one--Wednesday.
                             [Post-mark, November 15, 1845.]

I shall see you to-morrow and yet am writing what you will have to
read perhaps. When you spoke of 'stars' and 'geniuses' in that letter,
I did not seem to hear; I was listening to those words of the letter
which were of a better silver in the sound than even your praise could
be; and now that at last I come to hear them in their extravagance (oh
such pure extravagance about 'glorious geniuses'--) I can't help
telling you they were heard last, and deserved it.

Shall I tell you besides?--The first moment in which I seemed to admit
to myself in a flash of lightning the _possibility_ of your affection
for me being more than dream-work ... the first moment was _that_ when
you intimated (as you have done since repeatedly) that you cared for
me not for a reason, but because you cared for me. Now such a
'parceque' which reasonable people would take to be irrational, was
just the only one fitted to the uses of my understanding on the
particular question we were upon ... just the 'woman's reason'
suitable to the woman ...; for I could understand that it might be as
you said, and, if so, that it was altogether unanswerable ... do you
see? If a fact includes its own cause ... why there it stands for
ever--one of 'earth's immortalities'--_as long as it includes it_.

And when unreasonableness stands for a reason, it is a promising state
of things, we may both admit, and proves what it would be as well not
too curiously to enquire into. But then ... to look at it in a
brighter aspect, ... I do remember how, years ago, when talking the
foolishnesses which women will talk when they are by themselves, and
not forced to be sensible, ... one of my friends thought it 'safest to
begin with a little aversion,' and another, wisest to begin with a
great deal of esteem, and how the best attachments were produced so
and so, ... I took it into my head to say that the best was where
there was no cause at all for it, and the more wholly unreasonable,
the better still; that the motive should lie in the feeling itself and
not in the object of it--and that the affection which could (if it
could) throw itself out on an idiot with a goitre would be more
admirable than Abelard's. Whereupon everybody laughed, and someone
thought it affected of me and no true opinion, and others said plainly
that it was immoral, and somebody else hoped, in a sarcasm, that I
meant to act out my theory for the advantage of the world. To which I
replied quite gravely that I had not virtue enough--and so, people
laughed as it is fair to laugh when other people are esteemed to talk
nonsense. And all this came back to me in the south wind of your
'parceque,' and I tell it as it came ... now.

Which proves, if it proves anything, ... while I have every sort of
natural pleasure in your praises and like you to like my poetry just
as I should, and perhaps more than I should; yet _why_ it is all
behind ... and in its place--and _why_ I have a tendency moreover to
sift and measure any praise of yours and to separate it from the
superfluities, far more than with any other person's praise in the

_Friday evening._--Shall I send this letter or not? I have been 'tra
'l si e 'l no,' and writing a new beginning on a new sheet even--but
after all you ought to hear the remote echo of your last letter ...
far out among the hills, ... as well as the immediate reverberation,
and so I will send it,--and what I send is not to be answered,

I read Luria's first act twice through before I slept last night, and
feel just as a bullet might feel, not because of the lead of it but
because shot into the air and suddenly arrested and suspended. It
('Luria') is all life, and we know (that is, the reader knows) that
there must be results here and here. How fine that sight of Luria is
upon the lynx hides--how you see the Moor in him just in the glimpse
you have by the eyes of another--and that laugh when the horse drops
the forage, what wonderful truth and character you have in
_that_!--And then, when _he_ is in the scene--: 'Golden-hearted Luria'
you called him once to me, and his heart shines already ... wide open
to the morning sun. The construction seems to me very clear
everywhere--and the rhythm, even over-smooth in a few verses, where
you invert a little artificially--but that shall be set down on a
separate strip of paper: and in the meantime I am snatched up into
'Luria' and feel myself driven on to the ends of the poet, just as a
reader should.

But _you_ are not driven on to any ends? so as to be tired, I mean?
You will not suffer yourself to be overworked because you are
'interested' in this work. I am so certain that the sensations in your
head _demand_ repose; and it must be so injurious to you to be
perpetually calling, calling these new creations, one after another,
that you must consent to be called _to_, and not hurry the next act,
no, nor any act--let the people have time to learn the last number by
heart. And how glad I am that Mr. Fox should say what he did of it ...
though it wasn't true, you know ... not exactly. Still, I do hold that
as far as construction goes, you never put together so much
unquestionable, smooth glory before, ... not a single entanglement for
the understanding ... unless 'the snowdrops' make an exception--while
for the undeniableness of genius it never stood out before your
readers more plainly than in that same number! Also you have extended
your sweep of power--the sea-weed is thrown farther (if not higher)
than it was found before; and one may calculate surely now how a few
more waves will cover the brown stones and float the sight up away
through the fissure of the rocks. The rhythm (to touch one of the
various things) the rhythm of that 'Duchess' does more and more strike
me as a new thing; something like (if like anything) what the Greeks
called pedestrian-metre, ... between metre and prose ... the difficult
rhymes combining too quite curiously with the easy looseness of the
general measure. Then 'The Ride'--with that touch of natural feeling
at the end, to prove that it was not in brutal carelessness that the
poor horse was driven through all that suffering ... yes, and how that
one touch of softness acts back upon the energy and resolution and
exalts both, instead of weakening anything, as might have been
expected by the vulgar of writers or critics. And then 'Saul'--and in
a first place 'St. Praxed'--and for pure description, 'Fortu' and the
deep 'Pictor Ignotus'--and the noble, serene 'Italy in England,' which
grows on you the more you know of it--and that delightful 'Glove'--and
the short lyrics ... for one comes to _'select' everything_ at last,
and certainly I do like these poems better and better, as your poems
are made to be liked. But you will be tired to hear it said over and
over so, ... and I am going to 'Luria,' besides.

When you write will you say exactly how you are? and will you write?
And I want to explain to you that although I don't make a profession
of equable spirits, (as a matter of temperament, my spirits were
always given to rock a little, up and down) yet that I did not mean to
be so ungrateful and wicked as to complain of low spirits now and to
you. It would not be true either: and I said 'low' to express a merely
bodily state. My opium comes in to keep the pulse from fluttering and
fainting ... to give the right composure and point of balance to the
nervous system. I don't take it for 'my spirits' in the usual sense;
you must not think such a thing. The medical man who came to see me
made me take it the other day when he was in the room, before the
right hour and when I was talking quite cheerfully, just for the need
he observed in the pulse. 'It was a necessity of my position,' he
said. Also I do not suffer from it in any way, as people usually do
who take opium. I am not even subject to an opium-headache. As to the
low spirits I will not say that mine _have not_ been low enough and
with cause enough; but _even then_, ... why if you were to ask the
nearest witnesses, ... say, even my own sisters, ... everybody would
tell you, I think, that the 'cheerfulness' even _then_, was the
remarkable thing in me--certainly it has been remarked about me again
and again. Nobody has known that it was an effort (a habit of effort)
to throw the light on the outside,--I do abhor so that ignoble
groaning aloud of the 'groans of Testy and Sensitude'--yet I may say
that for three years I never was conscious of one movement of pleasure
in anything. Think if I could mean to complain of 'low spirits' now,
and to you. Why it would be like complaining of not being able to see
at noon--which would simply prove that I was very blind. And you, who
are not blind, cannot make out what is written--so you _need not try_.
May God bless you long after you have done blessing me!

                                                    Your own


Now I am half tempted to tear this letter in two (and it is long
enough for three) and to send you only the latter half. But you will
understand--you will not think that there is a contradiction between
the first and last ... you _cannot_. One is a truth of me--and the
other a truth of you--and we two are different, you know.

You are not over-working in 'Luria'? That you _should not_, is a
truth, too.

I observed that Mr. Kenyon put in '_Junior_' to your address. Ought
that to be done? or does my fashion of directing find you without

Mr. Kenyon asked me for Mr. Chorley's book, or you should have it.
Shall I send it to you presently?

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Sunday Morning.
                             [Post-mark, November 17, 1845.]

At last your letter comes--and the deep joy--(I know and use to
analyse my own feelings, and be sober in giving distinctive names to
their varieties; this is _deep_ joy,)--the true love with which I
take this much of you into my heart, ... _that_ proves what it is I
wanted so long, and find at last, and am happy for ever. I must have
more than 'intimated'--I must have spoken plainly out the truth, if I
do myself the barest justice, and told you long ago that the
admiration at your works went _away_, quite another way and afar from
the love of you. If I could fancy some method of what I shall say
happening without all the obvious stumbling-blocks of falseness, &c.
which no foolish fancy dares associate with you ... if you COULD tell
me when I next sit by you--'I will undeceive you,--I am not _the_ Miss
B.--she is up-stairs and you shall see her--I only wrote those
letters, and am what you see, that is all now left you' (all the
misapprehension having arisen from _me_, in some inexplicable way) ...
I should not begin by _saying_ anything, dear, dearest--but _after
that_, I should assure you--soon make you believe that I did not much
wonder at the event, for I have been all my life asking what
connection there is between the satisfaction at the display of power,
and the sympathy with--ever-increasing sympathy with--all imaginable
weakness? Look now: Coleridge writes on and on,--at last he writes a
note to his 'War-Eclogue,' in which he avers himself to have been
actuated by a really--on the whole--_benevolent_ feeling to Mr. Pitt
when he wrote that stanza in which 'Fire' means to 'cling to him
everlastingly'--where is the long line of admiration now that the end
snaps? And now--here I refuse to fancy--you KNOW whether, if you never
write another line, speak another intelligible word, recognize me by a
look again--whether I shall love you less or _more_ ... MORE; having a
right to expect more strength with the strange emergency. And it is
because I know this, build upon this entirely, that as a reasonable
creature, I am bound to look first to what hangs farthest and most
loosely from me ... what _might_ go from you to your loss, and so to
mine, to say the least ... because I want ALL of you, not just so much
as I could not live without--and because I see the danger of your
entirely generous disposition and cannot quite, yet, bring myself to
profit by it in the quiet way you recommend. Always remember, I never
wrote to you, all the years, on the strength of your poetry, though I
constantly heard of you through Mr. K. and was near seeing you once,
and might have easily availed myself of his intervention to commend
any letter to your notice, so as to reach you out of the foolish crowd
of rushers-in upon genius ... who come and eat their bread and cheese
on the high-altar, and talk of reverence without one of its surest
instincts--never quiet till they cut their initials on the cheek of
the Medicean Venus to prove they worship her. My admiration, as I
said, went its natural way in silence--but when on my return to
England in December, late in the month, Mr. K. sent those Poems to my
sister, and I read my name there--and when, a day or two after, I met
him and, beginning to speak my mind on them, and getting on no better
than I should now, said quite naturally--'if I were to _write_ this,
now?'--and he assured me with his perfect kindness, you would be even
'pleased' to hear from me under those circumstances ... nay,--for I
will tell you all, in this, in everything--when he wrote me a note
soon after to reassure me on that point ... THEN I _did_ write, on
_account of my purely personal obligation_, though of course taking
that occasion to allude to the general and customary delight in your
works: I did write, on the whole, UNWILLINGLY ... with consciousness
of having to _speak_ on a subject which I _felt_ thoroughly
concerning, and could not be satisfied with an imperfect expression
of. As for expecting THEN what has followed ... I shall only say I was
scheming how to get done with England and go to my heart in Italy. And
now, my love--I am round you ... my whole life is wound up and down
and over you.... I feel you stir everywhere. I am not conscious of
thinking or feeling but _about_ you, with some reference to you--so I
will live, so may I die! And you have blessed me _beyond_ the _bond_,
in more than in giving me yourself to love; inasmuch as you believed
me from the first ... what you call 'dream-work' _was_ real of its
kind, did you not think? and now you believe me, _I_ believe and am
happy, in what I write with my heart full of love for you. Why do you
tell me of a doubt, as now, and bid me not clear it up, 'not answer
you?' Have I done wrong in thus answering? Never, never do _me_ direct
_wrong_ and hide for a moment from me what a word can explain as now.
You see, you thought, if but for a moment, I loved your intellect--or
what predominates in your poetry and is most distinct from your
heart--better, or as well as you--did you not? and I have told you
every thing,--explained everything ... have I not? And now I will dare
... yes, dearest, kiss you back to my heart again; my own. There--and

And since I wrote what is above, I have been reading among other poems
that sonnet--'Past and Future'--which affects me more than any poem I
ever read. How can I put your poetry away from you, even in these
ineffectual attempts to concentrate myself upon, and better apply
myself to what remains?--poor, poor work it is; for is not that sonnet
to be loved as a true utterance of yours? I cannot attempt to put down
the thoughts that rise; may God bless me, as you pray, by letting that
beloved hand shake the less ... I will only ask, _the less_ ... for
being laid on mine through this life! And, indeed, you write down, for
me to calmly read, that I make you happy! Then it is--as with all
power--God through the weakest instrumentality ... and I am past
expression proud and grateful--My love,

                                                   I am your


I must answer your questions: I am better--and will certainly have
your injunction before my eyes and work quite moderately. Your letters
come _straight_ to me--my father's go to Town, except on extraordinary
occasions, so that _all_ come for my first looking-over. I saw Mr. K.
last night at the Amateur Comedy--and heaps of old acquaintances--and
came home tired and savage--and _yearned_ literally, for a letter this
morning, and so it came and I was well again. So, I am not even to
have your low spirits leaning on mine? It was just because I always
find you alike, and _ever_ like yourself, that I seemed to discern a
depth, when you spoke of 'some days' and what they made uneven where
all is agreeable to _me_. Do not, now, deprive me of a right--a right
... to find you as you _are_; get no habit of being cheerful with
me--I have universal sympathy and can show you a SIDE of me, a true
face, turn as you may. If you _are_ cheerful ... so will I be ... if
sad, my cheerfulness will be all the while _behind_, and propping up,
any sadness that meets yours, if that should be necessary. As for my
question about the opium ... you do not misunderstand _that_ neither:
I trust in the eventual consummation of my--shall I not say,
_our_--hopes; and all that bears upon your health immediately or
prospectively, affects me--how it affects me! Will you write again?
_Wednesday_, remember! Mr. K. wants me to go to him one of the three
next days after. I will bring you some letters ... one from Landor.
Why should I trouble you about 'Pomfret.'

And Luria ... does it so interest you? Better is to come of it. How
you lift me up!--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, November 18, 1845.]

How you overcome me as always you do--and where is the answer to
anything except too deep down in the heart for even the pearl-divers?
But understand ... what you do not quite ... that I did not mistake
you as far even as you say here and even 'for a moment.' I did not
write any of that letter in a 'doubt' of you--not a word.... I was
simply looking back in it on my own states of feeling, ... looking
back from that point of your praise to what was better ... (or I
should not have looked back)--and so coming to tell you, by a natural
association, how the completely opposite point to that of any praise
was the one which struck me first and most, viz. the no-reason of your
reasoning ... acknowledged to be yours. Of course I acknowledge it to
be yours, ... that high reason of no reason--I acknowledged it to be
yours (didn't I?) in acknowledging that it made an impression on me.
And then, referring to the traditions of my experience such as I told
them to you, I meant, so, farther to acknowledge that I would rather
be cared for in _that_ unreasonable way, than for the best reason in
the world. But all _that_ was history and philosophy simply--was it
not?--and not _doubt of you_.

The truth is ... since we really are talking truths in this world ...
that I never have doubted you--ah, you _know_!--I felt from the
beginning so sure of the nobility and integrity in you that I would
have trusted you to make a path for my soul--_that_, you _know_. I
felt certain that you believed of yourself every word you spoke or
wrote--and you must not blame me if I thought besides sometimes (it
was the extent of my thought) that you were self-deceived as to the
nature of your own feelings. If you could turn over every page of my
heart like the pages of a book, you would see nothing there offensive
to the least of your feelings ... not even to the outside fringes of
your man's vanity ... should you have any vanity like a man; which I
_do_ doubt. I never wronged you in the least of things--never ... I
thank God for it. But 'self-deceived,' it was so easy for you to be:
see how on every side and day by day, men are--and women too--in this
sort of feelings. 'Self-deceived,' it was so possible for you to be,
and while I thought it possible, could I help thinking it _best_ for
you that it should be so--and was it not right in me to persist in
thinking it possible? It was my reverence for you that made me
persist! What was _I_ that I should think otherwise? I had been shut
up here too long face to face with my own spirit, not to know myself,
and, so, to have lost the common illusions of vanity. All the men I
had ever known could not make your stature among them. So it was not
distrust, but reverence rather. I sate by while the angel stirred the
water, and I called it _Miracle_. Do not blame me now, ... _my_ angel!

Nor say, that I 'do not lean' on you with all the weight of my 'past'
... because I do! You cannot guess what you are to me--you cannot--it
is not possible:--and though I have said _that_ before, I must say it
again ... for it comes again to be said. It is something to me between
dream and miracle, all of it--as if some dream of my earliest
brightest dreaming-time had been lying through these dark years to
steep in the sunshine, returning to me in a double light. _Can_ it be,
I say to myself, that _you_ feel for me _so_? can it be meant for me?
this from _you_?

If it is your 'right' that I should be gloomy at will with you, you
exercise it, I do think--for although I cannot promise to be very
sorrowful when you come, (how could that be?) yet from different
motives it seems to me that I have written to you quite superfluities
about my 'abomination of desolation,'--yes indeed, and blamed myself
afterwards. And now I must say this besides. When grief came upon
grief, I never was tempted to ask 'How have I deserved this of God,'
as sufferers sometimes do: I always felt that there must be cause
enough ... corruption enough, needing purification ... weakness
enough, needing strengthening ... _nothing_ of the chastisement could
come to me without cause and need. But in this different hour, when
joy follows joy, and God makes me happy, as you say, _through_ you ...
I cannot repress the ... 'How have I deserved _this_ of Him?'--I know
I have not--I know I do not.

Could it be that heart and life were devastated to make room for
you?--If so, it was well done,--dearest! They leave the ground fallow
before the wheat.

'Were you wrong in answering?' Surely not ... unless it is wrong to
show all this goodness ... and too much, it may be for _me_. When the
plants droop for drought and the copious showers fall suddenly, silver
upon silver, they die sometimes of the reverse of their adversities.
But no--_that_, even, shall not be a danger! And if I said 'Do not
answer,' I did not mean that I would not have a doubt removed--(having
_no_ doubt!--) but I was simply unwilling to seem to be asking for
golden words ... going down the aisles with that large silken purse,
as _queteuse_. Try to understand.

On Wednesday then!--George is invited to meet you on Thursday at Mr.

The _Examiner_ speaks well, upon the whole, and with allowances ...
oh, that absurdity about metaphysics apart from poetry!--'Can such
things be' in one of the best reviews of the day? Mr. Kenyon was here
on Sunday and talking of the poems with real living tears in his eyes
and on his cheeks. But I will tell you. 'Luria' is to climb to the
place of a great work, I see. And if I write too long letters, is it
not because you spoil me, and because (being spoilt) I cannot help
it?--May God bless you always--



_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                           Thursday Morning.

Here is the copy of Landor's verses.

You know thoroughly, do you not, why I brought all those good-natured
letters, desperate praise and all? Not, _not_ out of the least vanity
in the world--nor to help myself in your sight with such testimony:
would it seem very extravagant, on the contrary, if I said that
perhaps I laid them before your eyes in a real fit of compunction at
not being, in my heart, thankful enough for the evident motive of the
writers,--and so was determined to give them the 'last honours' if
not the first, and not make them miss _you_ because, through my fault,
they had missed _me_? Does this sound too fantastical? Because it is
strictly true: the most laudatory of all, I _skimmed_ once over with
my flesh _creeping_--it seemed such a death-struggle, that of good
nature over--well, it is fresh ingratitude of me, so here it shall

I am not ungrateful to _you_--but you must wait to know that:--I can
speak less than nothing with my living lips.

I mean to ask your brother how you are to-night ... so quietly!

God bless you, my dearest, and reward you.

                                                   Your R.B.

Mrs. Shelley--with the 'Ricordi.'

Of course, Landor's praise is altogether a different gift; a gold vase
from King Hiram; beside he has plenty of conscious rejoicing in his
own riches, and is not left painfully poor by what he sends away.
_That_ is the unpleasant point with some others--they spread you a
board and want to gird up their loins and wait on you there. Landor
says 'come up higher and let us sit and eat together.' Is it not that?

Now--you are not to turn on me because the first is my proper feeling
to _you_, ... for poetry is not the thing given or taken between
us--it is heart and life and _my_self, not _mine_, I give--give? That
you glorify and change and, in returning then, give _me_!

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, November 21, 1845.]

Thank you! and will you, if your sister made the copy of Landor's
verses for _me_ as well as for you, thank _her_ from me for another
kindness, ... not the second nor the third? For my own part, be sure
that if I did not fall on the right subtle interpretation about the
letters, at least I did not 'think it vain' of you! vain: when,
supposing you really to have been over-gratified by such letters, it
could have proved only an excess of humility!--But ... besides the
subtlety,--you meant to be kind to _me_, you know,--and I had a
pleasure and an interest in reading them--only that ... mind. Sir John
Hanmer's, I was half angry with! Now _is_ he not cold?--and is it not
easy to see _why_ he is forced to write his own scenes five times over
and over? He might have mentioned the 'Duchess' I think; and he a
poet! Mr. Chorley speaks some things very well--but what does he mean
about 'execution,' _en revanche_? but I liked his letter and his
candour in the last page of it. Will Mr. Warburton review you? does he
mean _that_? Now do let me see any other letters you receive. _May_ I?
Of course Landor's 'dwells apart' from all: and besides the reason you
give for being gratified by it, it is well that one prophet should
open his mouth and prophesy and give his witness to the inspiration of
another. See what he says in the letter.... '_You may stand quite
alone if you will--and I think you will.' That_ is a noble testimony
to a _truth_. And he discriminates--he understands and discerns--they
are not words thrown out into the air. The 'profusion of imagery
covering the depth of thought' is a true description. And, in the
verses, he lays his finger just on your characteristics--just on those
which, when you were only a poet to me, (only a poet: does it sound
irreverent? almost, I think!) which, when you were only a poet to me,
I used to study, characteristic by characteristic, and turn myself
round and round in despair of being ever able to approach, taking them
to be so essentially and intensely masculine that like effects were
unattainable, even in a lower degree, by any female hand. Did I not
tell you so once before? or oftener than once? And must not these
verses of Landor's be printed somewhere--in the _Examiner_? and again
in the _Athenaeum_? if in the _Examiner_, certainly again in the
_Athenaeum_--it would be a matter of course. Oh those verses: how they
have pleased me! It was an act worthy of him--and of _you_.

George has been properly 'indoctrinated,' and, we must hope, will do
credit to my instructions. Just now ... just as I was writing ... he
came in to say good-morning and good-night (he goes to chambers
earlier than I receive visitors generally), and to ask with a smile,
if I had 'a message for my friend' ... _that_ was you ... and so he
was indoctrinated. He is good and true, honest and kind, but a little
over-grave and reasonable, as I and my sisters complain continually.
The great Law lime-kiln dries human souls all to one colour--and he is
an industrious reader among law books and knows a good deal about
them, I have heard from persons who can judge; but with a sacrifice of
impulsiveness and liberty of spirit, which _I_ should regret for him
if he sate on the Woolsack even. Oh--that law! how I do detest it! I
hate it and think ill of it--I tell George so sometimes--and he is
good-natured and only thinks to himself (a little audibly now and
then) that I am a woman and talking nonsense. But the morals of it,
and the philosophy of it! And the manners of it! in which the whole
host of barristers looks down on the attorneys and the rest of the
world!--how long are these things to last!

Theodosia Garrow, I have seen face to face once or twice. She is very
clever--very accomplished--with talents and tastes of various kinds--a
musician and linguist, in most modern languages I believe--and a
writer of fluent graceful melodious verses, ... you cannot say any
more. At least _I_ cannot--and though I have not seen this last poem
in the 'Book of Beauty,' I have no more trust ready for it than for
its predecessors, of which Mr. Landor said as much. It is the personal
feeling which speaks in him, I fancy--simply the personal
feeling--and, _that_ being the case, it does not spoil the
discriminating appreciation on the other page of this letter. I might
have the modesty to admit besides that I may be wrong and he, right,
all through. But ... 'more intense than Sappho'!--more intense than
intensity itself!--to think of _that_!--Also the word 'poetry' has a
clear meaning to me, and all the fluency and facility and quick
ear-catching of a tune which one can find in the world, do not answer
to it--no.

How is the head? will you tell me? I have written all this without a
word of it, and yet ever since yesterday I have been uneasy, ... I
cannot help it. You see you are not better but worse. 'Since you were
in Italy'--Then is it England that disagrees with you? and is it
change away from England that you want? ... _require_, I mean. If
so--why what follows and ought to follow? You must not be ill
indeed--_that_ is the first necessity. Tell me how you are, exactly
how you are; and remember to walk, and not to work too much--for my
sake--if you care for me--if it is not too bold of me to say so. I had
fancied you were looking better rather than otherwise: but those
sensations in the head are frightful and ought to be stopped by
whatever means; even by the worst, as they would seem to _me_.
Well--it was bad news to hear of the increase of pain; for the
amendment was a 'passing show' I fear, and not caused even by thoughts
of mine or it would have appeared before; while on the other side (the
sunny side of the way) I heard on that same yesterday, what made me
glad as good news, a whole gospel of good news, and from _you_ too who
profess to say 'less than nothing,' and _that_ was that '_the times
seemed longer to you_':--do you remember saying it? And it made me
glad ... happy--perhaps too glad and happy--and surprised: yes,
surprised!--for if you had told me (but you would not have told me) if
you had let me guess ... just the contrary, ... '_that the times
seemed shorter_,' ... why it would have seemed to _me_ as natural as
nature--oh, believe me it would, and I could not have thought hardly
of you for it in the most secret or silent of my thoughts. How am I
to feel towards you, do you imagine, ... who have the world round you
and yet make me this to you? I never can tell you how, and you never
can know it without having my heart in you with all its experiences:
we measure by those weights. May God bless you! and save _me_ from
being the cause to you of any harm or grief!... I choose it for _my_
blessing instead of another. What should I be if I could fail
willingly to you in the least thing? But I _never will_, and you know
it. I will not move, nor speak, nor breathe, so as willingly and
consciously to touch, with one shade of wrong, that precious deposit
of 'heart and life' ... which may yet be recalled.

And, so, may God bless you and your


Remember to say how you are.

I sent 'Pomfret'--and Shelley is returned, and the letters, in the
same parcel--but my letter goes by the post as you see. Is there
contrast enough between the two rival female personages of 'Pomfret.'
_I_ fancy not. Helena should have been more 'demonstrative' than she
appeared in Italy, to secure the 'new modulation' with Walter. But you
will not think it a strong book, I am sure, with all the good and pure
intention of it. The best character ... most life-like ... as
conventional life goes ... seems to _me_ 'Mr. Rose' ... beyond all
comparison--and the best point, the noiseless, unaffected manner in
which the acting out of the 'private judgment' in Pomfret himself is
made no heroic virtue but simply an integral part of the love of
truth. As to Grace she is too good to be interesting, I am afraid--and
people say of her more than she expresses--and as to 'generosity,' she
could not do otherwise in the last scenes.

But I will not tell you the story after all.

At the beginning of this letter I meant to write just one page; but my
generosity is like Grace's, and could not help itself. There were the
letters to write of, and the verses! and then, you know, 'femme qui
parle' never has done. _Let_ me hear! and I will be as brisk as a
monument next time for variety.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Friday Night.
                             [Post-mark, November 22, 1845.]

How good and kind to send me these books! (The letter I say nothing
of, according to convention: if I wrote down 'best and kindest' ...
oh, what poorest words!) I shall tell you all about 'Pomfret,' be
sure. Chorley talked of it, as we walked homewards together last
night,--modestly and well, and spoke of having given away two copies
only ... to his mother one, and the other to--Miss Barrett, and 'she
seemed interested in the life of it, entered into his purpose in it,'
and I listened to it all, loving Chorley for his loveability which is
considerable at other times, and saying to myself what might run
better in the child's couplet--'Not more than others I deserve, Though
God has given me more'!--Given me the letter which expresses surprise
that I shall feel these blanks between the days when I see you longer
and longer! So am _I_ surprised--that I should have mentioned so
obvious a matter at all; or leave unmentioned a hundred others its
correlatives which I cannot conceive you to be ignorant of, you! When
I spread out my riches before me, and think _what_ the hour and more
means that you endow one with, I _do_--not to say _could_--I _do_ form
resolutions, and say to myself--'If next time I am bidden stay away a
FORTNIGHT, I will not reply by a word beyond the grateful assent.' I
_do_, God knows, lay up in my heart these priceless treasures,--shall
I tell you? I never in my life kept a journal, a register of sights,
or fancies, or feelings; in my last travel I put down on a slip of
paper a few dates, that I might remember in England, on such a day I
was on Vesuvius, in Pompeii, at Shelley's grave; all that should be
kept in memory is, with _me_, best left to the brain's own process.
But I have, from the first, recorded the date and the duration of
every visit to you; the numbers of minutes you have given me ... and I
put them together till they make ... nearly two days now;
four-and-twenty-hour-long-days, that I have been _by you_--and I enter
the room determining to get up and go sooner ... and I go away into
the light street repenting that I went so soon by I don't know how
many minutes--for, love, what is it all, this love for you, but an
earnest desiring to include you in myself, if that might be; to feel
you in my very heart and hold you there for ever, through all chance
and earthly changes!

There, I had better leave off; the words!

I was very glad to find myself with your brother yesterday; I like him
very much and mean to get a friend in him--(to supply the loss of my
friend ... Miss Barrett--which is gone, the friendship, so gone!) But
I did not ask after you because I heard Moxon do it. Now of Landor's
verses: I got a note from Forster yesterday telling me that he, too,
had received a copy ... so that there is no injunction to be secret.
So I got a copy for dear Mr. Kenyon, and, lo! what comes! I send the
note to make you smile! I shall reply that I felt in duty bound to
apprise you; as I did. You will observe that I go to that too facile
gate of his on Tuesday, _my day_ ... from your house directly. The
worst is that I have got entangled with invitations already, and must
go out again, _hating_ it, to more than one place.

I am _very_ well--quite well; yes, dearest! The pain is quite gone;
and the inconvenience, hard on its trace. You will write to me again,
will you not? And be as brief as your heart lets you, to me who hoard
up your words and get remote and imperfect ideas of what ... shall it
be written?... anger at you could mean, when I see a line blotted out;
a _second-thoughted_ finger-tip rapidly put forth upon one of my gold

I rather think if Warburton reviews me it will be in the _Quarterly_,
which I know he writes for. Hanmer is a very sculpturesque passionless
high-minded and amiable man ... this coldness, as you see it, is part
of him. I like his poems, I think, better than you--'the Sonnets,' do
you know them? Not 'Fra Cipolla.' See what is here, since you will not
let me have only you to look at--this is Landor's first
opinion--expressed to Forster--see the date! and last of all, see me
and know me, beloved! May God bless you!

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, November 22, 1845.]

Mr. Kenyon came yesterday--and do you know when he took out those
verses and spoke his preface and I understood what was to follow, I
had a temptation from my familiar Devil not to say I had read them
before--I had the temptation strong and clear. For he (Mr. K.) told me
that your sister let him see them--.

But no--My 'vade retro' prevailed, and I spoke the truth and shamed
the devil and surprised Mr. Kenyon besides, as I could observe. Not an
observation did he make till he was just going away half an hour
afterwards, and then he said rather dryly ... 'And now may I ask how
long ago it was when you first read these verses?--was it a fortnight
ago?' It was better, I think, that I should not have made a mystery of
such a simple thing, ... and yet I felt half vexed with myself and
with him besides. But the verses,--how he praised them! more than I
thought of doing ... as verses--though there is beauty and music and
all that ought to be. Do you see clearly now that the latter lines
refer to the combination in you,--the qualities over and above those
held in common with Chaucer? And I have heard this morning from two or
three of the early readers of the _Chronicle_ (I never care to see it
till the evening) that the verses are there--so that my wishes have
fulfilled themselves _there_ at least--strangely, for wishes of mine
... which generally 'go by contraries' as the soothsayers declare of
dreams. How kind of you to send me the fragment to Mr. Forster! and
how I like to read it. Was the Hebrew yours _then_ ... _written then_,
I mean ... or written _now_?

Mr. Kenyon told me that you were to dine with him on Tuesday, and I
took for granted, at first hearing, that you would come on Wednesday
perhaps to me--and afterwards I saw the possibility of the two ends
being joined without much difficulty. Still, I was not sure, before
your letter came, how it might be.

That you really are better is the best news of all--thank you for
telling me. It will be wise not to go out _too_ much--'aequam servare
mentem' as Landor quotes, ... in this as in the rest. Perhaps that
worst pain was a sort of crisis ... the sharp turn of the road about
to end ... oh, I do trust it may be so.

Mr. K. wrote to Landor to the effect that it was not because he (Mr.
K.) held you in affection, nor because the verses expressed critically
the opinion entertained of you by all who could judge, nor because
they praised a book with which his own name was associated ... but for
the abstract beauty of those verses ... for _that_ reason he could not
help naming them to Mr. Landor. All of which was repeated to me

Also I heard of you from George, who admired you--admired you ... as
if you were a chancellor in _posse_, a great lawyer in _esse_--and
then he thought you ... what he never could think a lawyer ...
'_unassuming_.' And _you_ ... you are so kind! Only _that_ makes me
think bitterly what I have thought before, but cannot write to-day.

It was good-natured of Mr. Chorley to send me a copy of his book, and
he sending so few--very! George who admires _you_, does not tolerate
Mr. Chorley ... (did I tell ever?) declares that the affectation is
'bad,' and that there is a dash of vulgarity ... which I positively
refuse to believe, and _should_, I fancy, though face to face with the
most vainglorious of waistcoats. How can there be vulgarity even of
manners, with so much mental refinement? I never could believe in
those combinations of contradictions.

'An obvious matter,' you think! as obvious, as your 'green hill' ...
which I cannot see. For the rest ... my thought upon your 'great
_fact_' of the 'two days,' is quite different from yours ... for I
think directly, 'So little'! so dreadfully little! What shallow earth
for a deep root! What can be known of me in that time? 'So _there_, is
the only good, you see, that comes from making calculations on a slip
of paper! It is not and it cannot come to good.' I would rather look
at my seventy-five letters--there is room to breathe in them. And this
is my idea (_ecce_!) of monumental brevity--and _hic jacet_ at last

                                                 Your E.B.B.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Sunday Night.
                             [Post-mark, November 24, 1845.]

But a word to-night, my love--for my head aches a little,--I had to
write a long letter to my friend at New Zealand, and now I want to sit
and think of you and get well--but I must not quite lose the word I
counted on.

So, _that_ way you will take my two days and turn them against me?
_Oh, you!_ Did I say the 'root' had been striking then, or rather,
that the seeds, whence the roots take leisure and grow, _they_ had
been planted then--and might not a good heart and hand drop acorns
enough to grow up into a complete Dodona-grove,--when the very rook,
say farmers, hides and forgets whole navies of ship-wood one day to
be, in his summer storing-journeys? But this shall do--I am not going
to prove what _may_ be, when here it _is_, to my everlasting

--And 'I am kind'--there again! Do I not know what you mean by that?
Well it is some comfort that you make all even in some degree, and
take from my faculties here what you give them, spite of my
protesting, in other directions. So I could not when I first saw you
admire you very much, and wish for your friendship, and be willing to
give you mine, and desirous of any opportunity of serving you,
benefiting you; I could not think the finding myself in a position to
feel this, just this and no more, a sufficiently fortunate event ...
but I must needs get up, or imitate, or ... what is it you fancy I do?
... an utterly distinct, unnecessary, inconsequential regard for you,
which should, when it got too hard for shamming at the week's
end,--should simply spoil, in its explosion and departure, all the
real and sufficing elements of an honest life-long attachment and
affections! that I should do this, and think it a piece of kindness

Now, I'll tell you what it _does_ deserve, and what it shall get. Give
me, dearest beyond expression, what I have always dared to think I
would ask you for ... one day! Give me ... wait--for your own sake,
not mine who never, never dream of being worth such a gift ... but for
your own sense of justice, and to _say_, so as my heart shall hear,
that you were wrong and are no longer so, give me so much of you--all
precious that you are--as may be given in a lock of your hair--I will
live and die with it, and with the memory of you--this _at_ the
_worst_! If you give me what I beg,--shall I say next Tuesday ... when
I leave you, I will not speak a word. If you do not, I will not think
you unjust, for all my light words, but I will pray you to wait and
remember me one day--when the power to deserve more may be greater ...
never the will. God supplies all things: may he bless you, beloved! So
I can but pray, kissing your hand.


Now pardon me, dearest, for what is written ... what I cannot cancel,
for the love's sake that it grew from.

The _Chronicle_ was through Moxon, I believe--Landor had sent the
verses to Forster at the same time as to me, yet they do not appear. I
never in my life less cared about people's praise or blame for myself,
and never more for its influence on _other people_ than now--I would
stand as high as I could in the eyes of all about you--yet not, after
all, at poor Chorley's expense whom your brother, I am sure,
unintentionally, is rather hasty in condemning; I have told you of my
own much rasher opinion and how I was ashamed and sorry when I
corrected it after. C. is of a different species to your brother,
differently trained, looking different ways--and for some of the
peculiarities that strike at first sight, C. himself gives a good
reason to the enquirer on better acquaintance. For 'Vulgarity'--NO!
But your kind brother will alter his view, I know, on further
acquaintance ... and,--woe's me--will find that 'assumption's' pertest
self would be troubled to exercise its quality at such a house as Mr.
K.'s, where every symptom of a proper claim is met half way and helped
onward far too readily.

Good night, now. Am I not yours--are you not mine? And can that make
_you_ happy too?

Bless you once more and for ever.

That scrap of Landor's being for no other eye than mine--I made the
foolish comment, that there was no blotting out--made it some four or
five years ago, when I could read what I only guess at now, through my
idle opening the hand and letting the caught bird go--but there used
to be a real satisfaction to me in writing those grand Hebrew
characters--the noble languages!

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, November 24, 1845.]

But what unlawful things have I said about 'kindness'? I did not mean
any harm--no, indeed! And as to thinking ... as to having ever
thought, that you could 'imitate' (can this word be 'imitate'?) an
unfelt feeling or a feeling unsupposed to be felt ... I may solemnly
assure you that I never, never did so. 'Get up'--'imitate'!! But it
was the contrary ... _all_ the contrary! From the beginning, now _did_
I not believe you too much? Did I not believe you even in your
contradiction of yourself ... in your _yes_ and _no_ on the same
subject, ... and take the world to be turning round backwards and
myself to have been shut up here till I grew mad, ... rather than
disbelieve you either way? Well!--You know it as well as I can tell
you, and I will not, any more. If I have been 'wrong,' it was not _so_
... nor indeed _then_ ... it is not _so_, though it is _now_, perhaps.

Therefore ... but wait! I never gave away what you ask me to give
_you_, to a human being, except my nearest relatives and once or twice
or thrice to female friends, ... never, though reproached for it; and
it is just three weeks since I said last to an asker that I was 'too
great a prude for such a thing'! it was best to anticipate the
accusation!--And, prude or not, I could not--I never
could--_something_ would not let me. And now ... what am I to do ...
'for my own sake and not yours?' Should you have it, or not? Why I
suppose ... _yes_. I suppose that 'for my own sense of justice and in
order to show that I was wrong' (which is wrong--you wrote a wrong
word there ... 'right,' you meant!) 'to show that I was _right_ and am
no longer so,' ... I suppose you must have it, 'Oh, _You_,' ... who
have your way in everything! Which does not mean ... Oh, vous, qui
avez toujours raison--far from it.

Also ... which does not mean that I shall give you what you ask for,
_to-morrow_,--because I shall not--and one of my conditions is (with
others to follow) that _not a word be said to-morrow_, you understand.
Some day I will send it perhaps ... as you _knew_ I should ... ah, as
you knew I should ... notwithstanding that 'getting up' ... that
'imitation' ... of humility: as you knew _too_ well I should!

Only I will not teaze you as I might perhaps; and now that your
headache has begun again--the headache again: the worse than headache!
See what good my wishes do! And try to understand that if I speak of
my being 'wrong' now in relation to you ... of my being right before,
and wrong now, ... I mean wrong for your sake, and not for mine ...
wrong in letting you come out into the desert here to me, you whose
place is by the waters of Damascus. But I need not tell you over
again--you _know_. May God bless you till to-morrow and past it for
ever. Mr. Kenyon brought me your note yesterday to read about the
'order in the button-hole'--ah!--or 'oh, _you_,' may I not re-echo? It
enrages me to think of Mr. Forster; publishing too as he does, at a
moment, the very sweepings of Landor's desk! Is the motive of the
reticence to be looked for somewhere among the cinders?--Too bad it
is. So, till to-morrow! and you shall not be 'kind' any more.



But how, 'a _foolish_ comment'? Good and true rather! And I admired
the _writing_[1] ... worthy of the reeds of Jordan!

[Footnote 1: Mr. Browning's letter is written in an unusually bold

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Thursday Morning.
                             [Post-mark, November 27, 1845.]

How are you? and Miss Bayley's visit yesterday, and Mr. K.'s
to-day--(He told me he should see you this morning--and _I_ shall pass
close by, having to be in town and near you,--but only the thought
will reach you and be with you--) tell me all this, dearest.

How kind Mr. Kenyon was last night and the day before! He neither
wonders nor is much vexed, I dare believe--and I write now these few
words to say so--My heart is set on next Thursday, remember ... and
the prize of Saturday! Oh, dearest, believe for truth's sake, that I
WOULD most frankly own to any fault, any imperfection in the beginning
of my love of you; in the pride and security of this present stage it
has reached--I _would_ gladly learn, by the full lights now, what an
insufficient glimmer it grew from, ... but there _never has been
change_, only development and increased knowledge and strengthened
feeling--I was made and meant to look for you and wait for you and
become yours for ever. God bless you, and make me thankful!

And you _will_ give me _that_? What shall save me from wreck: but
truly? How must I feel to you!

                                                  Yours R.B.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Monday Evening.
                             [Post-mark, November 27, 1845.]

Now you must not blame me--you must not. To make a promise is one
thing, and to keep it, quite another: and the conclusion you see 'as
from a tower.' Suppose I had an oath in heaven somewhere ... near to
'coma Berenices,' ... never to give you what you ask for! ... would
not such an oath be stronger than a mere half promise such as I sent
you a few hours ago? Admit that it would--and that I am not to blame
for saying now ... (listen!) that I _never can_ nor _will give you
this thing_;--only that I will, if you please, exchange it for another
thing--you understand. _I_ too will avoid being 'assuming'; I will not
pretend to be generous, no, nor 'kind.' It shall be pure merchandise
or nothing at all. Therefore determine!--remembering always how our
'ars poetica,' after Horace, recommends 'dare et petere
vicissim'--which is making a clatter of pedantry to take advantage of
the noise ... because perhaps I ought to be ashamed to say this to
you, and perhaps I _am_! ... yet say it none the less.

And ... less lightly ... if you have right and reason on your side,
may I not have a little on mine too? And shall I not care, do you
think?... Think!

Then there is another reason for me, entirely mine. You have come to
me as a dream comes, as the best dreams come ... dearest--and so there
is need to me of 'a sign' to know the difference between dream and
vision--and _that_ is my completest reason, my own reason--you have
none like it; none. A ticket to know the horn-gate from the ivory, ...
ought I not to have it? Therefore send it to me before I send you
anything, and if possible by that Lewisham post which was the most
frequent bringer of your letters until these last few came, and which
reaches me at eight in the evening when all the world is at dinner and
my solitude most certain. Everything is so still then, that I have
heard the footsteps of a letter of yours ten doors off ... or more,
perhaps. Now beware of imagining from this which I say, that there is
a strict police for my correspondence ... (it is not so--) nor that I
do not like hearing from you at any and every hour: it _is_ so. Only I
would make the smoothest and sweetest of roads for ... and you
_understand_, and do not _imagine_ beyond.

_Tuesday evening._--What is written is written, ... all the above: and
it is forbidden to me to write a word of what I could write down here
... forbidden for good reasons. So I am silent on _conditions_ ...
those being ... first ... that you never do such things again ... no,
you must not and shall not.... I _will not let it be_: and secondly,
that you try to hear the unspoken words, and understand how your gift
will remain with me while _I_ remain ... they need not be said--just
as _it_ need not have been so beautiful, for that. The beauty drops
'full fathom five' into the deep thought which covers it. So I study
my Machiavelli to contrive the possibility of wearing it, without
being put to the question violently by all the curiosity of all my
brothers;--the questions 'how' ... 'what' ... 'why' ... put round and
edgeways. They are famous, some of them, for asking questions. I say
to them--'well: how many more questions?' And now ... for _me_--_have_
I said a word?--_have_ I not been obedient? And by rights and in
justice, there should have been a reproach ... if there could!
Because, friendship or more than friendship, Pisa or no Pisa, it was
unnecessary altogether from you to me ... but I have done, and you
shall not be teazed.

_Wednesday._--Only ... I persist in the view of the _other_ question.
This will not do for the '_sign_,' ... this, which, so far from being
qualified for disproving a dream, is the beautiful image of a dream in
itself ... _so_ beautiful: and with the very shut eyelids, and the
"little folding of the hands to sleep." You see at a glance it will
not do. And so--

Just as one might be interrupted while telling a fairy-tale, ... in
the midst of the "and so's" ... just _so_, I have been interrupted by
the coming in of Miss Bayley, and here she has been sitting for nearly
two hours, from twelve to two nearly, and I like her, do you know. Not
only she talks well, which was only a thing to expect, but she seems
to _feel_ ... to have great sensibility--_and_ her kindness to me ...
kindness of manner and words and expression, all together ... quite
touched me.--I did not think of her being so loveable a person. Yet it
was kind and generous, her proposition about Italy; (did I tell you
how she made it to me through Mr. Kenyon long ago--when I was a mere
stranger to her?) the proposition to go there with me herself. It was
quite a grave, earnest proposal of hers--which was one of the reasons
why I could not even _wish_ not to see her to-day. Because you see, it
was a tremendous degree of experimental generosity, to think of going
to Italy by sea with an invalid stranger, "seule _a_ seule." And she
was wholly in earnest, wholly. Is there not good in the world after

Tell me how you are, for I am not at ease about you--You were not well
even yesterday, I thought. If this goes on ... but it mustn't go
on--oh, it must not. May God bless us more!

Do not fancy, in the meantime, that you stay here 'too long' for any
observation that can be made. In the first place there is nobody to
'observe'--everybody is out till seven, except the one or two who will
not observe if I tell them not. My sisters are glad when you come,
because it is a gladness of mine, ... they observe. I have a great
deal of liberty, to have so many chains; we all have, in this house:
and though the liberty has melancholy motives, it saves some daily
torment, and _I_ do not complain of it for one.

May God bless you! Do not forget me. Say how you are. What good can I
do you with all my thoughts, when you keep unwell? See!--Facts are
against fancies. As when I would not have the lamp lighted yesterday
because it seemed to make it later, and you proved directly that it
would not make it _earlier_, by getting up and going away!

                                        Wholly and ever your


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                          [Post-mark, November 28, 1845.][1]

Take it, dearest; what I am forced to think you mean--and take _no
more_ with it--for I gave all to give long ago--I am all yours--and
now, _mine_; give me _mine_ to be happy with!

You will have received my note of yesterday.--I am glad you are
satisfied with Miss Bayley, whom I, too, thank ... that is, sympathize
with, ... (not wonder at, though)--for her intention.... Well, may it
all be for best--here or at Pisa, you are my blessing and life.

... How all considerate you are, _you_ that are the kind, kind one!
The post arrangement I will remember--to-day, for instance, will this
reach you at 8? I shall be with you then, in thought. 'Forget
you!'--_What_ does that mean, dearest?

And I might have stayed longer and you let me go. What does _that_
mean, also tell me? Why, I make up my mind to go, always, like a man,
and praise myself as I get through it--as when one plunges into the
cold water--ONLY ... ah, _that_ too is no more a merit than any other
thing I do ... there is the reward, the last and best! Or is it the

I would not be ashamed of my soul if it might be shown you,--it is
wholly grateful, conscious of you.

But another time, do not let me wrong myself _so_! Say, 'one minute

On Monday?--I am _much_ better--and, having got free from an
engagement for Saturday, shall stay quietly here and think the post
never intending to come--for you will not let me wait longer?

Shall I dare write down a grievance of my heart, and not offend you?
Yes, trusting in the right of my love--you tell me, sweet, here in the
letter, 'I do not look so well'--and sometimes, I 'look better' ...
_how do you know_? When I first saw you--_I saw your eyes_--since
then, _you_, it should appear, see mine--but I only _know_ yours are
there, and have to use that memory as if one carried dried flowers
about when fairly inside the garden-enclosure. And while I resolve,
and hesitate, and resolve again to complain of this--(kissing your
foot ... not boldly complaining, nor rudely)--while I have this on my
mind, on my heart, ever since that May morning ... can it be?

--No, nothing _can be_ wrong now--you will never call me 'kind' again,
in that sense, you promise! Nor think 'bitterly' of my kindness, that

Shall I _see_ you on Monday?

God bless you my dearest--I see her now--and _here_ and _now_ the eyes
open, wide _enough_, and I will kiss them--_how_ gratefully!

                                                    Your own


[Footnote 1: Envelope endorsed by E.B.B. 'hair.']

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, December 1, 1845.]

It comes at eight o'clock--the post says eight ... _I_ say nearer half
past eight ... it _comes_--and I thank you, thank you, as I can. Do
you remember the purple lock of a king on which hung the fate of a
city? _I_ do! And I need not in conscience--because this one here did
not come to me by treason--'ego et rex meus,' on the contrary, do
fairly give and take.

I meant at first only to send you what is in the ring ... which, by
the way, will not fit you I know--(not certainly in the finger which
it was meant for ...) as it would not Napoleon before you--but can
easily be altered to the right size.... I meant at first to send you
only what was in the ring: but your fashion is best so you shall have
it both ways. Now don't say a word on Monday ... nor at all. As for
the ring, recollect that I am forced to feel blindfold into the outer
world, and take what is nearest ... by chance, not choice ... or it
might have been better--a little better--perhaps. The _best_ of it is
that it's the colour of your blue flowers. Now you will not say a
word--I trust to you.

It is enough that you should have said these others, I think. Now _is_
it just of you? isn't it hard upon me? And if the charge is true,
whose fault is it, pray? I have been ashamed and vexed with myself
fifty times for being so like a little girl, ... for seeming to have
'affectations'; and all in vain: 'it was stronger than I,' as the
French say. And for _you_ to complain! As if Haroun Alraschid after
cutting off a head, should complain of the want of an
obeisance!--Well!--I smile notwithstanding. Nobody can help
smiling--both for my foolishness which is great, I confess, though
somewhat exaggerated in your statement--(because if it was quite as
bad as you say, you know, I never should have _seen you_ ... and _I
have_!) and also for yours ... because you take such a very
preposterously wrong way for overcoming anybody's shyness. Do you
know, I have laughed ... really laughed at your letter. No--it has not
been so bad. I have seen you at every visit, as well as I could with
both eyes wide open--only that by a supernatural influence they won't
stay open with _you_ as they are used to do with other people ... so
now I tell you. And for the rest I promise nothing at all--as how can
I, when it is quite beyond my control--and you have not improved my
capabilities ... do you think you have? Why what nonsense we have come
to--we, who ought to be 'talking Greek!' said Mr. Kenyon.

Yes--he came and talked of you, and told me how you had been speaking
of ... me; and I have been thinking how I should have been proud of it
a year ago, and how I could half scold you for it now. Ah yes--and Mr.
Kenyon told me that you had spoken exaggerations--such
exaggerations!--Now should there not be some scolding ... some?

But how did you expect Mr. Kenyon to 'wonder' at _you_, or be 'vexed'
with _you_? That would have been strange surely. You are and always
have been a chief favourite in that quarter ... appreciated, praised,
loved, I think.

While I write, a letter from America is put into my hands, and having
read it through with shame and confusion of face ... not able to help
a smile though notwithstanding, ... I send it to you to show how you
have made me behave!--to say nothing of my other offences to the kind
people at Boston--and to a stray gentleman in Philadelphia who is to
perform a pilgrimage next year, he says, ... to visit the Holy Land
and your E.B.B. I was naughty enough to take _that_ letter to be a
circular ... for the address of various 'Europ_a_ians.' In any case
... just see how I have behaved! and if it has not been worse than ...
not opening one's eyes!--Judge. Really and gravely I am ashamed--I
mean as to Mr. Mathews, who has been an earnest, kind friend to
me--and I do mean to behave better. I say _that_ to prevent your
scolding, you know. And think of Mr. Poe, with that great Roman
justice of his (if not rather American!), dedicating a book to one and
abusing one in the preface of the same. He wrote a review of me in
just that spirit--the two extremes of laudation and reprehension,
folded in on one another. You would have thought that it had been
written by a friend and foe, each stark mad with love and hate, and
writing the alternate paragraphs--a most curious production indeed.

And here I shall end. I have been waiting ... waiting for what does
not come ... the ring ... sent to have the hair put in; but it won't
come (now) until too late for the post, and you must hear from me
before Monday ... you ought to have heard to-day. It has not been my
fault--I have waited. Oh these people--who won't remember that it is
possible to be out of patience! So I send you my letter now ... and
what is in the paper now ... and the rest, you shall have after
Monday. And you _will not say a word_ ... not then ... not at all!--I
trust you. And may God bless you.

If ever you care less for me--I do not say it in distrust of you ... I
trust you wholly--but you are a man, and free to care less, ... and if
ever you _do_ ... why in that case you will destroy, burn, ... do all
but send back ... enough is said for you to understand.

May God bless you. You are _best_ to me--best ... as I see ... in the
world--and so, dearest aright to



Finished on Saturday evening. Oh--this thread of silk--And to post!!
After all you must wait till Tuesday. I have no silk within reach and
shall miss the post. Do forgive me.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                           Saturday Evening.

This is the mere postscript to the letter I have just sent away. By a
few minutes too late, comes what I have all day been waiting for, ...
and besides (now it is just too late!) now I may have a skein of silk
if I please, to make that knot with, ... for want of which, two locks
meant for you, have been devoted to the infernal gods already ...
fallen into a tangle and thrown into the fire ... and all the hair of
my head might have followed, for I was losing my patience and temper
fast, ... and the post to boot. So wisely I shut my letter, (after
unwisely having driven everything to the last moment!)--and now I have
silk to tie fast with ... to tie a 'nodus' ... 'dignus' of the
celestial interposition--and a new packet shall be ready to go to you

At last I remember to tell you that the first letter you had from me
this week, was forgotten, (not by _me_) forgotten, and detained, so,
from the post--a piece of carelessness which Wilson came to confess to
me too frankly for me to grumble as I should have done otherwise.

For the staying longer, I did not mean to say you were wrong not to
stay. In the first place you were keeping your father 'in a maze,' as
you said yourself--and then, even without that, I never know what
o'clock it is ... never. Mr. Kenyon tells me that I must live in a
dream--which I do--time goes ... seeming to go round rather than go
forward. The watch I have, broke its spring two years ago, and there I
leave it in the drawer--and the clocks all round strike out of
hearing, or at best, when the wind brings the sound, one upon another
in a confusion. So you know more of time than I do or can.

Till Monday then! I send the 'Ricordi' to take care of the rest ... of
mine. It is a touching story--and there is an impracticable nobleness
from end to end in the spirit of it. How _slow_ (to the ear and mind)
that Italian rhetoric is! a language for dreamers and declaimers. Yet
Dante made it for action, and Machiavelli's prose can walk and strike
as well as float and faint.

The ring is smaller than I feared at first, and may perhaps--

Now you will not say a word. My excuse is that you had nothing to
remember me by, while I had this and this and this and this ... how
much too much!

                                      If I could be too much



_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, December 2, 1845.]

I was happy, so happy before! But I am happier and richer now. My
love--no words could serve here, but there is life before us, and to
the end of it the vibration now struck will extend--I will live and
die with your beautiful ring, your beloved hair--comforting me,
blessing me.

Let me write to-morrow--when I think on all you have been and are to
me, on the wonder of it and the deliciousness, it makes the paper
words that come seem vainer than ever--To-morrow I will write.

May God bless you, my own, my precious--

                                           I am all your own


I have thought again, and believe it will be best to select the finger
_you_ intended ... as the alteration will be simpler, I find; and one
is less liable to observation and comment.

Was not that Mr. Kenyon last evening? And did he ask, or hear, or say

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, December 3, 1845.]

See, dearest, what the post brings me this minute! Now, is it not a
good omen, a pleasant inconscious prophecy of what is to be? Be it
well done, or badly--there are you, leading me up and onward, in his
review as everywhere, at every future time! And our names will go
together--be read together. In itself this is nothing to _you_, dear
poet--but the unexpectedness, unintended significance of it has
pleased me very much--_does_ it not please you?--I thought I was to
figure in that cold _Quarterly_ all by myself, (for he writes for
it)--but here you are close by me; it cannot but be for good. He has
no knowledge whatever that I am even a friend of yours. Say you are

There was no writing yesterday for me--nor will there be much to-day.
In some moods, you know, I turn and take a thousand new views of what
you say ... and find fault with you to your surprise--at others, I
rest on you, and feel _all_ well, all _best_ ... now, for one
instance, even that phrase of the _possibility_ 'and what is to
follow,'--even _that_ I cannot except against--I am happy, contented;
too well, too prodigally blessed to be even able to murmur just
sufficiently loud to get, in addition to it all, a sweetest stopping
of the mouth! I will say quietly and becomingly 'Yes--I do promise
you'--yet it is some solace to--No--I will _not_ even couple the
promise with an adjuration that you, at the same time, see that they
care for me properly at Hanwell Asylum ... the best by all accounts:
yet I feel so sure of _you_, so safe and confident in you! If any of
it had been _my_ work, my own ... distrust and foreboding had pursued
me from the beginning; but all is _yours_--you crust me round with
gold and jewelry like the wood of a sceptre; and why should you
transfer your own work? Wood enough to choose from in the first
instance, but the choice once made!... So I rest on you, for life, for
death, beloved--beside you do stand, in my solemn belief, the direct
miraculous gift of God to me--that is my solemn belief; may I be

I am anxious to hear from you ... when am I not?--but _not_ before the
American letter is written and sent. Is that done? And who was the
visitor on Monday--and if &c. _what_ did he remark?--And what is
right or wrong with Saturday--is it to be mine?

Bless you, dearest--now and for ever--words cannot say how much I am
your own.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              Tuesday Evening.
                              [Post-mark, December 4, 1845.]

No Mr. Kenyon after all--not yesterday, not to-day; and the knock at
the door belonged perhaps to the post, which brought me a kind letter
from Mrs. Jameson to ask how I was, and if she might come--but she
won't come on Saturday.... I shall 'provide'--she may as well (and
better) come on a free day. On the other side, are you sure that Mr.
Procter may not stretch out his hand and seize on Saturday (he was to
dine with you, you said), or that some new engagement may not start up
suddenly in the midst of it? I trust to you, in such a case, to alter
_our_ arrangement, without a second thought. Monday stands close by,
remember, and there's a Saturday to follow Monday ... and I should
understand at a word, or apart from a word.

Just as _you_ understand how to 'take me with guile,' when you tell me
that anything in me can have any part in making you happy ... you, who
can say such words and call them 'vain words.' Ah, well! If I only
knew certainly, ... more certainly than the thing may be known by
either me or you, ... that nothing in me could have any part in making
you _un_happy, ... ah, would it not be enough ... _that_ knowledge ...
to content me, to overjoy me? but _that_ lies too high and out of
reach, you see, and one can't hope to get at it except by the ladder
Jacob saw, and which an archangel helped to hide away behind the gate
of Heaven afterwards.

_Wednesday._--In the meantime I had a letter from you yesterday, and
am promised another to-day. How ... I was going to say 'kind' and
pull down the thunders ... how _un_kind ... will _that_ do? ... how
good you are to me--how dear you must be! Dear--dearest--if I feel
that you love me, can I help it if, without any other sort of certain
knowledge, the world grows lighter round me? being but a mortal woman,
can I help it? no--certainly.

I comfort myself by thinking sometimes that I can at least understand
you, ... comprehend you in what you are and in what you possess and
combine; and that, if doing this better than others who are better
otherwise than I, I am, so far, worthier of the ... I mean that to
understand you is something, and that I account it something in my own
favour ... mine.

Yet when you tell me that I ought to know some things, though untold,
you are wrong, and speak what is impossible. My imagination sits by
the roadside [Greek: apedilos] like the startled sea nymph in
AEschylus, but never dares to put one unsandalled foot, unbidden, on a
certain tract of ground--never takes a step there unled! and never (I
write the simple truth) even as the alternative of the probability of
your ceasing to care for me, have I touched (untold) on the
possibility of your caring _more_ for me ... never! That you should
_continue_ to care, was the utmost of what I saw in that direction.
So, when you spoke of a 'strengthened feeling,' judge how I listened
with my heart--judge!

'Luria' is very great. You will avenge him with the sympathies of the
world; that, I foresee.... And for the rest, it is a magnanimity which
grows and grows, and which will, of a worldly necessity, fall by its
own weight at last; nothing less being possible. The scene with
Tiburzio and the end of the act with its great effects, are more
pathetic than professed pathos. When I come to criticise, it will be
chiefly on what I take to be a little occasional flatness in the
versification, which you may remove if you please, by knotting up a
few lines here and there. But I shall write more of 'Luria,'--and
well remember in the meanwhile, that you wanted smoothness, you said.

May God bless you. I shall have the letter to-night, I think gladly.
Yes,--I thought of the greater safety from 'comment'--it is best in
every way.

I lean on you and trust to you, and am always, as to one who is all to

                                                  Your own--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, December 4, 1845.]

Why of course I am pleased--I should have been pleased last year, for
the vanity's sake of being reviewed in your company. Now, as far as
that vice of vanity goes ... shall I tell you?... I would infinitely
prefer to see you set before the public in your own right solitude,
and supremacy, apart from me or any one else, ... this, as far as my
vice of vanity goes, ... and because, vainer I am of my poet than of
my poems ... _pour cause_. But since, according to the _Quarterly_
regime, you were to be not apart but with somebody of my degree, I am
glad, pleased, that it should be with myself:--and since I was to be
there at all, I am pleased, very much pleased that it should be with
_you_,--oh, of course I am pleased!--I am pleased that the 'names
should be read together' as you say, ... and am happily safe from the
apprehension of that ingenious idea of yours about 'my leading _you_'
&c. ... quite happily safe from the apprehension of that idea's
occurring to any mind in the world, except just your own. Now if I
'find fault' with you for writing down such an extravagance, such an
ungainly absurdity, (oh, I shall abuse it just as I shall choose!)
_can_ it be 'to your surprise?' _can_ it? Ought you to say such
things, when in the first place they are unfit in themselves and
inapplicable, and in the second place, abominable in my eyes? The
qualification for Hanwell Asylum is different peradventure from what
you take it to be--we had better not examine it too nearly. You never
will say such words again? It is your promise to me? Not those
words--and not any in their likeness.

Also ... nothing is _my_ work ... if you please! What an omen you take
in calling anything my work! If it is my work, woe on it--for
everything turns to evil which I touch. Let it be God's work and
yours, and I may take breath and wait in hope--and indeed I exclaim to
myself about the miracle of it far more even than you can do. It seems
to me (as I say over and over ... I say it to my own thoughts
oftenest) it seems to me still a dream how you came here at all, ...
the very machinery of it seems miraculous. Why did I receive you and
only you? Can I tell? no, not a word.

Last year I had such an escape of seeing Mr. Horne; and in this way it
was. He was going to Germany, he said, for an indefinite time, and
took the trouble of begging me to receive him for ten minutes before
he went. I answered with my usual 'no,' like a wild Indian--whereupon
he wrote me a letter so expressive of mortification and vexation ...
'mortification' was one of the words used, I remember, ... that I grew
ashamed of myself and told him to come any day (of the last five or
six days he had to spare) between two and five. Well!--he never came.
Either he was overcome with work and engagements of various sorts and
had not a moment, (which was his way of explaining the matter and
quite true I dare say) or he was vexed and resolved on punishing me
for my caprices. If the latter was the motive, I cannot call the
punishment effective, ... for I clapped my hands for joy when I felt
my danger to be passed--and now of course, I have no scruples.... I
may be as capricious as I please, ... may I not? Not that I ask you.
It is a settled matter. And it is useful to keep out Mr. Chorley with
Mr. Horne, and Mr. Horne with Mr. Chorley, and the rest of the world
with those two. Only the miracle is that _you_ should be behind the
enclosure--within it ... and so!--

_That_ is _my_ side of the wonder! of the machinery of the wonder, ...
as _I_ see it!--But there are greater things than these.

Speaking of the portrait of you in the 'Spirit of the Age' ... which
is not like ... no!--which has not your character, in a line of it ...
something in just the forehead and eyes and hair, ... but even _that_,
thrown utterly out of your order, by another bearing so unlike you...!
speaking of that portrait ... shall I tell you?--Mr. Horne had the
goodness to send me all those portraits, and I selected the heads
which, in right hero-worship, were anything to me, and had them framed
after a rough fashion and hung up before my eyes; Harriet Martineau's
... because she was a woman and admirable, and had written me some
kind letters--and for the rest, Wordsworth's, Carlyle's, Tennyson's
and yours. The day you paid your first visit here, I, in a fit of
shyness not quite unnatural, ... though I have been cordially laughed
at for it by everybody in the house ... pulled down your portrait, ...
(there is the nail, under Wordsworth--) and then pulled down
Tennyson's in a fit of justice,--because I would not have his hung up
and yours away. It was the delight of my brothers to open all the
drawers and the boxes, and whatever they could get access to, and find
and take those two heads and hang them on the old nails and analyse my
'absurdity' to me, day after day; but at last I tired them out, being
obstinate; and finally settled the question one morning by fastening
the print of you inside your Paracelsus. Oh no, it is not like--and I
knew it was not, before I saw you, though Mr. Kenyon said, 'Rather

By the way Mr. Kenyon does not come. It is strange that he should not
come: when he told me that he could not see me 'for a week or a
fortnight,' he meant it, I suppose.

So it is to be on Saturday? And I will write directly to America--the
letter will be sent by the time you get this. May God bless you ever.

It is not so much a look of 'ferocity,' ... as you say, ... in that
head, as of _expression by intention_. Several people have said of it
what nobody would say of you ... 'How affected-looking.' Which is too
strong--but it is not like you, in any way, and there's the truth.

So until Saturday. I read 'Luria' and feel the life in him. But _walk_
and do not _work_! do you?

                                                 Wholly your


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              Sunday Night.
                              [Post-mark, December 8, 1845.]

Well, I did see your brother last night ... and very wisely neither
spoke nor kept silence in the proper degree, but said that 'I hoped
you were well'--from the sudden feeling that I must say _something_ of
you--not pretend indifference about you _now_ ... and from the
impossibility of saying the _full_ of what I might; because other
people were by--and after, in the evening, when I should have remedied
the first imperfect expression, I had not altogether the heart. So,
you, dearest, will clear me with him if he wonders, will you not? But
it all hangs together; speaking of you,--to you,--writing to you--all
is helpless and sorrowful work by the side of what is in my soul to
say and to write--or is it not the natural consequence? If these
vehicles of feelings sufficed--_there_ would be the end!--And that my
feeling for you should end!... For the rest, the headache which kept
away while I sate with you, made itself amends afterward, and as it is
unkind to that warm Talfourd to look blank at his hospitable
endeavours, all my power of face went _a qui de droit_--

Did your brother tell you ... yes, I think ... of the portentous book,
lettered II, and thick as a law-book, of congratulatory letters on
the appearance of 'Ion'?--But how under the B's in the Index came
'Miss Barrett' and, woe's me, 'R.B.'! I don't know when I have had so
ghastly a visitation. There was the utterly _forgotten_ letter, in the
as thoroughly disused hand-writing, in the ... I fear ... still as
completely obsolete feeling--no, not so bad as that--but at first
there was all the novelty, and social admiration at the friend--it is
truly not right to pluck all the rich soil from the roots and hold
them up clean and dry as if they came _so_ from all you now see, which
is nothing at all ... like the Chinese Air-plant! Do you understand
this? And surely 'Ion' is a _very_, very beautiful and noble
conception, and finely executed,--a beautiful work--what has come
after, has lowered it down by grade after grade ... it don't stand
apart on the hill, like a wonder, now it is _built up_ to by other
attempts; but the great difference is in myself. Another maker of
another 'Ion,' finding me out and behaving as Talfourd did, would not
find _that me_, so to be behaved to, so to be honoured--though he
should have all the good will! Ten years ago!

And ten years hence!

Always understand that you do _not_ take me as I was at the beginning
... with a crowd of loves to give to _something_ and so get rid of
their pain and burden. I have _known_ what that ends in--a handful of
anything may be as sufficient a sample, serve your purposes and teach
you its nature, as well as whole heaps--and I know what most of the
pleasures of this world are--so that I _can_ be surer of myself, and
make you surer, on calm demonstrated grounds, than if I had a host of
objects of admiration or ambition _yet_ to become acquainted with. You
say, 'I am a man and may change'--I answer, yes--but, while I hold my
senses, only change for the _presumable_ better ... not for the
_experienced worst_.

Here is my Uncle's foot on the stair ... his knock hurried the last
sentence--here he is by me!--Understand what this would have led to,
how you would have been _proved logically_ my own, best, extreme want,
my life's end--YES; dearest! Bless you ever--


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, December 8, 1845.]

Let me hear how you are, and that you are better instead of worse for
the exertions of last night. After you left me yesterday I considered
how we might have managed it more conveniently for you, and had the
lamp in, and arranged matters so as to interpose less time between the
going and the dining, even if you and George did not go together,
which might have been best, but which I did not like quite to propose.
Now, supposing that on Thursday you dine in town, remember not to be
unnecessarily 'perplext in the extreme' where to spend the time before
... _five_, ... shall I say, at any rate? We will have the lamp, and I
can easily explain if an observation should be made ... only it will
not be, because our goers-out here never come home until six, and the
head of the house, not until seven ... as I told you. George thought
it worth while going to Mr. Talfourd's yesterday, just to see the
author of 'Paracelsus' dance the Polka ... should I not tell you?

I am vexed by another thing which he tells _me_--vexed, if amused a
little by the absurdity of it. I mean that absurd affair of the
'Autography'--now _isn't_ it absurd? And for neither you nor George to
have the chivalry of tearing out that letter of mine, which was absurd
too in its way, and which, knowing less of the world than I know now,
I wrote as if writing for my private conscience, and privately
repented writing in a day, and have gone on repenting ever since when
I happened to think enough of it for repentance! Because if Mr.
Serjeant Talfourd sent then his 'Ion' to _me_, he did it in mere
good-nature, hearing by chance of me through the publisher of my
'Prometheus' at the moment, and of course caring no more for my
'opinion' than for the rest of me--and it was excessively bad taste in
me to say more than the briefest word of thanks in return, even if I
had been competent to say it. Ah well!--you see how it is, and that I
am vexed _you_ should have read it, ... as George says you did ... he
laughing to see me so vexed. So I turn round and avenge myself by
crying aloud against the editor of the 'Autography'! Surely such a
thing was never done before ... even by an author in the last stage of
a mortal disease of self-love. To edit the common parlance of
conventional flatteries, ... lettered in so many volumes, bound in
green morocco, and laid on the drawing-room table for one's own
particular private public,--is it not a miracle of vanity ... neither
more nor less?

I took the opportunity of the letter to Mr. Mathews (talking of vanity
... _mine_!) to send Landor's verses to America ... yours--so they
will be in the American papers.... I know Mr. Mathews. I was speaking
to him of your last number of 'Bells and Pomegranates,' and the verses
came in naturally; just as my speaking did, for it is not the first
time nor the second nor the third even that I have written to him of
you, though I admire how in all those previous times I did it in pure
disinterestedness, ... purely because your name belonged to my country
and to her literature, ... and how I have a sort of reward at this
present, in being able to write what I please without anyone's saying
'it is a new fancy.' As for the Americans, they have 'a zeal without
knowledge' for poetry. There is more love for _verse_ among them than
among the English. But they suffer themselves to be led in their
choice of poets by English critics of average discernment; this is
said of them by their own men of letters. Tennyson is idolized deep
down in the bush woods (to their honour be it said), but to
understand _you_ sufficiently, they wait for the explanations of the
critics. So I wanted them to see what Landor says of you. The comfort
in these questions is, that there can be _no_ question, except between
the sooner and the later--a little sooner, and a little later: but
when there is real love and zeal it becomes worth while to try to
ripen the knowledge. They love Tennyson so much that the colour of his
waistcoats is a sort of minor Oregon question ... and I like that--do
not _you_?

_Monday._--Now I have your letter: and you will observe, without a
finger post from me, how busily we have both been preoccupied in
disavowing our own letters of old on 'Ion'--Mr. Talfourd's collection
goes to prove too much, I think--and you, a little too much, when you
draw inferences of no-changes, from changes like these. Oh yes--I
perfectly understand that every sort of inconstancy of purpose regards
a 'presumably better' thing--but I do not so well understand how any
presumable doubt is to be set to rest by that fact, ... I do not
indeed. Have you seen all the birds and beasts in the world? have you
seen the 'unicorns'?--Which is only a pebble thrown down into your
smooth logic; and we need not stand by to watch the bubbles born of
it. And as to the 'Ion' letters, I am delighted that you have anything
to repent, as I have everything. Certainly it is a noble play--there
is the moral sublime in it: but it is not the work of a poet, ... and
if he had never written another to show what was _not_ in him, this
might have been 'predicated' of it as surely, I hold. Still, it is a
noble work--and even if you over-praised it, (I did not read your
letter, though you read mine, alas!) you, under the circumstances,
would have been less noble yourself not to have done so--only, how I
agree with you in what you say against the hanging up of these dry
roots, the soil shaken off! Such abominable taste--now isn't it? ...
though you do not use that word.

I thought Mr. Kenyon would have come yesterday and that I might have
something to tell you, of him at least.

And George never told me of the thing you found to say to him of me,
and which makes me smile, and would have made him wonder if he had not
been suffering probably from some legal distraction at the moment,
inasmuch as _he knew perfectly that you had just left me_. My sisters
told him down-stairs and he came into this room just before he set off
on Saturday, with a, ... '_So_ I am to meet Mr. Browning?' But he made
no observation afterwards--none: and if he heard what you said at all
(which I doubt), he referred it probably to some enforced civility on
'Yorick's' part when the 'last chapter' was too much with him.

I have written about 'Luria' in another place--you shall have the
papers when I have read through the play. How different this living
poetry is from the polished rhetoric of 'Ion.' The man and the statue
are not more different. After all poetry is a distinct thing--it is
here or it is not here ... it is not a matter of '_taste_,' but of
sight and feeling.

As to the 'Venice' it gives proof (does it not?) rather of poetical
sensibility than of poetical faculty? or did you expect me to say
more?--of the perception of the poet, rather than of his conception.
Do you think more than this? There are fine, eloquent expressions, and
the tone of sentiment is good and high everywhere.

Do not write 'Luria' if your head is uneasy--and you cannot say that
it is not ... can you? Or will you if you can? In any case you will do
what you can ... take care of yourself and not suffer yourself to be
tired either by writing or by too much going out, and take the
necessary exercise ... this, you will do--I entreat you to do it.

May God bless and make you happy, as ... you will lose nothing if I
say ... as I am yours--

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              Tuesday Morning.
                              [Post-mark, December 9, 1845.]

Well, then, I am no longer sorry that I did _not_ read _either_ of
your letters ... for there were two in the collection. I did not read
one word of them--and hear why. When your brother and I took the book
between us in wonderment at the notion--we turned to the index, in
large text-hand, and stopped at 'Miss B.'--and _he_ indeed read them,
or some of them, but holding the volume at a distance which defied my
short-sighted eye--all _I_ saw was the _faint_ small characters--and,
do you know ... I neither trusted myself to ask a nearer look ... nor
a second look ... as if I were studying unduly what I had just said
was most unfairly exposed to view!--so I was silent, and lost you (in
that)--then, and for ever, I promise you, now that you speak of
vexation it would give you. _All_ I know of the notes, that _one_ is
addressed to Talfourd in the third person--and when I had run through
my own ... not far off ... (BA-BR)--I was sick of the book altogether.
You are generous to me--but, to say the truth, I might have remembered
the most justifying circumstance in my case ... which was, that my own
'Paracelsus,' printed a few months before, had been as dead a failure
as 'Ion' a brilliant success--for, until just before.... Ah, really I
forget!--but I know that until Forster's notice in the _Examiner_
appeared, _every_ journal that thought worth while to allude to the
poem at all, treated it with entire contempt ... beginning, I think,
with the _Athenaeum_ which _then_ made haste to say, a few days after
its publication, 'that it was not without talent but spoiled by
obscurity and only an imitation of--Shelley'!--something to this
effect, in a criticism of about three lines among their 'Library
Table' notices. And that first taste was a most flattering sample of
what the 'craft' had in store for me--since my publisher and I had
fairly to laugh at _his_ 'Book'--(quite of another kind than the
Serjeant's)--in which he was used to paste extracts from newspapers
and the like--seeing that, out of a long string of notices, one vied
with its predecessor in disgust at my 'rubbish,' as their word went:
but Forster's notice altered a good deal--which I have to recollect
for his good. Still, the contrast between myself and Talfourd was so
_utter_--you remember the world's-wonder 'Ion' made,--that I was
determined not to pass for the curious piece of neglected merit I
really _was not_--and so!--

But, dearest, why should you leave your own especial sphere of doing
me good for another than yours?

Does the sun rake and hoe about the garden as well as thine steadily
over it? _Why_ must you, who give me heart and power, as nothing else
did or could, to do well--concern yourself with what might be done by
any good, kind ministrant _only_ fit for such offices? Not that I
_feel_, even, more bound to you for them--they have their weight, I
_know_ ... but _what_ weight beside the divine gift of yourself? Do
not, dear, dearest, care for making me known: _you_ know me!--and
_they_ know so little, after all your endeavour, who are ignorant of
what _you_ are to me--if you ... well, but that _will_ follow; if I do
greater things one day--what shall they serve for, what range
themselves under of right?--

Mr. Mathews sent me two copies of his poems--and, I believe, a
newspaper, 'when time was,' about the 'Blot in the Scutcheon'--and
also, through Moxon--(I _believe_ it was Mr. M.)--a proposition for
reprinting--to which I assented of course--and there was an end to the

And might I have stayed _till five_?--dearest, I will never ask for
more than you give--but I feel every single sand of the gold showers
... spite of what I say above! I _have_ an invitation for Thursday
which I had no intention of remembering (it admitted of such
liberty)--but _now_....

Something I will _say_! 'Polka,' forsooth!--one lady whose _head_
could not, and another whose feet could not, dance!--But I talked a
little to your brother whom I like more and more: it comforts me that
he is yours.

So, _Thursday_,--thank you from the heart! I am well, and about to go
out. This week I have done nothing to 'Luria'--is it that my _ring_ is
gone? There surely _is_ something to forgive in me--for that shameful
business--or I should not feel as I do in the matter: but you _did_
forgive me.

                         God bless my own, only love--ever--

                              Yours wholly


N.B. An antiquarian friend of mine in old days picked up a nondescript
wonder of a coin. I just remember he described it as Rhomboid in
shape--cut, I fancy, out of church-plate in troubled times. What did
my friend do but get ready a box, lined with velvet, and properly
_compartmented_, to have always about him, so that the _next such coin
he picked_ up, say in Cheapside, he might at once transfer to a place
of safety ... his waistcoat pocket being no happy receptacle for the
same. I saw the box--and encouraged the man to keep a vigilant eye.

_Parallel._ R.B. having found an unicorn....

Do you forgive these strips of paper? I could not wait to send for
more--having exhausted my stock.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Tuesday Evening
                             [Post-mark, December 10, 1845.]

It was right of you to write ... (now see what jangling comes of not
using the fit words.... I said 'right,' not to say 'kind') ... right
of you to write to me to-day--and I had begun to be disappointed
already because the post _seemed_ to be past, when suddenly the knock
brought the letter which deserves all this praising. If not 'kind' ...
then _kindest_ ... will that do better? Perhaps.

Mr. Kenyon was here to-day and asked when you were coming again--and
I, I answered at random ... 'at the end of the week--Thursday or
Friday'--which did not prevent another question about 'what we were
consulting about.' He said that he 'must have you,' and had written to
beg you to go to his door on days when you came here; only murmuring
something besides of neither Thursday nor Friday being disengaged days
with him. Oh, my disingenuousness!--Then he talked again of 'Saul.' A
true impression the poem has made on him! He reads it every night, he
says, when he comes home and just before he goes to sleep, to put his
dreams into order, and observed very aptly, I thought, that it
reminded him of Homer's shield of Achilles, thrown into lyrical whirl
and life. Quite ill he took it of me the 'not expecting him to like it
so much' and retorted on me with most undeserved severity (as I felt
it), that I 'never understood anybody to have any sensibility except
myself.' Wasn't it severe, to come from dear Mr. Kenyon? But he has
caught some sort of evil spirit from your 'Saul' perhaps; though
admiring the poem enough to have a good spirit instead. And do _you_
remember of the said poem, that it is there only as a first part, and
that the next parts must certainly follow and complete what will be a
great lyrical work--now remember. And forget 'Luria' ... if you are
better forgetting. And forget _me_ ... _when_ you are happier
forgetting. I say _that_ too.

So your idea of an unicorn is--one horn broken off. And you a
poet!--one horn broken off--or hid in the blackthorn hedge!--

Such a mistake, as our enlightened public, on their part, made, when
they magnified the divinity of the brazen chariot, just under the
thunder-cloud! I don't remember the _Athenaeum_, but can well believe
that it said what you say. The _Athenaeum_ admires only what gods, men
and columns reject. It applauds nothing but mediocrity--mark it, as a
general rule! The good, they see--the great escapes them. Dare to
breathe a breath above the close, flat conventions of literature, and
you are 'put down' and instructed how to be like other people. By the
way, see by the very last number, that you never think to write
'peoples,' on pain of writing what is obsolete--and these the teachers
of the public! If the public does not learn, where is the marvel of
it? An imitation of Shelley!--when if 'Paracelsus' was anything it was
the expression of a new mind, as all might see--as _I_ saw, let me be
proud to remember, and I was not overdazzled by 'Ion.'

Ah, indeed if I could 'rake and hoe' ... or even pick up weeds along
the walk, ... which is the work of the most helpless children, ... if
I could do any of this, there would be some good of me: but as for
'shining' ... shining ... when there is not so much light in me as to
do 'carpet work' by, why let anyone in the world, _except you_, tell
me to shine, and it will just be a mockery! But you have studied
astronomy with your favourite snails, who are apt to take a
dark-lanthorn for the sun, and so.--

And so, you come on Thursday, and I only hope that Mrs. Jameson will
not come too, (the carpet work makes me think of her; and, not having
come yet, she may come on Thursday by a fatal cross-stitch!) for I do
not hear from her, and my precautions are 'watched out,' May God bless
you always.

                                                  Your own--

But no--I did not forgive. Where was the fault to be forgiven, except
in _me_, for not being right in my meaning?

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             [Post-mark, December 12, 1845.]

And now, my heart's love, I am waiting to hear from you; my heart is
_full_ of you. When I try to remember what I said yesterday, _that_
thought, of what fills my heart--only _that_ makes me bear with the
memory.... I know that even such imperfect, poorest of words _must_
have come _from_ thence if not bearing up to you all that is
there--and I know you are ever above me to receive, and help, and
forgive, and _wait_ for the one day which I will never say to myself
cannot come, when I shall speak what I feel--more of it--or _some_ of
it--for now nothing is spoken.

My all-beloved--

Ah, you opposed very rightly, I dare say, the writing that paper I
spoke of! The process should be so much simpler! I most earnestly
_expect_ of you, my love, that in the event of any such necessity as
was then alluded to, you accept at once in my name _any_ conditions
possible for a human will to submit to--there is no imaginable
condition to which you allow me to accede that I will not joyfully
bend all my faculties to comply with. And you know this--but so, also
do you know _more_ ... and yet 'I may tire of you'--'may forget you'!

I will write again, having the long, long week to wait! And one of the
things I must say, will be, that with my love, I cannot lose my pride
in you--that nothing _but_ that love could balance that pride--and
that, blessing the love so divinely, you must minister to the pride as
well; yes, my own--I shall follow your fame,--and, better than fame,
the good you do--in the world--and, if you please, it shall all be
mine--as your hand, as your eyes--

I will write and pray it from you into a promise ... and your promises
I live upon.

May God bless you! your R.B.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, December 13, 1845.]

Do not blame me in your thoughts for what I said yesterday or wrote a
day before, or think perhaps on the dark side of some other days when
I cannot help it ... always when I cannot help it--you could not
blame me if you saw the full motives as I feel them. If it is
distrust, it is not of _you_, dearest of all!--but of myself
rather:--it is not doubt _of_ you, but _for_ you. From the beginning I
have been subject to the too reasonable fear which rises as my spirits
fall, that your happiness might suffer in the end through your having
known me:--it is for _you_ I fear, whenever I fear:--and if you were
less to me, ... _should_ I fear do you think?--if you were to me only
what I am to myself for instance, ... if your happiness were only as
precious as my own in my own eyes, ... should I fear, do you think,
_then_? Think, and do not blame me.

To tell you to 'forget me when forgetting seemed happiest for you,'
... (was it not _that_, I said?) proved more affection than might go
in smoother words.... I could prove the truth of _that_ out of my

And for the rest, you need not fear any fear of mine--my fear will not
cross a wish of yours, be sure! Neither does it prevent your being all
to me ... all: more than I used to take for all when I looked round
the world, ... almost more than I took for all in my earliest dreams.
You stand in between me and not merely the living who stood closest,
but between me and the closer graves, ... and I reproach myself for
this sometimes, and, so, ask you not to blame me for a different

As to unfavourable influences, ... I can speak of them quietly, having
foreseen them from the first, ... and it is true, I have been thinking
since yesterday, that I might be prevented from receiving you here,
and _should_, if all were known: but with that act, the adverse power
would end. It is not my fault if I have to choose between two
affections; only my pain; and I have not to choose between two duties,
I feel, ... since I am yours, while I am of any worth to you at all.
For the plan of the sealed letter, it would correct no evil,--ah, you
do not see, you do not understand. The danger does not come from the
side to which a reason may go. Only one person holds the thunder--and
I shall be thundered at; I shall not be reasoned with--it is
impossible. I could tell you some dreary chronicles made for laughing
and crying over; and you know that if I once thought I might be loved
enough to be spared above others, I cannot think so now. In the
meanwhile we need not for the present be afraid. Let there be ever so
many suspectors, there will be no informers. I suspect the suspectors,
but the informers are out of the world, I am very sure:--and then, the
one person, by a curious anomaly, _never_ draws an inference of this
order, until the bare blade of it is thrust palpably into his hand,
point outwards. So it has been in other cases than ours--and so it is,
at this moment in the house, with others than ourselves.

I have your letter to stop me. If I had my whole life in my hands with
your letter, could I thank you for it, I wonder, at all worthily? I
cannot believe that I could. Yet in life and in death I shall be
grateful to you.--

But for the paper--no. Now, observe, that it would seem like a
prepared apology for something wrong. And besides--the apology would
be nothing but the offence in another form--unless you said it was all
a mistake--(_will_ you, again?)--that it was all a mistake and you
were only calling for your boots! Well, if you said _that_, it would
be worth writing, but anything less would be something worse than
nothing: and would not save me--which you were thinking of, I
know--would not save me the least of the stripes. For
'conditions'--now I will tell you what I said once in a jest....

'If a prince of Eldorado should come, with a pedigree of lineal
descent from some signory in the moon in one hand, and a ticket of
good-behaviour from the nearest Independent chapel, in the other'--?

'Why even _then_,' said my sister Arabel, 'it would not _do_.' And she
was right, and we all agreed that she was right. It is an obliquity of
the will--and one laughs at it till the turn comes for crying. Poor
Henrietta has suffered silently, with that softest of possible
natures, which hers is indeed; beginning with implicit obedience, and
ending with something as unlike it as possible: but, you see, where
money is wanted, and where the dependence is total--see! And when
once, in the case of the one dearest to me; when just at the last he
was involved in the same grief, and I attempted to make over my
advantages to him; (it could be no sacrifice, you know--_I_ did not
want the money, and could buy nothing with it so good as his
happiness,--) why then, my hands were seized and tied--and then and
there, in the midst of the trouble, came the end of all! I tell you
all this, just to make you understand a little. Did I not tell you
before? But there is no danger at present--and why ruffle this present
with disquieting thoughts? Why not leave that future to itself? For
me, I sit in the track of the avalanche quite calmly ... so calmly as
to surprise myself at intervals--and yet I know the reason of the
calmness well.

For Mr. Kenyon--dear Mr. Kenyon--he will speak the softest of words,
if any--only he will think privately that you are foolish and that I
am ungenerous, but I will not say so any more now, so as to teaze you.

There is another thing, of more consequence than _his_ thoughts, which
is often in my mind to ask you of--but there will be time for such
questions--let us leave the winter to its own peace. If I should be
ill again you will be reasonable and we both must submit to God's
necessity. Not, you know, that I have the least intention of being
ill, if I can help it--and in the case of a tolerably mild winter, and
with all this strength to use, there are probabilities for me--and
then I have sunshine from _you_, which is better than Pisa's.

And what more would you say? Do I not hear and understand! It seems to
me that I do both, or why all this wonder and gratitude? If the
devotion of the remainder of my life could prove that I hear, ...
would it be proof enough? Proof enough perhaps--but not gift enough.

May God bless you always.

I have put _some_ of the hair into a little locket which was given to
me when I was a child by my favourite uncle, Papa's only brother, who
used to tell me that he loved me better than my own father did, and
was jealous when I was not glad. It is through him in part, that I am
richer than my sisters--through him and his mother--and a great grief
it was and trial, when he died a few years ago in Jamaica, proving by
his last act that I was unforgotten. And now I remember how he once
said to me: 'Do you beware of ever loving!--If you do, you will not do
it half: it will be for life and death.'

So I put the hair into his locket, which I wear habitually, and which
never had hair before--the natural use of it being for perfume:--and
this is the best perfume for all hours, besides the completing of a



_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Monday Morning.
                             [Post-mark, December 15, 1845.]

Every word you write goes to my heart and lives there: let us live so,
and die so, if God will. I trust many years hence to begin telling you
what I feel now;--that the beam of the light will have _reached_
you!--meantime it _is_ here. Let me kiss your forehead, my sweetest,

Wednesday I am waiting for--how waiting for!

After all, it seems probable that there was no intentional mischief in
that jeweller's management of the ring. The divided gold must have
been exposed to fire--heated thoroughly, perhaps,--and what became of
the contents then! Well, all is safe now, and I go to work again of
course. My next act is just done--that is, _being_ done--but, what I
did not foresee, I cannot bring it, copied, by Wednesday, as my sister
went this morning on a visit for the week.

On the matters, the others, I will not think, as you bid me,--if I can
help, at least. But your kind, gentle, good sisters! and the provoking
sorrow of the _right_ meaning at bottom of the wrong doing--wrong to
itself and its plain purpose--and meanwhile, the real tragedy and
sacrifice of a life!

If you should see Mr. Kenyon, and can find if he will be disengaged on
Wednesday evening, I shall be glad to go in that case.

But I have been writing, as I say, and will leave off this, for the
better communing with you. Don't imagine I am unwell; I feel quite
well, but a little tired, and the thought of you waits in such
readiness! So, may God bless you, beloved!

                                           I am all your own


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, December 16, 1845.]

Mr. Kenyon has not come--he does not come so often, I think. Did he
_know_ from _you_ that you were to see me last Thursday? If he did it
might be as well, do you not think? to go to him next week. Will it
not seem frequent, otherwise? But if you did _not_ tell him of
Thursday distinctly (_I_ did not--remember!), he might take the
Wednesday's visit to be the substitute for rather than the successor
of Thursday's: and in that case, why not write a word to him yourself
to propose dining with him as he suggested? He really wishes to see
you--of that, I am sure. But you will know what is best to do, and he
may come here to-morrow perhaps, and ask a whole set of questions
about you; so my right hand may forget its cunning for any good it
does. Only don't send messages by _me_, please!

How happy I am with your letter to-night.

When I had sent away my last letter I began to remember, and could not
help smiling to do so, that I had totally forgotten the great subject
of my 'fame,' and the oath you administered about it--totally! Now how
do you read that omen? If I forget myself, who is to remember me, do
you think?--except _you_?--which brings me where I would stay.
Yes--'yours' it must be, but _you_, it had better be! But, to leave
the vain superstitions, let me go on to assure you that I did mean to
answer that part of your former letter, and do mean to behave well and
be obedient. Your wish would be enough, even if there could be
likelihood without it of my doing nothing ever again. Oh, certainly I
have been idle--it comes of lotus-eating--and, besides, of sitting too
long in the sun. Yet 'idle' may not be the word! silent I have been,
through too many thoughts to speak just _that_!--As to writing letters
and reading manuscripts' filling all my time, why I must lack 'vital
energy' indeed--you do not mean seriously to fancy such a thing of me!
For the rest.... Tell me--Is it your opinion that when the apostle
Paul saw the unspeakable things, being snatched up into the third
Heavens 'whether in the body or out of the body he could not
tell,'--is it your opinion that, all the week after, he worked
particularly hard at the tent-making? For my part, I doubt it.

I would not speak profanely or extravagantly--it is not the best way
to thank God. But to say only that I was in the desert and that I am
among the palm-trees, is to say nothing ... because it is easy to
_understand how_, after walking straight on ... on ... furlong after
furlong ... dreary day after dreary day, ... one may come to the end
of the sand and within sight of the fountain:--there is nothing
miraculous in _that_, you know!

Yet even in that case, to doubt whether it may not all be _mirage_,
would be the natural first thought, the recurring dream-fear! now
would it not? And you can reproach me for _my_ thoughts, as if _they_
were unnatural!

Never mind about the third act--the advantage is that you will not
tire yourself perhaps the next week. What gladness it is that you
should really seem better, and how much better _that_ is than even

Mrs. Jameson came to-day--but I will tell you.

May God bless you now and always.



_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Tuesday Evening.
                             [Post-mark, December 17, 1845.]

Henrietta had a note from Mr. Kenyon to the effect that he was 'coming
to see _Ba_' to-day if in any way he found it possible. Now he has not
come--and the inference is that he will come to-morrow--in which case
you will be convicted of not wishing to be with him perhaps. So ...
would it not be advisable for you to call at his door for a
moment--and _before_ you come here? Think of it. You know it would not
do to vex him--would it?



_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Friday Morning.
                             [Post-mark, December 19, 1845.]

I ought to have written yesterday: so to-day when I need a letter and
get none, there is my own fault besides, and the less consolation. A
letter from you would light up this sad day. Shall I fancy how, if a
letter lay _there_ where I look, rain might fall and winds blow while
I listened to you, long after the _words_ had been laid to heart? But
here you are in your place--with me who am your own--your own--and so
the rhyme joins on,

    She shall speak to me in places lone
    With a low and holy tone--
    Ay: when I have lit my lamp at night
    She shall be present with my sprite:
    And I will say, whate'er it be,
    Every word she telleth me!

Now, is that taken from your book? No--but from _my_ book, which holds
my verses as I write them; and as I open it, I read that.

And speaking of verse--somebody gave me a few days ago that Mr.
Lowell's book you once mentioned to me. Anyone who 'admires' _you_
shall have my sympathy at once--even though he _do_ change the
laughing wine-_mark_ into a 'stain' in that perfectly beautiful
triplet--nor am I to be indifferent to his good word for myself
(though not very happily connected with the criticism on the epithet
in that 'Yorkshire Tragedy'--which has better things, by the
way--seeing that 'white boy,' in old language, meant just 'good boy,'
a general epithet, as Johnson notices in the life of Dryden, whom the
schoolmaster Busby was used to class with his 'white boys'--this is
hypercriticism, however). But these American books should not be
reprinted here--one asks, what and where is the class to which they
address themselves? for, no doubt, we have our congregations of
ignoramuses that enjoy the profoundest ignorance imaginable on the
subjects treated of; but _these_ are evidently not the audience Mr.
Lowell reckons on; rather, if one may trust the manner of his setting
to work, he would propound his doctrine to the class. Always to be
found, of spirits instructed up to a certain height and there
resting--vines that run up a prop and there tangle and grow to a
knot--which want supplying with fresh poles; so the provident man
brings his bundle into the grounds, and sticks them in laterally or
a-top of the others, as the case requires, and all the old stocks go
on growing again--but here, with us, whoever _wanted_ Chaucer, or
Chapman, or Ford, got him long ago--what else have Lamb, and
Coleridge, and Hazlitt and Hunt and so on to the end of their
generations ... what else been doing this many a year? What one
passage of all these, cited with the very air of a Columbus, but has
been known to all who know anything of poetry this many, many a year?
The others, who don't know anything, are the stocks that have got to
_shoot_, not climb higher--_compost_, they want in the first place!
Ford's and Crashaw's rival Nightingales--why they have been
dissertated on by Wordsworth and Coleridge, then by Lamb and Hazlitt,
then worked to death by Hunt, who printed them entire and quoted them
to pieces again, in every periodical he was ever engaged upon; and yet
after all, here 'Philip'--'must read' (out of a roll of dropping
papers with yellow ink tracings, so old!) something at which 'John'
claps his hands and says 'Really--that these ancients should own so
much wit &c.'! The _passage_ no longer looks its fresh self after this
veritable passage from hand to hand: as when, in old dances, the belle
began the figure with her own partner, and by him was transferred to
the next, and so to the next--_they_ ever _beginning_ with all the old
alacrity and spirit; but she bearing a still-accumulating weight of
tokens of gallantry, and none the better for every fresh pushing and
shoving and pulling and hauling--till, at the bottom of the room--

To which Mr. Lowell might say, that--No, I will say the true thing
against myself--and it is, that when I turn from what is in my mind,
and determine to write about anybody's book to avoid writing that I
love and love and love again my own, dearest love--because of the
cuckoo-song of it,--_then_, I shall be in no better humour with that
book than with Mr. Lowell's!

But I _have_ a new thing to say or sing--you never before heard me
love and bless and send my heart after--'Ba'--did you? Ba ... and
that is you! I TRIED ... (more than _wanted_) to call you _that_, on
Wednesday! I have a flower here--rather, a tree, a mimosa, which must
be turned and turned, the side to the light changing in a little time
to the _leafy_ side, where all the fans lean and spread ... so I turn
your name to me, that side I have not last seen: you cannot tell how I
feel glad that you will not part with the name--Barrett--seeing you
have two of the same--and must always, moreover, remain my EBB!

Dearest 'E.B.C.'--no, no! and so it will never be!

Have you seen Mr. Kenyon? I did not write ... knowing that such a
procedure would draw the kind sure letter in return, with the
invitation &c., as if I had asked for it! I had perhaps better call on
him some morning very early.

Bless you, my own sweetest. You will write to me, I know in my heart!

                                     Ever may God bless you!


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Thursday Evening.
                             [Post-mark, December 20, 1845.]

Dearest, you know how to say what makes me happiest, you who never
think, you say, of making me happy! For my part I do not think of it
either; I simply understand that you _are_ my happiness, and that
therefore you could not make another happiness for me, such as would
be worth having--not even _you_! Why, how could you? _That_ was in my
mind to speak yesterday, but I could not speak it--to write it, is

Talking of happiness--shall I tell you? Promise not to be angry and I
will tell you. I have thought sometimes that, if I considered myself
wholly, I should choose to die this winter--now--before I had
disappointed you in anything. But because you are better and dearer
and more to be considered than I, I do _not_ choose it. I _cannot_
choose to give you any pain, even on the chance of its being a less
pain, a less evil, than what may follow perhaps (who can say?), if I
should prove the burden of your life.

For if you make me happy with some words, you frighten me with
others--as with the extravagance yesterday--and seriously--_too_
seriously, when the moment for smiling at them is past--I am
frightened, I tremble! When you come to know me as well as I know
myself, what can save me, do you think, from disappointing and
displeasing you? I ask the question, and find no answer.

It is a poor answer, to say that I can do one thing well ... that I
have one capacity largely. On points of the general affections, I have
in thought applied to myself the words of Mme. de Stael, not
fretfully, I hope, not complainingly, I am sure (I can thank God for
most affectionate friends!) not complainingly, yet mournfully and in
profound conviction--those words--'_jamais je n'ai pas ete aimee comme
j'aime_.' The capacity of loving is the largest of my powers I
think--I thought so before knowing you--and one form of feeling. And
although any woman might love you--_every_ woman,--with understanding
enough to discern you by--(oh, do not fancy that I am unduly
magnifying mine office) yet I persist in persuading myself that!
Because I have the capacity, as I said--and besides I owe more to you
than others could, it seems to me: let me boast of it. To many, you
might be better than all things while one of all things: to me you are
instead of all--to many, a crowning happiness--to me, the happiness
itself. From out of the deep dark pits men see the stars more
gloriously--and _de profundis amavi_--

It is a very poor answer! Almost as poor an answer as yours could be
if I were to ask you to teach me to please you always; or rather, how
not to displease you, disappoint you, vex you--what if all those
things were in my fate?

And--(to begin!)--_I_ am disappointed to-night. I expected a letter
which does not come--and I had felt so sure of having a letter
to-night ... unreasonably sure perhaps, which means doubly sure.

_Friday._--Remember you have had two notes of mine, and that it is
certainly not my turn to write, though I am writing.

Scarcely you had gone on Wednesday when Mr. Kenyon came. It seemed
best to me, you know, that you should go--I had the presentiment of
his footsteps--and so near they were, that if you had looked up the
street in leaving the door, you must have seen him! Of course I told
him of your having been here and also at his house; whereupon he
enquired eagerly if you meant to dine with him, seeming disappointed
by my negative. 'Now I had told him,' he said ... and murmured on to
himself loud enough for me to hear, that 'it would have been a
peculiar pleasure &c.' The reason I have not seen him lately is the
eternal 'business,' just as you thought, and he means to come 'oftener
now,' so nothing is wrong as I half thought.

As your letter does not come it is a good opportunity for asking what
sort of ill humour, or (to be more correct) bad temper, you most
particularly admire--sulkiness?--the divine gift of sitting aloof in a
cloud like any god for three weeks together perhaps--pettishness? ...
which will get you up a storm about a crooked pin or a straight one
either? obstinacy?--which is an agreeable form of temper I can assure
you, and describes itself--or the good open passion which lies on the
floor and kicks, like one of my cousins?--Certainly I prefer the last,
and should, I think, prefer it (as an evil), even if it were not the
born weakness of my own nature--though I humbly confess (to _you_, who
seem to think differently of these things) that never since I was a
child have I upset all the chairs and tables and thrown the books
about the room in a fury--I am afraid I do not even 'kick,' like my
cousin, now. Those demonstrations were all done by the 'light of other
days'--not a very full light, I used to be accustomed to think:--but
_you_,--_you_ think otherwise, _you_ take a fury to be the opposite of
'indifference,' as if there could be no such thing as self-control!
Now for my part, I do believe that the worst-tempered persons in the
world are less so through sensibility than selfishness--they spare
nobody's heart, on the ground of being themselves pricked by a straw.
Now see if it isn't so. What, after all, is a good temper but
generosity in trifles--and what, without it, is the happiness of life?
We have only to look round us. I _saw_ a woman, once, burst into
tears, because her husband cut the bread and butter too thick. I saw
_that_ with my own eyes. Was it _sensibility_, I wonder! They were at
least real tears and ran down her cheeks. 'You _always_ do it'! she

Why how you must sympathize with the heroes and heroines of the French
romances (_do_ you sympathize with them very much?) when at the
slightest provocation they break up the tables and chairs, (a degree
beyond the deeds of my childhood!--_I_ only used to upset them) break
up the tables and chairs and chiffoniers, and dash the china to atoms.
The men _do_ the furniture, and the women the porcelain: and pray
observe that they always set about this as a matter of course! When
they have broken everything in the room, they sink down quite (and
very naturally) _abattus_. I remember a particular case of a hero of
Frederic Soulie's, who, in the course of an 'emotion,' takes up a
chair _unconsciously_, and breaks it into very small pieces, and then
proceeds with his soliloquy. Well!--the clearest idea this excites in
_me_, is of the low condition in Paris, of moral government and of
upholstery. Because--just consider for yourself--how _you_ would
succeed in breaking to pieces even a three-legged stool if it were
properly put together--as stools are in England--just yourself,
without a hammer and a screw! You might work at it _comme quatre_, and
find it hard to finish, I imagine. And then as a demonstration, a
child of six years old might demonstrate just so (in his sphere) and
be whipped accordingly.

How I go on writing!--and you, who do not write at all!--two extremes,
one set against the other.

But I must say, though in ever such an ill temper (which you know is
just the time to select for writing a panegyric upon good temper) that
I am glad you do not despise my own right name too much, because I
never was called Elizabeth by any one who loved me at all, and I
accept the omen. So little it seems my name that if a voice said
suddenly 'Elizabeth,' I should as soon turn round as my sisters would
... no sooner. Only, my own right name has been complained of for want
of euphony ... _Ba_ ... now and then it has--and Mr. Boyd makes a
compromise and calls me _Elibet_, because nothing could induce him to
desecrate his organs accustomed to Attic harmonies, with a _Ba_. So I
am glad, and accept the omen.

But I give you no credit for not thinking that I may forget you ... I!
As if you did not see the difference! Why, _I_ could not even forget
to _write_ to _you_, observe!--

Whenever you write, say how you are. Were you wet on Wednesday?

                                                  Your own--

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             [Post-mark, December 20, 1845.]

I do not, nor will not think, dearest, of ever 'making you happy'--I
can imagine no way of working that end, which does not go straight to
my own truest, only true happiness--yet in every such effort there is
implied some distinction, some supererogatory grace, or why speak of
it at all? _You_ it is, are my happiness, and all that ever can be:

But never, if you would not, what you will not do I know, never revert
to _that_ frightful wish. 'Disappoint me?' 'I speak what I know and
testify what I have seen'--you shall 'mystery' again and again--I do
not dispute that, but do not _you_ dispute, neither, that mysteries
are. But it is simply because I do most justice to the mystical part
of what I feel for you, because I consent to lay most stress on that
fact of facts that I love you, beyond admiration, and respect, and
esteem and affection even, and do not adduce any reason which stops
short of accounting for _that_, whatever else it would account for,
because I do this, in pure logical justice--_you_ are able to turn and
wonder (if you _do ... now_) what causes it all! My love, only wait,
only believe in me, and it cannot be but I shall, little by little,
become known to you--after long years, perhaps, but still one day: I
_would_ say _this_ now--but I will write more to-morrow. God bless my
sweetest--ever, love, I am your


But my letter came last night, did it not?

Another thing--no, _to-morrow_--for time presses, and, in all cases,

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, December 20, 1845.]

I have your letter now, and now I am sorry I sent mine. If I wrote
that you had 'forgotten to write,' I did not mean it; not a word! If I
had meant it I should not have written it. But it would have been
better for every reason to have waited just a little longer before
writing at all. A besetting sin of mine is an impatience which makes
people laugh when it does not entangle their silks, pull their knots
tighter, and tear their books in cutting them open.

How right you are about Mr. Lowell! He has a refined fancy and is
graceful for an American critic, but the truth is, otherwise, that he
knows nothing of English poetry or the next thing to nothing, and has
merely had a dream of the early dramatists. The amount of his reading
in that direction is an article in the _Retrospective Review_ which
contains extracts; and he re-extracts the extracts, re-quotes the
quotations, and, 'a pede Herculem,' from the foot infers the man, or
rather from the sandal-string of the foot, infers and judges the soul
of the man--it is comparative anatomy under the most speculative
conditions. How a writer of his talents and pretensions could make up
his mind to make up a book on such slight substratum, is a curious
proof of the state of literature in America. Do you not think so? Why
a lecturer on the English Dramatists for a 'Young Ladies' academy'
here in England, might take it to be necessary to have better
information than he could gather from an odd volume of an old review!
And then, Mr. Lowell's naivete in showing his authority,--as if the
Elizabethan poets lay mouldering in inaccessible manuscript somewhere
below the lowest deep of Shakespeare's grave,--is curious beyond the
rest! Altogether, the fact is an epigram on the surface-literature of
America. As you say, their books do not suit us:--Mrs. Markham might
as well send her compendium of the History of France to M. Thiers. If
they _knew_ more they could not give parsley crowns to their own
native poets when there is greater merit among the rabbits. Mrs.
Sigourney has just sent me--just this morning--her 'Scenes in my
Native Land' and, peeping between the uncut leaves, I read of the poet
Hillhouse, of 'sublime spirit and Miltonic energy,' standing in 'the
temple of Fame' as if it were built on purpose for him. I suppose he
is like most of the American poets, who are shadows of the true, as
flat as a shadow, as colourless as a shadow, as lifeless and as
transitory. Mr. Lowell himself is, in his verse-books, poetical, if
not a poet--and certainly this little book we are talking of is
grateful enough in some ways--you would call it a _pretty book_--would
you not? Two or three letters I have had from him ... all very
kind!--and _that_ reminds me, alas! of some ineffable ingratitude on
my own part! When one's conscience grows too heavy, there is nothing
for it but to throw it away!--

Do you remember how I tried to tell you what he said of you, and how
you would not let me?

Mr. Mathews said of _him_, having met him once in society, that he was
the concentration of conceit in appearance and manner. But since then
they seem to be on better terms.

Where is the meaning, pray, of E.B._C._? _your_ meaning, I mean?

My true initials are E.B.M.B.--my long name, as opposed to my short
one, being Elizabeth Barrett Moulton Barrett!--there's a full length
to take away one's breath!--Christian name ... Elizabeth
Barrett:--surname, Moulton Barrett. So long it is, that to make it
portable, I fell into the habit of doubling it up and packing it
closely, ... and of forgetting that I was a _Moulton_, altogether. One
might as well write the alphabet as all four initials. Yet our
family-name is _Moulton Barrett_, and my brothers reproach me
sometimes for sacrificing the governorship of an old town in Norfolk
with a little honourable verdigris from the Heralds' Office. As if I
cared for the _Retrospective Review_! Nevertheless it is true that I
would give ten towns in Norfolk (if I had them) to own some purer
lineage than that of the blood of the slave! Cursed we are from
generation to generation!--I seem to hear the 'Commination Service.'

May God bless you always, always! beyond the always of this world!--



Mr. Dickens's 'Cricket' sings repetitions, and, with considerable
beauty, is extravagant. It does not appear to me by any means one of
his most successful productions, though quite free from what was
reproached as bitterness and one-sidedness, last year.

You do not say how you are--not a word! And you are wrong in saying
that you 'ought to have written'--as if 'ought' could be in place
_so_! You _never 'ought' to write to me you know_! or rather ... if
you ever think you ought, you ought not! Which is a speaking of
mysteries on my part!

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Sunday Night.
                             [Post-mark, December 22, 1845.]

Now, '_ought_' you to be 'sorry you sent that letter,' which made, and
makes me so happy--so happy--can you bring yourself to turn round and
tell one you have so blessed with your bounty that there was a
mistake, and you meant only half that largess? If you are not sensible
that you _do_ make me most happy by such letters, and do not warm in
the reflection of your own rays, then I _do_ give up indeed the last
chance of procuring _you_ happiness. My own 'ought,' which you object
to, shall be withdrawn--being only a pure bit of selfishness; I felt,
in missing the letter of yours, next day, that I _might_ have drawn it
down by one of mine,--if I had begged never so gently, the gold would
have fallen--_there_ was my omitted duty to myself which you properly
blame. I should stand silently and wait and be sure of the
ever-remembering goodness.

Let me count my gold now--and rub off any speck that stays the full
shining. First--_that thought_ ... I told you; I pray you, pray you,
sweet--never that again--or what leads never so remotely or indirectly
to it! On _your own fancied ground_, the fulfilment would be of
necessity fraught with every woe that can fall in this life. I am
yours for ever--if you are not _here_, with me--what then? Say, you
take all of yourself away but just enough to live on; then, _that_
defeats every kind purpose ... as if you cut away all the ground from
my feet but so much as serves for bare standing room ... why still, I
_stand_ there--and is it the better that I have no broader space,
when off _that_ you cannot force me? I have your memory, the knowledge
of you, the idea of you printed into my heart and brain,--on that, I
can live my life--but it is for you, the dear, utterly generous
creature I know you, to give me more and more beyond mere life--to
extend life and deepen it--as you do, and will do. Oh, _how_ I love
you when I think of the entire truthfulness of your generosity to
me--how, meaning and willing to _give_, you gave _nobly_! Do you think
I have not seen in this world how women who _do_ love will manage to
confer that gift on occasion? And shall I allow myself to fancy how
much alloy such pure gold as _your_ love would have rendered
endurable? Yet it came, virgin ore, to complete my fortune! And what
but this makes me confident and happy? _Can_ I take a lesson by your
fancies, and begin frightening myself with saying ... 'But if she saw
all the world--the worthier, better men there ... those who would' &c.
&c. No, I think of the great, dear _gift_ that it was; how I '_won_'
NOTHING (the hateful word, and _French_ thought)--did nothing by my
own arts or cleverness in the matter ... so what pretence have the
_more_ artful or more clever for:--but I cannot write out this
folly--I am yours for ever, with the utmost sense of gratitude--to say
I would give you my life joyfully is little.... I would, I hope, do
that for two or three other people--but I am not conscious of any
imaginable point in which I would not implicitly devote my whole self
to you--be disposed of by you as for the best. There! It is not to be
spoken of--let me _live_ it into proof, beloved!

And for 'disappointment and a burden' ... now--let us get quite away
from ourselves, and not see one of the filaments, but only the _cords_
of love with the world's horny eye. Have we such jarring tastes, then?
Does your inordinate attachment to gay life interfere with my deep
passion for society? 'Have they common sympathy in each other's
pursuits?'--always asks Mrs. Tomkins! Well, here was I when you knew
me, fixed in my way of life, meaning with God's help to write what
may be written and so die at peace with myself so far. Can you help me
or no? Do you _not_ help me so much that, if you saw the more likely
peril for poor human nature, you would say, 'He will be jealous of all
the help coming from me,--none from him to me!'--And _that would_ be a
consequence of the help, all-too-great for hope of return, with any
one less possessed than I with the exquisiteness of being
_transcended_ and the _blest_ one.

But--'here comes the Selah and the voice is hushed'--I will speak of
other things. When we are together one day--the days I believe in--I
mean to set about that reconsidering 'Sordello'--it has always been
rather on my mind--but yesterday I was reading the 'Purgatorio' and
the first speech of the group of which Sordello makes one struck me
with a new significance, as well describing the man and his purpose
and fate in my own poem--see; one of the burthened, contorted souls
tells Virgil and Dante--

    Noi fummo gia tutti per forza morti,
    E _peccatori infin' all' ultim' ora_:
    QUIVI--_lume del ciel ne fece accorti
    Si che, pentendo e perdonando, fora
    Di vita uscimmo a Dio pacificati
    Che del disio di se veder n'accora._[1]

Which is just my Sordello's story ... could I '_do_' it off hand, I

    And sinners were we to the extreme hour;
    _Then_, light from heaven fell, making us aware,
    So that, repenting us and pardoned, out
    Of life we passed to God, at peace with Him
    Who fills the heart with yearning Him to see.

There were many singular incidents attending my work on that
subject--thus, quite at the end, I found out there _was printed_ and
not published, a little historical tract by a Count V---- something,
called 'Sordello'--with the motto 'Post fata resurgam'! I hope he
prophesied. The main of this--biographical notices--is extracted by
Muratori, I think. Last year when I set foot in Naples I found after a
few minutes that at some theatre, that night, the opera was to be 'one
act of Sordello' and I never looked twice, nor expended a couple of
carlines on the _libretto_!

I wanted to tell you, in last letter, that when I spoke of people's
tempers _you_ have no concern with 'people'--I do not glance obliquely
at _your_ temper--either to discover it, or praise it, or adapt myself
to it. I speak of the relation one sees in other cases--how one
opposes passionate foolish people, but hates cold clever people who
take quite care enough of themselves. I myself am born supremely
passionate--so I was born with light yellow hair: all changes--that is
the passion changes its direction and, taking a channel large enough,
looks calmer, perhaps, than it should--and all my sympathies go with
quiet strength, of course--but I know what the other kind is. As for
the breakages of chairs, and the appreciation of Parisian _meubles_;
manibus, pedibusque descendo in tuam sententiam, Ba, mi ocelle! ('What
was E.B. C?' why, the first letter after, and _not_, E.B. _B_, my own
_B_! There was no latent meaning in the C--but I had no inclination to
go on to D, or E, for instance).

And so, love, Tuesday is to be our day--one day more--and then! And
meanwhile '_care_' for me! a good word for you--but _my_ care, what is
that! One day I aspire to _care_, though! I shall not go away at any
dear Mr. K.'s coming! They call me down-stairs to supper--and my fire
is out, and you keep me from feeling cold and yet ask if I am well?
Yes, well--yes, happy--and your own ever--I must bid God bless


[Footnote 1: 'Purg.' v. 52 7.]

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Sunday Night.
                             [Post-mark, December 24, 1845.]

But did I dispute? Surely not. Surely I believe in you and in
'mysteries.' Surely I prefer the no-reason to ever so much rationalism
... (rationalism and infidelity go together they say!). All which I
may do, and be afraid sometimes notwithstanding, and when you
overpraise me (_not_ over_love_) I must be frightened as I told you.

It is with me as with the theologians. I believe in you and can be
happy and safe _so_; but when my 'personal merits' come into question
in any way, even the least, ... why then the position grows untenable:
it is no more 'of grace.'

Do I tease you as I tease myself sometimes? But do not wrong me in
turn! Do not keep repeating that 'after long years' I shall know
you--know you!--as if I did not without the years. If you are forced
to refer me to those long ears, I must deserve the thistles besides.
The thistles are the corollary.

For it is obvious--manifest--that I cannot doubt of you, that I may
doubt of myself, of happiness, of the whole world,--but of
_you_--_not_: it is obvious that if I could doubt of you and _act so_
I should be a very idiot, or worse indeed. And _you_ ... you think I
doubt of you whenever I make an interjection!--now do you not? And is
it reasonable?--Of _you_, I mean?

_Monday._--For my part, you must admit it to be too possible that you
may be, as I say, 'disappointed' in me--it _is_ too possible. And if
it does me good to say so, even now perhaps ... if it is mere weakness
to say so and simply torments you, why do _you_ be magnanimous and
forgive _that_ ... let it pass as a weakness and forgive it _so_.
Often I think painful things which I do not tell you and....

While I write, your letter comes. Kindest of you it was, to write me
such a letter, when I expected scarcely the shadow of one!--this makes
up for the other letter which I expected unreasonably and which you
'_ought not_' to have written, as was proved afterwards. And now why
should I go on with that sentence? What had I to say of 'painful
things,' I wonder? all the painful things seem gone ... vanished. I
forget what I had to say. Only do you still think of this, dearest
beloved; that I sit here in the dark but for _you_, and that the light
you bring me (from _my_ fault!--from the nature of _my_ darkness!) is
not a settled light as when you open the shutters in the morning, but
a light made by candles which burn some of them longer and some
shorter, and some brighter and briefer, at once--being 'double-wicks,'
and that there is an intermission for a moment now and then between
the dropping of the old light into the socket and the lighting of the
new. Every letter of yours is a new light which burns so many hours
... and _then_!--I am morbid, you see--or call it by what name you
like ... too wise or too foolish. 'If the light of the body is
darkness, how great is that darkness.' Yet even when I grow too wise,
I admit always that while you love me it is an answer to all. And I am
never so much too foolish as to wish to be worthier for my own
sake--only for yours:--not for my own sake, since I am content to owe
all things to you.

And it could be so much to you to lose me!--and you say so,--and
_then_ think it needful to tell me not to think the other thought! As
if _that_ were possible! Do you remember what you said once of the
flowers?--that you 'felt a respect for them when they had passed out
of your hands.' And must it not be so with my life, which if you
choose to have it, must be respected too? Much more with my life!
Also, see that I, who had my warmest affections on the other side of
the grave, feel that it is otherwise with me now--quite otherwise. I
did not like it at first to be so much otherwise. And I could not have
had any such thought through a weariness of life or any of my old
motives, but simply to escape the 'risk' I told you of. Should I have
said to you instead of it ... '_Love me for ever_'? Well then, ... I

As to my 'helping' you, my help is in your fancy; and if you go on
with the fancy, I perfectly understand that it will be as good as
deeds. We _have_ sympathy too--we walk one way--oh, I do not forget
the advantages. Only Mrs. Tomkins's ideas of happiness are below my
ambition for you.

So often as I have said (it reminds me) that in this situation I
should be more exacting than any other woman--so often I have said it:
and so different everything is from what I thought it would be!
Because if I am exacting it is for _you_ and not for _me_--it is
altogether for _you_--you understand _that_, dearest of all ... it is
for _you wholly_. It never crosses my thought, in a lightning even,
the question whether I may be happy so and so--_I_. It is the other
question which comes always--too often for peace.

People used to say to me, 'You expect too much--you are too romantic.'
And my answer always was that 'I could not expect too much when I
expected nothing at all' ... which was the truth--for I never thought
(and how often I have _said that_!) I never thought that anyone whom
_I_ could love, would stoop to love _me_ ... the two things seemed
clearly incompatible to my understanding.

And now when it comes in a miracle, you wonder at me for looking
twice, thrice, four times, to see if it comes through ivory or _horn_.
You wonder that it should seem to me at first all illusion--illusion
for you,--illusion for me as a consequence. But how natural.

It is true of me--very true--that I have not a high appreciation of
what passes in the world (and not merely the Tomkins-world!) under the
name of love; and that a distrust of the thing had grown to be a habit
of mind with me when I knew you first. It has appeared to me, through
all the seclusion of my life and the narrow experience it admitted
of, that in nothing men--and women too--were so apt to mistake their
own feelings, as in this one thing. Putting _falseness_ quite on one
side, quite out of sight and consideration, an honest mistaking of
feeling appears wonderfully common, and no mistake has such frightful
results--none can. Self-love and generosity, a mistake may come from
either--from pity, from admiration, from any blind impulse--oh, when I
look at the histories of my own female friends--to go no step further!
And if it is true of the _women_, what must the other side be? To see
the marriages which are made every day! worse than solitudes and more
desolate! In the case of the two happiest I ever knew, one of the
husbands said in confidence to a brother of mine--not much in
confidence or I should not have heard it, but in a sort of smoking
frankness,--that he had 'ruined his prospects by marrying'; and the
other said to himself at the very moment of professing an
extraordinary happiness, ... 'But I should have done as well if I had
not married _her_.'

Then for the falseness--the first time I ever, in my own experience,
heard that word which rhymes to glove and comes as easily off and on
(on some hands!)--it was from a man of whose attentions to another
woman I was at that _time her confidante_. I was bound so to silence
for her sake, that I could not even speak the scorn that was in
me--and in fact my uppermost feeling was a sort of horror ... a
terror--for I was very young then, and the world did, at the moment,
look ghastly!

The falseness and the calculations!--why how can you, who are _just_,
_blame women_ ... when you must know what the 'system' of man is
towards them,--and of men not ungenerous otherwise? Why are women to
be blamed if they act as if they had to do with swindlers?--is it not
the mere instinct of preservation which makes them do it? These make
women what they are. And your 'honourable men,' the most loyal of
them, (for instance) is it not a rule with them (unless when taken
unaware through a want of self-government) to force a woman (trying
all means) to force a woman to stand committed in her affections ...
(they with their feet lifted all the time to trample on her for want
of delicacy) before _they_ risk the pin-prick to their own personal
pitiful vanities? Oh--to see how these things are set about by _men_!
to see how a man carefully holding up on each side the skirts of an
embroidered vanity to keep it quite safe from the wet, will contrive
to tell you in so many words that he ... might love you if the sun
shone! And women are to be blamed! Why there are, to be sure, cold and
heartless, light and changeable, ungenerous and calculating women in
the world!--that is sure. But for the most part, they are only what
they are made ... and far better than the nature of the making ... of
that I am confident. The loyal make the loyal, the disloyal the
disloyal. And I give no more discredit to those women you speak of,
than I myself can take any credit in this thing--I. Because who could
be disloyal with _you_ ... with whatever corrupt inclination? _you_,
who are the noblest of all? If you judge me so, ... it is my privilege
rather than my merit ... as I feel of myself.

_Wednesday._--All but the last few lines of all this was written
before I saw you yesterday, ever dearest--and since, I have been
reading your third act which is perfectly noble and worthy of you both
in the conception and expression, and carries the reader on
triumphantly ... to speak for one reader. It seems to me too that the
language is freer--there is less inversion and more breadth of rhythm.
It just strikes me so for the first impression. At any rate the
interest grows and grows. You have a secret about Domizia, I
guess--which will not be told till the last perhaps. And that poor,
noble Luria, who will be equal to the leap ... as it is easy to see.
It is full, altogether, of magnanimities;--noble, and nobly put. I
will go on with my notes, and those, you shall have at once ... I mean
together ... presently. And don't hurry and chafe yourself for the
fourth act--now that you are better! To be ill again--think what that
would be! Luria will be great now whatever you do--or whatever you do
_not_. Will he not?

And never, never for a moment (I quite forgot to tell you) did I fancy
that you were talking at _me_ in the temper-observations--never. It
was the most unprovoked egotism, all that I told you of my temper; for
certainly I never suspected you of asking questions so. I was simply
amused a little by what you said, and thought to myself (if you _will_
know my thoughts on that serious subject) that you had probably lived
among very good-tempered persons, to hold such an opinion about the
innocuousness of ill-temper. It was all I thought, indeed. Now to
fancy that I was capable of suspecting you of such a manoeuvre! Why
you would have _asked_ me directly;--if you had wished 'curiously to

An excellent solemn chiming, the passage from Dante makes with your
'Sordello,' and the 'Sordello' _deserves_ the labour which it needs,
to make it appear the great work it is. I think that the principle of
association is too subtly in movement throughout it--so that _while_
you are going straight forward you go at the same time round and
round, until the progress involved in the motion is lost sight of by
the lookers on. Or did I tell you that before?

You have heard, I suppose, how Dickens's 'Cricket' sells by nineteen
thousand copies at a time, though he takes Michael Angelo to be 'a
humbug'--or for 'though' read 'because.' Tell me of Mr. Kenyon's
dinner and Moxon?

Is not this an infinite letter? I shall hear from you, I hope.... I
_ask_ you to let me hear soon. I write all sorts of things to you,
rightly and wrongly perhaps; when wrongly forgive it. I think of you
always. May God bless you. 'Love me for ever,' as



_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                           25th Dec. [1845.]

My dear Christmas gift of a letter! I will write back a few lines,
(all I can, having to go out now)--just that I may forever,--certainly
during our mortal 'forever'--mix my love for you, and, as you suffer
me to say, your love for me ... dearest! ... these shall be mixed with
the other loves of the day and live therein--as I write, and trust,
and know--forever! While I live I will remember what was my feeling in
reading, and in writing, and in stopping from either ... as I have
just done ... to kiss you and bless you with my whole heart.--Yes,
yes, bless you, my own!

All is right, all of your letter ... admirably right and just in the
defence of the women I _seemed_ to speak against; and only
seemed--because that is a way of mine which you must have observed;
that foolish concentrating of thought and feeling, for a moment, on
some one little spot of a character or anything else indeed, and in
the attempt to do justice and develop whatever may seem ordinarily to
be overlooked in it,--that over vehement _insisting_ on, and giving an
undue prominence to, the same--which has the effect of taking away
from the importance of the rest of the related objects which, in
truth, are not considered at all ... or they would also rise
proportionally when subjected to the same (that is, correspondingly
magnified and dilated) light and concentrated feeling. So, you
remember, the old divine, preaching on 'small sins,' in his zeal to
expose the tendencies and consequences usually made little account of,
was led to maintain the said small sins to be 'greater than great
ones.' _But then_ ... if you look on the world _altogether_, and
accept the small natures, in their usual proportion with the greater
... things do not look _quite_ so bad; because the conduct which _is_
atrocious in those higher cases, of proposal and acceptance, _may_ be
no more than the claims of the occasion justify (wait and hear) in
certain other cases where the thing sought for and granted is avowedly
less by a million degrees. It shall all be traffic, exchange (counting
spiritual gifts as only coin, for our purpose), but surely the
formalities and policies and decencies all vary with the nature of the
thing trafficked for. If a man makes up his mind during half his life
to acquire a Pitt-diamond or a Pilgrim-pearl--[he] gets witnesses and
testimony and so forth--but, surely, when I pass a shop where oranges
are ticketed up seven for sixpence I offend no law by sparing all
words and putting down the piece with a certain authoritative ring on
the counter. If instead of diamonds you want--(being a king or
queen)--provinces with live men on them ... there is so much more
diplomacy required; new interests are appealed to--high motives
_supposed_, at all events--whereas, when, in Naples, a man asks leave
to black your shoe in the dusty street 'purely for the honour of
serving your Excellency' you laugh and would be sorry to find yourself
without a 'grano' or two--(six of which, about, make a farthing)--Now
do you not see! Where so little is to be got, why offer much more? If
a man knows that ... but I am teaching you! All I mean is, that, in
Benedick's phrase, 'the world must go on.' He who honestly wants his
wife to sit at the head of his table and carve ... that is be his
_help-meat_ (not 'help mete for him')--he shall assuredly find a girl
of his degree who wants the table to sit at; and some dear friend to
mortify, who _would_ be glad of such a piece of fortune; and if that
man offers that woman a bunch of orange-flowers and a sonnet, instead
of a buck-horn-handled sabre-shaped knife, sheathed in a 'Every Lady
Her Own _Market-Woman_, Being a Table of' &c. &c.--_then_, I say he

Bless you, dearest--the clock strikes--and time is none--but--bless

                                               Your own R.B.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Saturday 4. p.m.
                             [Post-mark, December 27, 1845.]

I was forced to leave off abruptly on Christmas Morning--and now I
have but a few minutes before our inexorable post leaves. I hoped to
return from Town earlier. But I can say something--and Monday will
make amends.

'For ever' and for ever I _do_ love you, dearest--love you with my
whole heart--in life, in death--

Yes; I did go to Mr. Kenyon's--who had a little to forgive in my slack
justice to his good dinner, but was for the rest his own kind
self--and I went, also, to Moxon's--who said something about my
number's going off 'rather heavily'--so let it!

Too good, too, too indulgent you are, my own Ba, to 'acts' first or
last; but all the same, I am glad and encouraged. _Let_ me get done
with these, and better things will follow.

Now, bless you, ever, my sweetest--I have you ever in my thoughts--And
on Monday, remember, I am to see you.

                                               Your own R.B.

See what I cut out of a _Cambridge Advertiser_[1] of the 24th--to make
you laugh!

[Footnote 1: The cutting enclosed is:--'A Few Rhymes for the Present
Christmas' by J. Purchas, Esq., B.A. It is headed by several
quotations, the first of which is signed 'Elizabeth B. Barrett:'

    'This age shows to my thinking, still more infidels to Adam,
    Than directly, by profession, simple infidels to God.'

This is followed by extracts from Pindar, 'Lear,' and the Hon. Mrs.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, December 27, 1845.]

Yes, indeed, I have 'observed that way' in you, and not once, and not
twice, and not twenty times, but oftener than any,--and almost every
time ... do you know, ... with an uncomfortable feeling from the
reflection that _that_ is the way for making all sorts of mistakes
dependent on and issuing in exaggeration. It is the very way!--the

For what you say in the letter here otherwise, I do not deny the
truth--as partial truth:--I was speaking generally quite. Admit that I
am not apt to be extravagant in my _esprit de sexe_: the Martineau
doctrines of intellectual equality &c., I gave them up, you remember,
like a woman--most disgracefully, as Mrs. Jameson would tell me. But
we are not on that ground now--we are on ground worth holding a brief
for!--and when women fail _here_ ... it is not so much our fault.
Which was all I meant to say from the beginning.

It reminds me of the exquisite analysis in your 'Luria,' this third
act, of the worth of a woman's sympathy,--indeed of the exquisite
double-analysis of unlearned and learned sympathies. Nothing could be
better, I think, than this:--

    To the motive, the endeavour,--the heart's self--
    Your quick sense looks; you crown and call aright
    The soul of the purpose ere 'tis shaped as act,
    Takes flesh i' the world, and clothes itself a king;

except the characterizing of the 'learned praise,' which comes
afterwards in its fine subtle truth. What would these critics do to
you, to what degree undo you, who would deprive you of the exercise of
the discriminative faculty of the metaphysicians? As if a poet could
be great without it! They might as well recommend a watchmaker to deal
only in faces, in dials, and not to meddle with the wheels inside!
You shall tell Mr. Forster so.

And speaking of 'Luria,' which grows on me the more I read, ... how
fine he is when the doubt breaks on him--I mean, when he begins ...
'Why then, all is very well.' It is most affecting, I think, all that
process of doubt ... and that reference to the friends at home (which
at once proves him a stranger, and intimates, by just a stroke, that
he will not look home for comfort out of the new foreign treason) is
managed by you with singular dramatic dexterity....

               ... 'so slight, so slight,
    And yet it tells you they are dead and gone'--

And then, the direct approach....

    You now, so kind here, all you Florentines,
    What is it in your eyes?--

Do you not feel it to be success, ... '_you_ now?' _I_ do, from my low
ground as reader. The whole breaking round him of the cloud, and the
manner in which he _stands_, facing it, ... I admire it all
thoroughly. Braccio's vindication of Florence strikes me as almost too
_poetically_ subtle for the man--but nobody could have the heart to
wish a line of it away--_that_ would be too much for critical virtue!

I had your letter yesterday morning early. The post-office people were
so resolved on keeping their Christmas, that they would not let me
keep mine. No post all day, after that general post before noon, which
never brings me anything worth the breaking of a seal!

Am I to see you on Monday? If there should be the least, least
crossing of that day, ... anything to do, anything to see, anything to
listen to,--remember how Tuesday stands close by, and that another
Monday comes on the following week. Now I need not say _that_ every
time, and you will please to remember it--Eccellenza!--

                                         May God bless you--



From the _New Monthly Magazine_. 'The admirers of Robert Browning's
poetry, and they are now very numerous, will be glad to hear of the
issue by Mr. Moxon of a seventh series of the renowned "Bells" and
delicious "Pomegranates," under the title of "Dramatic Romances and

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, December 30, 1845.]

When you are gone I find your flowers; and you never spoke of nor
showed them to me--so instead of yesterday I thank you to-day--thank
you. Count among the miracles that your flowers live with me--I accept
_that_ for an omen, dear--dearest! Flowers in general, all other
flowers, die of despair when they come into the same atmosphere ...
used to do it so constantly and observably that it made me melancholy
and I left off for the most part having them here. Now you see how
they put up with the close room, and condescend to me and the dust--it
is true and no fancy! To be sure they know that I care for them and
that I stand up by the table myself to change their water and cut
their stalk freshly at intervals--_that_ may make a difference
perhaps. Only the great reason must be that they are yours, and that
you teach them to bear with me patiently.

Do not pretend even to misunderstand what I meant to say yesterday of
dear Mr. Kenyon. His blame would fall as my blame of myself has
fallen: he would say--will say--'it is ungenerous of her to let such a
risk be run! I thought she would have been more generous.' There, is
Mr. Kenyon's opinion as I foresee it! Not that it would be spoken, you
know! he is too kind. And then, he said to me last summer, somewhere
_a propos_ to the flies or butterflies, that he had 'long ceased to
wonder at any extreme of foolishness produced by--_love_.' He will of
course think you very very foolish, but not ungenerously foolish like
other people.

Never mind. I do not mind indeed. I mean, that, having said to myself
worse than the worst perhaps of what can be said against me by any who
regard me at all, and feeling it put to silence by the fact that you
_do_ feel so and so for me; feeling that fact to be an answer to
all,--I cannot mind much, in comparison, the railing at second remove.
There will be a nine days' railing of it and no more: and if on the
ninth day you should not exactly wish never to have known me, the
better reason will be demonstrated to stand with us. On this one point
the wise man cannot judge for the fool his neighbour. If you _do_ love
me, the inference is that you would be happier with than without
me--and whether you do, you know better than another: so I think of
_you_ and not of _them_--always of _you_! When I talked of being
afraid of dear Mr. Kenyon, I just meant that he makes me nervous with
his all-scrutinizing spectacles, put on for great occasions, and his
questions which seem to belong to the spectacles, they go together
so:--and then I have no presence of mind, as you may see without the
spectacles. My only way of hiding (when people set themselves to look
for me) would be the old child's way of getting behind the window
curtains or under the sofa:--and even _that_ might not be effectual if
I had recourse to it now. Do you think it would? Two or three times I
fancied that Mr. Kenyon suspected something--but if he ever _did_, his
only reproof was a reduplicated praise of _you_--he praises you always
and in relation to every sort of subject.

What a _misomonsism_ you fell into yesterday, you who have much great
work to do which no one else can do except just yourself!--and you,
too, who have courage and knowledge, and must know that every work,
with the principle of life in it, _will_ live, let it be trampled ever
so under the heel of a faithless and unbelieving generation--yes, that
it will live like one of your toads, for a thousand years in the heart
of a rock. All men can teach at second or third hand, as you said ...
by prompting the foremost rows ... by tradition and translation:--all,
_except_ poets, who must preach their own doctrine and sing their own
song, to be the means of any wisdom or any music, and therefore have
stricter duties thrust upon them, and may not lounge in the [Greek:
stoa] like the conversation-teachers. So much I have to say to you,
till we are in the Siren's island--and _I_, jealous of the Siren!--

    The Siren waits thee singing song for song,

says Mr. Landor. A prophecy which refuses to class you with the 'mute
fishes,' precisely as I do.

And are you not my 'good'--all my good now--my only good ever? The
Italians would say it better without saying more.

I had a letter from Miss Martineau this morning who accounts for her
long silence by the supposition,--put lately to an end by scarcely
credible information from Mr. Moxon, she says--that I was out of
England; gone to the South from the 20th of September. She calls
herself the strongest of women, and talks of 'walking fifteen miles
one day and writing fifteen pages another day without fatigue,'--also
of mesmerizing and of being infinitely happy except in the continued
alienation of two of her family who cannot forgive her for getting
well by such unlawful means. And she is to write again to tell me of
Wordsworth, and promises to send me her new work in the meanwhile--all
very kind.

So here is my letter to you, which you asked for so 'against the
principles of universal justice.' Yes, very unjust--very unfair it
was--only, you make me do just as you like in everything. Now confess
to your own conscience that even if I had not a lawful claim of a debt
against you, I might come to ask charity with another sort of claim,
oh 'son of humanity.' Think how much more need of a letter _I_ have
than you can have; and that if you have a giant's power, ''tis
tyrannous to use it like a giant.' Who would take tribute from the
desert? How I grumble. _Do_ let me have a letter directly! remember
that no other light comes to my windows, and that I wait 'as those who
watch for the morning'--'lux mea!'

May God bless you--and mind to say how you are _exactly_, and don't
neglect the walking, _pray_ do not.

                                                    Your own

And after all, those women! A great deal of doctrine commends and
discommends itself by the delivery: and an honest thing may be said so
foolishly as to disprove its very honesty. Now after all, what did she
mean by that very silly expression about books, but that she did not
feel as she considered herself capable of feeling--and that else but
_that_ was the meaning of the other woman? Perhaps it should have been
spoken earlier--nay, clearly it should--but surely it was better
spoken even in the last hour than not at all ... surely it is always
and under all circumstances, better spoken at whatever cost--I have
thought so steadily since I could think or feel at all. An entire
openness to the last moment of possible liberty, at whatever cost and
consequence, is the most honourable and most merciful way, both for
men and women! perhaps for men in an especial manner. But I shall send
this letter away, being in haste to get change for it.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               Wednesday, December 31, 1845.

I have been properly punished for so much treachery as went to that
re-urging the prayer that _you_ would begin writing, when all the time
(after the first of those words had been spoken which bade _me_ write)
I was full of purpose to send my own note last evening; one which
should do its best to thank you: but see, the punishment! At home I
found a note from Mr. Horne--on the point of setting out for Ireland,
too unwell to manage to come over to me; anxious, so he said, to see
me before leaving London, and with only Tuesday or to-day to allow the
opportunity of it, if I should choose to go and find him out. So I
considered all things and determined to go--but not till so late did I
determine on Tuesday, that there was barely time to get to
Highgate--wherefore no letter reached you to beg pardon ... and now
this undeserved--beyond the usual undeservedness--this
last-day-of-the-Year's gift--do you think or not think my gratitude
weighs on me? When I lay this with the others, and remember what you
have done for me--I do bless you--so as I cannot but believe must
reach the all-beloved head all my hopes and fancies and cares fly
straight to. Dearest, whatever change the new year brings with it, we
are together--I can give you no more of myself--indeed, you give me
now (back again if you choose, but changed and renewed by your
possession) the powers that seemed most properly mine. I could only
mean that, by the expressions to which you refer--only could mean that
you were my crown and palm branch, now and for ever, and so, that it
was a very indifferent matter to me if the world took notice of that
fact or no. Yes, dearest, that _is_ the meaning of the prophecy, which
I was stupidly blind not to have read and taken comfort from long ago.
You ARE the veritable Siren--and you 'wait me,' and will sing 'song
for song.' And this is my first song, my true song--this love I bear
you--I look into my heart and then let it go forth under that
name--love. I am more than mistrustful of many other feelings in me:
they are not earnest enough; so far, not true enough--but this is all
the flower of my life which you call forth and which lies at your

Now let me say it--what you are to remember. That if I had the
slightest doubt, or fear, I would utter it to you on the
instant--secure in the incontested stability of the main _fact_, even
though the heights at the verge in the distance should tremble and
prove vapour--and there would be a deep consolation in your
forgiveness--indeed, yes; but I tell you, on solemn consideration, it
does seem to me that--once take away the broad and general words that
admit in their nature of any freight they can be charged with,--put
aside love, and devotion, and trust--and _then_ I seem to have said
_nothing_ of my feeling to you--nothing whatever.

I will not write more now on this subject. Believe you are my blessing
and infinite reward beyond possible desert in intention,--my life has
been crowned by you, as I said!

May God bless you ever--through you I shall be blessed. May I kiss
your cheek and pray this, my own, all-beloved?

I must add a word or two of other things. I am very well now, quite
well--am walking and about to walk. Horne, or rather his friends,
reside in the very lane Keats loved so much--Millfield Lane. Hunt lent
me once the little copy of the first Poems dedicated to him--and on
the title-page was recorded in Hunt's delicate characters that 'Keats
met him with this, the presentation-copy, or whatever was the odious
name, in M---- Lane--called Poets' Lane by the gods--Keats came
running, holding it up in his hand.' Coleridge had an affection for
the place, and Shelley '_knew_' it--and I can testify it is green and
silent, with pleasant openings on the grounds and ponds, through the
old trees that line it. But the hills here are far more open and wild
and hill-like; not with the eternal clump of evergreens and thatched
summer house--to say nothing of the 'invisible railing' miserably
visible everywhere.

You very well know _what_ a vision it is you give me--when you speak
of _standing up by the table_ to care for my flowers--(which I will
never be ashamed of again, by the way--I will say for the future;
'here are my best'--in this as in other things.) Now, do you remember,
that once I bade you not surprise me out of my good behaviour by
standing to meet me unawares, as visions do, some day--but now--_omne
ignotum_? No, dearest!

Ought I to say there will be two days more? till Saturday--and if one
word comes, _one_ line--think! I am wholly yours--yours, beloved!


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                     January 1, 1845 [1846].

How good you are--how best! it is a favourite play of my memory to
take up the thought of what you were to me (to my mind gazing!) years
ago, as the poet in an abstraction--then the thoughts of you, a little
clearer, in concrete personality, as Mr. Kenyon's friend, who had
dined with him on such a day, or met him at dinner on such another,
and said some great memorable thing 'on Wednesday last,' and enquired
kindly about _me_ perhaps on Thursday,--till I was proud! and so, the
thoughts of you, nearer and nearer (yet still afar!) as the Mr.
Browning who meant to do me the honour of writing to me, and who did
write; and who asked me once in a letter (does he remember?) 'not to
lean out of the window while his foot was on the stair!'--to take up
all those thoughts, and more than those, one after another, and tie
them together with all _these_, which cannot be named so easily--which
cannot be classed in botany and Greek. It is a nosegay of mystical
flowers, looking strangely and brightly, and keeping their May-dew
through the Christmases--better than even _your_ flowers! And I am not
'ashamed' of mine, ... be very sure! no!

For the siren, I never suggested to you any such thing--why you do not
pretend to have read such a suggestion in my letter certainly. _That_
would have been most exemplarily modest of me! would it not, O

And you meant to write, ... you _meant_! and went to walk in 'Poet's
lane' instead, (in the 'Aonius of Highgate') which I remember to have
read of--does not Hunt speak of it in his Memoirs?--and so now there
is another track of light in the traditions of the place, and people
may talk of the pomegranate-smell between the hedges. So you really
have _hills_ at New Cross, and not hills by courtesy? I was at
Hampstead once--and there was something attractive to me in that
fragment of heath with its wild smell, thrown down ... like a Sicilian
rose from Proserpine's lap when the car drove away, ... into all that
arid civilization, 'laurel-clumps and invisible visible fences,' as
you say!--and the grand, eternal smoke rising up in the distance, with
its witness against nature! People grew severely in jest about cockney
landscape--but is it not true that the trees and grass in the close
neighbourhood of great cities must of necessity excite deeper emotion
than the woods and valleys will, a hundred miles off, where human
creatures ruminate stupidly as the cows do, the 'county families'
es-_chewing_ all men who are not 'landed proprietors,' and the farmers
never looking higher than to the fly on the uppermost turnip-leaf! Do
you know at all what English country-life is, which the English praise
so, and 'moralize upon into a thousand similes,' as that one greatest,
purest, noblest thing in the world--the purely English and excellent
thing? It is to my mind simply and purely abominable, and I would
rather live in a street than be forced to live it out,--that English
country-life; for I don't mean life in the country. The social
exigencies--why, nothing _can_ be so bad--nothing! That is the way by
which Englishmen grow up to top the world in their peculiar line of
respectable absurdities.

Think of my talking so as if I could be vexed with any one of them!
_I!_--On the contrary I wish them all a happy new year to abuse one
another, or visit each of them his nearest neighbour whom he hates,
three times a week, because 'the distance is so convenient,' and give
great dinners in noble rivalship (venison from the Lord Lieutenant
against turbot from London!), and talk popularity and game-law by
turns to the tenantry, and beat down tithes to the rector. This
glorious England of ours; with its peculiar glory of the rural
districts! And _my_ glory of patriotic virtue, who am so happy in
spite of it all, and make a pretence of talking--talking--while I
think the whole time of your letter. I think of your letter--I am no
more a patriot than _that_!

May God bless you, best and dearest! You say things to me which I am
not worthy to listen to for a moment, even if I was deaf dust the next
moment.... I confess it humbly and earnestly as before God.

Yet He knows,--if the entireness of a gift means anything,--that I
have not given with a reserve, that I am yours in my life and soul,
for this year and for other years. Let me be used _for_ you rather
than _against_ you! and that unspeakable, immeasurable grief of
feeling myself a stone in your path, a cloud in your sky, may I be
saved from it!--pray it for _me_ ... for _my_ sake rather than
_yours_. For the rest, I thank you, I thank you. You will be always to
me, what to-day you are--and that is all!--!

                                             I am your own--

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               Sunday Night.
                               [Post-mark, January 5, 1846.]

Yesterday, nearly the last thing, I bade you 'think of me'--I wonder
if you could misunderstand me in that?--As if my words or actions or
any of my ineffectual outside-self _should_ be thought of, unless to
be forgiven! But I do, dearest, feel confident that while I am in your
mind--cared for, rather than thought about--no great harm can happen
to me; and as, for great harm to reach me, it must pass through you,
you will care for yourself; _my_self, best self!

Come, let us talk. I found Horne's book at home, and have had time to
see that fresh beautiful things are there--I suppose 'Delora' will
stand alone still--but I got pleasantly smothered with that odd shower
of wood-spoils at the end, the dwarf-story; cup-masses and fern and
spotty yellow leaves,--all that, I love heartily--and there is good
sailor-speech in the 'Ben Capstan'--though he does knock a man down
with a 'crow-bar'--instead of a marling-spike or, even, a
belaying-pin! The first tale, though good, seems least new and
individual, but I must know more. At one thing I wonder--his not
reprinting a quaint clever _real_ ballad, published before 'Delora,'
on the 'Merry Devil of Edmonton'--the first of his works I ever read.
No, the very first piece was a single stanza, if I remember, in which
was this line: 'When bason-crested Quixote, lean and bold,'--good, is
it not? Oh, while it strikes me, good, too, _is_ that 'Swineshead
Monk' ballad! Only I miss the old chronicler's touch on the method of
concocting the poison: 'Then stole this Monk into the Garden and under
a certain herb found out a Toad, which, squeezing into a cup,' &c.
something to that effect. I suspect, _par parenthese_, you have found
out by this time my odd liking for 'vermin'--you once wrote '_your_
snails'--and certainly snails are old clients of mine--but efts! Horne
traced a line to me--in the rhymes of a ''prentice-hand' I used to
look over and correct occasionally--taxed me (last week) with having
altered the wise line 'Cold as a _lizard_ in a _sunny_ stream' to
'Cold as a newt hid in a shady brook'--for 'what do _you_ know about
newts?' he asked of the author--who thereupon confessed. But never try
and catch a speckled gray lizard when we are in Italy, love, and you
see his tail hang out of the chink of a wall, his
winter-house--because the strange tail will snap off, drop from him
and stay in your fingers--and though you afterwards learn that there
is more desperation in it and glorious determination to be free, than
positive pain (so people say who have no tails to be twisted off)--and
though, moreover, the tail grows again after a sort--_yet_ ... don't
do it, for it will give you a thrill! What a fine fellow our English
water-eft is; 'Triton paludis Linnaei'--_e come guizza_ (_that_ you
can't say in another language; cannot preserve the little in-and-out
motion along with the straightforwardness!)--I always loved all those
wild creatures God '_sets up for themselves_' so independently of us,
so successfully, with their strange happy minute inch of a candle, as
it were, to light them; while we run about and against each other with
our great cressets and fire-pots. I once saw a solitary bee nipping a
leaf round till it exactly fitted the front of a hole; his nest, no
doubt; or tomb, perhaps--'Safe as Oedipus's grave-place, 'mid Colone's
olives swart'--(Kiss me, my Siren!)--Well, it seemed awful to watch
that bee--he seemed so _instantly_ from the teaching of God! AElian
says that ... a _frog_, does he say?--some animal, having to swim
across the Nile, never fails to provide himself with a bit of reed,
which he bites off and holds in his mouth transversely and so puts
from shore gallantly ... because when the water-serpent comes swimming
to meet him, there is the reed, wider than his serpent's jaws, and no
hopes of a swallow that time--now fancy the two meeting heads, the
frog's wide eyes and the vexation of the snake!

Now, see! do I deceive you? Never say I began by letting down my
dignity 'that with no middle flight intends to soar above the Aonian

My best, dear, dear one,--may you be better, less _depressed_, ... I
can hardly imagine frost reaching you if I could be by you. Think what
happiness you mean to give me,--what a life; what a death! 'I may
change'--too true; yet, you see, as an eft was to me at the beginning
so it continues--I _may_ take up stones and pelt the next I
see--but--do you much fear that?--Now, _walk_, move, _guizza, anima
mia dolce_. Shall I not know one day how far your mouth will be from
mine as we walk? May I let that stay ... dearest, (the _line_ stay,
not the mouth)?

I am not very well to-day--or, rather, have not been so--_now_, I am
well and _with you_. I just say that, very needlessly, but for strict
frankness' sake. Now, you are to write to me soon, and tell me all
about your self, and to love me ever, as I love you ever, and bless
you, and leave you in the hands of God--My own love!--

Tell me if I do wrong to send _this_ by a morning post--so as to reach
you earlier than the evening--when you will ... write to me?

Don't let me forget to say that I shall receive the _Review_
to-morrow, and will send it directly.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               [Post-mark, January 6, 1846.]

When you get Mr. Horne's book you will understand how, after reading
just the first and the last poems, I could not help speaking coldly a
little of it--and in fact, estimating his power as much as you can do,
I did think and do, that the last was unworthy of him, and that the
first might have been written by a writer of one tenth of his faculty.
But last night I read the 'Monk of Swineshead Abbey' and the 'Three
Knights of Camelott' and 'Bedd Gelert' and found them all of different
stuff, better, stronger, more consistent, and read them with pleasure
and admiration. Do you remember this application, among the countless
ones of shadow to the transiency of life? I give the first two lines
for clearness--

    Like to the cloud upon the hill
    We are a moment seen
    Or the _shadow of the windmill-sail
    Across yon sunny slope of green_.

New or not, and I don't remember it elsewhere, it is just and
beautiful I think. Think how the shadow of the windmill-sail just
touches the ground on a bright windy day! the shadow of a bird flying
is not faster! Then the 'Three Knights' has beautiful things, with
more definite and distinct images than he is apt to show--for his
character is a vague grand massiveness,--like Stonehenge--or at least,
if 'towers and battlements he sees' they are 'bosomed high' in dusky
clouds ... it is a 'passion-created imagery' which has no clear
outline. In this ballad of the 'Knights,' and in the Monk's too, we
may _look at_ things, as on the satyr who swears by his horns and
mates not with his kind afterwards, 'While, _holding beards_, they
dance in pairs--and that is all excellent and reminds one of those
fine sylvan festivals, 'in Orion.' But now tell me if you like
altogether 'Ben Capstan' and if you consider the sailor-idiom to be
lawful in poetry, because I do not indeed. On the same principle we
may have Yorkshire and Somersetshire 'sweet Doric'; and do recollect
what it ended in of old, in the Blowsibella heroines. Then for the Elf
story ... why should such things be written by men like Mr. Horne? I
am vexed at it. Shakespeare and Fletcher did not write so about
fairies:--Drayton did not. Look at the exquisite 'Nymphidia,' with its
subtle sylvan consistency, and then at the lumbering coarse ...
'_machina intersit_' ... Grandmama Grey!--to say nothing of the 'small
dog' that isn't the 'small boy.' Mr. Horne succeeds better on a larger
canvass, and with weightier material; with blank verse rather than
lyrics. He cannot make a fine stroke. He wants subtlety and elasticity
in the thought and expression. Remember, I admire him honestly and
earnestly. No one has admired more than I the 'Death of Marlowe,'
scenes in 'Cosmo,' and 'Orion' in much of it. But now tell me if you
can accept with the same stretched out hand all these lyrical poems? I
am going to write to him as much homage as can come truly. Who
combines different faculties as you do, striking the whole octave? No
one, at present in the world.

Dearest, after you went away yesterday and I began to consider, I
found that there was nothing to be so over-glad about in the matter
of the letters, for that, Sunday coming next to Saturday, the best now
is only as good as the worst before, and I can't hear from you, until
Monday ... Monday! Did you think of _that_--you who took the credit of
acceding so meekly! I shall not praise you in return at any rate. I
shall have to wait ... till what o'clock on Monday, tempted in the
meanwhile to fall into controversy against the 'new moons and sabbath
days' and the pausing of the post in consequence.

You never guessed perhaps, what I look back to at this moment in the
physiology of our intercourse, the curious double feeling I had about
you--you personally, and you as the writer of these letters, and the
crisis of the feeling, when I was positively vexed and jealous of
myself for not succeeding better in making a unity of the two. I could
not! And moreover I could not help but that the writer of the letters
seemed nearer to me, long ... long ... and in spite of the postmark,
than did the personal visitor who confounded me, and left me
constantly under such an impression of its being all dream-work on his
side, that I have stamped my feet on this floor with impatience to
think of having to wait so many hours before the 'candid' closing
letter could come with its confessional of an illusion. 'People say,'
I used to think, 'that women _always_ know, and certainly I do not
know, and therefore ... therefore.'--The logic crushed on like
Juggernaut's car. But in the letters it was different--the dear
letters took me on the side of my own ideal life where I was able to
stand a little upright and look round. I could read such letters for
ever and answer them after a fashion ... that, I felt from the
beginning. But _you_--!

_Monday._--Never too early can the light come. Thank you for my
letter! Yet you look askance at me over 'newt and toad,' and praise so
the Elf-story that I am ashamed to send you my ill humour on the same
head. And you really like _that_? admire it? Grandmama Grey and the
night cap and all? and 'shoetye and blue sky?' and is it really wrong
of me to like certainly some touches and images, but not the whole,
... not the poem as a whole? I can take delight in the fantastical,
and in the grotesque--but here there is a want of life and
consistency, as it seems to me!--the elf is no elf and speaks no
elf-tongue: it is not the right key to touch, ... this, ... for
supernatural music. So I fancy at least--but I will try the poem again
presently. You must be right--unless it should be your over-goodness
opposed to my over-badness--I will not be sure. Or you wrote perhaps
in an accidental mood of most excellent critical smoothness, such as
Mr. Forster did his last _Examiner_ in, when he gave the all-hail to
Mr. Harness as one of the best dramatists of the age!! Ah no!--not
such as Mr. Forster's. Your soul does not enter into his secret--There
can be nothing in common between you. For him to say such a word--he
who knows--or ought to know!--And now let us agree and admire the
bowing of the old ministrel over Bedd Gelert's unfilled grave--

    The _long_ beard _fell_ like _snow_ into the grave
                 With solemn grace

A poet, a friend, a generous man Mr. Horne is, even if no laureate for
the fairies.

I have this moment a parcel of books via Mr. Moxon--Miss Martineau's
two volumes--and Mr. Bailey sends his 'Festus,' very kindly, ... and
'Woman in the Nineteenth Century' from America from a Mrs. or a Miss
Fuller--how I hate those 'Women of England,' 'Women and their Mission'
and the rest. As if any possible good were to be done by such
expositions of rights and wrongs.

Your letter would be worth them all, if _you_ were less _you_! I mean,
just this letter, ... all alive as it is with crawling buzzing
wriggling cold-blooded warm-blooded creatures ... as all alive as your
own pedant's book in the tree. And do you know, I think I like frogs
too--particularly the very little leaping frogs, which are so
high-hearted as to emulate the birds. I remember being scolded by my
nurses for taking them up in my hands and letting them leap from one
hand to the other. But for the toad!--why, at the end of the row of
narrow beds which we called our gardens when we were children, grew an
old thorn, and in the hollow of the root of the thorn, lived a toad, a
great ancient toad, whom I, for one, never dared approach too nearly.
That he 'wore a jewel in his head' I doubted nothing at all. You must
see it glitter if you stooped and looked steadily into the hole. And
on days when he came out and sate swelling his black sides, I never
looked steadily; I would run a hundred yards round through the shrubs,
deeper than knee-deep in the long wet grass and nettles, rather than
go past him where he sate; being steadily of opinion, in the
profundity of my natural history-learning, that if he took it into his
toad's head to spit at me I should drop down dead in a moment,
poisoned as by one of the Medici.

Oh--and I had a field-mouse for a pet once, and should have joined my
sisters in a rat's nest if I had not been ill at the time (as it was,
the little rats were tenderly smothered by over-love!): and
blue-bottle flies I used to feed, and hated your spiders for them; yet
no, not much. My aversion proper ... call it horror rather ... was for
the silent, cold, clinging, gliding _bat_; and even now, I think, I
could not sleep in the room with that strange bird-mouse-creature, as
it glides round the ceiling silently, silently as its shadow does on
the floor. If you listen or look, there is not a wave of the wing--the
wing never waves! A bird without a feather! a beast that flies! and so
cold! as cold as a fish! It is the most supernatural-seeming of
natural things. And then to see how when the windows are open at night
those bats come sailing ... without a sound--and go ... you cannot
guess where!--fade with the night-blackness!

You have not been well--which is my first thought if not my first
word. Do walk, and do not work; and think ... what I could be thinking
of, if I did not think of _you_ ... dear--dearest! 'As the doves fly
to the windows,' so I think of you! As the prisoners think of liberty,
as the dying think of Heaven, so I think of you. When I look up
straight to God ... nothing, no one, used to intercept me--now there
is _you_--only you under him! Do not use such words as those therefore
any more, nor say that you are not to be thought of so and so. You are
to be thought of every way. You must know what you are to me if you
know at all what _I_ am,--and what I should be but for you.

So ... love me a little, with the spiders and the toads and the
lizards! love me as you love the efts--and I will believe in _you_ as
you believe ... in AElian--Will _that_ do?

                                                  Your own--

Say how you are when you write--_and write_.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                            Tuesday Morning.

I this minute receive the Review--a poor business, truly! Is there a
reason for a man's wits dwindling the moment he gets into a critical
High-place to hold forth?--I have only glanced over the article
however. Well, one day _I_ am to write of you, dearest, and it must
come to something rather better than _that_!

I am forced to send now what is to be sent at all. Bless you, dearest.
I am trusting to hear from you--

                                                   Your R.B.

And I find by a note from a fairer friend and favourer of mine that in
the _New Quarterly_ 'Mr. Browning' figures pleasantly as 'one without
any sympathy for a human being!'--Then, for newts and efts at all

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                               Tuesday Night.
                               [Post-mark, January 7, 1846.]

But, my sweet, there is safer going in letters than in visits, do you
not see? In the letter, one may go to the utmost limit of one's
supposed tether without danger--there is the distance so palpably
between the most audacious step _there_, and the next ... which is
nowhere, seeing it is not in the letter. Quite otherwise in personal
intercourse, where any indication of turning to a certain path, even,
might possibly be checked not for its own fault but lest, the path
once reached and proceeded in, some other forbidden turning might come
into sight, we will say. In the letter, all ended _there_, just there
... and you may think of that, and forgive; at all events, may avoid
speaking irrevocable words--and when, as to me, those words are
intensely _true, doom-words_--think, dearest! Because, as I told you
once, what most characterizes my feeling for you is the perfect
_respect_ in it, the full _belief_ ... (I shall get presently to poor
Robert's very avowal of 'owing you all esteem'!). It is on that I
build, and am secure--for how should I know, of myself, how to serve
you and be properly yours if it all was to be learnt by my own
interpreting, and what you professed to dislike you were to be
considered as wishing for, and what liking, as it seemed, you were
loathing at your heart, and if so many 'noes' made a 'yes,' and 'one
refusal no rebuff' and all that horrible bestiality which stout
gentlemen turn up the whites of their eyes to, when they rise after
dinner and pressing the right hand to the left side say, 'The toast be
dear woman!' Now, love, with this feeling in me from the beginning,--I
do believe,--_now_, when I am utterly blest in this gift of your love,
and least able to imagine what I should do without it,--I cannot but
believe, I say, that had you given me once a 'refusal'--clearly
derived from your own feelings, and quite apart from any fancied
consideration for my interests; had this come upon me, whether slowly
but inevitably in the course of events, or suddenly as precipitated by
any step of mine; I should, _believing you_, have never again renewed
directly or indirectly such solicitation; I should have begun to count
how many other ways were yet open to serve you and devote myself to
you ... but from _the outside_, now, and not in your livery! Now, if I
should have acted thus under _any_ circumstances, how could I but
redouble my endeavours at precaution after my own foolish--you know,
and forgave long since, and I, too, am forgiven in my own eyes, for
the cause, though not the manner--but could I do other than keep
'farther from you' than in the letters, dearest? For your own part in
that matter, seeing it with all the light you have since given me (and
_then_, not inadequately by my own light) I could, I do kiss your
feet, kiss every letter in your name, bless you with my whole heart
and soul if I could pour them out, from me, before you, to stay and be
yours; when I think on your motives and pure perfect generosity. It
was the plainness of _that_ which determined me to wait and be patient
and grateful and your own for ever in any shape or capacity you might
please to accept. Do you think that because I am so rich now, I could
not have been most rich, too, _then_--in what would seem little only
to _me_, only with this great happiness? I should have been proud
beyond measure--happy past all desert, to call and be allowed to see
you simply, speak with you and be spoken to--what am I more than
others? Don't think this mock humility--_it is not_--you take me in
your mantle, and we shine together, but I know my part in it! All this
is written breathlessly on a sudden fancy that you _might_--if not
now, at some future time--give other than this, the true reason, for
that discrepancy you see, that nearness in the letters, that early
farness in the visits! And, love, all love is but a passionate
_drawing closer_--I would be one with you, dearest; let my soul press
close to you, as my lips, dear life of my life.

_Wednesday._--You are entirely right about those poems of Horne's--I
spoke only of the effect of the first glance, and it is a principle
with me to begin by welcoming any strangeness, intention of
originality in men--the other way of safe copying precedents being
_so_ safe! So I began by praising all that was at all questionable in
the form ... reserving the ground-work for after consideration. The
Elf-story turns out a pure mistake, I think--and a common mistake,
too. Fairy stories, the good ones, were written for men and women,
and, being true, pleased also children; now, people set about writing
for children and miss them and the others too,--with that detestable
irreverence and plain mocking all the time at the very wonder they
profess to want to excite. All obvious bending down to the lower
capacity, determining not to be the great complete man one is, by
half; any patronizing minute to be spent in the nursery over the books
and work and healthful play, of a visitor who will presently bid
good-bye and betake himself to the Beefsteak Club--keep us from all
that! The Sailor Language is good in its way; but as wrongly used in
Art as real clay and mud would be, if one plastered them in the
foreground of a landscape in order to attain to so much truth, at all
events--the true thing to endeavour is the making a golden colour
which shall do every good in the power of the dirty brown. Well, then,
what a veering weathercock am I, to write so and now, _so_! Not
altogether,--for first it was but the stranger's welcome I gave, the
right of every new comer who must stand or fall by his behaviour once
admitted within the door. And then--when I know what Horne thinks
of--you, dearest; how he knew you first, and from the soul admired
you; and how little he thinks of my good fortune ... I _could_ NOT
begin by giving you a bad impression of anything he sends--he has such
very few rewards for a great deal of hard excellent enduring work, and
_none_, no reward, I do think, would he less willingly forego than
your praise and sympathy. But your opinion once expressed--truth
remains the truth--so, at least, I excuse myself ... and quite as much
for what I say _now_ as for what was said _then_! 'King John' is very
fine and full of purpose; 'The Noble Heart,' sadly faint and
uncharacteristic. The chief incident, too, turns on that poor
conventional fallacy about what constitutes a proper wrong to
resist--a piece of morality, after a different standard, is introduced
to complete another fashioned morality--a segment of a circle of
larger dimensions is fitted into a smaller one. Now, you may have your
own standard of morality in this matter of resistance to wrong, how
and when if at all. And you may quite understand and sympathize with
quite different standards innumerable of other people; but go from one
to the other abruptly, you cannot, I think. 'Bear patiently all
injuries--revenge in no case'--that is plain. 'Take what you conceive
to be God's part, do his evident work, stand up for good and destroy
evil, and co-operate with this whole scheme here'--_that_ is plain,
too,--but, call Otto's act _no_ wrong, or being one, not such as
should be avenged--and then, call the remark of a stranger that one is
a 'recreant'--just what needs the slight punishment of instant death
to the remarker--and ... where is the way? What _is_ clear?

--Not my letter! which goes on and on--'dear letters'--sweetest?
because they cost all the precious labour of making out? Well, I shall
see you to-morrow, I trust. Bless you, my own--I have not half said
what was to say even in the letter I thought to write, and which
proves only what you see! But at a thought I fly off with you, 'at a
cock-crow from the Grange.'--Ever your own.

Last night, I received a copy of the _New Quarterly_--now here is
popular praise, a sprig of it! Instead of the attack I supposed it to
be, from my foolish friend's account, the notice is outrageously
eulogistical, a stupidly extravagant laudation from first to last--and
in _three other_ articles, as my sister finds by diligent fishing,
they introduce my name with the same felicitous praise (except one
instance, though, in a good article by Chorley I am certain); and
_with_ me I don't know how many poetical _cretins_ are praised as
noticeably--and, in the turning of a page, somebody is abused in the
richest style of scavengering--only Carlyle! And I love him enough not
to envy him nor wish to change places, and giving him mine, mount into

All which, let me forget in the thoughts of to-morrow! Bless you, my

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               [Post-mark, January 7, 1846.]

But some things are indeed said very truly, and as I like to read
them--of _you_, I mean of course,--though I quite understand that it
is doing no manner of good to go back so to 'Paracelsus,' heading the
article 'Paracelsus and other poems,' as if the other poems could not
front the reader broadly by a divine right of their own. 'Paracelsus'
is a great work and will _live_, but the way to do you good with the
stiffnecked public (such good as critics can do in their degree) would
have been to hold fast and conspicuously the gilded horn of the last
living crowned creature led by you to the altar, saying 'Look _here_.'
What had he to do else, as a critic? Was he writing for the
_Retrospective Review_? And then, no attempt at analytical
criticism--or a failure, at the least attempt! all slack and in
sentences! Still these are right things to say, true things, worthy
things, said of you as a poet, though your poems do not find justice:
and I like, for my own part, the issuing from my cathedral into your
great world--the outermost temple of divinest consecration. I like
that figure and association, and none the worse for its being a
sufficient refutation of what he dared to impute, of your poetical
sectarianism, in another place--_yours_!

For me, it is all quite kind enough--only I object, on my own part
also, to being reviewed in the 'Seraphim,' when my better books are
nearer: and also it always makes me a little savage when people talk
of Tennysonianisms! I have faults enough as the Muses know,--but let
them be _my_ faults! When I wrote the 'Romaunt of Margret,' I had not
read a line of Tennyson. I came from the country with my eyes only
half open, and he had not penetrated where I had been living and
sleeping: and in fact when I afterwards tried to reach him here in
London, nothing could be found except one slim volume, so that, till
the collected works appeared ... _favente_ Moxon, ... I was ignorant
of his best _early_ productions; and not even for the rhythmetical
form of my 'Vision of the Poets,' was I indebted to the 'Two
Voices,'--three pages of my 'Vision' having been written several years
ago--at the beginning of my illness--and thrown aside, and taken up
again in the spring of 1844. Ah, well! there's no use talking! In a
solitary review which noticed my 'Essay on Mind,' somebody wrote ...
'this young lady imitates Darwin'--and I never could _read_ Darwin,
... was stopped always on the second page of the 'Loves of the Plants'
when I tried to read him to 'justify myself in having an opinion'--the
repulsion was too strong. Yet the 'young lady imitated Darwin' of
course, as the infallible critic said so.

And who are Mr. Helps and Miss Emma Fisher and the 'many others,'
whose company brings one down to the right plebeianism? The 'three
poets in three distant ages born' may well stare amazed!

After all you shall not by any means say that I upset the inkstand on
your review in a passion--because pray mark that the ink has over-run
some of your praises, and that if I had been angry to the overthrow of
an inkstand, it would not have been precisely _there_. It is the
second book spoilt by me within these two days--and my fingers were so
dabbled in blackness yesterday that to wring my hands would only have
made matters worse. Holding them up to Mr. Kenyon they looked dirty
enough to befit a poetess--as black 'as bard beseemed'--and he took
the review away with him to read and save it from more harm.

How could it be that you did not get my letter which would have
reached you, I thought, on Monday evening, or on Tuesday at the very
very earliest?--and how is it that I did not hear from you last night
again when I was unreasonable enough to expect it? is it true that you
_hate_ writing to me?

At that word, comes the review back from dear Mr. Kenyon, and the
letter which I enclose to show you how it accounts reasonably for the
ink--I did it 'in a pet,' he thinks! And I ought to buy you a new
book--certainly I ought--only it is not worth doing justice for--and I
shall therefore send it back to you spoilt as it is; and you must
forgive me as magnanimously as you can.

'Omne ignotum pro magnifico'--do you think _so_? I hope not indeed!
_vo quietando_--and everything else that I ought to do--except of
course, _that_ thinking of you which is so difficult.

May God bless you. Till to-morrow!

                                            Your own always.

Mr. Kenyon refers to 'Festus'--of which I had said that the fine
things were worth looking for, in the design manque.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                               Friday Morning.
                               [Post-mark, January 9, 1846.]

You never think, ever dearest, that I 'repent'--why what a word to
use! You never could _think_ such a word for a moment! If you were to
leave me even,--to decide that it is best for you to do it, and do
it,--I should accede at once of course, but never should I nor could I
'repent' ... regret anything ... be sorry for having known you and
loved you ... no! Which I say simply to prove that, in _no_ extreme
case, could I repent for my own sake. For yours, it might be

_Not_ out of 'generosity' certainly, but from the veriest selfishness,
I choose here, before God, any possible present evil, rather than the
future consciousness of feeling myself less to you, on the whole, than
another woman might have been.

Oh, these vain and most heathenish repetitions--do I not vex you by
them, _you_ whom I would always please, and never vex? Yet they force
their way because you are the best noblest and dearest in the world,
and because your happiness is so precious a thing.

    Cloth of frieze, be not too bold,
    Though thou'rt matched with cloth of gold!

--_that_, beloved, was written for _me_. And you, if you would make me
happy, _always_ will look at yourself from my ground and by my light,
as I see you, and consent to be selfish in all things. Observe, that
if I were _vacillating_, I should not be so weak as to tease you with
the process of the vacillation: I should wait till my pendulum ceased
swinging. It is precisely because I am your own, past any retraction
or wish of retraction,--because I belong to you by gift and ownership,
and am ready and willing to prove it before the world at a word of
yours,--it is precisely for this, that I remind you too often of the
necessity of using this right of yours, not to your injury, of being
wise and strong for both of us, and of guarding your happiness which
is mine. I have said these things ninety and nine times over, and over
and over have you replied to them,--as yesterday!--and now, do not
speak any more. It is only my preachment for general use, and not for
particular application,--only to be _ready_ for application. I love
you from the deepest of my nature--the whole world is nothing to me
beside you--and what is so precious, is not far from being terrible.
'How _dreadful_ is this place.'

To hear you talk yesterday, is a gladness in the thought for
to-day,--it was with such a full assent that I listened to every word.
It is true, I think, that we see things (things apart from ourselves)
under the same aspect and colour--and it is certainly true that I have
a sort of instinct by which I seem to know your views of such subjects
as we have never looked at together. I know _you_ so well (yes, I
boast to myself of that intimate knowledge), that I seem to know also
the _idola_ of all things as they are in your eyes--so that never,
scarcely, I am curious,--never anxious, to learn what your opinions
may be. Now, _have_ I been curious or anxious? It was enough for me to
know _you_.

More than enough! You have 'left undone'--do you say? On the contrary,
you have done too much,--you _are_ too much. My cup,--which used to
hold at the bottom of it just the drop of Heaven dew mingling with the
absinthus,--has overflowed all this wine: and _that_ makes me look out
for the vases, which would have held it better, had you stretched out
your hand for them.

Say how you are--and do take care and exercise--and write to me,

                                             Ever your own--


How right you are about 'Ben Capstan,'--and the illustration by the
_yellow clay_. That is precisely what I meant,--said with more
precision than I could say it. Art without an ideal is neither nature
nor art. The question involves the whole difference between Madame
Tussaud and Phidias.

I have just received Mr. Edgar Poe's book--and I see that the
deteriorating preface which was to have saved me from the vanity-fever
produceable by the dedication, is cut down and away--perhaps in this
particular copy only!

Tuesday is so near, as men count, that I caught myself just now being
afraid lest the week should have no chance of appearing long to you!
Try to let it be long to you--will you? My consistency is wonderful.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                             Friday Morning.

As if I could deny you anything! Here is the Review--indeed it was
foolish to mind your seeing it at all. But now, may I stipulate?--You
shall not send it back--but on your table I shall find and take it
next Tuesday--_c'est convenu_! The other precious volume has not yet
come to hand (nor to foot) all through your being so sure that to
carry it home would have been the death of me last evening!

I cannot write my feelings in this large writing, begun on such a
scale for the Review's sake; and just now--there is no denying it, and
spite of all I have been incredulous about--it does seem that the fact
_is_ achieved and that I _do_ love you, plainly, surely, more than
ever, more than any day in my life before. It is your secret, the why,
the how; the experience is mine. What are you doing to me?--in the
heart's heart.

Rest--dearest--bless you--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 10, 1846.]

Kindest and dearest you are!--that is 'my secret' and for the others,
I leave them to you!--only it is no secret that I should and must be
glad to have the words you sent with the book,--which I should have
seen at all events be sure, whether you had sent it or not. Should I
not, do you think? And considering what the present generation of
critics really is, the remarks on you may stand, although it is the
dreariest impotency to complain of the want of flesh and blood and of
human sympathy in general. Yet suffer them to say on--it is the stamp
on the critical knife. There must be something eminently stupid, or
farewell criticdom! And if anything more utterly untrue could be said
than another, it is precisely that saying, which Mr. Mackay stands up
to catch the reversion of! Do you indeed suppose that Heraud could
have done this? I scarcely can believe it, though some things are said
rightly as about the 'intellectuality,' and how you stand first by the
brain,--which is as true as truth can be. Then, I _shall have
'Pauline' in a day or two_--yes, I shall and must, and _will_.

The 'Ballad Poems and Fancies,' the article calling itself by that
name, seems indeed to be Mr. Chorley's, and is one of his very best
papers, I think. There is to me a want of colour and thinness about
his writings in general, with a grace and _savoir faire_ nevertheless,
and always a rightness and purity of intention. Observe what he says
of 'many-sidedness' seeming to trench on opinion and principle. That,
he means for himself I know, for he has said to me that through having
such largeness of sympathy he has been charged with want of
principle--yet 'many-sidedness' is certainly no word for him. The
effect of general sympathies may be evolved both from an elastic fancy
and from breadth of mind, and it seems to me that he rather _bends_ to
a phase of humanity and literature than contains it--than comprehends
it. Every part of a truth implies the whole; and to accept truth all
round, does not mean the recognition of contradictory things:
universal sympathies cannot make a man inconsistent, but, on the
contrary, sublimely consistent. A church tower may stand between the
mountains and the sea, looking to either, and stand fast: but the
willow-tree at the gable-end, blown now toward the north and now
toward the south while its natural leaning is due east or west, is
different altogether ... _as_ different as a willow-tree from a church

Ah, what nonsense! There is only one truth for me all this time, while
I talk about truth and truth. And do you know, when you have told me
to think of you, I have been feeling ashamed of thinking of you so
much, of thinking of only you--which _is_ too much, perhaps. Shall I
tell you? it seems to me, to myself, that no man was ever before to
any woman what you are to me--the fulness must be in proportion, you
know, to the vacancy ... and only _I_ know what was behind--the long
wilderness _without_ the blossoming rose ... and the capacity for
happiness, like a black gaping hole, before this silver flooding. Is
it wonderful that I should stand as in a dream, and disbelieve--not
_you_--but my own fate? Was ever any one taken suddenly from a
lampless dungeon and placed upon the pinnacle of a mountain, without
the head turning round and the heart turning faint, as mine do? And
you love me _more_, you say?--Shall I thank you or God?
Both,--indeed--and there is no possible return from me to either of
you! I thank you as the unworthy may ... and as we all thank God. How
shall I ever prove what my heart is to you? How will you ever see it
as I feel it? I ask myself in vain.

Have so much faith in me, my only beloved, as to use me simply for
your own advantage and happiness, and to your own ends without a
thought of any others--_that_ is all I could ask you with any disquiet
as to the granting of it--May God bless you!--



But you have the review _now_--surely?

The _Morning Chronicle_ attributes the authorship of 'Modern Poets'
(_our_ article) to Lord John Manners--so I hear this morning. I have
not yet looked at the paper myself. The _Athenaeum_, still abominably

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 10, 1846.]

This is _no_ letter--love,--I make haste to tell you--to-morrow I will
write. For here has a friend been calling and consuming my very
destined time, and every minute seemed the last that was to be; and an
old, old friend he is, beside--so--you must understand my defection,
when only this scrap reaches you to-night! Ah, love,--you are my
unutterable blessing,--I discover you, more of you, day by day,--hour
by hour, I do think!--I am entirely yours,--one gratitude, all my soul
becomes when I see you over me as now--God bless my dear, dearest.

My 'Act Fourth' is done--but too roughly this time! I will tell you--

One kiss more, dearest!

Thanks for the Review.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 12, 1846.]

I have no words for you, my dearest,--I shall never have.

You are mine, I am yours. Now, here is one sign of what I said ...
that I must love you more than at first ... a little sign, and to be
looked narrowly for or it escapes me, but then the increase it shows
_can_ only be little, so very little now--and as the fine French
Chemical Analysts bring themselves to appreciate matter in its refined
stages by _millionths_, so--! At first I only thought of being _happy_
in you,--in your happiness: now I most think of you in the dark hours
that must come--I shall grow old with you, and die with you--as far as
I can look into the night I see the light with me. And surely with
that provision of comfort one should turn with fresh joy and renewed
sense of security to the sunny middle of the day. I am in the full
sunshine now; and _after_, all seems cared for,--is it too homely an
illustration if I say the day's visit is not crossed by uncertainties
as to the return through the wild country at nightfall?--Now Keats
speaks of 'Beauty, that must _die_--and Joy whose hand is ever at his
lips, bidding farewell!' And _who_ spoke of--looking up into the eyes
and asking 'And _how long_ will you love us'?--There is a Beauty that
will not die, a Joy that bids no farewell, dear dearest eyes that will
love for ever!

And _I_--am to love no longer than I can. Well, dear--and when I _can_
no longer--you will not blame me? You will do only as ever, kindly and
justly; hardly more. I do not pretend to say I have chosen to put my
fancy to such an experiment, and consider how _that_ is to happen, and
what measures ought to be taken in the emergency--because in the
'universality of my sympathies' I certainly number a very lively one
with my own heart and soul, and cannot amuse myself by such a
spectacle as their supposed extinction or paralysis. There is no doubt
I should be an object for the deepest commiseration of you or any more
fortunate human being. And I hope that because such a calamity does
not obtrude itself on me as a thing to be prayed against, it is no
less duly implied with all the other visitations from which no
humanity can be altogether exempt--just as God bids us ask for the
continuance of the 'daily bread'!--'battle, murder and sudden death'
lie behind doubtless. I repeat, and perhaps in so doing only give one
more example of the instantaneous conversion of that indignation we
bestow in another's case, into wonderful lenity when it becomes our
own, ... that I only contemplate the _possibility_ you make me
recognize, with pity, and fear ... no anger at all; and imprecations
of vengeance, _for what_? Observe, I only speak of cases _possible_;
of sudden impotency of mind; that _is_ possible--there _are_ other
ways of '_changing_,' 'ceasing to love' &c. which it is safest not to
think of nor believe in. A man _may_ never leave his writing desk
without seeing safe in one corner of it the folded slip which directs
the disposal of his papers in the event of his reason suddenly leaving
him--or he may never go out into the street without a card in his
pocket to signify his address to those who may have to pick him up in
an apoplectic fit--but if he once begins to fear he is growing a glass
bottle, and, _so_, liable to be smashed,--do you see? And now, love,
dear heart of my heart, my own, only Ba--see no more--see what I _am_,
what God in his constant mercy ordinarily grants to those who have, as
I, received already so much; much, past expression! It is but--if you
will so please--at worst, forestalling the one or two years, for my
sake; but you _will_ be as sure of me _one_ day as I can be now of
myself--and why not _now_ be sure? See, love--a year is gone by--we
were in one relation when you wrote at the end of a letter 'Do not say
I do not tire you' (by writing)--'_I am sure I do_.' A year has gone
by--_Did you tire me then?_ _Now_, you tell me what is told; for my
sake, sweet, let the few years go by; we are married, and my arms are
round you, and my face touches yours, and I am asking you, '_Were you
not_ to me, in that dim beginning of 1846, a joy behind all joys, a
life added to and transforming mine, the good I choose from all the
possible gifts of God on this earth, for which I seemed to have lived;
which accepting, I thankfully step aside and let the rest get what
they can; what, it is very likely, they esteem more--for why should my
eye be evil because God's is good; why should I grudge that, giving
them, I do believe, infinitely less, he gives them a content in the
inferior good and belief in its worth? I should have wished _that_
further concession, that illusion as I believe it, for their
sakes--but I cannot undervalue my own treasure and so scant the only
tribute of mere gratitude which is in my power to pay. Hear this said
_now before_ the few years; and believe in it _now for then_, dearest!

Must you see 'Pauline'? At least then let me wait a few days; to
correct the misprints which affect the sense, and to write you the
history of it; what is necessary you should know before you see it.
That article I suppose to be by Heraud--about two thirds--and the
rest, or a little less, by that Mr. Powell--whose unimaginable,
impudent vulgar stupidity you get some inkling of in the 'Story from
Boccaccio'--of which the _words_ quoted were _his_, I am sure--as sure
as that he knows not whether Boccaccio lived before or after
Shakspeare, whether Florence or Rome be the more northern city,--one
word of Italian in general, or letter of Boccaccio's in particular.
When I took pity on him once on a time and helped his verses into a
sort of grammar and sense, I did not think he was a _buyer_ of other
men's verses, to be printed as his own; thus he _bought_ two
modernisations of Chaucer--'Ugolino' and another story from Leigh
Hunt--and one, 'Sir Thopas' from Horne, and printed them as his own,
as I learned only last week. He paid me extravagant court and, seeing
no harm in the mere folly of the man, I was on good terms with him,
till ten months ago he grossly insulted a friend of mine who had
written an article for the Review--(which is as good as _his_, he
being a large proprietor of the delectable property, and influencing
the voices of his co-mates in council)--well, he insulted my friend,
who had written that article at my special solicitation, and did all
he could to avoid paying the price of it--Why?--Because the poor
creature had actually taken the article to the Editor _as one by his
friend Serjeant Talfourd contributed for pure love of him, Powell the
aforesaid_,--cutting, in consequence, no inglorious figure in the eyes
of Printer and Publisher! Now I was away all this time in Italy or he
would never have ventured on such a piece of childish impertinence.
And my friend being a true gentleman, and quite unused to this sort of
'practice,' in the American sense, held his peace and went without his
'honorarium.' But on my return, I enquired, and made him make a
proper application, which Mr. Powell treated with all the insolence in
the world--because, as the event showed, the having to write a cheque
for 'the Author of _the_ Article'--that author's name _not_ being
Talfourd's ... _there_ was certain disgrace! Since then (ten months
ago) I have never seen him--and he accuses _himself_, observe, of
'sucking my plots while I drink his tea'--one as much as the other!
And now why do I tell you this, all of it? Ah,--now you shall hear!
Because, it has often been in my mind to ask you what _you_ know of
this Mr. Powell, or ever knew. For he, (being profoundly versed in
every sort of untruth, as every fresh experience shows me, and the
rest of his acquaintance) he told me long ago, 'he used to correspond
with you, and that he quarrelled with you'--which I supposed to mean
that he began by sending you his books (as with one and everybody) and
that, in return to your note of acknowledgment, he had chosen to write
again, and perhaps, again--is it so? Do not write one word in answer
to me--the name of such a miserable nullity, and husk of a man, ought
not to have a place in your letters--and _that way_ he would get near
to me again; near indeed this time!--So _tell_ me, in a word--or do
not tell me.

How I never say what I sit down to say! How saying the little makes me
want to say the more! How the least of little things, once taken up as
a thing to be imparted to you, seems to need explanations and
commentaries; all is of importance to me--every breath you breathe,
every little fact (like this) you are to know!

I was out last night--to see the rest of Frank Talfourd's theatricals;
and met Dickens and his set--so my evenings go away! If I do not bring
the _Act_ you must forgive me--yet I shall, I think; the roughness
matters little in this stage. Chorley says very truly that a tragedy
implies as much power _kept back_ as brought out--very true that is. I
do not, on the whole, feel dissatisfied--as was to be but
expected--with the effect of this last--the _shelve_ of the hill,
whence the end is seen, you continuing to go down to it, so that at
the very last you may pass off into a plain and so away--not come to a
stop like your horse against a church wall. It is all in long
speeches--the _action, proper_, is in them--they are no descriptions,
or amplifications--but here, in a drama of this kind, all the
_events_, (and interest), take place in the _minds_ of the actors ...
somewhat like 'Paracelsus' in that respect. You know, or don't know,
that the general charge against me, of late, from the few quarters I
thought it worth while to listen to, has been that of abrupt,
spasmodic writing--they will find some fault with this, of course.

How you know Chorley! That is precisely the man, that willow blowing
now here now there--precisely! I wish he minded the _Athenaeum_, its
silence or eloquence, no more nor less than I--but he goes on
painfully plying me with invitation after invitation, only to show me,
I feel confident, that _he_ has no part nor lot in the matter: I have
_two_ kind little notes asking me to go on Thursday and Saturday. See
the absurd position of us both; he asks more of my presence than he
can want, just to show his own kind feeling, of which I do not doubt;
and I must try and accept more hospitality than suits me, only to
prove my belief in that same! For myself--if I have vanity which such
Journals can raise; would the praise of them raise it, they who
praised Mr. Mackay's own, own 'Dead Pan,' quite his own, the other
day?--By the way, Miss Cushman informed me the other evening that the
gentleman had written a certain 'Song of the Bell' ... 'singularly
like Schiller's; _considering that Mr. M. had never_ seen it!' I am
told he writes for the _Athenaeum_, but don't know. Would that sort of
praise be flattering, or his holding the tongue--which Forster, deep
in the mysteries of the craft, corroborated my own notion about--as
pure willingness to hurt, and confessed impotence and little clever
spite, and enforced sense of what may be safe at the last? You shall
see they will not notice--unless a fresh publication alters the
circumstances--until some seven or eight months--as before; and then
they _will_ notice, and _praise_, and tell anybody who cares to
enquire, '_So_ we noticed the work.' So do not you go expecting
justice or injustice till I tell you. It answers me to be found
writing so, so anxious to prove I understand the laws of the game,
when that game is only 'Thimble-rig' and for prizes of
gingerbread-nuts--Prize or no prize, Mr. Dilke _does_ shift the pea,
and so did from the beginning--as Charles Lamb's pleasant _sobriquet_
(Mr. _Bilk_, he would have it) testifies. Still he behaved kindly to
that poor Frances Brown--let us forget him.

And now, my Audience, my crown-bearer, my path-preparer--I am with you
again and out of them all--there, _here_, in my arms, is my _proved
palpable success_! My life, my poetry, gained nothing, oh no!--but
this found them, and blessed them. On Tuesday I shall see you,
dearest--am much better; well to-day--are you well--or 'scarcely to be
called an invalid'? Oh, when I _have_ you, am by you--

Bless you, dearest--And be very sure you have your wish about the
length of the week--still Tuesday must come! And with it your own,
happy, grateful


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              Tuesday Night.
                              [Post-mark, January 14, 1846.]

Ah Mr. Kenyon!--how he vexed me to-day. To keep away all the ten days
before, and to come just at the wrong time after all! It was better
for you, I suppose--believe--to go with him down-stairs--yes, it
certainly was better: it was disagreeable enough to be very wise! Yet
I, being addicted to every sort of superstition turning to melancholy,
did hate so breaking off in the middle of that black thread ... (do
you remember what we were talking of when they opened the door?) that
I was on the point of saying 'Stay one moment,' which I should have
repented afterwards for the best of good reasons. Oh, I _should_ have
liked to have 'fastened off' that black thread, and taken one stitch
with a blue or a green one!

You do not remember what we were talking of? what _you_, rather, were
talking of? And what _I_ remember, at least, because it is exactly the
most unkind and hard thing you ever said to me--ever dearest, so I
remember it by that sign! That you should say such a thing to me--!
think what it was, for indeed I will not write it down here--it would
be worse than Mr. Powell! Only the foolishness of it (I mean, the
foolishness of it alone) saves it, smooths it to a degree!--the
foolishness being the same as if you asked a man where he would walk
when he lost his head. Why, if you had asked St. Denis _beforehand_,
he would have thought it a foolish question.

And you!--you, who talk so finely of never, never doubting; of being
such an example in the way of believing and trusting--it appears,
after all, that you have an imagination apprehensive (or
comprehensive) of 'glass bottles' like other sublunary creatures, and
worse than some of them. For mark, that I never went any farther than
to the stone-wall hypothesis of your forgetting me!--_I_ always
stopped there--and never climbed, to the top of it over the
broken-bottle fortification, to see which way you meant to walk
afterwards. And you, to ask me so coolly--think what you asked me.
That you should have the heart to ask such a question!

And the reason--! and it could seem a reasonable matter of doubt to
you whether I would go to the south for my health's sake!--And I
answered quite a common 'no' I believe--for you bewildered me for the
moment--and I have had tears in my eyes two or three times since, just
through thinking back of it all ... of your asking me such questions.
Now did I not tell you when I first knew you, that I was leaning out
of the window? True, _that_ was--I was tired of living ...
unaffectedly tired. All I cared to live for was to do better some of
the work which, after all, was out of myself, and which I had to reach
across to do. But I told you. Then, last year, for duty's sake I would
have _consented_ to go to Italy! but if you really fancy that I would
have struggled in the face of all that difficulty--or struggled,
indeed, anywise, to compass such an object as _that_--except for the
motive of your caring for it and me--why you know nothing of me after
all--nothing! And now, take away the motive, and I am where I
was--leaning out of the window again. To put it in plainer words (as
you really require information), I should let them do what they liked
to me till I was dead--only I _wouldn't go to Italy_--if anybody
proposed Italy out of contradiction. In the meantime I do entreat you
never to talk of such a thing to me any more.

You know, if you were to leave me by your choice and for your
happiness, it would be another thing. It would be very lawful to talk
of _that_.

And observe! I perfectly understand that you did not think of
_doubting me_--so to speak! But you thought, all the same, that if
such a thing happened, I should be capable of doing so and so.

Well--I am not quarrelling--I am uneasy about your head rather. That
pain in it--what can it mean? I do beseech you to think of me just so
much as will lead you to take regular exercise every day, never
missing a day; since to walk till you are tired on Tuesday and then
not to walk at all until Friday is _not_ taking exercise, nor the
thing required. Ah, if you knew how dreadfully natural every sort of
evil seems to my mind, you would not laugh at me for being afraid. I
do beseech you, dearest! And then, Sir John Hanmer invited you,
besides Mr. Warburton, and suppose you went to _him_ for a very little
time--just for the change of air? or if you went to the coast
somewhere. Will you consider, and do what is right, _for me_? I do not
propose that you should go to Italy, observe, nor any great thing at
which you might reasonably hesitate. And--did you ever try smoking as
a remedy? If the nerves of the head chiefly are affected it might do
you good, I have been thinking. Or without the smoking, to breathe
where tobacco is burnt,--_that_ calms the nervous system in a
wonderful manner, as I experienced once myself when, recovering from
an illness, I could not sleep, and tried in vain all sorts of
narcotics and forms of hop-pillow and inhalation, yet was
tranquillized in one half hour by a _pinch_ of _tobacco_ being burnt
in a shovel near me. Should you mind it very much? the trying I mean?

_Wednesday._--For '_Pauline_'--when I had named it to you I was on the
point of sending for the book to the booksellers--then suddenly I
thought to myself that I should wait and hear whether you very, very
much would dislike my reading it. See now! Many readers have done
virtuously, but _I_, (in this virtue I tell you of) surpassed them
all!--And now, because I may, I '_must_ read it':--and as there are
misprints to be corrected, will you do what is necessary, or what you
think is necessary, and bring me the book on Monday? Do not
send--bring it. In the meanwhile I send back the review which I forgot
to give to you yesterday in the confusion. Perhaps you have not read
it in your house, and in any case there is no use in my keeping it.

Shall I hear from you, I wonder! Oh my vain thoughts, that will not
keep you well! And, ever since you have known me, you have been
worse--_that_, you confess!--and what if it should be the crossing of
my bad star? _You_ of the 'Crown' and the 'Lyre,' to seek influences
from the 'chair of Cassiopeia'! I hope she will forgive me for using
her name so! I might as well have compared her to a professorship of
poetry in the university of Oxford, according to the latest election.
You know, the qualification, there, is,--_not to be a poet_.

How vexatious, yesterday! The stars (talking of _them_) were out of
spherical tune, through the damp weather, perhaps, and that scarlet
sun was a sign! First Mr. Chorley!--and last, dear Mr. Kenyon; who
_will_ say tiresome things without any provocation. Did you walk with
him his way, or did he walk with you yours? or did you only walk
down-stairs together?

Write to me! Remember that it is a month to Monday. Think of your very
own, who bids God bless you when she prays best for herself!--


Say particularly how you are--now do not omit it. And will you have
Miss Martineau's books when I can lend them to you? Just at this
moment I _dare_ not, because they are reading them here.

Let Mr. Mackay have his full proprietary in his 'Dead Pan'--which is
quite a different conception of the subject, and executed in blank
verse too. I have no claims against him, I am sure!

But for the _man_!--To call him a poet! A prince and potentate of
Commonplaces, such as he is!--I have seen his name in the _Athenaeum_
attached to a lyric or two ... poems, correctly called fugitive,--more
than usually fugitive--but I never heard before that his hand was in
the prose department.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 14, 1846.]

Was I in the wrong, dearest, to go away with Mr. Kenyon? I _well knew
and felt_ the price I was about to pay--but the thought _did_ occur
that he might have been informed my probable time of departure was
that of his own arrival--and that he would not know how very soon,
alas, I should be _obliged_ to go--so ... to save you any least
embarrassment in the world, I got--just that shake of the hand, just
that look--and no more! And was it all for nothing, all needless after
all? So I said to myself all the way home.

When I am away from you--a crowd of things press on me for
utterance--'I will say them, not write them,' I think:--when I see
you--all to be said seems insignificant, irrelevant,--'they can be
written, at all events'--I think _that_ too. So, feeling so much, I
say so little!

I have just returned from Town and write for the Post--but _you_ mean
to write, I trust.

_That_ was not obtained, that promise, to be happy with, as last time!

How are you?--tell me, dearest; a long week is to be waited now!

                             Bless you, my own, sweetest Ba.

                                  I am wholly your


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 15, 1846.]

Dearest, dearer to my heart minute by minute, I had no wish to give
you pain, God knows. No one can more readily consent to let a few
years more or less of life go out of account,--be lost--but as I sate
by you, you so full of the truest life, for this world as for the
next,--and was struck by the possibility, all that might happen were I
away, in the case of your continuing to acquiesce--dearest, it _is_
horrible--could not but speak. If in drawing you, all of you, closer
to my heart, I hurt you whom I would--_outlive_ ... yes,--cannot speak
here--forgive me, Ba.

My Ba, you are to consider now for me. Your health, your strength, it
is all wonderful; that is not my dream, you know--but what all see.
Now, steadily care for us both--take time, take counsel if you choose;
but at the end tell me what you will do for your part--thinking of me
as utterly devoted, soul and body, to you, living wholly in your life,
seeing good and ill only as you see,--being yours as your hand is,--or
as your Flush, rather. Then I will, on my side, prepare. When I say
'take counsel'--I reserve my last right, the man's right of first
speech. _I_ stipulate, too, and require to say my own speech in my own
words or by letter--remember! But this living without you is too
tormenting now. So begin thinking,--as for Spring, as for a New Year,
as for a new life.

I went no farther than the door with Mr. Kenyon. He must see the
truth; and--you heard the playful words which had a meaning all the

No more of this; only, think of it for me, love!

One of these days I shall write a long letter--on the omitted matters,
unanswered questions, in your past letters. The present joy still
makes me ungrateful to the previous one; but I remember. We are to
live together one day, love!

Will you let Mr. Poe's book lie on the table on Monday, if you please,
that I may read what he _does_ say, with my own eyes? _That_ I meant
to ask, too!

How too, too kind you are--how you care for so little that affects me!
I am very much better--I went out yesterday, as you found: to-day I
shall walk, beside seeing Chorley. And certainly, certainly I would go
away for a week, if so I might escape being ill (and away from you) a
fortnight; but I am _not_ ill--and will care, as you bid me, beloved!
So, you will send, and take all trouble; and all about that crazy
Review! Now, you should not!--I will consider about your goodness. I
hardly know if I care to read that kind of book just now.

Will you, and must you have 'Pauline'? If I could pray you to revoke
that decision! For it is altogether foolish and _not_ boylike--and I
shall, I confess, hate the notion of running over it--yet commented
it must be; more than mere correction! I was unluckily
_precocious_--but I had rather you _saw_ real infantine efforts
(verses at six years old, and drawings still earlier) than this
ambiguous, feverish--Why not wait? When you speak of the
'Bookseller'--I smile, in glorious security--having a whole bale of
sheets at the house-top. He never knew my name even!--and I withdrew
these after a very little time.

And now--here is a vexation. May I be with you (for this once) next
Monday, at _two_ instead of _three_ o'clock? Forster's business with
the new Paper obliges him, he says, to restrict his choice of days to
_Monday_ next--and give up _my_ part of Monday I will never for fifty
Forsters--now, sweet, mind that! Monday is no common day, but leads to
a _Saturday_--and if, as I ask, I get leave to call at 2--and to stay
till 3-1/2--though I then lose nearly half an hour--yet all will be
comparatively well. If there is any difficulty--one word and I
re-appoint our party, his and mine, for the day the paper breaks
down--not so long to wait, it strikes me!

Now, bless you, my precious Ba--I am your own--

                                               --Your own R.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              Thursday Morning.
                              [Post-mark, January 17, 1846.]

Our letters have crossed; and, mine being the longest, I have a right
to expect another directly, I think. I have been calculating: and it
seems to me--now what I am going to say may take its place among the
paradoxes,--that I gain most by the short letters. Last week the only
long one came last, and I was quite contented that the 'old friend'
should come to see you on Saturday and make you send me two instead of
the single one I looked for: it was a clear gain, the little short
note, and the letter arrived all the same. I remember, when I was a
child, liking to have two shillings and sixpence better than half a
crown--and now it is the same with this fairy money, which will never
turn all into pebbles, or beans, whatever the chronicles may say of

Arabel did tell Mr. Kenyon (she told me) that 'Mr. Browning would soon
go away'--in reply to an observation of his, that 'he would not stay
as I had company'; and altogether it was better,--the lamp made it
look late. But you do not appear in the least remorseful for being
tempted of my black devil, my familiar, to ask such questions and
leave me under such an impression--'mens conscia recti' too!!--

And Mr. Kenyon will not come until next Monday perhaps. How am I? But
I am too well to be asked about. Is it not a warm summer? The weather
is as 'miraculous' as the rest, I think. It is you who are unwell and
make people uneasy, dearest. Say how you are, and promise me to do
what is right and try to be better. The walking, the changing of the
air, the leaving off Luria ... do what is right, I earnestly beseech
you. The other day, I heard of Tennyson being ill again, ... too ill
to write a simple note to his friend Mr. Venables, who told George. A
little more than a year ago, it would have been no worse a thing to me
to hear of your being ill than to hear of his being ill!--How the
world has changed since then! To _me_, I mean.

Did I say _that_ ever ... that 'I knew you must be tired?' And it was
not even so true as that the coming event threw its shadow before?

_Thursday night._--I have begun on another sheet--I could not write
here what was in my heart--yet I send you this paper besides to show
how I was writing to you this morning. In the midst of it came a
female friend of mine and broke the thread--the visible thread, that

And now, even now, at this safe eight o'clock, I could not be safe
from somebody, who, in her goodnature and my illfortune, must come and
sit by me--and when my letter was come--'why wouldn't I read it? What
wonderful politeness on my part.' She would not and could not consent
to keep me from reading my letter. She would stand up by the fire

No, no, three times no. Brummel got into the carriage before the
Regent, ... (didn't he?) but I persisted in not reading my letter in
the presence of my friend. A notice on my punctiliousness may be put
down to-night in her 'private diary.' I kept the letter in my hand and
only read it with those sapient ends of the fingers which the
mesmerists make so much ado about, and which really did seem to touch
a little of what was inside. Not _all_, however, happily for me! Or my
friend would have seen in my eyes what _they_ did not see.

May God bless you! Did I ever say that I had an objection to read the
verses at six years old--or see the drawings either? I am reasonable,
you observe! Only, 'Pauline,' I must have _some day_--why not without
the emendations? But if you insist on them, I will agree to wait a
little--if you promise _at last_ to let me see the book, which I will
not show. Some day, then! you shall not be vexed nor hurried for the
day--some day. Am I not generous? And _I_ was 'precocious' too, and
used to make rhymes over my bread and milk when I was nearly a baby
... only really it was mere echo-verse, that of mine, and had nothing
of mark or of indication, such as I do not doubt that yours had. I
used to write of virtue with a large 'V,' and 'Oh Muse' with a harp,
and things of that sort. At nine years old I wrote what I called 'an
epic'--and at ten, various tragedies, French and English, which we
used to act in the nursery. There was a French 'hexameter' tragedy on
the subject of Regulus--but I cannot even smile to think of it now,
there are so many grave memories--which time has made grave--hung
around it. How I remember sitting in 'my house under the sideboard,'
in the dining-room, concocting one of the soliloquies beginning

    Que suis je? autrefois un general Remain:
    Maintenant esclave de Carthage je souffre en vain.

Poor Regulus!--Can't you conceive how fine it must have been
altogether? And these were my 'maturer works,' you are to understand,
... and 'the moon was bright at ten o'clock at night' years before. As
to the gods and goddesses, I believed in them all quite seriously, and
reconciled them to Christianity, which I believed in too after a
fashion, as some greater philosophers have done--and went out one day
with my pinafore full of little sticks (and a match from the
housemaid's cupboard) to sacrifice to the blue-eyed Minerva who was my
favourite goddess on the whole because she cared for Athens. As soon
as I began to doubt about my goddesses, I fell into a vague sort of
general scepticism, ... and though I went on saying 'the Lord's
prayer' at nights and mornings, and the 'Bless all my kind friends'
afterwards, by the childish custom ... yet I ended this liturgy with a
supplication which I found in 'King's Memoirs' and which took my fancy
and met my general views exactly.... 'O God, if there be a God, save
my soul if I have a soul.' Perhaps the theology of many thoughtful
children is scarcely more orthodox than this: but indeed it is
wonderful to myself sometimes how I came to escape, on the whole, as
well as I have done, considering the commonplaces of education in
which I was set, with strength and opportunity for breaking the bonds
all round into liberty and license. Papa used to say ... 'Don't read
Gibbon's history--it's not a proper book. Don't read "Tom Jones"--and
none of the books on _this_ side, mind!' So I was very obedient and
never touched the books on _that_ side, and only read instead Tom
Paine's 'Age of Reason,' and Voltaire's 'Philosophical Dictionary,'
and Hume's 'Essays,' and Werther, and Rousseau, and Mary
Wollstonecraft ... books, which I was never suspected of looking
towards, and which were not 'on _that_ side' certainly, but which did
as well.

How I am writing!--And what are the questions you did not answer? I
shall remember them by the answers I suppose--but your letters always
have a fulness to me and I never seem to wish for what is not in them.

But this is the end _indeed_.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

           Thursday Night.
           [In the same envelope with the preceding letter.]

Ever dearest--how you can write touching things to me; and how my
whole being vibrates, as a string, to these! How have I deserved from
God and you all that I thank you for? Too unworthy I am of all! Only,
it was not, dearest beloved, what you feared, that was 'horrible,' it
was what you _supposed_, rather! It was a mistake of yours. And now we
will not talk of it any more.

_Friday morning._--For the rest, I will think as you desire: but I
have thought a great deal, and there are certainties which I know; and
I hope we _both_ are aware that nothing can be more hopeless than our
position in some relations and aspects, though you do not guess
perhaps that the very approach to the subject is shut up by dangers,
and that from the moment of a suspicion entering _one_ mind, we should
be able to meet never again in this room, nor to have intercourse by
letter through the ordinary channel. I mean, that letters of yours,
addressed to me here, would infallibly be stopped and destroyed--if
not opened. Therefore it is advisable to hurry on nothing--on these
grounds it is advisable. What should I do if I did not see you nor
hear from you, without being able to feel that it was for your
happiness? What should I do for a month even? And then, I might be
thrown out of the window or its equivalent--I look back shuddering to
the dreadful scenes in which poor Henrietta was involved who never
offended as I have offended ... years ago which seem as present as
to-day. She had forbidden the subject to be referred to until that
consent was obtained--and at a word she gave up all--at a word. In
fact she had no true attachment, as I observed to Arabel at the
time--a child never submitted more meekly to a revoked holiday. Yet
how she was made to suffer. Oh, the dreadful scenes! and only because
she had seemed to feel a little. I told you, I think, that there was
an obliquity--an eccentricity, or something beyond--on one class of
subjects. I hear how her knees were made to ring upon the floor, now!
she was carried out of the room in strong hysterics, and I, who rose
up to follow her, though I was quite well at that time and suffered
only by sympathy, fell flat down upon my face in a fainting-fit.
Arabel thought I was dead.

I have tried to forget it all--but now I must remember--and throughout
our intercourse _I have remembered_. It is necessary to remember so
much as to avoid such evils as are inevitable, and for this reason I
would conceal nothing from you. Do _you_ remember, besides, that there
can be no faltering on my 'part,' and that, if I should remain well,
which is not proved yet, I will do for you what you please and as you
please to have it done. But there is time for considering!

Only ... as you speak of 'counsel,' I will take courage to tell you
that my _sisters know_, Arabel is in most of my confidences, and being
often in the room with me, taxed me with the truth long ago--she saw
that I was affected from some cause--and I told her. We are as safe
with both of them as possible ... and they thoroughly understand that
_if there should be any change it would not be your fault_.... I made
them understand that thoroughly. From themselves I have received
nothing but the most smiling words of kindness and satisfaction (I
thought I might tell you so much), they have too much tenderness for
me to fail in it now. My brothers, it is quite necessary not to draw
into a dangerous responsibility. I have felt that from the beginning,
and shall continue to feel it--though I hear and can observe that they
are full of suspicions and conjectures, which are never unkindly
expressed. I told you once that we held hands the faster in this house
for the weight over our heads. But the absolute _knowledge_ would be
dangerous for my brothers: with my sisters it is different, and I
could not continue to conceal from _them_ what they had under their
eyes; and then, Henrietta is in a like position. It was not wrong of
me to let them know it?--no?

Yet of what consequence is all this to the other side of the question?
What, if _you_ should give pain and disappointment where you owe such
pure gratitude. But we need not talk of these things now. Only you
have more to consider than _I_, I imagine, while the future comes on.

Dearest, let me have my way in one thing: let me see you on _Tuesday_
instead of on Monday--on Tuesday at the old hour. Be reasonable and
consider. Tuesday is almost as near as the day before it; and on
Monday, I shall be hurried at first, lest Papa should be still in the
house, (no harm, but an excuse for nervousness: and I can't quote a
noble Roman as you can, to the praise of my conscience!) and _you_
will be hurried at last, lest you should not be in time for Mr.
Forster. On the other hand, I will not let you be rude to the _Daily
News_, ... no, nor to the _Examiner_. Come on Tuesday, then, instead
of Monday, and let us have the usual hours in a peaceable way,--and if
there is no obstacle,--that is, if Mr. Kenyon or some equivalent
authority should not take note of your being here on Tuesday, why you
can come again on the Saturday afterwards--I do not see the
difficulty. Are we agreed? On Tuesday, at three o'clock. Consider,
besides, that the Monday arrangement would hurry you in every manner,
and leave you fagged for the evening--no, I will not hear of it. Not
on my account, not on yours!

Think of me on Monday instead, and write before. Are not these two
lawful letters? And do not they deserve an answer?

My life was ended when I knew you, and if I survive myself it is for
your sake:--_that_ resumes all my feelings and intentions in respect
to you. No 'counsel' could make the difference of a grain of dust in
the balance. It _is so_, and not otherwise. If you changed towards me,
it would be better for you I believe--and I should be only where I was
before. While you do _not_ change, I look to you for my first
affections and my first duty--and nothing but your bidding me, could
make me look away.

In the midst of this, Mr. Kenyon came and I felt as if I could not
talk to him. No--he does not 'see how it is.' He may have passing
thoughts sometimes, but they do not stay long enough to produce--even
an opinion. He asked if you had been here long.

It may be wrong and ungrateful, but I do wish sometimes that the world
were away--even the good Kenyon-aspect of the world.

And so, once more--may God bless you!

                                         I am wholly yours--

_Tuesday_, remember! And say that you agree.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 17, 1846.]

Did my own Ba, in the prosecution of her studies, get to a book on the
forb--no, _un_forbidden shelf--wherein Voltaire pleases to say that
'si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer'? I feel, after
reading these letters,--as ordinarily after seeing you, sweetest, or
hearing from you,--that if _marriage_ did not exist, I should
infallibly _invent_ it. I should say, no words, no _feelings_ even,
do justice to the whole conviction and _religion_ of my soul--and
though they may be suffered to represent some one minute's phase of
it, yet, in their very fulness and passion they do injustice to the
_unrepresented, other minute's_, depth and breadth of love ... which
let my whole life (I would say) be devoted to telling and proving and
exemplifying, if not in one, then in another way--let me have the
plain palpable power of this; the assured time for this ... something
of the satisfaction ... (but for the fantasticalness of the
illustration) ... something like the earnestness of some suitor in
Chancery if he could once get Lord Lyndhurst into a room with him, and
lock the door on them both, and know that his whole story _must_ be
listened to now, and the 'rights of it,'--dearest, the love unspoken
now you are to hear 'in all time of our tribulation, in all time of
our wealth ... at the hour of death, and'--

If I did not _know_ this was so,--nothing would have been said, or
sought for. Your friendship, the perfect pride in it, the wish for,
and eager co-operation in, your welfare, all that is different, and,
seen now, nothing.

I will care for it no more, dearest--I am wedded to you now. I believe
no human being could love you more--that thought consoles me for my
own imperfection--for when _that_ does strike me, as so often it will,
I turn round on my pursuing self, and ask 'What if it were a claim
then, what is in Her, demanded rationally, equitably, in return for
what were in you--do you like _that_ way!'--And I do _not_, Ba--you,
even, might not--when people everyday buy improveable ground, and
eligible sites for building, and don't want every inch filled up,
covered over, done to their hands! So take me, and make me what you
can and will--and though never to be _more_ yours, yet more _like_
you, I may and must be--Yes, indeed--best, only love!

And am I not grateful to your sisters--entirely grateful for that
crowning comfort; it is 'miraculous,' too, if you please--for _you_
shall know me by finger-tip intelligence or any art magic of old or
new times--but they do not see me, know me--and must moreover be
jealous of you, chary of you, as the daughters of Hesperus, of
wonderers and wistful lookers up at the gold apple--yet instead of
'rapidly levelling eager eyes'--they are indulgent? Then--shall I wish
capriciously they were _not_ your sisters, not so near you, that there
might be a kind of grace in loving them for it'--but what grace can
there be when ... yes, I will tell you--_no_, I will not--it is
foolish!--and it is _not_ foolish in me to love the table and chairs
and vases in your room.

Let me finish writing to-morrow; it would not become me to utter a
word against the arrangement--and Saturday promised, too--but though
all concludes against the early hour on Monday, yet--but this is
wrong--on Tuesday it shall be, then,--thank you, dearest! you let me
keep up the old proper form, do you not?--I shall continue to thank,
and be gratified &c. as if I had some untouched fund of thanks at my
disposal to cut a generous figure with on occasion! And so, now, for
your kind considerateness thank _you ... that I say_, which, God
knows, _could_ not say, if I died ten deaths in one to do you good,
'you are repaid'--

To-morrow I will write, and answer more. I am pretty well, and will go
out to-day--to-night. My Act is done, and copied--I will bring it. Do
you see the _Athenaeum_? By Chorley surely--and kind and satisfactory.
I did not expect any notice for a long time--all that about the
'mist,' 'unchanged manner' and the like is politic concession to the
Powers that Be ... because he might tell me that and much more with
his own lips or unprofessional pen, and be thanked into the bargain,
yet he does not. But I fancy he saves me from a rougher hand--the long
extracts answer every purpose--

There is all to say yet--to-morrow!

And ever, ever your own; God bless you!


Admire the clean paper.... I did not notice that I have been writing in
a desk where a candle fell! See the bottoms of the other pages!

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              Sunday Evening.
                              [Post-mark, January 19, 1846.]

You may have seen, I put off all the weighty business part of the
letter--but I shall do very little with it now. To be sure, a few
words will serve, because you understand me, and believe in _enough_
of me. First, then, I am wholly satisfied, thoroughly made happy in
your assurance. I would build up an infinity of lives, if I could plan
them, one on the other, and all resting on you, on your word--I fully
believe in it,--of my feeling, the gratitude, let there be no attempt
to speak. And for 'waiting'; 'not hurrying',--I leave all with you
henceforth--all you say is most wise, most convincing.

On the saddest part of all,--silence. You understand, and I can
understand through you. Do you know, that I never _used_ to dream
unless indisposed, and rarely then--(of late I dream of you, but quite
of late)--and _those_ nightmare dreams have invariably been of _one_
sort. I stand by (powerless to interpose by a word even) and see the
infliction of tyranny on the unresisting man or beast (generally the
last)--and I wake just in time not to die: let no one try this kind of
experiment on me or mine! Though I have observed that by a felicitous
arrangement, the man with the whip puts it into use with an old horse
commonly. I once knew a fine specimen of the boilingly passionate,
desperately respectable on the Eastern principle that reverences a
madman--and this fellow, whom it was to be death to oppose, (some
bloodvessel was to break)--he, once at a dinner party at which I was
present, insulted his wife (a young pretty simple believer in his
awful immunities from the ordinary terms that keep men in
order)--brought the tears into her eyes and sent her from the room ...
purely to 'show off' in the eyes of his guests ... (all males,
law-friends &c., he being a lawyer.) This feat accomplished, he, too,
left us with an affectation of compensating relentment, to 'just say a
word and return'--and no sooner was his back to the door than the
biggest, stupidest of the company began to remark 'what a fortunate
thing it was that Mr. So-and-so had such a submissive wife--not one of
the women who would resist--that is, attempt to resist--and so
exasperate our gentleman into ... Heaven only knew what!' I said it
_was_, in one sense, a fortunate thing; because one of these women,
without necessarily being the lion-tressed Bellona, would richly give
him his desert, I thought--'Oh, indeed?' No--_this_ man was not to be
opposed--wait, you might, till the fit was over, and then try what
kind argument would do--and so forth to unspeakable nausea. Presently
we went up-stairs--there sate the wife with dried eyes, and a smile at
the tea-table--and by her, in all the pride of conquest, with her hand
in his, our friend--disposed to be very good-natured of course. I
listened _arrectis auribus_, and in a minute he said he did not know
somebody I mentioned. I told him, _that_ I easily conceived--such a
person would never condescend to know _him_, &c., and treated him to
every consequence ingenuity could draw from that text--and at the end
marched out of the room; and the valorous man, who had sate like a
post, got up, took a candle, followed me to the door, and only said in
unfeigned wonder, 'What _can_ have possessed you, my _dear_ B?'--All
which I as much expected beforehand, as that the above mentioned man
of the whip keeps quiet in the presence of an ordinary-couraged dog.
All this is quite irrelevant to _the_ case--indeed, I write to get rid
of the thought altogether. But I do hold it the most stringent duty of
all who can, to stop a condition, a relation of one human being to
another which God never allowed to exist between Him and ourselves.
_Trees_ live and die, if you please, and accept will for a law--but
with us, all commands surely refer to a previously-implanted
conviction in ourselves of their rationality and justice. Or why
declare that 'the Lord _is_ holy, just and good' unless there is
recognised and independent conception of holiness and goodness, to
which the subsequent assertion is referable? 'You know what _holiness_
is, what it is to be good? Then, He _is_ that'--not, '_that_ is
_so_--because _he_ is that'; though, of course, when once the converse
is demonstrated, this, too, follows, and may be urged for practical
purposes. All God's urgency, so to speak, is on the _justice_ of his
judgments, _rightness_ of his rule: yet why? one might ask--if one
does believe that the rule _is_ his; why ask further?--Because, his is
a 'reasonable service,' once for all.

Understand why I turn my thoughts in this direction. If it is indeed
as you fear, and no endeavour, concession, on my part will avail,
under any circumstances--(and by endeavour, I mean all heart and soul
could bring the flesh to perform)--in that case, you will not come to
me with a shadow past hope of chasing.

The likelihood is, I over frighten myself for you, by the involuntary
contrast with those here--you allude to them--if I went with this
letter downstairs and said simply 'I want this taken to the direction
to-night, and am unwell and unable to go, will you take it now?' my
father would not say a word, or rather would say a dozen cheerful
absurdities about his 'wanting a walk,' 'just having been wishing to
go out' &c. At night he sits studying my works--illustrating them (I
will bring you drawings to make you laugh)--and _yesterday_ I picked
up a crumpled bit of paper ... 'his notion of what a criticism on this
last number ought to be,--none, that have appeared, satisfying
him!'--So judge of what he will say! And my mother loves me just as
much more as must of necessity be.

Once more, understand all this ... for the clock scares me of a
sudden--I meant to say more--far more.

But may God bless you ever--my own dearest, my Ba--

                                         I am wholly your R.


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 19, 1846.]

Your letter came just after the hope of one had past--the latest
Saturday post had gone, they said, and I was beginning to be as vexed
as possible, looking into the long letterless Sunday. Then, suddenly
came the knock--the postman redivivus--just when it seemed so beyond
hoping for--it was half past eight, observe, and there had been a post
at nearly eight--suddenly came the knock, and your letter with it. Was
I not glad, do you think?

And you call the _Athenaeum_ 'kind and satisfactory'? Well--I was angry
instead. To make us wait so long for an 'article' like _that_, was not
over-kind certainly, nor was it 'satisfactory' to class your peculiar
qualities with other contemporary ones, as if they were not peculiar.
It seemed to me cold and cautious, from the causes perhaps which you
mention, but the extracts will work their own way with everybody who
knows what poetry is, and for others, let the critic do his worst with
them. For what is said of 'mist' I have no patience because I who know
when you are obscure and never think of denying it in some of your
former works, do hold that this last number is as clear and
self-sufficing to a common understanding, as far as the expression and
medium goes, as any book in the world, and that Mr. Chorley was bound
in verity to say so. If I except that one stanza, you know, it is to
make the general observation stronger. And then 'mist' is an infamous
word for your kind of obscurity. You never _are_ misty, not even in
'Sordello'--never vague. Your graver cuts deep sharp lines,
always--and there is an extra-distinctness in your images and
thoughts, from the midst of which, crossing each other infinitely, the
general significance seems to escape. So that to talk of a 'mist,'
when you are obscurest, is an impotent thing to do. Indeed it makes me

But the suggested virtue of 'self-renunciation' only made me smile,
because it is simply nonsense ... nonsense which proves itself to be
nonsense at a glance. So genius is to renounce itself--_that_ is the
new critical doctrine, is it? Now is it not foolish? To recognize the
poetical faculty of a man, and then to instruct him in
'self-renunciation' in that very relation--or rather, to hint the
virtue of it, and hesitate the dislike of his doing otherwise? What
atheists these critics are after all--and how the old heathens
understood the divinity of gifts better, beyond any comparison. We may
take shame to ourselves, looking back.

Now, shall I tell you what I did yesterday? It was so warm, so warm,
the thermometer at 68 in this room, that I took it into my head to
call it April instead of January, and put on a cloak and walked
down-stairs into the drawing-room--walked, mind! Before, I was carried
by one of my brothers,--even to the last autumn-day when I went out--I
never walked a step for fear of the cold in the passages. But
yesterday it was so wonderfully warm, and I so strong besides--it was
a feat worthy of the day--and I surprised them all as much as if I had
walked out of the window instead. That kind dear Stormie, who with all
his shyness and awkwardness has the most loving of hearts in him, said
that he was '_so_ glad to see me'!

Well!--setting aside the glory of it, it would have been as wise
perhaps if I had abstained; our damp detestable climate reaches us
otherwise than by cold, and I am not quite as well as usual this
morning after an uncomfortable feverish night--not very unwell, mind,
nor unwell at all in the least degree of consequence--and I tell you,
only to show how susceptible I really am still, though 'scarcely an
invalid,' say the complimenters.

What a way I am from your letter--that letter--or seem to be
rather--for one may think of one thing and yet go on writing
distrustedly of other things. So you are 'grateful' to my sisters ...
_you_! Now I beseech you not to talk such extravagances; I mean such
extravagances as words like these _imply_--and there are far worse
words than these, in the letter ... such as I need not put my finger
on; words which are sense on my lips, but no sense at all on yours,
and which make me disquietedly sure that you are under an illusion.
Observe!--_certainly_ I should not choose to have a '_claim_,' see!
Only, what I object to, in 'illusions,' 'miracles,' and things of that
sort, is the want of continuity common to such. When Joshua caused the
sun to stand still, it was not for a year even!--Ungrateful, I am!

And 'pretty well' means 'not well' I am afraid--or I should be gladder
still of the new act. You will tell me on Tuesday what 'pretty well'
means, and if your mother is better--or I may have a letter
to-morrow--dearest! May God bless you!

To-morrow too, at half past three o'clock, how joyful I shall be that
my 'kind considerateness' decided not to receive you until Tuesday. My
very kind considerateness, which made me eat my dinner to-day!

                                                    Your own


A hundred letters I have, by this last, ... to set against Napoleon's
Hundred Days--did you know _that_?

So much better I am to-night: it was nothing but a little chill from
the damp--the fog, you see!

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              Monday Morning.
                              [Post-mark, January 19, 1846.]

Love, if you knew but how vexed I was, so very few minutes after my
note left last night; how angry with the unnecessary harshness into
which some of the phrases might be construed--you would forgive me,
indeed. But, when all is confessed and forgiven, the fact
remains--that it would be the one trial I _know_ I should not be able
to bear; the repetition of these 'scenes'--intolerable--not to be
written of, even my mind _refuses_ to form a clear conception of them.

My own loved letter is come--and the news; of which the reassuring
postscript lets the interrupted joy flow on again. Well, and I am not
to be grateful for that; nor that you _do_ 'eat your dinner'? Indeed
you will be ingenious to prevent me! I fancy myself meeting you on
'the stairs'--stairs and passages generally, and galleries (ah, thou
indeed!) all, with their picturesque _accidents_, of landing-places,
and spiral heights and depths, and sudden turns and visions of half
open doors into what Quarles calls 'mollitious chambers'--and above
all, _landing-places_--they are my heart's delight--I would come upon
you unaware in a landing-place in my next dream! One day we may walk
on the galleries round and over the inner court of the Doges' Palace
at Venice; and read, on tablets against the wall, how such an one was
banished for an 'enormous dig (intacco) into the public
treasure'--another for ... what you are not to know because his
friends have got chisels and chipped away the record of it--underneath
the 'giants' on their stands, and in the midst of the _cortile_ the
bronze fountains whence the girls draw water.

So _you_ too wrote French verses?--Mine were of less lofty
argument--one couplet makes me laugh now for the reason of its false
quantity--I translated the Ode of Alcaeus; and the last couplet ran

    Harmodius, et toi, cher Aristogiton!

     *       *       *       *       *

     *       *       *       *       *

    Comme l'astre du jour, brillera votre nom!

The fact was, I could not bear to hurt my French Master's
feelings--who inveterately maltreated 'ai's and oi's' and in this
instance, an 'ei.' But 'Pauline' is altogether of a different sort of
precocity--you shall see it when I can master resolution to transcribe
the explanation which I know is on the fly-leaf of a copy here. Of
that work, the _Athenaeum_ said [several words erased] now, what
outrageous folly! I care, and you care, precisely nothing about its
sayings and doings--yet here I talk!

Now to you--Ba! When I go through sweetness to sweetness, at 'Ba' I
stop last of all, and lie and rest. That is the quintessence of them
all,--they all take colour and flavour from that. So, dear, dear Ba,
be glad as you can to see me to-morrow. God knows how I embalm every
such day,--I do not believe that one of the _forty_ is confounded with
another in my memory. So, _that_ is gained and sure for ever. And of
letters, this makes my 104th and, like Donne's Bride,

              ... I take,
    My jewels from their boxes; call
    My Diamonds, Pearls, and Emeralds, and make
    Myself a constellation of them all!

Bless you, my own Beloved!

I am much better to-day--having been not so well yesterday--whence the
note to you, perhaps! I put that to your charity for construction. By
the way, let the foolish and needless story about my whilome friend be
of this use, that it records one of the traits in that same generous
love, of me, I once mentioned, I remember--one of the points in his
character which, I told you, _would_ account, if you heard them, for
my parting company with a good deal of warmth of attachment to myself.

What a day! But you do not so much care for rain, I think. My Mother
is no worse, but still suffering sadly.

                               Ever your own, dearest ever--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 22, 1846.]

Ever since I ceased to be with you--ever dearest,--have been with your
'Luria,' if _that_ is ceasing to be with you--which it _is_, I feel at
last. Yet the new act is powerful and subtle, and very affecting, it
seems to me, after a grave, suggested pathos; the reasoning is done on
every hand with admirable directness and adroitness, and poor Luria's
iron baptism under such a bright crossing of swords, most miserably
complete. Still ... is he to die _so_? can you mean it? Oh--indeed I
foresaw _that_--not a guess of mine ever touched such an end--and I
can scarcely resign myself to it as a necessity, even now ... I mean,
to the act, as Luria's act, whether it is final or not--the act of
suicide being so unheroical. But you are a dramatic poet and right
perhaps, where, as a didactic poet, you would have been wrong, ...
and, after the first shock, I begin to see that your Luria is the man
Luria and that his 'sun' lights him so far and not farther than so,
and to understand the natural reaction of all that generous trust and
hopefulness, what naturally it would be. Also, it is satisfactory that
Domizia, having put her woman's part off to the last, should be too
late with it--it will be a righteous retribution. I had fancied that
her object was to isolate him, ... to make his military glory and
national recompense ring hollowly to his ears, and so commend herself,
drawing back the veil.

Puccio's scornful working out of the low work, is very finely given,
I think, ... and you have 'a cunning right hand,' to lift up Luria
higher in the mind of your readers, by the very means used to pull
down his fortunes--you show what a man he is by the very talk of his
rivals ... by his 'natural godship' over Puccio. Then Husain is nobly
characteristic--I like those streaks of Moorish fire in his speeches.
'Why 'twas all fighting' &c. ... _that_ passage perhaps is over-subtle
for a Husain--but too nobly right in the abstract to be altered, if it
is so or not. Domizia talks philosophically besides, and how
eloquently;--and very noble she is where she proclaims

    The angel in thee and rejects the sprites
    That ineffectual crowd about his strength,
    And mingle with his work and claim a share!--

But why not 'spirits' rather than 'sprites,' which has a different
association by custom? 'Spirits' is quite short enough, it seems to
me, for a last word--it sounds like a monosyllable that trembles--or
thrills, rather. And, do you know, I agree with yourself a little when
you say (as did you _not_ say?) that some of the speeches--Domizia's
for instance--are too lengthy. I think I should like them to coil up
their strength, here and there, in a few passages. Luria ... poor
Luria ... is great and pathetic when he stands alone at last, and 'all
his waves have gone over him.' Poor Luria!--And now, I wonder where
Mr. Chorley will look, in this work,--along all the edges of the
hills,--to find, or prove, his favourite 'mist!' On the glass of his
own opera-lorgnon, perhaps:--shall we ask him to try _that_?

But first, I want to ask _you_ something--I have had it in my head a
long time, but it might as well have been in a box--and indeed if it
had been in the box with your letters, I should have remembered to
speak of it long ago. So now, at last, tell me--how do you write, O my
poet? with steel pens, or Bramah pens, or goose-quills or
crow-quills?--Because I have a penholder which was given to me when I
was a child, and which I have used both then and since in the
production of various great epics and immortal 'works,' until in these
latter years it has seemed to me too heavy, and I have taken into
service, instead of it, another two-inch-long instrument which makes
Mr. Kenyon laugh to look at--and so, my fancy has run upon your having
the heavier holder, which is not very heavy after all, and which will
make you think of me whether you choose it or not, besides being made
of a splinter from the ivory gate of old, and therefore not unworthy
of a true prophet. Will you have it, dearest? Yes--because you can't
help it. When you come ... on Saturday!--

And for 'Pauline,' ... I am satisfied with the promise to see it some
day ... when we are in the isle of the sirens, or ready for wandering
in the Doges' galleries. I seem to understand that you would really
rather wish me not to see it now ... and as long as I _do_ see it! So
_that shall_ be!--Am I not good now, and not a teazer? If there is any
poetical justice in 'the seven worlds,' I shall have a letter

By the way, you owe me two letters by your confession. A hundred and
four of mine you have, and I, only a hundred and two of yours ...
which is a 'deficit' scarcely creditable to me, (now is it?) when,
according to the law and ordinance, a woman's hundred and four letters
would take two hundred and eight at least, from the other side, to
justify them. Well--I feel inclined to wring out the legal per centage
to the uttermost farthing; but fall into a fit of gratitude,
notwithstanding, thinking of Monday, and how the second letter came
beyond hope. Always better, you are, than I guess you to be,--and it
was being _best_, to write, as you did, for me to hear twice on one
day!--best and dearest!

But the first letter was not what you feared--I know you too well not
to know how that letter was written and with what intention. _Do
you_, on the other hand, endeavour to comprehend how there may be an
eccentricity and obliquity in certain relations and on certain
subjects, while the general character stands up worthily of esteem and
regard--even of yours. Mr. Kenyon says broadly that it is
monomania--neither more nor less. Then the principle of passive filial
obedience is held--drawn (and quartered) from Scripture. He _sees_ the
law and the gospel on his side. Only the other day, there was a
setting forth of the whole doctrine, I hear, down-stairs--'passive
obedience, and particularly in respect to marriage.' One after the
other, my brothers all walked out of the room, and there was left for
sole auditor, Captain Surtees Cook, who had especial reasons for
sitting it out against his will,--so he sate and asked 'if children
were to be considered slaves' as meekly as if he were asking for
information. I could not help smiling when I heard of it. He is just
_succeeding_ in obtaining what is called an 'adjutancy,' which, with
the half pay, will put an end to many anxieties.

Dearest--when, in the next dream, you meet me in the 'landing-place,'
tell me why I am to stand up to be reviewed again. What a fancy,
_that_ is of yours, for 'full-lengths'--and what bad policy, if a
fancy, to talk of it so! because you would have had the glory and
advantage, and privilege, of seeing me on my feet twenty times before
now, if you had not impressed on me, in some ineffable manner, that to
stand on my head would scarcely be stranger. Nevertheless you shall
have it your own way, as you have everything--which makes you so very,
very, exemplarily submissive, you know!

Mr. Kenyon does not come--puts it off to _Saturday_ perhaps.

The _Daily News_ I have had a glance at. A weak leading article, I
thought ... and nothing stronger from Ireland:--but enough
advertisements to promise a long future. What do you think? or have
you not seen the paper? No broad principles laid down. A mere
newspaper-support of the 'League.'

May God bless you. Say how you are--and _do_ walk, and 'care' for

                                       and, so, for your own


Have I expressed to you at all how 'Luria' impresses _me_ more and
more? You shall see the 'remarks' with the other papers--the details
of what strikes me.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              Thursday Morning.
                              [Post-mark, January 22, 1846.]

But you did _not_ get the letter last evening--no, for all my good
intentions--because somebody came over in the morning and forced me to
go out ... and, perhaps, I _knew_ what was coming, and had all my
thoughts _there_, that is, _here_ now, with my own letters from you. I
think so--for this punishment, I will tell you, came for some sin or
other last night. I woke--late, or early--and, in one of those lucid
moments when all things are thoroughly _perceived_,--whether suggested
by some forgotten passage in the past sleep itself, I don't know--but
I seem to _apprehend_, comprehend entirely, for the first time, what
would happen if I lost you--the whole sense of that _closed door_ of
Catarina's came on me at once, and it was _I_ who said--not as quoting
or adapting another's words, but spontaneously, unavoidably, '_In that
door, you will not enter, I have_'.... And, dearest, the

Unwritten it must remain.

What is on the other leaf, no ill-omen, after all,--because I
strengthened myself against a merely imaginary evil--as I do always;
and _thus_--I know I never can lose you,--you surely are more mine,
there is less for the future to give or take away than in the
ordinary cases, where so much less is known, explained, possessed, as
with us. Understand for me, my dearest--

And do you think, sweet, that there _is_ any free movement of my soul
which your penholder is to secure? Well, try,--it will be yours by
every right of discovery--and I, for my part, will religiously report
to you the first time I think of you 'which, but for your present I
should not have done'--or is it not a happy, most happy way of
ensuring a better fifth act to Luria than the foregoing? See the
absurdity I write--when it will be more probably the ruin of the
whole--for was it not observed in the case of a friend of mine once,
who wrote his own part in a piece for private theatricals, and had
ends of his own to serve in it,--that he set to work somewhat after
this fashion: 'Scene 1st. A breakfast chamber--Lord and Lady A. at
table--Lady A./ No more coffee my dear?--Lord A./ One more cup!
(_Embracing her_). Lady A./ I was thinking of trying the ponies in the
Park--are you engaged? Lord A./ Why, there's that bore of a Committee
at the House till 2. (_Kissing her hand_).' And so forth, to the
astonishment of the auditory, who did not exactly see the 'sequitur'
in either instance. Well, dearest, whatever comes of it, the 'aside,'
the bye-play, the digression, will be the best, and only true business
of the piece. And though I must smile at your notion of securing
_that_ by any fresh appliance, mechanical or spiritual, yet I do thank
you, dearest, thank you from my heart indeed--(and I write with
Bramahs _always_--not being able to make a pen!)

If you have gone so far with 'Luria,' I fancy myself nearly or
altogether safe. I must not tell you, but I wished just these feelings
to be in your mind about Domizia, and the death of Luria: the last act
throws light back on all, I hope. Observe only, that Luria _would_
stand, if I have plied him effectually with adverse influences, in
such a position as to render any other end impossible without the hurt
to Florence which his religion is, to avoid inflicting--passively
awaiting, for instance, the sentence and punishment to come at night,
would as surely inflict it as taking part with her foes. His aim is to
prevent the harm she will do herself by striking him, so he moves
aside from the blow. But I know there is very much to improve and
heighten in this fourth act, as in the others--but the right aspect of
things seems obtained and the rest of the work is plain and easy.

I am obliged to leave off--the rest to-morrow--and then dear,
Saturday! I love you utterly, my own best, dearest--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              Thursday Night.
                              [Post-mark, January 23, 1846.]

Yes, I understand your 'Luria'--and there is to be more light; and I
open the window to the east and wait for it--a little less gladly than
for _you_ on Saturday, dearest. In the meanwhile you have 'lucid
moments,' and 'strengthen' yourself into the wisdom of learning to
love me--and, upon consideration, it does not seem to be so hard after
all ... there is 'less for the future to take away' than you had
supposed--so _that_ is the way? Ah, 'these lucid moments, in which all
things are thoroughly _perceived_';--what harm they do me!--And I am
to 'understand for you,' you say!--Am I?

On the other side, and to make the good omen complete, I remembered,
after I had sealed my last letter, having made a confusion between the
ivory and horn gates, the gates of false and true visions, as I am apt
to do--and my penholder belongs to the ivory gate, ... as you will
perceive in your lucid moments--poor holder! But, as you forget me on
Wednesdays, the post testifying, ... the sinecure may not be quite so
certain as the Thursday's letter says. And _I_ too, in the meanwhile,
grow wiser, ... having learnt something which you cannot do,--you of
the 'Bells and Pomegranates': _You cannot make a pen._ Yesterday I
looked round the world in vain for it.

Mr. Kenyon does not come--_will_ not perhaps until Saturday! Which
reminds me--Mr. Kenyon told me about a year ago that he had been
painfully employed that morning in _parting_ two--dearer than
friends--and he had done it he said, by proving to either, that he or
she was likely to mar the prospects of the other. 'If I had spoken to
each, of himself or herself,' he said, 'I _never could have done it_.'

Was not _that_ an ingenious cruelty? The remembrance rose up in me
like a ghost, and made me ask you once to promise what you promised
... (you recollect?) because I could not bear to be stabbed with my
own dagger by the hand of a third person ... _so_! When people have
lucid moments themselves, you know, it is different.

And _shall_ I indeed have a letter to-morrow? Or, not having the
penholder yet, will you....

Goodnight. May God bless you--

                                        Ever and wholly your


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 23, 1846.]

Now, of all perverse interpretations that ever were and never ought to
have been, commend me to this of Ba's--after I bade her generosity
'understand me,' too!--which meant, 'let her pick out of my disjointed
sentences a general meaning, if she can,--which I very well know their
imperfect utterance would not give to one unsupplied with the key of
my whole heart's-mystery'--and Ba, with the key in her hand, to
pretend and poke feathers and penholders into the key-hole, and
complain that the wards are wrong! So--when the poor scholar, one has
read of, uses not very dissimilar language and argument--who being
threatened with the deprivation of his Virgil learnt the AEneid by
heart and then said 'Take what you can now'!--_that_ Ba calls
'feeling the loss would not be so hard after all'!--_I_ do not, at
least. And if at any future moment I should again be visited--as I
earnestly desire may never be the case--with a sudden consciousness of
the entire inutility of all earthly love (since of _my_ love) to hold
its object back from the decree of God, if such should call it away;
one of those known facts which, for practical good, we treat as
supremely common-place, but which, like those of the uncertainty of
life--the very existence of God, I may say--if they were _not_
common-place, and could they be thoroughly apprehended (except in the
chance minutes which make one grow old, not the mere years)--the
business of the world would cease; but when you find Chaucer's graver
at his work of 'graving smale seles' by the sun's light, you know that
the sun's self could not have been _created_ on that day--do you
'understand' that, Ba? And when I am with you, or here or writing or
walking--and perfectly happy in the sunshine of you, I very well know
I am no wiser than is good for me and that there seems no harm in
feeling it impossible this should change, or fail to go on increasing
till this world ends and we are safe, I with you, for ever. But
when--if only _once_, as I told you, recording it for its very
strangeness, I _do_ feel--in a flash--that words are words, and could
not alter _that_ decree ... will you tell me how, after all, that
conviction and the true woe of it are better met than by the as
thorough conviction that, for one blessing, the extreme woe is
_impossible_ now--that you _are_, and have been, _mine_, and _me_--one
with me, never to be parted--so that the complete separation not being
to be thought of, such an incomplete one as is yet in Fate's power may
be the less likely to attract her notice? And, dearest, in all
emergencies, see, I go to you for help; for your gift of better
comfort than is found in myself. Or ought I, if I could, to add one
more proof to the Greek proverb 'that the half is greater than the
whole'--and only love you for myself (it is absurd; but if I _could_
disentwine you from my soul in that sense), only see my own will, and
good (not in _your_ will and good, as I now see them and shall ever
see) ... should you say I _did_ love you then? Perhaps. And it would
have been better for me, I know--I should not have _written_ this or
the like--there being no post in the Siren's isle, as you will see.

And the end of the whole matter is--what? Not by any means what my Ba
expects or ought to expect; that I say with a flounce 'Catch me
blotting down on paper, again, the first vague impressions in the
weakest words and being sure I have only to bid her
"understand"!--when I can get "Blair on Rhetoric," and the additional
chapter on the proper conduct of a letter'! On the contrary I tell
you, Ba, my own heart's dearest, I will provoke you tenfold worse;
will tell you all that comes uppermost, and what frightens me or
reassures me, in moments lucid or opaque--and when all the pen-stumps
and holders refuse to open the lock, out will come the key perforce;
and once put that knowledge--of the entire love and worship of my
heart and soul--to its proper use, and all will be clear--tell me
to-morrow that it will be clear when I call you to account and exact
strict payment for every word and phrase and full-stop and partial
stop, and no stop at all, in this wicked little note which got so
treacherously the kisses and the thankfulness--written with no
penholder that is to belong to me, I hope--but with the feather,
possibly, which Sycorax wiped the dew from, as Caliban remembered when
he was angry! All but--(that is, all was wrong but)--to be just ...
the old, dear, so dear ending which makes my heart beat now as at
first ... and so, pays for all! Wherefore, all is right again, is it
not? and you are my own priceless Ba, my very own--and I will have
you, if you like that style, and want you, and must have you every day
and all day long--much less see you to-morrow _stand_--

... Now, there breaks down my new spirit--and, shame or no, I must
pray you, in the old way, _not_ to _receive me standing_--I should not
remain master of myself I do believe!

You have put out of my head all I intended to write--and now I slowly
begin to remember the matters they seem strangely unimportant--that
poor impotency of a Newspaper! No--nothing of that for the present.
To-morrow my dearest! Ba's first comment--'_To-morrow?_ _To-day_ is
too soon, it seems--yet it is wise, perhaps, to avoid the satiety &c.
&c. &c. &c. &c.'

Does she feel how I kissed that comment back on her dear self as fit

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 26, 1846.]

I must begin by invoking my own stupidity! To forget after all the
penholder! I had put it close beside me too on the table, and never
once thought of it afterwards from first to last--just as I should do
if I had a common-place book, the memoranda all turning to
obliviscenda as by particular contact. So I shall send the holder with
Miss Martineau's books which you can read or not as you like ... they
have beauty in passages ... but, trained up against the wall of a set
design, want room for branching and blossoming, great as her skill is.
I like her 'Playfellow' stories twice as well. Do you know _them_?
Written for children, and in such a fine heroic child-spirit as to be
too young and too old for nobody. Oh, and I send you besides a most
frightful extract from an American magazine sent to me yesterday ...
no, the day before ... on the subject of mesmerism--and you are to
understand, if you please, that the Mr. Edgar Poe who stands committed
in it, is my dedicator ... whose dedication I forgot, by the way, with
the rest--so, while I am sending, you shall have his poems with his
mesmeric experience and decide whether the outrageous compliment to
E.B.B. or the experiment on M. Vandeleur [Valdemar] goes furthest to
prove him mad. There is poetry in the man, though, now and then, seen
between the great gaps of bathos.... 'Politian' will make you
laugh--as the 'Raven' made _me_ laugh, though with something in it
which accounts for the hold it took upon people such as Mr. N.P.
Willis and his peers--it was sent to me from _four_ different quarters
besides the author himself, before its publication in this form, and
when it had only a newspaper life. Some of the other lyrics have power
of a less questionable sort. For the author, I do not know him at
all--never heard from him nor wrote to him--and in my opinion, there
is more faculty shown in the account of that horrible mesmeric
experience (mad or not mad) than in his poems. Now do read it from the
beginning to the end. That '_going out_' of the hectic, struck me very
much ... and the writhing _away_ of the upper lip. Most
horrible!--Then I believe so much of mesmerism, as to give room for
the full acting of the story on me ... without absolutely giving full
credence to it, understand.

Ever dearest, you could not think me in earnest in that letter? It was
because I understood you so perfectly that I felt at liberty for the
jesting a little--for had I not thought of _that_ before, myself, and
was I not reproved for speaking of it, when I said that I was content,
for my part, even _so_? Surely you remember--and I should not have
said it if I had not felt with you, felt and known, that 'there is,
with us, less for the future to give or take away than in the ordinary
cases.' So much less! All the happiness I have known has come to me
through you, and it is enough to live for or die in--therefore living
or dying I would thank God, and use that word '_enough_' ... being
yours in life and death. And always understanding that if either of us
should go, you must let it be this one here who was nearly gone when
she knew you, since I could not bear--

Now see if it is possible to write on this subject, unless one laughs
to stop the tears. I was more wise on Friday.

Let me tell you instead of my sister's affairs, which are so publicly
talked of in this house that there is no confidence to be broken in
respect to them--yet my brothers only see and hear, and are told
nothing, to keep them as clear as possible from responsibility. I may
say of Henrietta that her only fault is, her virtues being written in
water--I know not of one other fault. She has too much softness to be
able to say 'no' in the right place--and thus, without the slightest
levity ... perfectly blameless in that respect, ... she says half a
yes or a quarter of a yes, or a yes in some sort of form, too
often--but I will tell you. Two years ago, three men were loving her,
as they called it. After a few months, and the proper quantity of
interpretations, one of them consoled himself by giving nick-names to
his rivals. Perseverance and Despair he called them, and so, went up
to the boxes to see out the rest of the play. Despair ran to a crisis,
was rejected in so many words, but appealed against the judgment and
had his claim admitted--it was all silence and mildness on each side
... a tacit gaining of ground,--Despair 'was at least a gentleman,'
said my brothers. On which Perseverance came on with violent
re-iterations,--insisted that she loved him without knowing it, or
_should_--elbowed poor Despair into the open streets, who being a
gentleman wouldn't elbow again--swore that 'if she married another he
would wait till she became a widow, trusting to Providence' ... _did_
wait every morning till the head of the house was out, and sate day by
day, in spite of the disinclination of my sisters and the rudeness of
all my brothers, four hours in the drawing-room ... let himself be
refused once a week and sate all the longer ... allowed everybody in
the house (and a few visitors) to see and hear him in fits of
hysterical sobbing, and sate on unabashed, the end being that he sits
now sole regnant, my poor sister saying softly, with a few tears of
remorse for her own instability, that she is 'taken by storm and
cannot help it.' I give you only the _resume_ of this military
movement--and though I seem to smile, which it was impossible to avoid
at some points of the evidence as I heard it from first one person and
then another, yet I am woman enough rather to be glad that the
decision is made _so_. He is sincerely attached to her, I believe; and
the want of refinement and sensibility (for he understood her
affections to be engaged to another at one time) is covered in a
measure by the earnestness,--and justified too by the event--everybody
being quite happy and contented, even to Despair, who has a new horse
and takes lessons in music.

That's love--is it not? And that's my answer (if you look for it) to
the question you asked me yesterday.

Yet do not think that I am turning it all to game. I could not do so
with any real earnest sentiment ... I never could ... and now least,
and with my own sister whom I love so. One may smile to oneself and
yet wish another well--and so I smile to _you_--and it is all safe
with you I know. He is a second or third cousin of ours and has golden
opinions from all his friends and fellow-officers--and for the rest,
most of these men are like one another.... I never could see the
difference between fuller's earth and common clay, among them all.

What do you think he has said since--to _her_ too?--'I always
persevere about everything. Once I began to write a farce--which they
told me was as bad as could be. Well!--I persevered!--_I finished
it_.' Perfectly unconscious, both he and she were of there being
anything mal a propos in _that_--and no kind of harm was meant,--only
it expresses the man.

Dearest--it had better be Thursday I think--_our_ day! I was showing
to-day your father's drawings,--and my brothers, and Arabel besides,
admired them very much on the right grounds. Say how you are. You did
not seem to me to answer frankly this time, and I was more than half
uneasy when you went away. Take exercise, dear, dearest ... think of
me enough for it,--and do not hurry 'Luria.' May God bless you!

                                                    Your own


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              Sunday Evening.
                              [Post-mark, January 26, 1846.]

I will not try and write much to-night, dearest, for my head gives a
little warning--and I have so much to think of!--spite of my penholder
being kept back from me after all! Now, ought I to have asked for it?
Or did I not seem grateful enough at the promise? This last would be a
characteristic reason, seeing that I reproached myself with feeling
_too_ grateful for the 'special symbol'--the 'essential meaning' of
which was already in my soul. Well then, I will--I do pray for
it--next time; and I will keep it for that one yesterday and all its
memories--and it shall bear witness against me, if, on the Siren's
isle, I grow forgetful of Wimpole Street. And when is 'next time' to
be--Wednesday or Thursday? When I look back on the strangely steady
widening of my horizon--how no least interruption has occurred to
visits or letters--oh, care _you_, sweet--care for us both!

That remark of your sister's delights me--you remember?--that the
anger would not be so formidable. I have exactly the fear of
encountering _that_, which the sense of having to deal with a ghost
would induce: there's no striking at it with one's partizan. Well, God
is above all! It is not my fault if it so happens that by returning my
love you make me exquisitely blessed; I believe--more than hope, I am
_sure_ I should do all I ever _now_ can do, if you were never to know
it--that is, my love for you was in the first instance its own
reward--if one must use such phrases--and if it were possible for
that ... not _anger_, which is of no good, but that _opposition_--that
adverse will--to show that your good would be attained by the--

But it would need to be _shown_ to me. You have said thus to me--in
the very last letter, indeed. But with me, or any _man_, the instincts
of happiness develop themselves too unmistakably where there is
anything like a freedom of will. The man whose heart is set on being
rich or influential after the worldly fashion, may be found far enough
from the attainment of either riches or influence--but he will be in
the presumed way to them--pumping at the pump, if he is really anxious
for water, even though the pump be dry--but not sitting still by the
dusty roadside.

I believe--first of all, you--but when that is done, and I am allowed
to call your heart _mine_,--I cannot think you would be happy if
parted from me--and _that_ belief, coming to add to my own feeling in
_that_ case. So, this will _be_--I trust in God.

In life, in death, I am your own, _my_ own! My head has got well
already! It is so slight a thing, that I make such an ado about! Do
not reply to these bodings--they are gone--they seem absurd! All steps
secured but the last, and that last the easiest! Yes--far easiest! For
first you had to be created, only that; and then, in my time; and
then, not in Timbuctoo but Wimpole Street, and then ... the strange
hedge round the sleeping Palace keeping the world off--and then ...
all was to begin, all the difficulty only _begin_:--and now ... see
where is reached! And I kiss you, and bless you, my dearest, in
earnest of the end!

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 27, 1846.]

You have had my letter and heard about the penholder. Your fancy of
'not seeming grateful enough,' is not wise enough for _you_, dearest;
when you know that _I_ know your common fault to be the undue
magnifying of everything that comes from me, and I am always
complaining of it outwardly and inwardly. That suddenly I should set
about desiring you to be more grateful,--even for so great a boon as
an old penholder,--would be a more astounding change than any to be
sought or seen in a prime minister.

Another mistake you made concerning Henrietta and her opinion--and
there's no use nor comfort in leaving you in it. Henrietta says that
the 'anger would not be so formidable after all'! Poor dearest
Henrietta, who trembles at the least bending of the brows ... who has
less courage than I, and the same views of the future! What she
referred to, was simply the infrequency of the visits. 'Why was I
afraid,' she said--'where was the danger? who would be the
_informer_?'--Well! I will not say any more. It is just natural that
you, in your circumstances and associations, should be unable to see
what I have seen from the beginning--only you will not hereafter
reproach me, in the most secret of your thoughts, for not having told
you plainly. If I could have told you with greater plainness I should
blame myself (and I do not) because it is not an opinion I have, but a
perception. I see, I know. The result ... the end of all ... perhaps
now and then I see _that_ too ... in the 'lucid moments' which are not
the happiest for anybody. Remember, in all cases, that I shall not
repent of any part of our past intercourse; and that, therefore, when
the time for decision comes, you will be free to look at the question
as if you saw it then for the first moment, without being hampered by
considerations about 'all those yesterdays.'

For _him_ ... he would rather see me dead at his foot than yield the
point: and he will say so, and mean it, and persist in the meaning.

Do you ever wonder at me ... that I should write such things, and have
written others so different? _I have thought that in myself very
often._ Insincerity and injustice may seem the two ends, while I
occupy the straight betwixt two--and I should not like you to doubt
how this may be! Sometimes I have begun to show you the truth, and
torn the paper; I _could_ not. Yet now again I am borne on to tell
you, ... to save you from some thoughts which you cannot help perhaps.

There has been no insincerity--nor is there injustice. I believe, I am
certain, I have loved him better than the rest of his children. I have
heard the fountain within the rock, and my heart has struggled in
towards him through the stones of the rock ... thrust off ... dropping
off ... turning in again and clinging! Knowing what is excellent in
him well, loving him as my only parent left, and for himself dearly,
notwithstanding that hardness and the miserable 'system' which made
him appear harder still, I have loved him and been proud of him for
his high qualities, for his courage and fortitude when he bore up so
bravely years ago under the worldly reverses which he yet felt
acutely--more than you and I could feel them--but the fortitude was
admirable. Then came the trials of love--then, I was repulsed too
often, ... made to suffer in the suffering of those by my side ...
depressed by petty daily sadnesses and terrors, from which it is
possible however for an elastic affection to rise again as past. Yet
my friends used to say 'You look broken-spirited'--and it was true. In
the midst, came my illness,--and when I was ill he grew gentler and
let me draw nearer than ever I had done: and after that great stroke
... you _know_ ... though _that_ fell in the middle of a storm of
emotion and sympathy on my part, which drove clearly against him, God
seemed to strike our hearts together by the shock; and I was grateful
to him for not saying aloud what I said to myself in my agony, '_If it
had not been for you_'...! And comparing my self-reproach to what I
imagined his self-reproach must certainly be (for if _I_ had loved
selfishly, _he_ had not been kind), I felt as if I could love and
forgive him for two ... (I knowing that serene generous departed
spirit, and seeming left to represent it) ... and I did love him
better than all those left to _me_ to love in the world here. I proved
a little my affection for him, by coming to London at the risk of my
life rather than diminish the comfort of his home by keeping a part of
my family away from him. And afterwards for long and long he spoke to
me kindly and gently, and of me affectionately and with too much
praise; and God knows that I had as much joy as I imagined myself
capable of again, in the sound of his footstep on the stairs, and of
his voice when he prayed in this room; my best hope, as I have told
him since, being, to die beneath his eyes. Love is so much to me
naturally--it is, to all women! and it was so much to _me_ to feel
sure at last that _he_ loved me--to forget all blame--to pull the
weeds up from that last illusion of life:--and this, till the
Pisa-business, which threw me off, far as ever, again--farther than
ever--when George said 'he could not flatter me' and I dared not
flatter myself. But do _you_ believe that I never wrote what I did not
feel: I never did. And I ask one kindness more ... do not notice what
I have written here. Let it pass. We can alter nothing by ever so many
words. After all, he is the victim. He isolates himself--and now and
then he feels it ... the cold dead silence all round, which is the
effect of an incredible system. If he were not stronger than most men,
he could not bear it as he does. With such high qualities too!--so
upright and honourable--you would esteem him, you would like him, I
think. And so ... dearest ... let _that_ be the last word.

I dare say you have asked yourself sometimes, why it was that I never
managed to draw you into the house here, so that you might make your
own way. Now _that_ is one of the things impossible to me. I have not
influence enough for _that_. George can never invite a friend of his
even. Do you see? The people who do come here, come by particular
license and association ... Capt. Surtees Cook being one of them.
Once ... when I was in high favour too ... I asked for Mr. Kenyon to
be invited to dinner--he an old college friend, and living close by
and so affectionate to me always--I felt that he must be hurt by the
neglect, and asked. _It was in vain._ Now, you see--

May God bless you always! I wrote all my spirits away in this letter
yesterday, and kept it to finish to-day ... being yours every day,
glad or sad, ever beloved!--

                                                    Your BA.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 27, 1846.]

Why will you give me such unnecessary proofs of your goodness? Why not
leave the books for me to take away, at all events? No--you must fold
up, and tie round, and seal over, and be at all the pains in the world
with those hands I see now. But you only threaten; say you 'shall
send'--as yet, and nothing having come, I do pray you, if not too
late, to save me the shame--add to the gratitude you never can now, I
think ... only _think_, for you are a siren, and I don't know
certainly to what your magic may not extend. Thus, in not so important
a matter, I should have said, the day before yesterday, that no letter
from you could make my heart rise within me, more than of old ...
unless it should happen to be of twice the ordinary thickness ... and
_then_ there's a fear at first lest the over-running of my dealt-out
measure should be just a note of Mr. Kenyon's, for instance! But
yesterday the very seal began with 'Ba'--Now, always seal with that
seal my letters, dearest! Do you recollect Donne's pretty lines about

    Quondam fessus Amor loquens Amato,
    Tot et tanta loquens amica, scripsit:
    Tandem et fessa manus dedit Sigillum.

And in his own English,

    When love, being weary, made an end
    Of kind expressions to his friend,
    He writ; when hand could write no more,
    He gave the seal--and so left o'er.

(By the way, what a mercy that he never noticed the jingle _in posse_
of ending 'expressions' and beginning 'impressions.')

How your account of the actors in the 'Love's Labour Lost' amused me!
I rather like, though, the notion of that steady, business-like
pursuit of love under difficulties; and the _sobbing_ proves something
surely! Serjt. Talfourd says--is it not he who says it?--'All tears
are not for sorrow.' I should incline to say, from my own feeling,
that no tears were. They only express joy in me, or sympathy with
joy--and so is it with you too, I should think.

Understand that I do _not_ disbelieve in Mesmerism--I only object to
insufficient evidence being put forward as quite irrefragable. I keep
an open sense on the subject--ready to be instructed; and should have
refused such testimony as Miss Martineau's if it had been adduced in
support of something I firmly believed--'non _tali_ auxilio'--indeed,
so has truth been harmed, and only so, from the beginning. So, I shall
read what you bid me, and learn all I can.

I am not quite so well this week--yesterday some friends came early
and kept me at home--for which I seem to suffer a little; less,
already, than in the morning--so I will go out and walk away the
whirring ... which is all the mighty ailment. As for 'Luria' I have
not looked at it since I saw you--which means, saw you in the body,
because last night I saw you; as I wonder if you know!

Thursday, and again I am with you--and you will forget nothing ... how
the farewell is to be returned? Ah, my dearest, sweetest Ba; how
entirely I love you!

                                    May God bless you ever--


2. p.m. Your parcel arrives ... the penholder; now what shall I say?
How am I to use so fine a thing even in writing to you? I will give it
you again in our Isle, and meantime keep it where my other treasures
are--my letters and my dear ringlet.

Thank you--all I can thank.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 28, 1846.]

Ever dearest--I will say, as you desire, nothing on that subject--but
this strictly for myself: you engaged me to consult my own good in the
keeping or breaking our engagement; not _your_ good as it might even
seem to me; much less seem to another. My only good in this
world--that against which all the world goes for nothing--is to spend
my life with you, and be yours. You know that when I _claim_ anything,
it is really yourself in me--you _give_ me a right and bid me use it,
and I, in fact, am most obeying you when I appear most exacting on my
own account--so, in that feeling, I dare claim, once for all, and in
all possible cases (except that dreadful one of your becoming worse
again ... in which case I wait till life ends with both of us), I
claim your promise's fulfilment--say, at the summer's end: it cannot
be for your good that this state of things should continue. We can go
to Italy for a year or two and be happy as day and night are long. For
me, I adore you. This is all unnecessary, I feel as I write: but you
will think of the main fact as _ordained_, granted by God, will you
not, dearest?--so, not to be put in doubt _ever again_--then, we can
go quietly thinking of after matters. Till to-morrow, and ever after,
God bless my heart's own, own Ba. All my soul follows you,
love--encircles you--and I live in being yours.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              Friday Morning.
                              [Post-mark, January 31, 1846.]

Let it be this way, ever dearest. If in the time of fine weather, I am
not ill, ... _then_ ... _not now_ ... you shall decide, and your
decision shall be duty and desire to me, both--I will make no
difficulties. Remember, in the meanwhile, that I _have_ decided to let
it be as you shall choose ... _shall_ choose. That I love you enough
to give you up 'for your good,' is proof (to myself at least) that I
love you enough for any other end:--but you thought _too much of me in
the last letter_. Do not mistake me. I believe and trust in all your
words--only you are generous unawares, as other men are selfish.

More, I meant to say of this; but you moved me as usual yesterday into
the sunshine, and then I am dazzled and cannot see clearly. Still I
see that you love me and that I am bound to you:--and 'what more need
I see,' you may ask; while I cannot help looking out to the future, to
the blue ridges of the hills, to the _chances_ of your being happy
with me. Well! I am yours as _you_ see ... and not yours to teaze you.
You shall decide everything when the time comes for doing anything ...
and from this to then, I do not, dearest, expect you to use 'the
liberty of leaping out of the window,' unless you are sure of the
house being on fire! Nobody shall push you out of the window--least of
all, _I_.

For Italy ... you are right. We should be nearer the sun, as you say,
and further from the world, as I think--out of hearing of the great
storm of gossiping, when 'scirocco is loose.' Even if you liked to
live altogether abroad, coming to England at intervals, it would be no
sacrifice for me--and whether in Italy or England, we should have
sufficient or more than sufficient means of living, without modifying
by a line that 'good free life' of yours which you reasonably
praise--which, if it had been necessary to modify, _we must have
parted_, ... because I could not have borne to see you do it; though,
that you once offered it for my sake, I never shall forget.

Mr. Kenyon stayed half an hour, and asked, after you went, if you had
been here long. I reproached him with what they had been doing at his
club (the Athenaeum) in blackballing Douglas Jerrold, for want of
something better to say--and he had not heard of it. There were more
black than white balls, and Dickens was so enraged at the repulse of
his friend that he gave in his own resignation like a privy

But the really bad news is of poor Tennyson--I forgot to tell you--I
forget everything. He is seriously ill with an internal complaint and
confined to his bed, as George heard from a common friend. Which does
not prevent his writing a new poem--he has finished the second book of
it--and it is in blank verse and a fairy tale, and called the
'University,' the university-members being all females. If George has
not diluted the scheme of it with some law from the Inner Temple, I
don't know what to think--it makes me open my eyes. Now isn't the
world too old and fond of steam, for blank verse poems, in ever so
many books, to be written on the fairies? I hope they may cure him,
for the best deed they can do. He is not precisely in danger,
understand--but the complaint may _run_ into danger--so the account

And you? how are you? Mind to tell me. May God bless you. Is Monday or
Tuesday to be _our_ day? If it were not for Mr. Kenyon I should take
courage and say Monday--but Tuesday and Saturday would do as
well--would they not?

                                                    Your own


Shall I have a letter?

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, January 31, 1846.]

It is a relief to me this time to obey your wish, and reserve further
remark on _that_ subject till by and bye. And, whereas some people, I
suppose, have to lash themselves up to the due point of passion, and
choose the happy minutes to be as loving in as they possibly can ...
(that is, in _expression_; the just correspondency of word to fact and
feeling: for _it_--the love--may be very truly _there_, at the bottom,
when it is got at, and spoken out)--quite otherwise, I do really have
to guard my tongue and set a watch on my pen ... that so I may say as
little as can well be likely to be excepted to by your generosity.
Dearest, _love_ means _love_, certainly, and adoration carries its
sense with it--and _so_, you may have received my feeling in that
shape--but when I begin to hint at the merest putting into practice
one or the other profession, you 'fly out'--instead of keeping your
throne. So let this letter lie awhile, till my heart is more used to
it, and after some days or weeks I will find as cold and quiet a
moment as I can, and by standing as far off you as I shall be able,
see more--'si _minus prope_ stes, te capiet magis.' Meanwhile, silent
or speaking, I am yours to dispose of as that _glove_--not that hand.

I must think that Mr. Kenyon sees, and knows, and ... in his goodness
... hardly disapproves--he knows I could not avoid--escape you--for he
knows, in a manner, what you are ... like your American; and, early in
our intercourse, he asked me (did I tell you?) 'what I thought of his
young relative'--and I considered half a second to this effect--'if he
asked me what I thought of the Queen-diamond they showed me in the
crown of the Czar--and I answered truly--he would not return; "then of
course you mean to try and get it to keep."' So I _did_ tell the truth
in a very few words. Well, it is no matter.

I am sorry to hear of poor Tennyson's condition. The projected
book--title, scheme, all of it,--_that_ is astounding;--and fairies?
If 'Thorpes and barnes, sheep-pens and dairies--_this_ maketh that
there ben no fairies'--locomotives and the broad or narrow gauge must
keep the very ghosts of them away. But how the fashion of this world
passes; the forms its beauty and truth take; if _we_ have the making
of such! I went last night, out of pure shame at a broken promise, to
hear Miss Cushman and her sister in 'Romeo and Juliet.' The whole play
goes ... horribly; 'speak' bids the Poet, and so M. Walladmir
[Valdemar] moves his tongue and dispenses with his jaws. Whatever is
slightly touched in, indicated, to give relief to something actually
insisted upon and drawn boldly ... _here_, you have it gone over with
an unremitting burnt-stick, till it stares black forever! Romeo goes
whining about Verona by broad daylight. Yet when a schoolfellow of
mine, I remember, began translating in class Virgil after this mode,
'Sic fatur--so said AEneas; lachrymans--_a-crying_' ... our pedagogue
turned on him furiously--'D'ye think AEneas made such a noise--as _you_
shall, presently?' How easy to conceive a boyish half-melancholy,
smiling at itself.

Then _Tuesday_, and not Monday ... and Saturday will be the nearer
afterward. I am singularly well to-day--head quite quiet--and
yesterday your penholder began its influence and I wrote about half my
last act. Writing is nothing, nor praise, nor blame, nor living, nor
dying, but you are all my true life; May God bless you ever--


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              Friday Evening.
                              [Post-mark, February 2, 1846.]

Something, you said yesterday, made me happy--'that your liking for me
did not come and go'--do you remember? Because there was a letter,
written at a crisis long since, in which you showed yourself awfully,
as a burning mountain, and talked of 'making the most of your
fire-eyes,' and of having at intervals 'deep black pits of cold
water'!--and the lava of that letter has kept running down into my
thoughts of you too much, until quite of late--while even yesterday I
was not too well instructed to be 'happy,' you see! Do not reproach
me! I would not have 'heard your enemy say so'--it was your own word!
And the other long word _idiosyncrasy_ seemed long enough to cover it;
and it might have been a matter of temperament, I fancied, that a man
of genius, in the mystery of his nature, should find his feelings
sometimes like dumb notes in a piano ... should care for people at
half past eleven on Tuesday, and on Wednesday at noon prefer a black
beetle. How you frightened me with your 'fire-eyes'! 'making the most
of them' too! and the 'black pits,' which gaped ... _where_ did they
gape? who could tell? Oh--but lately I have not been crossed so, of
course, with those fabulous terrors--lately that horror of the burning
mountain has grown more like a superstition than a rational fear!--and
if I was glad ... happy ... yesterday, it was but as a tolerably
sensible nervous man might be glad of a clearer moonlight, showing him
that what he had half shuddered at for a sheeted ghoule, was only a
white horse on the moor. Such a great white horse!--call it the
'mammoth horse'--the '_real_ mammoth,' this time!

Dearest, did I write you a cold letter the last time? Almost it seems
so to me! the reason being that my feelings were near to overflow, and
that I had to hold the cup straight to prevent the possible dropping
on your purple underneath. _Your_ letter, the letter I answered, was
in my heart ... _is_ in my heart--and all the yeses in the world would
not be too many for such a letter, as I felt and feel. Also, perhaps,
I gave you, at last, a merely formal distinction--and it comes to the
same thing practically without any doubt! but I shrank, with a sort of
instinct, from appearing (to myself, mind) to take a security from
your words now (said too on an obvious impulse) for what should,
would, _must_, depend on your deliberate wishes hereafter. You
understand--you will not accuse me of over-cautiousness and the like.
On the contrary, you are all things to me, ... instead of all and
better than all! You have fallen like a great luminous blot on the
whole leaf of the world ... of life and time ... and I can see nothing
beyond you, nor wish to see it. As to all that was evil and sadness to
me, I do not feel it any longer--it may be raining still, but I am in
the shelter and can scarcely tell. If you _could_ be _too dear_ to me
you would be now--but you could not--I do not believe in those
supposed excesses of pure affections--God cannot be too great.

Therefore it is a conditional engagement still--all the conditions
being in your hands, except the necessary one, of my health. And shall
I tell you what is 'not to be put in doubt _ever_'?--your goodness,
_that_ is ... and every tie that binds me to you. 'Ordained, granted
by God' it is, that I should owe the only happiness in my life to you,
and be contented and grateful (if it were necessary) to stop with it
at this present point. Still I _do not_--there seems no necessity yet.

May God bless you, ever dearest:--

                                                Your own BA.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

           [In the same envelope with the preceding letter.]

Well I have your letter--and I send you the postscript to my last one,
written yesterday you observe ... and being simply a postscript in
some parts of it, _so_ far it is not for an answer. Only I deny the
'flying out'--perhaps you may do it a little more ... in your moments
of starry centrifugal motion.

So you think that dear Mr. Kenyon's opinion of his 'young
relative'--(neither young nor his relative--not very much of either!)
is to the effect that you couldn't possibly 'escape' her--? It looks
like the sign of the Red Dragon, put _so_ ... and your burning
mountain is not too awful for the scenery.

Seriously ... gravely ... if it makes me three times happy that you
should love me, yet I grow uneasy and even saddened when you say
infatuated things such as this and this ... unless after all you mean
a philosophical sarcasm on the worth of Czar diamonds. No--do not say
such things! If you do, I shall end by being jealous of some ideal
Czarina who must stand between you and me.... I shall think that it is
not _I_ whom you look at ... and _pour cause_. 'Flying out,' _that_
would be!

And for Mr. Kenyon, I only know that I have grown the most ungrateful
of human beings lately, and find myself almost glad when he does not
come, certainly uncomfortable when he does--yes, _really_ I would
rather not see him at all, and when you are not here. The sense of
which and the sorrow for which, turn me to a hypocrite, and make me
ask why he does not come &c. ... questions which never came to my lips
before ... till I am more and more ashamed and sorry. Will it end, I
wonder, by my ceasing to care for any one in the world, except,
except...? or is it not rather that I feel trodden down by either his
too great penetration or too great unconsciousness, both being
overwhelming things from him to me. From a similar cause I hate
writing letters to any of my old friends--I feel as if it were the
merest swindling to attempt to give the least account of myself to
anybody, and when their letters come and I know that nothing very
fatal has happened to them, scarcely I can read to an end afterwards
through the besetting care of having to answer it all. Then I am
ignoble enough to revenge myself on people for their stupidities ...
which never in my life I did before nor felt the temptation to do ...
and when they have a distaste for your poetry through want of
understanding, I have a distaste for _them_ ... cannot help it--and
you need not say it is wrong, because I know the whole iniquity of it,
persisting nevertheless. As for dear Mr. Kenyon--with whom we began,
and who thinks of you as appreciatingly and admiringly as one man can
think of another,--do not imagine that, if he _should_ see anything,
he can 'approve' of either your wisdom or my generosity, ... _he_,
with his large organs of caution, and his habit of looking right and
left, and round the corner a little way. Because, you know, ... if I
should be ill _before_ ... why there, is a conclusion!--but if
_afterward_ ... what? You who talk wildly of my generosity, whereas I
only and most impotently tried to be generous, must see how both
suppositions have their possibility. Nevertheless you are the master
to run the latter risk. You have overcome ... to your loss
perhaps--unless the judgment is revised. As to taking the half of my
prison ... I could not even smile at _that_ if it seemed probable ...
I should recoil from your affection even under a shape so fatal to you
... dearest! No! There is a better probability before us I hope and
believe--in spite of the _possibility_ which it is impossible to deny.
And now we leave this subject for the present.

_Sunday._--You are 'singularly well.' You are very seldom quite well,
I am afraid--yet 'Luria' seems to have done no harm this time, as you
are singularly well the day _after_ so much writing. Yet do not hurry
that last act.... I won't have it for a long while yet.

Here I have been reading Carlyle upon Cromwell and he is very fine,
very much himself, it seems to me, everywhere. Did Mr. Kenyon make you
understand that I had said there was nothing in him but _manner_ ... I
thought he said so--and I am confident that he never heard such an
opinion from me, for good or for evil, ever at all. I may have
observed upon those vulgar attacks on account of the so-called
_mannerism_, the obvious fact, that an individuality, carried into the
medium, the expression, is a feature in all men of genius, as Buffon
teaches ... 'Le style, c'est _l'homme_.' But if the _whole man_ were
style, if all Carlyleism were manner--why there would be no man, no
Carlyle worth talking of. I wonder that Mr. Kenyon should misrepresent
me so. Euphuisms there may be to the end of the world--affected
parlances--just as a fop at heart may go without shoestrings to mimic
the distractions of some great wandering soul--although _that_ is a
bad comparison, seeing that what is called Carlyle's mannerism, is not
his dress, but his physiognomy--or more than _that_ even.

But I do not forgive him for talking here against the 'ideals of
poets' ... opposing their ideal by a mis-called _reality_, which is
another sort, a baser sort, of ideal after all. He sees things in
broad blazing lights--but he does not analyse them like a
philosopher--do you think so? Then his praise for dumb heroic action
as opposed to speech and singing, what is _that_--when all earnest
thought, passion, belief, and their utterances, are as much actions
surely as the cutting off of fifty heads by one right hand. As if
Shakespeare's actions were not greater than Cromwell's!--

But I shall write no more. Once more, may God bless you.

                                             Wholly and only

                                                  Your BA.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              Tuesday Morning.
                              [Post-mark, February 4, 1846.]

You ought hardly,--ought you, my Ba?--to refer to _that_ letter or any
expression in it; I had--and _have_, I trust--your forgiveness for
what I wrote, meaning to be generous or at least just, God knows.
That, and the other like exaggerations were there to serve the purpose
of what you properly call a _crisis_. I _did_ believe,--taking an
expression, in the note that occasioned mine, in connection with an
excuse which came in the postscript for not seeing me on the day
previously appointed, I did fully believe that you were about to deny
me admittance again unless I blotted out--not merely softened
down--the past avowal. All was wrong, foolish, but from a good notion,
I dare to say. And then, that particular exaggeration you bring most
painfully to my mind--_that_ does not, after all, disagree with what I
said and you repeat--does it, if you will think? I said my other
'_likings_' (as you rightly set it down) _used_ to 'come and go,' and
that my love for you _did not_, and that is true; the first clause as
the last of the sentence, for my sympathies are very wide and
general,--always have been--and the natural problem has been the
giving unity to their object, concentrating them instead of
dispersing. I seem to have foretold, _foreknown_ you in other likings
of mine--now here ... when the liking '_came_' ... and now elsewhere
... when as surely the liking '_went_': and if they had stayed before
the time would that have been a comfort to refer to? On the contrary,
I am as little likely to be led by delusions as can be,--for Romeo
_thinks_ he loves Rosaline, and is excused on all hands--whereas I saw
the plain truth without one mistake, and 'looked to like, if looking
liking moved--and no more deep _did_ I endart mine eye'--about which,
first I was very sorry, and after rather proud--all which I seem to
have told you before.--And now, when my whole heart and soul find you,
and fall on you, and fix forever, I am to be dreadfully afraid the joy
cannot last, seeing that

--it is so baseless a fear that no illustration will serve! Is it gone
now, dearest, ever-dearest?

And as you amuse me sometimes, as now, by seeming surprised at some
chance expression of a truth which is grown a veriest commonplace to
_me_--like Charles Lamb's 'letter to an elderly man whose education
had been neglected'--when he finds himself involuntarily communicating
truths above the capacity and acquirements of his friend, and stops
himself after this fashion--'If you look round the world, my dear
Sir--for it _is_ round!--so I will make you laugh at me, if you will,
for _my_ inordinate delight at hearing the success of your experiment
with the opium. I never dared, nor shall dare inquire into your use of
that--for, knowing you utterly as I do, I know you only bend to the
most absolute necessity in taking more or less of it--so that increase
of the quantity must mean simply increased weakness, illness--and
diminution, diminished illness. And now there _is_ diminution! Dear,
dear Ba--you speak of my silly head and its ailments ... well, and
what brings on the irritation? A wet day or two spent at home; and
what ends it all directly?--just an hour's walk! So with _me_:
now,--fancy me shut in a room for seven years ... it is--no, _don't_
see, even in fancy, what is left of me then! But _you_, at the end;
this is _all_ the harm: I wonder ... I confirm my soul in its belief
in perpetual miraculousness ... I bless God with my whole heart that
it is thus with you! And so, I will not even venture to say--so
superfluous it were, though with my most earnest, most loving breath
(I who _do_ love you more at every breath I draw; indeed, yes
dearest,)--I _will not_ bid you--that is, pray you--to persevere! You
have all my life bound to yours--save me from _my 'seven years'_--and
God reward you!

                                                 Your own R.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, February 5, 1846.]

But I did not--dear, dearest--no indeed, I did not mean any harm about
the letter. I wanted to show you how you had given me pleasure--and
so,--did I give you pain? was _that_ my ingenuity? Forgive my
unhappiness in it, and let it be as if it had not been. Only I will
just say that what made me talk about 'the thorn in the flesh' from
that letter so long, was a sort of conviction of your having put into
it as much of the truth, _your_ truth, as admitted of the ultimate
purpose of it, and not the least, slightest doubt of the key you gave
me to the purpose in question. And so forgive me. Why did you set
about explaining, as if I were doubting you? When you said once that
it 'did not come and go,'--was it not enough? enough to make me feel
happy as I told you? Did I require you to write a letter like this?
Now think for a moment, and know once for all, how from the beginning
to these latter days and through all possible degrees of crisis, you
have been to my apprehension and gratitude, the best, most consistent,
most noble ... the words falter that would speak of it all. In nothing
and at no moment have you--I will not say--failed to _me_, but spoken
or acted unworthily of yourself at the highest. What have you ever
been to me except too generous? Ah--if I had been only half as
generous, it is true that I never could have seen you again after that
first meeting--it was the straight path perhaps. But I had not
courage--I shrank from the thought of it--and then ... besides ... I
could not believe that your mistake was likely to last,--I concluded
that I might keep my friend.

Why should any remembrance be painful to _you_? I do not understand.
Unless indeed I should grow painful to you ... I myself!--seeing that
every remembered separate thing has brought me nearer to you, and made
me yours with a deeper trust and love.

And for that letter ... do you fancy that in _my_ memory the sting is
not gone from it?--and that I do not carry the thought of it, as the
Roman maidens, you speak of, their cool harmless snakes, at my heart
always? So let the poor letter be forgiven, for the sake of the dear
letter that was burnt, forgiven by _you_--until you grow angry with me
instead--just till then.

And that you should care so much about the opium! Then _I_ must care,
and get to do with less--at least. On the other side of your goodness
and indulgence (a very little way on the other side) it might strike
you as strange that I who have had no pain--no acute suffering to keep
down from its angles--should need opium in any shape. But I have had
restlessness till it made me almost mad: at one time I lost the power
of sleeping quite--and even in the day, the continual aching sense of
weakness has been intolerable--besides palpitation--as if one's life,
instead of giving movement to the body, were imprisoned undiminished
within it, and beating and fluttering impotently to get out, at all
the doors and windows. So the medical people gave me opium--a
preparation of it, called morphine, and ether--and ever since I have
been calling it my amreeta draught, my elixir,--because the
tranquillizing power has been wonderful. Such a nervous system I
have--so irritable naturally, and so shattered by various causes, that
the need has continued in a degree until now, and it would be
dangerous to leave off the calming remedy, Mr. Jago says, except very
slowly and gradually. But slowly and gradually something may be
done--and you are to understand that I never _increased_ upon the
prescribed quantity ... prescribed in the first instance--no! Now
think of my writing all this to you!--

And after all the lotus-eaters are blessed beyond the opium-eaters;
and the best of lotuses are such thoughts as I know.

Dear Miss Mitford comes to-morrow, and I am not glad enough. Shall I
have a letter to make me glad? She will talk, talk, talk ... and I
shall be hoping all day that not a word may be talked of ... _you_:--a
forlorn hope indeed! There's a hope for a day like Thursday which is
just in the middle between a Tuesday and a Saturday!

Your head ... is it ... _how_ is it? tell me. And consider again if it
could be possible that I could ever desire to reproach _you_ ... in
what I said about the letter.

May God bless you, best and dearest. If you are the _compensation_
blessed is the evil that fell upon me: and _that_, I can say before

                                                    Your BA.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, February 6, 1846.]

If I said you 'gave me pain' in anything, it was in the only way ever
possible for you, my dearest--by giving _yourself_, in me, pain--being
unjust to your own right and power as I feel them at my heart: and in
that way, I see you will go on to the end, I getting called--in this
very letter--'generous' &c. Well, let me fancy you see very, very deep
into future chances and how I should behave on occasion. I shall
hardly imitate you, I whose sense of the present and its claims of
gratitude already is beyond expression.

All the kind explaining about the opium makes me happier. 'Slowly and
gradually' what may _not_ be done? Then see the bright weather while I
write--lilacs, hawthorn, plum-trees all in bud; elders in leaf,
rose-bushes with great red shoots; thrushes, whitethroats, hedge
sparrows in full song--there can, let us hope, be nothing worse in
store than a sharp wind, a week of it perhaps--and then comes what
shall come--

And Miss Mitford yesterday--and has she fresh fears for you of my evil
influence and Origenic power of 'raying out darkness' like a swart
star? Why, the common sense of the world teaches that there is nothing
people at fault in any faculty of expression are so intolerant of as
the like infirmity in others--whether they are unconscious of, or
indulgent to their own obscurity and fettered organ, the hindrance
from the fettering of their neighbours' is redoubled. A man may think
he is not deaf, or, at least, that you need not be so much annoyed by
his deafness as you profess--but he will be quite aware, to say the
least of it, when another man can't hear _him_; he will certainly not
encourage him to stop his ears. And so with the converse; a writer who
fails to make himself understood, as presumably in my case, may either
believe in his heart that it is _not_ so ... that only as much
attention and previous instructedness as the case calls for, would
quite avail to understand him; or he may open his eyes to the fact and
be trying hard to overcome it: but on which supposition is he led to
confirm another in his unintelligibility? By the proverbial tenderness
of the eye with the mote for the eye with the beam? If that beam were
just such another mote--_then_ one might sympathize and feel no such
inconvenience--but, because I have written a 'Sordello,' do I turn to
just its _double_, Sordello the second, in your books, and so perforce
see nothing wrong? 'No'--it is supposed--'but something _as_ obscure
in its way.' Then down goes the bond of union at once, and I stand no
nearer to view your work than the veriest proprietor of one thought
and the two words that express it without obscurity at all--'bricks
and mortar.' Of course an artist's whole problem must be, as Carlyle
wrote to me, 'the expressing with articulate clearness the thought in
him'--I am almost inclined to say that _clear expression_ should be
his only work and care--for he is born, ordained, such as he is--and
not born learned in putting what was born in him into words--what ever
_can_ be clearly spoken, ought to be. But 'bricks and mortar' is very
easily said--and some of the thoughts in 'Sordello' not so readily
even if Miss Mitford were to try her hand on them.

I look forward to a real life's work for us both. _I_ shall do
all,--under your eyes and with your hand in mine,--all I was intended
to do: may but _you_ as surely go perfecting--by continuing--the work
begun so wonderfully--'a rose-tree that beareth seven-times seven'--

I am forced to dine in town to-day with an old friend--'to-morrow'
always begins half the day before, like a Jewish sabbath. Did your
sister tell you that I met her on the stairs last time? She did _not_
tell you that I had almost passed by her--the eyes being still
elsewhere and occupied. Now let me write out that--no--I will send the
old ballad I told you of, for the strange coincidence--and it is very
charming beside, is it not? Now goodbye, my sweetest, dearest--and
tell me good news of yourself to-morrow, and be but half a quarter as
glad to see me as I shall be blessed in seeing you. God bless you

                                                    Your own


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              Saturday Morning.
                              [Post-mark, February 7, 1846.]

Dearest, to my sorrow I must, I fear, give up the delight of seeing
you this morning. I went out unwell yesterday, and a long noisy dinner
with speech-making, with a long tiresome walk at the end of it--these
have given me such a bewildering headache that I really see some
reason in what they say here about keeping the house. Will you forgive
me--and let me forget it all on Monday? On _Monday_--unless I am told
otherwise by the early post--And God bless you ever

                                                  Your own--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                              [Post-mark, February 7, 1846.]

I felt it must be so ... that something must be the matter, ... and I
had been so really unhappy for half an hour, that your letter which
comes now at four, seems a little better, with all its bad news, than
my fancies took upon themselves to be, without instruction. Now _was_
it right to go out yesterday when you were unwell, and to a great
dinner?--but I shall not reproach you, dearest, dearest--I have no
heart for it at this moment. As to Monday, of course it is as you like
... if you are well enough on Monday ... if it should be thought wise
of you to come to London through the noise ... if ... you understand
all the _ifs_ ... and among them the greatest if of all, ... for if
you do love me ... _care_ for me even, you will not do yourself harm
or run any risk of harm by going out _anywhere too soon_. On Monday,
in case you are _considered well enough_, and otherwise Tuesday,
Wednesday--I leave it to you. Still I _will_ ask one thing, whether
you come on Monday or not. _Let_ me have a single line by the nearest
post to say how you are. Perhaps for to-night it is not possible--oh
no, it is nearly five now! but a word written on Sunday would be with
me early on Monday morning, and I know you will let me have it, to
save some of the anxious thoughts ... to break them in their course
with some sort of certainty! May God bless you dearest of all!--I
thought of you on Thursday, but did not speak of you, not even when
Miss Mitford called Hood the greatest poet of the age ... she had been
depreciating Carlyle, so I let you lie and wait on the same level, ...
that shelf of the rock which is above tide mark! I was glad even, that
she did not speak of you; and, under cover of her speech of others, I
had my thoughts of you deeply and safely. When she had gone at half
past six, moreover, I grew over-hopeful, and made up my fancy to have
a letter at eight! The branch she had pulled down, sprang upward
skyward ... to that high possibility of a letter! Which did not come
that day ... no!--and I revenged myself by writing a letter to _you_,
which was burnt afterwards because I would not torment you for
letters. Last night, came a real one--dearest! So we could not keep
our sabbath to-day! It is a fast day instead, ... on my part. How
should I feel (I have been thinking to myself), if I did not see you
on Saturday, and could not hope to see you on Monday, nor on Tuesday,
nor on Wednesday, nor Thursday nor Friday, nor Saturday again--if all
the sabbaths were gone out of the world for me! May God bless you!--it
has grown to be enough prayer!--as _you_ are enough (and all, besides)

                                                    Your own


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              [Post-mark, February 7, 1846.]

The clock strikes--_three_; and I am here, not with you--and my
'fractious' headache at the very worst got suddenly better just now,
and is leaving me every minute--as if to make me aware, with an
undivided attention, that at this present you are waiting for me, and
soon will be wondering--and it would be so easy now to dress myself
and walk or run or ride--do anything that led to you ... but by no
haste in the world could I reach you, I am forced to see, before a
quarter to five--by which time I think my letter must arrive. Dear,
dearest Ba, did you but know how vexed I am--with myself, with--this
is absurd, of course. The cause of it all was my going out last
night--yet that, neither, was to be helped, the party having been
twice put off before--once solely on my account. And the sun shines,
and you would shine--

Monday is to make all the amends in its power, is it not? Still, still
I have lost my day.

                                 Bless you, my ever-dearest.

                                      Your R.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                              Sunday Morning.
                              [Post-mark, February 9, 1846.]

My dearest--there are no words,--nor will be to-morrow, nor even in
the Island--I know that! But I do love you.

My arms have been round you for many minutes since the last word--

I am quite well now--my other note will have told you when the change
began--I think I took too violent a shower bath, with a notion of
getting better in as little time as possible,--and the stimulus turned
mere feverishness to headache. However, it was no sooner gone, in a
degree, than a worse plague came. I sate thinking of you--but I knew
my note would arrive at about four o'clock or a little later--and I
thought the visit for the quarter of an hour would as effectually
prevent to-morrow's meeting as if the whole two hours' blessing had
been laid to heart--to-morrow I shall see you, Ba--my sweetest. But
there are cold winds blowing to-day--how do you bear them, my Ba?
'_Care_' you, pray, pray, care for all _I_ care about--and be well, if
God shall please, and bless me as no man ever was blessed! Now I kiss
you, and will begin a new thinking of you--and end, and begin, going
round and round in my circle of discovery,--_My_ lotos-blossom!
because they _loved_ the lotos, were lotos-lovers,--[Greek: lotou t'
erotes], as Euripides writes in the [Greek: Troades].

                                                    Your own

P.S. See those lines in the _Athenaeum_ on Pulci with Hunt's
translation--all wrong--'_che non si sente_,' being--'that one does
not _hear_ him' i.e. the ordinarily noisy fellow--and the rest, male,
pessime! Sic verte, meo periculo, mi ocelle!

    Where's Luigi Pulci, that one don't the man see?
    He just now yonder in the copse has '_gone it_' (_n_'ando)
    Because across his mind there came a fancy;
    He'll wish to fancify, perhaps, a sonnet!

Now Ba thinks nothing can be worse than that? Then read _this_ which I
really told Hunt and got his praise for. Poor dear wonderful
persecuted Pietro d'Abano wrote this quatrain on the people's plaguing
him about his mathematical studies and wanting to burn him--he helped
to build Padua Cathedral, wrote a Treatise on Magic still extant, and
passes for a conjuror in his country to this day--when there is a
storm the mothers tell the children that he is in the air; his pact
with the evil one obliged him to drink no _milk_; no natural human
food! You know Tieck's novel about him? Well, this quatrain is said, I
believe truly, to have been discovered in a well near Padua some fifty
years ago.

    Studiando le mie cifre, col compasso
    Rilevo, che presto saro sotterra--
    Perche del mio saper si fa gran chiasso,
    E gl'ignoranti m'hanno mosso guerra.

Affecting, is it not, in its simple, child like plaining? Now so, if I
remember, I turned it--word for word--

    Studying my ciphers, with the compass
    I reckon--who soon shall be below ground,
    Because of my lore they make great 'rumpus,'
    And against me war makes each dull rogue round.

Say that you forgive me to-morrow!

[The following is in E.B.B.'s handwriting.]

    With my compass I take up my ciphers, poor scholar;
    Who myself shall be taken down soon under the ground ...
    Since the world at my learning roars out in its choler,
    And the blockheads have fought me all round.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, February 10, 1846.]

Ever dearest, I have been possessed by your 'Luria' just as you would
have me, and I should like you to understand, not simply how fine a
conception the whole work seems to me, so developed, but how it has
moved and affected me, without the ordinary means and dialect of
pathos, by that calm attitude of moral grandeur which it has--it is
very fine. For the execution, _that_ too is worthily done--although I
agree with you, that a little quickening and drawing in closer here
and there, especially towards the close where there is no time to
lose, the reader feels, would make the effect stronger--but you will
look to it yourself--and such a conception _must_ come in thunder and
lightning, as a chief god would--_must_ make its own way ... and will
not let its poet go until he speaks it out to the ultimate syllable.
Domizia disappoints me rather. You might throw a flash more of light
on her face--might you not? But what am I talking? I think it a
magnificent work--a noble exposition of the ingratitude of men against
their 'heroes,' and (what is peculiar) an _humane_ exposition ... not
misanthropical, after the usual fashion of such things: for the
return, the remorse, saves it--and the 'Too late' of the repentance
and compensation covers with its solemn toll the fate of persecutors
and victim. We feel that Husain himself could only say afterward ...
'_That is done._' And now--surely you think well of the work as a
whole? You cannot doubt, I fancy, of the grandeur of it--and of the
_subtilty_ too, for it is subtle--too subtle perhaps for stage
purposes, though as clear, ... as to expression ... as to medium ...
as 'bricks and mortar' ... shall I say?

    'A people is but the attempt of many
    To rise to the completer life of one.'

There is one of the fine thoughts. And how fine _he_ is, your Luria,
when he looks back to his East, through the half-pardon and
half-disdain of Domizia. Ah--Domizia! would it hurt her to make her
more a woman ... a little ... I wonder!

So I shall begin from the beginning, from the first act, and read
_through_ ... since I have read the fifth twice over. And remember,
please, that I am to read, besides, the 'Soul's Tragedy,' and that I
shall dun you for it presently. Because you told me it was finished,
otherwise I would not speak a word, feeling that you want rest, and
that I, who am anxious about you, would be crossing my own purposes
by driving you into work. It is the overwork, the overwear of mind and
heart (for the feelings come as much into use as the thoughts in these
productions), that makes you so pale, dearest, that distracts your
head, and does all the harm on Saturdays and so many other days

To-day--how are you? It _was_ right and just for me to write this
time, after the two dear notes ... the one on Saturday night which
made me praise you to myself and think you kinder than kindest, and
the other on Monday morning which took me unaware--such a note, _that_
was! Oh it _was_ right and just that I should not teaze you to send me
another after those two others,--yet I was very near doing it--yet I
should like infinitely to hear to-day how you
are--unreasonable!--Well! you will write now--you will answer what I
am writing, and mention yourself particularly and sincerely--Remember!
Above all, you will care for your head. I have been thinking since
yesterday that, coming out of the cold, you might not have refused as
usual to take something ... hot wine and water, or coffee? Will you
have coffee with me on Saturday? 'Shunning the salt,' will you have
the sugar? And do tell me, for I have been thinking, are you careful
as to diet--and will such sublunary things as coffee and tea and cocoa
affect your head--_for_ or _against_! Then you do not touch wine--and
perhaps you ought. Surely something may be found or done to do you
good. If it had not been for me, you would be travelling in Italy by
this time and quite well perhaps.

This morning I had a letter from Miss Martineau and really read it to
the end without thinking it too long, which is extraordinary for me
just now, and scarcely ordinary in the letter, and indeed it is a
delightful letter, as letters go, which are not yours! You shall take
it with you on Saturday to read, and you shall see that it is worth
reading, and interesting for Wordsworth's sake and her own. Mr.
Kenyon has it now, because he presses on to have her letters, and I
should not like to tell him that you had it first from me.... Also
Saturday will be time enough.

Oh--poor Mr. Horne! shall I tell you some of his offences? That he
desires to be called at four in the morning, and does not get up till
eight. That he pours libations on his bare head out of the
water-glasses at great dinners. That being in the midst of
sportsmen--rural aristocrats--lords of soil--and all talking learnedly
of pointers' noses and spaniels' ears; he has exclaimed aloud in a
mocking paraphrase--'If I were to hold up a horse by the tail.' The
wit is certainly doubtful!--That being asked to dinner on Tuesday, he
will go on Wednesday instead.--That he throws himself at full length
with a gesture approaching to a 'summerset' on satin sofas. That he
giggles. That he only _thinks_ he can talk. That his ignorance on all
subjects is astounding. That he never read the old ballads, nor saw
Percy's collection. That he asked _who_ wrote 'Drink to me only with
thine eyes.' That after making himself ridiculous in attempting to
speak at a public meeting, he said to a compassionate friend 'I got
very well out of _that_.' That, in writing his work on Napoleon, he
employed a man to study the subject for him. That he cares for
nobody's poetry or fame except his own, and considers Tennyson chiefly
illustrious as being his contemporary. That, as to politics, he
doesn't care '_which_ side.' That he is always talking of 'my shares,'
'my income,' as if he were a Kilmansegg. Lastly (and understand, this
is _my_ 'lastly' and not Miss Mitford's, who is far from being out of
breath so soon) that he has a mania for heiresses--that he has gone
out at half past five and 'proposed' to Miss M or N with fifty
thousand pounds, and being rejected (as the lady thought fit to report
herself) came back to tea and the same evening 'fell in love' with
Miss O or P ... with forty thousand--went away for a few months, and
upon his next visit, did as much to a Miss Q or W, on the promise of
four blood horses--has a prospect now of a Miss R or S--with hounds,

Too, too bad--isn't it? I would repeat none of it except to you--and
as to the worst part, the last, why some may be coincidence, and some,
exaggeration, for I have not the least doubt that every now and then a
fine poetical compliment was turned into a serious thing by the
listener, and then the poor poet had critics as well as listeners all
round him. Also, he rather 'wears his heart on his sleeve,' there is
no denying--and in other respects he is not much better, perhaps, than
other men. But for the base traffic of the affair--I do not believe a
word. He is too generous--has too much real sensibility. I fought his
battle, poor Orion. 'And so,' she said 'you believe it possible for a
disinterested man to become really attached to two women, heiresses,
on the same day?' I doubted the _fact_. And then she showed me a note,
an autograph note from the poet, confessing the M or N part of the
business--while Miss O or P confessed herself, said Miss Mitford. But
I persisted in doubting, notwithstanding the lady's confessions, or
convictions, as they might be. And just think of Mr. Horne not having
tact enough to keep out of these multitudinous scrapes, for those few
days which on three separate occasions he paid Miss Mitford in a
neighbourhood where all were strangers to him,--and never outstaying
his week! He must have been _foolish_, read it all how we may.

And so am _I_, to write this 'personal talk' to you when you will not
care for it--yet you asked me, and it may make you smile, though
Wordsworth's tea-kettle outsings it all.

When your Monday letter came, I was reading the criticism on Hunt and
his Italian poets, in the _Examiner_. How I liked to be pulled by the
sleeve to your translations!--How I liked everything!--Pulci, Pietro
... and you, best!

Yet here's a naivete which I found in your letter! I will write it out
that you may read it--

'However it' (the headache) 'was no sooner gone in a degree, than a
worse plague came--_I sate thinking of you_.'

Very satisfactory _that_ is, and very clear.

May God bless you dearest, dearest! Be careful of yourself. The cold
makes me _languid_, as heat is apt to make everybody; but I am not
unwell, and keep up the fire and the thoughts of you.

                                 Your worse ... worst plague

                                      Your own


I shall hear? yes! And admire my obedience in having written 'a long
letter' _to_ the letter!

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Wednesday Morning.
                             [Post-mark, February 11, 1846.]

My sweetest 'plague,' _did_ I really write that sentence so, without
gloss or comment in close vicinity? I can hardly think it--but you
know well, well where the real plague lay,--that I thought of you as
thinking, in your infinite goodness, of untoward chances which had
kept me from you--and if I did not dwell more particularly on that
thinking of _yours_, which became as I say, in the knowledge of it, a
plague when brought before me _with_ the thought of you,--if I passed
this slightly over it was for pure unaffected shame that I should take
up the care and stop the 'reverie serene' of--ah, the rhyme _lets_ me
say--'sweetest eyes were ever seen'--were _ever_ seen! And yourself
confess, in the Saturday's note, to having been 'unhappy for half an
hour till' &c. &c.--and do not I feel _that_ here, and am not I
plagued by it?

Well, having begun at the end of your letter, dearest, I will go back
gently (that is backwards) and tell you I 'sate thinking' too, and
with no greater comfort, on the cold yesterday. The pond before the
window was frozen ('so as to bear sparrows' somebody said) and I knew
you would feel it--'but you are not unwell'--really? thank God--and
the month wears on. Beside I have got a reassurance--you asked me once
if I were superstitious, I remember (as what do I forget that you
say?). However that may be, yesterday morning as I turned to look for
a book, an old fancy seized me to try the 'sortes' and dip into the
first page of the first I chanced upon, for my fortune; I said 'what
will be the event of my love for Her'--in so many words--and my book
turned out to be--'Cerutti's Italian Grammar!'--a propitious source of
information ... the best to be hoped, what could it prove but some
assurance that you were in the Dative Case, or I, not in the ablative
absolute? I do protest that, with the knowledge of so many horrible
pitfalls, or rather spring guns with wires on every bush ... such
dreadful possibilities of stumbling on 'conditional moods,' 'imperfect
tenses,' 'singular numbers,'--I should have been too glad to put up
with the safe spot for the sole of my foot though no larger than
afforded by such a word as 'Conjunction,' 'possessive pronoun--,'
secure so far from poor Tippet's catastrophe. Well, I ventured, and
what did I find? _This_--which I copy from the book now--'_If we love
in the other world as we do in this, I shall love thee to
eternity_'--from 'Promiscuous Exercises,' to be translated into
Italian, at the end.

And now I reach Horne and his characteristics--of which I can tell you
with confidence that they are grossly misrepresented where not
altogether false--whether it proceed from inability to see what one
may see, or disinclination, I cannot say. I know very little of Horne,
but my one visit to him a few weeks ago would show the uncandidness of
those charges: for instance, he talked a good deal about horses,
meaning to ride in Ireland, and described very cleverly an old hunter
he had hired once,--how it galloped and could not walk; also he
propounded a theory of the true method of behaving in the saddle when
a horse rears, which I besought him only to practise in fancy on the
sofa, where he lay telling it. So much for professing his ignorance in
that matter! On a sofa he does throw himself--but when thrown there,
he can talk, with Miss Mitford's leave, admirably,--I never heard
better stories than Horne's--some Spanish-American incidents of travel
want printing--or have been printed, for aught I know. That he cares
for nobody's poetry is _false_, he praises more unregardingly of his
own retreat, more unprovidingly for his own fortune,--(do I speak
clearly?)--less like a man who himself has written somewhat in the
'line' of the other man he is praising--which 'somewhat' has to be
guarded in its interests, &c., less like the poor professional praise
of the 'craft' than any other I ever met--instance after instance
starting into my mind as I write. To his income I never heard him
allude--unless one should so interpret a remark to me this last time
we met, that he had been on some occasion put to inconvenience by
somebody's withholding ten or twelve pounds due to him for an article,
and promised in the confidence of getting them to a tradesman, which
does not look like 'boasting of his income'! As for the heiresses--I
don't believe one word of it, of the succession and transition and
trafficking. Altogether, what miserable 'set-offs' to the achievement
of an 'Orion,' a 'Marlowe,' a 'Delora'! Miss Martineau understands him

Now I come to myself and my health. I am quite well now--at all
events, much better, just a little turning in the head--since you
appeal to my sincerity. For the coffee--thank you, indeed thank you,
but nothing after the '_oenomel_' and before half past six. _I_ know
all about that song and its Greek original if Horne does not--and can
tell you--, how truly...!

    The thirst that from the soul doth rise
      Doth ask a drink divine--
    But might I of Jove's nectar sup
      I would not change for thine! _No, no, no!_

And by the bye, I have misled you as my wont is, on the subject of
wine, 'that I do not touch it'--not habitually, nor so as to feel the
loss of it, that on a principle; but every now and then of course.

And now, 'Luria', so long as the parts cohere and the whole is
discernible, all will be well yet. I shall not look at it, nor think
of it, for a week or two, and then see what I have forgotten. Domizia
is all wrong; I told you I knew that her special colour had faded,--it
was but a bright line, and the more distinctly deep that it was so
narrow. One of my half dozen words on my scrap of paper 'pro memoria'
was, under the 'Act V.' '_she loves_'--to which I could not bring it,
you see! Yet the play requires it still,--something may yet be
effected, though.... I meant that she should propose to go to Pisa
with him, and begin a new life. But there is no hurry--I suppose it is
no use publishing much before Easter--I will try and remember what my
whole character _did_ mean--it was, in two words, understood at the
time by 'panther's-beauty'--on which hint I ought to have spoken! But
the work grew cold, and you came between, and the sun put out the fire
on the hearth _nec vult panthera domari_!

For the 'Soul's Tragedy'--_that_ will surprise you, I think. There is
no trace of you there,--you have not put out the black face of
_it_--it is all sneering and _disillusion_--and shall not be printed
but burned if you say the word--now wait and see and then say! I will
bring the first of the two parts next Saturday.

And now, dearest, I am with you--and the other matters are forgotten
already. God bless you, I am ever your own R. You will write to me I
trust? And tell me how to bear the cold.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, February 12, 1846.]

Ah, the 'sortes'! Is it a double oracle--'swan and shadow'--do you
think? or do my eyes see double, dazzled by the light of it? 'I shall
love thee to eternity'--I _shall_.

And as for the wine, I did not indeed misunderstand you 'as my wont
is,' because I understood simply that 'habitually' you abstained from
wine, and I meant exactly that perhaps it would be better for your
health to take it habitually. It _might_, you know--not that I pretend
to advise. Only when you look so much too pale sometimes, it comes
into one's thoughts that you ought not to live on cresses and cold
water. Strong coffee, which is the nearest to a stimulant that I dare
to take, as far as ordinary diet goes, will almost always deliver _me_
from the worst of headaches, but there is no likeness, no comparison.
And your 'quite well' means that dreadful 'turning' still ... still!
Now do not think any more of the Domizias, nor 'try to remember,'
which is the most wearing way of thinking. The more I read and read
your 'Luria,' the grander it looks, and it will make its own road with
all understanding men, you need not doubt, and still less need you try
to make me uneasy about the harm I have done in 'coming between,' and
all the rest of it. I wish never to do you greater harm than just
_that_, and then with a white conscience 'I shall love thee to
eternity!... dearest! You have made a golden work out of your
'golden-hearted Luria'--as once you called him to me, and I hold it in
the highest admiration--_should_, if you were precisely nothing to me.
And still, the fifth act _rises_! That is certain. Nevertheless I seem
to agree with you that your hand has vacillated in your Domizia. We do
not know her with as full a light on her face, as the other
persons--we do not see the _panther_,--no, certainly we do not--but
you will do a very little for her which will be everything, after a
time ... and I assure you that if you were to ask for the manuscript
before, you should not have a page of it--_now_, you are only to rest.
What a work to rest upon! Do consider what a triumph it is! The more I
read, the more I think of it, the greater it grows--and as to 'faded
lines,' you never cut a pomegranate that was redder in the deep of it.
Also, no one can say 'This is not clearly written.' The people who are
at 'words of one syllable' may be puzzled by you and Wordsworth
together this time ... as far as the expression goes. Subtle thoughts
you always must have, in and out of 'Sordello'--and the objectors
would find even Plato (though his medium is as lucid as the water that
ran beside the beautiful plane-tree!) a little difficult perhaps.

To-day Mr. Kenyon came, and do you know, he has made a beatific
confusion between last Saturday and next Saturday, and said to me he
had told Miss Thomson to mind to come on Friday if she wished to see
me ... 'remembering' (he added) 'that Mr. Browning took _Saturday_!!'
So I let him mistake the one week for the other--'Mr. Browning took
Saturday,' it was true, both ways. Well--and then he went on to tell
me that he had heard from Mrs. Jameson who was at Brighton and unwell,
and had written to say this and that to him, and to enquire
besides--now, what do you think, she enquired besides? 'how you and
... Browning were' said Mr. Kenyon--I write his words. He is coming,
perhaps to-morrow, or perhaps Sunday--Saturday is to have a twofold
safety. That is, if you are not ill again. Dearest, you will not think
of coming if you are ill ... unwell even. I shall not be frightened
next time, as I told you--I shall have the precedent. Before, I had to
think! 'It has never happened _so_--there must be a cause--and if it
is a very, very, bad cause, why no one will tell _me_ ... it will not
seem _my_ concern'--_that_ was my thought on Saturday. But another
time ... only, if it is possible to keep well, do keep well, beloved,
and think of me instead of Domizia, and let there be no other time for
your suffering ... my waiting is nothing. I shall remember for the
future that you may have the headache--and do you remember it too!

For Mr. Horne I take your testimony gladly and believingly. _She
blots_ with her _eyes_ sometimes. She hates ... and loves, in extreme
degrees. We have, once or twice or thrice, been on the border of
mutual displeasure, on this very subject, for I grew really vexed to
observe the trust on one side and the _dyspathy_ on the other--using
the mildest of words. You see, he found himself, down in Berkshire, in
quite a strange element of society,--he, an artist in his good and his
evil,--and the people there, 'county families,' smoothly plumed in
their conventions, and classing the ringlets and the aboriginal way of
using water-glasses among offences against the Moral Law. Then,
meaning to be agreeable, or fascinating perhaps, made it twenty times
worse. Writing in albums about the graces, discoursing meditated
impromptus at picnics, playing on the guitar in fancy dresses,--all
these things which seemed to poor Orion as natural as his own stars I
dare say, and just the things suited to the _genus_ poet, and to
himself specifically,--were understood by the natives and their 'rural
deities' to signify, that he intended to marry one half the county,
and to run away with the other. But Miss Mitford should have known
better--_she_ should. And she _would_ have known better, if she had
liked him--for the liking could have been unmade by no such offences.
She is too fervent a friend--she can be. Generous too, she can be
without an effort; and I have had much affection from her--and accuse
myself for seeming to have less--but--

May God bless you!--I end in haste after this long lingering.



Not unwell--_I_ am not! I forgot it, which proves how I am not.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Friday Morning.
                             [Post-mark, February 13, 1846.]

Two nights ago I read the 'Soul's Tragedy' once more, and though there
were not a few points which still struck me as successful in design
and execution, yet on the whole I came to a decided opinion, that it
will be better to postpone the publication of it for the present. It
is not a good ending, an auspicious wind-up of this series;
subject-matter and style are alike unpopular even for the literary
_grex_ that stands aloof from the purer _plebs_, and uses that
privilege to display and parade an ignorance which the other is
altogether unconscious of--so that, if 'Luria' is _clearish_, the
'Tragedy' would be an unnecessary troubling the waters. Whereas, if I
printed it first in order, my readers, according to custom, would make
the (comparatively) little they did not see into, a full excuse for
shutting their eyes at the rest, and we may as well part friends, so
as not to meet enemies. But, at bottom, I believe the proper objection
is to the immediate, _first_ effect of the whole--its moral
effect--which is dependent on the contrary supposition of its being
really understood, in the main drift of it. Yet I don't know; for I
wrote it with the intention of producing the best of all
effects--perhaps the truth is, that I am tired, rather, and desirous
of getting done, and 'Luria' will answer my purpose so far. Will not
the best way be to reserve this unlucky play and in the event of a
second edition--as Moxon seems to think such an apparition
possible--might not this be quietly inserted?--in its place, too, for
it was written two or three years ago. I have lost, of late, interest
in dramatic writing, as you know, and, perhaps, occasion. And,
dearest, I mean to take your advice and be quiet awhile and let my
mind get used to its new medium of sight; seeing all things, as it
does, through you: and then, let all I have done be the prelude and
the real work begin. I felt it would be so before, and told you at the
very beginning--do you remember? And you spoke of Io 'in the proem.'
How much more should follow now!

And if nothing follows, I have _you_.

I shall see you to-morrow and be happy. To-day--is it the weather or
what?--something depresses me a little--to-morrow brings the remedy
for it all. I don't know why I mention such a matter; except that I
tell you everything without a notion of after-consequence; and because
your dearest, dearest presence seems under any circumstances as if
created just to help me _there_; if my spirits rise they fly to you;
if they fall, they hold by you and cease falling--as now. Bless you,
Ba--my own best blessing that you are! But a few hours and I am with
you, beloved!

                                                    Your own

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Saturday Evening.
                             [Post-mark, February 16, 1846.]

Ever dearest, though you wanted to make me say one thing displeasing
to you to-day, I had not courage to say two instead ... which I might
have done indeed and indeed! For I am capable of thinking both
thoughts of 'next year,' as you suggested them:--because while you are
with me I see only _you_, and you being you, I cannot doubt a power of
yours nor measure the deep loving nature which I feel to be so
deep--so that there may be ever so many 'mores,' and no 'more' wonder
of mine!--but afterwards, when the door is shut and there is no 'more'
light nor speaking until Thursday, why _then_, that I do not see _you_
but _me_,--_then_ comes the reaction,--the natural lengthening of the
shadows at sunset,--and _then_, the 'less, less, less' grows to seem
as natural to my fate, as the 'more' seemed to your nature--I being I!

_Sunday._--Well!--you are to try to forgive it all! And the truth,
over and under all, is, that I scarcely ever do think of the future,
scarcely ever further than to your next visit, and almost never
beyond, except for your sake and in reference to that view of the
question which I have vexed you with so often, in fearing for your
happiness. Once it was a habit of mind with me to live altogether in
what I called the future--but the tops of the trees that looked
towards Troy were broken off in the great winds, and falling down into
the river beneath, where now after all this time they grow green
again, I let them float along the current gently and pleasantly. Can
it be better I wonder! And if it becomes worse, can I help it? Also
the future never seemed to belong to me so little--never! It might
appear wonderful to most persons, it is startling even to myself
sometimes, to observe how free from anxiety I am--from the sort of
anxiety which might be well connected with my own position _here_, and
which is personal to myself. _That_ is all thrown behind--into the
bushes--long ago it was, and I think I told you of it before.
Agitation comes from indecision--and _I_ was decided from the first
hour when I admitted the possibility of your loving me really.
Now,--as the Euphuists used to say,--I am 'more thine than my own' ...
it is a literal truth--and my future belongs to you; if it was mine,
it was mine to give, and if it was mine to give, it was given, and if
it was given ... beloved....

So you see!

Then I will confess to you that all my life long I have had a rather
strange sympathy and dyspathy--the sympathy having concerned the genus
_jilt_ (as vulgarly called) male and female--and the dyspathy--the
whole class of heroically virtuous persons who make sacrifices of what
they call 'love' to what they call 'duty.' There are exceptional cases
of course, but, for the most part, I listen incredulously or else with
a little contempt to those latter proofs of strength--or weakness, as
it may be:--people are not usually praised for giving up their
religion, for unsaying their oaths, for desecrating their 'holy
things'--while believing them still to be religious and sacramental!
On the other side I have always and shall always understand how it is
possible for the most earnest and faithful of men and even of women
perhaps, to err in the convictions of the heart as well as of the
mind, to profess an affection which is an illusion, and to recant and
retreat loyally at the eleventh hour, on becoming aware of the truth
which is in them. Such men are the truest of men, and the most
courageous for the truth's sake, and instead of blaming them I hold
them in honour, for me, and always did and shall.

And while I write, you are 'very ill'--very ill!--how it looks,
written down _so_! When you were gone yesterday and my thoughts had
tossed about restlessly for ever so long, I was wise enough to ask
Wilson how _she_ thought you were looking, ... and she 'did not know'
... she 'had not observed' ... 'only certainly Mr. Browning ran
up-stairs instead of walking as he did the time before.'

Now promise me dearest, dearest--not to trifle with your health. Not
to neglect yourself ... not to tire yourself ... and besides to take
the advice of your medical friend as to diet and general
treatment:--because there must be a wrong and a right in everything,
and the right is very important under your circumstances ... if you
have a tendency to illness. It may be right for you to have wine for
instance. Did you ever try the putting your feet into hot water at
night, to prevent the recurrence of the morning headache--for the
affection of the head comes on early in the morning, does it not? just
as if the sleeping did you harm. Now I have heard of such a remedy
doing good--and could it _increase_ the evil?--mustard mixed with the
water, remember. Everything approaching to _congestion_ is full of
fear--I tremble to think of it--and I bring no remedy by this teazing
neither! But you will not be 'wicked' nor 'unkind,' nor provoke the
evil consciously--you will keep quiet and forswear the going out at
nights, the excitement and noise of parties, and the worse excitement
of composition--you promise. If you knew how I keep thinking of you,
and at intervals grow so frightened! Think _you_, that you are three
times as much to me as I can be to you at best and greatest,--because
you are more than three times the larger planet--and because too, you
have known other sources of light and happiness ... but I need not say
this--and I shall hear on Monday, and may trust to you every day ...
may I not? Yet I would trust my soul to you sooner than your own

May God bless you, dear, dearest. If the first part of the 'Soul's
Tragedy' should be written out, I can read _that_ perhaps, without
drawing you in to think of the second. Still it may be safer to keep
off altogether for the present--and let it be as you incline. I do not
speak of 'Luria.'

                                                    Your own


If it were not for Mr. Kenyon, I should say, almost, Wednesday,
instead of Thursday--I want to see you so much, and to see for myself
about the looks and spirits, only it would not do if he found you here
on Wednesday. Let him come to-morrow or on Tuesday, and Wednesday will
be safe--shall we consider? what do you think?

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Sunday Afternoon.
                             [Post-mark, February 16, 1846.]

Here is the letter again, dearest: I suppose it gives me the same
pleasure, in reading, as you--and Mr. K. as me, and anybody else as
him; if all the correspondence which was claimed again and burnt on
some principle or other some years ago be at all of the nature of this
sample, the measure seems questionable. Burn anybody's _real_
letters, well and good: they move and live--the thoughts, feelings,
and expressions even,--in a self-imposed circle limiting the
experience of two persons only--_there_ is the standard, and to _that_
the appeal--how should a third person know? His presence breaks the
line, so to speak, and lets in a whole tract of country on the
originally inclosed spot--so that its trees, which were from side to
side there, seem left alone and wondering at their sudden unimportance
in the broad land; while its 'ferns such as I never saw before' and
which have been petted proportionably, look extravagant enough amid
the new spread of good honest grey grass that is now the earth's
general wear. So that the significance is lost at once, and whole
value of such letters--the cypher changed, the vowel-points removed:
but how can that affect clever writing like this? What do you, to whom
it is addressed, see in it more than the world that wants to see it
and shan't have it? One understands shutting an unprivileged eye to
the ineffable mysteries of those 'upper-rooms,' now that the broom and
dust pan, stocking-mending and gingerbread-making are invested with
such unforeseen reverence ... but the carriage-sweep and quarry,
together with Jane and our baskets, and a pleasant shadow of
Wordsworth's Sunday hat preceding his own rapid strides in the
direction of Miss Fenwick's house--surely, 'men's eyes were made to
see, so let them gaze' at all _this_! And so I, gazing with a clear
conscience, am very glad to hear so much good of a very good person
and so well told. She plainly sees the proper use and advantage of a
country-life; and _that_ knowledge gets to seem a high point of
attainment doubtless by the side of the Wordsworth she speaks of--for
_mine_ he shall not be as long as I am able! Was ever such a '_great_'
poet before? Put one trait with the other--the theory of rural
innocence--alternation of 'vulgar trifles' with dissertating with
style of 'the utmost grandeur that _even you_ can conceive' (speak for
yourself, Miss M.!)--and that amiable transition from two o'clock's
grief at the death of one's brother to three o'clock's happiness in
the 'extraordinary mesmeric discourse' of one's friend. All this, and
the rest of the serene and happy inspired daily life which a piece of
'unpunctuality' can ruin, and to which the guardian 'angel' brings as
crowning qualification the knack of poking the fire adroitly--of
this--what can one say but that--no, best hold one's tongue and read
the 'Lyrical Ballads' with finger in ear. Did not Shelley say long ago
'He had no more _imagination_ than a pint-pot'--though in those days
he used to walk about France and Flanders like a man? _Now_, he is
'most comfortable in his worldly affairs' and just this comes of it!
He lives the best twenty years of his life after the way of his own
heart--and when one presses in to see the result of the rare
experiment ... what the _one_ alchemist whom fortune has allowed to
get all his coveted materials and set to work at last in earnest with
fire and melting-pot--what _he_ produces after all the talk of him and
the like of him; why, you get _pulvis et cinis_--a man at the mercy of
the tongs and shovel!

Well! Let us despair at nothing, but, wishing success to the newer
aspirant, expect better things from Miss M. when the 'knoll,' and
'paradise,' and their facilities, operate properly; and that she will
make a truer estimate of the importance and responsibilities of
'authorship' than she does at present, if I understand rightly the
sense in which she describes her own life as it means to be; for in
one sense it is all good and well, and quite natural that she should
like 'that sort of strenuous handwork' better than book-making; like
the play better than the labour, as we are apt to do. If she realises
a very ordinary scheme of literary life, planned under the eye of God
not 'the public,' and prosecuted under the constant sense of the
night's coming which ends it good or bad--then, she will be sure to
'like' the rest and sport--teaching her maids and sewing her gloves
and making delicate visitors comfortable--so much more rational a
resource is the worst of them than gin-and-water, for instance. But
if, as I rather suspect, these latter are to figure as a virtual
_half_ duty of the whole Man--as of equal importance (on the ground of
the innocence and utility of such occupations) with the book-making
aforesaid--always supposing _that_ to be of the right kind--_then_ I
respect Miss M. just as I should an Archbishop of Canterbury whose
business was the teaching A.B.C. at an infant-school--he who might set
on the Tens to instruct the Hundreds how to convince the Thousands of
the propriety of doing that and many other things. Of course one will
respect him only the more if when _that_ matter is off his mind he
relaxes at such a school instead of over a chess-board; as it will
increase our love for Miss M. to find that making 'my good Jane (from
Tyne-mouth)'--'happier and--I hope--wiser' is an amusement, or more,
after the day's progress towards the 'novel for next year' which is to
inspire thousands, beyond computation, with the ardour of making
innumerable other Janes and delicate relatives happier and wiser--who
knows but as many as Burns did, and does, so make happier and wiser?
Only, _his quarry_ and after-solace was that 'marble bowl often
replenished with whiskey' on which Dr. Curry discourses mournfully,
'Oh, be wiser Thou!'--and remember it was only _after_ Lord Bacon had
written to an end _his_ Book--given us for ever the Art of
Inventing--whether steam-engine or improved dust-pan--that he took on
himself to do a little exemplary 'hand work'; got out on that cold St.
Alban's road to stuff a fowl with snow and so keep it fresh, and got
into his bed and died of the cold in his hands ('strenuous _hand_
work'--) before the snow had time to melt. He did not begin in his
youth by saying--'I have a horror of merely writing 'Novum Organums'
and shall give half my energies to the stuffing fowls'!

All this it is _my_ amusement, of an indifferent kind, to put down
solely on the pleasant assurance contained in that postscript, of the
one way of never quarrelling with Miss M.--'by joining in her plan
and practice of plain speaking'--could she but 'get people to do it!'
Well, she gets me for a beginner: the funny thing would be to know
what Chorley's desperate utterance amounted to! Did you ever hear of
the plain speaking of some of the continental lottery-projectors? An
estate on the Rhine, for instance, is to be disposed of, and the
holder of the lucky ticket will find himself suddenly owner of a
mediaeval castle with an unlimited number of dependencies--vineyards,
woods, pastures, and so forth--all only waiting the new master's
arrival--while inside, all is swept and garnished (not to say,
varnished)--the tables are spread, the wines on the board, all is
ready for the reception _but_ ... here 'plain speaking' becomes
necessary--it prevents quarrels, and, could the projector get people
to practise it as he does all would be well; so he, at least, will
speak plainly--you hear what _is_ provided but, he cannot, dares not
withhold what is _not_--there is then, to speak plainly,--no night
cap! You _will_ have to bring your own night cap. The projector
furnishes somewhat, as you hear, but not _all_--and now--the worst is
heard,--will you quarrel with him? Will my own dear, dearest Ba please
and help me here, and fancy Chorley's concessions, and tributes, and
recognitions, and then, at the very end, the 'plain words,' to
counterbalance all, that have been to overlook and pardon?

Oh, my own Ba, hear _my_ plain speech--and how this is _not_ an
attempt to frighten you out of your dear wish to '_hear_ from me'--no,
indeed--but a whim, a caprice,--and now it is out! over, done with!
And now I am with you again--it is to _you_ I shall write next. Bless
you, ever--my beloved. I am much better, indeed--and mean to be well.
And you! But I will write--this goes for nothing--or only _this_, that
I am your very own--

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             [Post-mark, February 16, 1846.]

My long letter is with you, dearest, to show how serious my illness
was 'while you wrote': unless you find that letter too foolish, as I
do on twice thinking--or at all events a most superfluous bestowment
of handwork while the heart was elsewhere, and with you--never more
so! Dear, dear Ba, your adorable goodness sinks into me till it nearly
pains,--so exquisite and strange is the pleasure: _so_ you care for
me, and think of me, and write to me!--I shall never die for you, and
if it could be so, what would death prove? But I can live on, your own
as now,--utterly your own.

Dear Ba, do you suppose we differ on so plain a point as that of the
superior wisdom, and generosity, too, of announcing such a change &c.
at the eleventh hour? There can be no doubt of it,--and now, what of
it to me?

But I am not going to write to-day--only this--that I am better,
having not been quite so well last night--so I shut up books (that is,
of my own) and mean to think about nothing but you, and you, and still
you, for a whole week--so all will come right, I hope! _May_ I take
Wednesday? And do you say that,--hint at the possibility of that,
because you have been reached by my own remorse at feeling that if I
had kept my appointment _last_ Saturday (but one)--Thursday would have
been my day this past week, and this very Monday had been gained?
Shall I not lose a day for ever unless I get Wednesday and
Saturday?--yet ... care ... dearest--let nothing horrible happen.

If I do not hear to the contrary to-morrow--or on Wednesday early--

But write and bless me dearest, most dear Ba. God bless you ever--

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Monday Morning.
                             [Post-mark, February 17, 1846.]

_Mechant comme quatre!_ you are, and not deserving to be let see the
famous letter--is there any grammar in _that_ concatenation, can you
tell me, now that you are in an arch-critical humour? And remember
(turning back to the subject) that personally she and I are strangers
and that therefore what she writes for me is naturally scene-painting
to be looked at from a distance, done with a masterly hand and most
amiable intention, but quite a different thing of course from the
intimate revelations of heart and mind which make a living thing of a
letter. If she had sent such to me, I should not have sent it to Mr.
Kenyon, but then, she would not have sent it to me in any case. What
she _has_ sent me might be a chapter in a book and has the life proper
to itself, and I shall not let you try it by another standard, even if
you wished, but you don't--for I am not so _bete_ as not to understand
how the jest crosses the serious all the way you write. Well--and Mr.
Kenyon wants the letter the second time, not for himself, but for Mr.
Crabb Robinson who promises to let me have a new sonnet of
Wordsworth's in exchange for the loan, and whom I cannot refuse
because he is an intimate friend of Miss Martineau's and once allowed
me to read a whole packet of letters from her to him. She does not
object (as I have read under her hand) to her letters being shown
about in MS., notwithstanding the anathema against all printers of the
same (which completes the extravagance of the unreason, I think) and
people are more anxious to see them from their presumed nearness to
annihilation. I, for my part, value letters (to talk literature) as
the most vital part of biography, and for any rational human being to
put his foot on the traditions of his kind in this particular class,
does seem to me as wonderful as possible. Who would put away one of
those multitudinous volumes, even, which stereotype Voltaire's
wrinkles of wit--even Voltaire? I can read book after book of such
reading--or could! And if her principle were carried out, there would
be an end! Death would be deader from henceforth. Also it is a wrong
selfish principle and unworthy of her whole life and profession,
because we should all be ready to say that if the secrets of our daily
lives and inner souls may instruct other surviving souls, let them be
open to men hereafter, even as they are to God now. Dust to dust, and
soul-secrets to humanity--there are natural heirs to all these things.
Not that I do not intimately understand the shrinking back from the
idea of publicity on any terms--not that I would not myself destroy
papers of mine which were sacred to _me_ for personal reasons--but
then I never would call this natural weakness, virtue--nor would I, as
a teacher of the public, announce it and attempt to justify it as an
example to other minds and acts, I hope.

How hard you are on the mending of stockings and the rest of it! Why
not agree with me and like that sort of homeliness and simplicity in
combination with such large faculty as we must admit _there_? Lord
Bacon did a great deal of trifling besides the stuffing of the fowl
you mention--which I did not remember: and in fact, all the great work
done in the world, is done just by the people who know how to
trifle--do you not think so? When a man makes a principle of 'never
losing a moment,' he is a lost man. Great men are eager to find an
hour, and not to avoid losing a moment. 'What are you doing' said
somebody once (as I heard the tradition) to the beautiful Lady Oxford
as she sate in her open carriage on the race-ground--'Only a little
algebra,' said she. People who do a little algebra on the race-ground
are not likely to do much of anything with ever so many hours for
meditation. Why, you must agree with me in all this, so I shall not be
sententious any longer. Mending stockings is not exactly the sort of
pastime _I_ should choose--who do things quite as trifling without the
utility--and even your Seigneurie peradventure.... I stop there for
fear of growing impertinent. The _argumentum ad hominem_ is apt to
bring down the _argumentum ad baculum_, it is as well to remember in

For Wordsworth ... you are right in a measure and by a standard--but I
have heard such really desecrating things of him, of his selfishness,
his love of money, his worldly _cunning_ (rather than prudence) that I
felt a relief and gladness in the new chronicle;--and you can
understand how _that_ was. Miss Mitford's doctrine is that everything
put into the poetry, is taken out of the man and lost utterly by him.
Her general doctrine about poets, quite amounts to that--I do not say
it too strongly. And knowing that such opinions are held by minds not
feeble, it is very painful (as it would be indeed in any case) to see
them apparently justified by royal poets like Wordsworth. Ah, but I
know an answer--I see one in my mind!

So again for the letters. Now ought I not to know about letters, I who
have had so many ... from chief minds too, as society goes in England
and America? And _your_ letters began by being first to my intellect,
before they were first to my heart. All the letters in the world are
not like yours ... and I would trust them for that verdict with any
jury in Europe, if they were not so far too dear! Mr. Kenyon wanted to
make me show him your letters--I did show him the first, and resisted
gallantly afterwards, which made him say what vexed me at the moment,
... 'oh--you let me see only _women's_ letters,'--till I observed that
it was a breach of confidence, except in some cases, ... and that _I_
should complain very much, if anyone, man or woman, acted so by
myself. But nobody in the world writes like you--not so _vitally_--and
I have a right, if you please, to praise my letters, besides the
reason of it which is as good.

Ah--you made me laugh about Mr. Chorley's free speaking--and, without
the personal knowledge, I can comprehend how it could be nothing very
ferocious ... some 'pardonnez moi, vous etes un ange.' The amusing
part is that by the same post which brought me the Ambleside document,
I heard from Miss Mitford 'that it was an admirable thing of Chorley
to have persisted in not allowing Harriet Martineau to quarrel with
him' ... so that there are laurels on both sides, it appears.

And I am delighted to hear from you to-day just _so_, though I
reproach you in turn just _so_ ... because you were not 'depressed' in
writing all this and this and this which has made me laugh--you were
not, dearest--and you call yourself better, 'much better,' which means
a very little perhaps, but is a golden word, let me take it as I may.
May God bless you. Wednesday seems too near (now that this is Monday
and you are better) to be _our_ day ... perhaps it does,--and Thursday
_is_ close beside it at the worst.

                                       Dearest I am your own


_E.B.B. to R.B._

           Monday Evening.
           [In the same envelope with the preceding letter.]

Now forgive me, dearest of all, but I must teaze you just a little,
and entreat you, if only for the love of me, to have medical advice
and follow it _without further delay_. I like to have recourse to
these medical people quite as little as you can--but I am persuaded
that it is necessary--that it is at least _wise_, for you to do so
now, and, you see, you were 'not quite so well' again last night! So
will you, for me? Would _I_ not, if you wished it? And on Wednesday,
yes, on Wednesday, come--that is, if coming on Wednesday should really
be not bad for you, for you _must_ do what is right and kind, and I
doubt whether the omnibus-driving and the noises of every sort betwixt
us, should not keep you away for a little while--I trust you to do
what is best for both of us.

And it is not best ... it is not good even, to talk about 'dying for
me' ... oh, I do beseech you never to use such words. You make me feel
as if I were choking. Also it is nonsense--because nobody puts out a
candle for the light's sake.

Write _one line_ to me to-morrow--literally so little--just to say how
you are. I know by the writing here, what _is_. Let me have the one
line by the eight o'clock post to-morrow, Tuesday.

For the rest it may be my 'goodness' or my badness, but the world
seems to have sunk away beneath my feet and to have left only you to
look to and hold by. Am I not to _feel_, then, any trembling of the
hand? the least trembling?

May God bless both of us--which is a double blessing for me
notwithstanding my badness.

_I trust you about Wednesday_--and if it should be wise and kind not
to come quite so soon, we will take it out of other days and lose not
one of them. And as for anything 'horrible' being likely to happen, do
not think of that either,--there can be nothing horrible while you are
not ill. So be well--try to be well--use the means and, well or ill,
let me have the one line to-morrow ... Tuesday. I send you the foolish
letter I wrote to-day in answer to your too long one--too long, was it
not, as you felt? And I, the writer of the foolish one, am
twice-foolish, and push poor 'Luria' out of sight, and refuse to
finish my notes on him till the harm he has done shall have passed
away. In my badness I bring false accusation, perhaps, against poor

So till Wednesday--or as you shall fix otherwise.



_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                      6-1/2 Tuesday Evening.

My dearest, your note reaches me only _now_, with an excuse from the
postman. The answer you expect, you shall have the only way possible.
I must make up a parcel so as to be able to knock and give it. I shall
be with you to-morrow, God willing--being quite well.

                                            Bless you ever--

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Thursday Morning.
                             [Post-mark, February 19, 1846.]

My sweetest, best, dearest Ba I _do_ love you less, much less already,
and adore you more, more by so much more as I see of you, think of
you--I am yours just as much as those flowers; and you may pluck those
flowers to pieces or put them in your breast; it is not because you so
bless me now that you may not if you please one day--you will stop me
here; but it is the truth and I live in it.

I am quite well; indeed, this morning, _noticeably_ well, they tell
me, and well I mean to keep if I can.

When I got home last evening I found this note--and I have _accepted_,
that I might say I could also keep an engagement, if so minded, at
Harley Street--thereby insinuating that other reasons _may_ bring me
into the neighbourhood than _the_ reason--but I shall either not go
there, or only for an hour at most. I also found a note headed
'Strictly private and confidential'--so here it goes from my mouth to
my heart--pleasantly proposing that I should start in a few days for
St. Petersburg, as secretary to somebody going there on a 'mission of
humanity'--_grazie tante_!

Did you hear of my meeting someone at the door whom I take to have
been one of your brothers?

One thing vexed me in your letter--I will tell you, the praise of
_my_ letters. Now, one merit they have--in language mystical--that of
having _no_ merit. If I caught myself trying to write finely,
graphically &c. &c., nay, if I found myself conscious of having in my
own opinion, so written, all would be over! yes, over! I should be
respecting you inordinately, paying a proper tribute to your genius,
summoning the necessary collectedness,--plenty of all that! But the
feeling with which I write to you, not knowing that it is
writing,--with _you_, face and mouth and hair and eyes opposite me,
touching me, knowing that all _is_ as I say, and helping out the
imperfect phrases from your own intuition--_that_ would be gone--and
_what_ in its place? 'Let us eat and drink for to-morrow we write to
Ambleside.' No, no, love, nor can it ever be so, nor should it ever be
so if--even if, preserving all that intimate relation, with the
carelessness, _still_, somehow, was obtained with no effort in the
world, graphic writing and philosophic and what you please--for I
_will_ be--_would_ be, better than my works and words with an infinite
stock beyond what I put into convenient circulation whether in fine
speeches fit to remember, or fine passages to quote. For the rest, I
had meant to tell you before now, that you often put me 'in a maze'
when you particularize letters of mine--'such an one was kind' &c. I
know, sometimes I seem to give the matter up in despair, I take out
paper and fall thinking on you, and bless you with my whole heart and
then begin: 'What a fine day this is?' I distinctly remember having
done that repeatedly--but the converse is not true by any means, that
(when the expression may happen to fall more consentaneously to the
mind's motion) that less is felt, oh no! But the particular thought at
the time has not been of the _insufficiency_ of expression, as in the
other instance.

Now I will leave off--to begin elsewhere--for I am always with you,
beloved, best beloved! Now you will write? And walk much, and sleep
more? Bless you, dearest--ever--

                                                   Your own,

_E.B.B. to R.B._

[Post-marks, Mis-sent to Mitcham. February 19 and 20, 1846.]

Best and kindest of all that ever were to be loved in dreams, and
wondered at and loved out of them, you are indeed! I cannot make you
feel how I felt that night when I knew that to save me an anxious
thought you had come so far so late--it was almost too much to feel,
and _is_ too much to speak. So let it pass. You will never act so
again, ever dearest--you shall not. If the post sins, why leave the
sin to the post; and I will remember for the future, will be ready to
remember, how postmen are fallible and how you live at the end of a
lane--and not be uneasy about a silence if there should be one
unaccounted for. For the Tuesday coming, I shall remember that
too--who could forget it?... I put it in the niche of the wall, one
golden lamp more of your giving, to throw light purely down to the end
of my life--I do thank you. And the truth is, I _should_ have been in
a panic, had there been no letter that evening--I was frightened the
day before, then reasoned the fears back and waited: and if there had
been no letter after all--. But you are supernaturally good and kind.
How can I ever 'return' as people say (as they might say in their
ledgers) ... any of it all? How indeed can I who have not even a heart
left of my own, to love you with?

I quite trust to your promise in respect to the medical advice, if
walking and rest from work do not prevent at once the recurrence of
those sensations--it was a promise, remember. And you will tell me the
very truth of how you are--and you will try the music, and not be
nervous, dearest. Would not _riding_ be good for you--consider. And
why should you be 'alone' when your sister is in the house? How I keep
thinking of you all day--you cannot really be alone with so many
thoughts ... such swarms of thoughts, if you could but see them,
drones and bees together!

George came in from Westminster Hall after we parted yesterday and
said that he had talked with the junior counsel of the wretched
plaintiffs in the Ferrers case, and that the belief was in the mother
being implicated, although not from the beginning. It was believed too
that the miserable girl had herself taken step after step into the
mire, involved herself gradually, the first guilt being an
extravagance in personal expenses, which she lied and lied to account
for in the face of her family. 'Such a respectable family,' said
George, 'the grandfather in court looking venerable, and everyone
indignant upon being so disgraced by her!' But for the respectability
in the best sense, I do not quite see. That all those people should
acquiesce in the indecency (according to every standard of English
manners in any class of society) of thrusting the personal expenses of
a member of their family on Lord Ferrers, she still bearing their
name--and in those peculiar circumstances of her supposed position
too--where is the respectability? And they are furious with her, which
is not to be wondered at after all. Her counsel had an interview with
her previous to the trial, to satisfy themselves of her good faith,
and she was quite resolute and earnest, persisting in every statement.
On the coming out of the anonymous letters, Fitzroy Kelly said to the
juniors that if anyone could suggest a means of explanation, he would
be eager to carry forward the case, ... but for him he saw no way of
escaping from the fact of the guilt of their client. Not a voice could
speak for her. So George was told. There is no ground for a
prosecution for a conspiracy, he says, but she is open to the charge
for _forgery_, of course, and to the dreadful consequences, though it
is not considered at all likely that Lord Ferrers could wish to
disturb her beyond the ruin she has brought on her own life.

Think of Miss Mitford's growing quite cold about Mr. Chorley who has
spent two days with her lately, and of her saying in a letter to me
this morning that he is very much changed and grown to be 'a
presumptuous coxcomb.' He has displeased her in some way--that is
clear. What changes there are in the world.

Should I ever change to _you_, do you think, ... even if you came to
'love me less'--not that I meant to reproach you with that
possibility. May God bless you, dear dearest. It is another miracle
(beside the many) that I get nearer to the mountains yet still they
seem more blue. Is not _that_ strange?

                                             Ever and wholly

                                                  Your BA.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Thursday Evening.
                             [Post-mark, February 20, 1846.]

And I offended you by praising your letters--or rather _mine_, if you
please--as if I had not the right! Still, you shall not, shall not
fancy that I meant to praise them in the way you seem to think--by
calling them 'graphic,' 'philosophic,'--why, did I ever use such
words? I agree with you that if I could play critic upon your letters,
it would be an end!--but no, no ... I did not, for a moment. In what I
said I went back to my first impressions--and they were _vital_
letters, I said--which was the resume of my thoughts upon the early
ones you sent me, because I felt your letters to be _you_ from the
very first, and I began, from the beginning, to read every one several
times over. Nobody, I felt, nobody of all these writers, did write as
you did. Well!--and had I not a right to say _that_ now at last, and
was it not natural to say just _that_, when I was talking of other
people's letters and how it had grown almost impossible for me to read
them; and do I deserve to be scolded? No indeed.

And if I had the misfortune to think now, when you say it is a fine
day, that _that_ is said in more music than it could be said in by
another--where is the sin against _you_, I should like to ask. It is
yourself who is the critic, I think, after all. But over all the
brine, I hold my letters--just as Camoens did his poem. They are _best
to me_--and they are _best_. I knew what _they_ were, before I knew
what _you_ were--all of you. And I like to think that I never fancied
anyone on a level with you, even in a letter.

What makes you take them to be so bad, I suppose, is just feeling in
them how near we are. _You say that!_--not I.

Bad or good, you _are_ better--yes, 'better than the works and
words'!--though it was very shameful of you to insinuate that I talked
of fine speeches and passages and graphical and philosophical
sentences, as if I had proposed a publication of 'Elegant Extracts'
from your letters. See what blasphemy one falls into through a
beginning of light speech! It is wiser to talk of St. Petersburg; for
all Voltaire's ... '_ne disons pas de mal de Nicolas_.'

Wiser--because you will not go. If you were going ... well!--but there
is no danger--it would not do you good to go, I am so happy this time
as to be able to think--and your 'mission of humanity' lies
nearer--'strictly private and confidential'? but not in Harley
Street--so if you go _there_, dearest, keep to the 'one hour' and do
not suffer yourself to be tired and stunned in those hot rooms and
made unwell again--it is plain that you cannot bear that sort of
excitement. For Mr. Kenyon's note, ... it was a great temptation to
make a day of Friday--but I resist both for Monday's sake and for
yours, because it seems to me safer not to hurry you from one house to
another till you are tired completely. I shall think of you so much
the nearer for Mr. Kenyon's note--which is something gained. In the
meanwhile you are better, which is everything, or seems so. Ever
dearest, do you remember what it is to me that you should be better,
and keep from being worse again--I mean, of course, _try_ to keep from
being worse--be wise ... and do not stay long in those hot Harley
Street rooms. Ah--now you will think that I am afraid of the

Through your being ill the other day I forgot, and afterwards went on
forgetting, to speak of and to return the ballad--which is delightful;
I have an unspeakable delight in those suggestive ballads, which seem
to make you touch with the end of your finger the full warm life of
other times ... so near they bring you, yet so suddenly all passes in
them. Certainly there is a likeness to your Duchess--it is a curious
crossing. And does it not strike you that a verse or two must be
wanting in the ballad--there is a gap, I fancy.

Tell Mr. Kenyon (if he enquires) that you come here on Monday instead
of Saturday--and if you can help it, do not mention Wednesday--it will
be as well, not. You met Alfred at the door--he came up to me
afterwards and observed that 'at last he had seen you!' 'Virgilium
tantum vidi!'

As to the thing which you try to say in the first page of this letter,
and which you 'stop' yourself in saying ... _I_ need not stop you in

And now there is no time, if I am to sleep to-night. May God bless
you, dearest, dearest.

I must be your own while He blesses _me_.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Friday Afternoon.
                             [Post-mark, February 20, 1846.]

Here is my Ba's dearest _first_ letter come four hours after the
second, with '_Mis-sent to Mitcham_' written on its face as a
reason,--one more proof of the negligence of somebody! But I _do_ have
it at last--what should I say? what do you expect me to say? And the
first note seemed quite as much too kind as usual!

Let me write to-morrow, sweet? I am quite well and sure to mind all
you bid me. I shall do no more than look in at that place (they are
the cousins of a really good friend of mine, Dr. White--I go for
_him_) if even that--for to-morrow night I must go out again, I
fear--to pay the ordinary compliment for an invitation to the R.S.'s
_soiree_ at Lord Northampton's. And then comes Monday--and to-night
any unicorn I may see I will not find myself at liberty to catch.
(N.B.--should you meditate really an addition to the 'Elegant
Extracts'--mind this last joke is none of mine but my father's; when
walking with me when a child, I remember, he bade a little urchin we
found fishing with a stick and a string for sticklebacks in a
ditch--'to mind that he brought any sturgeon he might catch to the
king'--he having a claim on such a prize, by courtesy if not right).

As for Chorley, he is neither the one nor the other of those ugly
things. One remembers Regan's 'Oh Heaven--so you will rail at _me_,
when you are in the mood.' But what a want of self-respect such
judgments argue, or rather, want of knowledge what true self-respect
is: 'So I believed yesterday, and _so_ now--and yet am neither hasty,
nor inapprehensive, nor malevolent'--what then?

--But I will say more of my mind--(not of that)--to-morrow, for time
presses a little--so bless you my ever ever dearest--I love you


_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Friday Morning.
                             [Post-mark, February 21, 1846.]

As my sisters did not dine at home yesterday and I see nobody else in
the evening, I never heard till just now and _from Papa himself_, that
'George was invited to meet Mr. Browning and Mr. Procter.' How
surprised you will be. It must have been a sudden thought of Mr.

And I have been thinking, thinking since last night that I wrote you
then a letter all but ... insolent ... which, do you know, I feel half
ashamed to look back upon this morning--particularly what I wrote
about 'missions of humanity'--now was it not insolent of me to write
so? If I could take my letter again I would dip it into Lethe between
the lilies, instead of the post office:--but I can't--so if you
wondered, you must forget as far as possible, and understand how it
was, and that I was in brimming spirits when I wrote, from two causes
... first, because I had your letter which was a pure goodness of
yours, and secondly because you were 'noticeably' better you said, or
'noticeably well' rather, to mind my quotations. So I wrote what I
wrote, and gave it to Arabel when she came in at midnight, to give it
to Henrietta who goes out before eight in the morning and often takes
charge of my letters, and it was too late, at the earliest this
morning, to feel a little ashamed. Miss Thomson told me that she had
determined to change the type of the few pages of her letterpress
which had been touched, and that therefore Mr. Burges's revisions of
my translations should be revised back again. She appears to be a very
acute person, full of quick perceptions--naturally quick, and
carefully trained--a little over anxious perhaps about mental lights,
and opening her eyes still more than she sees, which is a common fault
of clever people, if one must call it a fault. I like her, and she is
kind and cordial. Will she ask you to help her book with a translation
or two, I wonder. Perhaps--if the courage should come. Dearest, how I
shall think of you this evening, and how near you will seem, not to be
here. I had a letter from Mr. Mathews the other day, and smiled to
read in it just what I had expected, that he immediately sent Landor's
verses on you to a _few editors_, friends of his, in order to their
communication to the public. He received my apology for myself with
the utmost graciousness. A kind good man he is.

After all, do you know, I am a little vexed that I should have even
_seemed_ to do wrong in my speech about the letters. It must have been
wrong, if it seemed so to you, I fancy now. Only I really did no more
mean to try your letters ... mine ... such as they are to me now, by
the common critical measure, than the shepherds praised the pure tenor
of the angels who sang 'Peace upon earth' to them. It was enough that
they knew it for angels' singing. So do _you_ forgive me, beloved, and
put away from you the thought that I have let in between us any
miserable stuff 'de metier,' which I hate as you hate. And I will not
say any more about it, not to run into more imprudences of mischief.

On the other hand I warn you against saying again what you began to
say yesterday and stopped. Do not try it again. What may be quite good
sense from me, is from _you_ very much the reverse, and pray observe
that difference. Or did you think that I was making my own road clear
in the the thing I said about--'jilts'? No, you did not. Yet I am
ready to repeat of myself as of others, that if I ceased to love you,
I certainly would act out the whole consequence--but _that_ is an
impossible 'if' to my nature, supposing the conditions of it otherwise
to be probable. I never loved anyone much and ceased to love that
person. Ask every friend of mine, if I am given to change even in
friendship! _And to you...!_ Ah, but you never think of such a thing
seriously--and you are conscious that you did not say it very sagely.
You and I are in different positions. Now let me tell you an apologue
in exchange for your Wednesday's stories which I liked so, and mine
perhaps may make you 'a little wiser'--who knows?

It befell that there stood in hall a bold baron, and out he spake to
one of his serfs ... 'Come thou; and take this baton of my baronie,
and give me instead thereof that sprig of hawthorn thou holdest in
thine hand.' Now the hawthorn-bough was no larger a thing than might
be carried by a wood-pigeon to the nest, when she flieth low, and the
baronial baton was covered with fine gold, and the serf, turning it
in his hands, marvelled greatly.

And he answered and said, 'Let not my lord be in haste, nor jest with
his servant. Is it verily his will that I should keep his golden
baton? Let him speak again--lest it repent him of his gift.'

And the baron spake again that it was his will. 'And I'--he said once
again--'shall it be lawful for me to keep this sprig of hawthorn, and
will it not repent thee of thy gift?'

Then all the servants who stood in hall, laughed, and the serf's hands
trembled till they dropped the baton into the rushes, knowing that his
lord did but jest....

Which mine did not. Only, _de te fabula narratur_ up to a point.

And I have your letter. 'What did I expect?' Why I expected just
_that_, a letter in turn. Also I am graciously pleased (yes, and very
much pleased!) to '_let_ you write to-morrow.' How you spoil me with
goodness, which makes one 'insolent' as I was saying, now and then.

The worst is, that I write 'too kind' letters--I!--and what does that
criticism mean, pray? It reminds me, at least, of ... now I will tell
you what it reminds me of.

A few days ago Henrietta said to me that she was quite uncomfortable.
She had written to somebody a not kind enough letter, she thought, and
it might be taken ill. 'Are _you_ ever uncomfortable, Ba, after you
have sent letters to the post?' she asked me.

'Yes,' I said, 'sometimes, but from a reason just the very reverse of
your reason, _my_ letters, when they get into the post, seem too
kind,--rather.' And my sisters laughed ... laughed.

But if _you_ think so beside, I must seriously set to work, you see,
to correct that flagrant fault, and shall do better in time _dis
faventibus_, though it will be difficult.

Mr. Kenyon's dinner is a riddle which I cannot read. _You_ are
invited to meet Miss Thomson and Mr. Bayley and '_no one else_.'
George is invited to meet Mr. Browning and Mr. Procter and '_no one
else_'--just those words. The '_absolu_' (do you remember Balzac's
beautiful story?) is just _you_ and 'no one else,' the other elements
being mere uncertainties, shifting while one looks for them.

Am I not writing nonsense to-night? I am not 'too _wise_' in any case,
which is some comfort. It puts one in spirits to hear of your being
'well,' ever and ever dearest. Keep so for _me_. May God bless you
hour by hour. In every one of mine I am your own


For Miss Mitford ...

    But people are not angels quite ...

and she sees the whole world in stripes of black and white, it is her
way. I feel very affectionately towards her, love her sincerely. She
is affectionate to _me_ beyond measure. Still, always I feel that if I
were to vex her, the lower deep below the lowest deep would not be low
enough for _me_. I always feel _that_. She would advertise me directly
for a wretch proper.

Then, for all I said about never changing, I have ice enough over me
just now to hold the sparrows!--in respect to a great crowd of people,
and she is among them--for reasons--for reasons.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Saturday Morning.
                             [Post-mark, February 23, 1846.]

So all was altered, my love--and, instead of Miss T. and the other
friend, I had your brother and Procter--to my great pleasure. After, I
went to that place, and soon got away, and am very well this morning
in the sunshine; which I feel with you, do I not? Yesterday after
dinner we spoke of Mrs. Jameson, and, as my wont is--(Here your letter
reaches me--let me finish this sentence now I have finished kissing
you, dearest beyond all dearness--My own heart's Ba!)--oh, as I am
used, I left the talking to go on by itself, with the thought busied
elsewhere, till at last my own voice startled me for I heard my tongue
utter 'Miss Barrett ... that is, Mrs. Jameson says' ... or 'does ...
or does not.' I forget which! And if anybody noticed the _gaucherie_
it must have been just your brother!

Now to these letters! I do solemnly, unaffectedly wonder how you can
put so much pure felicity into an envelope so as that I shall get it
as from the fount head. This to-day, those yesterday--there is, I see,
and know, thus much goodness in line after line, goodness to be
scientifically appreciated, _proved there_--but over and above, is it
in the writing, the dots and traces, the seal, the paper--here does
the subtle charm lie beyond all rational accounting for? The other day
I stumbled on a quotation from J. Baptista Porta--wherein he avers
that any musical instrument made out of wood possessed of medicinal
properties retains, being put to use, such virtues undiminished,--and
that, for instance, a sick man to whom you should pipe on a pipe of
elder-tree would so receive all the advantage derivable from a
decoction of its berries. From whence, by a parity of reasoning, I may
discover, I think, that the very ink and paper were--ah, what were
they? Curious thinking won't do for me and the wise head which is
mine, so I will lie and rest in my ignorance of content and understand
that without any magic at all you simply wish to make one
person--which of your free goodness proves to be your R.B.--to make me
supremely happy, and that you have your wish--you _do_ bless me! More
and more, for the old treasure is piled undiminished and still the new
comes glittering in. Dear, dear heart of my heart, life of my life,
_will this last_, let _me_ begin to ask? Can it be meant I shall live
this to the end? Then, dearest, care also for the life beyond, and put
in my mind how to testify here that I have felt, if I could not
deserve that a gift beyond all gifts! I hope to work hard, to prove I
do feel, as I say--it would be terrible to accomplish nothing now.

With which conviction--renewed conviction time by time, of your
extravagance of kindness to me unworthy,--will it seem
characteristically consistent when I pray you not to begin frightening
me, all the same, with threats of writing _less_ kindly? That must not
be, love, for _your_ sake now--if you had not thrown open those
windows of heaven I should have no more imagined than that Syrian lord
on whom the King leaned 'how such things might be'--but, once their
influence showered, I should know, too soon and easily, if they shut
up again! You have committed your dear, dearest self to that course of
blessing, and blessing on, on, for ever--so let all be as it is, pray,

No--not _all_. No more, ever, of that strange
suspicion--'insolent'--oh, what a word!--nor suppose I shall
particularly wonder at its being fancied applicable to _that_, of all
other passages of your letter! It is quite as reasonable to suspect
the existence of such a quality _there_ as elsewhere: how _can_ such a
thing, _could_ such a thing come from you to me? But, dear Ba, _do_
you know me better! _Do_ feel that I know you, I am bold to believe,
and that if you were to run at me with a pointed spear I should be
sure it was a golden sanative, Machaon's touch, for my entire good,
that I was opening my heart to receive! As for words, written or
spoken--I, who sin forty times in a day by light words, and untrue to
the thought, I am certainly not used to be easily offended by other
peoples' words, people in the world. But _your_ words! And about the
'mission'; if it had not been a thing to jest at, I should not have
begun, as I did--as you felt I did. I know now, what I only suspected
then, and will tell you all the matter on Monday if you care to hear.
The 'humanity' however, would have been unquestionable if I had chosen
to exercise it towards the poor weak incapable creature that wants
_somebody_, and urgently, I can well believe.

As for your apologue, it is naught--as you felt, and so broke off--for
the baron knew well enough it was a spray of the magical tree which
once planted in his domain would shoot up, and out, and all round, and
be glorious with leaves and musical with birds' nests, and a fairy
safeguard and blessing thenceforward and for ever, when the foolish
baton had been broken into ounces of gold, even if gold it _were_, and
spent and vanished: for, he said, such gold lies in the highway, men
pick it up, more of it or less; but this one slip of the flowering
tree is all of it on this side Paradise. Whereon he laid it to his
heart and was happy--in spite of his disastrous chase the night
before, when so far from catching an unicorn, he saw not even a
respectable prize-heifer, worth the oil-cake and rape-seed it had
doubtless cost to rear her--'insolence!'

I found no opportunity of speaking to Mr. K. about Monday, but nothing
was said of last Wednesday, and he must know I did not go yesterday.
So, Monday is laughing in sunshine surely! Bless you, my sweetest. I
love you with my whole heart; ever shall love you.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, February 24, 1846.]

Ever dearest, it is only when you go away, when you are quite gone,
out of the house and the street, that I get up and think properly, and
with the right gratitude of your flowers. Such beautiful flowers you
brought me this time too! looking like summer itself, and smelling!
Doing the 'honour due' to the flowers, makes your presence a little
longer with me, the sun shines back over the hill just by that time,
and then drops, till the next letter.

If I had had the letter on Saturday as ought to have been, no, I could
_not_ have answered it so that you should have my answer on
Sunday--no, I should still have had to write first.

Now you understand that I do not object to the writing first, but only
to the hearing second. I would rather write than not--I! But to be
written to is the chief gladness of course; and with all you say of
liking to have my letters (which I like to hear quite enough indeed)
you cannot pretend to think that _yours_ are not more to _me_, most to
_me_! Ask my guardian-angel and hear what he says! Yours will look
another way for shame of measuring joys with him! Because as I have
said before, and as he says now, you are all to me, all the light, all
the life; I am living for you now. And before I knew you, what was I
and where? What was the world to me, do you think? and the meaning of
life? And now, when you come and go, and write and do not write, all
the hours are chequered accordingly in so many squares of white and
black, as if for playing at fox and goose ... only there is no fox,
and I will not agree to be goose for one ... _that_ is _you_ perhaps,
for being 'too easily' satisfied.

So my claim is that you are more to me than I can be to you at any
rate. Mr. Fox said on Sunday that I was a 'religious hermit' who wrote
'poems which ought to be read in a Gothic alcove'; and religious
hermits, when they care to see visions, do it better, they all say,
through fasting and flagellation and seclusion in dark places. St.
Theresa, for instance, saw a clearer glory by such means, than your
Sir Moses Montefiore through his hundred-guinea telescope. Think then,
how every shadow of my life has helped to throw out into brighter,
fuller significance, the light which comes to me from you ... think
how it is the one light, seen without distractions.

_I_ was thinking the other day that certainly and after all (or rather
before all) I had loved you all my life unawares, that is, the idea of
you. Women begin for the most part, (if ever so very little given to
reverie) by meaning, in an aside to themselves, to love such and such
an ideal, seen sometimes in a dream and sometimes in a book, and
forswearing their ancient faith as the years creep on. I say a book,
because I remember a friend of mine who looked everywhere for the
original of Mr. Ward's 'Tremaine,' because nothing would do for _her_,
she insisted, except just _that_ excess of so-called refinement, with
the book-knowledge and the conventional manners, (_loue qui peut_,
Tremaine), and ended by marrying a lieutenant in the Navy who could
not spell. Such things happen every day, and cannot be otherwise, say
the wise:--and _this_ being otherwise with _me_ is miraculous
compensation for the trials of many years, though such abundant,
overabundant compensation, that I cannot help fearing it is too much,
as I know that you are too good and too high for me, and that by the
degree in which I am raised up you are let down, for us two to find a
level to meet on. One's ideal must be above one, as a matter of
course, you know. It is as far as one can reach with one's eyes
(soul-eyes), not reach to touch. And here is mine ... shall I tell
you? ... even to the visible outward sign of the black hair and the
complexion (why you might ask my sisters!) yet I would not tell you,
if I could not tell you afterwards that, if it had been red hair
quite, it had been the same thing, only I prove the coincidence out
fully and make you smile half.

Yet indeed I did not fancy that I was to love _you_ when you came to
see me--no indeed ... any more than I did your caring on your side. My
ambition when we began our correspondence, was simply that you should
forget I was a woman (being weary and _blasee_ of the empty written
gallantries, of which I have had my share and all the more perhaps
from my peculiar position which made them so without consequence),
that you should forget _that_ and let us be friends, and consent to
teach me what you knew better than I, in art and human nature, and
give me your sympathy in the meanwhile. I am a great hero-worshipper
and had admired your poetry for years, and to feel that you liked to
write to me and be written to was a pleasure and a pride, as I used
to tell you I am sure, and then your letters were not like other
letters, as I must not tell you again. Also you _influenced_ me, in a
way in which no one else did. For instance, by two or three half words
you made me see you, and other people had delivered orations on the
same subject quite without effect. I surprised everybody in this house
by consenting to see you. Then, when you came, you never went away. I
mean I had a sense of your presence constantly. Yes ... and to prove
how free that feeling was from the remotest presentiment of what has
occurred, I said to Papa in my unconsciousness the next morning ...
'it is most extraordinary how the idea of Mr. Browning does beset
me--I suppose it is not being used to see strangers, in some
degree--but it haunts me ... it is a persecution.' On which he smiled
and said that 'it was not grateful to my friend to use such a word.'
When the letter came....

Do you know that all that time I was frightened of you? frightened in
this way. I felt as if you had a power over me and meant to use it,
and that I could not breathe or speak very differently from what you
chose to make me. As to my thoughts, I had it in my head somehow that
you read _them_ as you read the newspaper--examined them, and fastened
them down writhing under your long entomological pins--ah, do you
remember the entomology of it all?

But the power was used upon _me_--and I never doubted that you had
mistaken your own mind, the strongest of us having some exceptional
weakness. Turning the wonder round in all lights, I came to what you
admitted yesterday ... yes, I saw _that_ very early ... that you had
come here with the intention of trying to love whomever you should
find, ... and also that what I had said about exaggerating the amount
of what I could be to you, had just operated in making you more
determined to justify your own presentiment in the face of mine.
Well--and if that last clause was true a little, too ... why should I
be sorry now ... and why should you have fancied for a moment, that
the first could make me sorry. At first and when I did not believe
that you really loved me, when I thought you deceived yourself,
_then_, it was different. But now ... now ... when I see and believe
your attachment for me, do you think that any cause in the world
(except what diminished it) could render it less a source of joy to
me? I mean as far as I myself am considered. Now if you ever fancy
that I am _vain_ of your love for me, you will be unjust, remember. If
it were less dear, and less above me, I might be vain perhaps. But I
may say _before_ God and you, that of all the events of my life,
inclusive of its afflictions, nothing has humbled me so much as your
love. Right or wrong it may be, but true it _is_, and I tell you. Your
love has been to me like God's own love, which makes the receivers of
it kneelers.

Why all this should be written, I do not know--but you set me thinking
yesterday in that backward line, which I lean back to very often, and
for once, as you made me write directly, why I wrote, as my thoughts
went, that way.

Say how you are, beloved--and do not brood over that 'Soul's Tragedy,'
which I wish I had here with 'Luria,' because, so, you should not see
it for a month at least. And take exercise and keep well--and remember
how many letters I must have before Saturday. May God bless you. Do
you want to hear me say

     I cannot love you less...?

_That_ is a doubtful phrase. And

     I cannot love you more

is doubtful too, for reasons I could give. More or less, I really love
you, but it does not sound right, even _so_, does it? I know what it
ought to be, and will put it into the 'seal' and the 'paper' with the
ineffable other things.

Dearest, do not go to St. Petersburg. Do not think of going, for fear
it should come true and you should go, and while you were helping the
Jews and teaching Nicholas, what (in that case) would become of your


_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             [Post-mark, February 24, 1846.]

Ah, sweetest, in spite of our agreement, here is the note that sought
not to go, but must--because, if there is no speaking of Mrs. Jamesons
and such like without bringing in your dear name (not _dearest_ name,
my Ba!) what is the good of not writing it down, now, when I, though
possessed with the love of it no more than usual, yet _may_ speak, and
to a hearer? And I have to thank you with all my heart for the good
news of the increasing strength and less need for the opium--how I do
thank you, my dearest--and desire to thank God through whose goodness
it all is! This I could not but say now, to-morrow I will write at
length, having been working a little this morning, with whatever
effect. So now I will go out and see your elm-trees and gate, and
think the thoughts over again, and coming home I shall perhaps find a

              Dearest, dearest--my perfect blessing you are!

                   May God continue his care for us. R.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             Wednesday Morning.
                             [Post-mark, February 25, 1846.]

Once you were pleased to say, my own Ba, that 'I made you do as I
would.' I am quite sure, you make me _speak_ as you would, and not at
all as I mean--and for one instance, I never surely spoke anything
half so untrue as that 'I came with the intention of loving whomever I
should find'--No! wreathed shells and hollows in ruins, and roofs of
caves may transform a voice wonderfully, make more of it or less, or
so change it as to almost alter, but turn a 'no' into a 'yes' can no
echo (except the Irish one), and I said 'no' to such a charge, and
still say 'no.' I _did_ have a presentiment--and though it is hardly
possible for me to look back on it now without lending it the true
colours given to it by the event, yet I _can_ put them aside, if I
please, and remember that I not merely hoped it would not be so (_not_
that the effect I expected to be produced would be _less_ than in
anticipation, certainly I did not hope _that_, but that it would range
itself with the old feelings of simple reverence and sympathy and
friendship, that I should love you as much as I supposed I _could_
love, and no more) but in the confidence that nothing could occur to
divert me from my intended way of life, I made--went on making
arrangements to return to Italy. You know--did I not tell you--I
wished to see you before I returned? And I had heard of you just so
much as seemed to make it impossible such a relation could ever exist.
I know very well, if you choose to refer to my letters you may easily
bring them to bear a sense in parts, more agreeable to your own theory
than to mine, the true one--but that was instinct,
Providence--anything rather than foresight. Now I will convince you!
yourself have noticed the difference between the _letters_ and the
_writer_; the greater 'distance of the latter from you,' why was that?
Why, if not because the conduct _began_ with _him_, with one who had
now seen you--was no continuation of the conduct, as influenced by the
feeling, of the letters--else, they, if _near_, should have enabled
him, if but in the natural course of time and with increase of
familiarity, to become _nearer_--but it was not so! The letters began
by loving you after their way--but what a world-wide difference
between _that_ love and the true, the love from seeing and hearing and
feeling, since you make me resolve, what now lies blended so
harmoniously, into its component parts. Oh, I know what is old from
what is new, and how chrystals may surround and glorify other vessels
meant for ordinary service than Lord N's! But I _don't_ know that
handling may not snap them off, some of the more delicate ones; and if
you let me, love, I will not again, ever again, consider how it came
and whence, and when, so curiously, so pryingly, but believe that it
was always so, and that it all came at once, all the same; the more
unlikelinesses the better, for they set off the better the truth of
truths that here, ('how begot? how nourished?')--here is the whole
wondrous Ba filling my whole heart and soul; and over-filling it,
because she is in all the world, too, where I look, where I fancy. At
the same time, because all is so wondrous and so sweet, do you think
that it would be _so_ difficult for me to analyse it, and give causes
to the effects in sufficiently numerous instances, even to 'justify my
presentiment?' Ah, dear, dearest Ba, I could, could indeed, could
account for all, or enough! But you are unconscious, I do believe, of
your power, and the knowledge of it would be no added grace, perhaps!
So let us go on--taking a lesson out of the world's book in a
different sense. You shall think I love you for--(tell me, you must,
what for) while in my secret heart I know what my 'mission of
humanity' means, and what telescopic and microscopic views it procures
me. Enough--Wait, one word about the 'too kind letters'--could not the
same Montefiore understand that though he deserved not one of his
thousand guineas, yet that he is in disgrace if they bate him of his
next gift by merely _ten_? It _is_ all too kind--but I shall feel the
diminishing of the kindness, be very sure! Of that there is, however,
not too alarming a sign in this dearest, because last of all--dearest
letter of all--till the next! I looked yesterday over the 'Tragedy,'
and think it will do after all. I will bring one part at least next
time, and 'Luria' take away, if you let me, so all will be off my
mind, and April and May be the welcomer? Don't think I am going to
take any extraordinary pains. There are some things in the 'Tragedy' I
should like to preserve and print now, leaving the future to spring
as it likes, in any direction, and these half-dead, half-alive works
fetter it, if left behind.

Yet one thing will fetter it worse, only one thing--if _you_, in any
respect, stay behind? You that in all else help me and will help me,
beyond words--beyond dreams--if, because I find you, your own works
_stop_--'then comes the Selah and the voice is hushed.' Oh, no, no,
dearest, _so_ would the help cease to be help--the joy to be joy, Ba
herself to be _quite_ Ba, and my own Siren singing song for song. Dear
love, will that be kind, and right, and like the rest? Write and
promise that all shall be resumed, the romance-poem chiefly, and I
will try and feel more yours than ever now. Am I not with you in the
world, proud of you--and _vain_, too, very likely, which is all the
sweeter if it is a sin as you teach me. Indeed dearest, I have set my
heart on your fulfilling your mission--my heart is on it! Bless you,
my Ba--

                                                   Your R.B.

I am so well as to have resumed the shower-bath (this morning)--and I
walk, especially near the elms and stile--and mean to walk, and be
very well--and you, dearest?

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             [Post-mark, February 26, 1846.]

I confess that while I was writing those words I had a thought that
they were not quite yours as you said them. Still it comes to
something in their likeness, but we will not talk of it and break off
the chrystals--they _are_ so brittle, then? do you know _that_ by an
'instinct.' But I agree that it is best not to talk--I 'gave it up' as
a riddle long ago. Let there be 'analysis' even, and it will not be
solution. I have my own thoughts of course, and you have yours, and
the worst is that a third person looking down on us from some
snow-capped height, and free from personal influences, would have
_his_ thoughts too, and _he_ would think that if you had been
reasonable as usual you would have gone to Italy. I have by heart (or
by head at least) what the third person would think. The third person
thundered to me in an abstraction for ever so long, and at intervals I
hear him still, only you shall not to-day, because he talks 'damnable
iterations' and teazes you. Nay, the first person is teazing you now
perhaps, without going any further, and yet I must go a little
further, just to say (after accepting all possible unlikelinesses and
miracles, because everything was miraculous and impossible) that it
was agreed between us long since that you did not love me for
anything--your having no reason for it is the only way of your not
seeming unreasonable. Also _for my own sake_. I like it to be so--I
cannot have peace with the least change from it. Dearest, take the
baron's hawthorn bough which, in spite of his fine dream of it is dead
since the other day, and so much the worse than when I despised it
last--take that dead stick and push it upright into the sand as the
tide rises, and the whole blue sea draws up its glittering breadth and
length towards and around it. But what then? What does _that prove_?
... as the philosopher said of the poem. So we ought not to talk of
such things; and we get warned off even in the accidental
illustrations taken up to light us. Still, the stick certainly did not
draw the sea.

Dearest and best you were yesterday, to write me the little note! You
are better than the imaginations of my heart, and _they_, as far as
they relate to you (not further) are _not_ desperately wicked, I
think. I always expect the kindest things from you, and you always are
doing some kindness beyond what is expected, and this is a miracle
too, like the rest, now isn't it? When the knock came last night, I
knew it was your letter, and not another's. Just another little leaf
of my Koran! How I thank you ... thank you! If I write too kind
letters, as you say, why they may be too kind for me to send, but not
for you to receive; and I suppose I think more of you than of me,
which accounts for my writing them, accounts and justifies. And _that_
is my reflection not now for the first time. For we break rules very
often--as that exegetical third person might expound to you clearly
out of the ninety-sixth volume of the 'Code of Conventions,' only you
are not like another, nor have you been to me like another--you began
with most improvident and (will you let me say?) _unmasculine_
generosity, and Queen Victoria does not sit upon a mat after the
fashion of Queen Pomare, nor should.

But ... but ... you know very fully that you are breaking faith in the
matter of the 'Tragedy' and 'Luria'--you promised to rest--and _you
rest for three days_. Is it _so_ that people get well? or keep well?
Indeed I do not think I shall let you have 'Luria.' Ah--be careful, I
do beseech you--be careful. There is time for a pause, and the works
will profit by it themselves. And _you_! And I ... if you are ill!--

For the rest I will let you walk in my field, and see my elms as much
as you please ... though I hear about the shower bath with a little
suspicion. Why, if it did you harm before, should it not again? and
why should you use it, if it threatens harm? Now tell me if it hasn't
made you rather unwell since the new trial!--tell me, dear, dearest.

As for myself, I believe that you set about exhorting me to be busy,
just that I might not reproach _you_ for the over-business. Confess
that _that_ was the only meaning of the exhortation. But no, you are
quite serious, you say. You even threaten me in a sort of underground
murmur, which sounds like a nascent earthquake; and if I do not write
so much a day directly, your stipendiary magistrateship will take away
my license to be loved ... I am not to be Ba to you any longer ... you
say! And is _this_ right? now I ask you. Ever so many chrystals fell
off by that stroke of the baton, I do assure you. Only you did not
mean quite what you said so too articulately, and you will unsay it,
if you please, and unthink it near the elms.

As for the writing, I will write ... I have written ... I am writing.
You do not fancy that I have given up writing?--No. Only I have
certainly been more loitering and distracted than usual in what I have
done, which is not my fault--nor yours directly--and I feel an
indisposition to setting about the romance, the hand of the soul
shakes. I am too happy and not calm enough, I suppose, to have the
right inclination. Well--it will come. But all in blots and fragments
there are verses enough, to fill a volume done in the last year.

And if there were not ... if there were none ... I hold that I should
be Ba, and also _your_ Ba ... which is 'insolence' ... will you say?

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             [Post-mark, February 26, 1846.]

As for the 'third person,' my sweet Ba, he was a wise speaker from the
beginning; and in our case he will say, turning to me--'the late
Robert Hall--when a friend admired that one with so high an estimate
of the value of intellectuality in woman should yet marry some kind of
cook-maid animal, as did the said Robert; wisely answered, "you can't
kiss Mind"! May _you_ not discover eventually,' (this is to me) 'that
mere intellectual endowments--though incontestably of the loftiest
character--mere Mind, though that Mind be Miss B's--cannot be
_kissed_--nor, repent too late the absence of those humbler qualities,
those softer affections which, like flowerets at the mountain's foot,
if not so proudly soaring as, as, as!...' and so on, till one of us
died, with laughing or being laughed at! So judges the third person!
and if, to help him, we let him into your room at Wimpole Street,
suffered him to see with Flush's eyes, he would say with just as wise
an air 'True, mere personal affections may be warm enough, but does it
augur well for the durability of an attachment that it should be
_wholly, exclusively_ based on such perishable attractions as the
sweetness of a mouth, the beauty of an eye? I could wish, rather, to
know that there was something of less transitory nature co-existent
with this--some congeniality of Mental pursuit, some--' Would he not
say that? But I can't do his platitudes justice because here is our
post going out and I have been all the morning walking in the perfect
joy of my heart, with your letter, and under its blessing--dearest,
dearest Ba--let me say more to-morrow--only this now, that you--ah,
what are you not to me! My dearest love, bless you--till to-morrow
when I will strengthen the prayer; (no, _lengthen_ it!)

                                              Ever your own.

'Hawthorn'[1]--to show how Spring gets on!

[Footnote 1: Sprig of Hawthorn enclosed with letter.]

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                             Thursday Evening.
                             [Post-mark, February 27, 1846.]

If all third persons were as foolish as this third person of yours,
ever dearest, first and second persons might follow their own devices
without losing much in the way of good counsel. But you are unlucky in
your third person as far as the wits go, he talks a great deal of
nonsense, and Flush, who is sensible, will have nothing to do with
him, he says, any more than you will with Sir Moses:--he is quite a
third person _singular_ for the nonsense he talks!

So, instead of him, you shall hear what I have been doing to-day. The
sun, which drew out you and the hawthorns, persuaded me that it was
warm enough to go down-stairs--and I put on my cloak as if I were
going into the snow, and went into the drawing-room and took
Henrietta by surprise as she sate at the piano singing. Well, I meant
to stay half an hour and come back again, for I am upon 'Tinkler's
ground' in the drawing-room and liable to whole droves of morning
visitors--and Henrietta kept me, kept me, because she wanted me,
besought me, to stay and see the great sight of Capt. Surtees
Cook--_plus_ his regimentals--fresh from the royal presence at St.
James's, and I never saw him in my life, though he is a sort of
cousin. So, though I hated it as you may think, ... not liking to be
unkind to my sister, I stayed and stayed one ten minutes after
another, till it seemed plain that he wasn't coming at all (as I told
her) and that Victoria had kept him to dinner, enchanted with the
regimentals. And half laughing and half quarrelling, still she kept me
by force, until a knock came most significantly ... and '_There_ is
Surtees' said she ... 'now you must and shall stay! So foolish,' (I
had my hand on the door-handle to go out) 'he, your own cousin too!
who always calls you Ba, except before Papa.' Which might have
encouraged me perhaps, but I can't be sure of it, as the very next
moment apprized us both that no less a person than Mrs. Jameson was
standing out in the passage. The whole 36th. regiment could scarcely
have been more astounding to me. As to staying to see her in that
room, with the prospect of the military descent in combination, I
couldn't have done it for the world! so I made Henrietta, who had
drawn me into the scrape, take her up-stairs, and followed myself in a
minute or two--and the corollary of this interesting history is, that
being able to talk at all after all that 'fuss,' and after walking
'up-stairs and down-stairs' like the ancestor of your spider, proves
my gigantic strength--now doesn't it?

For the rest, 'here be proofs' that the first person can be as foolish
as any third person in the world. What do you think?

And Mrs. Jameson was kind beyond speaking of, and talked of taking me
to Italy. What do you say? It is somewhere about the fifth or sixth
proposition of the sort which has come to me. I shall be embarrassed,
it seems to me, by the multitude of escorts to Italy. But the
kindness, one cannot laugh at so much kindness.

I wanted to hear her speak of you, and was afraid. I _could not_ name
you. Yet I _did_ want to hear the last 'Bell' praised.

She goes to Ireland for two months soon, but prints a book first, a
collection of essays. I have not seen Mr. Kenyon, with whom she dined
yesterday. The Macreadys were to be there, and he told me a week ago
that he very nearly committed himself in a 'social mistake' by
inviting you to meet them.

Ah my hawthorn spray! Do you know, I caught myself pitying it for
being gathered, with that green promise of leaves on it! There is room
too on it for the feet of a bird! Still I shall keep it longer than it
would have stayed in the hedge, _that_ is certain!

The first you ever gave me was a yellow rose sent in a letter, and
shall I tell you what _that_ means--the yellow rose? '_Infidelity_,'
says the dictionary of flowers. You see what an omen, ... to begin

Also you see that I am not tired with the great avatar to-day--the
'fell swoop' rather--mine, into the drawing-room, and Mrs. Jameson's
on _me_.

And I shall hear to-morrow again, really? I '_let_' you. And you are
best, kindest, dearest, every day. Did I ever tell you that you made
me do what you choose? I fancied that I only _thought_ so. May God
bless you. I am your own.

Shall I have the 'Soul's Tragedy' on Saturday?--any of it? But _do not
work_--I beseech you to take care.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                             [Post-mark, February 27, 1846.]

To be sure my 'first person' was nonsensical, and, in that respect
made speak properly, I hope, only he was cut short in the middle of
his performance by the exigencies of the post. So, never mind what
such persons say, my sweetest, because they know nothing at all--_quod
erat demonstrandum_. But you, love, you speak roses, and
hawthorn-blossoms when you tell me of the cloak put on, and the
descent, and the entry, and staying and delaying. I will have had a
hand in all that; I know what I wished all the morning, and now this
much came true! But you should have seen the regimentals, if I could
have so contrived it, for I confess to a Chinese love for bright
red--the very names 'vermilion' 'scarlet' warm me, yet in this cold
climate nobody wears red to comfort one's eye save soldiers and fox
hunters, and old women fresh from a Parish Christmas Distribution of
cloaks. To dress in floating loose crimson silk, I almost understand
being a Cardinal! Do you know anything of Nat Lee's Tragedies? In one
of them a man angry with a Cardinal cries--

    Stand back, and let me mow this poppy down,
    This rank red weed that spoils the Churches' corn.

Is not that good? and presently, when the same worthy is poisoned
(that is the Cardinal)--they bid him--'now, Cardinal, lie down and

    Think of thy scarlet sins!

Of the justice of all which, you will judge with no Mrs. Jameson for
guide when we see the Sistina together, I trust! By the way, yesterday
I went to Dulwich to see some pictures, by old Teniers, Murillo,
Gainsborough, Raphael!--then twenty names about, and last but one, as
if just thought of, 'Correggio.' The whole collection, including 'a
_divine_ picture by Murillo,' and Titian's Daughter (hitherto supposed
to be in the Louvre)--the whole I would, I think, have cheerfully
given a pound or two for the privilege of not possessing--so execrable
as sign-paintings even! 'Are there worse poets in their way than
painters?' Yet the melancholy business is here--that the bad poet goes
out of his way, writes his verses in the language he learned in order
to do a hundred other things with it, all of which he can go on and do
afterwards--but the painter has spent the best of his life in learning
even how to produce such monstrosities as these, and to what other
good do his acquisitions go? This short minute of life our one chance,
an eternity on either side! and a man does not walk whistling and
ruddy by the side of hawthorn hedges in spring, but shuts himself up
and conies out after a dozen years with 'Titian's Daughter' and,
there, gone is his life, let somebody else try!

I have tried--my trial is made too!

To-morrow you shall tell me, dearest, that Mrs. Jameson wondered to
see you so well--did she not wonder? Ah, to-morrow! There is a lesson
from all this writing and mistaking and correcting and being
corrected; and what, but that a word goes safely only from lip to lip,
dearest? See how the cup slipped from the lip and snapped the
chrystals, you say! But the writing is but for a time--'a time and
times and half a time!'--would I knew when the prophetic weeks end!
Still, one day, as I say, no more writing, (and great scandalization
of the third person, peeping through the fringes of Flush's ears!)
meanwhile, I wonder whether if I meet Mrs. Jameson I may practise
diplomacy and say carelessly 'I should be glad to know what Miss B. is
like--' No, that I must not do, something tells me, 'for reasons, for

I do not know--you may perhaps have to wait a little longer for my
'divine Murillo' of a Tragedy. My sister is copying it as I give the
pages, but--in fact my wise head does ache a little--it is
inconceivable! As if it took a great storm to topple over some stone,
and once the stone pushed from its right place, any bird's foot, which
would hardly bend the hawthorn spray, may set it trembling! The aching
begins with reading the presentation-list at the Drawing-room quite
naturally, and with no shame at all! But it is gentle, well-behaved
aching now, so I _do_ care, as you bid me, Ba, my Ba, whom I call Ba
to my heart but could not, I really believe, call so before another,
even your sister, if--if--

But Ba, I call you boldly here, and I dare kiss your dear, dear eyes,
till to-morrow--Bless you, my own.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 [Post-mark, March 2, 1846.]

You never could think that I meant any insinuation against you by a
word of what was said yesterday, or that I sought or am likely to seek
a 'security'! do you know it was not right of you to use such an
expression--indeed no. You were angry with me for just one minute, or
you would not have used it--and why? Now what did I say that was wrong
or unkind even by construction? If I did say anything, it was three
times wrong, and unjust as well as unkind, and wronged my own heart
and consciousness of all that you are to me, more than it could _you_.
But you began speaking of yourself just as a woman might speak under
the same circumstances (you remember what you said), and then _I_,
remembering that all the men in the world would laugh such an idea to
scorn, said something to that effect, you _know_. I once was in
company with a man, however, who valued himself very much on his
constancy to a woman who was so deeply affected by it that she became
his wife at last ... and the whole neighbourhood came out to stare at
him on that ground as a sort of monster. And can you guess what the
constancy meant? Seven years before, he loved that woman, he said, and
she repulsed him. 'And in the meantime, _how many_?' I had the
impertinence to ask a female friend who told me the tale. 'Why,' she
answered with the utmost simplicity, 'I understand that Miss A. and
Miss B. and Mrs. C. would not listen to him, but he took Miss D.'s
rejection most to heart.' That was the head and front of his
'constancy' to Miss E., who had been loved, she boasted, for seven
years ... that is, once at the beginning and once at the end. It was
just a coincidence of the 'premier pas' and the 'pis aller.'

Beloved, I could not mean this for you; you are not made of such
stuff, as we both know.

And for myself, it was my compromise with my own scruples, that you
should not be 'chained' to me, not in the merest metaphor, that you
should not seem to be bound, in honour or otherwise, so that if you
stayed with me it should be your free choice to stay, not the
_consequence_ of a choice so many months before. That was my
compromise with my scruples, and not my doubt of your affection--and
least of all, was it an intention of trifling with you sooner or later
that made me wish to suspend all _decisions_ as long as possible. I
have decided (for me) to let it be as you shall please--now I told you
that before. Either we will live on as we are, until an obstacle
arises,--for indeed I do not look for a 'security' where you suppose,
and the very appearance of it _there_, is what most rebuts me--or I
will be yours in the obvious way, to go out of England the next
half-hour if possible. As to the steps to be taken (or not taken)
before the last step, we must think of those. The worst is that the
only question is about a _form_. Virtually the evil is the same all
round, whatever we do. Dearest, it was plain to see yesterday evening
when he came into this room for a moment at seven o'clock, before
going to his own to dress for dinner ... plain to see, that he was not
altogether pleased at finding you here in the morning. There was no
pretext for objecting gravely--but it was plain that he was not
pleased. Do not let this make you uncomfortable, he will forget all
about it, and I was not _scolded_, do you understand. It was more
manner, but my sisters thought as I did of the significance:--and it
was enough to prove to me (if I had not known) what a desperate game
we should be playing if we depended on a yielding nerve _there_.

And to-day I went down-stairs (to prove how my promises stand) though
I could find at least ten good excuses for remaining in my own room,
for our cousin, Sam Barrett, who brought the interruption yesterday
and put me out of humour (it wasn't the fault of the dear little
cousin, Lizzie ... my 'portrait' ... who was '_so_ sorry,' she said,
dear child, to have missed Papa somewhere on the stairs!) the cousin
who should have been in Brittany yesterday instead of here, sate in
the drawing-room all this morning, and had visitors there, and so I
had excellent excuses for never moving from my chair. Yet, the field
being clear at _half-past two_! I went for half an hour, just--just
for _you_. Did you think of me, I wonder? It was to meet your thoughts
that I went, dear dearest.

How clever these sketches are. The expression produced by such
apparently inadequate means is quite striking; and I have been making
my brothers admire them, and they 'wonder you don't think of employing
them in an illustrated edition of your works.' Which might be, really!
Ah, you did not ask for 'Luria'! Not that I should have let you have
it!--I think I should not indeed. Dearest, you take care of the head
... and don't make that tragedy of the soul one for mine, by letting
it make you ill. Beware too of the shower-bath--it plainly does not
answer for you at this season. And walk, and think of me for _your_
good, if such a combination should be possible.

And _I_ think of _you_ ... if I do not of Italy. Yet I forget to speak
to you of the Dulwich Gallery. I never saw those pictures, but am
astonished that the whole world should be wrong in praising them.
'Divine' is a bad word for Murillo in any case--because he is
intensely human in his most supernatural subjects. His beautiful
Trinity in the National Gallery, which I saw the last time I went out
to look at pictures, has no deity in it--and I seem to see it now. And
do you remember the visitation of the angels to Abraham (the Duke of
Sutherland's picture--is it not?) where the mystic visitors look like
shepherds who had not even dreamt of God? But I always understood that
that Dulwich Gallery was famous for great works--you surprise me! And
for painters ... their badness is more ostentatious than that of
poets--they stare idiocy out of the walls, and set the eyes of
sensitive men on edge. For the rest, however, I very much doubt
whether they wear their lives more to rags, than writers who mistake
their vocation in poetry do. There is a mechanism in poetry as in the
other art--and, to men not native to the way of it, it runs hard and
heavily. The 'cudgelling of the brain' is as good labour as the
grinding of the colours, ... do you not think?

If ever I am in the Sistine Chapel, it will not be with Mrs.
Jameson--no. If ever I should be there, what teaching I shall want,
_I_ who have seen so few pictures, and love them only as children do,
with an unlearned love, just for the sake of the thoughts they bring.
Wonderfully ignorant I am, to have had eyes and ears so long! There is
music, now, which lifts the hair on my head, I feel it so much, ...
yet all I know of it as art, all I have heard of the works of the
masters in it, has been the mere sign and suggestion, such as the
private piano may give. I never heard an oratorio, for instance, in my
life--judge by _that_! It is a guess, I make, at all the greatness and
divinity ... feeling in it, though, distinctly and certainly, that a
composer like Beethoven _must_ stand above the divinest painter in
soul-godhead, and nearest to the true poet, of all artists. And this
I felt in my guess, long before I knew you. But observe how, if I had
died in this illness, I should have left a sealed world behind me!
_you_, unknown too--unguessed at, _you_, ... in many respects,
wonderfully unguessed at! Lately I have learnt to despise my own
instincts. And apart from those--and _you_, ... it was right for me to
be melancholy, in the consciousness of passing blindfolded under all
the world-stars, and of going out into another side of the creation,
with a blank for the experience of this ... the last revelation,
unread! How the thought of it used to depress me sometimes!

Talking of music, I had a proposition the other day from certain of
Mr. Russell's (the singer's) friends, about his setting to music my
'Cry of the Children.' His programme exhibits all the horrors of the
world, I see! Lifeboats ... madhouses ... gamblers' wives ... all done
to the right sort of moaning. His audiences must go home delightfully
miserable, I should fancy. He has set the 'Song of the Shirt' ... and
my 'Cry of the Children' will be acceptable, it is supposed, as a
climax of agony. Do you know this Mr. Russell, and what sort of music
he suits to his melancholy? But to turn my 'Cry' to a 'Song,' a
burden, it is said, is required--he can't sing it without a burden!
and behold what has been sent 'for my approval'.... I shall copy it
_verbatim_ for you....

    And the threads twirl, twirl, twirl,
        Before each boy and girl;
    And the wheels, big and little, still whirl, whirl, whirl.

... accompaniment _agitato_, imitating the roar of the machinery!

This is not endurable ... ought not to be ... should it now? Do tell

May God bless you, very dearest! Let me hear how you are--and think
how I am

                                                Your own....

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 [Post-mark, March 2, 1846.]

Dearest, I have been kept in town and just return in time to say why
you have _no_ note ... to-morrow I will write ... so much there is to
say on the subject of this letter I find.

                                    Bless you, all beloved--


Oh, do not sleep another night on that horrible error I have led you
into! The 'Dulwich Gallery'!--!!!--oh, no. Only some pictures to be
sold at the Greyhound Inn, Dulwich--'the genuine property of a
gentleman deceased.'

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 Sunday Evening.
                                 [Post-mark, March 2, 1846.]

One or two words, if no more, I must write to dearest Ba, the night
would go down in double blackness if I had neither written nor been
written to! So here is another piece of 'kindness' on my part, such as
I have received praise for of late! My own sweetest, there is just
this good in such praise, that by it one comes to something pleasantly
definite amid the hazy uncertainties of mere wishes and
possibilities--while my whole heart does, _does_ so yearn, love, to do
something to prove its devotion for you; and, now and then, amuses
itself with foolish imaginings of real substantial services to which
it should be found equal if fortune so granted; suddenly you interpose
with thanks, in such terms as would all too much reward the highest of
even those services which are never to be; and for what?--for a note,
a going to Town, a ----! Well, there are definite beginnings
certainly, if you will recognise them--I mean, that since you _do_
accept, far from 'despising this day of small things,' then I may
take heart, and be sure that even though none of the great
achievements should fall to my happy chance, still the barrenest,
flattest life will--_must_ of needs produce in its season better
fruits than these poor ones--I keep it, value it, now, that it may
produce such.

Also I determine never again to 'analyse,' nor let you analyse if the
sweet mouth can be anyway stopped: the love shall be one and
indivisible--and the Loves we used to know from

    One another huddled lie ...
    Close beside Her tenderly--

(which is surely the next line). Now am I not anxious to know what
your father said? And if anybody else said or wondered ... how should
I know? Of all fighting--the warfare with shadows--what a work is
_there_. But tell me,--and, with you for me--

Bless me dearest ever, as the face above mine blesses me--

                                                    Your own

Sir Moses set off this morning, I hear--somebody yesterday called the
telescope an 'optical delusion,' anticipating many more of the kind!
So much for this 'wandering Jew.'

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 Monday Evening.
                                 [Post-mark, March 3, 1846.]

Upon the whole, I think, I am glad when you are kept in town and
prevented from writing what you call 'much' to me. Because in the
first place, the little from _you_, is always much to _me_--and then,
besides, _the letter comes_, and with it the promise of another! Two
letters have I had from you to-day, ever dearest! How I thank
you!--yes, _indeed_! It was like yourself to write yesterday ... to
remember what a great gap there would have been otherwise, as it
looked on this side--here. The worst of Saturday is (when you come on
it) that Sunday follows--Saturday night bringing no letter. Well, it
was very good of you, best of you!

For the 'analyzing' I give it up willingly, only that I must say what
altogether I forgot to say in my last letter, that it was not _I_, if
you please, who spoke of the chrystals breaking away! And you, to
quote me with that certainty! "The chrystals are broken off," _you
say_.' _I_ say!! When it was in your letter, and not at all in mine!!

The truth is that I was stupid, rather, about the Dulwich
collection--it was my fault. I caught up the idea of the gallery out
of a heap of other thoughts, and really might have known better if I
had given myself a chance, by considering.

Mr. Kenyon came to-day, and has taken out a licence, it seems to me,
for praising you, for he praised and praised. Somebody has told him
(who had spent several days with you in a house with a large library)
that he came away 'quite astounded by the versatility of your
learning'--and that, to complete the circle, you discoursed as
scientifically on the training of greyhounds and breeding of ducks as
if you had never done anything else all your life. Then dear Mr.
Kenyon talked of the poems; and hoped, very earnestly I am sure, that
you would finish 'Saul'--which you ought to do, must do--_only not
now_. By the way Mrs. Coleridge had written to him to enquire whether
you had authority for the 'blue lilies,' rather than white. Then he
asked about 'Luria' and 'whether it was obscure'; and I said, not
unless the people, who considered it, began by blindfolding

And where do you think Mr. Kenyon talks of going next February--a long
while off to be sure? To Italy of course. Everybody I ever heard of
seems to be going to Italy next winter. He visits his brother at
Vienna, and 'may cross the Alps and get to Pisa'--it is the shadow of
a scheme--nothing certain, so far.

I did not go down-stairs to-day because the wind blew and the
thermometer fell. To-morrow, perhaps I may. And _you_, dearest
dearest, might have put into the letters how you were when you wrote
them. You might--but you did not feel well and would not say so.
Confess that that was the reason. Reason or no reason, mention
yourself to-morrow, and for the rest, do not write a long letter so as
to increase the evil. There was nothing which I can remember as
requiring an answer in what I wrote to you, and though I _will_ have
my letter of course, it shall be as brief as possible, if briefness is
good for you--_now always remember that_. Why if I, who talk against
'Luria,' should work the mischief myself, what should I deserve? I
should be my own jury directly and not recommend to mercy ... not to
mine. Do take care--care for _me_ just so much.

And, except that taking care of your health, what would you do for me
that you have not done? You have given me the best of the possible
gifts of one human soul to another, you have made my life new, and am
I to count these things as small and insufficient? Ah, you _know_, you
_know_ that I cannot, ought not, will not.

May God bless you. He blesses me in letting me be grateful to you as
your Ba.

_R.B. to E.B.B._

                                 [Post-mark, March 3, 1846.]

First and most important of all,--dearest, 'angry'--with you, and for
_that_! It is just as if I had spoken contemptuously of that Gallery I
so love and so am grateful to--having been used to go there when a
child, far under the age allowed by the regulations--those two Guidos,
the wonderful Rembrandt of Jacob's vision, such a Watteau, the
triumphant three Murillo pictures, a Giorgione music-lesson group,
all the Poussins with the 'Armida' and 'Jupiter's nursing'--and--no
end to 'ands'--I have sate before one, some _one_ of those pictures I
had predetermined to see, a good hour and then gone away ... it used
to be a green half-hour's walk over the fields. So much for one error,
now for the second like unto it; what I meant by charging you with
_seeing_, (not, _not_ '_looking_ for')--_seeing_ undue 'security' in
_that_, in the form,--I meant to say 'you talk about me being 'free'
now, free till _then_, and I am rather jealous of the potency
attributed to the _form_, with all its solemnity, because it _is_ a
form, and no more--yet you frankly agree with me that _that_ form
complied with, there is no redemption; yours I am _then_ sure enough,
to repent at leisure &c. &c.' So I meant to ask, 'then, all _now_
said, all short of that particular form of saying it, all goes for
comparatively nothing'? Here it is written down--you 'wish to
_suspend_ all decisions as long as possible'--_that_ form effects the
decision, then,--till then, 'where am I'? Which is just what Lord
Chesterfield cautions people against asking when they tell stories.
Love, Ba, my own heart's dearest, if all is _not_ decided
_now_--why--hear a story, a propos of storytelling, and deduce what is
deducible. A very old Unitarian minister met a still older evangelical
brother--John Clayton (from whose son's mouth I heard what you shall
hear)--the two fell to argument about the true faith to be held--after
words enough, 'Well,' said the Unitarian, as winding up the
controversy with an amicable smile--'at least let us hope we are both
engaged in the _pursuit_ of Truth!'--'_Pursuit_ do you say?' cried the
other, 'here am I with my years eighty and odd--if I haven't _found_
Truth by this time where is my chance, pray?' My own Ba, if I have not
already _decided_, alas for me and the solemn words that are to help!
Though in another point of view there would be some luxurious feeling,
beyond the ordinary, in knowing one was kept safe to one's heart's
good by yet another wall than the hitherto recognised ones. Is there
any parallel in the notion I once heard a man deliver himself of in
the street--a labourer talking with his friends about '_wishes_'--and
this one wished, if he might get his wish, 'to have a nine gallon cask
of strong ale set running that minute and his own mouth to be _tied_
under it'--the exquisiteness of the delight was to be in the security
upon security,--the being 'tied.' Now, Ba says I shall not be
'chained' if she can help!

But now--here all the jesting goes. You tell me what was observed in
the 'moment's' visit; by you, and (after, I suppose) by your sisters.
First, I _will_ always see with your eyes _there_--next, what I see I
will _never_ speak, if it pain you; but just this much truth I ought
to say, I think. I always give myself to you for the worst I am,--full
of faults as you will find, if you have not found them. But I _will_
not affect to be so bad, so wicked, as I count wickedness, as to call
that conduct other than intolerable--_there_, in my conviction of
_that_, is your real 'security' and mine for the future as the
present. That a father choosing to give out of his whole day some five
minutes to a daughter, supposed to be prevented from participating in
what he, probably, in common with the whole world of sensible men, as
distinguished from poets and dreamers, consider _every_ pleasure of
life, by a complete foregoing of society--that he, after the Pisa
business and the enforced continuance, and as he must believe,
permanence of this state in which any other human being would go
mad--I do dare say, for the justification of God, who gave the mind to
be _used_ in this world,--where it saves us, we are taught, or
destroys us,--and not to be sunk quietly, overlooked, and forgotten;
that, under these circumstances, finding ... what, you say, unless he
thinks he _does_ find, he would close the door of his house instantly;
a mere sympathizing man, of the same literary tastes, who comes
good-naturedly, on a proper and unexceptionable introduction, to chat
with and amuse a little that invalid daughter, once a month, so far as
is known, for an hour perhaps,--that such a father should show
himself '_not pleased_ plainly,' at such a circumstance ... my Ba, it
is SHOCKING! See, I go _wholly_ on the supposition that the real
relation is not imagined to exist between us. I so completely could
understand a repugnance to trust you to me were the truth known, that,
I will confess, I have several times been afraid the very reverse of
this occurrence would befall; that your father would have at some time
or other thought himself obliged, by the usual feeling of people in
such cases, to see me for a few minutes and express some commonplace
thanks after the customary mode (just as Capt. Domett sent a heap of
unnecessary thanks to me not long ago for sending now a letter now a
book to his son in New Zealand--keeping up the spirits of poor dear
Alfred now he is cut off from the world at large)--and if _this_ had
been done, I shall not deny that my heart would have accused
me--unreasonably I _know_ but still, suppression, and reserve, and
apprehension--the whole of _that is_ horrible always! But this way of
looking on the endeavour of anybody, however humble, to just preserve
your life, remedy in some degree the first, if it _was_ the first,
unjustifiable measure,--this being 'displeased'--is exactly what I did
_not_ calculate upon. Observe, that in this _only_ instance I am able
to do as I shall be done by; to take up the arms furnished by the
world, the usages of society--this is monstrous on the _world's_
showing! I say this now that I may never need recur to it--that you
may understand why I keep _such_ entire silence henceforth.

Get but well, keep but _as_ well, and all is easy now. This wonderful
winter--the spring--the summer--you will take exercise, go up and down
stairs, get strong. _I pray you, at your feet, to do this, dearest!_
Then comes Autumn, with the natural expectations, as after _rouge_ one
expects _noir_: the _likelihood_ of a _severe_ winter after this mild
one, which to prevent, you reiterate your demand to go and save your
life in Italy, ought you not to do that? And the matters brought to
issue, (with even, if possible, less shadow of ground for a refusal
than before, if you are _well_, plainly well enough to bear the
voyage) _there_ I _will_ bid you 'be mine in the obvious way'--if you
shall preserve your belief in me--and you _may_ in much, in all
important to you. Mr. Kenyon's praise is undeserved enough, but
yesterday Milnes said I was the only literary man he ever knew, _tenax
propositi_, able to make out a life for himself and abide in
it--'for,' he went on, 'you really do live without any of this
_titillation_ and fussy dependence upon adventitious excitement of all
kinds, they all say they can do without.' That is _more_ true--and I
_intend_ by God's help to live wholly for you; to spend my whole
energies in reducing to practice the feeling which occupies me, and in
the practical operation of which, the other work I had proposed to do
will be found included, facilitated--I shall be able--but of this
there is plenty time to speak hereafter--I shall, I believe, be able
to do this without even allowing the world to _very much_
misinterpret--against pure lying there is no defence, but all up to
that I hope to hinder or render unimportant--as you shall know in time
and place.

I have written myself grave, but write to _me_, dear, dearest, and I
will answer in a lighter mood--even now I can say how it was
yesterday's hurry happened. I called on Milnes--who told me Hanmer had
broken a bone in his leg and was laid up, so I called on him too--on
Moxon, by the way, (his brother telling me strangely cheering news,
from the grimmest of faces, about my books selling and likely to sell
... your wishes, Ba!)--then in Bond Street about some business with
somebody, then on Mrs. Montagu who was out walking all the time, and
home too. I found a letter from Mr. Kenyon, perfectly kind, asking me
to go on Monday to meet friends, and with yours to-day comes another
confirming the choice of the day. How entirely kind he is!

I am very well, much better, indeed--taking that bath with sensibly
good effect, to-night I go to Montagu's again; for shame, having kept
away too long.

And the rest shall answer _yours_--dear! Not 'much to answer?' And
Beethoven, and Painting and--what _is_ the rest and shall be answered!
Bless you, now, my darling--I love you, ever shall love you, ever be
your own.

_E.B.B. to R.B._

                                 Tuesday Evening.
                                 [Post-mark, March 4, 1846.]

Yes, but, dearest, you mistake me, or you mistake yourself. I am sure
I do not over-care for forms--it is not my way to do it--and in this
case ... no. Still you must see that here is a fact as well as a form,
and involving a frightful quantity of social inconvenience (to use the
mildest word) if too hastily entered on. I deny altogether looking
for, or 'seeing' any 'security' in it for myself--it is a mere form
for the heart and the happiness: illusions may pass after as before.
Still the truth is that if they were to pass with you now, you stand
free to act according to the wide-awakeness of your eyes, and to
reform your choice ... see! whereas afterward you could not carry out
such a reformation while I was alive, even if I helped you. All I
could do for you would be to walk away. And you pretend not to see
this broad distinction?--ah. For me I have seen just this and no more,
and have felt averse to forestall, to seem to forestall even by an
hour, or a word, that stringency of the legal obligation from which
there _is_ in a certain sense no redemption. Tie up your drinker under
the pour of his nine gallons, and in two minutes he will moan and
writhe (as you perfectly know) like a Brinvilliers under the
water-torture. That he _asked_ to be tied up, was unwise on his own
principle of loving ale. And _you_ sha'n't be 'chained' up, if you
were to ask twenty times: if you have found truth or not in the

You do not see aright what I meant to tell you on another subject. If
he was displeased, (and it was expressed by a shadow a mere negation
of pleasure) it was not with you as a visitor and my friend. You must
not fancy such a thing. It was a sort of instinctive indisposition
towards seeing you here--unexplained to himself, I have no doubt--of
course unexplained, or he would have desired me to receive you never
again, _that_ would have been done at once and unscrupulously. But
without defining his own feeling, he rather disliked seeing you
here--it just touched one of his vibratory wires, brushed by and
touched it--oh, we understand in this house. He is not a nice
observer, but, at intervals very wide, he i