Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 31

And so, January 31, 1846, Miss Barrett agrees to agree in almost as convoluted a way as Browning states the thesis. But again, we get the point. She agrees to do as he wishes if her health continues better to the end of the summer. She wants to make it completely clear that if he changes his mind he is released. She even seems to imply that after the marriage he will still be free,

“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.”

And Browning returns the favor in his response on the same date, “Meanwhile, silent or speaking, I am yours to dispose of as that glove—not that hand.”

I am interested in this comment as well:

“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 don’t think Kenyon knew.  He may have known that they were close, how could he not know that? I am sure that Browning spoke rhapsodies of his poetess to Kenyon. But how could Kenyon possibly know that the relationship was as deep and committed as to be an engagement? It was unfathomable even to Miss Barrett who obviously believed that Browning would come to his senses by the end of the summer. Also, I suspect that Kenyon didn’t want to know. If he knew he would probably have tried to talk them both out of it. Browning had no money and Miss Barrett was throwing security out forever. There would be no going back to her father’s house. The whole thing was pretty tenuous. And if you look out into their future, their finances were really pretty fragile until Kenyon himself bestowed 100 pounds a year on them. It would have been as a (unpleasant) duty to him to talk them out of it.

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