Monday, January 23, 2012

January 23

Ok, for all of you clamoring to read the letters from our poets, you can find the first volume here.

The theme of Miss Barrett’s January 23, 1846 letter seems to be irony.  First Browning has made much of the idea that, “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?

Then she thinks it is wonderful that the great poet of the age cannot make a pen.   

Next she touches on a theme that is repeated constantly in the letters and in the “Sonnets”:

“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?”

But, she did it with a smile; she does love to tease Browning. It just made him work all the harder.

But Browning takes it well as he responds:

“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!”

See what I mean about his analogies? They are ever constant, as was he……

And see how hard he works:

“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!”

Yes, her light teasing brought out a rambling sentence that ends with The Tempest! Yes, she knew how to stir up his creative juices. He was such a show off.

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