February 12, 1846.
Miss Barrett is worried about Browning's health after his most recent illness. She encourages him to consider drinking wine:
"....perhaps it would be better for your health to take it [wine] 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!....Dearest, you will not think of coming if you are ill ... unwell even."
But most of the letter is business. The Business of Poetry. She is working on 'Luria' and laying it on pretty thick.
"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."
'Sordello' was notorious for it's obscurity and 'mists' of meaning among the critics. Miss Barrett wants to assure him that the poem is perfectly clear. However, she fails to realize that there was probably a 1% in Victorian England who had the education that these two poets gave themselves. Most people didn't have the luxury of time to refine their education through endless reading. Clear to her is not clear to the other 99%.
She also continues to lobby for a better end to Domizia, the female lead. A 19th century feminist, doing what she could for her sex.
And notice how she worked in a reference to 'loving for eternity', continuing from the previous letter. They were having a dialog indeed.