February 18, 1850 finds a very interesting letter from Mrs. Browning to the ubiquitous Miss Mitford. Apparently Miss Mitford has sent a new poem by Tennyson. Mrs. Browning digs in right away.
"Now tell me. Apart from the fact of this lyric's being a fragment of fringe from the great poet's 'singing clothes' (as Leigh Hunt says somewhere), and apart from a certain sweetness and rise and fall in the rhythm, do you really see much for admiration in the poem? Is it new in, any way? I admire Tennyson with the most worshipping part of the multitude, as you are aware, but I do notperceive much in this lyric, which strikes me, and Robert also (who goes with me throughout), as quite inferior to the other lyrical snatches in the 'Princess.' By the way, if he introduces it in the 'Princess,' it will be the only rhymedverse in the work. Robert thinks that he was thinking of the Rhine echoes in writing it, and not of any heard in his Irish travels."
Poets talking poetry. Always looking for the new, in herself and others. And other literary news:
"I certainly don't think that the qualities, half savage and half freethinking, expressed in 'Jane Eyre' are likely to suit a model governess or schoolmistress; and it amuses me to consider them in that particular relation. Your account falls like dew upon the parched curiosity of some of our friends here, to whom (as mere gossip, which did not leave you responsible) I couldn't resist the temptation of communicating it. People are so curious—even here among the Raffaels—about this particular authorship, yet nobody seems to have read 'Shirley'; we are too slow in getting new books. First Galignani has to pirate them himself, and then to hand us over the spoils. By the way, there's to be an international copyright, isn't there? Something is talked of it in the 'Athenaeum.' Meanwhile the Americans have already reprinted my husband's new edition. 'Landthieves, I mean pirates.' I used to take that for a slip of the pen in Shakespeare; but it was a slip of the pen into prophecy."
"Sorry I am at Mrs. —— falling short of your warm-hearted ideas about her! Can you understand a woman's hating a girl because it is not a boy—her first child too? I understand it so little that scarcely I can believe it. Some women have, however, undeniably an indifference to children, just as many men have, though it must be unnatural and morbid in both sexes. Men often affect it—very foolishly, if they count upon the scenic effects; affectation never succeeds well, and this sort of affectation is peculiarly unbecoming, except in old bachelors, for there is a pathetic side to the question so viewed. For my part and my husband's, we may be frank and say that we have caught up our parental pleasures with a sort of passion. But then, Wiedeman is such a darling little creature; who could help loving the child?... Little darling! So much mischief was not often put before into so small a body. Fancy the child's upsetting the water jugs till he is drenched (which charms him), pulling the brooms to pieces, and having serious designs upon cutting up his frocks with a pair of scissors. He laughs like an imp when he can succeed in doing anything wrong. Now, see what you get, in return for your kindness of 'liking to hear about' him! Almost I have the grace to be ashamed a little."
Then more literary news in the same paragraph:
"Just before I had your letter we sent my new edition to England. I gave much time to the revision, and did not omit reforming some of the rhymes, although you must consider that the irregularity of these in a certain degree rather falls in with my system than falls out through my carelessness. So much the worse, you will say, when a person is systematically bad. The work will include the best poems of the 'Seraphim' volume, strengthened and improved as far as the circumstances admitted of. I had not the heart to leave out the wretched sonnet to yourself, for your dear sake; but I rewrote the latter half of it (for really it wasn't a sonnet at all, and 'Una and her lion' are rococo), and so placed it with my other poems of the same class. There are some new, verses also."
These new verses were "Sonnets from the Portugese." Oh, just them. Yawn.