Monday, February 20, 2012

February 20

February 20, 1846 Miss Barrett continues their back and forth about letters.

"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?...
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."

She loves his letters because she loves his letters. This is one of many mentions of her poem Catarina to Camoens in these letters, although the first from her. Browning refers to it often in the letters, using it to great effect as he playfully flirts with "the sweetest eyes were ever seen."

In his letter of February 19, 1846 Browning had mentioned what he had found in his mail that day, an invitation to a dinner in Harley Street and:

"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 [many thanks]!"

Miss Barrett was having none of that and spoke out plainly:

" 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'?"

Here is another example of the writer repenting. She will regret sending this glib note as soon as she sends it. What she said is true, he never considered going, but she put it in the form of a demand, which a lady would never do. Especially a lady who was constantly telling her fiance that he was free to break off at any time. A slight faux pas on her part; she let her true feelings be seen. Let's see how she gets out of this one.

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