Thursday, February 2, 2012

February 2

On February 2, 1846 Miss Barrett felt the need to make her position perfectly clear.
Therefore it is a conditional engagement still—all the conditions being in your hands, except the necessary one, of my health,” comes at the end of the first letter of the day. But first she has to tease him a bit about the oddness of his attachment to her. She seems to think him a bit of a kook, “And the other long word idiosyncrasy seemed long enough to cover it; and it might have been a matter of temperament, I fancied, that a man of genius, in the mystery of his nature, should find his feelings sometimes like dumb notes in a piano ... should care for people at half past eleven on Tuesday, and on Wednesday at noon prefer a black beetle.” I think at this point she was along for the ride but not quite trusting him yet. The whole thing didn’t make sense to her on a rational level. Miss Low Self Esteem thought he must be under some kind of idiosyncratic delusion to feel so passionately about her.  

But at the same time she was enjoying the ride. So she had to soothe the nervous suitor, “Dearest, did I write you a cold letter the last time? Almost it seems so to me! the reason being that my feelings were near to overflow, and that I had to hold the cup straight to prevent the possible dropping on your purple underneath. Your letter, the letter I answered, was in my heart ... is in my heart—and all the yeses in the world would not be too many for such a letter, as I felt and feel.”

But then she receives the letter wherein he compares her to the Czarina’s diamond and she cannot stop herself from teasing (teazing as she spells it) him about his inability to “escape” her.  

“So you think that dear Mr. Kenyon's opinion of his 'young relative'—(neither young nor his relative—not very much of either!) is to the effect that you couldn't possibly 'escape' her—? It looks like the sign of the Red Dragon, put so….”

This exchange draws to mind Browning’s poem A Love in the Life, written after their marriage:

Escape me?
While I am I, and you are you,
So long as the world contains us both,
Me the loving and you the loth
While the one eludes, must the other pursue.
My life is a fault at last, I fear:
It seems too much like a fate, indeed!
Though I do my best I shall scarce succeed.
But what if I fail of my purpose here?
It is but to keep the nerves at strain,
To dry one's eyes and laugh at a fall,
And, baffled, get up and begin again,---
So the chase takes up one's life ' that's all.
While, look but once from your farthest bound
At me so deep in the dust and dark,
No sooner the old hope goes to ground
Than a new one, straight to the self-same mark,
I shape me---

Probably not biographical, but all of life is an encyclopedia of thought. Miss Barrett’s refrain that Browning will ultimately want to escape her obviously remained in his mind.

1 comment:

  1. How sweet. RB loved Ba a lot. He remembered what she said and referenced it later.