Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 10

Finally, March 10, 1846, Browning has permitted Miss Barrett to read "A Soul's Tragedy" and she is back in her comfort zone: Poetry!

"Now I shall know what to believe when you talk of very bad and very indifferent doings of yours. Dearest, I read your 'Soul's Tragedy' last night and was quite possessed with it, and fell finally into a mute wonder how you could for a moment doubt about publishing it. It is very vivid, I think, and vital, and impressed me more than the first act of 'Luria' did, though I do not mean to compare such dissimilar things, and for pure nobleness 'Luria' is unapproachable—will prove so, it seems to me. But this 'Tragedy' shows more heat from the first, and then, the words beat down more closely ... well! I am struck by it all as you see. If you keep it up to this passion, if you justify this high key-note, it is a great work, and worthy of a place next 'Luria.' Also do observe how excellently balanced the two will be, and how the tongue of this next silver Bell will swing from side to side. And you to frighten me about it. Yes, and the worst is (because it was stupid in me) the worst is that I half believed you and took the manuscript to be something inferior—for you—and the adviseableness of its publication, a doubtful case. And yet, after all, the really worst is, that you should prove yourself such an adept at deceiving! For can it be possible that the same

'Robert Browning'

who (I heard the other day) said once that he could 'wait three hundred years,' should not feel the life of centuries in this work too—can it be? Why all the pulses of the life of it are beating in even my ears!"

Oh, she is a sly teaser. 

Another one of the interesting aspects of this correspondence is that while Miss Barrett is known for her frail health, she is constantly worried about Browning's health, his headaches, etc. His head aches when he reads, his head aches when he writes, his head aches when he goes out for an evening's entertainment or simply dinner. He repeatedly says that brisk walks alleviate the headaches and she is constantly telling him not to write letters or poetry and not to read or go out to dinner or take shower baths. We actually hear far more about his poor health that hers.

"Tell me, beloved, how you are—I shall hear it to-night—shall I not? To think of your being unwell, and forced to go here and go there to visit people to whom your being unwell falls in at best among the secondary evils!—makes me discontented—which is one shade more to the uneasiness I feel. Will you take care, and not give away your life to these people? Because I have a better claim than they ... and shall put it in, if provoked ... shall. Then you will not use the shower-bath again—you promise? I dare say Mr. Kenyon observed yesterday how unwell you were looking—tell me if he didn't! Now do not work, dearest! Do not think of Chiappino, leave him behind ... he has a good strong life of his own, and can wait for you. Oh—but let me remember to say of him, that he and the other personages appear to me to articulate with perfect distinctness and clearness ... you need not be afraid of having been obscure in this first part. It is all as lucid as noon."

She wants him to be healthy and not work on his poem to prepare it for publication so she assures him that it is as "lucid as noon." Really? What a hoot!
And she ends with another typical disagreement:

"You don't call me 'kind' I confess—but then you call me 'too kind' which is nearly as bad, you must allow on your part. Only you were not in earnest when you said that, as it appeared afterward. Were you, yesterday, in pretending to think that I owed you nothing ... I?
May God bless you. He knows that to give myself to you, is not to pay you. Such debts are not so paid."

Browning is in a contemplative mood when he writes today. This is always dangerous because Miss Barrett will dissect everything he writes. When you are comfortable with someone you can get into a habit of thinking out loud, or in Browning's case, writing out loud. Until he lands his fish he should be a very careful man.

"Dear, dear Ba, if you were here I should not much speak to you, not at first—nor, indeed, at last,—but as it is, sitting alone, only words can be spoken, or (worse) written, and, oh how different to look into the eyes and imagine what might be said, what ought to be said, though it never can be—and to sit and say and write, and only imagine who looks above me, looks down, understanding and pardoning all! My love, my Ba, the fault you found once with some expressions of mine about the amount of imperishable pleasures already hoarded in my mind, the indestructible memories of you; that fault, which I refused to acquiesce under the imputation of, at first, you remember—well, what a fault it was, by this better light! If all stopped here and now; horrible! complete oblivion were the thing to be prayed for, rather! As it is, now, I must go on, must live the life out, and die yours."

He ends with a report on his health and a bit of gossip:

"I will write to-morrow more: I came home last night with a head rather worse; which in the event was the better, for I took a little medicine and all is very much improved to-day. I shall go out presently, and return very early and take as much care as is proper—for I thought of Ba, and the sublimities of Duty, and that gave myself airs of importance, in short, as I looked at my mother's inevitable arrow-root this morning. So now I am well; so now, is dearest Ba well? I shall hear to-night ... which will have its due effect, that circumstance, in quickening my retreat from Forster's Rooms. All was very pleasant last evening—and your letter &c. went √† qui de droit [to whom it may concern], and Mr. W. Junior had to smile good-naturedly when Mr. Burges began laying down this general law, that the sons of all men of genius were poor creatures—and Chorley and I exchanged glances after the fashion of two Augurs meeting at some street-corner in Cicero's time, as he says. And Mr. Kenyon was kind, kinder, kindest, as ever, 'and thus ends a wooing'!—no, a dinner—my wooing ends never, never; and so prepare to be asked to give, and give, and give till all is given in Heaven! And all I give you is just my heart's blessing; God bless you, my dearest, dearest Ba!"

'Mr. W. Junior' being the son of Wordsworth, being the son of a genius, may have been a 'poor creature' but he certainly must have been a gentleman to 'smile good-naturedly' at that comment. Do you wonder what our Poet's son will be like? Hard act to follow. But we must all find our own way.

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