Friday, March 16, 2012

March 16

March 16, 1846 brings more clarification from Miss Barrett regarding the mode of life that the poets will live once they are married. Miss Barrett wants to make it clear that she is nor expecting to live extravagantly:

"We were speaking of Mr. Chorley and his house, and you said that you did not care for such and such things for yourself, but that for others—now you remember the rest. And I just want to say what it would have been simpler to have said at the time—only not so easy—(I couldn't say it at the time) that you are not if you please to fancy that because I am a woman I have not the pretension to do with as little in any way as you yourself ... no, it is not that I mean to say.... I mean that you are not, if you please, to fancy that, because I am a woman, I look to be cared for in those outside things, or should have the slightest pleasure in any of them. So never wish nor regret in your thoughts to be able or not to be able to care this and this for me; for while you are thinking so, our thoughts go different ways, which is wrong. Mr. Fox did me a great deal too much honour in calling me 'a religious hermit'; he was 'curiously' in fault, as you saw. It is not my vocation to sit on a stone in a cave—I was always too fond of lolling upon sofas or in chairs nearly as large,—and this, which I sit in, was given to me when I was a child by my uncle, the uncle I spoke of to you once, and has been lolled in nearly ever since ... when I was well enough. Well—that is a sort of luxury, of course—but it is more idle than expensive, as a habit, and I do believe that it is the 'head and foot of my offending' in that matter. Yes—'confiteor tibi' [I thank thee] besides, that I do hate white dimity curtains, which is highly improper for a religious hermit of course, but excusable in me who would accept brown serge as a substitute with ever so much indifference. It is the white light which comes in the dimity which is so hateful to me. To 'go mad in white dimity' seems perfectly natural, and consequential even. Set aside these foibles, and one thing is as good as another with me, and the more simplicity in the way of living, the better....and I do entreat you not to put those two ideas together again of me and the finery which has nothing to do with me. I have talked a great deal too much of all this, you will think, but I want you, once for all, to apply it broadly to the whole of the future both in the general view and the details, so that we need not return to the subject. Judge for me as for yourself—what is good for you is good for me. Otherwise I shall be humiliated, you know; just as far as I know your thoughts."

This was not written by a woman who was daydreaming. She was thinking of the practicalities of living on a limited income. I imagine that she had thought through the financials even without factoring Browning into the equation, but it is obvious she is thinking it through, she is preparing to leave her father's house and live without his support and knows the frugality that this will require. Now she was factoring Browning in and wants to make sure they are on the same page. And yet again she is too shy to speak it to him directly. She is not good with confrontations of any sort. But she can write about it with humor and self deprecation as to her need for sofas to lounge on.

Next she turns to the difficulties of keeping her emotions under control when it came to news of Browning. Imagine this scene:

"Mr. Kenyon has been here to-day—and I have been down-stairs—two great events! He was in brilliant spirits and sate talking ever so long, and named you as he always does. Something he asked, and then said suddenly ... 'But I don't see why I should ask you, when I ought to know him better than you can.' On which I was wise enough to change colour, as I felt, to the roots of my hair. There is the effect of a bad conscience! and it has happened to me before, with Mr. Kenyon, three times—once particularly, when I could have cried with vexation (to complete the effects!), he looked at me with such infinite surprise in a dead pause of any speaking. That was in the summer; and all to be said for it now, is, that it couldn't be helped: couldn't!"

And Browning had been charming again to his lady:

"Oh—oh—and how wise I am to-day, as if I were a critic myself! Yesterday I was foolish instead—for I couldn't get out of my head all the evening how you said that you would come 'to see a candle held up at the window.' Well! but I do not mean to love you any more just now—so I tell you plainly. Certainly I will not. I love you already too much perhaps. I feel like the turning Dervishes turning in the sun when you say such words to me—and I never shall love you any 'less,' because it is too much to be made less of."

Even she can see that he is crazy in love and Browning continuies this crazy in love in his next letter. He can't think of anything but her and goes on and on for three paragraphs about how in love he is with her after their visit that day. This boy is rather drunk on love, so I will just give you one paragraph and if you want the whole thing, seek it out:

"How will the love my heart is full of for you, let me be silent? Insufficient speech is better than no speech, in one regard—the speaker had tried words, and if they fail, hereafter he needs not reflect that he did not even try—so with me now, that loving you, Ba, with all my heart and soul, all my senses being lost in one wide wondering gratitude and veneration, I press close to you to say so, in this imperfect way, my dear dearest beloved! Why do you not help me, rather than take my words, my proper word, from me and call them yours, when yours they are not? You said lately love of you 'made you humble'—just as if to hinder me from saying that earnest truth!—entirely true it is, as I feel ever more convincingly. You do not choose to understand it should be so, nor do I much care, for the one thing you must believe, must resolve to believe in its length and breadth, is that I do love you and live only in the love of you."

Good grief man, I think you are going to burst!

And in the evening of the same day he writes a short note to answer hers:

"Indeed I would, dearest Ba, go with entire gladness and pride to see a light that came from your room—why should that surprise you? Well, you will know one day.

We understand each other too about the sofas and gilding—oh, I know you, my own sweetest! For me, if I had set those matters to heart, I should have turned into the obvious way of getting them—not out of it, as I did resolutely from the beginning. All I meant was, to express a very natural feeling—if one could give you diamonds for flowers, and if you liked diamonds,—then, indeed! As it is, wherever we are found shall be, if you please, 'For the love's sake found therein—sweetest house was ever seen!'"

This last of course is another reference to her poem "Catarina to Camoens"-'sweetest eyes were ever seen'. Those Portuguese poets! Always making their presence known.

1 comment:

  1. Being practical is the right way to go. He answers her so sweet. He understood her and really was gaga about her.