Saturday, March 3, 2012

March 3

March 3, 1846 has Miss Barrett happy to report that Mr. Kenyon is impressed with Browning:

"Mr. Kenyon came to-day, and has taken out a licence, it seems to me, for praising you, for he praised and praised. Somebody has told him (who had spent several days with you in a house with a large library) that he came away 'quite astounded by the versatility of your learning'—and that, to complete the circle, you discoursed as scientifically on the training of greyhounds and breeding of ducks as if you had never done anything else all your life. Then dear Mr. Kenyon talked of the poems; and hoped, very earnestly I am sure, that you would finish 'Saul'—which you ought to do, must do—only not now. By the way Mrs. Coleridge had written to him to enquire whether you had authority for the 'blue lilies,' rather than white. Then he asked about 'Luria' and 'whether it was obscure'; and I said, not unless the people, who considered it, began by blindfolding themselves.

And where do you think Mr. Kenyon talks of going next February—a long while off to be sure? To Italy of course. Everybody I ever heard of seems to be going to Italy next winter. He visits his brother at Vienna, and 'may cross the Alps and get to Pisa'—it is the shadow of a scheme—nothing certain, so far."

And Kenyon is going to Italy as well. It seems most of London is headed to the sunny south. But Browning has decided to address the question of Mr. Barrett today and he is not mincing his word. He will not be brushed back by the threat of her Papa and it seems, is in for the fight, if necessary:

"You tell me what was observed in the 'moment's' visit; by you, and (after, I suppose) by your sisters. First, I will always see with your eyes there—next, what I see I will never speak, if it pain you; but just this much truth I ought to say, I think. I always give myself to you for the worst I am,—full of faults as you will find, if you have not found them. But I will not affect to be so bad, so wicked, as I count wickedness, as to call that conduct other than intolerable—there, in my conviction of that, is your real 'security' and mine for the future as the present. That a father choosing to give out of his whole day some five minutes to a daughter, supposed to be prevented from participating in what he, probably, in common with the whole world of sensible men, as distinguished from poets and dreamers, consider every pleasure of life, by a complete foregoing of society—that he, after the Pisa business and the enforced continuance, and as he must believe, permanence of this state in which any other human being would go mad—I do dare say, for the justification of God, who gave the mind to be used in this world,—where it saves us, we are taught, or destroys us,—and not to be sunk quietly, overlooked, and forgotten; that, under these circumstances, finding ... what, you say, unless he thinks he does find, he would close the door of his house instantly; a mere sympathizing man, of the same literary tastes, who comes good-naturedly, on a proper and unexceptionable introduction, to chat with and amuse a little that invalid daughter, once a month, so far as is known, for an hour perhaps,—that such a father should show himself 'not pleased plainly,' at such a circumstance ... my Ba, it is shocking! See, I go wholly on the supposition that the real relation is not imagined to exist between us. I so completely could understand a repugnance to trust you to me were the truth known, that, I will confess, I have several times been afraid the very reverse of this occurrence would befall; that your father would have at some time or other thought himself obliged, by the usual feeling of people in such cases, to see me for a few minutes and express some commonplace thanks after the customary mode (just as Capt. Domett sent a heap of unnecessary thanks to me not long ago for sending now a letter now a book to his son in New Zealand—keeping up the spirits of poor dear Alfred now he is cut off from the world at large)—and if this had been done, I shall not deny that my heart would have accused me—unreasonably I know but still, suppression, and reserve, and apprehension—the whole of that is horrible always! But this way of looking on the endeavour of anybody, however humble, to just preserve your life, remedy in some degree the first, if it was the first, unjustifiable measure,—this being 'displeased'—is exactly what I did not calculate upon. Observe, that in this only instance I am able to do as I shall be done by; to take up the arms furnished by the world, the usages of society—this is monstrous on the world's showing! I say this now that I may never need recur to it—that you may understand why I keep such entire silence henceforth."

I am glad he vented. She needed to see, from an outside source, that her father's behavior was not normal. Perhaps she was not aware that her father's behavior was not normal, she had known no other. Personally, I think it a bit odd that he trusted his daughter enough to allow men in her bedroom at all. Did he trust her or simply believe that she was such an invalid that nothing untoward could happen? I think he trusted her based on her previous perfect conduct and on seeing Browning there had a twinged of second thought that passed in a flash. But she noticed it because she was feeling guilty. Also odd is that Browning came in and out of the house sometimes twice a week for nearly two years and was never introduced to Mr. Barrett. The English are known for their eccentrics.

He ends with a reiteration of their planned escape:

"Get but well, keep but as well, and all is easy now. This wonderful winter—the spring—the summer—you will take exercise, go up and down stairs, get strong. I pray you, at your feet, to do this, dearest! Then comes Autumn, with the natural expectations, as after rouge one expects noir: the likelihood of a severe winter after this mild one, which to prevent, you reiterate your demand to go and save your life in Italy, ought you not to do that?...I will bid you 'be mine in the obvious way'—if you shall preserve your belief in me—and you may in much, in all important to you. Mr. Kenyon's praise is undeserved enough...Bless you, now, my darling—I love you, ever shall love you, ever be your own."

He is on the ball, taking the right tone...will she still struggle? Of course, she can't help herself!

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