Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 30

On March 30, 1846 Browning begins by stating that there was no 'pretence' on which he would accept her not writing to him and then responds to Miss Barrett's assertion that if she had refused to see him the previous year after his first declaration he would have forgotten her by now:

"And do you think you could have refused to see me after that visit? I mean, do you think I did not resolve so to conduct myself; so to 'humble myself and go still and softly all my days.'--that your suspicion should needs insensibly clear up...(if it had been so pre-ordained, and that no more was in my destiny..) and at last I should have been written down your friend for ever, and let come and stay, on that footing. But you really think the confirmation of that sentence must have been attended with such an effect--that I should have forgotten you or so remembered you? You think that on the strength of such a love as that, I would have ventured a month of my future life..much less, the whole of it? Not you, Ba,--my dearest, dearest!"

Yeah, what was she thinking? To have stuck with her this long with all her squirming and fighting, to think he would have given up that easily. This guy sticks. He would have found a way.
He then asks her if she has received the proofs of 'Luria' and advises that he has a headache.

Miss Barrett responds to the receipt of the proofs by returning them:

"On a slip of paper are two or three inanities in the form of doubts I had in reading the first part--I think upon the whole that you owe me all gratitude for the help of so much high critical wisdom--of which this paper is fair proof & expression...

Your sister's word about the picture proves very conclusively how wonderfully like it must be as a portrait!--That would settle the question of any 'Royal Commission' in the world--only we need not go so far. Dearest I end here-to begin again in another half hour. Ah--and you promise, you promise--"

Such sarcasm from the poetess today! But what did he promise? Whatever it was she seems a bit excited.

And as good as her word, she sends a second letter the same day:

" 'Not on any PRETENCE' will you do without!--And you count it among the imaginations of your heart that I could do without them better whom they are sun, air, & human voices, at the lowest calculation? Why seriously you don't imagine that your letters are not a thousand times more to ME, than letters ever in the world were before..since 'Heaven first brought them to some wretch's aid'? If you do, that is the foolishest fancy of all."

Her quote is from Pope's poem Eloisa to Abelard about another pair of famous lovers whose only form of communication was letters.

And then we come to the great 'promise' which has sent Miss Barrett into a celebration of happiness. She has been lobbying for this strenuously and almost painfully for nearly ten letters. Never quite demanding this promise but pounding away almost irrationally at his 'hating' to write to her:

"What you said in the letter this morning made me grateful,..& oh, so glad! so glad! what you said, I mean of writing to me on every day that we did not meet on otherwise. That promise seemed to bring us nearer, (see how I think of letters!) nearer than another word could, though you went for it to the end of the universe,..that other word. So I accept the promise as a promise of pure gold, & thank you, as pure as gold too, which you are, or rather far above. Only my own dearest, you shall not write long letter..long letters are out of the agreement..I never feel the need of length as long as the writing is there..just the little shred of the Koran, to be gathered up reverently..(Inshallah!) [If Allah wills!]--and then you shall not write at all when you are not, you shall not. So remember from henceforth! Shall I whip my enchanted dog when he is so good & true?--not to say that the tags of the lashes (do they call them tags?) would swing round & strike me on the shoulders?..."

Her notion that Browning 'went for it to the end of the universe' strikes me an rather amusing, when she has been going on and on about him supposedly hating to write to her but she never actually comes out and asks him to write a line to her everyday. She needed some sort of assurance but can't bring herself to ask for it. Is this what the head shrinkers call 'passive agressive'? Well, whatever it was, it seemed to work and made her extremely happy. She seems to have some sort of letter mania!

Next she addresses Browning's musing that he wanted to dedicate his poems to her:

"As to dedications...believe me that I would not have them if I could..that it, even if there were no dangers. I could not bear to have words from you which the world might listen to..I mean, that to be commended of you in that way..on that ground, would make me feel cold to the heart. Oh no, no, no!--It is better to have the proofsheet as I had it this morning: it is the better glory!"

And finally she returns to the portrait that Browning's sister thought beautiful:

"That wonderful picture, which is not much like a unicorn or even 'a whale'..but rather more perhaps than like may keep for weeks or months, if you choose; if it continues 'not to make you cross.' Because IT does not flatter, & because YOU do not flatter, (in such equal proportions!) the sympathy accounts for the liking..or absence of dislike; on your part."

Oh, she of the self deprecating wit.

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