Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March 7

We are getting in a point in the correspondence, in March 1846, where our poets are so obviously in love with each other that people are starting to take notice. Miss Barrett, who loves to tease her brothers is also teased by her brothers and their friends:

"Because it is colder to-day I have not been down-stairs but let to-morrow be warm enough—facilis descensus. There's something infernal to me really, in the going down, and now too that our cousin is here! Think of his beginning to attack Henrietta the other day.... 'So Mr. C. has retired and left the field to Surtees Cook. Oh ... you needn't deny ... it's the news of all the world except your father. And as to him, I don't blame you—he never will consent to the marriage of son or daughter. Only you should consider, you know, because he won't leave you a shilling, &c. &c....' You hear the sort of man. And then in a minute after ... 'And what is this about Ba?' 'About Ba' said my sisters, 'why who has been persuading you of such nonsense?' 'Oh, my authority is very good,—perfectly unnecessary for you to tell any stories, Arabel,—a literary friendship, is it?' ... and so on ... after that fashion! This comes from my brothers of course, but we need not be afraid of its passing beyond, I think, though I was a good deal vexed when I heard first of it last night and have been in cousinly anxiety ever since to get our Orestes safe away from those Furies his creditors, into Brittany again. He is an intimate friend of my brothers besides the relationship, and they talk to him as to each other, only they oughtn't to have talked that, and without knowledge too."

Oh dear, so much for a secret. And then some literary gossip:

I forgot to tell you that Mr. Kenyon was in an immoderate joy the day I saw him last, about Mr. Poe's 'Raven' as seen in the Athenæum extracts, and came to ask what I knew of the poet and his poetry, and took away the book. It's the rhythm which has taken him with 'glamour' I fancy."

And then to end the wondering:

"Who 'looked in at the door?' Nobody. But Arabel a little way opened it, and hearing your voice, went back. There was no harm—is no fear of harm. Nobody in the house would find his or her pleasure in running the risk of giving me pain. I mean my brothers and sisters would not."

Yes, indeed, for if it was Papa Barrett he would most certainly have come in to see what exactly these two poets were up to.

But Browning has no fear of Mr. Barrett:

"About my fears—whether of opening doors or entering people—one thing is observable and prevents the possibility of any misconception—I desire, have been in the habit of desiring, to increase them, far from diminishing—they relate, of course, entirely to you—and only through you affect me the least in the world. Put your well-being out of the question, so far as I can understand it to be involved,—and the pleasure and pride I should immediately choose would be that the whole world knew our position. What pleasure, what pride! But I endeavour to remember on all occasions—and perhaps succeed in too few—that it is very easy for me to go away and leave you who cannot go. I only allude to this because some people are 'naturally nervous' and all that—and I am quite of another kind."

He can be so charming. What a dude.
And even his complaints are charming. Browning has a problem with being called 'kind', which as we all know is not good enough for Miss Barrett who is beyond 'kind':

"You call me 'kind'; and by this time I have no heart to call you such names—I told you, did I not once? that 'Ba' had got to convey infinitely more of you to my sense than 'dearest,' 'sweetest,' all or any epithets that break down with their load of honey like bees—to say you are 'kind,' you that so entirely and unintermittingly bless me,—it will never do now, 'Ba.' All the same, one way there is to make even 'Ba' dearer,—'my Ba,' I say to myself!"

At this point in their correspondence they are so infatuated with each other they can only 'work' at trying to find ways to describe what they are feeling, and for people with a gift of words, they are struggling. It is fun to enjoy their joy, however. And there is always the temptation to steal a line or too for personal use.

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