Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 21

Miss Barrett has received Browning's previous letter and as one might expect she does not accept the premise and so she responds April 21, 1846:

"I would not say to you yesterday, perhaps could not, that you wrote ever so much foolishness to me in the morning, dearest, & that I knew it ever so well. There is no use, no help, in discussing certain questions: some sorts of extravagances grow by talking of: shake this elixir, & you have more & more bubbles on the surface of it. So I would not speak--nor will I write much. Only I PROTEST, from my understanding..from my heart...and besides I do assert the truth..clear of any 'affectation,' this time--& it is that you always make me melancholy by using such words. It seems to me as if you were in the dark altogether, & held my hand for another's --let the shutter be opened suddenly..& the hand is dropped perhaps..must I not think such thoughts, when you speak such words?--I ask you if it is not reasonable. No, I do not ask you. We will not argue whether eagles creep or worms fly. And see if it is distrust on my part! Love, I have learnt to believe in....But when you say that the blue, I see, is red, and that the little crystals are the fixed stars of the heavens how am I to think of you but that you are deluded..mistaken?--& in what? in love itself?--Ah,--if you could know..if you could but know for a full moment of conviction, how you depress & alarm me by saying such things, you would never say them afterwards, I know. So trust to me, even as I trust to you..& do not say them ever again,..YOU, who 'never flatter'. Is it not enough that you love me?--Is there anything greater? And will you run the risk of ruining that great wonder by bringing it to the test of an 'argumentum ad absurdum' such as I might draw from your letter? Have pity on me, my own dearest, & consider how I must feel to see myself idealized away, little by little...Now you will not any more. When the world comes to judge between us two, or rather over us both, the world will say (even the purblind world, as I myself with wide open eyes!) that I have not been generous with my gifts--no--,you are in a position to choose..& you might have chosen better--..that is my immovable conviction. It has been only your love for me,..which I believe in purely as love..& which, being love, does not come by pure logic, as the world itself may had been only, wholly & purely you love for me which has made a level for us two to meet & stand together. There is my fact against your fiction!--Now let us talk no more. We cannot agree, because we stand in different positions..."I hear a voice you cannot hear"!..I am on the black side of the knight's shield. Presently you will hear perhaps, & see. Shall you love me then? When the ideal breaks off, when the light is gone,..will you love me then for the love which I shall bear you then as now,..the only real thing?--"

This letter was inevitable. Again, an unconventional response. Another woman might simply have accepted the compliment of his letter, thought it a dramatic over statement and have been quietly flattered. But not Miss Barrett. She was compelled to explain to him exactly why he was wrong to have written it and wrong in his belief of what he perceived. It could be summed up by the idea that she loved him too much to have him mistaken in her. A merciless self critique for love.

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