Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 27

Browning continues the conversation about the relative merits of English and French novels on April 27, 1846:

"I entirely agree with you in your estimate of the comparative value of French & English  Romance-writers. I bade the completest adieu to the latter on my first introduction to Balzac, whom I greatly admire for his faculty, whatever he may choose to do with it. Do you know a little sketch 'La Messe de l' Athee,'--most affecting to me. And for you, with you love of a 'story,' what an unceasing delight must be that very ingenious way of his, by which he connects the new novel with its predecessor--keeps telling you more and more news yet of people you have got interested in, but seem to have done with....Did you notice a stanza quoted from some lachrymose rhymester  to be laughed at--in which the writer complains of the ill treatment of false friends, 'for' says he, 'I have felt their bangs'--The notion of one's friends 'banging' one is exhilarating when one reflects that he might get a little pin, and prick, prick after this fashion--,No, it is probably a manner of writing,--meant for the week's life and the dozen readers."

Miss Barrett has, in the mean time, been reading the review of Browning's poetry in the Examiner:

"Very good Examiner!--I am pleased with it & with Mr. Forster for the nonce, though he doesn't talk at all, scarcely, of the Souls is one to bear it? That Tragedy has wonderful things in it--thoughts, suggestions, ...and more & more I feel, that you never did better dialogue than in the first part--Every pulse of it is alive & individual--dramatic dialogue of the best. Nobody in the world could write such dialogue--now you know, you must be patient & 'meke as maid,' being in the course of the fortynine days of enduring praises. Praises, instead of 'bangs'!!--consider that it might be worse!--dicit ipsissima Ba. [Says Ba's very own self.]"

I love the fact that she recognizes that she is praising him and jokes about the supposed forty nine days that she praises him and throws in a 'bang' to finish the jest. But next she turns to his cogitation the previous day on all the women who might love him:

"Why did you say that to me? I could be as jealous (did I not tell you once?) as any one of your melodramatic gitana heroines, who carries a poignard [dagger or dirk] between the white-satin sash & the spangles? I perfectly understand, at this distance, what jealousy is, would be, ought to be, must be--though I never guessed at all what love was, at that distance...& startled I am often & confounded, to see the impotency of my imagination."

It is interesting that she can understand jealousy and the emotion that could drive someone to stab their lover, but she acknowledges that she had no concept of love. So, now that she is in the midst of a passionate love, can you imagine her actually stabbing Browning because his eye wandered? If Browning betrayed her with another woman she would surely accept it as her lot; that she had been right: he had an obsession and that it had ended because she was wormwood. Yes, she might be jealous. She could understand it in the abstract, but for a woman so opposed to dueling to stab her lover or his inamorata is nothing but a flight of fancy from one of her naughty French novels. But intriguing to see her considering the idea. She does love to tease, but perhaps Browning should fear her mighty dirk!

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