Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 3

Three letter passed among our poets on April 3, 1846. Miss Barrett provides a comparison of her relative happiness before and after Browning:

"...I thought I was happier..happy, I thought, just because I was tranquil unto death...Do you know, I am glad..I could almost thank God..that Papa keeps so far from me..that he has given up coming in the evening..I could almost thank God. If he were affectionate, & made me, or let me, feel myself necessary to him,..how should I bear (even with reason on my side) to prepare to give him pain?... Ah, well! In any case I should have ended probably, in giving up all for you..I do not profess otherwise. I used to think I should if ever I loved anyone..& if the love of you is different from, it is greater than, anything preconceived..divined."

Next she described a conversation she had with Mrs. Jameson which must have amused her:

"She maintained that 'artisitical natures never learn wisdom from experience...that sorrow teaches them nothing..leaves no trace at all..that the mind is modified in no way by passion..suffering.' Which I disbelieve quite, & ventured to say on the other side, that although practically a man or woman might not be wiser, through perhaps the interception of a vivid apprehension of the present, which might put back the influence of the future over actions..yet that it was impossible for a self conscious nature (which all these artistic natures are) & a sensitive nature, not to receive some sort of modification from things suffered--'No'--she said 'they did not ! she had known & loved such--& they were like children, all of them,--essentially immature.' But she did not persuade me...Presently she will say of you and me..'Just see there!--she meant no harm, poor thing, I dare say--but she acts like a child!--And, for him, his is the imbecility of most regent genius..such as I am to live to see confessed imperial, or I die a disappointed woman' !
Do you hear?--I do, distinctly. You, in the meantime, are looking at the 'locks' just as poor Louis Seize did when they were preparing his guillotine....."

How wonderful that Mrs. Jameson was so blind to see what was before her. And how wonderful that Miss Barrett suddenly decided that the entire conversation was boring to death for her reader. More wit from the serious poet.

In the mean time Browning is penning his own letter that is so full of nonsense that I will not bother to transcribe it. He tells of two articles, in two different newspapers, on the same day. The Earl Compton was living in Rome and associating himself with 'young art' by wearing a 'distintive blouse and Louis II. hat with great flaps' reports one newspaper, while the the other reports, 'The Earl Compton..is of great fame in Rome as a Painter!' After which he discusses the relative merits of the aristocracy (not much). He concludes his epistle by essentially telling Miss Barrett that he has nothing to say in his daily letter.

"...I have no note to guide me and half put into my mouth what I ought to say. So dear, dear Ba, goodbye! I very well know what this letter is worth..."

And yet, he has fulfilled his obligation and sent his daily letter. And she thought her letter would bore him!

And so, to praise him for sending a letter at all she spends her second letter of the day praising his silly letter by sending a pretty silly letter of her own in which she discusses her feelings on the aristocracy, republicanism, living simply on the continent and all the things that make a good stream of consciousness letter. She describes how she went downstairs and as she went back up Flush was so glad to see her that he almost knocked her down the stairs. And then she describes her visitor, a Mrs. Paine, who was apparently a fan and a reader of Greek:

"Do you know for the first five minutes, I repented quite? Dearest..she came just with the sort of face which a child might take to see a real, alive lioness at the Zoological Gardens...she just sate down on a chair, & stared...For my part, it was so unlike anything civilized I had ever been used to, that I felt as if my voice & breath went together. It would have saved me to be able to stare back again..but that was out of my power. So I endured..& after a pause ran violently down a steep place into some sort of conversation and in a little while, I was able to recognize that there was nothing worse than bad manners..ignorant manners..& that, for the rest, my antagonist was a young, pretty woman..(rather pretty)..enthusiastic & provincial, with a strong love for poetry & literature generally, loving Carlyle..& yourself, (could I hold out against that?) & telling me all her domestic happiness with a frankness which quite appeased me & prevented my being too tired..though she stayed two hours, and WASN'T YOU!"

That was a good letter day, full of silliness and nonsense and gossip in just the right meter.

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