Our two poets continue, in a calmer fashion, their discussion of duelling on April 9, 1846. Browning sends a short note:
"...I submit, unfeigningly, to you, there as elsewhere--and,--as I said, I think,--I wrote so, precisely because it was never likely to be my own case,--I should consider it the most unhappy thing that could possibly happen to me...
Do you know, next Saturday...will be the anniversary of Mr. Kenyon's asking me, some four years ago, 'if I would like to see Miss B.' How I remember! I was staying with him for a couple of days. Now,--I will ask myself 'would you like to kiss Ba?' 'The comes the Selah [pause].' Goodbye, dearest-dearest!"
So he has submitted to her on the subject of duelling, and changes the subject. Hmm...I wonder how she will take that?
"You are good & kind,..too good & kind,..always, always!--& I love you gratefully & shall to the end, and with an unspeakable apprehension of what you are in yourself, & to me:--yet you cannot, you know,--you cannot, dearest..'submit' to me in an opinion, any more than I could to you, if I desired it ever so anxiously. We will talk no more however on the subject now--I have had some pain from it, of course..but I am satisfied to have had the pain, for the knowledge..which was as necessary as possible, under circumstances, for more reasons than one--
Dearest..before I go to talk of something else..will you be besought of me to consider within yourself,..& not with me to teaze you,--why the 'case,' spoken of, should 'never in likelihood be your own'? Are you & yours charmed from the influence of offensive observations..personally offensive?--'The most unhappy thing that could happen to you,' is it, on that account, the farthest thing?"
While typing this last a thought occurred to me that perhaps she thought her father or one of her brothers would call Browning out and that they would duel it out in Regents Park. Seems pretty far fetched. Perhaps she thought the Rev. George Barrett Hunter, her erstwhile suitor who she earlier described as 'violent', might take a glove to Browning and send his second to New Cross so that Browning could choose his weapon. Probably not. Did Reverends duel? She seemed more interested in it as a moral position; thinking that she and Browning were totally simpatico and finding that they were not rather stirred her up. So she ends on a melancholy note:
"I think of you, bless you, love you--but it would have been better for you never to have seen my face perhaps, though Mr. Kenyon gave the first leave. Perhaps!!--I 'flatter' myself to-night..."
Not to burden the date, but here is an interesting letter from Miss Barrett to a Mr. Westwood (if I remember correctly he was an editor and critic) on April 9, 1845:
"...I am delighted that you should appreciate Mr. Browning's high power—very high, according to my view—very high, and various. Yes, 'Paracelsus' you should have. 'Sordello' has many fine things in it, but, having been thrown down by many hands as unintelligible, and retained in mine as certainly of the Sphinxine literature, with all its power, I hesitate to be imperious to you in my recommendations of it. Still, the book is worth being studied—study is necessary to it, as, indeed, though in a less degree, to all the works of this poet; study is peculiarly necessary to it. He is a true poet, and a poet, I believe, of a large 'future in-rus, about to be.' He is only growing to the height he will attain."
And again later in April:
"The sin of Sphinxine literature I admit. Have I not struggled hard to renounce it? Do I not, day by day? Do you know that I have been told that I have written things harder to interpret than Browning himself?—only I cannot, cannot believe it—he is so very hard. Tell me honestly (and although I attributed the excessive good nature of the 'Metropolitan' criticism to you, I know that you can speak the truth truly!) if anything like the Sphinxineness of Browning, you discover in me; take me as far back as 'The Seraphim' volume and answer! As for Browning, the fault is certainly great, and the disadvantage scarcely calculable, it is so great. He cuts his language into bits, and one has to join them together, as young children do their dissected maps, in order to make any meaning at all, and to study hard before one can do it. Not that I grudge the study or the time. The depth and power of the significance (when it is apprehended) glorifies the puzzle. With you and me it is so; but with the majority of readers, even of readers of poetry, it is not and cannot be so.
The consequence is, that he is not read except in a peculiar circle very strait and narrow. He will not die, because the principle of life is in him, but he will not live the warm summer life which is permitted to many of very inferior faculty, because he does not come out into the sun."
She is early in her correspondence with Browning and she is not blind to his faults. But when you read her letters to him she always praises his poems, even Sordello which is universally recognized as indecipherable! Perhaps her goal was to drag Browning in the poetic sun while she dragged herself into the Italian sun.