May 17, 1845 brought a letter from Browning wherein he pokes the pin on the writhing Miss Barrett, taunting her about her mistrust of him. Smart fellow that he is, he recognizes that he found the right combination of words to force her to let him enter her physical world and here he plays it out:
"My friend is not 'mistrustful' of me, no, because she don't fear I shall make
mainprize of the stray cloaks and umbrellas down-stairs, or turn an article for
Colburn's on her sayings and doings up-stairs,—but spite of that, she
does mistrust ... so mistrust my common sense,—nay, uncommon and
dramatic-poet's sense, if I am put on asserting it!—all which pieces of mistrust
I could detect, and catch struggling, and pin to death in a moment, and put a
label in, with name, genus and species, just like a horrible entomologist; only
I won't, because the first visit of the Northwind will carry the whole tribe
into the Red Sea—and those horns and tails and scalewings are best forgotten
altogether. And now will I say a cutting thing and have done. Have I trusted
my friend so,—or said even to myself, much less to her, she is even
as—'Mr. Simpson' who desireth the honour of the acquaintance of Mr. B. whose
admirable works have long been his, Simpson's, especial solace in private—and
who accordingly is led to that personage by a mutual friend—Simpson blushing as
only adorable ingenuousness can, and twisting the brim of his hat like a sailor
giving evidence. Whereupon Mr. B. beginneth by remarking that the rooms are
growing hot—or that he supposes Mr. S. has not heard if there will be another
adjournment of the House to-night—whereupon Mr. S. looketh up all at once,
brusheth the brim smooth again with his sleeve, and takes to his assurance once
more, in something of a huff, and after staying his five minutes out for
decency's sake, noddeth familiarly an adieu, and spinning round on his heel
ejaculateth mentally—'Well, I did expect to see something different from
that little yellow commonplace man ... and, now I come to think, there
was some precious trash in that book of his'—Have I said 'so will
Miss Barrett ejaculate?' "
As the kids say when a well placed verbal thrust has been delivered, "Boom!" He had fun delivering that particular 'cut'. I loveth all his 'eth's as he tells his Tudor tale. He has pinned his quarry so now he ends the letter leniently, as he should:
"Dear Miss Barrett, I thank you for the leave you give me, and for the
infinite kindness of the way of giving it. I will call at 2 on Tuesday—not
sooner, that you may have time to write should any adverse circumstances happen
... not that they need inconvenience you, because ... what I want particularly
to tell you for now and hereafter—do not mind my coming in the least, but—should
you be unwell, for instance,—just send or leave word, and I will come again, and
again, and again—my time is of no importance, and I have acquaintances
thick in the vicinity.
Now if I do not seem grateful enough to you, am I so much to blame?
You see it is high time you saw me, for I have clearly written myself
I like the prick about how his time is of 'no importance', and then he ends as light as a feather. Alright Miss Barrett, what have you for us today?
"I shall be ready on Tuesday I hope, but I hate and protest against your
horrible 'entomology.' Beginning to explain, would thrust me lower and lower
down the circles of some sort of an 'Inferno'; only with my dying breath I would
maintain that I never could, consciously or unconsciously, mean to distrust you;
or, the least in the world, to Simpsonize you. What I said, ... it was
you that put it into my head to say it—for certainly, in my usual
disinclination to receive visitors, such a feeling does not enter. There, now!
There, I am a whole 'giro' lower! Now, you will say perhaps that I distrust
you, and nobody else! So it is best to be silent, and bear all the
'cutting things' with resignation! that is certain.
Still I must really say, under this dreadful incubus-charge of Simpsonism,
... that you, who know everything, or at least make awful guesses at everything
in one's feelings and motives, and profess to be able to pin them down in a book
of classified inscriptions, ... should have been able to understand better, or
misunderstand less, in a matter like this—Yes! I think so. I think you should
have made out the case in some such way as it was in nature—viz. that you had
lashed yourself up to an exorbitant wishing to see me, ... (you who could see,
any day, people who are a hundredfold and to all social purposes, my superiors!)
because I was unfortunate enough to be shut up in a room and silly enough to
make a fuss about opening the door; and that I grew suddenly abashed by the
consciousness of this. How different from a distrust of you! how
Ah—if, after this day, you ever see any interpretable sign of distrustfulness
in me, you may be 'cutting' again, and I will not cry out. In the meantime here
is a fact for your 'entomology.' I have not so much distrust, as will
make a doubt, as will make a curiosity for next Tuesday. Not the
simplest modification of curiosity enters into the state of feeling with
which I wait for Tuesday:—and if you are angry to hear me say so, ... why, you
are more unjust than ever.
(Let it be three instead of two—if the hour be as convenient to yourself.)
Before you come, try to forgive me for my 'infinite kindness' in the manner
of consenting to see you. Is it 'the cruellest cut of all' when you talk of
infinite kindness, yet attribute such villainy to me? Well! but we are friends
till Tuesday—and after perhaps.
This letter is a perfect example of Miss Barrett's wonderful sense of humor. This is one of the main reasons that I started this blog, I find her letters to be so amusing and I think people miss that when all they know of her is the Sonnet Sequence.
The visual she creates of her spiral journey down into hell as she attempts to defend herself of the charge of 'Simpsonism' is wonderful along with her accusation that he will charge her with mistrusting him, and only him, to make himself more aggrieved. Her use of the word 'incubus' is great fun. Then she taunts him right back, calling him out as a 'know it all'. She sifts through his words to find ammunition to fire back at him: wanting an explanation of how she can be so 'kind' when she is such a villain!
She throws in her own appraisal of the situation which perhaps was the truth of it: Browning was a bit obsessed with the idea of seeing her out of simple curiosity and perhaps as a kindness to an invalid. The fact that she made a big deal out of it made him more and more curious. He had been fed a lot of information about her by the admiring Mr. Kenyon and her letters to Browning were very affectionate, she never missed an opportunity to praise him. And so, this is the last letter before the meeting on May 20th. Oh, my friends, the sparkeths are going to flyeth. So enjoy your days of rest in 1845. We must wait a few days for 1845 to catch up. Join me again on May 19 in 1846.