Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 2

Today we will move to May 2, 1849. Pen Browning had been born on Florence on March 9th and Browning's mother died at New Cross on March 18. The juxtaposition of happiness and sorrow threw Browning into a depression that he had trouble shaking.  EBB, always the emotionally fragile one had to hold together the floundering family. In this context comes this letter to Browning's sister Sarianna:

"Robert gives me this blank, and three minutes to write across it. Thank you, my very dear Sarianna, for all your kindness and affection. I understand what I have lost. I know the worth of a tenderness such as you speak of, and I feel that for the sake of my love for Robert she was ready out of the fullness of her heart to love me also. It has been bitter to me that I have unconsciously deprived him of the personal face-to-face shining out of her angelic nature for more than two years, but she has forgiven me, and we shall all meet, when it pleases God, before His throne. In the meanwhile, my dearest Sarianna, we are thinking much of you, and neither of us can bear the thought of your living on where you are. If you could imagine the relief it would be to us—to me as well as to Robert—to be told frankly what we ought to do, where we ought to go, to please you best—you and your dearest father—you would think the whole matter over and use plain words in the speaking of it. Robert naturally shrinks from the idea of going to New Cross under the circumstances of dreary change, and for his sake England has grown suddenly to me a land of clouds. Still, to see you and his father, and to be some little comfort to you both, would be the best consolation to him, I am very sure; and so, dearest Sarianna, think of us and speak to us. Could not your father get a long vacation? Could we not meet somewhere? Think how we best may comfort ourselves by comforting you. Never think of us, Sarianna, as apart from you—as if our interest or our pleasure could be apart from yours. The child is so like Robert that I can believe in the other likeness, and may the inner nature indeed, as you say, be after that pure image! He is so fat and rosy and strong that almost I am sceptical of his being my child. I suppose he is, after all. May God bless you, both of you. I am ashamed to send all these letters, but Robert makes me. He is better, but still much depressed sometimes, and over your letters he drops heavy tears. Then he treasures them up and reads them again and again. Better, however, on the whole, he is certainly. Poor little babe, who was too much rejoiced over at first, fell away by a most natural recoil (even I felt it to be most natural) from all that triumph, but Robert is still very fond of him, and goes to see him bathed every morning, and walks up and down on the terrace with him in his arms. If your dear father can toss and rock babies as Robert can, he will be a nurse in great favour.
Dearest Sarianna, take care of yourself, and do walk out. No grief in the world was ever freer from the corroding drop of bitterness—was ever sweeter, holier, and more hopeful than this of yours must be. Love is for you on both sides of the grave, and the blossoms of love meet over it. May God's love, too, bless you!

She is looking for direction from her sister-in-law on how to help her husband cope, almost begging her to bluntly state what she would have them do, which is probably for the best given the Browning ability to be vague. On the whole, however, this is a fairly level letter, it touches on her own guilt but doesn't dwell on it, offers comfort to Sarianna, concern about Browning and touches of humor. Her ending note of comfort is especially sweet.

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