Sunday, May 6, 2012

May 6

In his required letter of May 6, 1846 Browning describes his social interaction of the previous evening:

"I met Mrs. Jameson last evening and she began just as I prophesied..'but'said she 'I will tell you all when you come and breakfast with me on Thursday--which a note of mine now on its way to you, desires may happen'!--A large party at Chorley's, and admirable music--not without a pleasant person or two. I wish you could hear that marvellous Pischek, with his Rhine songs, and Bohemina melodies. Then a Herr Kellerman told a kind of a crying story on the violoncello, full of quiet pathos, and Godefroi--if they so spell him--harped like a god harping,--immortal victorious music indeed! Altogether a notable evening..oh, the black ingratitude of man..these few words are the proof 'set-off' to this morning's weary yawning, and stupefaction. To-night having to follow beside! So near you I shall be! (Mrs. J is to be at the Proctor's to-night too') Oh, by the way, and in the straight way to make Ba laugh..Mrs. J's first word was 'What? Are you married?' She having caught a bit of Miss Chorley's enquiry after 'Mrs. Browning's health' i.e. my mother's. Probably Miss Heaton's friend, who is my intimate, heard me profess complete infidelity as to--homeopathy..que sais-je [whatever]?"

So Miss Barrett writes to Browning that evening while he is dining at Proctor's, in the next street over, with Mrs. Jameson:

Now, dearest, you are close by & I am writing to you as if you were ever so far off. People are not always the better, you see, for being near on another. there's a moral to put on with your gloves,--and if you were not quite sufficiently frightened by Mrs. Jameson's salutation, it may be of some use to you perhaps--who knows?
She left word yesterday that she should come today or tomorrow, as to today she didn't, I shall hear of you from her tomorrow, that is, if you go to her breakfast, which you will do I dare say, supposing that you are not perfectly ill & exhausted by what came before. Ah--You do not say how you are--& I know what that means. Even the music was half lost in the fatigue.. that is what you express by 'stupefaction.' And then to have to dine at Mr. Proctor's without music..say how you not omit it this time.
Nor think that I shall forget how tomorrow is the seventh of May..your month as you call it Sordello, I that I knew before, you had a birthday there--& I shall remember it tomorrow & send you the thoughts which are yours, & pray for you that you shall be saved from March-winds..ever dearest!

Miss Barrett's tone of command sort of shakes the spell in this letter. Her concern about his health takes on a hectoring tone at times. It will be interesting to see if Browning responds to her demand that he temper his social activities for the sake of his health. 
And so, Browning's birthday is to be celebrated May 7th. Will he have a party to celebrate? Will Miss Barrett send him a birthday present? Will he go out and get drunk with other poets?

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