Monday, June 18, 2012

June 18

Let's look at three letters today, separated by years. Miss Barrett seems stuck on sick in this first letter, but still full of earnest, but not perverse, poetic obscurity.
June 1938 Miss Barrett wrote to Miss Mitford:

"As to the ballad, dearest Miss Mitford, which you and Mr. Kenyon are indulgent enough to like, remember that he passed his criticism over it—before it went to you—and so if you did not find as many obscurities as he did in it, the reason is—his merit and not mine. But don't believe him—no!—don't believe even Mr. Kenyon—whenever he says that I am perversely obscure. Unfortunately obscure, not perversely—that is quite a wrong word. And the last time he used it to me (and then, I assure you, another word still worse was with it) I begged him to confine them for the future to his jesting moods. Because, indeed, I am not in the very least degree perverse in this fault of mine, which is my destiny rather than my choice, and comes upon me, I think, just where I would eschew it most. So little has perversity to do with its occurrence, that my fear of it makes me sometimes feel quite nervous and thought-tied in composition...."

I cannot help but contemplate what a boon some of Mr. Kenyon's criticism of obscurity would have to a young Browning.

"I have not seen Mr. Kenyon since I wrote last. All last week I was not permitted to get out of bed, and was haunted with leeches and blisters. And in the course of it, Lady Dacre was so kind as to call here, and to leave a note instead of the personal greeting which I was not able to receive. The honor she did me a year ago, in sending me her book, encouraged me to offer her my poems. I hesitated about doing so at first, lest it should appear as if my vanity were dreaming of a return; but Mr. Kenyon's opinion turned the balance. I was very sorry not to have seen Lady Dacre and have written a reply to her note expressive of this regret. But, after all, this inaudible voice (except in its cough) could have scarcely made her understand that I was obliged by her visit, had I been able to receive it.
Dr. Chambers has freed me again into the drawing-room, and I am much better or he would not have done so. There is not, however, much strength or much health, nor any near prospect of regaining either. It is well that, in proportion to our feebleness, we may feel our dependence upon God."

Does not it seem that Kenyon is more of a father to Miss Barrett than her own father? Of course, Kenyon does not have to earn a living and so has more time to nurture his young friend.

June 18, 1846 our poets are all made up and happy. Browning write a typically charming letter:

"Did you really kiss me on the two eyes, my Ba? I cannot say “perhaps at the very time I was thinking of you,”—more than “when I was breathing”—I breathe always, think of you always,—kiss you almost always. You dear, dearest Ba! Do pain me so again and again,—if you will so cure me every time! But you should not imagine that I can mistake the motive,—as if you loved me less and therefore wrote—oh, no—but there is no getting rid of these mistakings before the time: they bear their fruit and die away naturally .. the hoe never cuts up all their roots– I shall trust to hear you say one day I am past such mistaking—but—at Amalfi?

I am very glad, love, you go to Mr Rogers’ to-day—what harm can follow?....They say his pictures are well worth seeing. Tell me, make me see you seeing! I am glad, too, Mrs Jameson knows .. but her graciousness I expected, because the causes you were able to give her would really operate just in that manner: indeed they are the sole causes of the secresy we have observed. I cannot help liking Mrs Jameson more, much more since her acquaintance with you."

Miss Barrett does not go to see the paintings as scheduled, so she is hatching plans for the lovers to meet:

"But I have not been to Mr Rogers’s today, after all. I had a note from Mrs Jameson, to put off our excursion to saturday .. if I consented to saturday! but of course I would not consent to saturday—and as she intimated that another day would do as well, we shall have another day fixed, I suppose. What a good fruit it would be of the confession I made in the park, if she were to ask you to go!!! Oh, I should like that– I should like it notwithstanding the drawbacks. It would be a fair gain upon the usual times of meeting—only that I could not care quite as much for the pictures—yet, those too, I should like to see with you, rather than apart from you. And you never saw them .. you! Is there a hope of her asking you when you are at Greenwich together? Now I have got this into my head, it will not go out again—oh, you must try & enchant her properly at Greenwich & lead her into asking you. Yet, with you or without you in the body, the spirit of you & the influence of you are always close to my spirit when it discerns any beauty or feels any joy:—if I am happy on any day it is through you wholly, whether you are absent or present, dearest, & ever dearest!..."

It is a charming suggestion, but not a very wise one. Unless Mrs. Jameson was a complete idiot, which she was not, when she saw these two together she would most certainly read their vibrations. I doubt either of them would be masters at hiding their true feelings in a setting such as that. Miss Barrett is certainly getting bold. Quite a contrast with her outlook of not 'much strength or much health' in 1838.

No comments:

Post a Comment