Friday, June 22, 2012

June 22

Miss Barrett did go to see the art at the Rogers home and wrote her report to Browning June 22, 1846:

"And Mrs Jameson came alone & she & I were alone at Mr Rogers’s, & you must help me to thank her some day for her unspeakable kindness to me, though she did not leap to the height of the inspiration of managing to let us see those pictures together. Ah—if she had, it would have been too much– As it is, she gave me a great deal of pleasure in the kindest of ways .. & I let it be pleasure, by mixing it with enough thoughts of you .. (otherwise how could it be pleasure?)—& she showed the pictures, & instructed me, really taking pains & instructing me .. & telling me how Rubens painted landscapes .. as how should my ignorance guess? .. & various other unknown things. The first word as we reached the door, frightened me—for she said that perhaps we might see Mr Rogers .. which was a little beyond our covenant—but we did not see him, & I suppose the Antinous on the staircase is not at all like him. Grand it is, in its serene beauty. On a colossal scale, in white marble. For the pictures, they are full of wonder & divinity—each giving the measure of a man’s soul. And think .. sketches from the hand of Michael Angelo & Raphael! And a statuette in clay, alive with the life of Michael Angelo’s finger—the blind eyes looking .. seeing .. as if in scorn of all clay! And the union of energy & meditation in the whole attitude!—— You have seen the marble of that figure in Florence. Then, a divine Virgin & child, worn & faded to a shadow of Raphael’s genius, as Mrs Jameson explained to me—and the famous Ecce Homo of Guido .. and Rubens’ magnificent “version,” as she called it, of Andrea Mantegna’s Triumph of Julius Caesar. So triumphing to this day!– And Titian, & Tintoretto .. & what did not strike me the least, .. a portrait of Rembrandt by himself, which if his landscapes, as they say, were “dug out of nature”, looks as if it were dug out of humanity. Such a rugged, dark, deep subterraneous face, .. yet inspired—! seeming to realize that God took clay & breathed into the nostrils of it. There, are both the clay, & the divinity! And think! I saw the agreement between the bookseller & Milton for the sale of Paradise Lost! with Milton’s signature & seal!—and “Witnessed by William Greene, Mr Milton’s servant. How was it possible not to feel giddy with such sights!– Almost I could have run my head against the wall, I felt, with bewilderment—and Mrs Jameson must have been edified, I have thought since, by my intense stupidity. I saw too the first edition of Paradise Lost. The rooms are elegant, with no pretension to splendour .. which is good taste, a part of the good taste everywhere. Only, on the chimney piece of the dining room, were two small busts, beautiful busts, white with marble, .. & representing––now, whom, of gods & men, would you select for your Lares .. to help your degestion & social merriment? … Caligula & Nero in childhood.! The ‘childhood’ is horribly suggestive to me! On the sideboard, is Pope’s bust, by Roubillac—a too expressive, miserable face—drawn, with disease & bitter thoughts, & very painful, I felt, to look at. These things I liked least, in the selection & arrangement. Everything beside was admirable: & I write & write of it all as if I were not tired—but I am .. & most with the excitement & newness."

What a thrill for her to see the contract for and first edition of Paradise Lost. And for us to know that in the years to come, as Mrs. Browning, she will echo and move forward from Milton in Aurora Leigh. I am sure that Browning will be very pleased with her excursion. She is building her strength, her courage and her ambition in anticipation of the main event.

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