Tuesday, June 26, 2012

June 26

Browning had visited Miss Barrett on June 25, 1846 and they continue their discussion via the post on June 26. Miss Barrett is thinking of the death of Haydon:

Dearest, you did me such good yesterday with seeing you & hearing you, that I slept better & am better altogether, & after a little change into the air, shall be well– and how is your head?....
I have not had the heart to look at the newspapers, but hear that Sir Robert Peel has provided liberally for the present necessities of the poor Haydons. And do you know, the more I think the more I am inclined to conclude that the money-distress was merely an additional irritation, & that the despair leading to the revolt against life, had its root in disappointed ambition. The world did not recognize his genius, & he punished the world by withdrawing the light– If he had not that thought in him, I am wrong. The cartoon business, & his being refused employment in the houses of parliament .. that was bitter: & then came his opposition with Tom Thumb & the dwarf’s triumph .. he talked bitterly of that in a letter to me of last week. He was a man, you see, who carried his whole being & sensibility on the outside of him,—nay, worse than so, since in the thoughts & opinions of the world. All the audacity & bravery & self-exaltation which drew on him so much ridicule,—were an agony in disguise—he could not live without reputation, & he wrestled for it, struggled for it, kicked for it, forgetting grace of attitude in the pang. When all was vain, he went mad & died. Poor Haydon! He measures things differently now! & Let us now be right & just in our admeasurement of what he was—for, with all his weaknesses, he was not certainly far from being a great man."

How different her reaction would have been without the steadying influence of Browning. She seems downright calm and thoughtful here. And she recognizes the difference as well:

"It is hope & help, to be able to look away from all such thoughts, to you, dearest beloved, who do not partake of the faults & feeblenesses of these lower geniuses—there is hope & help for the world in you—& if for the world, why for me indeed much more. You do not know .. ah, you do not know .. how I look up to you & trust perfectly in you. You are above all these clouds—your element is otherwise—men are not your taskmasters that you should turn to them for recompense. ‘Shall I always think the same of you,’ you asked yesterday. But I never think the same of you,—because day by day you look greater & feel dearer– Only there is a deep gulph of another question, close beside that, which suggests itself, & makes me shudder to look down.
And now, the rain is over, & I shall dine briefly, & go out in the carriage."

She is going out in the carriage. Have you any doubt that without Browning's influence she would have never left her room on such a day.

Browning has other thoughts on this day, he is working to move forward:

"I drew the table to the fire before I wrote this. Here is cool weather, grateful to those overcome by last week’s heat, I suppose!—...the coolness—(that is, piercing cold as the north wind can make)—sets me to ponder on what you said yesterday,—of considering summer as beginning next Wednesday, or thereabout, and ending by consequence with September. Our time is “at the Summer’s end”:and it does strike me that there may be but too many interpositions beside that of “my own will” .. far too many! If those equinoctial winds disturb the sea, and the cold weather adds to the difficulties of the land-journey .. then the will may interpose or stand aloof .. I cannot take you and kill you .. really, inevitably kill you!....Therefore if any September weather shall happen in September .. let us understand and wait .. another year! and another, and another."

How wonderfully ironic that Browning is sitting before the fire worrying about the weather while the invalid is in the carriage driving about London. After using the cool weather to make it clear that he will do nothing to risk her life he follows with a big 'however':

Now, have I ever, with all those askings, asked you once too often,—that is, unnecessarily—“if this should be,”—or “when this should be?” What is my “will” to do with it? Can I keep the winds away, alas? My own will has all along been annihilated before you,—with respect to you– I should never be able to say “she shall dine on fish, or fruit,”—“she shall wear silk gloves or thread gloves”—even to exercise in fancy that much “will over you” is revolting– I will this, never to be “over you” if I could!
So, you decide here as elsewhere—but do decide, Ba, my own only Ba—do think, to decide: I can know nothing here as to what is gained or lost by delay or anticipation– I only refer to the few obvious points of the advantage of our “flight not being in the winter”—and the consideration that the difficulty in another quarter will never be less nor more,—therefore is out of the question."

He is now uncommonly blunt:

"I will tell you something I meant to speak of yesterday. Mrs Jameson said Mr Kenyon had assured her, with the kindest intentions, that it was quite vain to make those offers of company to Pisa or elsewhere,—for your Father would never give his consent, and the very rationality of the plan, and probability of the utmost benefit following the adoption of it, would be the harder to forego the more they were entertained—whereupon, “having the passions of his kind he spoke some certain things”,—bitter and unavoidable. Then Mrs J. spoke too, as you may imagine; apparently from better knowledge than even I possess. Now I relate this to your common sense, my Ba—it is not hard to see that you must be silent and suffering, where no other can nor will be either—so that if a verdict needs must be pronounced on our conduct, it will be “the world’s” and not an individual’s—and for once a fair one. Mrs Jameson’s very words were .. (arising from what has been, observe,—what is irrevocably past, and not what may be)—“I feel unhappy when in her presence .. impelled to do her some service, and impeded .. Can nothing be done to rescue her from this? ought it to continue?” —So speaks .. not your lover!—who, as he told you, did long to answer “someone will attempt, at least!” But it was best, for Mrs Jameson would be blamed afterward, as Mr K might be abused, as ourselves will be vituperated, as my family must be calumniated .. BY WHOM?
Do you feel me kiss your feet while I write this?– I think you must, Ba! There is surely,—I trust, surely no impatience here, in this as in the other letter—if there is, I will endeavour to repress it .. but it will be difficult—for I love you, and am not a stock nor a stone– And as we are now,—another year!
Well, kissing the feet answers everything, declares everything—and I kiss yours, my own Ba."

How will Miss Barrett feel at reading Mrs. Jameson's sad words? But he needs to stir her to get her to commit. But again, she takes it as written:

"Ever dearest, I send you a bare line tonight, for it is late & I am very tired,—having .. while you were sitting by the fire .. been, for my part, driving to Highgate .. now think of that! Also it has done me good, I think, & I shall sleep for it tonight perhaps, though I am tired certainly....

Dearest, I will write tomorrow—. Never are you “impatient,” inconsiderate—& as for selfishness, I have been uneasy sometimes, precisely because you are so little selfish. I am not likely to mistake .. to wrench the wrong way .. any word of yours. As for mine, it was not a mere word, when I said that you should decide everything. Could I hold out for november, or october, or for september even, if you chose against?– Indeed I could not.– We—you will think– I am yours, & if you never repent that, I shall not.– I am too entirely yours–
And so goodnight—dearest beloved!– Because you have a fire in June, is the snow to fall in september, & earth & ocean to become impassible? Ah well! we shall see!– But you shall not see that I deceive you–"

I love the fact that she teazes him at the end for worrying about the weather in September. He has a fire in June so the world will freeze over in September! Alert Al Gore! Global Cooling! She is a funny girl. Ultimately she assures him that she is constant, she is not playing with him, she will go if he still wants to go.

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