Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 28

Browning shows some amusement at his own vacillation on June 28, 1846:

"My last letter will have answered this of yours, my dearest,—I agree in all you say: and sooner or later comes to the same thing, if to any possible increase of difficulty is brought a proportionate increase of strength to undergo it—as let us hope will be the case! So you see you have to “understand” and understand me,—I keep your faculty in constant exercise, now with seeming to wish for postponement, and now, for anticipation! And all the time do I really “grow greater” in your eyes? I might grow less, woefully,—'for reasons—for reasons'–"

In the mean time Miss Barrett is still thinking of Haydon. Here she uses the death of Haydon as an excuse for not writing to Mrs. Martin, who has written to complain for lack of letters:

"....I meant to write to you at least ten days ago; and then (believe me you will, without difficulty) the dreadful death of poor Mr. Haydon, the artist, quite upset me, and made me disinclined to write a word beyond necessary ones. I thank God that I never saw him—poor gifted Haydon—but, a year and a half ago, we had a correspondence which lasted through several months and was very pleasant while it lasted. Then it was dropped, and only a few days before the event he wrote three or four notes to me to ask me to take charge of some papers and pictures, which I acceded to as once I had done before. He was constantly in pecuniary difficulty, and in apprehension of the seizure of goods; and nothing of fear suggested itself to my mind—nothing. The shock was very great. Oh! I do not write to you to write of this. Only I would have you understand the real case, and that it is not an excuse, and that it was natural for me to be shaken a good deal. No artist is left behind with equal largeness of poetical conception! If the hand had always obeyed the soul, he would have been a genius of the first order. As it is, he lived on the slope of greatness and could not be steadfast and calm. His life was one long agony of self-assertion. Poor, poor Haydon! See how the world treats those who try too openly for its gratitude! 'Tom Thumb for ever' over the heads of the giants."

This reference to Tom Thumb, the famous midget, has to do with the fact that Tom Thumb's exhibition of his smallness and Haydon's exhibition of his art took place at the same venue and Tom Thumb was over run with patrons while Haydon had none. Haydon was apparently quite put out by this, seeing his own manufactured art far superior to Tom Thumb's more natural art. Well this happens to the best of us, as I well know. Far more people paid real money to go see "Prometheus" at the movies last weekend than read this free blog. I do not take this as an insult. And think of poor Browning. His father had to pay to publish his poems and nobody bothered to read them. Did he weep and wail? No. He found a shy poetess with an income to take care of him. (Harsh? Well, a lot of Miss Barrett's family believed this and who is to say that this isn't at least partially true? A mutual care pact with the added benefit of romance. He takes care of her and she takes care of him. They did not seem to mind.)

The final paragraph is interesting in light of what is really going on in Miss Barrett's mind. She is planning her escape into the sun, but being very coy about it:

"So you heard that I was quite well? Don't believe everything you hear. But I am really in a way to be well, if I could have such sunshine as we have been burning in lately, and a fair field of peace besides. Generally, I am able to go out every day, either walking or in the carriage—'walking' means as far as Queen Anne's Street. The wonderful winter did not cast me down, and the hot summer helps me up higher. Now, to keep in the sun is the problem to solve; and if I can do it, I shall be 'as well as anybody.' If I can't, as ill as ever. Which is the résumé of me, without a word more...."

Oh, Miss Barrett, you are making plans behind people's backs. Naughty.....

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