Sunday, June 3, 2012

June 3

June 3, 1846 Browning responds to Miss Barrett's suggestion that he may wish to postpone their departure until 1847:

"I will tell you, dearest: your good is my good, and your will mine; if you were convinced that good would be promoted by our remaining as we are for twenty years instead of one, I should endeavour to submit in the end .. after the natural attempts to find out and remove the imagined obstacle: if,—as you seem to do here,—you turn and ask about my good,—yours being supposed to lie uninfluenced by what I answer .. then, here is my truth on that subject, in that view,—my good for myself: Every day that passes before that day is one the more of hardly endurable anxiety and irritation, to say the least; and the thought of another year’s intervention of hope deferred—altogether intolerable!....

But to the end, the very end .. I am yours: God knows I would not do you harm for worlds—worlds! I may easily mistake what is harm or not– I will ask your leave to speak,—at your foot, my Ba: I would not have dared to take the blessing of kissing your hand, much less your lip .. but that it seemed as if I was leading you into a mistake,—as did happen—and that you might fancy I only felt a dreamy, abstract passion for a phantom of my own creating out of your books and letters, and which only took your name .. That once understood, the rest you shall give me. In every event, I am your own."

A fairly blunt statement for Browning, although by modern sensibilities it is not very clear. He is trying to explain to his lady love that this is more than an abstract proposition to him. He loves more than just her genius, he wants her physically as well. If this were just an abstract infatuation he might be content to visit her sick room for the next 20 years, but he wants more of her than that. I think he is trying to get her to understand something that has perhaps never occurred to her, that he has a physical longing for her.
It isn't until the last paragraph that he addresses her reluctance to meet his sister, probably because this is the least of his concerns, he is more interested in making him understand his needs:

"I did understand the question about my sister. I mean, that you felt somewhat so, incredible as it seems—only I believe all you say, all: to the letter, the iota .. think of that, whenever I might ask and do not—or speak, and am silent .. but I am getting back to the question discussed above, which I ought not to do—understand me, dearest dearest! See me, open the eyes, the dear eyes, and see the love of your RB"

The sad pleading of a love struck man trying to woo a sheltered Victorian lady. So, of course, Miss Browning sends two letters in response:

"Then let it be as we meant it should be. And do you forgive me, my own, if I have teazed you .. vexed you– Do I not always tell you that you are too good for me?
Yet the last of my intentions was, this time, to doubt of your attachment for me. Believe that. I will write tonight more fully—but never can be more than at this moment"

Her eyes are still not open, I don't think that he questioned her 'attachment' to him, he questioned her understanding of his attachment. She doesn't seem to broaden her scope of understanding him in the second letter either, although she does bring the question back down to earth:

"....So I thought I would ask. For after all, this is rather a serious matter we are upon, & if you think that you are not to have your share of responsibility .. that you are not to consider & arrange & decide, & perform your own part, .. you are as much mistaken as ever I was– ‘Judge what I say’....I did not ask you if you desired a delay, but if you saw a reason for it. In the meantime I was absolutely yours, I remembered thoroughly, .. & the question went simply to enquire what you thought it best to do with your own.
For me I agree with your view– I never once thought of proposing a delay on my own account– We are standing on hot scythes, & because we do not burn in the feet, by a miracle, we have no right to count on the miracle’s prolongation. Then nothing is to be gained—& everything may be lost—& the sense of mask-wearing for another year, would be suffocating– This for me. And for yourself, I shall not be much younger or better otherwise, I suppose, next year. I make no motion, then, for a delay, further than we have talked of, .. to the summer’s end."

Is there, perhaps, a glimmer of understanding there at the end? But whether she understands or not, she does love the boy:

"Dearest, if I vexed you, teazed you, by that question which proved unnecessary .. forgive me! Had you uncomfortable thoughts in the gardens today? Perhaps! And I could not smooth them away, though I drew as near as I dared .. though I was in a carriage at seven oclock, running a mystical circle round your tents & music. Did you feel me, any more than if I were a “quick spider”, I wonder!....Ah forgive me. After all, .. listen .. I love you with the fulness of my nature– Nothing of all this unspeakable goodness & tenderness is lost on me .. I catch on my face & hands every drop of all this dew....So now .. you are not teazed?—we are at one again, & may talk of outside things again?–"

See, now, letters like this make you understand why he fought so hard for her.

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