Friday, June 8, 2012

June 8

Miss Barrett starts her letter of June 8, 1846 telling Browning how handsome he is but is suddenly interrupted:

"....Observe how the sentence breaks off! While I was writing it, came a “tapping, tapping at the chamber door,” as sings my dedicator Edgar Poe. Flush barked vociferously; I threw down the pen & shut up the writing case, .. & lo, Mrs Jameson!– I suppose she did not guess that I was writing to you. She brought me the engravings of Xanthian marbles, & also her new essays .. & was very kind as usual, & proposed to come some day next week with a carriage to take me out––& all this time, how we treat her!– Will she not have a right to complain of being denied the degree of confidence we gave (.. Mr Kenyon gave for me ..) to Miss Bayley? Will she not think hereafter “There was no need of their deceiving me.”? And yet I doubt how to retreat now. Could I possibly say to her the next time she speaks of you .. or could I not?—it would set her on suspecting, perhaps. She talked a little today of Italy, & plainly asked me what thoughts I had of it,—to which I could answer truthfully, ‘No thoughts, but dreams’. Then she insisted, “But whenever you have thoughts, you will let me know them?– You will not be in Italy when I am there, without my knowing it?– And where will you go—? to Pisa?—to Sienna? to Naples?” And she advised .. “Dont go where the English are, in any case”. And encouraged like an oracle, .. “Remember that where there’s a will there’s a way”—knowing no more what she spoke, than a Pythian on the serpent’s skin."

Mrs. Jameson is on Browning's mind as well:

"Mrs Jameson told me she called the other day on Miss Barrett and was informed that lady was “walking before her door”—for I went last night, and deserved to be amused, perhaps, for the effort, .. and so I was: I never liked our friend as I now like her,—I more than like the goodnature and good feeling and versatility of ready intelligence and quick general sympathy– She is to see you to-day. She told this to a Miss Kindersley who had been reading the Drama of Exile to her complete delight—but in listening silently;—and after, when Mrs J. obligingly turned and said “How I should like to introduce you to Miss Barrett .. did you ever see her?” .. to which I answered in the old way, “that nobody, as she knew, saw you”; at all these times did not I feel the “mask” you speak of! I am, fortunately, out of the way of enquirers .. but if the thing were of constant occurrence, it would be intolerable. Shall it indeed end soon? May I count by months, by weeks? It is not safe—beginning to write on this subject—I can do nothing moreover."

Hmm...these two are pretty cool liars. At least they felt uncomfortable about it. And Browning uses the guilt it produces to prod Miss Barrett into lessening the time before truth telling can begin. Sly.

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