Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 1

July 1, 1846 continues the amusing argument as to whether Miss Barrett had ever called Browning 'Robert'. Browning begins the round with:

"Dearest—dearest, you did once, one time only, call me by my name—Robert; and tho’ it was to bid “R. not talk extravagances” (your very words) still the name so spoken became what it never had been before to me. I never am called by any pet-name, nor abbreviation, here at home or elsewhere .. oh, best let it alone .. it is one of my incommunicable advantages to have a Ba of my own, and call her so—indeed, yes, my Ba! I write “dearest”, and “most dearest”, but it all ends in—“Ba”, and the “my” is its framework, its surrounding arm—Ba,—my own Ba! “Robert” is in Saxon, (ni fallor), “famous in counsel”, so let him give a proof of his quality in counselling you to hold your good, happy inspiration about La Cava (my French mapmaker must have had Ceva in Piedmont in his head)for at such a place, so situate, we renounce not one sight at Salerno, nor Amalfi, nor Sorrento .. four miles .. the distance between your House and Highgate, perhaps! Cava,—the hollow of a hill,—and such hills and such hollows are in that land! Oh, let it be La Cava—or Seven Dials, with you!"

Does that settle the issue? If you think it does, you do not know Miss Barrett. Browning continues:

"I past thro’ Seven Dials this morning—and afterward, by your house,—with a heart full of thoughts,—not fuller than usual, but they were more stirring and alive, near their source. I called at Mrs Procter’s door .. (proceeding from Forster’s)—and then on Mrs Jameson whom I found and talked with pleasantly till a visitor came .. I do extremely appreciate her, delight in her .. to avoid saying “love”—I was never just to her before, far from it: I saw her niece, a quiet earnest looking little girl. But did it not please me to call in at Moxon’s and hear that (amongst other literary news dexterously enquired after) “Miss Barrett’s poems were selling very well and would ere long be out of print”—and, after that pleasure, came the other of finding dear, generous, noble Carlyle had sent his new edition of Cromwell, three great volumes, with his brave energetic assurance of “regards” & “many” of them, in black manly writing on the first page. So may he continue to like me till he knows you,—when it will be “mine” instead of me, that he shall love—“love”? I let the whole world love you—if they can overtake my love, .. as I read on, about the visit to Mr Boyd, I thought, “I trust she will kiss his forehead”,—and I will kiss yours—thus—for that, too,—in gratitude for that. You dear, good, blessing of a Ba, how I kiss you!–....I did not see Moxon—only the Brother—who tells odd stories drily; one made me laugh to-day– Poor Mr Reade, Landor’s love, sent a book to Campbell the Poet, and then called on him … to discover him in the very act of wiping a razor on a leaf torn out of the book, laid commodiously by his toilet-table for the express purpose."

But Miss Barrett is having none of this nonsense about calling him Robert and responds:

"No, no! indeed I never did. If you heard me say ‘Robert’, it was on a stair landing in the House of Dreams—never anywhere else! Why how could you fancy such a thing? Was’nt it rather your own disquieted Conscience which spoke instead of me, saying ‘Robert, dont be extravagant’. Yes—just the speech that is, for a ‘good uneasy’, discerning conscience—& you took it for my speech!
‘Dont be extravagant’ I may certainly have said. Both I & the conscience might have said so obvious a thing.
Ah—& now I have got the name, shall I have courage to say it? tell me, best counsellor! I like it better than any other name, though I never spoke it with my own lips .. I never called anyone by such a name .. except once when I was in the lane with Bertha–One uncle I have, called Robert—but to me he is an ‘uncle Hedley’ & no more. So it is a white name to take into life. Is’nt this an Hebraic expression of a preferring affection .. “I have called thee by thy name”? And therefore, because you are the best, only dearest!—— Robert."

They are so cute.

"You passed by & I never knew! How foolish—but really it quite strikes me as something wonderful, that I should not have known. I know however of your being in London, because … (dont expect a supernatural evidence) Mrs Jameson told me. She was here with me about five, & brought her niece whom I liked just for the reasons you give,—& herself was feeling & affectionate as ever:—it is well that you should give me leave to love her a little. Once she touched upon Italy .. & I admitted that I thought of it, & thought it probable as an event .. on which she pressed gently to know “on what I counted”. ‘Perhaps on my own courage,’ I said. ‘Oh’ she exclaimed ‘now I see clearly’.
Which made me smile .. the idea of her seeing clearly—but earnestly & cordially she desired me to remember that to be useful to me in any manner, would give her pleasure. Such kindness! The sense of it has sunk into my heart. You cannot praise her too much for me. She was so kind, that when she asked me to go to see her in Mortimer Street on friday, I could not help agreeing at once: and I am to have the sofa & no company—that’s a promise. She asked me to go at twelve oclock, & to bring Mr Kenyon for an escort—but I would not answer for Mr Kenyon’s going, only half promising for myself. Now I must try to fix a later hour, because ..
Listen to the because. My aunt, Miss Clarke, & my cousin, her adopted daughter & niece, come tomorrow evening, & stay in this house .. oh, I cannot tell you how long: for a whole week as a beginning, certainly. I have been sighing & moaning so about it that Arabel calls it quite a scandal—but when one cant be glad, why should it be so undutiful to appear sad? If she had but stayed in Paris six months longer! Well—and tomorrow-morning Miss Mitford comes to spend the day like the kind dear friend she is,—& I, not the least in the world glad to see her! Why have you turned my heart into such hard porphyry? Once, when it was plain clay, every finger (of these womanly fingers) left a mark on it—& now, .. you see!– Even Mrs Jameson makes me grateful to her chiefly (as I know in myself) because she sees you as you are in part, & will forgive me for loving you as soon as she hears of it .. however she may, & must consistently, expect us to torment one another, according to the way of the “artistic temperament,” evermore, & ever more & more. But for the rest, the others who do not know you & value you .. I hate to see them .. & there’s the truth!– There is something too in the concealment, the reserve, the doubleness enforced on occasion!—which is painful & hateful. Detestable it all is.
And I like La Cava too! Think of a hollow in the mountain .. something like a cave, do you think? At least it must be a hollow in the mountains. I wrote to my friend this morning to ask if the place is considered warm, & if she knew any more of it. The ‘porticos as at Bologna’ look attractive too by the dreamlight we look at them by: & Baba may escape the forty thieves of English in the Cave, with a good watchword like Sesame—now that’s half my nonsense & half your’s, I beg you to observe. I wont be at the charge of it all.
I was out today—walked up, walked down, in my old fashion—only I do improve in walking, I think, & gain strength.
May God bless you dear dearest! I am your own."

These kids are going to have to get married soon, Miss Barrett has got it bad. Any chance that she backs out now? I don't see it. She is too far gone.

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