Friday, July 13, 2012

July 13

July 13, 1846 Miss Barrett responds to Browning's distress over criticism of him and his prospects in life:

"I must write .. even if you come tomorrow. Dearest, if I told you all that nonsense on saturday, it was for the sake of telling you all & of hearing you say “What nonsense” afterwards. I never began by disguising anything from you .. did I? I always wished you to see how the arrows would strike out at us from that bush & this bush. At us. For, granting that you seriously thought it possible for such motives to divide me from you, … ah, granting it, .. & YOU MAY WELL ASK MY PARDON!——

The world! the world could as soon catch me with a ‘line’ so baited, as you could catch a trout with a silver sixpence at the end of a string. Not only do I think with you entirely on that subject, but I always thought like you .. Always I have hated all their worldly systems, & not merely now, & since I have loved you. With a hundred a year between us, I would have married you, if you had not been afraid– And so, think whether directly or ‘indirectly’ I am likely to be frightened into the breach of an engagement by what I repeated to you or by what is like unto it. No—my weaknesses are of a different class altogether."

Browning is sensitive about his lack of money and if you follow his correspondence to the end of his life you will find that he remains sensitive and careful about money, even after he is very comfortable in life.

"Do you understand?
But you do not, how you pained me when you said that. Ah—I thought I saw you gone .. “so far, so far”, as you said, .. & myself left–
Yet I should deserve it of course, if I were to give you up for the sake of that! .. or for any other motive, .. except your advantage .. your own. I should deserve everything in such a case, but should feel nothing .. not even my punishment.– Could I?—being without a heart?
Ah—after all my mistrust, did I ever mistrust you SO? I have doubted your power to love me as you believed you loved me, perhaps—but your will to be true to one you loved, without reference to worldly influences, I never doubted, nor could– I think I will let you beg my pardon; you unjust, dearest––
To so much over-praise, there should be a little wronging, too .. & therefore you are not, after all, ‘unjust’ .. only ‘dearest!’ ....
Such a letter, besides, you have written, .. & there are two of them today! You will not go from me, I think, “so far, so far”– You will not leave me behind, with the harpoon in me, to make red the salt wilderness of waters–
Altogether, then, I forgive you, Robert—& it is glorious for me to have something to forgive you for, who are the best so out of measure! .. I sieze the opportunity."

And she ends with this amusing anecdote:

"I was in the carriage today in Oxford Street .. & a sealed letter was thrown exactly at my head, my aunt & cousin & Henrietta being with me—a sealed letter sealed with arms (not of Agincourt!) & directed “For your perusal”. Guess the meaning of that!– Why just a tract by the Revd Villiers of that parish, upon the enormous wickedness of frequenting plays & balls!!– Perhaps I looked as if my sole had entered into the secret of the Polka-dancers!—who can say?"

Throwing a tract at young ladies in carriages is probably not the most effective means of exacting a conversion, but how wonderful the irony.

In the mean time Browning has not much to say in his daily letter and writes so aimlessly that even he sees the waste of ink on paper:

".. As if I care!—can I care about anything that is not Ba? All else seems as idle as .. as,—now you shall have a real instance in point—as my dream last night; this morning at breakfast my mother asked me, the first thing, what could so amuse me as to make me call loudly “Bravo” again and again, with abundance of laughter? (My room is next to hers and the door is left a-jar)—whereupon I tried to recall my dream—and all that I can seize is a passage thro’ a gallery of Haydon’s pictures, one of which was a portrait of his wife; nor did a suspicion once cross my mind that the artist was not well and working somewhere in the vicinity all the time– How strange! I never dream if quite well—and I suppose the present state of my head just amounts to not being quite well. (It is better at any rate, and tomorrow—ought to be worse, that Ba may prove her potency as of old)"

Interesting dream. The Haydon drama continues.

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