Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 17

Miss Barrett always worries when she sends a letter to Browning expressing strong emotion. She is so used to second guessing herself that she cannot seem to get used to trusting him. Today she is worried about telling him about her father. July 17, 1846 she writes:

"It is out of time tonight to write to you, since tomorrow we are to meet—but the letter which did not reach you, has been recoiling on me all day– Perhaps you have it by this time .. an uncomfortable letter, better away from you, notwithstanding all the kindness you speak, about my silence & the effect of that. So I write just a few words– The postoffice was in fault as usual. May it do perfecter duty tomorrow.

Saturday!—our day!– At least if anything should be against it, you shall hear at the door by a note, when you come at three oclock. I have put away my thursday night’s melancholy .. except the repentance of troubling you with it——understand that I have!

But she turns to other subjects:

Mrs Jameson was here today, & her niece, .. & you, never named; but she is coming another day, she says, to pay me a longer visit. I like her .. I like her. Then, there came another visitor, .. my uncle Hedley, who began, as usual, to talk of Italy—he advises me to go this year—“If you dont go this year, you never will go .. & you ought at once to make an effort, & go”. We talked of places & of ways, & after he had said many words in favour of Pisa, desired, if I went through Paris, that I would pay him a visit—— “Ah,” said I, “uncle Hedley, you are very good to me always, but when that day arrives, you may be inclined perhaps to cast me off.” “Cast you off, Ba,” he cried in the most puzzled astonishment—“why what can you mean? what words to use! Cast you off! now do explain what you mean”. “Ah, no one can tell,” said I musingly. —“Do you mean,” he insisted, “because you will be a rebel & a runaway?” … (laughing!) “no, no—I wont cast you off, I promise you! Only I hope that you may be able to manage it quietly—” &c &c"

She is getting rather bold.

"He is a most amiable man, so gentle & tender:—& fond of me, .. exclusively of the poetry .. I am certain that he never can make out how any one in the world can consent to read my verses. But Ba, as Ba, is a decided favorite of his, beyond all in the house—not that he is a real uncle .. only the husband of my aunt, & caring more for me than both my real uncles, who, each of them, much prefers a glass of claret, .. thank you! The very comparison does me too much honour for either of them– Claret is a holy thing. If I had said half a glass, & mixed it with water, I should have been more accurate by so much.

Now, dearest, dearest, I say goodnight & have done."

I suspect most people have uncles who care for their proverbial claret more than they do their nieces and nephews. That is one of the best things about being an uncle, I suspect; you don't have to care unless you really want to, your obligations being negligible.

But, based on Browning's letter today, it appears that Miss Barrett was worrying over nothing because he had not received the offending letter:

"Did you ever see a more ungenial, colourless day than this—that brings me no letter! I do not despair yet, however—there will be a post presently. When I am without the sight of you, and the voice of you, which a letter seems, .. I feel very accurately the justice of that figure by which I am represented as “able to leave you alone—leaving you and following my pleasure elsewhere”—so you have written and spoken! Well, to-day I may follow my pleasures.
I will follow you, Ba,—the thoughts of you—and long for to-morrow–

No letter for me,—the time is past. If you are well, my own Ba, I will not mind .. more than I can. You had not been out for two days—the wind is high, too. May God keep you at all times, ever dearest!
The sun shines again—now I will hope to hear at six o’clock–
I can tell you nothing better, I think, than this I heard from Moxon the other day .. it really ought to be remembered: Moxon was speaking of critics, the badness of their pay, how many pounds a column the 'Times' allowed, and shillings the Athenæum,—and of the inevitable effects on the performances of the poor fellows. 'How should they be at the trouble of reading any difficult book so as to review it,—Landor, for instance?'—'and indeed a friend of my own has promised to write a notice in the 'Times'—but he complains bitterly,—he shall have to read the book,—he can do no less,—and all for five or ten pounds'! All which Moxon quite seemed to understand—'it will really take him some three or four mornings to read enough of Landor to be able to do anything effectually'– I asked if there had been any notices of the Book already—'just so many', he said 'as Forster had the power of getting done'– Mr White, a clergyman, has written a play for Macready, which everybody describes as the poorest stuff imaginable; it is immediately reviewed in Blackwood & the Edinburg—'Because,' continues M, 'he is a Blackwood reviewer, and may do the like good turn to any of the confraternity.'
So—here I will end,—wanting to come to the kissing dearest Ba, and bidding her remember tomorrow how my heart sinks to-day in the silence– Ever, dearest dearest, your very own RB"

Another example of Browning having nothing to say if he is not responding to her letter. He can write a wonderful letter, but it is not a natural thing for him to do. The story about the critics is very telling. The critics torment Browning all his life. They either didn't read his work or didn't take the time to figure it out. Even EBB, who was far less murky than Browning, suffered from inattentive critics. Dare I say that we suffer today from the same problem, not just in the literary arena, but all of the arts? Well, I dared to say it and rest in the comfort that no professional critic is lurking, prepared to pounce on my puny plog. (Alliteration forced me to write that, he was too strong for me.)

No comments:

Post a Comment