Friday, July 27, 2012

July 27

By July 27, 1846 Browning has received Miss Barrett's 'legal document' in which she asserts that she wishes him to retain her income throughout his life should she pre-decease him:

"That is sufficient, ever dearest; now dismiss the matter from your thoughts, as I shall—having forced myself once to admit that most dreadful of possibilities and to provide for it, I need not have compunction at dwelling on the brighter, better chances which God’s previous dispensations encourage me to expect. There may be even a claimant, instead of a recipient, of whatever either of us can bequeath—who knows? For which reason, but most of all for the stronger yourself adduce,—the contingency of your illness,—I do not ask you to “relinquish a part”—not as our arrangements now are ordered: for I have never been so foolish as to think we could live without money, if not of my obtaining, then of your possessing—and though, in certain respects I should have preferred to try the first course, .. at the beginning at least, when my faculties seemed more my own and that “end of the summer” had a less absorbing interest (as I perceive now)—yet, as that is not to be, I have only to be thankful that you are not dependent on my exertions,—which I could not be sure of,—particularly with this uncertain head of mine. I hope when we once are together, the world will not hear of us again until the very end—it would be horrible to have to come back to it and ask its help."

Several interesting items here. He has thrown the idea of a 'claimant' into the mix. It doesn't seem like that eventuality ever crossed her mind. Very prescient of him. The other item was the notion that he would have trouble working due to his headaches. He does seem to have headaches quite a bit. The symptoms as reported seem to be that if he reads or writes too much he gets a headache and the only way to get rid of these headaches is through vigorous exercise. But this is the first we have heard that his headaches bother him to the extent that he cannot work. Which begs the question why he can't dig ditches. Oh, wait, he's a poet.
Miss Barrett meanwhile responds to his letter of July 26:

"Ever dearest, your ‘Hush’ came too late—I had spoken. Do not blame me however,—for I do not blame myself– It was not very possible that I should allow your fine schemes, to lie unmolested by a breath– Nevertheless we will not carry on this discussion any farther: my simple protest is enough for the present,—& we shall have time I hope, in the future, for your nobleness to unteach itself from being too proud. At any rate, let the subject be, now!– I mentioned my ‘eldest surviving brother’ in that way in the paper, because he is put out of the question by the estates being entailed .. the Jamaica estates, I mean. And now, to have done! Unless I could make you easier—!....

And, since I began this letter, I have been out with my aunt & Henrietta, the former having visits to pay in all the noisiest streets of the town, as appeared to me. The stone pavements seemed to accumulate on all sides to run to meet us, & I was stunned & giddy, & am so tired, that I shall finish my letter in a hurry, looking to tomorrow. We were out nearly three hours– Think of travelling three hours in a ‘Diligence’ with a Clap of Thunder! It may be something like that! And as we were coming homeward .. there, was Mr Kenyon!– He shook hands through the window & declared that he was on the point of paying a visit to me, holding up as a witness, his lump of sugar for Flush .. which Flush leapt from the other side of the carriage to accept, ‘ore rotundo [rounded mouth]’. Then the next word was .. 'Did you see our friend B..' (pronounced Bee) 'on saturday?' .. 'No', said I .. saying no for yes in the confusion .. 'but I shall tomorrow'. 'He dined with me' continued Mr Kenyon– The sound of which struck me into a fit of clairvoyance & I had to unsay myself with an 'Oh yes—I did see him on saturday'– Mr Kenyon must have thought me purely stupid or foolish or something of the sort—& really I agree with him. To imagine my telling in that unsolicited way, too, both to my aunt & himself, that you were coming here tomorrow! So provoking!– Well—it cant be helped. He wont come tomorrow in any case.
And you will!– Dearest, how glad I am that you are coming!"

The best way to keep a secret is to be as honest as you can without giving up too much information. But notice how Kenyon was speaking in code in front of the 'aunt'. He knew it was a secret, an open secret!

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