Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30

July 30, 1846 Browning begins to walk back his anger regarding Miss Barrett's suggestion that he ought to give her up and defends himself a bit against the notion that Mr. Kenyon will talk him out of the match:

"Now you are my very own best, sweetest, dearest Ba. Do you think after such a letter as mine any amount of confidence in my own intentions, or of the reasonableness of being earnest on such a subject, can avail to save me from mortal misgivings? I should not have said those words, certainly I should not—but you forgive them and me, do you not?

It was thro’ seeing the peril about Mr Kenyon just as you see it: but do not suppose I could break my promise; to every point urged after that sad irresistible fashion, my answer would be,—would in the end amount to,—“provided she consents”—and then he would return to you, put away altogether the arguments just used to me, take up in their stead the corresponding ones founded on my interests as he would profess to understand them, and the result would be that a similar answer would be obtained from you,—which he would call your “consent”– This is not what I fear now,—oh, no!—but the fancy I was frightened by, yesterday, while I wrote. Now, I seem to have my powers about me, and could get to the truth and hold by it thro’ every difficulty,—and if I, how much more you!

—Then, this is expecting the worst of Mr Kenyon,—and the best is at least as likely. In any case, one may be sure of cautions, and warnings, and a wise, good, shaking of the head—he is none of the ardent anticipators of exuberant happiness from any scheme begun and ended here below. But, after that,—why, ours is the only thoroughly rational match that ever came under my notice, and he is too clever not to see some justification in it– At all events, he will say “we shall see!”—whether he sigh or smile in the saying—and if he waits, he will see."

It is fun to watch Browning have these conversations in his head, rather like his epic poems where he takes everyone's point of view and works it out--in verse! I like his declaration that "ours is the only thoroughly rational match that ever came under my notice." Really? When was love ever rational? This from the least rational of the pair. She was the one who saw the world far more clearly in respect to how difficult living with a semi-invalid could be. 

"And we will “decide” on nothing, being sure of the one decision—I mean, that if the summer be long, and likely to lead in as fine an Autumn, and if no new obstacles arise,—September shall go as it comes, and October too, if your convenience is attained thereby in the least degree– Afterward, you will be all my own, all your days and hours and minutes––. I forgot, by the way, to reply to your question concerning Mrs J.—if there is good to you, decided or even not impossible good—of course, let her be with us if she will,—otherwise, oh let us be alone, Ba! I find, by the first map, that from Nevers the Loire proceeds S.E till the Arroux joins it, and that just below it communicates with the Canal du Centre, which runs N.E from Paray to Chagny and thence to Châlons-sur Saône. It is a round about way, but not more so than the post-road by Autun—the Canal must be there for something, & in that case, you travel from Orleans to Leghorn by water and with the least fatigue possible. I observe that steamboats leave St Katherine’s wharf every Thursday and Sunday morning at 8 o’clock for Havre, Rouen & Paris—would that way be advisable? I will ascertain the facts about Nevers & Châlons by the time we meet.

Here, I think he makes a mistake. His pique had won the day and she committed to September and then he backs off and moves into October. I understand that he wants to appear to be in total sympathy with her and make her understand that he will accommodate for her health, but he needs to maintain the pressure. She is paying attention as usual. She replies:

"Well, then,—it was’nt, after all, so extravagant of me to make the proposition about ‘four months’—? How innocent people may be treated like guilty ones, through no mistake even, of theirs!–"

See? She continues:

"But I hold to my first impression about Mr Kenyon, whatever your second ones may be. I know him entirely, & his views of life, & his terrors of responsibility .. his irresolution, his apprehensiveness. He never would ‘shake his head’ good-naturedly, .. until he could do nothing else. Just in proportion to the affection he bears each of us, would he labour to drive us apart. And by the means you describe!—— And we who can forsee & analyze those means from this distance, would not, either of us, resist the actual process!– Therefore .. do not suffer yourself, ever dearest, to be drawn into any degree of confidence there!—It would end miserably, I know .. see .. am confidently sure. Let him, on the contrary, see the thing done, before he sees it at all, & then he will see the best of it .. the good in it .. then we shall stand on the sunshiney side of his philosophy & have all the benefit of that, instead of having to endure, as we should now, the darkness of his irresolution & the weight of his over-caution. Observe of dear Mr Kenyon, that, generous & noble as he is, he fears like a mere man of the world. Moreover he might find very rational cause for fearing, in a distant view of this … ‘most rational’ of marriages!—oh, but I am wrong in my quotation!—this only rational marriage that ever was heard of!—!!—it is so, I think."

She was amused by the rational marriage idea as well. But then to the events of the day:

"Where do you guess that I was today? In Westminster Abbey!– But we were there at the wrong hour, as the service was near to begin .. & I was so frightened of the organ, that I hurried & besought my companions out of the door after a moment or two. Frightened of the organ!—yes, just exactly that—& you may laugh a little as they did. Through being so disused to music, it affects me quite absurdly– Again the other day, in the drawing room, because my cousin sang a song from the “Puritani”, of no such great melancholy, I had to go away to finish my sobbing by myself– Which is all foolish & absurd, I know—but people cannot help their nerves, & I was ready to cry today, only to think of the organ, without hearing it– I, who do not cry easily, either! and all Arabel’s jests about how I was sure of my life even if I should hear one note, .. did not reassure me in the least. We walked within the chapel .. merely within .. & looked up & looked down!– How grand—how solemn! Time itself seems turned to stone there! Then we stood where the poets are laid .. oh, it is very fine, it is better than Laureateships & pensions. Do you remember what is written in Spenser’s monument—“Here lyeth, .. in expectation of the second coming of Jesus Christ, .. Edmond Spenser, having given proof of his divine spirit in his poems—”something to that effect,—& it struck me as being earnest & beautiful, & as if the writer believed in him. We should not dare now a days, to put such words on a poet’s monument– We should say .. the author of such a book .. at most!– Michael Drayton’s inscription has crept back into the brown heart of the stone .. all but the name & a date, which somebody has renewed with black lines .. black as ink."

I love the deep feeling of the power of sound you get when an organist pulls out the stops and lets go with all of the bass. And a live orchestra when you can feel the vibration of the cello in your chest. I can see how that can be overwhelming to highly sensitive people. But her protestations that she does not cry easily?! Me thinks the lady doth protest too much. She cries all the time, she admits it! She cries when she writes letters, she cries when she reads letters. There's nothing wrong with being a crier, although it can be inconvenient, like when you are listening to a cousin sing in the drawing room. It can give the wrong impression.

Browning of course will end up in Westminster Abbey and she was correct, there was no mention Christ or the Second Coming, but no mention of his works either. This is the link to the Abbey webpage about the Browning grave which does mention that the inscription about Mrs. Browning (that you can't quite see in this photo) was added in 1906. It reads:  "His wife ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING is buried in Florence 1806-1861"

"Dearest, it will not do at all .. the going at eight oclock in the morning. I could not leave this house—it would not be possible. And then, why should we wish even, for that long passage to no end, .. Southampton or Brighton being, each of them, accessible & unobjectionable. As for the expense, it is nearly equal, by railway or sea–
For Mrs Jameson, I mentioned her because you did once, & because her being so kind reminded me of it– I thought perhaps you might like her being with us, (how should I know?) in which case–– Well—but you do not wish it, .. & indeed I do not. Therefore she shall go by herself .. dear Mrs Jameson .. I will however write to her, which I have not done yet– It is not so easy as you think, perhaps, to write at once so much & so little.
Why not tell me how you are, Robert? When you do not, I fancy that you are not well!– Say how you are, & love me till saturday—& even afterwards–
Your very own Ba–
As to forgiveness——ought I to have been angry when I was not? All I felt in that letter, was, that you loved me—and as to your pretending to think that it was ‘show & acting’ on my part, I knew you did not really, & could not:—but at any rate I was the farthest possible from being angry—& the very farthest possible, peradventure!"

There are so many things in these letters that amuse me. Her "how should I know?" is a hoot. I also like that she is so emphatic that "it will not do" leaving the house at "eight oclock in the morning". I agree with her! No, I know that she has to wait for Arabel to leave the room for the day in order for her to successfully sneak out, but it reads very diva like with the "it will not do." I'm just sayin'.

Well, it looks like they are on track for departure....unless something unforeseen comes up.....

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