Thursday, July 5, 2012

July 5

July 5, 1846 Miss Barrett returns to the subject of Haydon, who before killing himself in a most gruesome way, sent her his papers and tools:

I meant to write you a long letter today,—but first my aunt & cousin were here telling me all the statistics of Arabella Hedley’s marriage,—& then Mr Kenyon came, .. & on such a very different subject, his talk was, that he has left me quite depressed—. It appears that poor Mr Haydon, in a paper entering into his reasons for selfdestruction, says, that he has left his manuscripts to me, with a desire for me to arrange the terms of their publication with Longman. Of course it has affected me naturally .. such a proof of trust when he had so many friends wiser & stronger to look to—but I believe the reference to be simply to the fact of his having committed to my care all his private papers in a great trunk .. one of three which he sent here. Two years ago when we corresponded, he made me read a good part of his memoirs, which he thought of publishing at that time, .. & then he asked me (no, it was a year & a half ago) to speak about them to some bookseller .. to Longman, he said, I remember, then. I explained, in reply, how I had not any influence with any bookseller in the world,—advising him besides not to think of printing, without considerable modification, what I had read. In fact it was .. with much that was individual & interesting, .. as unfit as possible for the general reader—fervid & coarse at once, with personal references blood-dyed at every page—. At the last, I suppose, the idea came back to him of my name in conjunction with Longman’s– I cannot think that he meant me to do any editor’s work—for which (with whatever earnestness of will) I must be comparatively unfit, both as a woman & as personally & historically ignorant of the persons & times he writes of. I should not know how one reference would fall innocently, & another like a thunderbolt on surviving persons. I only know that without great modification, the memoirs should not appear at all .. that the scandal would be great if they did. At the same time you will feel with me, I am sure, you who always feel with me, that whatever is clearly set for me to do, I should not shrink from under these circumstances, whatever the unpleasantness may be, more or less, involved in the doing. But if Mr Serjt Talfourd is the executor .. is he not the obviously fit person––well!—there is no need to talk any more. Mr Kenyon is to try to see the paper. It was Mr Forster who came to tell him of this matter & to get him to communicate it to me. Poor Haydon!

Dearest, I long for you to come & bring me a little light. Tell me how you are—now tell me. Tell me too how your mother is....
My aunt’s presence here has seemed to throw me back suddenly & painfully into real life out of my dream-life with you--into the old dreary flats of real life. She does not know your name even—she sees in me just Ba who is not your Ba—& when she talks to me .. seeing me so .. I catch the reflection of the cold abstraction as she apprehends it, & feel myself for a moment a Ba who is not your Ba .. sliding back into the melancholy of it!– Do you understand the curious process I talk of so mistily? Do you understand that she makes me sorrowful with not talking of you while she talks to me? Everything, in fact, that divides us, I must suffer from—so I need not treat metaphysically of causes & causes .. splitting the thinner straws....
Robert!—how did you manage to write me the dear note from Mrs Jameson’s? how could you dare write & direct it before her eyes? What an audacity that was of yours. Oh—and how I regretted the missing you, as you proved it was a missing, by the letter! Twice to miss you on one day, seemed too much ill luck … even for me, I was going to write .. but that would have been a word of my old life, before I knew that I was born to the best fortune & happiest, which any woman could have, .. in being loved by you.
Dearest, do not leave off loving me– Do not forget me by wednesday. Shall it be wednesday? or must it be thursday? answer you."

This Haydon business has sent Miss Barrett into a funk. She has been riding high on the sea of love and unkempt reality has run her into rough waters. But Browning sends words of love to cheer her:

"You will have known by my two or three words, that I received your letter in time to set out for Mrs J’s—she said to me, directly and naturally, “you have missed a great pleasure”—and then, accounted for your absence. Do not be sorry, Ba, at my gladness .. for I was, I hope, glad .. yes, I am sure, glad that you ran no risk,—if you will not think of that, think of my risk if you had “fainted” .. should I have kept the secret, do you suppose? Oh, dearest of all dreamt of dearness,—incur no unnecessary danger now, at .. shall I dare trust,—the end of the adventure! I cannot fear for any mischances that may follow, once let my arms be round you .. I mean, the blow seems then to fall on both alike .. now, what dismal, obscure months might be prolonged between us, before we meet next, by a caprice where the power is! When have I been so long without the blessing of your sight! Yet how considerately you have written, what amends you make, all that the case admits of!

When you say these exquisitely dear and tender things, you know, Ba, it is as if the sweet hand were on my mouth. I cannot speak .. I try to seem as if I heard not, for all the joy of hearing .. you give me a jewel and I cannot repeat “yes, you do give me a jewel” .. I am not worthy of any gift, you must know, Ba,—never say you do not—but what you press on me, let me feel, and half-see, and in the end, carry away, but do not think I can, in set words, take them—at most, they are, and shall be, half-gift, half-loan for adornment’s sake,—mine to wear, yours to take back again. Even this, all this ungracefulness is proper, appropriate in its way. I am penetrated with shame thinking on what you say, and what my utmost devotion will deserve .. so infinitely less will it deserve! You are my very, very angel."

Receiving that letter in the evening surely will lift her out of her trough, at least until the next big wave hits the boat.

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