Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9

Browning visited Miss Barrett at Wimpole Street on July 8th and Miss Barrett writes on July 9, 1846 to wipe up the blood in the aftermath of the great dog attack on Browning's leg:

"Ah Flush, Flush!—he did not hurt you really? You will forgive him for me? The truth is that he hates all unpetticoated people, & that though he does not hate you, he has a certain distrust of you, which any outward sign, such as the umbrella, reawakens– But if you had seen how sorry & ashamed he was yesterday!—I slapped his ears & told him that he never should be loved again: and he sate on the sofa (sitting, not lying) with his eyes fixed on me all the time I did the flowers, with an expression of quite despair in his face. At last I said, ‘If you are good, Flush, you may come & say that you are sorry’ .. on which he dashed across the room &, trembling all over, kissed first one of my hands & then another, & put up his paws to be shaken, & looked into my face with such great beseeching eyes, that you would certainly have forgiven him just as I did. It is not savageness– If he once loved you, you might pull his ears & his tail, & take a bone out of his mouth even, & he would not bite you. He has no savage caprices like other dogs & men I have known."

The dog does not have 'savage caprices' like men she has know! Hysterical. I wonder who she is referring to? Papa Barrett? The Reverend Hunter? Browning and his approval of dueling? She is also looking ahead to the great leave taking by crossing La Cava off their list of prospective homes. She includes a letter from an acquaintance who cautions against this Italian town:

"See what an account we have this morning, of La Cava .. “quite impossible for the winter”. What does “quite impossible” quite mean, I wonder? I feel disappointed. As to Palermo, you would rather be in Italy, & so would I, perhaps. Salerno seems questionable too,—& Vietri .. what of Vietri? I dont at all see why we should receive the responses of this friend of my friend who is not so very much my friend, as if they were oracular & final. There must be the right of appeal for us to other authorities. Will you investigate & think a little? For my part I shall not care to what place we go, except for the climate’s sake—the cheapness too should be considered a little: &, for the rest, every place which you should like, I should like, & which you liked most, I should like most—everything is novelty to me, remember."

She also notes that she has written to Talfourd regarding the Haydon business, as Browning had suggested:

"But I wrote to Mr Serjeant Talfourd last night, & told him as fully & as briefly as I could, the whole position .. and, that vexation, I shall try now to throw behind me, after the fashion of dear Mr Kenyon’s philosophy. I put the thought of you, beloved, between me & all other thoughts—surely I can, when you were here only yesterday. So much to think of, there is!– One thing made me laugh in the recollection. Do you mean to tell Mrs Jameson that you are going to marry me, 'because it is intolerable to hear me talked of'? That would be an original motive– 'So speaks the great poet'!....Dearest, you did me so much good yesterday!"

Yes, she was very cheery in her letter today, and, does not seem to mind being talked of! How she does love to teaze her boy. Browning really did seem to do her some good.

Browning also continues the conversation from their visit the previous day. She had apparently given Browning letters from Haydon to read:

"My own darling, my Ba, do you know when I read those letters (as soon as I remembered I had got them,—for you hold me long after both doors, up and downstairs, shut) when I looked thro’ them, under a gateway .. I was pricked at the heart to have thought so, and spoken so, of the poor writer: I will believe that he was good and even great when in communication with you .. indeed all men are made, or make themselves, different in their approaches to different men—and the secret of goodness and greatness is in choosing whom you will approach, and live with, in memory or imagination, thro’ the crowding obvious people who seem to live with you– That letter about the glory of being a painter “if only for the neglect” is most touching and admirable .. there is the serene spot attained, the solid siren’s isle amid the sea; and while there, he was safe and well .. but he would put out to sea again, after a breathing time, I suppose: though even a smaller strip of land was enough to maintain Blake...
I take your view of H.’s freedom, at that time, from the thoughts of what followed–....
I am not particularly engaged next Saturday! Ba, shall I really see you so soon? Bless you ever, my very, very own! I shall not hear to-day .. but to-morrow, .. do but not keep me waiting for that letter, and the mules shall be ready hours and hours, for any anger I will have, at La Cava!

Interesting that the stopped under a gateway as he walked home to read the letters. I think he was a bit interested to see what another man was writing to his lady. I bet he would have loved to have read her letters to Haydon as well. I'm not saying anything here other than Browning was human and would have been curious. Browning himself might have felt some neglect to his genius as well, but the difference was that Browning did not outlay a lot of money to promote his art and then have no return for it. Haydon had spent a lot of money to produce paintings and sculptures and renting halls to exhibit them while attempting to support a family. Debt more that genius brought the sad end to Haydon. And don't all people have a 'serene spot' that they reach and visit occasionally? It is a vanity to think that is exclusive to men of worldly talent. Most people have only a small strip of land. The analogy is sound just not exclusive.

Browning apparently was not put out by the savage caprice of Flush the attack spaniel--he doesn't even mention the dreadful incident.

Miss Barrett's second letter comes forth from Wimpole Street:

"How I have waited for your letter tonight,—& it comes nearly at ten!– It comes at last—thank you for it, ever dearest. And I knew .. quite understood yesterday, that you were sorry for me, which made you angry with another .. but, as to poor Haydon, you are too generous & too pitiful to refuse him any justice—I was sure that the letters would touch you....Mr Kenyon said of the letter we have spoken of, that it was scarcely the production of a sane mind. But I who was used to his letters, saw nothing in it in the least unusual—he has written to me far wilder letters! That he ‘never should die,’ he had said once or twice before. Then Napoleon was a favorite subject of his .. constantly recurred to. He was not mad then!....Often it has struck me as a curious thing (yet it is not perhaps curious) that suicides are occasioned nearly always by a mortified selflove .. by losses in money, which force a man into painful positions .. & scarcely ever by bereavement through death .. scarcely ever. The wound on the vanity is more irritating than the wound on the affections...."

He was angry because this suicided genius dared to besmirch his lady's good name. How could he feel any other way? But Haydon was selfish in every way. It is doubtful that it ever crossed his mind that Miss Barrett's reputation would be dented because of him. But Miss Barrett is not selfish, she thinks of Browning:

"You never can have a grief, dearest dearest, of which I shall not have half for my share. That is my right from henceforth .. & if I could have it all .. would I not, do you think, .. & give my love to you to keep instead? Yes, .. indeed yes! May God bless you always. I have walked out today, you did me so much good yesterday. As for saturday, it certainly is our day, since you are not ‘particularly engaged’ to Miss Campbell. Saturday, the day after tomorrow!– But the mules may wait long at La Cava for us, if the tradition, which I sent you, is trustworthy—may they not? I feel as disappointed .. as disappointed!–"

And, of course, she will have the opportunity to offer Browning her love for his grief. But that is a few years away....
In the mean time she ends lightly by teasing him about his engagement to Miss Campbell. Oh dear. Will he ever live down that imputation on his honor?

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