Friday, August 10, 2012

August 10

For August 10, 1846 we begin with Browning, still trying to figure it all out:

"You dearest Ba, do you write thus to put all thoughts of fear out of my head, and make me confident nothing can go ill with us if you feel so for me? I seem to have a presentiment that this afternoon, before this letter reaches you, Mr Kenyon will have spoken—and if the whole world spoke its loudest, your words would be all I should hear. Or are they trials, every such word, of my vanity and weakness—do you think, 'if anything can call them up, this will'?– No, I very well know your entire truth in this and the other assurances I make my life bright with, .. thro’ any darkness that can come. What you choose to assert of yourself, I feel of myself every hour,—But there must be this disproportionateness in a beloved object—before I knew you, women seemed not so much better than myself; therefore, no love for them! There is no love but from beneath, far beneath,—that is the law of its nature—and now, no more of words? & will there indeed be need of no more,—as I dare hope and believe,—will the deeds suffice?—not in their own value, no!—but in their plain, certain intention,—as a clear advance beyond mere words? We shall soon know—if you live, you will be mine, I must think—you have put these dear arms too surely round my neck to be disengaged now. I cannot presume to suggest thoughts to you, resolutions for the future—you must impart to me always,—but I do lift up my heart in an aspiration to lead the life that seems accorded, by your side, under your eyes,—"

Browning sounds more doubtful here than I remember him sounding before. He is dreading Kenyon confronting them and seems to take her last letter (in which she pictured him haunting her like a decapitated head bouncing about) as a charm to gird himself to the task. But beyond Kenyon he seems to be doubting his own ability to fufill his dream: he has talked her into loving him but will the 'deeds suffice'; will it live up the the billing? Perhaps not, but he is going aspire to be worthy. 

The 'no love for them!' is a howler!

"I cannot write on this, dear Ba,—to say, I will live and work as I ought, seems too presumptuous– Understand all, and help me with your dearest hand, my own love!–
As I say, I fancy Mr Kenyon will speak. I only hope, the caution will act both ways, and that he will see as much inexpediency in altogether opposing as in encouraging such a step—that you should pass another winter and the risk of it—and perhaps many .. that seems the worst fate– Can he apprehend any worse evil than that?"

It looks like he has decided that her health will be the best argument. Apparently telling Kenyon that they love each other is not recommended as the lead petition.

"I observe in the Times to-day that the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Company have advertised a ship from Southampton to Genoa, Leghorn, Civita Vecchia & Naples on the 30 Septr, and that “thenceforth the company will despatch a first class steamer to those ports on the 15th of every month.” One more facility, should circumstances require it– Are you sure that the France journey with the delays and fatigue is preferable to this—where if the expenses are greater, yet the uncertain expenses are impossible? You are to think, beloved."

I do not know what he is thinking here. He must see that going over land will be much better given that you can stop and rest at almost any point, whereas there is no getting off a wooden boat bobbing along in a rough sea. But perhaps he is just letting her know the choices before her and pointing her toward making a decision.

"Now, will you write tonight? I may come to-morrow? Say one word—you have heard why I wanted to come, even if Mr Kenyon’s question had not been put—otherwise, Friday will be impossible– I can say, 'I called on Saturday, and think of doing so next Friday'– I must see you to-morrow indeed, love!"

I think he must indeed see her tomorrow, he seems a bit down. So what does Miss Barrett write today? She is responding to his letter of yesterday:

"Then let it be tuesday. It will correct, too, my stupidity to Mr Kenyon, for easily you may reply to his certain question, that you had not been here on wednesday but meant to go on friday instead– Ah well! By the time all this is over we shall be fit to take a degree in some Jesuits college—we shall have mastered all the points of casuistry. To wash one’s hands of it, & then throw away the water, will be something gained at least."

Next she turns to the discussion of The Rev. George Barrett Hunter who Browning offered to be 'quietly firm' with:

Dearest, no, indeed!—there is nothing for your goodness to do in that badness I told you of, & which you describe so precisely in your word, ‘drunkeness’ of mind– It is precisely that, & no more nor less—a throwing off of moral restraint .. a miserable degradationOne may get angry, frightened, disgusted—but, after all, compassion comes in:——& who would think of fighting a delirious man with a sword? It would be a cruelty, like murder. There is a fine nature too, under these ruins of the will,—& a sensibility which strikes inwards & outwards—(no one else should have any sensibility, within a thousand miles–) Think of a sort of dumb Rousseau,—with the Confessions in him, pining evermore to get out!– A miserable man, first by constitution & next by fortuneseeing only the shadow, for the sun,—the nettles in the field,—& breathing hard when he stands among garden-roses, to attain to smelling the onions over the wall. I have told him sometimes that he had a talent for anger!—‘indignatio facit orationes[indignation produces discourses]:’ & that is his pleasure, ‘par excellence’,—to be let talk against this abuse or that abuse, this class of men or that class of men, this or that world’s misery or offence— .. he will rise up in it & be eloquent & happy. Otherwise .. mecreants we must be, he thinks, who dare to be happy in this vale of tears—— Life is a long moan to him. And is not such a man enough punished? For me, I have not had the heart to take quite the position I ought to have done, looking only to his most outrageous bearing towards myself—although he talks of my scorn & sarcasms, as if I had shown myself quite equal to self defence. An old, old friend, too!—known as a friend these twelve or thirteen years! And then, men are nearly all the same in the point of wanting generosity to women. It is a sin of sex, be sure—& we have our counter-sins & should be merciful. So I have been furiously angry, & then relented—by turns,—as I could. Oh yes—it was he who followed you up stairs. There was an explosion that day among the many—and I had to tell him as a consequence, that if he chose to make himself the fable & jest of the whole house, he was the master, but that I should insist upon his not involving my name in the discussion of his violences. Wilson said he was white with passion as he followed you, & that she in fear trembled so she could scarcely open the door. He was a little ashamed afterwards, & apologized in a manner for what sufficiently required an apology—. Before a servant too!– But that is long ago—& at that time, he knew nothing for a certainty. Is it possible to be continuously angry with any one who proves himself so much the weaker? The slave of himself .. of his own passions .. is too unhappy for the rod of another—man or woman.

Where to begin with that paragraph? First, it is full of good writing, 'breathing hard when he stands among garden-roses, to attain to smelling the onions over the wall.' Next, it is devastating to the Reverend Hunter. Her idea that he sees himself as another Rousseau with brilliance inside him that he is incapable of articulating is an apt description of many angry men--not unlike Haydon: "I am brilliant, why cannot everyone see this!" He comes across as a pathetic wretch of a man, taking out his anger on this woman who he supposedly loves. No wonder she has bad vibes about getting married, most of the dominant men she knows are authoritarian tyrants. How could she not fall in love with the gentle and solicitous Browning. No wonder she sees him as so superior and far above; compared to Hunter and her father, Browning is a saint. I wonder what Browning thought of this? If I were Browning and I read this paragraph, rather than taking her course of pity and compassion, I would want to hunt this guy down and pop him a good one. This is not the last we shall hear of The Reverend Hunter. Browning may end up popping him yet....

"Mr Chorley—Mr Chorley!—how could he utter such words! Men seem imbecile sometimes—understandings have they, & understand not."

Whether she is referring to Chorley's words about Horne or Browning is not clear. Probably both. But it does seem she is dealing with a lot of idiots today.

"Monday night–
Dearest, I have your last letter– Thank you out of my heart!—though you are not a prophet, dear dearest—not about Mr Kenyon at least. See how far you are from the truth-well, with that divining hazel which you wave to & fro, before my eyes– Mr Kenyon instead of too much remembering us, has forgotten me today– I waited an hour with my bonnet on, & he did not come. And then came a note! He had had business—he had forgotten me—he wd come tomorrow– Which I, thinking of you, wrote back a word against, & begged him to come rather on thursday or saturday, or monday—— Is that right, dearest? Your coming tomorrow will be very right.
But when you say that there can be no love except 'from beneath' … is it right? is it comforting to hear of? No, no—indeed! How unhappy I should be if I accepted your theory! So I accept rather your love, beloved ..
Trusting to be yours–"

I shocked that she wrote to Kenyon to tell him not to come. She normally puts off Browning; finally she tells someone else to come a different day! I also love this imagery: 'that divining hazel which you wave to & fro, before my eyes-" She was on a literary roll today.

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