Saturday, August 18, 2012

August 18

August 18, 1846 Browning is having a mental countdown:

"Let it be on Thursday then, dearest, for the reasons you mention. I will say nothing of my own desires to meet you sooner .. they are corrected by the other desires to spend my whole life with you. After all, these are the critical weeks now approaching or indeed present—there shall be no fault I can avoid– So, till Thursday–
Chorley said very little .. he is all discreteness and forbearance, here as on other points– He goes to Birmingham at the end of this week, and returning after some three or four days, leaves London for Paris—probably next Saturday week– From Paris he thinks of going to Holland .. a good step,—and of staying at .. what is the Bath’s name?—not a good step, I told him, because of the mortal ugliness of the place—which I well remember .. it may have improved in ten years, to be sure– There, “walking on the sands,” (sands in a heapy slope, not a traversable flat) he means to “grow to an end” with his Tragedy .. there is a noble ardour in his working which one cannot help admiring—he has a few weeks’ holiday, is jaded to death with writing, and yet will write away his brief time of respite and restoratives—for what?– He wondered whether there was any chance of our meeting in Paris—“our” meaning him and myself."

It's a good thing he made that clear. Think of the angst!

"As for your communication to Mr Boyd—how could you do otherwise, my own Ba? I am altogether regardless of whatever danger there may be, in the great delight at his sympathy and approval of your intention: he probably never heard my name before .. but his own will ever be associated divinely in my memory with those verses which always have affected me profoundly .. perhaps on the whole, more profoundly than any others you ever wrote: that is hard to prove to myself,—but I really think so—the personal allusions in it, went straight to my heart at the beginning– I remember, too, how he loved and loves you .. you told me, Ba. So I am most grateful to him,—as I ever shall feel to those who, knowing you, judge me worthy of being capable of knowing you and taking your impress, and becoming yours sufficiently for your happiness."

Knowing Boyd's opinion of poetry from reading Miss Barrett's correspondence I would suspect that Boyd would hate and despise Browning's poetry. But hating someone's poetry is very different from hating the man. Who could hate Browning? He seems like a pleasant bloke.

Are you so well, dearest, in your walks,—after your rides?– Does that rejoice me or no, when I would rather hear you had been happy, than simply see you without such an assurance? I am very well, since you ask—but my mother is not—her head being again affected. Yet the late improvement gives ground for hope .. nor is this a very violent attack in itself.
I suppose it was in Mrs Jameson’s mind, as you apprehend. You must always be fond of her—(and such will be always my way of rewarding people I am fond of!)
God bless you, dearest– I love you all I can, Ba. I see another ship is advertised to sail—(a steamer) for Naples, and other southern Ports—“but no higher”– When you are well and disposed to go to Greece, take me, my love– I should feel too happy for this world, I think, among the islands with you. My very own, I am yours–

Wait a minute here. Wasn't she going to go the Greece if she determined that Browning no longer loved her? In the meantime Miss Barrett has had a bit of an adventure:

"Your mother is not well, dearest?—that is bad news indeed– And then, I think of your superstition of your being ill & well with her—take care & keep well, Robert, .. or of what use will it be that I should be well? Today we drove out, & were as far as Finchley, & I am none the worse at all for it– Do you know Finchley? It is pretty & rural,—the ground rising & falling as if with the weight of verdure & dew:—fields, & hedgerows, & long slopes of grass thick & long enough, in its fresh greenness, quite to hide the nostrils of the grazing cowsThe fields are little, too, as if the hedges wanted to get together. Then the village of Finchley straggles along the road with a line of cottages, or small houses, seeming to play at a village– No butchers, no bakers—only one shop in the place .. but gardens, & creepers round the windows. Such a way from London, it looked!– Arabel wanted to call on a friend of hers, a daughter of Sir William Russell’s, who married an adopted son of Lamartine, & was in the navy, and is now an Independent minister officiating in this selfsame metropolis of Finchley– A concatenation, that is, altogether– Very poor they are—living on something less than two hundred a year, with five children, & the eldest five years old. And the children came out to us, everybody else being away—so I, who wd have stayed in the carriage under other circumstances, was tempted out by the children & the cottage, & they dragged us along to see the drawingroom, & diningroom, & 'Papa’s flowers', & their own particular book about the 'twenty seven tailors,': & those of the children who could speak, thought Flush 'very cool' for walking up stairs without being asked. (The baby opened its immense eyes wider than ever, thinking unutterable things.) So as they had been so kind & hospitable to us, we could not do less (after a quantity of admiration upon the pretty house covered with roses, & the garden & lawn, & especially the literature of those twentyseven tailors) we could not do less than offer to give them a drive .. which was accepted with acclamation– Think of our taking into the carriage, all five children, with their prodigious eyes & cheeks—the nurse on the coachbox, to take them home at the end of some quarter of a mile! At the moment of parting, Alphonse Lamartine thought seriously of making a great scream—but upon Arabel’s perjuring herself by a promise to ‘come again soon,’ we got away without that catastrophe. A worse one is, that you may think yourself obliged to read this amusing history. To make amends, I send you what I gathered for you in the garden. 'Pansy!—that’s for thoughts–' "

I observe that Miss Browning not only reads letters very closely she is a very close observer of rustic scenery and children. According to the footnote in Kintner the pansy is preserved with the letter at Wellesley College.

"How wise we are about thursday! or rather about tuesday & wednesday, perhaps.
As for Mr Boyd, he had just heard your name, but he is blind & deaf to modern literature, & I am not anxious that he should know you much by your poetry. He asked some questions about you, & he enquired of Arabel particularly whether she thought we cared for each other enough– But to tell you the truth, his unqualified adhesion strikes me as less the result of his love for you, than of his anger towards another– I am sure he triumphs inwardly in the idea of a chain being broken which he has so often denounced in words that pained & vexed me—& then last year’s affair about Italy made him furious– Oh—I could see plainly by the sort of smile he smiled—— .. but we need not talk of it—I am at the end too of my time. How good you are to me not to upbraid me for imprudence or womanly talkativeness! You are too, too good. And you liked my verses to Mr Boyd!– Which I like to hear, of course. Dearest!"

It looks like just about everyone has it in for Papa Barrett. It is also interesting that he questioned Arabel about their attachment. So, if Arabel knew nothing of the engagement she certainly knew everything else.

"Shall we go to Greece then, Robert? Let us, if you like it! When we have used a little the charm of your Italy .. & have been in England just to see that everybody is well, of yours & mine, .. (if you like that!) .. why straightway we can go 'among the islands'—(and nearly as pleasant, it will be for me, as if I went there alone, having left you!). I should like to see Athens with my living eyes: Athens was in all the dreams I dreamed, before I knew you. Why should we not see Athens, & Ægypt too, & float down the mystical Nile, & stand in the shadow of the Pyramids? All of it is more possible now, than walking up this street seemed to me last year–"

It is passages like this and her description of her time with Boyd and at Finchley that make me want to read the next letter to see Browning's reaction. Poor Browning. How can he stand reading her dreary letters? Such forbearance!

"Indeed, there is only one miracle for me my beloved,—& that is your loving me. Everything else under the sun, & much over it, seems the merest commonplace & workday matter-of-fact. If I found myself, suddenly, riding in Paradise, on a white elephant of golden feet, .. I should shake the bridle, I fancy, with ever so much nonchalance, & absently wonder over “that miracle” of the previous world. Because 'That’s for thoughts', as my flower says! look at it & listen. As for me, I am your very own–"

That is a wonderfully visual image. Like pulling down the shades of your carriage as you ride through the Alps because they you are so sated. Ho hum...

No comments:

Post a Comment