I was beginning to dress, hours before the proper time, thro’ the confidence of seeing you now,—after the letter which came early in the morning,—when this new letter changes everything. It just strikes me, what a comfort it is that whenever such a disappointment is inevitable, your hand or voice announces it, and not anothers—no second person bids me stay away for good reasons I must take in trust, leaving me to deal with the innumerable fancies that arise: on the contrary, you contrive that with the one misfortune, twenty kindnesses shall reach me: can I be very sorry now, for instance, that you tell me why it is, and how it affects you, and how it will affect me in the end? dear Ba, if you will not believe in the immortality of love, do think the poor thought that when love shall end, gratitude will begin!
I altogether agree with you .. it is best to keep away: we can not be too cautious now at the 'end of things'– I am prepared for difficulties enough, without needing to cause them by any rashness or wilfulness of my own. I really expect, for example, that out of the various plans of these sympathizing friends and relatives some one will mature itself sufficiently to be directly proposed to you, for your acceptance or refusal, contingent on your father’s approbation; the shortness of the remaining travelling season serving to compel a speedy development. Or what if your father, who was the first to propose, or at least talk about, a voyage to Malta or elsewhere, when you took no interest in the matter comparatively,—and who perhaps chiefly found fault with last year’s scheme from its not originating with himself .. what if he should again determine on some such voyage now that you are apparently as obedient to his wishes as can be desired? Would it be strange, not to say improbable, if he tells you some fine morning that your passage is taken to Madeira, or Palermo? Because, all the attempts in the world cannot hide the truth from the mind, any more than all five fingers before the eyes keep out the sun at noonday,—you see a red thro’ them all—and your father must see your improved health and strength, and divine the opinion of everybody round him as to the simple, proper course for the complete restoration of them. Therefore be prepared, my own Ba!"
Browning is having a pipe dream in this paragraph. One would think that Miss Barrett's improved health would more likely convince her father that she did not need to go away for her health's sake because she was getting better right there in Wimpole Street.
"In any case, I trust in you wholly–
There is nothing to decide upon, with respect to Mrs Jameson– The reasons for not sharing that confidence with her are irrefragable. I only thought of you, dearest, who have to bear her all but direct enquiries: you know, I undergo nothing of the kind. Any such arrangement as that of taking her up at Orleans would be very practicable. I rejoice in your desire (by the way) of going rapidly on, stopping nowhere, till we reach our appointed place—because that spirit helps the body wonderfully—and, in this case, exactly corresponds with mine. Above all, I should hate to be seen at Paris by anybody a few days only after our adventure– Chorley will be there, and the Arnoulds,—for one party!
What could it be, you thought should make you 'sorry', in that letter of yesterday, love? What was I to 'forgive'? Certainly you are unforgiven hitherto, for the best of reasons.
And assure yourself, dearest, that I have told my family nothing that can possibly mislead them. Remember that I have the advantage of knowing those I speak to,—their tastes, and understandings, and notions of what is advantageous and what otherwise. I spoke the simple truth about your heart—of your mind they knew something already– I explained your position with respect to your father .. unfortunately, a very few plain words do that .. I mean, a few facts, such as the parish register could supply .. sufficiently to exonerate you and me.
As to my copyrights, I never meant to sell them—it would be foolish: because, since some little time, and in consequence of the establishment of the fact that my poems,—even in their present disadvantageous form, without advertisements, and unnoticed by the influential journals—do somehow manage to pay their expenses, I have had one direct offer to print a new edition,—and there are reasons for thinking, two or three booksellers, that I know, would come to terms. Smith & Elder, for instance, wrote to offer to print any poem about Italy, in any form, with any amount of advertisements, on condition of sharing profits .. taking all risk off my hands .. concluding with more than a hint that if that proposition was not favorable enough, they would try and agree to any reasonable demand.
Because Moxon is the 'slowest' of publishers, and if one of his books can only contrive to pay its expenses, you may be sure that a more enterprising brother of the craft would have sent it into a second or third edition. Yet Moxon’s slow self even, anticipates success for the next venture. Now the fact is, not having really cared about anything except not losing too much money, I have taken very little care of my concerns in that way—not calling on Moxon for months together. But all will be different now—and I shall look into matters, and turn my experience to account, such as it is."
Finally Browning is starting to look at art as commodity. Excellent. At least he is getting nibbles from a publisher who is willing to front the cost of publication rather than having to personally finance the books. Miss Barrett may make a practical man of him yet.
"Well,—I am yours, you are mine, dearest Ba! I love you, I think, perceptibly more in these latter days! Is this absence contrived on purpose to prove how foolishly I said that I loved you the more from seeing you the oftener? Ah, you reconcile all extremes, destroy the force of all logic-books, my father’s or mine—that was true, but this is also true (logical or no) that I now love you thro’ not seeing you,—loving more, as I desire more to be with you, my best, dearest wife that will be .. (I could not help writing it—why should it sound sweetlier than 'Ba'?)
Your very own RB"
Oh my, this is getting serious! What does Miss Barrett say today?
"Will you come, dearest, after all? Judge for both of us. The Hedleys go tomorrow morning & we shall not see them after tonight when they are dining here: but Mr Kenyon has not paid his visit, & may come tomorrow, or may take sunday which he is fond of doing——is it worth while to be afraid of Mr Kenyon? What do you think? I leave it to your wisdom which is the greatest. Perhaps he may not come till monday—yet he may.
Dearest, I have had all your thoughts by turns, or most of them, .. & each one has withered away without coming to bear fruit. Papa seems to have no more idea of my living beyond these four walls, than of a journey to Lapland– I confess that I thought it possible he might propose the country for the summer, or even Italy for the winter—in a 'late remorse'—but no, nothing! & there is not a probability of either now, as I see things– My brothers 'wish that something could be arranged'—a wish which I put away quietly as often as they bring it to me. And for my uncle & aunt, they have been talking to me today—& she, with her usual acuteness in such matters, observing my evasion, said, 'Ah Ba, you have arranged your plans more than you would have us believe– But you are right not to tell us– Indeed I would rather not hear. Only dont be rash, that is my only advice to you.'
I thought she had touched the truth, & wondered—but since then, from another of her words, I came to conclude that she imagined me about to accept the convoy of Henrietta & Captain Cook!—— She said in respect to them—'I only say, that your father’s consent ought to be asked, as a form of respect to him'. Which, in their case, should be, I think:—and should also in ours, but for the peculiar position of one of us– My uncle urged me to keep firm & go to Italy, and my aunt, though she wd not advise, she said, yet thought that I 'ought to go', & that to live on in this fashion in this room, was lamentable to contemplate– Both of them approved of the French route, & urged me to go to them in Paris—'And', said my uncle kindly, 'when once we have you, we shall not bear to part with you, I think'.
(Do you really imagine, by the way, that to appear in Paris for one half minute to a single soul, would be less detestable to me than to you?– I shall take care that nobody belonging to me there, shall hear of my being within a hundred miles—and why need we stay in Paris the half minute? Not, unless you pause to demand an audience of Mr Chorley at the Barriere des Etoiles.[one of the gates of Paris])"
As we shall see they do linger in Paris, but not to socialize with the Hedleys or Chorley.
"While we were talking, Papa came into the room– My aunt said, 'How well she is looking.' 'Do you think so?' he asked. 'Why, .. do not you think so? Do you pretend to say that you see no surprising difference in her?' 'Oh, I dont know', he went on to say .. 'she is mumpish, I think'. Mumpish!
'She does’nt talk' resumed he–
'Perhaps she is nervous' .. my aunt apologized. I said not one word. When birds have their eyes put out, they are apt to be mumpish."
Rather than lie to her father or give herself away she has stopped chatting with her father. He has noticed. This phrase about birds having their eyes put out is peculiar. I wonder if it is a literary reference. Anyone?
"Mumpish!– The expression proved a displeasure– Yet I am sure that I have shown as little sullenness as was possible– To be very talkative & vivacious under such circumstances as these of mine, would argue insensibility, & was certainly beyond my power.
I told her gently afterwards that she had been wrong in speaking of me at all—a wrong with a right intention,—as all her wrongings must be. She was very sorry to have done it, she said, & looked sorry.
Poor Papa!– Presently I shall be worse to him than ‘mumpish’ even. But then, I hope, he will try to forgive me, as I have forgiven him, long ago."
The exchange with her Aunt Hedley seems illustrative as well. She admonishes her aunt that she should not have spoken about her at all and she herself will not chat with her father. She wants to disappear to him. Rather difficult when you live in the same house with a man.
"My own beloved .. do you know that your letter caught me in the act of wondering whether the absence would do me harm with you, according to that memorable theory. And so, in the midst, came the solution of the doubt—you do not love me less. Nay, you love me more—ah, but if you say so, I am capable of wishing not to see you for a month added to the week! For did I not once confess to you that I loved your love as much as I loved you .. or very, very, very nearly as much?. Not precisely so much.
Confiteor tibi [I confess to thee]– But I will sing a penitential psalm low to myself, & do the act of penance by seeing you tomorrow if you choose to come,—& then you shall absolve me & give me the Benedicite [blessing], which, if you come, you cannot keep back, because it comes with you of necessity.
Not a word of your head, nor of your mother! You should come, I think, tomorrow, if only to say it. Yet let us be wise to the end– Be you wise to the end, & decide between saturday & monday. And I, for my part, promise to go to Italy, only with you—do not be afraid.
And for your poetry, I believe in it as ‘golden water’—& the ‘singing tree’ does not hide it from me with all the overdropping branches & leaves– In fact, the chief inconvenience we are likely to suffer from, in the way of income, is the having too much– Dont you think so? But in that case, we will buy an island of our own in one of those purple seas,—& inherit the sun—or perhaps the shadow, .. of Calypso’s cave.
So do not be uneasy, dearest! not even lest I should wish to spend three weeks in Paris, to show myself at the Champs Elysées & the opera, & gather a little glory after what you happily call 'our adventure'.
Our adventure, indeed! But it is you who are adventurous in the matter,—& as any Red Cross Knight of them all, whom you exceed in their chivalry proper.
Chiappino little knew how right he was, when he used to taunt me with my 'New Cross Knight'. He did. Ah!– Even if he had talked of ‘Rosie Cross,’ he would not have been so far wide. The magic ‘saute aux yeux [leaps to the eyes]’.
This is a reference to the Rev. George Barrett Hunter, Miss Barrett's angry suitor, who was trying to be snide and criticise Browning with his less than chic address in the New Cross suburb of London. But Hunter's contempt for Browning was turned into an endearment by Miss Barrett who really did see Browning as a chivalrous knight, probably because he was amazingly chivalrous, acting with a honor fast expiring even in Victorian England. A remnant of a bygone era.
"And now, will you come tomorrow I wonder, or not? The answer is in you–
And I am your own, ever & as ever!
And you thought I was dying with a desire to tell Mrs Jameson!!——I!"