Thursday, August 9, 2012

August 9

Our poets met in Wimpole Street on August 8, 1846 and the visit seemed to have had clung to both of them even the next day. Let's hear from Browning first, who went out drinking with the boys after their meeting and appears to have returned home in the early hours to write a letter to his love:

"Just now I tore the few words I had begun of the letter to you, Ba—they all went away, strangely afar from the meaning begun in them, thro’ my mind taking up the thought that you were “waiting” for what I should write—“waiting all day”—and ready to call the poor joyful service of love, “goodness” in me! When such thoughts arise, I am not fit to pay even that imperfect service. I have only arms to receive you, kisses to give you—the words seem too cold, indeed! I sincerely believe this, I am to write now, will be the shorter because of the intervention of you,—and that, like Flush, I shall behave best when not looked at too much!"

Could it be that love has made him humble? He almost sounds guilty. I wonder what he has been up to.

"Then, in our life,—what I do earnestly in intention and from love of you, that you will always accept and make the best of! How happy you make me, now and ever—in the present happiness is the assurance of the future’s even greater happiness, I am obliged to believe! It seemed like a dream as I walked home last night and thought of all over again, after a few hours’ talk with my old friends on subjects from which you were excluded, and of a kind that brought my former feelings back again,—so as to be understood, at least, and recognized as mine—“all which is changed now,” I thought going home in the moonlight. Chorley was apprized of my being there and came good-naturedly—and we discussed delinquencies political and literary: he says, times were never so bad as now—people come without a notion of offending a critic, and offer him money—'will you do this for so much'—praise this or blame this! He was in a bad humour, he said,—at least teazed and tired—and really looked both, so that I asked 'had you not better throw away a day on our green dulness at Hatcham, strolling thro’ it with me?'– 'Yes—this day next week, if you like'—he answered at once .. so that our Saturday will be gone .. so that our Tuesday must be secured, my own Ba, and after it the Friday, at an equal interval of time—do you let it be so? Saturday would seem to be his only available day, poor Chorley—he walked thro’ the park with me and over the Bridge, at one in the morning—in return for my proving, (I don’t quite think that, however!)—proving, to Arnould’s great satisfaction at least, that Mr Horne was a poet, and moreover a dramatic one,—Chorley sees no good in him beyond talent with an abundance of 'crochets,' and 'could not read Orion for his life'– I proved another thing too—that Forster was not a whit behind his brethren of the faculty, in literary morals—that the Examiner, named, was quite as just and good as another paper, unnamed. Whereat Chorley grew warm and lost his guard, and at last,—declaring I forced him into corners and that speak he must,—instanced the Examiner’s treatment of myself as not generous .. Luria having been noticed as you remember a week after the publication, and yet, or never, to be reviewed in the Unnamed!—Ces Misères [Such wretchedness]!

Chorley wrote for The Athenæum which Browning does not name. Chorley's point was that The Examiner gave Browning's 'Luria' a bad review. Browning's point was that The Athenæum did not review it at all and Chorley was his friend. And Browning has more social engagements:

"A fortnight ago when Rachel played in Andromaque 'for the last time'—Sarianna & I agreed that if she did ever play again in it, we would go and see .. and lo, contrary to all expectation she does repeat Hermione to morrow night, and we are to go– And you, Ba, you cannot go—ought I to go? One day, one not distant day, and 'cannot' will apply to us bothnow, it seems to do me good, with the crowd of its suggestions, this seeing Rachel,—beside, Sarianna has just this only opportunity of going–"

This paragraph makes me think that Browning had been out drinking with the boys. He is always very careful what he says to Miss Barrett and here he is talking about going to the theater and that once he is with her he will not be able to go. How will this make her feel? What he is saying is honest, but not careful. This is the sort of scenario that makes her hesitant to marry him.

Finally he discusses George Barrett Hunter, Miss Barrett's angry suitor who is apparently sending her 'insolent letters':

"I am anxious to let the folly of that person spend itself unaggravated by any notice of mine. I mean to you,—any notice which should make you think it—(the folly)—affected me as well as you—but I do trust you will not carry toleration too far in this case, nor furnish an ungenerous, selfish man with weapons for your own annoyance—'insolent letters' you ought to put up with from no one—and as there is no need of concealment of my position now, I think you will see a point when I may interfere: always rely on my being quietly firm, and never violent nor exasperating: you alluded to some things which I cannot let my fancy stop upon. Remember you are mine, now,—my own, my very own. I know very well what a wretched drunkenness there is in that sort of self-indulgence—what it permits itself to do, all on the strength of its 'strong feeling' 'earnestness'—stupid execrable sophistry as it is! I have too a strong belief that the man who would bully you, would drop into a fit at the sight of a man’s uplifted little finger. Can this person be the 'old friend in an ill humour' who followed me up stairs one day? I trust to you—that is the end of all–"

So he won't beat the crap out of The Reverend Hunter or challenge him to a duel. He will be 'quietly firm'. I would pay money to see that confrontation. I suspect that Hunter was jealous out of his mind and the danger from that corner was not insolent letters, but that he might inform Papa Barrett of his suspicions. But he could hardly do that without revealing his own intentions.

So what does Miss Barrett have to say about their meeting? Did she go out drinking with the boys afterwards?

"Ever dearest I shall write to you a little this morning & try to manage to post myself what shall be written, too early to permit the possibility (almost) of your being without a letter tomorrow. Dearest, how you were with me yesterday, after you went away!—— I thought, thought, thought of you,—& the books I took up one by one .. (I tried a romance too .. “Les femmes” by a writer called Desnoyers .. quite new, & weak & foolish enough as a story, but full of clever things about shoe tyes .. philosophy in small:) the books were all so many lorgnons through which I looked at you again & again. Did you ever hear a story of the late Lord Grey, that he was haunted by a head—a head without a body? If he turned to right or left there it was—if he looked up in the air, there it hung .. or down to the floor, there it lay—or walked up or down stairs, there it bounded before him—flop .. flop .. just on its chin– 'Alas, poor ghost!' And just such another, as far as the haunting goes, were you to me, dearest, yesterday—only that you were of the celestial rather than ghastly apparitionery, & bore plainly with you airs from Heaven full against my forehead—— How did I ever deserve you—how ever? Never indeed!—— And how can it seem right to submit to so much happiness, undeservingly, as the knowledge of your affection gives, you who are “great in everything”, as Mr Kenyon said the other day! Shall I tell you how I reconcile myself to the good? thus it is– First I think that no woman in the world, let her be ever so much better than I, could quite be said to deserve you—& that therefore there may not be such harm in your taking the one who will owe you most with the fullest consciousness! If it may not be merit, it shall be gratitudethat is how I look at it when I would keep myself from falling back into the old fears. Ah!—you may prevent my rising up to receive you .. though I did not know that I did .. it was a pure instinct!—but you cannot prevent my sinking down to the feet of your spirit when I think of the love it has given me from the beginning & not taken away. Dearest, dearest– I am content to owe all to you—it is not too much humiliation!"

Her gruesome bouncing head ghost analogy makes me wonder if she did go out drinking with her brothers. Maybe a little too much sherry after dinner mixed with a heavy dose of her laudanum. And did I say that Browning was being humble today? He was. But Miss Barrett wins the humble prize today. Oh yeah, she is good with this humble love stuff.

"While I was writing, came Mr Kenyon .. the spectacles mended, & looking whole catechisms from behind them– The first word was, 'Have you seen Browning lately?' I, taken by surprise, answered en niaise [something foolish]. 'Yes, yesterday.' 'And did he tell you that he was coming on wednesday, next wednesday?' 'He said something of it'.
A simpleton would have done better—to call me one, were too much honour!—yet it seemed impossible to be adroit under the fire of the full face, spectacles included– The words came without the will– And now, what had we better do? Take tuesday, that you may be able to say on wednesday, 'I was not there today', ..? or be frank for the hour & let it all pass? Think for us, Robert– I am quite frightened at what I have done. It seemed to me too, afterwards, that Mr Kenyon looked grave. Still he talked of Miss Mitford & Mr Buckingham, & Landor, & of going to the Lakes himself for a few days, and laughed & jested in great good humour, the subject being turned—he asked me too if I had ever discussed your poetry with Miss Mitford, on which I said that she did not much believe in you– 'Not even in Saul,'? said he. I dont know what to think. I am in a fog off the Nore. And he proposes coming tomorrow with a carriage, to drive me up the Harrow Road to see the train coming in, & then to take me to his house, &, so, home,—all, in his infinite kindness. He comes at half past three—let me have your thoughts with me then—& the letter, farther on– Two letters, I am to have tomorrow. If sunday is the worst day, monday is the best,—of those I mean of course, on which I do not see you– May God bless you my own beloved– I love you in the deepest of my heart,—which seems ever to grow deeper. I live only for you,—& feel that it is worth while–
Your Ba.

They both seemed in a fog 'off the Nore' today.

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