Monday, September 10, 2012

September 10, 1846

September 10, 1846 we see a turning point acted forth in writing. Browning writes to Miss Barrett, unaware of the news that the entire Barrett household is about to decamp to an unknown location:

"Thursday Mg

What do you expect this letter will be about, my own dearest? .. Those which I write on the mornings after our days seem naturally to answer any strong point brought out in the previous discourse and not then completely disposed of .. so they generally run in the vile fashion of a disputatious 'last word'; 'one word yet'—do not they? Ah, but you should remember that never does it feel so intolerable,—the barest fancy of a possibility of losing you,—as when I have just seen you and heard you and, alas—left you for a time; on these occasions, it seems so horriblethat if the least recollection of a fear of yours, or a doubt .. anything which might be nursed, or let grow quietly, into a serious obstacle to what we desire .. if that rises up threateningly,—do you wonder that I begin by attacking it? There are always a hundred deepest reasons for gratitude and love which I could write about but which my after life shall prove I never have forgotten .. still, that very after-life depends perhaps on the letter of the morning reasoning with you, teazing, contradicting .. Dearest Ba, I do not tell you that I am justified in plaguing you thus, at any time .. only to get your pardon, if I can, on the grounds—the true grounds–

And this pardon, if you grant it, shall be for the past offences, not for any fresh one I mean to commit now. I will not add one word to those spoken yesterday about the extreme perilousness of delay. You give me yourself. Hitherto, from the very first till this moment, the giving hand has been advancing steadily—it is not for me to grasp it lest it stop within an inch or two of my forehead with its crown.

I am going to Town this morning, and will leave off now.

What a glorious dream,—thro’ nearly two years—without a single interval of blankness,—much less, bitter waking

I may say that, I suppose, safely thro’ whatever befalls!

Also I will ever say, God bless you, my dearest dearest,—my perfect angel you have been! While I am only your RB

My mother is deeply gratified at your present.

12 ock On returning I find your note.

'I will do as you wish—understand'—then I understand you are in earnest. If you do go on Monday, our marriage will be impossible for another year—the misery! You see what we have gained by waiting. We must be married directly and go to Italy– I will go for a licence today and we can be married on Saturday. I will call to-morrow at 3 and arrange everything with you– We can leave from Dover &c after that,—but otherwise, impossible! Inclose the ring, or a substitute. I have not a minute to spare for the post.
Ever your own RB"
I popped over to the Baylor website to look at the handwriting in this letter and I have to admit it is steady through out. So far he is looking pretty calm. Perhaps the panic will set in based on her response. My question is: what was the present she sent to Browning's mother? After he sends this letter he writes another in the afternoon:
"4 p.m. Thursday
I broke open my sealed letter and added the postscript just now. The post being thus saved, I can say a few words more leisurely.
I will go to-morrow, I think, and not to-day for the licence—there are fixed hours, I fancy, at the office—and I might be too late. I will also make the arrangement with my friend for Saturday, if we should want him,—as we shall, in all probability—it would look suspiciously to be unaccompanied– We can arrange to-morrow.
Your words, first & last have been that you 'would not fail me'—you will not–
And the marriage over, you can take advantage of circumstances and go early or late in the week, as may be practicable. There will be facilities in the general packing &c—your own measures may be taken unobserved– Write short notes to the proper persons,—promising longer ones, if necessary.
See the tone I take, the way I write to you .. but it is all thro’ you, in the little brief authority you give me,—and in the perfect belief of your truth and firmness– Indeed, I do not consider this an extraordinary occasion for proving those qualities. This conduct of your Father’s is quite characteristic ..
Otherwise, too, the departure with its bustle is not unfavorable. If you hesitated, it would be before a little hurried shopping and letter writing! I expected it, and therefore spoke as you heard yesterday—now your part must begin:– It may as well begin and end, both, now as at any other time. I will bring you every information possible to-morrow.
It seems as if I should insult you if I spoke a word to confirm you, to beseech you,—to relieve you from your promise, if you claim it.
God bless you prays your own RB"
Do you not sense a bit of "I told you so" in both letters? Well, it doesn't matter. The timing does seem perfect. She can pack up her belongings with no one really noticing due to the fact that all the inhabitants of Wimpole street will be packing up. According to those who know, Browning was going to ask his friend Capt. Pritchard (described as a tiny white haired sailor) to stand up with him as witness. Pritchard is referred to several times in these letters and was a apparently full of great stories. Browning sent some of his letters to Miss Barrett for amusement. But more of Pritchard later. What does Miss Barrett say in response to these two letters?
"Dearest I write one word, & have one will, which is yours. At the same time, do not be precipitate—we shall not be taken away on monday, no, nor for several days afterward. George has simply gone to look for houses—going to Reigate first.
Oh yes—come tomorrow. And then, you shall have the ring .. soon enough, & safer.
Not a word of how you are!—you so good as to write me that letter beyond compact, yet not good enough, to say how you are! Dear, dearest—take care, & keep yourself unhurt & calm. I shall not fail to you—I do not. I will not. I will act by your decision, & I wish you to decide. I was yours long ago, & though you give me back my promise at this eleventh hour, .. you generous, dear unkind! … you know very well that you can do as well without it– So take it again for my sake & not your own–
I cannot write, I am so tired, having been long out—. Will not this dream break on a sudden? Now is the moment for the breaking of it, surely.
But come tomorrow, come– Almost everybody is to be away at Richmond, at a pic nic, & we shall be free on all sides–
Ever & ever your Ba–"
Go over to the Baylor website and check out Miss Barrett's letter. She seems pretty steady, despite her reputation for nerves. I love the fact that she tells Browning to keep himself "unhurt & calm". It is also very sweet that he calls him "unkind" for offering to relieve her of her promise. But what could she expect; she could only have been convinced of his love by virtue of his chivalry.
Be sure and click on the view of the envelope where Browning records the date and time of their visit on September 11 and their marriage on September 12, 1846.
There will be no letters between them September 11 but they both begin writing immediately after they separate following the wedding on the 12th. There will be a flurry of letters leading up to their leaving, mostly discussing arrangements for departure.

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