Commemorating the 166th Anniversary of the Marriage of Miss Elizabeth Barrett Barrett and Mr. Robert Browning, Esq.
And so, Miss Barrett and her maid Wilson walked to the cab stand, stopping only to take a sniff of smelling salts, and took a cab to the Marylebone Parish church where they met Browning and his cousin James Silverthorne. Browning noted on the envelope of her most recent letter the date and time of their wedding:
“+++ Saturday, Sept. 12, 1846
¼ 11 – 11 ¼. a.m. (91)”
The 91 designating that this was their 91st meeting. Given all of the emotional turmoil that lead to this day, the wedding was short and apparently free of undue inconvenience. Then they went their separate ways: Browning went home to his parents in New Cross and immediately wrote a letter to his new wife while the new Mrs. Browning went home to her father in Wimpole Street.
"1. p.m. Saturday.
You will only expect a few words—what will those be? When the heart is full it may run over, but the real fulness stays within–
You asked me yesterday 'if I should repent'? Yes—my own Ba,—I could wish all the past were to do over again, that in it I might somewhat more,—never so little more, conform in the outward homage to the inward feeling: what I have professed .. (for I have performed nothing—) seems to fall short of what my first love required even—and when I think of this moment’s love .. I could repent, as I say.
Words can never tell you, however,—form them, transform them anyway,—how perfectly dear you are to me—perfectly dear to my heart and soul–
I look back, and in every one point, every word and gesture, every letter, every silence—you have been entirely perfect to me—I would not change one word, one look–
My hope and aim are to preserve this love, not to fall from it—for which I trust to God who procured it for me, and doubtlessly can preserve it.
Enough now, my dearest, dearest, own Ba! You have given me the highest, completest proof of love that ever one human being gave another. I am all gratitude—and all pride, (under the proper feeling which ascribes pride to the right source—) all pride that my life has been so crowned by you.
God bless you prays your very own
I will write to-morrow of course. Take every care of my life which is in that dearest little hand; try and be composed, my beloved.
Remember to thank Wilson for me."
And Mrs. Browning writes as well, letting him know that all is well with her:
Ever dearest, I write a word that you may read it & know how all is safe so far, & that I am not slain downright with the day—oh, such a day!– I went to Mr Boyd’s directly, so as to send Wilson home the faster—and was able to lie quietly on the sofa in his sittingroom down stairs, before he was ready to see me, being happily engaged with a medical councillor. Then I was made to talk & take Cyprus wine,—&, my sisters delaying to come, I had some bread & butter for dinner, to keep me from looking too pale in their eyes– At last they came, & with such grave faces! Missing me & Wilson, they had taken fright,—& Arabel had forgotten at first what I told her last night about the fly. I kept saying, 'What nonsense, .. what fancies you do have to be sure', .. trembling in my heart with every look they cast at me– And so, to complete the bravery, I went on with them in the carriage to Hampstead .. as far as the heath,—& talked & looked––now you shall praise me for courage .. or rather you shall love me for the love which was the root of it all– How necessity makes heroes—or heroines at least!– For I did not sleep all last night, & when I first went out with Wilson to get to the flystand in Marylebone Street I staggered so, that we both were afraid for the fear’s sake,—but we called at a chemist’s for sal volatile & were thus enabled to go on– I spoke to her last night, & she was very kind, very affectionate, & never shrank for a moment– I told her that always I should be grateful to her.
You—how are you? how is your head, ever dearest?
It seems all like a dream! When we drove past that church again, I and my sisters, there was a cloud before my eyes—. Ask your mother to forgive me, Robert– If I had not been there, she would have been there, perhaps.
And for the rest, if either of us two is to suffer injury & sorrow for what happened there today,—I pray that it may all fall upon me! Nor should I suffer the most pain that way, as I know, & God knows.
Your own Ba–
Was I very uncourteous to your cousin? So kind, too, it was in him!——
Can there be the least danger of the newspapers? Are those books ever examined by penny a liners, do you suppose?"
The deed is done with some amateur acting on Mrs. Browning's part. All of the, shall we say 'prevarication', cannot be good for her. But she believes that she is performing this deception for the best, keeping everyone from blame but herself. All her fear centers around the idea that she will hurt other people: Browning, Browning's mother and Browning's cousin. But at least one person must be enjoying the game; imagine Mr. Boyd's glee at putting Papa Barrett on his ear.
All is safe for now. Next comes the race to get out of town before the general decampment of the Barrett clan. Oh yes, the drama and the letters will continue.