Thursday, September 13, 2012

September 13, 1846

Let's begin with Browning on Sunday, September 13, 1846:

Thank you a thousand times for the note, my own Ba– I welcomed it as I never yet welcomed even your notes; entirely kind to write, and write so! Oh, I know the effort you made, the pain you bore for my sake! I tell you, once and forever, your proof of love to me is made .. I know your love, my dearest dearest: my whole life shall be spent in trying to furnish such a proof of my affection,—such a perfect proof,—and perhaps vainly spent—but I will endeavour with God’s help. Do you feel what I mean, dearest? How you have dared and done all this, under my very eyes, for my only sake? I believed you would be capable of it– What then? What is a belief? My own eyes have seen—my heart will remember!

Dearest, nothing needs much trouble you further: take your own time and opportunity. I confide in your judgment—(for I am not going to profess confidence in you!)—I am sure you will see and act for the best. My preparations are made; I have only to wait your desires. I will not ask to see you, for instance—though of course a word brings me as usual to you—your will is altogether my will.

"The first obvious advantage of our present relation, I will take. You are mine—your generosity has given to me my utmost claim upon your family—so far as I am concerned, putting aside my sympathy with you, there is nothing more they can give me: so, I will say, perhaps a little less reservedly than I could have brought myself to say before, that there is no conceivable submission I will refuse, nor possible satisfaction I will hesitate to make to those feelings I have been forced to offend, if by any means I may preserve, for you, so much of their affection as you have been accustomed to receive; I do not require anything beyond toleration for myself .. I will cheerfully accept as the truest kindness to me, a continuance of kindness to you. You know what I would have done to possess you:—now that I do possess you, I renew the offer, to you .. judge with what earnest purpose of keeping my word! I do not think .. nor do you think .. that any personal application, directly or by letter, would do any good—it might rather add to the irritation we apprehend: but my consent is given beforehand to any measure you shall ever consider proper. And your father may be sure that while I adore his daughter it will be impossible for me, under any circumstances, to be wanting in the utmost respect for, and observance of, himself. Understand, with the rest, why I write this, Ba. To your brothers and sisters I am bound for ever,—by every tie of gratitude; they may acquiesce more easily .. comprehending more, perhaps, of the dear treasure you are, they will forgive my ambition of gaining it. I will write to Mr Kenyon. You will probably have time to write all the letters requisite".
Done with the formalities of stating family obligations Browning drew a line across the paper and began to write of the practicalities of leaving.
"Do not trouble yourself with more than is strictly necessary—you can supply all wants at Leghorn or Pisa– Let us be as unencumbered with luggage as possible.
What is your opinion about the advertisements? If our journey is delayed for a few days, we had better omit the date, I think. And the cards? I will get them engraved if you will direct me. The simplest form of course:—and the last (or among the last) happens to be also the simplest—consisting merely of the words 'Mr & Mrs R.B' on one card—with the usual 'at home' in a corner. How shall we manage that, by the way? Could we put 'In Italy for a year'? There is precedent for it—Sir—Fellowe’s,—(what is the traveller’s name?—) his were thus subscribed– By which means we should avoid telling people absolutely, that they need never come and see us. Choose your own fashion, my Ba, and tell me how many you require–
I only saw my cousin for a few minutes afterward—he came up in a cab immediately—he understood all there was need he should. You to be 'uncourteous' to anybody! No, no—sweetest! But I will thank him as you bid, knowing the value of Ba’s thanks! For the prying penny a liners .. why, trust to Providence—we must! I do not apprehend much danger ..
Dearest, I woke this morning quite well—quite free from the sensation in the head– I have not woke so, for two years perhaps—what have you been doing to me?
My father & mother & sister love you thoroughly– My mother said this morning, in my room, 'If I were as I have been, I would try and write to her'– I said, 'I will tell her what I know you feel.' She is much better (—I hear her voice while I write .. below the open window). Poor Pritchard came home from the country on Friday night—late—and posted here immediately—he was vexed to be made understand that there was some way in which he might have served me and did not. It was kind, very kind of Wilson.
I will leave off—to resume tomorrow. Bless you, my very own, only Ba—my pride, and joy, and utter comfort. I kiss you and am ever your own RB"
So Pritchard, Browning's sailor friend, came too late to stand with him at the wedding. I think that might have been a disappointment to Browning who seemed to enjoy his sailor stories and ways.
And what does Mrs. Browning say today?
"My own beloved, if ever you should have reason to complain of me in things voluntary & possible, all other women would have a right to tread me underfoot, I should be so vile & utterly unworthy. There, is my answer to what you wrote yesterday of wishing to be better to me .. you! What could be better than lifting me from the ground & carrying me into life & the sunshine? I was yours rather by right than by gift,—(yet by gift—also, my beloved!) for what you have saved & renewed, is surely yours. All that I am, I owe you:—if I enjoy anything now & henceforth, it is through you. You know this well. Even as I, from the beginning, knew that I had no power against you, .. or that, if I had, it was for your sake."
All this humility can get cloying, but by the same token, I think she feels it sincerely. In her mind it is impossible that she is worthy of him and it never occurs to her that he could feel the same humility, because she knew that she was unworthy.
"Dearest, in the emotion & confusion of yesterday morning, there was yet room in me for one thought which was not a feeling—for I thought, that, of the many, many women who have stood where I stood, & to the same end, not one of them all perhaps, not one perhaps, since that building was a church, has had reasons strong as mine, for an absolute trust & devotion towards the man she married,—not one! And then I both thought & felt, that it was only just, for them, .. those women who were less happy, .. to have that affectionate sympathy & support & presence of their nearest relations, parent or sister, .. which failed to me, .. needing it less thro’ being happier!––"
One of her more complicated creations, justifying the compensation in her heart for the loss of her family. A family that was all she knew for 49 years. Browning must have been a strong drawn to accomplish the wrench from her family which was never totally healed. She certainly took the greater risk and suffered the greatest break with her marriage. Browning lost nothing and gained a great prize.
"All my brothers have been here this morning, laughing & talking, & discussing this matter of the leaving town,—& in the room, at the same time, were two or three female friends of ours, from Herefordshire—and I did not dare to cry out against the noise, though my head seemed splitting in two, (one half for each shoulder) I had such a morbid fear of exciting a suspicion. Trippy too being one of them, I promised to go to see her tomorrow & dine in her drawingroom if she would give me, for dinner, some bread & butter. It was like having a sort of fever. And all in the midst, the bells began to ring– 'What bells are those?' asked one of the provincials. ‘Marylebone Church bells’ said Henrietta, standing behind my chair.
And now .. while I write, & having escaped from the great din, & sat here quietly,—comes .. who do you think?—Mr Kenyon.
He came with his spectacles, looking as if his eyes reached to their rim all the way round,—& one of the first words was, 'When did you see Browning?' And I think I shall make a pretension to presence of mind henceforward,—for, though certainly I changed colour & he saw it, I yet answered with a tolerably quick evasion, .. 'He was here on friday'—& leapt straight into another subject, & left him gazing fixedly on my face– Dearest, he saw something, but not all. So we talked, talked. He told me that the ‘Fawn of Sertorius’, (which I refused to cut open the other day,) was ascribed to Landor—& he told me that he meant to leave town again on wednesday, & would see me once before then. On rising to go away, he mentioned your name a second time .. 'When do you see Browning again?' To which I answered that I did not know–"
When did you see Browning? He was here on friday. No, not a lie but certainly a deception. No, not very pleasant.
"Is not that pleasant? The worst is that all these combinations of things, make me feel so bewildered that I cannot make the necessary arrangements, as far as the letters go– But I must break from the dream-stupour which falls on me when left to myself a little, & set about what remains to be done.
A house near Watford, is thought of now—but, as none is concluded on, the removal is not likely to take place in the middle of the week even, perhaps.
I sit in a dream, when left to myself. I cannot believe, or understand– Oh! but in all this difficult, embarrassing & painful situation, I look over the palms to Troy– I feel happy & exalting to belong to you, past every opposition, out of sight of every will of man—none can put us asunder, now, at least. I have a right now openly to love you, & to hear other people call it a duty, when I do, .. knowing that if it were a sin, it would be done equally. Ah—I shall not be first to leave off that—see if I shall!– May God bless you, ever & ever dearest! Beseech for me the indulgence of your father & mother, & ask your sister to love me– I feel so as if I had slipped down over the wall into somebody’s garden—I feel ashamed. To be grateful & affectionate, to them all, while I live, is all that I can do, & it is too much a matter of course, to need to be promised– Promise it however for your very own Ba. Whom you made so happy with the dear letter last night– But say in the next how you are—& how your mother is–
I did hate so, to have to take off the ring! You will have to take the trouble of putting it on again, some day."
Yes, she is totally bewildered, but keeping her head.

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