Saturday, September 15, 2012

September 15, 1846

We  will begin with Browning on September 15, 1846 clarifying his thinking on Mr. Kenyon:

"Tuesday Mg

My own Ba, could you think me capable of such a step? I forget what I exactly said in the first letter, but in the second, which you have received by this, I know there is mention made of your account which is to accompany mine:– You never quite understood, I think, my feeling about Mr Kenyon and desire to tell him earlier; in the first place, at the very beginning, he seemed to stand (as he did) in closer connection with you than any other person I could communicate with; therefore to represent, in some degree, your dear self in the worldly sense, and be able to impose on me any conditions &c which your generous nature might be silent on, and my ignorance & excitement overlook: then there was another reason, the natural one, of our own .. his friendship, rather, for me, and the circumstance of his having in a manner introduced me to your acquaintance,—at all events, facilitated my introduction,—and so being after a fashion responsible in some degree for my conduct: these two reasons, added to a general real respect for his circumspection & sagacity, and a desire to make both of them instruct me in the way of doing you good. But you effectually convinced me that in neither case would the benefit derivable, balance the certain injury, or at least, annoyance, to himself—while you showed me that I should not be so truly serving you, as I had intended, by the plans I used to turn over in my mind. In brief, it was written that your proof of love and trust to me was to be complete, the completest—and I could not but be proud and submit: and a few words will explain the mere sin against friendship. I quite, quite feel as you feel,—nor ever had the least intention of writing .. that is, of sending any letter,—till the very last. Be sure of it."
I think marriage has cleared Browning's mind. That is perhaps one of the clearest paragraphs he has written in  quite some time. She is doing him a world of good already.

"For the cards, I have just given orders, as you desire and as I entirely agree– The notion of a word about our not being in England, was only a fancy for your family’s sake .. just to save people’s applications to them, to know what had become of us—and I had heard Mr Kenyon commend the considerateness of those “Lycian measures” .. albeit there was .. or narrowly escaped being .. an awful oversight of the Traveller’s which would have made him the sad hero of a merry story for ever .. as I will tell you some day. If you will send the addresses, at any time, that trouble will be over. In all these mighty matters, be sure I shall never take the least step without consulting you: will you draw up the advertisement, please? I will supply the clergyman’s name &c &c."
Okay, well, I spoke too soon, because I have no idea what he is talking about--but don't worry, he will tell her later.

"I shall not see one friend more before I leave with you. So that nobody needs divine that since the 12th we have not been at Margate—seeking 'food for the mind.'

11.¾. a.m.

Dearest, I agree to all. I will not see you, for those reasons: I think, as you may, that it will be a point in excuse of the precipitancy, that a removal was threatened for 'next Monday perhaps' .. which, finding us unprepared, would have been ruinous. Say all you would have me say to your Father, .. no concession shall be felt by the side of your love. I will write a few words to Mrs J.—her kindness is admirable & deserves the attention. For the date,—you will have seen the precautions I take; I hope to see nobody now; but I don’t know that it will be necessary to suppress it in the advertisement, if we can leave England by the end of the week, as I hope .. do you not hope, too? For I see announcements, in today’s Times, of marriages on the 8th and 9th and our silence on that particular might be only the beginning of more mystery .. as if it had happened half a year ago, for instance. Beside, your relations will examine the register– All rests with you, however– .. and will rest, Ba! I shall ask you to do no more of my business than I can manage myself .. but where I can not manage .. why, then you shall think for me; that is my command! I suppose when a man buys a spinning-machine he loses dignity because he lets it weave stockings,—does not keep on with his clumsy fingers! No, I will retain my honour, be certain,—you shall say, “Ego et rex meus [I and my king]" like Wolsey—or rather, like dear, dear Ba—like yourself I will ever worship! See the good of taking up arms against me out of that service! If you 'honour & obey' me, 'with my body I thee worship'—my best, dearest, sweetest Ba—and that I have vowed thus, 'irrevocably'—is the heart’s delight of your own RB"
The etiquette of Victorian era marriages is interesting to observe, but pretty simple so far. The use of calling cards is lost on us now, of course, the only remnant being business cards. I know from other sources that there were rules about leaving the card and that the folding of certain corners of the card sent specific messages. In the case of our poets I think that the sending of the cards was a kind of marriage announcement. As for Browning, he seems placid, happy and affectionate, not overly excited. Let's see how Mrs. Browning is doing today:
Dearest, you were in the right as usual, & I in a fright as sometimes. I took a mere fancy into my head about your writing to Mr. Kenyon. Today he came, & I did not see him—on the ground of a headache, which though real, was not really sufficient of itself to keep me from seeing him, if I had not distrusted my self-controul—so I did not see him. Tomorrow he goes away. His letters will of course be made to follow him, & we may easily precede the newspapers by a day or two.
As for the advertisements, you quite amuse me by telling me to compose an advertisement. How should I know better than you, dearest, or as well even? All I intermeddle with willingly is the matter of the date—although there is something in what you say about the mystery, & the idea of our being six months married——still it is our disquieted conscience that gives us such thoughts—& when the advertisement appears & the cards come out so very properly, people will not have enough imagination to apprehend a single mystery in the case,—& the omission of the date will not be so singular .. will it? On the other hand I apprehend evil from the date of the marriage being known. One of my brothers may be sent to examine the register, but would not betray the fact in question, I think, to my father: would not, I am certain, willingly give cause for additional irritation against me. But if the date be publicly announced, Papa must know it, & most of my personal friends will be sure to know it. I have written letters & seen people since the twelfth .. Mr Kenyon on sunday, Miss Bordman, on monday. Moreover Papa would be exposed to unpleasant observations—he going everyday among his city friends, & on saturday among the rest– What quantities of good reasons, .. till you are tired of them & me!
Would you put it this way .. At such a church, by such a minister, Robert Browning Esqre of New Cross, author of Paracelsus, to Elizabeth Barrett eldest daughter of Edward Moulton Barrett Esqre of Wimpole Street– Would you put it so? I do not understand really, .. & whether you should be specified as the author of Paracelsus .. but, for me, it ought to be, I think, simply as I have written it. Oh, and I forgot to tell you that what we did on saturday is quite invalid, so that you may give me up now if you like—it is’nt too late. You gave me a wrong name—Moulton is no Christian name of mine. Moulton Barrett is our family name; Elizabeth Barrett, my Christian name– Behold & see!"
Mrs. Browning sees the opportunity to publicise her husband's poetry through the marriage announcement in the newspapers. How many people would see the announcement and want to go forth and purchase a copy of the work? She is a born entrepreneur. Unfortunately, her husband is not. And her humor continues with her teazing about the invalid marriage. She knows that will not put him off, but it does clarify her name. When she goes by Elizabeth Barrett Browning she has not kept her maiden name as the feminists would approve, she is simply using her Christian and married names. And it helps that she maintains her initials; she won't have to worry about the added expense of replacing monograms.
"I will send the list if I can have time tonight, to write it—but the haste, the hurry—do you think, when in your right mind, of getting away this week? Think of the work before us! Next monday is the day fixed for the general departure to a house taken at Little Bookham or Hookham .. what is it? Well—we must think. Tell me when you want me to go. I might go from the new house, perhaps– But you will think, dearest, & tell me. Tell me first, though, how your head continues or begins again .. for I fear that the good news is too sudden to last long—I fear.
Thankful, thankful I shall be when we are gone out of reach of evil, when I shall have heard that my poor dearest Papa, is only angry with me, & not sorry because of me, & that Henrietta & Arabel are not too miserable. They come between me & the thought of you often .. but I do not, for that, love you less—oh no. You are best & dearest in saying what you say—only, observe, there is not any practicable 'concession' now for you. All you can do now, is what you will do .. in being tolerant, & gentle, for my sake– My own dearest, I am your Ba.
The list tomorrow–"
Things seem to be going along fairly smoothly. Both seem fairly calm and rational. Will they leave by the end of the week or is a crisis looming that they have not anticipated?

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