Tuesday, September 18, 2012

September 18, 1846

The three letters on September 18, 1846 are the last letters that our two poets ever sent each other. After this day there is no need. They are together every day until Mrs. Browning dies in June 1861. Mrs. Browning's first letter is very short indeed:

"Dearest, here is the paper of addresses. I cannot remember, I am so confused, half of them–

Surely you say wrong in the hour for tomorrow. Also there is the express train– Would it not be better?

Your Ba–"
She is sending the addresses for delivery of their cards. But she takes the opportunity to let him know that he got it wrong. Of course he got it wrong, he is frazzled.
"My own best Ba– How thankful I am you have seen my blunder– I took the other company’s days for the South Western’s—changed. What I shall write now is with the tables before me (of the Railway) and a transcript from today’s advertisement in the Times.
The packet will leave tomorrow evening, from the Royal Pier, Sn, at nine. We leave Nine Elms, Vauxhall, at five—to arrive at Eight. Doors closed five minutes before. I will be at Hodgsons from halfpast three to four PRECISELY when I should hope you can be ready. I shall go to Vauxhall, apprise them that luggage is coming (yours) and send mine there—so that we both shall be unincumbered—& we can take a cab or coach from H’s.
Now, my loyal blogateers know I pick on Browning quite a bit because many professional biographers characterize him as so much more brilliant than Mrs. Browning. So I like to point out all the goofy things that he writes. I think that if Mrs. Browning wasn't on the verge of a meltdown as she prepares to leave she would tweak him for this particularly silly lapse. Due to her indisposition I will teaze him on her behalf. He tells her that he will be at Hodgsons Book Seller, "from halfpast three to four precisely," at which point what? He will leave if she doesn't show up? Will he go to Italy alone? If she is late will she have to make her way to Vauxhall train station on foot, dragging Wilson and Flush behind her? Will he simply go home to New Cross and write her a letter asking what is up? He is far from precisely precise with his announcement of precision.
"Never mind your scanty preparations .. we can get every thing at Leghorn,—and the new boats carry parcels to Leghorn on the 15th of every month, remember—so can bring what you may wish to send for.
I enclose a letter to go with yours. The cards as you choose—they are here—we can write about them from Paris or elsewhere. The advertisement, as you advise. All shall be cared for.
The letter we must assume is the letter to go to Mr. Kenyon.
God bless and strengthen you, my ever dearest dearest. I will not trust myself to speak of my feelings for you—worship well belongs to such fortitudeOne struggle more:—if all the kindness on your part brought a strangely insufficient return, is it not possible that this step may produce all you can hope? Write to me one word more—depend on me—I go to town about business.
Your own, own RB"
Okay, I picked on him, but he is really very sweet. I cannot fault him in his love, respect and care for Mrs. Browning. I don't really teaze him for himself. I teaze him for the biographers who hold Mrs. Browning in contempt and treat him with respect bordering on worship. They need to stop. Then I will stop. He is a great guy. And she was a great gal. Let's look at the last letter. From Mrs. Browning:
"Friday night–
At from half past three, to four, then—Four will not, I suppose, be too late– I will not write more– I cannot—. By tomorrow at this time, I shall have you only, to love me—my beloved!–"
Okay, was that a mild teaze? "Four will not, I suppose, be too late-" Will she stand at the corner waiting for the church bell to mark the hour of four before she comes around the corner to see if he will still be there? Sorry, I am getting more and more silly.
"You only!—— As if one said God only– And we shall have Him beside, I pray of Him–
I shall send to your address at New Cross your Hanmer’s poems—& the two dear books you gave me, which I do not like to leave here & am afraid of hurting by taking them with me. Will you ask our Sister to put the parcel into a drawer, so as to keep it for us?
Your letters to me I take with me, let the ‘ounces’ cry out aloud, ever so. I tried to leave them, & I could not– That is, they would not be left: it was not my fault– I will not be scolded.
Is this my last letter to you, ever dearest? —Oh—if I loved you less .. a little, little less––
Why I should tell you that our marriage was invalid, or ought to be—& that you should by no means come for me tomorrow. It is dreadful .. dreadful .. to have to give pain here by a voluntary act—for the first time in my life–
Remind your mother & father of me affectionately & gratefully—& your sister too! Would she think it too bold of me to say our Sister, if she had heard it on the last page?
Do you pray for me tonight, Robert? Pray for me, & love me, that I may have courage, feeling both–
Your own Ba–
The boxes are safely sent. Wilson has been perfect to me– And I .. calling her 'timid,' & afraid of her timidity! I begin to think that none are so bold as the timid, when they are fairly roused."
Omni laude Wilson! Of course, all biographers point out that the last sentence could have easily been written about Mrs. Browning herself. However, I must call attention to the fact that Mrs. Browning would never have written this about herself. She never thought such a thing of herself. However, she would freely and gladly praise her maid Wilson. And so I praise Wilson as well. Wilson gave up a lot to accompany Mrs. Browning. But look at the adventures that she will gain. I think they both made the right decision. Way to go ladies. God Speed on your great adventure.

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