Sunday, September 2, 2012

September 2

Browning writes on September 2, 1846 to commiserate with Miss Barrett on the dog-napping of Flush:

"Poor Flush—how sorry I am for you, my Ba! But you will recover him, I dare say .. not, perhaps, directly,—the delay seems to justify their charge at the end: poor fellow—was he no better than the rest of us, and did all that barking and fanciful valour spend itself on such enemies as Mr Kenyon and myself, leaving only blandness and waggings of the tail for the man with the bag? I am sure you are grieved and frightened for our friend and follower, that was to be, at Pisa—will you not write a special note to tell me when you get him again?"
"..that was to be?" He will certainly answer for that.

"For the rest—I will urge you no more by a single word—you shall arrange every thing henceforward without a desire on my part,—an expressed one at least. Do not let our happiness be caught up from us, after poor Flush’s fashion—there may be no redemption from that peril.

There can hardly be another way of carrying our purpose into effect than by that arrangement you consent to—except you chose to sacrifice a day and incur all sorts of risk. Of course, the whole in the way and with the conditions that you shall determine.

Do you think, Ba, I apprehend nothing from the excitement and exhaustion attendant in it? I altogether apprehend it,—and am therefore the more anxious that no greater difficulty should be superinduced than is absolutely necessary. Because the first part of our adventure will be dangerous in that way, I want the second part to be as safe as possible in another. I should care comparatively little about winter-travelling, even,—(knowing that one can take precautions)—if it were to be undertaken under really propitious circumstances, and you set forth with so much kindness to carry away as would keep you warm for a week or two—but the 'winter wind that is not so unkind as &c', may prove,—by adding its share of unkindness to the greater,—intolerable. Now, my last word is said, however—and a kiss follows!"
The way I am reading this is that Browning is insistent that they get married (she had referred to this as his " 'idee fixe' about the marriage") first and then wait to leave, but otherwise he is leaving all other arrangements to her preference.

"I thank you, dearest, for your enquiries about my mother,—and for the sympathy, and proposal of delay. She is better this morning, I hope. From the time that my sister went to Town, she discontinued the exercise which does her such evident good—and on Monday the walks began again—with no great effect yesterday because of the dull weather and sharp wind .. she kept at home—but this morning she is abroad, and will profit by this sunshine, I hope– My head will not get quite well, neither– I take both effects to be caused by the turn of the year.

Bless you, dearest. I cannot but acquiesce in your postponing our day for such reasons. Only, do not misconceive those few foolish words of impatience .. a great matter to bear truly! I shall be punished indeed if they prevent you from according to me one hour I should have otherwise possessed.
Bless you once again, my Ba. RB

My mother is returned—very much better indeed. Remember Flush—to write."
Miss Barrett is quick to respond:
" 'Our friend & follower, that was to be'——is that, then, your opinion of my poor darling Flush’s destiny—? Ah—I should not have been so quiet if I had not known differently & better—. I 'shall not recover him directly', you think!– But, dearest, I am sure that I shall. I am learned in the ways of the Philistines. I knew from the beginning where to apply & how to persuade– The worst is poor Flush’s fright & suffering– And then, it is inconvenient just now to pay the ransom for him– But we shall have him tomorrow if not tonight. Two hours ago the chief of the Confederacy came to call on Henry & to tell him that the 'society had the dog', having done us the honour of tracking us into Bond Street & out of Bond Street into Vere Street where he was kidnapped– Now he is in White Chapel—(poor Flush)– And the great man was going down there at half past seven to meet other great men in council & hear the decision as to the ransom exacted, & would return with their ultimatum. Oh, the villainy of it, is excellent, & then the humiliation of having to pay for your own vexations & anxieties!– Will they have the insolence, now, to make me pay ten pounds, as they said they would? But I must have Flush, you know– I cant run any risk, & bargain & haggle– There is a dreadful tradition in this neighbourhood, of a lady, who did so, having her dog’s head sent to her in a parcel– So I say to Henry,—'Get Flush back, whatever you do'—for Henry is angry as he may well be, & as I should be if I were not too afraid, .. & talks police-officers against the thieves, & finds it very hard to attend to my instructions & be civil & respectful to their Captain. There, he found him, smoking a cigar in a room with pictures! They make some three or four thousand a year by their honorable employment– As to Flush’s following anyone 'blandly,' never think it! He was caught up & gagged .. depend upon that. If he could have bitten, he would have bittenif he could have yelled, he would have yelled. Indeed on a former occasion the ingenuous thief observed, that he 'was a difficult dog to get, he was so distrustful. They had to drag him with a string, & put him into a cab, they said, before. Poor Flush!–"
I enjoy the fact that she defends Flush's honour against Browning's horrid insult that Flush did not bark at or bite his captors. Flush is very obviously a manly dog and for Browning to imply otherwise is a very grave miscalculation! Also, ten pounds is a lot of money for three people (and a dog) who are planning to live on 100 pounds a year in Italy. Money does not mean a great deal to Miss Barrett when it comes to the love of her dog.
"Dearest, I am glad that your mother is a little better—but why should the ‘turn of the year’ make you suffer, ever dearest? I am not easy about you indeed– Remember not to use the showerbath injudiciously—& remember to walk—do you walk enough? it being as necessary for you as for your mother.
And as for me, you will not say a word more to me, you will leave me to my own devices, now—
Which is just exactly what you must not do– Ah, why do you say so, even, when you must not do it? Have I refused one proposition of yours where there were not strong obstacles, that you should have finished with me so, my beloved? For instance, I agreed to your plan about the marrying—and I agreed to go with you to Italy in the latter part of September—did I not? And what am I disagreeing in now? Dont let me pass for disagreeable! And dont, above all, refuse to think for me & decide for me, or what will become of me, I cannot guess:—I shall be worse off than Flush is now .. in his despair, at Whitechapel– Think of my being let loose upon a common, just when the thunderclouds are gathering! You would not be so cruel, you. All I meant to say was that it would be wise to make the occasions of excitement as few as possible, for the reasons I gave you– But I shall not fail, I believe– I should despise myself too much for failing– I should lose too much by the failure– Then there is an amulet which strengthens the heart of one,—let it incline to fail ever so. Believe of me that I shall not fail, dearest beloved– I shall not, if your love for me is enough to stand by—believe that always–
The heart will sink indeed sometimes .. as mine does tonight I scarcely know why .. but even while it sinks, I do not feel that I shall fail so– I do not–
Dearest, I do not, either, 'misconceive', as you desire me not: I only infer that you will think it best to avoid the chance of meeting Mr Kenyon, who speaks to me, in a note received this morning, of intending to leave town next monday. Of coming here he does not speak,—& he may come & he may not come, on any intermediate day. He wrote for a book he lent me—. If I do not see you until monday, it will be hard—but judge!—there was more of bitterness than of sweetness in the last visit–"
This comment alone should stop Browning from having any more outbursts.
"Mr Kenyon said in his note that he had seen Moxon, & that Tennyson was ‘disappointed’ with the mountains–Is not that strange? Is it a good or a bad sign when people are disappointed with the miracles of nature? I am accustomed to fancy it a bad sign. Because a man’s imagination ought to aggrandize, glorify, consecrate– A man sees with his mind, & the mind is at fault when he does not see greatly, I think–"
Is this worldly wisdom?
"Moxon sent a civil message to me about my books ‘going off regularly’—
And now I must go off .. it is my turn. Do you love me tonight, dearest? I ask you, .. through the air– I am your very own Ba–
Say how you are, I beseech you—and tell me always & particularly of your mother.
They are all, here, gone to a picnic at Richmond—."
I am intrigued by the fact that Miss Barrett always seems to argue with Browning. She never simply gives in. She reads his letters and she disputes. She may or may not be right but she is seldom inclined to not comment on what he has said and not give her point of view. She defends Flush's honour, she tells Browning to take it easy with the showerbath and she takes him to task for leaving all the decisions to her when she doesn't want to make all the decisions. Browning makes plans and she gives her objections and he draws back and says, 'whatever you say dearest' and she responds with, 'no, I am just making a few valid points, I don't want to be left alone to make the decisions.' She wants to be treated as an equal partner, not a a woman to be humored. She is going to have to work at training Browning to understand her point of view. I begin to see a glimpse of what could come to be a problem in their life together. Browning has said that he is used to being driven and will go where she leads, but as much as she fancies being out from under the thumb of her father I think she would prefer a relationship where her opinion is honored but debated. I don't believe she wants a man who will simply mollify her. She has too strong a mind for that.

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