Monday, September 3, 2012

September 3

September 3, 1846 finds Browning continue his bit of a melt down. He had been in a temper about their meetings getting interrupted and now he goes off on the dog-nappers:

"I am rejoiced that poor Flush is found again, dearest—altogether rejoiced—

And now that you probably have him by your side, I will tell you what I should have done in such a case, because it explains our two ways of seeing & meeting oppression lesser or greater. I would not have given five shillings on that fellow’s application. I would have said,—and in entire earnestness,—'You are responsible for the proceedings of your gang, and you I mark—don’t talk nonsense to me about cutting off heads or paws—be as sure, as that I stand here and tell you, I will spend my whole life in putting you down, the nuisance you declare yourself—and by every imaginable means I will be the death of you and as many of your accomplices as I can discover—but you I have discovered and will never lose sight of—now try my sincerity, by delaying to produce the dog tomorrow. And for the ten pounds—see!' Whereupon, I would give them to the first beggar in the street. You think I should receive Flushe’s head? perhaps .. so God allows matters to happen! on purpose, it may be, that I should vindicate him by the punishment I would exact."
Browning is so manly. But he fails to acknowledge that a dog-napper would never take his dog, for just that reason. The dog-nappers take Miss Barrett's dog because she is soft hearted and would pay any price to get Flush back. So Browning's argumentation is a tad bit stilted.

"Observe, Ba, this course ought not to be yours, because it could not be .. it would not suit your other qualities. But all religion, right and justice, with me, seem implied in such a resistance to wickedness, and refusal to multiply it a hundredfold, for from this prompt payment of ten pounds for a few minutes’ act of the easiest villainy, there will be encouragement to .. how many similar acts in the course of next month? And how will the poor owners fare who have not money enough for their dogs’ redemption? I suppose, the gentleman, properly disgusted with such obstinacy, will threaten roasting at a slow fire to test the sincerity of attachment! No—the world would grow too detestable a den of thieves & oppressors that way!"
He does have a argument but he again misses the point that someone who does not have the means to ransom the dog would surely not be targeted.

And this is too great a piece of indignation to be expressed when one has the sick vile headache that oppresses me this morning, dearest—I am not inclined to be even as tolerant as usual– Will you be tolerant, my Ba, and forgive me—till tomorrow at least—when, what with physic, what with impatience, I shall be better one way or another?
Ever your own RB

Ah, the poor boy continues sick. Will Miss Barrett give him the dressing down he deserves?

"Ever dearest, you are not well—that is the first thing!– And that is the thing I saw first, when, opening your letter, my eyes fell on the ending sentence of it,—which disenchanted me in a moment from the hope of the day. Dearest—you have not been well for two or three days, it is plain,—& now you are very, very unwell—tell me if it is not so? I beseech you to let me hear the exact truth about you, for I am very uneasy, & it is dreadful to doubt about knowing the exact truth in all such cases. How everything goes against me this week! I cannot see you. I cannot comfort myself by knowing that you are well– And then poor Flush! You must let him pass as one of the evils, & you will, I know,—for I have not got him back yet—no, indeed–

I should have done it. The archfiend, Taylor, the man whom you are going to spend your life in persecuting, (the life that belongs to me, too!) came last night to say that they would accept six pounds, six guineas, with half a guinea for himself, considering the trouble of the mediation,—& Papa desired Henry to refuse to pay, & not to tell me a word about it——all which I did not find out till this morning. Now it is less, as the money goes, than I had expected, & I was very vexed & angry, & wanted Henry to go at once & conclude the business—only he would’nt, talked of Papa, & persuaded me that Taylor would come today with a lower charge– He has not come—I knew he would not come,—& if people wont do as I choose, I shall go down tomorrow morning myself & bring Flush back with me– All this time he is suffering & I am suffering. It may be very foolish– I do not say it is not—or it may even be 'awful sin', as Mr Boyd sends to assure me—but I cannot endure to run cruel hazards about my poor Flush for the sake of a few guineas, or even for the sake of abstract principles of justice—I cannot– You say that I cannot, .. but that you would. You would!– Ah dearest—most pattern of citizens, but you would not– I know you better. Your theory is far too good not to fall to pieces in practice– A man may love justice intensely; but the love of an abstract principle is not the strongest love—now is it? Let us consider a little, putting poor Flush out of the question. (You would bear, you say, to receive his head in a parcel—it would satisfy you to cut off Taylor’s in return)– Do you mean to say that if the banditti came down on us in Italy & carried me off to the mountains, &, sending to you one of my ears, to show you my probable fate if you did not let them have … how much may I venture to say I am worth? .. five or six scudi,—(is that reasonable at all?) .. would your answer be 'Not so many crazie,'—& would you wait, poised upon abstract principles, for the other ear, & the catastrophe,—as was done in Spain not long ago? Would you, dearest? Because it is as well to know beforehand, perhaps——

—Ah—how I am teazing you, my beloved, when you are not well– But indeed that life of yours is worthy of better uses than to scourge Taylor with, even if I should not be worth the crazie–"
How beautifully she turns his arguments on their head. But she misses a point as well. She would never be kidnapped for ransom because there is no deep well of money for the banditti to dip into. Browning would have to hunt down the villains because the penniless poet would have no money for the ransom. Nevertheless she wonderfully answers his manly words. She is absolutely correct that it would be a waste of anyone's life to spend it tracking down a dog-napper. She is also correct that Browning would not actually do as he suggested; he would get the six quid someway and pay it to recover Ba's doggy. Perhaps Browning and Papa Barrett have more in common that Browning may like to acknowledge, given that Papa Barrett wanted the whole situation ignored. He would not pay the banditti nor track them down and kill them.
And see again, as I point out yesterday, how she has no compunctions about arguing the point with Browning.

I have seen nobody & heard nothing– I bought a pair of shoes today lined with flannel, to walk with on the bare floors of Italy in the winter– Is not that being practical & coming to the point? I did it indeed!–
May God bless you– I love you always & am your own–
Write of yourself, I do pray you—& also, how is your mother?

She does not sit in her room crying about Flush, she goes out on the business of the day, impatient with the incompetent males around her. Browning writes again, perhaps a bit un-nerved by his own words:

"When I had finished that letter this morning, dearest dearest,—before I could seal it, even, (my sister did it for me, and despatched it to the post at once) I became quite ill & so sick as to be forced to go upstairs and throw myself on the bed—it is now six o clock, and I feel better, and have some thoughts of breaking my fast to-day—but first of all .. did whatever it may have been I wrote, seem crossunnecessarily angry, to you, dearest Ba? Because, I confess to having felt indignant at this sample of the evils done under the sun every day … and as if it would be to no purpose though the whole world were peopled with Ba’s, instead of just Wimpole St,—as they would be just so many more soft cushions for the villainously-disposed to run pins into at their pleasure– Donne says that 'weakness invites, but silence feasts oppression'. And it is horrible to fancy how all the oppressors in their several ranks, may if they choose, twitch back to them by the heartstrings after various modes the weak & silent whose secret they have found out. No one should profit by those qualities in me, at least—having formed a resolution, I would keep it, I hope, thro’ fire & water, and the threatener of any piece of rascality, who (as commonly happens) should be without the full heart to carry it into effect, should pay me exactly the same for the threat .. which had determined my conduct once & forever. But in this particular case, I ought to have told you (unless you divined it, as you might,) that I would give all I am ever to be worth in the world, to get back your Flush for you .. for your interest is not mine, any more than the lake is the river that goes to feed it,—mine is only made to feed yours– I am yours, as we say—as I feel more and more every minute.
Are you not mine, too? And do you not forgive your own RB?

A sweet apology. He was right in the general but wrong in the particular, as they both knew. Browning had a very strong antipathy toward oppression. It obviously made him quite angry. I suspect he was quite angry about the oppression of Miss Barrett by her father, but what a position to be in to have to convince the oppressed to free herself.

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