Thursday, September 6, 2012

September 6

On September 6, 1846 Browning continues unwell and writes to cancel their visit:

"No, dearest, I am not to see you tomorrow for all the happiness of the permission! It seems absurd, but perhaps the greater absurdity would be a refusal to submit, under circumstances– You shall hear. I got up with the old vertiginousness, or a little worse—and so, as I had in that case determined, went to consult my doctor. He thinks he finds the root of the evil and can remove it, 'if I have patience enough'– So I promised .. expecting something worthy that preamble—whereas I am bidden go to bed and keep there for a day or two—from this Sunday till Wednesday morning—taking nothing but a sip of medicine I can’t distinguish from water, thrice a day—and milk at discretion—no other food! The mild queerness of it is amusing, is it not? 'And for this fine piece of self denial,' says he 'you shall be quite well by the week’s end'. 'But may I go to town on Wednesday'?– 'Yes'.

Now, Ba, my own Ba, you know how often I have to sorrowfully disclaim all the praises your dearest kindness would attach to me; this time, if you will praise me a little for obeying you, I will take the praise .. for the truth of truths is, that I said at once to myself—'have I a right to avoid anything which promises to relieve Her from this eternal account of aches and pains'? So here am I writing, leaning on my elbow, in bed,—as I never wrote before I think—and perhaps my head is a little better, or I fancy so– Mind, I may read, or write,—only in bed I must lie, because there is some temperature to be kept up in the skin, or some other cause as good—'for reasons, for reasons'–

—'The milk' answers Ba, 'is exactly to correct the superabundant gall of bitterness which overflowed lately about Flush'– So it is, my own Ba—and for Flush, the victim of a principle, he is just saved from a sickness by cakes I meditated as a joy-offering on his safe return. Will you, among the other kisses, give him one for me? And save yet another for your own RB

How I shall need your letters, dearest!"
My dear bloggeteers, I must confess a bit of cynicism seeped into my mind on first reading this last series of letters regarding Browning's illness. On first reading I felt that Browning was not physically ill at all. I felt he was angry about always being second in Miss Barrett's life. He was second to Papa Barrett, second to the aunt, uncle and cousins and most of all second to the ubiquitous Mr. Kenyon. And when he finally gets to see her they are interrupted. He has quite a fit of pique about that, just about calms down and Flush is taken and he blows another gasket which makes him so upset (sick) that she can see it in his handwriting. She talks him off that roof and juggles getting Flush back at the same time. So, whether he is physically ill or an emotional wreck, I am not sure. Isn't it odd that the cure for this ailment is bed rest while previously it was vigorous exercise? But I was tempted to believe that he was not ill at all but angry and frustrated. Was he staying away to punish her or in an attempt to calm himself? I do not speculate. It is probably for the best that he did stay away, for whatever reason. I suspect that part of the reason that I am coming around to the idea that he really was ill is that fact that he didn't come himself to try and rescue Flush. I mean, why wouldn't he? Even if he didn't have the required 10 pounds he surely could have borrowed it from his father. Isn't dog rescue on the job resume for fiances?
Now let's hear of the 'Negotiations for the Return of Flush' from Miss Barrett:
"Not well—not well!– But I shall see you with my own eyes soon after you read what I write today,—so I shall not write much—. Only a few words to tell you that Flush is found, & lying on the sofa, with one paw & both ears hanging over the edge of it. Still my visit to Taylor was not the successful one. My hero was not at home–
I went, you know, .. did I tell you? .. with Wilson in the cab. We got into obscure streets,—& our cabman stopped at a public house to ask his way. Out came two or three men, .. 'Oh, you want to find Mr Taylor, I dare say'! (mark that no name had been mentioned!) & instantly an unsolicited philanthropist ran before us to the house, & out again to tell me that the great man 'was’nt at home! but would’nt I get out?' Wilson, in an aside of terror, entreated me not to think of such a thing—she believed devoutly in the robbing & murdering, & was not reassured by the gang of benevolent men & boys who 'lived but to oblige us' all round the cab– 'Then would’nt I see Mrs Taylor,' suggested the philanthropist:—and, notwithstanding my negatives, he had run back again and brought an immense feminine bandit, .. fat enough to have had an easy conscience all her life, .. who informed me that 'her husband might be in, in a few minutes, or in so many hours—would’nt I like to get out & wait'– (Wilson pulling at my gown) (—The philanthropist echoing the invitation of the feminine Taylor.) —'No, I thanked them all—it was not necessary that I should get out, but it was, that Mr Taylor should keep his promise about the restoration of a dog which he had agreed to restore .. & I begged her to induce him to go to Wimpole Street in the course of the day, & not defer it any longer'– To which, replied the lady, with the most gracious of smiles .. 'Oh yes certainly!—and indeed she did believe that Taylor had left home precisely on that business'——poising her head to the right & left with the most easy grace– 'She was sure that Taylor wd give his very best attention'....…
So, in the midst of the politeness, we drove away, & Wilson seemed to be of opinion that we had escaped with our lives barely. Plain enough it was, that the gang was strong there. The society .. the 'Fancy' .. had their roots in the ground. The faces of those men!–"
Was not that a scene straight out of Dickens?
"I had not been at home long, when Mr Taylor did actually come—desiring to have six guineas confided to his honour!! .. & promising to bring back the dog. I sent down the money, & told them to trust the gentleman’s honour, as there seemed no other way for it—: & while the business was being concluded, in came Alfred, & straightway called our ‘honorable friend’ (meeting him in the passage) a swindler and a liar & a thief. Which no gentleman could bear, of course. Therefore with reiterated oaths he swore, 'as he hoped to be saved, we should never see our dog again'—& rushed out of the house. Followed a great storm. I was very angry with Alfred, who had no business to risk Flush’s life for the sake of the satisfaction of trying on names which fitted. Angry I was with Alfred, & terrified for Flush,—seeing at a glance the probability of his head being cut off as the proper vengeance!—& down stairs I went with the resolution of going again myself to Mr Taylor’s in Manning Street, or Shoreditch wheron it was, & saving the victim at any price. It was the evening, getting dusk—& everybody was crying out against me for being ‘quite mad’ & obstinate, & wilful—— I was called as many names as Mr Taylor. At last, Set said that he would do it, promised to be as civil as I could wish, & got me to be 'in a good humour & go up to my room again'. And he went instead of me, & took the money & fair words, & induced the ‘man of honour’ to forfeit his vengeance & go & fetch the dog– Flush arrived here at eight oclock, (at the very moment with your letter, dearest!–) & the first thing he did was to dash up to this door, & then to drink his purple cup full of water, filled three times over. He was not so enthusiastic about seeing me, as I expected—he seemed bewildered & frightened—and whenever anyone said to him 'Poor Flush, did the naughty men take you away?', he put up his head & moaned & yelled. He has been very unhappy certainly. Dirty he is, & much thinner, & continually he is drinking. Six guineas, was his ransom—& now I have paid twenty for him to the dogstealers."
Why are men continually messing about with her plans? I think that Flush probably thought his lady was mad at him for something he had done and that was why he was punished. Dogs think that if something 'bad' happens to them it is because they have done something wrong and act sheepish because they think you are mad at them.
"Arabel says that I wanted you yesterday, she thought, to manage me a little. She thought I was suddenly siezed with madness, to prepare to walk out of the house in that state of excitement & that hour of the evening. But now—was I to let them cut off Flush’s head?"
That Arabel, what a teazer. Truth be revealed Miss Barrett didn't need Browning to manage her. She could have taken care of the whole thing herself if all the men had kept out of it.
"There! I have told you the whole history of yesterday’s adventures—& tomorrow I shall see you, my own dear, dear!– Only remember for my sake, not to come if you are not fit to come– Dearest, remember not to run any hazards!– That dinner!—which I will blame, because it deserves it!,— .. Mind not to make me be as bad as that dinner, in being the means of working you harm!– So I expect you tomorrow conditionally .. if you are well enough!—& I thank you for the kind dear letter, welcome next to you, .. being ever & ever your own Ba–
I have been to the vestry again today .."
And through it all she is still taking outings. She'll be going to organ recitals next. She has not yet received Browning's letter cancelling their meeting the next day. More letters to come instead.

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