Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15, 1845

Let us begin today with a letter from Browning:

"Thanks my dearest for the good news—of the fever’s abatement—it is good, too, that you write cheerfully, on the whole: what it is to me that you write so of me .. I shall never say that! Mr Kenyon is all kindness, and one gets to take it as not so purely natural a thing, the showing kindness to those it concerns, and belongs to,—well! On Thursday, then,—to-morrow! Did you not get a note of mine, a hurried note, which was meant for yesterday-afternoon’s delivery?

Mr Forster came yesterday & was very profuse of graciosities: he may have, or must have meant well, so we will go on again with the friendship, as the snail repairs his battered shell–"
Forster and Browning had had a falling out about one of Browning's plays that Forster was to produce and star in. So it looks like they are trying to make it up.

"My poems went duly to press on Monday night—there is not much correctable in them,—you make, or you spoil, one of these things,—that is, I do– I have adopted all your emendations, and thrown in lines and words, just a morning’s business,—but one does not write plays so. You may like some of my smaller things, which stop interstices, better than what you have seen .. I shall wonder to know: I am to receive a proof at the end of the week—will you help me & overlook it. ('Yes' .. she says .. my thanks I do not say!)"
See what he is doing? He is going to distract her with poetry. Perfect. She will jump at this.

"While writing this, the 'Times' catches my eye (it just came in)—and something from the 'Lancet' is extracted, a long article against quackery—and, as I say, this is the first & only sentence I read– 'There is scarcely a peer of the realm who is not the patron of some quack pill or potion: and the literati too, are deeply tainted. We have heard of barbarians who threw quacks & their medicines into the sea: but here in England we have Browning a prince of poets, touching the pitch which defiles and making Paracelsus the hero of a poem: Sir E. L. Bulwer writes puffs for the water doctors in a style worthy of imitation by the scribe that does the poetical for Moses & son: Miss Martineau makes a finessing servant girl her physician-general: & Richard Howitt & the Lady aforesaid stand Godfather & mother to the contemptible mesmeric vagaries of Spencer Hall.' —Even the sweet incense to me fails of its effect if Paracelsus is to figure on a level with Priessnitz, and 'Jane'!"
Well, what did he expect? He writes a poem about Paracelsus, a Swiss medical pioneer from the 16th Century, so he must be glorifying quackery. The guy wasn't much of a quack: he discovered Laudanum and medical uses for zinc. So, if no one else likes him, Miss Barrett should!

"What weather, now at last! Think for yourself and for me—could you not go out on such days?

I am quite well now—cold, over & gone: Did I tell you my Uncle arrived from Paris on Monday, as they hoped he would—so my travel would have been to great purpose!

Bless my dearest—my own! RB"
Browning was ready to fly to his Uncle in Paris on Wednesday but he was already in London on Monday. Oh, the wonders of text messaging! Browning has moved to change the subject from Italy to him. Let's see what Miss Barrett says today:
Your letter which should have reached me in the morning of yesterday, I did not receive until nearly midnight—partly through the eccentricity of our new postman whose good pleasure it is to make use of the letter box without knocking,—& partly from the confusion in the house, of illness in different ways .. the very servants being ill, .. one of them breaking a bloodvessel—for there is no new case of fever, .. & for dear Occy, he grows better slowly day by day. And, just so late last night, five letters were found in the letter box, & mine .. yours .. among them—which accounts for my beginning to answer it only now–
What am I to say but this .. that I know what you are .. & that I know also what you are to me,——& that I should accept that knowledge as more than sufficient recompence for worse vexations than these late ones. Therefore let no more be said of them: & no more need be said, .. even if they were not likely to prove their own end good, as I believe with you. You may be quite sure that I shall be well this winter, if in any way it should be possible,—& that I will not be beaten down, if the will can do anything. I admire how .. if all had happened so but a year ago, .. (yet it could not have happened quite so!) I should certainly have been beaten down—& how it is different now, .. & how it is only gratitude to you, to say that it is different nowMy cage is not worse but better since you brought the green groundsel to it—& to dash oneself against the wires of it will not open the door—. We shall see .. & God will oversee. And in the meantime you will not talk of extravagances,—& then nobody need hold up the handbecause, as I said & say, I am yours,—your own—only not to hurt you. So now let us talk of the first of november & of the poems which are to come out then, & of the poems which are to come after then—& of the new avatar of ‘Sordello’, for instance, which you taught me to look for– And let us both be busy & cheerful—& you will come & see me throughout the winter, .. if you do not decide rather on going abroad, which may be better .. better for your health’s sake?—in which case I shall have your letters,—"

She is quite content to stay in Wimpole Street in her 'cage' as long as Browning will come and hold her hand through the bars, so she is fishing here to see if he still has it in his head to go abroad himself for the winter. We know better than that, even if she seems not to.
"And here is another .. just arrived. How I thank you. Think of the Times! Still it was very well of them to recognize your principality. Oh yes—do let me see the proof– I understand too about the ‘making & spoiling.’"

She liked that fact that the Times recognized his principality as a 'prince of poets' even if they mischaracterized his poem.

I knew she would jump up and down to see the proof. He dangled a poem on the line and the fish did bite.
"Almost you forced me to smile by thinking it worth while to say that you are 'not selfish'. Did Sir Percival say so to Sir Gawaine across the Round table, in those times of chivalry to which you belong by the soul? Certainly you are not selfish!—. May God bless you–
Ever your EBB
The fever may last, they say, for a week longer, or even a fortnight—but it decreases. Yet he is hot still, & very weak. To tomorrow!–"

Well, perhaps he is a bit selfish in wanting to free her from her cage in Wimpole Street, but there is nothing very wrong in that. He wants to free her not to re-cage her in a prison of his making, he wants to free her for her own sake to choose him freely.

No comments:

Post a Comment