Friday, October 19, 2012

October 19, 1846

Mrs. Browning wrote another long letter to her sister Arabel in mid-October 1846, written over a series of days, describing in vivid detail her honeymoon trip across Europe:

"...R. is more than ever I believed him to be, when the belief was at fullest before we married. I can only wonder increasingly at the fact of his selecting me out of a world of women-. Without the least affectation, it is the wonder of my life. Also, the repentance does not seem to come, nor to threaten to come. He loves me better every minute, he says, on the contrary-There is no honeymoon for us any longer,..but the stars still keep us in light. The goodness and tenderness of every moment is the 'thing to dream of & not to tell'. At Genoa (where we disembarked, slept, & spent a day), he positively refused (quite 'unreasonably,' as Mrs. Jameson agreed with me) to leave my side for the sake of the cathedral, the pictures, or any of the great sights, just because I was tired & could not go to see them. 'He would come with me too see them some future time..but, would not be the least pleasure to him if I were not there'-And so, notwithstanding all entreatied, there he sate..& Mrs. J & Gerardine went alone to see the glories of Genoa. One little walk however (it was that which tired me) he & I had together, & we wandered through close alleys of palaces looking all strange and noble, into a gorgeous church  where mass was going on....."

"...After our week in Paris we began our journey as I hope you heard from my Orleans letter, & a long time indeed we have been about it since then,..far longer than either of us had contemplated. We took the water only from Lyon to Avignon, & the rest of the way went by diligence & vetturino, in order to give Mrs. Jameson the opportunity she required to see certain cathedrals. The one at Bourges is looks as if all the sunsets of time have stained the wonderful painted windows of which the secret is lost..."

Bourges Cathedral and glass

"...By two nights we had some travelling, resting during the days after-& often I felt desperately tired but always had the strength back again-renewed like the eagle's-...One disappointment we had-for our only rainy day was the day we especially wished to keep bright..the day of the Rhone..from Lyons to Avignon-The wild, striking scenery..the fantastic rocks & ruined castles we could only see by painful glimpses though the loophole windows of the miserable cabin--wasn't it unfortunate? At Avignon however, there was consolation. We stayed there three or four days, & made a pilgrimage to Vaucluse as became poets, & my spirits rose & the enjoyment of the hour spent at the sacred fountain was complete. It stands deep & still & green against a majestic wall of rock, & then falls, boils, breaks, foams over the stones, down into the channel of the little river winding away greenly, greenly--the great, green desolate precipices guarding it out of sight-A few little cypresses, & olive trees--no other tree in sight--All desolation and grand. R. said 'Ba, are you losing your senses?'-because without a word I made my way over the boiling water to a still rock in the middle of it..but he followed me & helped me, & we both sate in the spray, till Mis. Jameson was provoked to make a sketch of us-Also, Flush proved his love of me by leaping (at the cost of wetting his feet & my gown) after me to the slippery stone, & was repulsed three times by R. (poor Flushie!) till me moaned on the dry ground to see me on such a position of danger perhaps it seemed to him..poor Flushie!..& he not suffered to share it with me..."

The Fountain at Vaucluse

"...From Avignon we took a voiturier, or rather a voiturier took us, on to Marseilles, ..sleeping in Aix, the city of the troubadours..& embarking in a French steamer, of which we were the only first class passengers-Mrs. J, Gerardine, Wilson & I had the ladies cabin to ourselves, & every comfort & cleanliness (write down that the French are not dirty,..& not delicate certainly--there was not a woman for any use---the 'garcons' did all the duty, & very pleasant, as you may think, that was) & at five o'clock on one burning, glaring afternoon we sailed from glittering, roaring Marseilles..coloured even down into it's puddles--The heat was intense...."

"...I never saw scenery of such a character,-& it was lamentable that we passed Nice & so much beside in the night, missing the glories of it. The ship was near enough shore for us to see the green blinds to the windows of the houses, & if it had not been for the roughness, we should have coasted still nearer. And the scenery..the scenery!-In one place, I counted six mountains (such mountains!) one behind another, colour behind colour, from black, or the most gorgeous purple, to that spectral white which the crowding of the olives gives. And sometimes fragments of cloud hung on the rocks, shining as if the sun himself had broken it. It was all glorious, & past speaking of. We were in Genoa by nightfall,..slept under the fresco'd roof of what had been a palace,..& as the next night closed in, returned to our steamer for the Leghorn voyage & another night....So we landed at Leghorn, looking as miserable as possible--everybody being ill but me..observe that! & poor Wilson more dead than alive--but getting to the hotel & having breakfast & feeling ourselves close to Pisa soon produced a general revival. (Mrs. Jameson had fainted, several times before we came to that.) And now this is Pisa-beautiful Pisa! A little city of great palaces, & the rolling, turbid Arno, striking it's golden path betwixt them underneath the marble bridge-All tranquil & grand-it is the very place to be tranquil in,-& I am delighted with the whole aspect of it....."

"...Well--we stay at this hotel of the Tre Donzelle till we suit ourselves with an apartment,..& since I began this letter we have had great difficulties. The prices of houses are higher than we imagined, & poor Robert has had ever so much uncongenial trouble going from house to house, & divided between his wish of putting me in a good situation, & our common fear of falling into undue expenses--He went and came, coming to insist on carrying me up stairs to see something that might be possible--At last the success came & the 'very thing'--& now I write to you from our home, lying on the sofa thereof, & perfectly contented with the solution of the problem....close to the cathedral & leaning tower, as we see every moment from the windows & in an apartment consisting of one sitting room & three excellent bedrooms, with entrance rooms or hall & with attendance & cooking & the use of silver, china, glass, linen (& the washing there of)-..all inclusive, for..what do you think?..1 pound 6 shilling and 9 pence English money, a week. Hot water a discrezione [discretion]. Is it not tolerably cheap? Moreover the house is a palazzo of the largest, & we inhabit the only let-apartments in it, & it has the grand name Collegio di Ferdinando, & a grand marble entrance, marble steps & pillars & a bust over all of Ferdinando primo. Built too by Vasari...."

Cathedral and Tower, Pisa

"You would certainly smile to see how we set about housekeeping. R. brought home white sugar in his pocket--so good he is, & so little inclined to leave all the trouble 'to the women' as nearly all men else would do! On the contrary his way is to do everything for me even to pouring out the coffee,..& our general councils with Wilson..'What is a pound? what is an ounce?'..would amuse you if you could hear them. Yesterday when dinnertime came (that was our first day 'at home' you must observe) we discovered that there was nothing to eat, ominous beginning-So we set out to the 'trattoria,' the traiteur, & dined excellently for sixteen pence, we two (8d. each),...& sent a dinner apart home to Wilson-& were well pleased enough with our own proceedings, to make an arrangement that the said traiteur should send our repasts to us everyday at two o'clock--& we are to try that plan,..going ourselves when we are inclined..-& if it answers, we shall be freed from other domestic cares than of the coffee & milk & bread. Wilson in an oracle--very useful too & very kind. She was delighted with your remembrance-Poor thing, the mosquitoes have singled her out for a special vengeance. They torment me in a measure, but she is tormented by them out of measure.....How wrong Henrietta was, in fancying me too happy to write! Too happy! I love R. enough to leave you for him, but not for that did I love any of you less than ever, & the anguish of quitting your loss was not less felt....My thoughts cling to you. Believe it, with the fullest knowledge however, otherwise, that I am absolutely happy in the one to whom I have given myself, & that he rises on my admiration, and is better & dearer to my affections every day & hour. Ought I not to be happy, with such love from such a man? And we have been together a whole month now, & he professes to love me 'infinitely more', instead of the dreadful 'less' which was to have been expected. He keeps saying that never he was so happy in his life-which is more magical that music in my ears, while I listen to him. Then such a delightful companion he is,..with what Mrs. Jameson calls 'his inexhaustible wit, & learning & good humor.' She said the other day 'My dear Browning, I have admired your genius for many years, but now I feel it to be still better to love yourself.' So I can repeat such things, you see, without the 'blushing'. And as for you, Arabel, you must love him, if you love me..for all the tenderness which one human being can give to another, he gives me every moment of my life. Love him for my sake & do not call him Mr. Browning. How you would love him for his own sake if you knew him..knew him thoroughly, that the soul & in the life!.....We are going to be busy--we are full of literary plans.....

Mrs. Browning is a letter writer for the ages. She has been freed from her cage and she is living the adventure. Could we safely say she is happy in her marriage? So far it is looking pretty secure. Her health seems to be holding up and she is seeing Europe and she has landed in Pisa in a room with a view. One thing that they have that most newly married people do not have the luxury of time. While they are being careful with money, neither has to work and so they can spend all their time together and get to know each other. That will either make of break their relationship. Sitting with Miss Barrett for two or three hours a week will now be sitting with Mrs. Browning 24 hours a day. That may be hard on anyone. Will it last? We all know that it does. So let's leave them alone for awhile and check back in later.

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