Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October 2, 1845

Browning writes today to discuss the book purporting to be by Shelley:

"Well, let us hope against hope in the sad matter of the novel—yet, yet,—it is by Shelley, if you will have the truth—as I happen to know—proof last being that Leigh Hunt told me he unearthed it in Shelley's own library at Marlow once, to the writer's horror and shame—'He snatched it out of my hands'—said H. Yet I thrust it into yours ... so much for the subtle fence of friends who reach your heart by a side-thrust, as I told you on Tuesday, after the enemy has fallen back breathless and baffled. As for the date, that Stockdale was a notorious pirate and raker-up of rash publications ... and, do you know, I suspect the title-page is all that boasts such novelty,—see if the book, the inside leaves, be not older evidently!—a common trick of the 'trade' to this day. The history of this and 'Justrozzi,' as it is spelt,—the other novel,—may be read in Medwin's 'Conversations'—and, as I have been told, in Lady Ch. Bury's 'Reminiscences' or whatever she calls them ... the 'Guistrozzi' was certainly 'written in concert with'—somebody or other ... for I confess the whole story grows monstrous and even the froth of wine strings itself in bright bubbles,—ah, but this was the scum of the fermenting vat, do you see? I am happy to say I forget the novel entirely, or almost—and only keep the exact impression which you have gained ... through me! 'The fair cross of gold he dashed on the floor'—(that is my pet-line ... because the 'chill dew' of a place not commonly supposed to favour humidity is a plagiarism from Lewis's 'Monk,' it now flashes on me! Yes, Lewis, too, puts the phrase into intense italics.) And now, please read a chorus in the 'Prometheus Unbound' or a scene from the 'Cenci'—and join company with Shelley again!"

What I gain from this exchange is that Browning loves gossip about his literary heroes. Shelley wrote a really bad book but he defends him because, as we know, all writers write really bad books before they write really good books. But Browning comes to dislikes gossip about himself and those he cares for. How wonderfully contradictory.

"—From 'chill dew' I come to the cloakyou are quite right—and I give up that fancy. Will you, then, take one more precaution when all proper safe-guards have been adopted; and, when everything is sure, contrive some one sureness besides, against cold or wind or sea-air; and say 'this—for the cloak which is not here, and to help the heart's wish which is,'—so I shall be there palpably. Will you do this? Tell me you will, to-morrow—and tell me all good news."

Ah, think of me and be warm....

My Mother suffers still.... I hope she is no worse—but a little better—certainly better. I am better too, in my unimportant way.

Now I will write you the verses ... some easy ones out of a paper-full meant to go between poem and poem in my next number, and break the shock of collision.

Let me kiss your hand—dearest! My heart and life—all is yours, and forever—God make you happy as I am through you—Bless you R.B."

Browning writes out the verses for Mary Hunter's autograph album and tells Miss Barrett that his heart and life are hers forever. Is that possible?

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