Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 21, 1845

Miss Barrett has something to say today, just to make things clear, regarding her warning about smelling the slaughter in the bathroom:

"Even at the risk of teazing you a little I must say a few words, that there may be no misunderstanding between us—& this, before I sleep tonight. Today & before today you surprised me by your manner of receiving my remark about your visits, for I believed I had sufficiently made clear to you long ago how certain questions were ordered in this house & how no exception was to be expected for my sake or even for yours. Surely I told you this quite plainly long ago. I only meant to say in my last letter, in the same track .. (fearing in the case of your wishing to come oftener that you might think it unkind in me not to seem to wish the same) .. that if you came too often & it was observed, difficulties & vexations wd follow as a matter of course, & it would be wise therefore to run no risk. That was the head & front of what I meant to say. The weekly one visit is a thing established & may go on as long as you please—& there is no objection to your coming twice a week now & then .. if now & then merely .. if there is no habit .. do you understand. I may be prudent in an extreme perhaps—& certainly everybody in the house is not equally prudent!—but I did shrink from running any risk with that calm & comfort of the winter as it seemed to come on– And was it more than I said about the cloak? was there any newness in it? anything to startle you? Still I do perfectly see that whether new or old, what it involves may well be unpleasant to you—& that (however old) it may be apt to recur to your mind with a new increasing unpleasantness. We have both been carried too far perhaps, by late events & impulses—but it is never too late to come back to a right place, & I for my part come back to mine, & entreat you my dearest friend, first, not to answer this, & next, to weigh & consider thoroughly 'that particular contingency' which (I tell you plainly, I who know) the tongue of men & of angels would not modify so as to render less full of vexations to you. Let Pisa prove the excellent hardness of some marbles!– Judge. From motives of selfrespect, you may well walk an opposite way .. you!. When I told you once .. or twice .. that 'no human influence should' &c &c, .. I spoke for myself, quite overlooking you—& now that I turn & see you, I am surprised that I did not see you before .. there. I ask you therefore to consider ‘that contingency’ well—not forgetting the other obvious evils, which the late decision about Pisa has aggravated beyond calculation .. for as the smoke rolls off we see the harm done by the fire. And so,—and now .. is it not advisable for you to go abroad at once .. as you always intended, you know .. now that your book is through the press? What if you go next week? I leave it to you. In any case, I entreat you not to answer thisneither let your thoughts be too hard on me for what you may call perhaps vacillation—only that I stand excused (I do not say justified) before my own moral sense. May God bless you– If you go, I shall wait to see you till your return, & have letters in the meantime—. I write all this as fast as I can to have it over. What I ask of you is, to consider along & decide advisedly .. for both our sakes. If it should be your choice not to make an end now, .. why I shall understand that by your not going .. or you may say ‘no’ in a word .. for I require no ‘protestations’ indeed—and you may trust to me––it shall be as you choose– YOU WILL CONSIDER MY HAPPINESS MOST BY CONSIDERING YOUR OWN.. & that is my last word."
Wow, she starts in telling him that he should only come once a week and ends by telling him to leave her. Or if he doesn't want to 'make an end' she will know if he doesn't go to Italy. What happened from the beginning of the paragraph to the end of the paragraph? One thing that comes to mind is that she asked him in her last letter if he was going to Italy and he did not respond to that specific inquiry.
Again she pleads with him not to respond. Good plan, that is exactly how to get him to respond.
"Wednesday morning. I did not say half I thought about the poems yesterday—& their various power & beauty will be striking & surprising to your most accustomed readers. St Praxed—Pictor Ignotus—the ride—The Duchess!– Of the new poems I like supremely the first & last, .. that 'Lost Leader' which strikes so broadly & deep .. which nobody can ever forget—& which is worth all the journalizing & pamphleteering in the world!—& then, the last ‘Thought’ which is quite to be grudged to that place of fragments .. those grand sea-sights in the long lines. Should not these fragments be severed otherwise than by numbers? The last stanza but one of the ‘Lost Mistress’ seemed obscure to me. Is it so really? The end you have put to ‘England in Italy’ gives unity to the whole .. just what the poem wanted. Also you have given some nobler lines to the middle than met me there before. The Duchess appears to me more than ever a new-minted golden coin—the rhythm of it answering to your own description.
You have right of trove to these novel effects of rhythm. Now if people do not cry out about these poems, what are we to think of the world?
May God bless you always– Send me the next proof in any case.
Your EBB."
Don't you enjoy how she feels no fear in criticising his poetry. Always her idea is to make his poems clear and marketable.
How will Browning respond to this rather sad, rather desperate letter?

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