Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 21, 1845

We shall hear from Browning today with a letter to Miss Barrett and a short note to Mr. Kenyon. Let's see what he has to say to Miss Barrett:

"Friday Night.

How good and kind to send me these books! (The letter I say nothing of, according to convention: if I wrote down best & kindest'—oh, what poorest words!) I shall tell you all about 'Pomfret,' be sure. Chorley talked of it, as we walked homewards together last night,—modestly and well, and spoke of having given away two copies only .. to his mother one, and the other to—Miss Barrett, and 'she seemed interested in the life of it, entered into his purpose in it,' and I listened to it all, loving Chorley for his loveability which is considerable at other times, and saying to myself what might run better in the child’s couplet—'Not more than others I deserve, tho’ God has given me more'!–Given me the letter which expresses surprise that I should feel these blanks between the days when I see you longer and longer! So am I surprised—that I should have mentioned so obvious a matter at all,—or leave unmentioned a hundred others its correlatives which I cannot conceive you to be ignorant of, you! When I spread out my riches before me, and think what the hour and more means that you endow one with, I do .. not to say could, .. I do form resolutions, and say to myself—'If next time I am bidden stay away a fortnight I will not reply by a word beyond the grateful assent'. I do, God knows, lay up in my heart these priceless treasures,—shall I tell you? I never in my life kept a journal, a register of sights, or fancies, or feelings; in my last travel I put down on a slip of paper a few dates .. that I might remember in England, on such a day I was on Vesuvius, in Pompeii, at Shelley’s grave; all that should be kept in memory is, with me, best left to the brain’s own process: but I have from the first recorded the date, and the duration of every visit to you,—the numbers of minutes you have given me .. and I put them together till they make .. nearly two days now,—four-and-twenty-hour-long-days, that I have been by you—and I enter the room determining to get up and go sooner .. and I go away into the light street repenting that I went so soon by I don’t know how many minutes—for, love, what is it all, this love for you, but an earnest yearning to include you in myself, if that might be,—to feel you in my very heart and hold you there for ever, thro’ all chance and earthly changes.

There, I had better leave off,—the words!"
He is still managing to write coherent letters. He certainly has a supple, thinking mind. What fun he must be having hearing Chorley speak about Miss Barrett and yet not saying a word to give a clue that he knows her in an intimate way. The danger, of course, is that Chorley, or anyone else unaware of their relationship, might say something uncomplimentary about her. But all he has to do is protect her reputation. How tempting was it for him to admit the secret knowledge? No, not Browning, he is the soul of chivalry. As is his wont he draws a line across the page to signify a change in mood and subject.


"I was very glad to find myself with your brother yesterday; I like him very much and mean to get a friend in him—(to supply the loss of my friend .. Miss Barrett—which is gone, the friendship, so gone!) But I did not ask after you because I heard Moxon do it. Now of Landor’s verses: I got a note from Forster yesterday telling me that he, too, had received a copy .. so that there is no injunction to be secret. So I got a copy for dear Mr Kenyon, and, lo! what comes! I send the note to make you smile! I shall reply that I felt in duty bound to apprize you; as I did. You will observe that I go to that too facile gate of his on Tuesday, my day .. from your house directly. The worst is that I have got entangled with invitations already, and must go out again, hating it, to more than one place."
So Mr. Kenyon has received a copy of Landor's verse to Browning and offers to send a copy to Miss Barrett. But Browning has already sent a copy to Miss Barrett. Kenyon was pretty chivalrous himself in offering to send the lines to Miss Barrett so that Browning would not look too arrogant in sending them himself.

"I am very well—quite well,—yes, dearest! The pain is quite gone,—and the inconvenience, hard on its trace. You will write to me again, will you not? and be as brief as your heart lets you, to me who hoard up your words and get remote and imperfect ideas of what .. shall it be written? .. anger at you, could mean, when I see a line blotted out,—a second thoughted finger-tip rapidly put forth upon one of my gold pieces!

—I rather think if Warburton reviews me it will be in the 'Quarterly' which I know he writes for– Hanmer is a very sculpturesque passionless highminded and amiable man .. this coldness, as you see it, is part of him. I like his poems, I think, better than you—'the Sonnets,' do you know them? Not 'Frà Cipolla.' See what is here, since you will not let me have only you to look at—this is Landor’s first opinion—expressed to Forster—see the date! and last of all, see me and know me, beloved! May God bless you!"
And here is the letter that Browning sent to Kenyon letting him know that Miss Barrett already had a copy of Landor's verse:
"Friday Night.
Dear Mr Kenyon,
You understand that, like Dr Johnson, 'It is not for me to bandy compliments with my sovereign.' All the pride, and honour is with me .. it is only the love which I do not so strictly insist on keeping to myself.
Forster writes to me that he, too, has received those noble verses of Landor– I may be allowed to wear my 'order' at my button hole on gala days therefore, and where should I go, when dressed like the man whom the King delighteth to honour, if not to Miss Barrett? I sent her a copy directly; but am none the less grateful to you for your good office.
My father and I will be punctual on Tuesday: My sister returns her true thanks for your kind note. For me, I am as ever
most affectionately yours,
R Browning."
How very charming. If Kenyon was not aware of the affection that Browning felt toward this lady then Kenyon was beyond seeing, even with his wonderfully thick lenses. I think Miss Barrett is correct: he chose not to see.

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