Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 15, 1845

Let us begin with Browning on December 15:

"Monday Morning.

Every word you write goes to my heart and lives there: let us live so, and die so, if God will. I trust many years hence to begin telling you what I feel now;—that the beam of the light will have reached you!—meantime it is here. Let me kiss your forehead, my sweetest, dearest.


Wednesday I am waiting for—how waiting for!

After all, it seems probable that there was no intentional mischief in that jeweller’s management of the ring—the divided gold must have been exposed to fire,—heated thoroughly, perhaps,—and what became of the contents then! Well, all is safe now, and I go to work again of course—my next act is just done,—that is, being done—but, what I did not foresee, I cannot bring it, copied, by Wednesday, as my sister went this morning on a visit for the week–"
Browning is referring to the loss of Miss Barrett's hair where it sat in the bezel of the ring that Browning took to the jeweler to have re sized. He seems to be absolving the jeweler of taking the hair: apparently the hair was destroyed when the metal was heated thru. Miss Barrett will just have to give up another curl to the cause of love.

"On the matters, the others, I will not think, as you bid me,—if I can help, at least. But your kind, gentle, good sisters!—and the provoking sorrow of the right meaning at bottom of the wrong doing—wrong to itself and its plain purpose—and meanwhile, the real tragedy and sacrifice of a life!"
Browning is alluding to Henrietta's sacrifice of her life with Captain Cook to the 'no marriage' edict of their father. He is very kindly rationalizing that her father's intentions are right despite the outcome being wrong. I wonder if he really believes that Mr. Barrett's meaning is 'right'. I have trouble understanding what Mr. Barrett's 'meaning' is in his opposition to his children's marrying so I cannot offer an opinion. Perhaps Mr. Barrett knew something that I do not know. But I doubt it.

"If you should see Mr Kenyon, and can find if he will be disengaged on Wednesday evening .. I shall be glad to go in that case.

But I have been writing, as I say, and will leave off this, for the better communing with you: don’t imagine I am unwell,—I feel quite well—but a little tired, and the thought of you waits in such readiness! So, may God bless you, beloved! I am all your own RB"
Miss Barrett writes later the same day:
Mr Kenyon has not come—he does not come so often I think. Did he know from you that you were to see me last thursday? if he did it might be as well .. do you not think? .. to go to him next week—. Will it not seem frequent, otherwise? But if you did not tell him of thursday distinctly, (I did not––remember!) he might take the wednesday’s visit to be the substitute for rather than the successor of thursday’s:—and in that case, why not write a word to him yourself to propose dining with him as he suggested? He really wishes to see you—of that, I am sure. But you will know what is best to do—& he may come here tomorrow perhaps, & ask a whole set of questions about you, .. so my right hand may forget its cunning for any good it does. Only dont send messages by me .. please!."
How happy I am with your letter tonight.
When I had sent away my last letter I began to remember .. & could not help smiling to do so, .. that I had totally forgotten the great subject of my 'fame,' & the oath you administered about it … totally!!– Now how do you read that omen? If I forget myself, who is to remember me, do you think? .. except you.? which brings me where I would stay. Yes!—'yours' it must be—but you, it had better be!– But, to leave the vain superstitions, let me go on to assure you that I did mean to answer that part of your former letter, & do mean to behave well & be obedient. Your wish would be enough, even if there could be likelihood without it of my doing nothing ever again. Oh, certainly I have been idle—it comes of lotos-eating .. &, besides, of sitting too long in the sun. Yet ‘idle’ may not be the word—: silent I have been, through too many thoughts to speak .. just that! As to writing letters & reading manuscripts’ filling all my time, why I must lack ‘vital energy’ indeed .. you do not mean seriously to fancy such a thing of me!– For the rest …"
She is responding to Browning's comment in his letter of December 12th: "And one of the things I must say, will be, that with my love, I cannot lose my pride in you—that nothing but that love, could balance that pride—and that, blessing the love so divinely, you must minister to the pride as well, yes, my own—I shall follow your fame,—and, better than fame, the good you do—in the world—and, if you please, it shall all be mine—as your hand, as your eyes–"
But she is being coy when she says that she has not been idle but silent. We can see that she has been busy working on the Sonnet Sequence and we will see evidence of the connection even in this letter.
"Tell me—— Is it your opinion that when the apostle Paul saw the unspeakable things,—being snatched up into the third Heavens 'whether in the body or out of the body he could not tell,' … is it your opinion that, all the week after, he worked particularly hard at the tent-making? For my part, I doubt it."
A simple, beautiful analogy. Browning should take a lesson.
"I would not speak profanely or extravagantly—it is not the best way to thank God. But to say only that I was in the desert & that I am among the palm-trees, is to say nothing … because it is easy to understand how, after walking straight on .. on .. furlong after furlong .. dreary day after dreary day, .. one may come to the end of the sand & within sight of the fountain:—there is nothing miraculous in that, you know!–
Yet even in that case, .. to doubt whether it may not all be mirage, would be the natural first thought .. the recurring dream-fear!. now would it not? And you can reproach me for my thoughts, .. as if they were unnatural!—!!"
Try the palm in Sonnet XXIX:
I think of thee!—my thoughts do twine and bud
About thee, as wild vines, about a tree,
Put out broad leaves, and soon there’s nought to see
Except the straggling green which hides the wood.
Yet, O my palm-tree, be it understood
I will not have my thoughts instead of thee
Who art dearer, better! Rather, instantly
Renew thy presence; as a strong tree should,
Rustle thy boughs and set thy trunk all bare,
And let these bands of greenery which insphere thee,
Drop heavily down,—burst, shattered everywhere!

Because, in this deep joy to see and hear thee
And breathe within thy shadow a new air,
I do not think of thee—I am too near thee.
"Never mind about the third act––the advantage is that you will not ‘tire’ yourself perhaps the next week. What gladness it is that you should really seem better—& how much better that is than even ‘Luria’!–
Mrs Jameson came today—but I will tell you.
May God bless you now & always–
Your EBB–"

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