Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Decmber 25, 1845

Browning sends a letter on Christmas Day:

"25th Dec.

My dear Christmas gift of a letter! I will write back a few lines—(all I can, having to go out now)—just that I may forever .. certainly during our mortal 'forever'—mix my love for you, and, as you suffer me to say, your love for me .. dearest! .. these shall be mixed with the other loves of the day and live therein,—as I write, and trust, and know— forever! While I live I will remember what was my feeling in reading, and in writing, and in stopping from either .. as I have just done .. to kiss you and bless you with my whole heart– Yes, yes, bless you, my own!

All is right, all of your letter .. admirably right and just in the defence of the women I seemed to speak against; and only seemed—because that is a way of mine which you must have observed,—that foolish concentrating of thought and feeling, for a moment, on some one little spot of a character or anything else indeed, and, in the attempt to do justice and develop whatever may seem ordinarily to be overlooked in it,—that over vehement insisting on, and giving an undue prominence to, the same—which has the effect of taking away from the importance of the rest of the related objects which, in truth, are not considered at all .. or they would also rise proportionally when subjected to the same (.. that is, correspondingly magnified and dilated ..) light and concentrated feeling; so, you remember, the old divine, preaching on 'small sins,' in his zeal to expose the tendencies & consequences usually made little account of, was led to maintain the said small sins to be 'greater than great ones.' But then .. if you look on the world altogether, and accept the small natures, in their usual proportion, with the greater .. things do not look quite so bad; because, the conduct which is atrocious in those higher cases, of proposal and acceptance, may be no more than the claims of the occasion justify—(wait and hear!)—in certain other cases where the thing sought for and granted is avowedly less by a million degrees; it shall all be traffic, exchange-"
I have to stop him right here. Yes, I did notice that he did have this "foolish concentrating of thought and feeling" and so did everyone else and that is why no one likes his poetry. Just sayin'. But I had to pause here in mid-sentence to ask: What kind of Christmas letter is this? Has he been in the egg-nog? Out all night with the boys? He is just crazy out of control here. But let us go on or we may never make it to New Years.
"(counting spiritual gifts as only coin, for our purpose)—but surely the formalities and policies and decencies all vary with the nature of the thing trafficked for—a man makes up his mind during half his life to acquire a Pitt-diamond or a Pilgrim-pearl—and gets witnesses and testimony and so forth—but, surely, when I pass a shop where oranges are ticketed up seven for six pence I offend no law by sparing all words and putting down the piece with a certain authoritative ring on the counter: If instead of diamonds you want—(being a king or queen)—provinces with live men on them .. there is so much more diplomacy required,—new interests are appealed to .. high motives supposed, at all events—whereas, when, in Naples, a man asks leave to black your shoe in the dusty street 'purely for the honor of serving your Excellency' you laugh and would be sorry to find yourself without a 'grano' or two—(six of which, about, make a farthing)– Now, do you not see? Where so little is to be got, why offer much more? If a man knows that .. but I am teaching you! All I mean is, that, in Benedick’s phrase, 'the world must go on'– He who honestly wants his wife to sit at the head of his table and carve .. that is be his help-meat (not 'help mete for him')—he shall assuredly find a girl of his degree who wants the table to sit at,—and some dear friend to mortify, who would be glad of such a piece of fortune—and if that man offers that woman a bunch of orange-flowers and a sonnet, instead of a buck-horn-handled sabre-shaped knife, sheathed in an 'Every Lady Her Own Market-Woman, Being a Table of' &c &c then, I say, he is——.

Bless you, dearest—the clock strikes—and time is none .. but .. bless you!

Your own RB"
Well, Merry Christmas to you Mr. Browning. I am not at all sure that he himself knew where he was going with this. Thank heaven the clock struck. Essentially: men act the way they do to get the woman they want. From this I gather that if a man acts like a pig he will get a pig. But that is not true. A man will act like a gentleman to get a lady and be masking his true pig nature. And as for him 'teaching' Miss Barrett. No. He was lecturing but he was not teaching. Letter grade F. Now go sleep it off Mr. Browning and try again when you have sobered up.

No comments:

Post a Comment