Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17, 1846

Browning sends the only letter today:


Did my own Ba, in the prosecution of her studies, get to a book on the forb .. no, unforbidden shelf—wherein Voltaire pleases to say that 'si Dieu n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer [If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him]'?– I feel, after reading these letters, .. as ordinarily after seeing you, sweetest, or hearing from you .. that if marriage did not exist, I should infallibly invent it. I should say, no words, no feelings even, do justice to the whole conviction and religion of my soul—and tho’ they may be suffered to represent some one minute’s phase of it, yet, in their very fulness and passion they do injustice to the unrepresented, other minute’s, depth and breadth of love .. which let my whole life (I would say) be devoted to telling and proving and exemplifying, if not in one, then in another way—let me have the plain palpable power of this,—the assured time for this .. something of the satisfaction .. (but for the fantasticalness of the illustration) .. something like the earnest joy of some suitor in Chancery if he could once get Lord Lyndhurst into a room with him, and lock the door on them both, and know that his whole story must be listened to now, and the 'rights of it',—dearest, the love unspoken now you are to hear 'in all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth .. at the hour of death, and'—

If I did not know this was so,—nothing would have been said, or sought for—(your friendship, the perfect pride in it, the wish for, and eager co-operation in, your welfare, all that is different, and, seen now, nothing.)

I will care for it no more, dearest. I am wedded to you now– I believe no human being could love you more—that thought consoles me for my own imperfection—for when that does strike me, as so often it will,—I turn round on my pursuing self, and ask—'What if it were a claim, then,—what is in Her, demanded rationally, equitably, in return for what were in you—do you like that way?'—and I do not, Ba—you, even, might not—when people everyday buy improveable ground, and eligible sites for building, and don’t want every inch filled up, covered over, done to their hands! So take me, and make me what you can and will—and tho’ never to be more yours, yet more like you, I may and must be– Yes, indeed .. best, only love!"

He does go on and on sometimes trying to find some indefinable proof of his love. He does this in his poems too, going at a subject again and again trying to squeeze a proof out of his mind and onto the paper. It works here, in this setting, for this audience however, because she enjoys puzzling out his meanings. His questioning if there is a claim on her may be an attempt to suss out if there is a claim on her or simply him going over and over in his mind all possible scenarios or a proof that he is not worthy of her. He is certainly a constant wooer.

"And am I not grateful to your Sisters—entirely grateful for that crowning comfort,—it is 'miraculous', too, if you please—for you shall know me by finger-tip intelligence or any art magic of old or new times .. but they do not see me, know me—and must moreover be jealous of you, chary of you, as the daughters of Hesperus, of wonderers and wistful lookers up at the gold apple—yet instead of 'rapidly levelling eager eyes'—they are indulgent? Then .. shall I wish capriciously they were not your sisters, not so near you, that there might be a kind of grace in loving them for it? but what grace can there be when .. yes, I will tell you—no, I will not—it is foolish—and it is not foolish in me to love the table and chairs and vases in your room–"

The Hesperides were three nymphs who guarded the Garden of the Hesperides. Here is what Wikipedia say:

"The Garden of the Hesperides is Hera's orchard in the west, where either a single tree or a grove of immortality-giving golden apples grew. The apples were planted from the fruited branches that Gaia gave to her as a wedding gift when Hera accepted Zeus. The Hesperides were given the task of tending to the grove, but occasionally plucked from it themselves. Not trusting them, Hera also placed in the garden a never-sleeping, hundred-headed dragon named Ladon as an additional safeguard. However, in the mythology surrounding the Judgement of Paris, the Goddess of Discord Eris managed to enter the garden, pluck a golden apple, inscribe it 'To the most beautiful' (Ancient Greek: Kallistei) and roll it into the wedding party (which she had not been invited to), in effect causing the Trojan Wars."
In the myth of Hercules, he was given the task of stealing the apples and he supposedly slew the dragon, Ladon, to steal the apples. Browning as Hercules? She probably thought so.

Here is a nice depiction of the three nymphs by Frederick, Lord Leighton called The Garden of the Hesperides. Note the Golden Apples in the tree. Imagine the three Barrett sisters lounging so.

But why does he see Miss Barrett's sisters as jealous of her? Perhaps just to fit his own myth.

"Let me finish writing to-morrow; it would not become me to utter a word against the arrangement .. and Saturday promised, too—but though all concludes against the early hour on Monday, yet—but this is wrong—on Tuesday it shall be, then,—thank you, dearest! You let me keep up the old proper form, do you not?– I shall continue to thank, and be gratified &c as if I had some untouched fund of thanks at my disposal to cut a generous figure with on occasion! And so, now, for your kind considerateness thank you .. that I say, which God knows, could not say, if I died ten deaths in one to do you good, 'you are repaid'–

To-morrow I will write, and answer more– I am pretty well—and will go out to-day,—tonight. My Act is done, and copied—I will bring it. Do you see the Athenæum? By Chorley surely—and kind and satisfactory. I did not expect any notice for a long time—all that about the 'mist', 'unchanged manner' and the like is politic concession to the Powers that Be .. because he might tell me that and much more with his own lips or unprofessional pen, and be thanked into the bargain—yet he does not– But I fancy he saves me from a rougher hand—the long extracts answer every purpose."

Which just goes to show: there is what the writer thinks and there is what the writer says and there is what the writer writes.

"There is all to say yet—tomorrow!and ever, ever your own,—God bless you! RB

Admire the clean paper .. I did not notice that I have been writing on a desk where a candle fell! See the bottoms of the other pages!"

Good grief! Ink blots and candle grease. Browning is such a man.

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