Saturday, January 5, 2013

January 5 and 8, 1846 Letters to Horne

Let's see what Miss Barrett wrote to her friend and erstwhile collaborator Richard H. Horne about his poems and contrast that to what she said to Browning about same. The letter is postmarked January 5, 1846:


I thank you my dear Mr Horne for your kindness in the gift of your Ballads & Romances, & for all the pleasure I have had in the work. The ‘Monk of Swineshead Abbey’ & the ‘Three Knights,’ & the unforgotten ‘Delora’ strike different keys, & are all three deep with various music. The monk is very vigorous & significant, & in the three Knights, I like your satyr who swears by his horn, & your giant who wakes 'like a giant from his slumbers' & swears like the same. What I like least in the volume .. now, you know, I always persist in telling the truth, .. is the Elf-story .. though I enjoy the beginning & the end just as you would have me. But .. but .. I eschew Grandmama Grey & her nightcap & ‘the small dog’ who is not 'the small boy,' entirely, for machinery: it is no right machinery for the elves, in my mind, & I say what I think. The familiar & the supernatural are brought too close together perhaps—‘shoetye & blue sky’ .. as you say in your Apocrypha– Now look at Drayton’s talk of the fairies—how pure & musical that is!– I hold that a Grandmama Grey would never have sight of a real elf, let her put on her spectacles ever so!– The opening of the poem has great beauty, & so has the close of it, as I said & must say again!– And that surprises me, that you should allow yourself to wander from the keynote after the fashion you choose.

But the monks—but the knights—oh we must all thank you for these things just as I do!–

& Ben Capstan has vigour & meaning too—only that I object a little to his Doric which is not sweet Doric, & take the liberty of thinking it unlawful.

Scotch is lawful–"
She is referring here to the Doric dialect of Northeast Scotland.

"But I shd object to Zummezetshire! I, for one!–

And I shd object to Cockneyism á fortiori [for a stronger reason].

Wrong perhaps!—but I tell you the truth.

And so, you go to Ireland, to wrestle with the one man there!—or to patronize him peradventure. Do you go directly, & is it a prospect which pleases you?– I wish you the most satisfying of successes in the dirt of politics, & hands still white for the Muses.

May God bless you for this year & other years!– Success to this book, especially!–

If you could see what a tangle my thoughts are in, you would smile!

Ever most truly & gratefully
your friend
Elizabeth B Barrett.

What a beautiful image that is in illustration of the transiency of life ..

‘—the shadow of the windmill sails
Across yon slope of sunny green

It strikes me much."
Well, she is certainly consistent. She could only get away with that with a true friend. That was a review, not a 'thanks for sending the book'. Remind me not to send her my poetry. But they are used to working together and trying to get things right for publication, so I am sure that he is used to her corrections.
Browning writes to Horne on January 8, 1846:
"Jan. 8. ’46
My dear Horne,
I very sincerely congratulate you on the fine things in this new volume– The Swinestead Monk is admirable, and the Camelott adventure, sylvan, 'to the height'—perfect! Bedd Gelert is most beautiful too– These I only particularize because the Reviews will be sure to compliment you especially on The Bohemian Story—tho’ its greatest value to me, by the side of the others, is in the proof it gives to those same Reviewers that, as Carlyle has it, Pegasus can furl wing and ride post if it please him at an approved pace, in an accepted and allowed path– There is good sailor-logic and sailor-language in Ben’s adventure, and a funny tingling pelt of ferns, woodriff, lichens and such like forest-wrack in the Elf legend—and if I rather wish the children away, Grandmama Grey and all, it is because all good stories, Fairy or otherwise are meant for grown-up men, and children only like them in their childish degree—children should know their place and look between our knees at such work—not make us look over their heads thro’ the halfopened door, as if stealing a fearful joy! Delora remains Delora!
For the whole, thanks and admiration, now and ever, my dear Horne, from
your RB
Shall I never be satisfied and see reprinted that capital 'Merrie Devil of Edmonton' which first gave me a taste of your quality? It would have gone well between any two in this collection. And remember that the suppression of the notes to Delora is only the printer’s affair–
Shall I be so ungrateful as to leave out the famous Bear History ["The Good-Natured Bear"]? It is furry—warm and genial."
You can tell that Browning and Horne are acquaintances and not good friends. A very kind, good natured thank you from Browning strikes just the right note of thank you, touching on the things he likes and just a hint of dissatisfaction with the fairy story.

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