Wednesday, January 9, 2013

January 9, 1846

Miss Barrett received Mr. Browning in her room at Wimpole Street on January 8th and Miss Barrett continues their conversation in letters the next day.

"Friday morning

You never think, ever dearest, that I ‘repent’—why what a word to use! You never could think such a word for a moment! If you were to leave me even, .. to decide that it is best for you to do it, & do it, .. I should accede at once of course, but never should I nor could I ‘repent’ .. regret anything .. be sorry for having known you & loved you .. no! Which I say simply to prove that, in no extreme case, could I repent for my own sake– For yours, it might be different.

Not out of ‘generosity’ certainly, but from the veriest selfishness, I choose here before God, any possible present evil, rather than the future consciousness of feeling myself less to you, on the whole, than another woman might have been.

Oh, these vain & most heathenish repetitions!—do I not vex you by them, you whom I would always please, & never vex? Yet they force their way because you are the best noblest & dearest in the world, & because your happiness is so precious a thing.

Cloth of frieze, be not too bold,
Though thou’rt matched with cloth of gold!–

.. that, beloved, was written for me. And you, if you would make me happy, .. always will look at yourself from my ground & by my light, as I see you, & consent to be selfish in all things."
The quote is from the gentleman Charles Brandon who married the widowed sister of Henry VIII (she had been married to the King of France), Mary Tudor. He had this sewn onto his devise at the jousting tournament held at the time of their wedding, noting his humble origins. It can be seen in at least one of the extant paintings of Mary Tudor. Frieze in this context refers to simple embroidered cloth:
Cloth of Gold do not despise,
Tho' thou art matcht with Cloth of Frieze;
Cloth of Frieze, be not too bold,
Tho' thou art matcht with Cloth of Gold
"Observe, that if I were vacillating, I shd not be so weak as to teaze you with the process of the vacillation: I should wait till my pendulum ceased swinging. It is precisely because I am your own, past any retraction or wish of retraction, .. because I belong to you by gift & ownership, & am ready & willing to prove it before the world at a word of yours,––it is precisely for this, that I remind you too often of the necessity of using this right of yours, not to your injury .. of being wise & strong for both of us, & of guarding your happiness which is mine– I have said these things ninety & nine times over, & over & over have you replied to them, .. as yesterday! & now, do not speak any more. It is only my preachment for general use, & not for particular application,—only to be ready for application. I love you from the deepest of my nature—the whole world is nothing to me beside you—& what is so precious, is not far from being terrible. 'How dreadful is this place'."
Miss Barrett is full of interesting quotes today. This is Genesis 28:17: "And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."
Another instance where Browning takes on a heavenly aspect.

"To hear you talk yesterday, is a gladness in the thought for today, .. it was with such a full assent that I listened to every word. It is true, I think, that we see things (things apart from ourselves) under the same aspect & colour—& it is certainly true that I have a sort of instinct by which I seem to know your views of such subjects as we have never looked at together. I know you so well, (yes, I boast to myself of that intimate knowledge) that I seem to know also the idola [images] of all things as they are in your eyesso that never, scarcely, I am curious, .. never anxious, to learn what your opinions may be– Now, have I been curious or anxious? It was enough for me to know you.

More than enough! You have 'left undone' .. do you say? On the contrary, you have done too much .. you are too much– My cup, .. which used to hold at the bottom of it just the drop of Heaven-dew mingling with the absinthus, .. has overflowed with all this wine—& that makes me look out for the vases, which would have held it better, had you stretched out your hand for them.

Say how you are .. & do take care & exercise—& write to me, dearest!

Ever your own–


How right you are about Ben Capstan,—& the illustration by the yellow clay. That is precisely what I meant, .. said with more precision than I could say it. Art without an ideal is neither nature nor art. The question involves the whole difference between Madame Tussaud & Phidias.

I have just received Mr Edgar Poe’s book—& I see that the deteriorating preface which was to have saved me from the vanity-fever produceable by the dedication, is cut down & away—perhaps in this particular copy only!–"
This is the book dedicated to Miss Barrett but supposedly with a preface that criticized her poetry. Apparently the critical preface never appeared.

"Tuesday is so near, as men count, that I caught myself just now being afraid lest the week should have no chance of appearing long to you!– Try to let it be long to you—will you? My consistency is wonderful."
Methinks the visit on January 8th was a huge success, Miss Barrett seems a bit giddy. Yet still she cannot shake the notion that she will ruin his life. I am nearing the end of the two volumes of letters written by Mrs. Browning to her sister Arabel after her marriage (Mrs. Browning's, not Arabel's). In the last months of her life, as her health is breaking down, Mrs. Browning returns to this theme of her weakness hurting others or holding them back from what they would do if not for her. She never in her life sees her true worth. And yet, 166 years later, we sit at our computers and read and learn from her letters and life. And her humor. My consistency is wonderful, indeed.
Browning sends a short note:
"Friday Mg
As if I could deny you anything! Here is the Review—indeed it was foolish to mind your seeing it at all. But now, may I stipulate?– You shall not send it back—but on your table I shall find and take it next Tuesday—c’est convenu [it is agreed]!The other precious volume has not yet come to hand (nor to foot—) all thro’ your being so sure that to carry it home would have been the death of me last evening!
I cannot write my feelings in this large writing, begun on such a scale for the Reviews’ sake—and just now .. there is no denying it .. and spite of all I have been incredulous about .. it does seem that the feat is achieved and that I do love you, plainly, surely, more than ever, more than any day in my life before. —It is your secret, the why the how,—the experience is mine: what are you doing to me?—in the heart’s heart–
Rest—dearest—bless you–"
Yes, their meeting must have been quite invigorating. She is giddy and he loves her more. And even Browning the metaphysician is showing some humor.

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