And you? how are you? Mind to tell me. May God bless you. Is Monday or Tuesday to be our day? If it were not for Mr. Kenyon I should take courage and say Monday—but Tuesday and Saturday would do as well—would they not?
Shall I have a letter?
R.B. to E.B.B.
Saturday. [Post-mark, January 31, 1846.]
It is a relief to me this time to obey your wish, and reserve further remark on that subject till by and bye. And, whereas some people, I suppose, have to lash themselves up to the due point of passion, and choose the happy minutes to be as loving in as they possibly can ... (that is, in expression; the just correspondency of word to fact and feeling: for it—the love—may be very truly there, at the bottom, when it is got at, and spoken out)—quite otherwise, I do really have to guard my tongue and set a watch on my pen ... that so I may say as little as can well be likely to be excepted to by your generosity. Dearest, love means love, certainly, and adoration carries its sense with it—and so, you may have received my feeling in that shape—but when I begin to hint at the merest putting into practice one or the other profession, you 'fly out'—instead of keeping your throne. So let this letter lie awhile, till my heart is more used to it, and after some days or weeks I will find as cold and quiet a moment as I can, and by standing as far off you as I shall be able, see more—'si minus prope stes, te capiet magis.' Meanwhile, silent or speaking, I am yours to dispose of as that glove—not that hand.
I must think that Mr. Kenyon sees, and knows, and ... in his goodness ... hardly disapproves—he knows I could not avoid—escape you—for he knows, in a manner, what you are ... like your American; and, early in our intercourse, he asked me (did I tell you?) 'what I thought of his young relative'—and I considered half a second to this effect—'if he asked me what I thought of the Queen-diamond they showed me in the crown of the Czar—and I answered truly—he would not return; "then of course you mean to try and get it to keep."' So I did tell the truth in a very few words. Well, it is no matter.
I am sorry to hear of poor Tennyson's condition. The projected book—title, scheme, all of it,—that is astounding;—and fairies? If 'Thorpes and barnes, sheep-pens and dairies—this maketh that there ben no fairies'—locomotives and the broad or narrow gauge must keep the very ghosts of them away. But how the fashion of this world passes; the forms its beauty and truth take; if we have the making of such! I went last night, out of pure shame at a broken promise, to hear Miss Cushman and her sister in 'Romeo and Juliet.' The whole play goes ... horribly; 'speak' bids the Poet, and so M. Walladmir [Valdemar] moves his tongue and dispenses with his jaws. Whatever is slightly touched in, indicated, to give relief to something actually insisted upon and drawn boldly ... here, you have it gone over with an unremitting burnt-stick, till it stares black forever! Romeo goes whining about Verona by broad daylight. Yet when a schoolfellow of mine, I remember, began translating in class Virgil after this mode, 'Sic fatur—so said AEneas; lachrymans—a-crying' ... our pedagogue turned on him furiously—'D'ye think AEneas made such a noise—as you shall, presently?' How easy to conceive a boyish half-melancholy, smiling at itself.
Then Tuesday, and not Monday ... and Saturday will be the nearer afterward. I am singularly well to-day—head quite quiet—and yesterday your penholder began its influence and I wrote about half my last act. Writing is nothing, nor praise, nor blame, nor living, nor dying, but you are all my true life; May God bless you ever—
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday Evening. [Post-mark, February 2, 1846.]
Something, you said yesterday, made me happy—'that your liking for me did not come and go'—do you remember? Because there was a letter, written at a crisis long since, in which you showed yourself awfully, as a burning mountain, and talked of 'making the most of your fire-eyes,' and of having at intervals 'deep black pits of cold water'!—and the lava of that letter has kept running down into my thoughts of you too much, until quite of late—while even yesterday I was not too well instructed to be 'happy,' you see! Do not reproach me! I would not have 'heard your enemy say so'—it was your own word! And the other long word idiosyncrasy seemed long enough to cover it; and it might have been a matter of temperament, I fancied, that a man of genius, in the mystery of his nature, should find his feelings sometimes like dumb notes in a piano ... should care for people at half past eleven on Tuesday, and on Wednesday at noon prefer a black beetle. How you frightened me with your 'fire-eyes'! 'making the most of them' too! and the 'black pits,' which gaped ... where did they gape? who could tell? Oh—but lately I have not been crossed so, of course, with those fabulous terrors—lately that horror of the burning mountain has grown more like a superstition than a rational fear!—and if I was glad ... happy ... yesterday, it was but as a tolerably sensible nervous man might be glad of a clearer moonlight, showing him that what he had half shuddered at for a sheeted ghoule, was only a white horse on the moor. Such a great white horse!—call it the 'mammoth horse'—the 'real mammoth,' this time!
Dearest, did I write you a cold letter the last time? Almost it seems so to me! the reason being that my feelings were near to overflow, and that I had to hold the cup straight to prevent the possible dropping on your purple underneath. Your letter, the letter I answered, was in my heart ... is in my heart—and all the yeses in the world would not be too many for such a letter, as I felt and feel. Also, perhaps, I gave you, at last, a merely formal distinction—and it comes to the same thing practically without any doubt! but I shrank, with a sort of instinct, from appearing (to myself, mind) to take a security from your words now (said too on an obvious impulse) for what should, would, must, depend on your deliberate wishes hereafter. You understand—you will not accuse me of over-cautiousness and the like. On the contrary, you are all things to me, ... instead of all and better than all! You have fallen like a great luminous blot on the whole leaf of the world ... of life and time ... and I can see nothing beyond you, nor wish to see it. As to all that was evil and sadness to me, I do not feel it any longer—it may be raining still, but I am in the shelter and can scarcely tell. If you could be too dear to me you would be now—but you could not—I do not believe in those supposed excesses of pure affections—God cannot be too great.
Therefore it is a conditional engagement still—all the conditions being in your hands, except the necessary one, of my health. And shall I tell you what is 'not to be put in doubt ever'?—your goodness, that is ... and every tie that binds me to you. 'Ordained, granted by God' it is, that I should owe the only happiness in my life to you, and be contented and grateful (if it were necessary) to stop with it at this present point. Still I do not—there seems no necessity yet.
May God bless you, ever dearest:—
Your own BA.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Saturday. [In the same envelope with the preceding letter.]
Well I have your letter—and I send you the postscript to my last one, written yesterday you observe ... and being simply a postscript in some parts of it, so far it is not for an answer. Only I deny the 'flying out'—perhaps you may do it a little more ... in your moments of starry centrifugal motion.
So you think that dear Mr. Kenyon's opinion of his 'young relative'—(neither young nor his relative—not very much of either!) is to the effect that you couldn't possibly 'escape' her—? It looks like the sign of the Red Dragon, put so ... and your burning mountain is not too awful for the scenery.
Seriously ... gravely ... if it makes me three times happy that you should love me, yet I grow uneasy and even saddened when you say infatuated things such as this and this ... unless after all you mean a philosophical sarcasm on the worth of Czar diamonds. No—do not say such things! If you do, I shall end by being jealous of some ideal Czarina who must stand between you and me.... I shall think that it is not I whom you look at ... and pour cause. 'Flying out,' that would be!
And for Mr. Kenyon, I only know that I have grown the most ungrateful of human beings lately, and find myself almost glad when he does not come, certainly uncomfortable when he does—yes, really I would rather not see him at all, and when you are not here. The sense of which and the sorrow for which, turn me to a hypocrite, and make me ask why he does not come &c. ... questions which never came to my lips before ... till I am more and more ashamed and sorry. Will it end, I wonder, by my ceasing to care for any one in the world, except, except...? or is it not rather that I feel trodden down by either his too great penetration or too great unconsciousness, both being overwhelming things from him to me. From a similar cause I hate writing letters to any of my old friends—I feel as if it were the merest swindling to attempt to give the least account of myself to anybody, and when their letters come and I know that nothing very fatal has happened to them, scarcely I can read to an end afterwards through the besetting care of having to answer it all. Then I am ignoble enough to revenge myself on people for their stupidities ... which never in my life I did before nor felt the temptation to do ... and when they have a distaste for your poetry through want of understanding, I have a distaste for them ... cannot help it—and you need not say it is wrong, because I know the whole iniquity of it, persisting nevertheless. As for dear Mr. Kenyon—with whom we began, and who thinks of you as appreciatingly and admiringly as one man can think of another,—do not imagine that, if he should see anything, he can 'approve' of either your wisdom or my generosity, ... he, with his large organs of caution, and his habit of looking right and left, and round the corner a little way. Because, you know, ... if I should be ill before ... why there, is a conclusion!—but if afterward ... what? You who talk wildly of my generosity, whereas I only and most impotently tried to be generous, must see how both suppositions have their possibility. Nevertheless you are the master to run the latter risk. You have overcome ... to your loss perhaps—unless the judgment is revised. As to taking the half of my prison ... I could not even smile at that if it seemed probable ... I should recoil from your affection even under a shape so fatal to you ... dearest! No! There is a better probability before us I hope and believe—in spite of the possibility which it is impossible to deny. And now we leave this subject for the present.
Sunday.—You are 'singularly well.' You are very seldom quite well, I am afraid—yet 'Luria' seems to have done no harm this time, as you are singularly well the day after so much writing. Yet do not hurry that last act.... I won't have it for a long while yet.
Here I have been reading Carlyle upon Cromwell and he is very fine, very much himself, it seems to me, everywhere. Did Mr. Kenyon make you understand that I had said there was nothing in him but manner ... I thought he said so—and I am confident that he never heard such an opinion from me, for good or for evil, ever at all. I may have observed upon those vulgar attacks on account of the so-called mannerism, the obvious fact, that an individuality, carried into the medium, the expression, is a feature in all men of genius, as Buffon teaches ... 'Le style, c'est l'homme.' But if the whole man were style, if all Carlyleism were manner—why there would be no man, no Carlyle worth talking of. I wonder that Mr. Kenyon should misrepresent me so. Euphuisms there may be to the end of the world—affected parlances—just as a fop at heart may go without shoestrings to mimic the distractions of some great wandering soul—although that is a bad comparison, seeing that what is called Carlyle's mannerism, is not his dress, but his physiognomy—or more than that even.
But I do not forgive him for talking here against the 'ideals of poets' ... opposing their ideal by a mis-called reality, which is another sort, a baser sort, of ideal after all. He sees things in broad blazing lights—but he does not analyse them like a philosopher—do you think so? Then his praise for dumb heroic action as opposed to speech and singing, what is that—when all earnest thought, passion, belief, and their utterances, are as much actions surely as the cutting off of fifty heads by one right hand. As if Shakespeare's actions were not greater than Cromwell's!—
But I shall write no more. Once more, may God bless you.
Wholly and only
R.B. to E.B.B.
Tuesday Morning. [Post-mark, February 4, 1846.]
You ought hardly,—ought you, my Ba?—to refer to that letter or any expression in it; I had—and have, I trust—your forgiveness for what I wrote, meaning to be generous or at least just, God knows. That, and the other like exaggerations were there to serve the purpose of what you properly call a crisis. I did believe,—taking an expression, in the note that occasioned mine, in connection with an excuse which came in the postscript for not seeing me on the day previously appointed, I did fully believe that you were about to deny me admittance again unless I blotted out—not merely softened down—the past avowal. All was wrong, foolish, but from a good notion, I dare to say. And then, that particular exaggeration you bring most painfully to my mind—that does not, after all, disagree with what I said and you repeat—does it, if you will think? I said my other 'likings' (as you rightly set it down) used to 'come and go,' and that my love for you did not, and that is true; the first clause as the last of the sentence, for my sympathies are very wide and general,—always have been—and the natural problem has been the giving unity to their object, concentrating them instead of dispersing. I seem to have foretold, foreknown you in other likings of mine—now here ... when the liking 'came' ... and now elsewhere ... when as surely the liking 'went': and if they had stayed before the time would that have been a comfort to refer to? On the contrary, I am as little likely to be led by delusions as can be,—for Romeo thinks he loves Rosaline, and is excused on all hands—whereas I saw the plain truth without one mistake, and 'looked to like, if looking liking moved—and no more deep did I endart mine eye'—about which, first I was very sorry, and after rather proud—all which I seem to have told you before.—And now, when my whole heart and soul find you, and fall on you, and fix forever, I am to be dreadfully afraid the joy cannot last, seeing that
—it is so baseless a fear that no illustration will serve! Is it gone now, dearest, ever-dearest?
And as you amuse me sometimes, as now, by seeming surprised at some chance expression of a truth which is grown a veriest commonplace to me—like Charles Lamb's 'letter to an elderly man whose education had been neglected'—when he finds himself involuntarily communicating truths above the capacity and acquirements of his friend, and stops himself after this fashion—'If you look round the world, my dear Sir—for it is round!—so I will make you laugh at me, if you will, for my inordinate delight at hearing the success of your experiment with the opium. I never dared, nor shall dare inquire into your use of that—for, knowing you utterly as I do, I know you only bend to the most absolute necessity in taking more or less of it—so that increase of the quantity must mean simply increased weakness, illness—and diminution, diminished illness. And now there is diminution! Dear, dear Ba—you speak of my silly head and its ailments ... well, and what brings on the irritation? A wet day or two spent at home; and what ends it all directly?—just an hour's walk! So with me: now,—fancy me shut in a room for seven years ... it is—no, don't see, even in fancy, what is left of me then! But you, at the end; this is all the harm: I wonder ... I confirm my soul in its belief in perpetual miraculousness ... I bless God with my whole heart that it is thus with you! And so, I will not even venture to say—so superfluous it were, though with my most earnest, most loving breath (I who do love you more at every breath I draw; indeed, yes dearest,)—I will not bid you—that is, pray you—to persevere! You have all my life bound to yours—save me from my 'seven years'—and God reward you!
Your own R.
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, February 5, 1846.]
But I did not—dear, dearest—no indeed, I did not mean any harm about the letter. I wanted to show you how you had given me pleasure—and so,—did I give you pain? was that my ingenuity? Forgive my unhappiness in it, and let it be as if it had not been. Only I will just say that what made me talk about 'the thorn in the flesh' from that letter so long, was a sort of conviction of your having put into it as much of the truth, your truth, as admitted of the ultimate purpose of it, and not the least, slightest doubt of the key you gave me to the purpose in question. And so forgive me. Why did you set about explaining, as if I were doubting you? When you said once that it 'did not come and go,'—was it not enough? enough to make me feel happy as I told you? Did I require you to write a letter like this? Now think for a moment, and know once for all, how from the beginning to these latter days and through all possible degrees of crisis, you have been to my apprehension and gratitude, the best, most consistent, most noble ... the words falter that would speak of it all. In nothing and at no moment have you—I will not say—failed to me, but spoken or acted unworthily of yourself at the highest. What have you ever been to me except too generous? Ah—if I had been only half as generous, it is true that I never could have seen you again after that first meeting—it was the straight path perhaps. But I had not courage—I shrank from the thought of it—and then ... besides ... I could not believe that your mistake was likely to last,—I concluded that I might keep my friend.
Why should any remembrance be painful to you? I do not understand. Unless indeed I should grow painful to you ... I myself!—seeing that every remembered separate thing has brought me nearer to you, and made me yours with a deeper trust and love.
And for that letter ... do you fancy that in my memory the sting is not gone from it?—and that I do not carry the thought of it, as the Roman maidens, you speak of, their cool harmless snakes, at my heart always? So let the poor letter be forgiven, for the sake of the dear letter that was burnt, forgiven by you—until you grow angry with me instead—just till then.
And that you should care so much about the opium! Then I must care, and get to do with less—at least. On the other side of your goodness and indulgence (a very little way on the other side) it might strike you as strange that I who have had no pain—no acute suffering to keep down from its angles—should need opium in any shape. But I have had restlessness till it made me almost mad: at one time I lost the power of sleeping quite—and even in the day, the continual aching sense of weakness has been intolerable—besides palpitation—as if one's life, instead of giving movement to the body, were imprisoned undiminished within it, and beating and fluttering impotently to get out, at all the doors and windows. So the medical people gave me opium—a preparation of it, called morphine, and ether—and ever since I have been calling it my amreeta draught, my elixir,—because the tranquillizing power has been wonderful. Such a nervous system I have—so irritable naturally, and so shattered by various causes, that the need has continued in a degree until now, and it would be dangerous to leave off the calming remedy, Mr. Jago says, except very slowly and gradually. But slowly and gradually something may be done—and you are to understand that I never increased upon the prescribed quantity ... prescribed in the first instance—no! Now think of my writing all this to you!—
And after all the lotus-eaters are blessed beyond the opium-eaters; and the best of lotuses are such thoughts as I know.
Dear Miss Mitford comes to-morrow, and I am not glad enough. Shall I have a letter to make me glad? She will talk, talk, talk ... and I shall be hoping all day that not a word may be talked of ... you:—a forlorn hope indeed! There's a hope for a day like Thursday which is just in the middle between a Tuesday and a Saturday!
Your head ... is it ... how is it? tell me. And consider again if it could be possible that I could ever desire to reproach you ... in what I said about the letter.
May God bless you, best and dearest. If you are the compensation blessed is the evil that fell upon me: and that, I can say before God.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Friday. [Post-mark, February 6, 1846.]
If I said you 'gave me pain' in anything, it was in the only way ever possible for you, my dearest—by giving yourself, in me, pain—being unjust to your own right and power as I feel them at my heart: and in that way, I see you will go on to the end, I getting called—in this very letter—'generous' &c. Well, let me fancy you see very, very deep into future chances and how I should behave on occasion. I shall hardly imitate you, I whose sense of the present and its claims of gratitude already is beyond expression.
All the kind explaining about the opium makes me happier. 'Slowly and gradually' what may not be done? Then see the bright weather while I write—lilacs, hawthorn, plum-trees all in bud; elders in leaf, rose-bushes with great red shoots; thrushes, whitethroats, hedge sparrows in full song—there can, let us hope, be nothing worse in store than a sharp wind, a week of it perhaps—and then comes what shall come—
And Miss Mitford yesterday—and has she fresh fears for you of my evil influence and Origenic power of 'raying out darkness' like a swart star? Why, the common sense of the world teaches that there is nothing people at fault in any faculty of expression are so intolerant of as the like infirmity in others—whether they are unconscious of, or indulgent to their own obscurity and fettered organ, the hindrance from the fettering of their neighbours' is redoubled. A man may think he is not deaf, or, at least, that you need not be so much annoyed by his deafness as you profess—but he will be quite aware, to say the least of it, when another man can't hear him; he will certainly not encourage him to stop his ears. And so with the converse; a writer who fails to make himself understood, as presumably in my case, may either believe in his heart that it is not so ... that only as much attention and previous instructedness as the case calls for, would quite avail to understand him; or he may open his eyes to the fact and be trying hard to overcome it: but on which supposition is he led to confirm another in his unintelligibility? By the proverbial tenderness of the eye with the mote for the eye with the beam? If that beam were just such another mote—then one might sympathize and feel no such inconvenience—but, because I have written a 'Sordello,' do I turn to just its double, Sordello the second, in your books, and so perforce see nothing wrong? 'No'—it is supposed—'but something as obscure in its way.' Then down goes the bond of union at once, and I stand no nearer to view your work than the veriest proprietor of one thought and the two words that express it without obscurity at all—'bricks and mortar.' Of course an artist's whole problem must be, as Carlyle wrote to me, 'the expressing with articulate clearness the thought in him'—I am almost inclined to say that clear expression should be his only work and care—for he is born, ordained, such as he is—and not born learned in putting what was born in him into words—what ever can be clearly spoken, ought to be. But 'bricks and mortar' is very easily said—and some of the thoughts in 'Sordello' not so readily even if Miss Mitford were to try her hand on them.
I look forward to a real life's work for us both. I shall do all,—under your eyes and with your hand in mine,—all I was intended to do: may but you as surely go perfecting—by continuing—the work begun so wonderfully—'a rose-tree that beareth seven-times seven'—
I am forced to dine in town to-day with an old friend—'to-morrow' always begins half the day before, like a Jewish sabbath. Did your sister tell you that I met her on the stairs last time? She did not tell you that I had almost passed by her—the eyes being still elsewhere and occupied. Now let me write out that—no—I will send the old ballad I told you of, for the strange coincidence—and it is very charming beside, is it not? Now goodbye, my sweetest, dearest—and tell me good news of yourself to-morrow, and be but half a quarter as glad to see me as I shall be blessed in seeing you. God bless you ever.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Saturday Morning. [Post-mark, February 7, 1846.]
Dearest, to my sorrow I must, I fear, give up the delight of seeing you this morning. I went out unwell yesterday, and a long noisy dinner with speech-making, with a long tiresome walk at the end of it—these have given me such a bewildering headache that I really see some reason in what they say here about keeping the house. Will you forgive me—and let me forget it all on Monday? On Monday—unless I am told otherwise by the early post—And God bless you ever
E.B.B. to R.B.
Saturday. [Post-mark, February 7, 1846.]
I felt it must be so ... that something must be the matter, ... and I had been so really unhappy for half an hour, that your letter which comes now at four, seems a little better, with all its bad news, than my fancies took upon themselves to be, without instruction. Now was it right to go out yesterday when you were unwell, and to a great dinner?—but I shall not reproach you, dearest, dearest—I have no heart for it at this moment. As to Monday, of course it is as you like ... if you are well enough on Monday ... if it should be thought wise of you to come to London through the noise ... if ... you understand all the ifs ... and among them the greatest if of all, ... for if you do love me ... care for me even, you will not do yourself harm or run any risk of harm by going out anywhere too soon. On Monday, in case you are considered well enough, and otherwise Tuesday, Wednesday—I leave it to you. Still I will ask one thing, whether you come on Monday or not. Let me have a single line by the nearest post to say how you are. Perhaps for to-night it is not possible—oh no, it is nearly five now! but a word written on Sunday would be with me early on Monday morning, and I know you will let me have it, to save some of the anxious thoughts ... to break them in their course with some sort of certainty! May God bless you dearest of all!—I thought of you on Thursday, but did not speak of you, not even when Miss Mitford called Hood the greatest poet of the age ... she had been depreciating Carlyle, so I let you lie and wait on the same level, ... that shelf of the rock which is above tide mark! I was glad even, that she did not speak of you; and, under cover of her speech of others, I had my thoughts of you deeply and safely. When she had gone at half past six, moreover, I grew over-hopeful, and made up my fancy to have a letter at eight! The branch she had pulled down, sprang upward skyward ... to that high possibility of a letter! Which did not come that day ... no!—and I revenged myself by writing a letter to you, which was burnt afterwards because I would not torment you for letters. Last night, came a real one—dearest! So we could not keep our sabbath to-day! It is a fast day instead, ... on my part. How should I feel (I have been thinking to myself), if I did not see you on Saturday, and could not hope to see you on Monday, nor on Tuesday, nor on Wednesday, nor Thursday nor Friday, nor Saturday again—if all the sabbaths were gone out of the world for me! May God bless you!—it has grown to be enough prayer!—as you are enough (and all, besides) for
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, February 7, 1846.]
The clock strikes—three; and I am here, not with you—and my 'fractious' headache at the very worst got suddenly better just now, and is leaving me every minute—as if to make me aware, with an undivided attention, that at this present you are waiting for me, and soon will be wondering—and it would be so easy now to dress myself and walk or run or ride—do anything that led to you ... but by no haste in the world could I reach you, I am forced to see, before a quarter to five—by which time I think my letter must arrive. Dear, dearest Ba, did you but know how vexed I am—with myself, with—this is absurd, of course. The cause of it all was my going out last night—yet that, neither, was to be helped, the party having been twice put off before—once solely on my account. And the sun shines, and you would shine—
Monday is to make all the amends in its power, is it not? Still, still I have lost my day.
Bless you, my ever-dearest.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Sunday Morning. [Post-mark, February 9, 1846.]
My dearest—there are no words,—nor will be to-morrow, nor even in the Island—I know that! But I do love you.
My arms have been round you for many minutes since the last word—
I am quite well now—my other note will have told you when the change began—I think I took too violent a shower bath, with a notion of getting better in as little time as possible,—and the stimulus turned mere feverishness to headache. However, it was no sooner gone, in a degree, than a worse plague came. I sate thinking of you—but I knew my note would arrive at about four o'clock or a little later—and I thought the visit for the quarter of an hour would as effectually prevent to-morrow's meeting as if the whole two hours' blessing had been laid to heart—to-morrow I shall see you, Ba—my sweetest. But there are cold winds blowing to-day—how do you bear them, my Ba? 'Care' you, pray, pray, care for all I care about—and be well, if God shall please, and bless me as no man ever was blessed! Now I kiss you, and will begin a new thinking of you—and end, and begin, going round and round in my circle of discovery,—My lotos-blossom! because they loved the lotos, were lotos-lovers,—[Greek: lotou t' erotes], as Euripides writes in the [Greek: Troades].
P.S. See those lines in the Athenaeum on Pulci with Hunt's translation—all wrong—'che non si sente,' being—'that one does not hear him' i.e. the ordinarily noisy fellow—and the rest, male, pessime! Sic verte, meo periculo, mi ocelle!
Where's Luigi Pulci, that one don't the man see? He just now yonder in the copse has 'gone it' (n'ando) Because across his mind there came a fancy; He'll wish to fancify, perhaps, a sonnet!
Now Ba thinks nothing can be worse than that? Then read this which I really told Hunt and got his praise for. Poor dear wonderful persecuted Pietro d'Abano wrote this quatrain on the people's plaguing him about his mathematical studies and wanting to burn him—he helped to build Padua Cathedral, wrote a Treatise on Magic still extant, and passes for a conjuror in his country to this day—when there is a storm the mothers tell the children that he is in the air; his pact with the evil one obliged him to drink no milk; no natural human food! You know Tieck's novel about him? Well, this quatrain is said, I believe truly, to have been discovered in a well near Padua some fifty years ago.
Studiando le mie cifre, col compasso Rilevo, che presto saro sotterra— Perche del mio saper si fa gran chiasso, E gl'ignoranti m'hanno mosso guerra.
Affecting, is it not, in its simple, child like plaining? Now so, if I remember, I turned it—word for word—
Studying my ciphers, with the compass I reckon—who soon shall be below ground, Because of my lore they make great 'rumpus,' And against me war makes each dull rogue round.
Say that you forgive me to-morrow!
[The following is in E.B.B.'s handwriting.]
With my compass I take up my ciphers, poor scholar; Who myself shall be taken down soon under the ground ... Since the world at my learning roars out in its choler, And the blockheads have fought me all round.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Tuesday. [Post-mark, February 10, 1846.]
Ever dearest, I have been possessed by your 'Luria' just as you would have me, and I should like you to understand, not simply how fine a conception the whole work seems to me, so developed, but how it has moved and affected me, without the ordinary means and dialect of pathos, by that calm attitude of moral grandeur which it has—it is very fine. For the execution, that too is worthily done—although I agree with you, that a little quickening and drawing in closer here and there, especially towards the close where there is no time to lose, the reader feels, would make the effect stronger—but you will look to it yourself—and such a conception must come in thunder and lightning, as a chief god would—must make its own way ... and will not let its poet go until he speaks it out to the ultimate syllable. Domizia disappoints me rather. You might throw a flash more of light on her face—might you not? But what am I talking? I think it a magnificent work—a noble exposition of the ingratitude of men against their 'heroes,' and (what is peculiar) an humane exposition ... not misanthropical, after the usual fashion of such things: for the return, the remorse, saves it—and the 'Too late' of the repentance and compensation covers with its solemn toll the fate of persecutors and victim. We feel that Husain himself could only say afterward ... 'That is done.' And now—surely you think well of the work as a whole? You cannot doubt, I fancy, of the grandeur of it—and of the subtilty too, for it is subtle—too subtle perhaps for stage purposes, though as clear, ... as to expression ... as to medium ... as 'bricks and mortar' ... shall I say?
'A people is but the attempt of many To rise to the completer life of one.'
There is one of the fine thoughts. And how fine he is, your Luria, when he looks back to his East, through the half-pardon and half-disdain of Domizia. Ah—Domizia! would it hurt her to make her more a woman ... a little ... I wonder!
So I shall begin from the beginning, from the first act, and read through ... since I have read the fifth twice over. And remember, please, that I am to read, besides, the 'Soul's Tragedy,' and that I shall dun you for it presently. Because you told me it was finished, otherwise I would not speak a word, feeling that you want rest, and that I, who am anxious about you, would be crossing my own purposes by driving you into work. It is the overwork, the overwear of mind and heart (for the feelings come as much into use as the thoughts in these productions), that makes you so pale, dearest, that distracts your head, and does all the harm on Saturdays and so many other days besides.
To-day—how are you? It was right and just for me to write this time, after the two dear notes ... the one on Saturday night which made me praise you to myself and think you kinder than kindest, and the other on Monday morning which took me unaware—such a note, that was! Oh it was right and just that I should not teaze you to send me another after those two others,—yet I was very near doing it—yet I should like infinitely to hear to-day how you are—unreasonable!—Well! you will write now—you will answer what I am writing, and mention yourself particularly and sincerely—Remember! Above all, you will care for your head. I have been thinking since yesterday that, coming out of the cold, you might not have refused as usual to take something ... hot wine and water, or coffee? Will you have coffee with me on Saturday? 'Shunning the salt,' will you have the sugar? And do tell me, for I have been thinking, are you careful as to diet—and will such sublunary things as coffee and tea and cocoa affect your head—for or against! Then you do not touch wine—and perhaps you ought. Surely something may be found or done to do you good. If it had not been for me, you would be travelling in Italy by this time and quite well perhaps.
This morning I had a letter from Miss Martineau and really read it to the end without thinking it too long, which is extraordinary for me just now, and scarcely ordinary in the letter, and indeed it is a delightful letter, as letters go, which are not yours! You shall take it with you on Saturday to read, and you shall see that it is worth reading, and interesting for Wordsworth's sake and her own. Mr. Kenyon has it now, because he presses on to have her letters, and I should not like to tell him that you had it first from me.... Also Saturday will be time enough.
Oh—poor Mr. Horne! shall I tell you some of his offences? That he desires to be called at four in the morning, and does not get up till eight. That he pours libations on his bare head out of the water-glasses at great dinners. That being in the midst of sportsmen—rural aristocrats—lords of soil—and all talking learnedly of pointers' noses and spaniels' ears; he has exclaimed aloud in a mocking paraphrase—'If I were to hold up a horse by the tail.' The wit is certainly doubtful!—That being asked to dinner on Tuesday, he will go on Wednesday instead.—That he throws himself at full length with a gesture approaching to a 'summerset' on satin sofas. That he giggles. That he only thinks he can talk. That his ignorance on all subjects is astounding. That he never read the old ballads, nor saw Percy's collection. That he asked who wrote 'Drink to me only with thine eyes.' That after making himself ridiculous in attempting to speak at a public meeting, he said to a compassionate friend 'I got very well out of that.' That, in writing his work on Napoleon, he employed a man to study the subject for him. That he cares for nobody's poetry or fame except his own, and considers Tennyson chiefly illustrious as being his contemporary. That, as to politics, he doesn't care 'which side.' That he is always talking of 'my shares,' 'my income,' as if he were a Kilmansegg. Lastly (and understand, this is my 'lastly' and not Miss Mitford's, who is far from being out of breath so soon) that he has a mania for heiresses—that he has gone out at half past five and 'proposed' to Miss M or N with fifty thousand pounds, and being rejected (as the lady thought fit to report herself) came back to tea and the same evening 'fell in love' with Miss O or P ... with forty thousand—went away for a few months, and upon his next visit, did as much to a Miss Q or W, on the promise of four blood horses—has a prospect now of a Miss R or S—with hounds, perhaps.
Too, too bad—isn't it? I would repeat none of it except to you—and as to the worst part, the last, why some may be coincidence, and some, exaggeration, for I have not the least doubt that every now and then a fine poetical compliment was turned into a serious thing by the listener, and then the poor poet had critics as well as listeners all round him. Also, he rather 'wears his heart on his sleeve,' there is no denying—and in other respects he is not much better, perhaps, than other men. But for the base traffic of the affair—I do not believe a word. He is too generous—has too much real sensibility. I fought his battle, poor Orion. 'And so,' she said 'you believe it possible for a disinterested man to become really attached to two women, heiresses, on the same day?' I doubted the fact. And then she showed me a note, an autograph note from the poet, confessing the M or N part of the business—while Miss O or P confessed herself, said Miss Mitford. But I persisted in doubting, notwithstanding the lady's confessions, or convictions, as they might be. And just think of Mr. Horne not having tact enough to keep out of these multitudinous scrapes, for those few days which on three separate occasions he paid Miss Mitford in a neighbourhood where all were strangers to him,—and never outstaying his week! He must have been foolish, read it all how we may.
And so am I, to write this 'personal talk' to you when you will not care for it—yet you asked me, and it may make you smile, though Wordsworth's tea-kettle outsings it all.
When your Monday letter came, I was reading the criticism on Hunt and his Italian poets, in the Examiner. How I liked to be pulled by the sleeve to your translations!—How I liked everything!—Pulci, Pietro ... and you, best!
Yet here's a naivete which I found in your letter! I will write it out that you may read it—
'However it' (the headache) 'was no sooner gone in a degree, than a worse plague came—I sate thinking of you.'
Very satisfactory that is, and very clear.
May God bless you dearest, dearest! Be careful of yourself. The cold makes me languid, as heat is apt to make everybody; but I am not unwell, and keep up the fire and the thoughts of you.
Your worse ... worst plague
I shall hear? yes! And admire my obedience in having written 'a long letter' to the letter!
R.B. to E.B.B.
Wednesday Morning. [Post-mark, February 11, 1846.]
My sweetest 'plague,' did I really write that sentence so, without gloss or comment in close vicinity? I can hardly think it—but you know well, well where the real plague lay,—that I thought of you as thinking, in your infinite goodness, of untoward chances which had kept me from you—and if I did not dwell more particularly on that thinking of yours, which became as I say, in the knowledge of it, a plague when brought before me with the thought of you,—if I passed this slightly over it was for pure unaffected shame that I should take up the care and stop the 'reverie serene' of—ah, the rhyme lets me say—'sweetest eyes were ever seen'—were ever seen! And yourself confess, in the Saturday's note, to having been 'unhappy for half an hour till' &c. &c.—and do not I feel that here, and am not I plagued by it?
Well, having begun at the end of your letter, dearest, I will go back gently (that is backwards) and tell you I 'sate thinking' too, and with no greater comfort, on the cold yesterday. The pond before the window was frozen ('so as to bear sparrows' somebody said) and I knew you would feel it—'but you are not unwell'—really? thank God—and the month wears on. Beside I have got a reassurance—you asked me once if I were superstitious, I remember (as what do I forget that you say?). However that may be, yesterday morning as I turned to look for a book, an old fancy seized me to try the 'sortes' and dip into the first page of the first I chanced upon, for my fortune; I said 'what will be the event of my love for Her'—in so many words—and my book turned out to be—'Cerutti's Italian Grammar!'—a propitious source of information ... the best to be hoped, what could it prove but some assurance that you were in the Dative Case, or I, not in the ablative absolute? I do protest that, with the knowledge of so many horrible pitfalls, or rather spring guns with wires on every bush ... such dreadful possibilities of stumbling on 'conditional moods,' 'imperfect tenses,' 'singular numbers,'—I should have been too glad to put up with the safe spot for the sole of my foot though no larger than afforded by such a word as 'Conjunction,' 'possessive pronoun—,' secure so far from poor Tippet's catastrophe. Well, I ventured, and what did I find? This—which I copy from the book now—'If we love in the other world as we do in this, I shall love thee to eternity'—from 'Promiscuous Exercises,' to be translated into Italian, at the end.
And now I reach Horne and his characteristics—of which I can tell you with confidence that they are grossly misrepresented where not altogether false—whether it proceed from inability to see what one may see, or disinclination, I cannot say. I know very little of Horne, but my one visit to him a few weeks ago would show the uncandidness of those charges: for instance, he talked a good deal about horses, meaning to ride in Ireland, and described very cleverly an old hunter he had hired once,—how it galloped and could not walk; also he propounded a theory of the true method of behaving in the saddle when a horse rears, which I besought him only to practise in fancy on the sofa, where he lay telling it. So much for professing his ignorance in that matter! On a sofa he does throw himself—but when thrown there, he can talk, with Miss Mitford's leave, admirably,—I never heard better stories than Horne's—some Spanish-American incidents of travel want printing—or have been printed, for aught I know. That he cares for nobody's poetry is false, he praises more unregardingly of his own retreat, more unprovidingly for his own fortune,—(do I speak clearly?)—less like a man who himself has written somewhat in the 'line' of the other man he is praising—which 'somewhat' has to be guarded in its interests, &c., less like the poor professional praise of the 'craft' than any other I ever met—instance after instance starting into my mind as I write. To his income I never heard him allude—unless one should so interpret a remark to me this last time we met, that he had been on some occasion put to inconvenience by somebody's withholding ten or twelve pounds due to him for an article, and promised in the confidence of getting them to a tradesman, which does not look like 'boasting of his income'! As for the heiresses—I don't believe one word of it, of the succession and transition and trafficking. Altogether, what miserable 'set-offs' to the achievement of an 'Orion,' a 'Marlowe,' a 'Delora'! Miss Martineau understands him better.
Now I come to myself and my health. I am quite well now—at all events, much better, just a little turning in the head—since you appeal to my sincerity. For the coffee—thank you, indeed thank you, but nothing after the 'oenomel' and before half past six. I know all about that song and its Greek original if Horne does not—and can tell you—, how truly...!
The thirst that from the soul doth rise Doth ask a drink divine— But might I of Jove's nectar sup I would not change for thine! No, no, no!
And by the bye, I have misled you as my wont is, on the subject of wine, 'that I do not touch it'—not habitually, nor so as to feel the loss of it, that on a principle; but every now and then of course.
And now, 'Luria', so long as the parts cohere and the whole is discernible, all will be well yet. I shall not look at it, nor think of it, for a week or two, and then see what I have forgotten. Domizia is all wrong; I told you I knew that her special colour had faded,—it was but a bright line, and the more distinctly deep that it was so narrow. One of my half dozen words on my scrap of paper 'pro memoria' was, under the 'Act V.' 'she loves'—to which I could not bring it, you see! Yet the play requires it still,—something may yet be effected, though.... I meant that she should propose to go to Pisa with him, and begin a new life. But there is no hurry—I suppose it is no use publishing much before Easter—I will try and remember what my whole character did mean—it was, in two words, understood at the time by 'panther's-beauty'—on which hint I ought to have spoken! But the work grew cold, and you came between, and the sun put out the fire on the hearth nec vult panthera domari!
For the 'Soul's Tragedy'—that will surprise you, I think. There is no trace of you there,—you have not put out the black face of it—it is all sneering and disillusion—and shall not be printed but burned if you say the word—now wait and see and then say! I will bring the first of the two parts next Saturday.
And now, dearest, I am with you—and the other matters are forgotten already. God bless you, I am ever your own R. You will write to me I trust? And tell me how to bear the cold.
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, February 12, 1846.]
Ah, the 'sortes'! Is it a double oracle—'swan and shadow'—do you think? or do my eyes see double, dazzled by the light of it? 'I shall love thee to eternity'—I shall.
And as for the wine, I did not indeed misunderstand you 'as my wont is,' because I understood simply that 'habitually' you abstained from wine, and I meant exactly that perhaps it would be better for your health to take it habitually. It might, you know—not that I pretend to advise. Only when you look so much too pale sometimes, it comes into one's thoughts that you ought not to live on cresses and cold water. Strong coffee, which is the nearest to a stimulant that I dare to take, as far as ordinary diet goes, will almost always deliver me from the worst of headaches, but there is no likeness, no comparison. And your 'quite well' means that dreadful 'turning' still ... still! Now do not think any more of the Domizias, nor 'try to remember,' which is the most wearing way of thinking. The more I read and read your 'Luria,' the grander it looks, and it will make its own road with all understanding men, you need not doubt, and still less need you try to make me uneasy about the harm I have done in 'coming between,' and all the rest of it. I wish never to do you greater harm than just that, and then with a white conscience 'I shall love thee to eternity!... dearest! You have made a golden work out of your 'golden-hearted Luria'—as once you called him to me, and I hold it in the highest admiration—should, if you were precisely nothing to me. And still, the fifth act rises! That is certain. Nevertheless I seem to agree with you that your hand has vacillated in your Domizia. We do not know her with as full a light on her face, as the other persons—we do not see the panther,—no, certainly we do not—but you will do a very little for her which will be everything, after a time ... and I assure you that if you were to ask for the manuscript before, you should not have a page of it—now, you are only to rest. What a work to rest upon! Do consider what a triumph it is! The more I read, the more I think of it, the greater it grows—and as to 'faded lines,' you never cut a pomegranate that was redder in the deep of it. Also, no one can say 'This is not clearly written.' The people who are at 'words of one syllable' may be puzzled by you and Wordsworth together this time ... as far as the expression goes. Subtle thoughts you always must have, in and out of 'Sordello'—and the objectors would find even Plato (though his medium is as lucid as the water that ran beside the beautiful plane-tree!) a little difficult perhaps.
To-day Mr. Kenyon came, and do you know, he has made a beatific confusion between last Saturday and next Saturday, and said to me he had told Miss Thomson to mind to come on Friday if she wished to see me ... 'remembering' (he added) 'that Mr. Browning took Saturday!!' So I let him mistake the one week for the other—'Mr. Browning took Saturday,' it was true, both ways. Well—and then he went on to tell me that he had heard from Mrs. Jameson who was at Brighton and unwell, and had written to say this and that to him, and to enquire besides—now, what do you think, she enquired besides? 'how you and ... Browning were' said Mr. Kenyon—I write his words. He is coming, perhaps to-morrow, or perhaps Sunday—Saturday is to have a twofold safety. That is, if you are not ill again. Dearest, you will not think of coming if you are ill ... unwell even. I shall not be frightened next time, as I told you—I shall have the precedent. Before, I had to think! 'It has never happened so—there must be a cause—and if it is a very, very, bad cause, why no one will tell me ... it will not seem my concern'—that was my thought on Saturday. But another time ... only, if it is possible to keep well, do keep well, beloved, and think of me instead of Domizia, and let there be no other time for your suffering ... my waiting is nothing. I shall remember for the future that you may have the headache—and do you remember it too!
For Mr. Horne I take your testimony gladly and believingly. She blots with her eyes sometimes. She hates ... and loves, in extreme degrees. We have, once or twice or thrice, been on the border of mutual displeasure, on this very subject, for I grew really vexed to observe the trust on one side and the dyspathy on the other—using the mildest of words. You see, he found himself, down in Berkshire, in quite a strange element of society,—he, an artist in his good and his evil,—and the people there, 'county families,' smoothly plumed in their conventions, and classing the ringlets and the aboriginal way of using water-glasses among offences against the Moral Law. Then, meaning to be agreeable, or fascinating perhaps, made it twenty times worse. Writing in albums about the graces, discoursing meditated impromptus at picnics, playing on the guitar in fancy dresses,—all these things which seemed to poor Orion as natural as his own stars I dare say, and just the things suited to the genus poet, and to himself specifically,—were understood by the natives and their 'rural deities' to signify, that he intended to marry one half the county, and to run away with the other. But Miss Mitford should have known better—she should. And she would have known better, if she had liked him—for the liking could have been unmade by no such offences. She is too fervent a friend—she can be. Generous too, she can be without an effort; and I have had much affection from her—and accuse myself for seeming to have less—but—
May God bless you!—I end in haste after this long lingering.
Not unwell—I am not! I forgot it, which proves how I am not.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Friday Morning. [Post-mark, February 13, 1846.]
Two nights ago I read the 'Soul's Tragedy' once more, and though there were not a few points which still struck me as successful in design and execution, yet on the whole I came to a decided opinion, that it will be better to postpone the publication of it for the present. It is not a good ending, an auspicious wind-up of this series; subject-matter and style are alike unpopular even for the literary grex that stands aloof from the purer plebs, and uses that privilege to display and parade an ignorance which the other is altogether unconscious of—so that, if 'Luria' is clearish, the 'Tragedy' would be an unnecessary troubling the waters. Whereas, if I printed it first in order, my readers, according to custom, would make the (comparatively) little they did not see into, a full excuse for shutting their eyes at the rest, and we may as well part friends, so as not to meet enemies. But, at bottom, I believe the proper objection is to the immediate, first effect of the whole—its moral effect—which is dependent on the contrary supposition of its being really understood, in the main drift of it. Yet I don't know; for I wrote it with the intention of producing the best of all effects—perhaps the truth is, that I am tired, rather, and desirous of getting done, and 'Luria' will answer my purpose so far. Will not the best way be to reserve this unlucky play and in the event of a second edition—as Moxon seems to think such an apparition possible—might not this be quietly inserted?—in its place, too, for it was written two or three years ago. I have lost, of late, interest in dramatic writing, as you know, and, perhaps, occasion. And, dearest, I mean to take your advice and be quiet awhile and let my mind get used to its new medium of sight; seeing all things, as it does, through you: and then, let all I have done be the prelude and the real work begin. I felt it would be so before, and told you at the very beginning—do you remember? And you spoke of Io 'in the proem.' How much more should follow now!
And if nothing follows, I have you.
I shall see you to-morrow and be happy. To-day—is it the weather or what?—something depresses me a little—to-morrow brings the remedy for it all. I don't know why I mention such a matter; except that I tell you everything without a notion of after-consequence; and because your dearest, dearest presence seems under any circumstances as if created just to help me there; if my spirits rise they fly to you; if they fall, they hold by you and cease falling—as now. Bless you, Ba—my own best blessing that you are! But a few hours and I am with you, beloved!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Saturday Evening. [Post-mark, February 16, 1846.]
Ever dearest, though you wanted to make me say one thing displeasing to you to-day, I had not courage to say two instead ... which I might have done indeed and indeed! For I am capable of thinking both thoughts of 'next year,' as you suggested them:—because while you are with me I see only you, and you being you, I cannot doubt a power of yours nor measure the deep loving nature which I feel to be so deep—so that there may be ever so many 'mores,' and no 'more' wonder of mine!—but afterwards, when the door is shut and there is no 'more' light nor speaking until Thursday, why then, that I do not see you but me,—then comes the reaction,—the natural lengthening of the shadows at sunset,—and then, the 'less, less, less' grows to seem as natural to my fate, as the 'more' seemed to your nature—I being I!
Sunday.—Well!—you are to try to forgive it all! And the truth, over and under all, is, that I scarcely ever do think of the future, scarcely ever further than to your next visit, and almost never beyond, except for your sake and in reference to that view of the question which I have vexed you with so often, in fearing for your happiness. Once it was a habit of mind with me to live altogether in what I called the future—but the tops of the trees that looked towards Troy were broken off in the great winds, and falling down into the river beneath, where now after all this time they grow green again, I let them float along the current gently and pleasantly. Can it be better I wonder! And if it becomes worse, can I help it? Also the future never seemed to belong to me so little—never! It might appear wonderful to most persons, it is startling even to myself sometimes, to observe how free from anxiety I am—from the sort of anxiety which might be well connected with my own position here, and which is personal to myself. That is all thrown behind—into the bushes—long ago it was, and I think I told you of it before. Agitation comes from indecision—and I was decided from the first hour when I admitted the possibility of your loving me really. Now,—as the Euphuists used to say,—I am 'more thine than my own' ... it is a literal truth—and my future belongs to you; if it was mine, it was mine to give, and if it was mine to give, it was given, and if it was given ... beloved....
So you see!
Then I will confess to you that all my life long I have had a rather strange sympathy and dyspathy—the sympathy having concerned the genus jilt (as vulgarly called) male and female—and the dyspathy—the whole class of heroically virtuous persons who make sacrifices of what they call 'love' to what they call 'duty.' There are exceptional cases of course, but, for the most part, I listen incredulously or else with a little contempt to those latter proofs of strength—or weakness, as it may be:—people are not usually praised for giving up their religion, for unsaying their oaths, for desecrating their 'holy things'—while believing them still to be religious and sacramental! On the other side I have always and shall always understand how it is possible for the most earnest and faithful of men and even of women perhaps, to err in the convictions of the heart as well as of the mind, to profess an affection which is an illusion, and to recant and retreat loyally at the eleventh hour, on becoming aware of the truth which is in them. Such men are the truest of men, and the most courageous for the truth's sake, and instead of blaming them I hold them in honour, for me, and always did and shall.
And while I write, you are 'very ill'—very ill!—how it looks, written down so! When you were gone yesterday and my thoughts had tossed about restlessly for ever so long, I was wise enough to ask Wilson how she thought you were looking, ... and she 'did not know' ... she 'had not observed' ... 'only certainly Mr. Browning ran up-stairs instead of walking as he did the time before.'
Now promise me dearest, dearest—not to trifle with your health. Not to neglect yourself ... not to tire yourself ... and besides to take the advice of your medical friend as to diet and general treatment:—because there must be a wrong and a right in everything, and the right is very important under your circumstances ... if you have a tendency to illness. It may be right for you to have wine for instance. Did you ever try the putting your feet into hot water at night, to prevent the recurrence of the morning headache—for the affection of the head comes on early in the morning, does it not? just as if the sleeping did you harm. Now I have heard of such a remedy doing good—and could it increase the evil?—mustard mixed with the water, remember. Everything approaching to congestion is full of fear—I tremble to think of it—and I bring no remedy by this teazing neither! But you will not be 'wicked' nor 'unkind,' nor provoke the evil consciously—you will keep quiet and forswear the going out at nights, the excitement and noise of parties, and the worse excitement of composition—you promise. If you knew how I keep thinking of you, and at intervals grow so frightened! Think you, that you are three times as much to me as I can be to you at best and greatest,—because you are more than three times the larger planet—and because too, you have known other sources of light and happiness ... but I need not say this—and I shall hear on Monday, and may trust to you every day ... may I not? Yet I would trust my soul to you sooner than your own health.
May God bless you, dear, dearest. If the first part of the 'Soul's Tragedy' should be written out, I can read that perhaps, without drawing you in to think of the second. Still it may be safer to keep off altogether for the present—and let it be as you incline. I do not speak of 'Luria.'
If it were not for Mr. Kenyon, I should say, almost, Wednesday, instead of Thursday—I want to see you so much, and to see for myself about the looks and spirits, only it would not do if he found you here on Wednesday. Let him come to-morrow or on Tuesday, and Wednesday will be safe—shall we consider? what do you think?
R.B. to E.B.B.
Sunday Afternoon. [Post-mark, February 16, 1846.]
Here is the letter again, dearest: I suppose it gives me the same pleasure, in reading, as you—and Mr. K. as me, and anybody else as him; if all the correspondence which was claimed again and burnt on some principle or other some years ago be at all of the nature of this sample, the measure seems questionable. Burn anybody's real letters, well and good: they move and live—the thoughts, feelings, and expressions even,—in a self-imposed circle limiting the experience of two persons only—there is the standard, and to that the appeal—how should a third person know? His presence breaks the line, so to speak, and lets in a whole tract of country on the originally inclosed spot—so that its trees, which were from side to side there, seem left alone and wondering at their sudden unimportance in the broad land; while its 'ferns such as I never saw before' and which have been petted proportionably, look extravagant enough amid the new spread of good honest grey grass that is now the earth's general wear. So that the significance is lost at once, and whole value of such letters—the cypher changed, the vowel-points removed: but how can that affect clever writing like this? What do you, to whom it is addressed, see in it more than the world that wants to see it and shan't have it? One understands shutting an unprivileged eye to the ineffable mysteries of those 'upper-rooms,' now that the broom and dust pan, stocking-mending and gingerbread-making are invested with such unforeseen reverence ... but the carriage-sweep and quarry, together with Jane and our baskets, and a pleasant shadow of Wordsworth's Sunday hat preceding his own rapid strides in the direction of Miss Fenwick's house—surely, 'men's eyes were made to see, so let them gaze' at all this! And so I, gazing with a clear conscience, am very glad to hear so much good of a very good person and so well told. She plainly sees the proper use and advantage of a country-life; and that knowledge gets to seem a high point of attainment doubtless by the side of the Wordsworth she speaks of—for mine he shall not be as long as I am able! Was ever such a 'great' poet before? Put one trait with the other—the theory of rural innocence—alternation of 'vulgar trifles' with dissertating with style of 'the utmost grandeur that even you can conceive' (speak for yourself, Miss M.!)—and that amiable transition from two o'clock's grief at the death of one's brother to three o'clock's happiness in the 'extraordinary mesmeric discourse' of one's friend. All this, and the rest of the serene and happy inspired daily life which a piece of 'unpunctuality' can ruin, and to which the guardian 'angel' brings as crowning qualification the knack of poking the fire adroitly—of this—what can one say but that—no, best hold one's tongue and read the 'Lyrical Ballads' with finger in ear. Did not Shelley say long ago 'He had no more imagination than a pint-pot'—though in those days he used to walk about France and Flanders like a man? Now, he is 'most comfortable in his worldly affairs' and just this comes of it! He lives the best twenty years of his life after the way of his own heart—and when one presses in to see the result of the rare experiment ... what the one alchemist whom fortune has allowed to get all his coveted materials and set to work at last in earnest with fire and melting-pot—what he produces after all the talk of him and the like of him; why, you get pulvis et cinis—a man at the mercy of the tongs and shovel!
Well! Let us despair at nothing, but, wishing success to the newer aspirant, expect better things from Miss M. when the 'knoll,' and 'paradise,' and their facilities, operate properly; and that she will make a truer estimate of the importance and responsibilities of 'authorship' than she does at present, if I understand rightly the sense in which she describes her own life as it means to be; for in one sense it is all good and well, and quite natural that she should like 'that sort of strenuous handwork' better than book-making; like the play better than the labour, as we are apt to do. If she realises a very ordinary scheme of literary life, planned under the eye of God not 'the public,' and prosecuted under the constant sense of the night's coming which ends it good or bad—then, she will be sure to 'like' the rest and sport—teaching her maids and sewing her gloves and making delicate visitors comfortable—so much more rational a resource is the worst of them than gin-and-water, for instance. But if, as I rather suspect, these latter are to figure as a virtual half duty of the whole Man—as of equal importance (on the ground of the innocence and utility of such occupations) with the book-making aforesaid—always supposing that to be of the right kind—then I respect Miss M. just as I should an Archbishop of Canterbury whose business was the teaching A.B.C. at an infant-school—he who might set on the Tens to instruct the Hundreds how to convince the Thousands of the propriety of doing that and many other things. Of course one will respect him only the more if when that matter is off his mind he relaxes at such a school instead of over a chess-board; as it will increase our love for Miss M. to find that making 'my good Jane (from Tyne-mouth)'—'happier and—I hope—wiser' is an amusement, or more, after the day's progress towards the 'novel for next year' which is to inspire thousands, beyond computation, with the ardour of making innumerable other Janes and delicate relatives happier and wiser—who knows but as many as Burns did, and does, so make happier and wiser? Only, his quarry and after-solace was that 'marble bowl often replenished with whiskey' on which Dr. Curry discourses mournfully, 'Oh, be wiser Thou!'—and remember it was only after Lord Bacon had written to an end his Book—given us for ever the Art of Inventing—whether steam-engine or improved dust-pan—that he took on himself to do a little exemplary 'hand work'; got out on that cold St. Alban's road to stuff a fowl with snow and so keep it fresh, and got into his bed and died of the cold in his hands ('strenuous hand work'—) before the snow had time to melt. He did not begin in his youth by saying—'I have a horror of merely writing 'Novum Organums' and shall give half my energies to the stuffing fowls'!
All this it is my amusement, of an indifferent kind, to put down solely on the pleasant assurance contained in that postscript, of the one way of never quarrelling with Miss M.—'by joining in her plan and practice of plain speaking'—could she but 'get people to do it!' Well, she gets me for a beginner: the funny thing would be to know what Chorley's desperate utterance amounted to! Did you ever hear of the plain speaking of some of the continental lottery-projectors? An estate on the Rhine, for instance, is to be disposed of, and the holder of the lucky ticket will find himself suddenly owner of a mediaeval castle with an unlimited number of dependencies—vineyards, woods, pastures, and so forth—all only waiting the new master's arrival—while inside, all is swept and garnished (not to say, varnished)—the tables are spread, the wines on the board, all is ready for the reception but ... here 'plain speaking' becomes necessary—it prevents quarrels, and, could the projector get people to practise it as he does all would be well; so he, at least, will speak plainly—you hear what is provided but, he cannot, dares not withhold what is not—there is then, to speak plainly,—no night cap! You will have to bring your own night cap. The projector furnishes somewhat, as you hear, but not all—and now—the worst is heard,—will you quarrel with him? Will my own dear, dearest Ba please and help me here, and fancy Chorley's concessions, and tributes, and recognitions, and then, at the very end, the 'plain words,' to counterbalance all, that have been to overlook and pardon?
Oh, my own Ba, hear my plain speech—and how this is not an attempt to frighten you out of your dear wish to 'hear from me'—no, indeed—but a whim, a caprice,—and now it is out! over, done with! And now I am with you again—it is to you I shall write next. Bless you, ever—my beloved. I am much better, indeed—and mean to be well. And you! But I will write—this goes for nothing—or only this, that I am your very own—
R.B. to E.B.B.
Monday. [Post-mark, February 16, 1846.]
My long letter is with you, dearest, to show how serious my illness was 'while you wrote': unless you find that letter too foolish, as I do on twice thinking—or at all events a most superfluous bestowment of handwork while the heart was elsewhere, and with you—never more so! Dear, dear Ba, your adorable goodness sinks into me till it nearly pains,—so exquisite and strange is the pleasure: so you care for me, and think of me, and write to me!—I shall never die for you, and if it could be so, what would death prove? But I can live on, your own as now,—utterly your own.
Dear Ba, do you suppose we differ on so plain a point as that of the superior wisdom, and generosity, too, of announcing such a change &c. at the eleventh hour? There can be no doubt of it,—and now, what of it to me?
But I am not going to write to-day—only this—that I am better, having not been quite so well last night—so I shut up books (that is, of my own) and mean to think about nothing but you, and you, and still you, for a whole week—so all will come right, I hope! May I take Wednesday? And do you say that,—hint at the possibility of that, because you have been reached by my own remorse at feeling that if I had kept my appointment last Saturday (but one)—Thursday would have been my day this past week, and this very Monday had been gained? Shall I not lose a day for ever unless I get Wednesday and Saturday?—yet ... care ... dearest—let nothing horrible happen.
If I do not hear to the contrary to-morrow—or on Wednesday early—
But write and bless me dearest, most dear Ba. God bless you ever—
E.B.B. to R.B.
Monday Morning. [Post-mark, February 17, 1846.]
Mechant comme quatre! you are, and not deserving to be let see the famous letter—is there any grammar in that concatenation, can you tell me, now that you are in an arch-critical humour? And remember (turning back to the subject) that personally she and I are strangers and that therefore what she writes for me is naturally scene-painting to be looked at from a distance, done with a masterly hand and most amiable intention, but quite a different thing of course from the intimate revelations of heart and mind which make a living thing of a letter. If she had sent such to me, I should not have sent it to Mr. Kenyon, but then, she would not have sent it to me in any case. What she has sent me might be a chapter in a book and has the life proper to itself, and I shall not let you try it by another standard, even if you wished, but you don't—for I am not so bete as not to understand how the jest crosses the serious all the way you write. Well—and Mr. Kenyon wants the letter the second time, not for himself, but for Mr. Crabb Robinson who promises to let me have a new sonnet of Wordsworth's in exchange for the loan, and whom I cannot refuse because he is an intimate friend of Miss Martineau's and once allowed me to read a whole packet of letters from her to him. She does not object (as I have read under her hand) to her letters being shown about in MS., notwithstanding the anathema against all printers of the same (which completes the extravagance of the unreason, I think) and people are more anxious to see them from their presumed nearness to annihilation. I, for my part, value letters (to talk literature) as the most vital part of biography, and for any rational human being to put his foot on the traditions of his kind in this particular class, does seem to me as wonderful as possible. Who would put away one of those multitudinous volumes, even, which stereotype Voltaire's wrinkles of wit—even Voltaire? I can read book after book of such reading—or could! And if her principle were carried out, there would be an end! Death would be deader from henceforth. Also it is a wrong selfish principle and unworthy of her whole life and profession, because we should all be ready to say that if the secrets of our daily lives and inner souls may instruct other surviving souls, let them be open to men hereafter, even as they are to God now. Dust to dust, and soul-secrets to humanity—there are natural heirs to all these things. Not that I do not intimately understand the shrinking back from the idea of publicity on any terms—not that I would not myself destroy papers of mine which were sacred to me for personal reasons—but then I never would call this natural weakness, virtue—nor would I, as a teacher of the public, announce it and attempt to justify it as an example to other minds and acts, I hope.
How hard you are on the mending of stockings and the rest of it! Why not agree with me and like that sort of homeliness and simplicity in combination with such large faculty as we must admit there? Lord Bacon did a great deal of trifling besides the stuffing of the fowl you mention—which I did not remember: and in fact, all the great work done in the world, is done just by the people who know how to trifle—do you not think so? When a man makes a principle of 'never losing a moment,' he is a lost man. Great men are eager to find an hour, and not to avoid losing a moment. 'What are you doing' said somebody once (as I heard the tradition) to the beautiful Lady Oxford as she sate in her open carriage on the race-ground—'Only a little algebra,' said she. People who do a little algebra on the race-ground are not likely to do much of anything with ever so many hours for meditation. Why, you must agree with me in all this, so I shall not be sententious any longer. Mending stockings is not exactly the sort of pastime I should choose—who do things quite as trifling without the utility—and even your Seigneurie peradventure.... I stop there for fear of growing impertinent. The argumentum ad hominem is apt to bring down the argumentum ad baculum, it is as well to remember in time.
For Wordsworth ... you are right in a measure and by a standard—but I have heard such really desecrating things of him, of his selfishness, his love of money, his worldly cunning (rather than prudence) that I felt a relief and gladness in the new chronicle;—and you can understand how that was. Miss Mitford's doctrine is that everything put into the poetry, is taken out of the man and lost utterly by him. Her general doctrine about poets, quite amounts to that—I do not say it too strongly. And knowing that such opinions are held by minds not feeble, it is very painful (as it would be indeed in any case) to see them apparently justified by royal poets like Wordsworth. Ah, but I know an answer—I see one in my mind!
So again for the letters. Now ought I not to know about letters, I who have had so many ... from chief minds too, as society goes in England and America? And your letters began by being first to my intellect, before they were first to my heart. All the letters in the world are not like yours ... and I would trust them for that verdict with any jury in Europe, if they were not so far too dear! Mr. Kenyon wanted to make me show him your letters—I did show him the first, and resisted gallantly afterwards, which made him say what vexed me at the moment, ... 'oh—you let me see only women's letters,'—till I observed that it was a breach of confidence, except in some cases, ... and that I should complain very much, if anyone, man or woman, acted so by myself. But nobody in the world writes like you—not so vitally—and I have a right, if you please, to praise my letters, besides the reason of it which is as good.
Ah—you made me laugh about Mr. Chorley's free speaking—and, without the personal knowledge, I can comprehend how it could be nothing very ferocious ... some 'pardonnez moi, vous etes un ange.' The amusing part is that by the same post which brought me the Ambleside document, I heard from Miss Mitford 'that it was an admirable thing of Chorley to have persisted in not allowing Harriet Martineau to quarrel with him' ... so that there are laurels on both sides, it appears.
And I am delighted to hear from you to-day just so, though I reproach you in turn just so ... because you were not 'depressed' in writing all this and this and this which has made me laugh—you were not, dearest—and you call yourself better, 'much better,' which means a very little perhaps, but is a golden word, let me take it as I may. May God bless you. Wednesday seems too near (now that this is Monday and you are better) to be our day ... perhaps it does,—and Thursday is close beside it at the worst.
Dearest I am your own
E.B.B. to R.B.
Monday Evening. [In the same envelope with the preceding letter.]
Now forgive me, dearest of all, but I must teaze you just a little, and entreat you, if only for the love of me, to have medical advice and follow it without further delay. I like to have recourse to these medical people quite as little as you can—but I am persuaded that it is necessary—that it is at least wise, for you to do so now, and, you see, you were 'not quite so well' again last night! So will you, for me? Would I not, if you wished it? And on Wednesday, yes, on Wednesday, come—that is, if coming on Wednesday should really be not bad for you, for you must do what is right and kind, and I doubt whether the omnibus-driving and the noises of every sort betwixt us, should not keep you away for a little while—I trust you to do what is best for both of us.
And it is not best ... it is not good even, to talk about 'dying for me' ... oh, I do beseech you never to use such words. You make me feel as if I were choking. Also it is nonsense—because nobody puts out a candle for the light's sake.
Write one line to me to-morrow—literally so little—just to say how you are. I know by the writing here, what is. Let me have the one line by the eight o'clock post to-morrow, Tuesday.
For the rest it may be my 'goodness' or my badness, but the world seems to have sunk away beneath my feet and to have left only you to look to and hold by. Am I not to feel, then, any trembling of the hand? the least trembling?
May God bless both of us—which is a double blessing for me notwithstanding my badness.
I trust you about Wednesday—and if it should be wise and kind not to come quite so soon, we will take it out of other days and lose not one of them. And as for anything 'horrible' being likely to happen, do not think of that either,—there can be nothing horrible while you are not ill. So be well—try to be well—use the means and, well or ill, let me have the one line to-morrow ... Tuesday. I send you the foolish letter I wrote to-day in answer to your too long one—too long, was it not, as you felt? And I, the writer of the foolish one, am twice-foolish, and push poor 'Luria' out of sight, and refuse to finish my notes on him till the harm he has done shall have passed away. In my badness I bring false accusation, perhaps, against poor Luria.
So till Wednesday—or as you shall fix otherwise.
R.B. to E.B.B.
6-1/2 Tuesday Evening.
My dearest, your note reaches me only now, with an excuse from the postman. The answer you expect, you shall have the only way possible. I must make up a parcel so as to be able to knock and give it. I shall be with you to-morrow, God willing—being quite well.
Bless you ever—
R.B. to E.B.B.
Thursday Morning. [Post-mark, February 19, 1846.]
My sweetest, best, dearest Ba I do love you less, much less already, and adore you more, more by so much more as I see of you, think of you—I am yours just as much as those flowers; and you may pluck those flowers to pieces or put them in your breast; it is not because you so bless me now that you may not if you please one day—you will stop me here; but it is the truth and I live in it.
I am quite well; indeed, this morning, noticeably well, they tell me, and well I mean to keep if I can.
When I got home last evening I found this note—and I have accepted, that I might say I could also keep an engagement, if so minded, at Harley Street—thereby insinuating that other reasons may bring me into the neighbourhood than the reason—but I shall either not go there, or only for an hour at most. I also found a note headed 'Strictly private and confidential'—so here it goes from my mouth to my heart—pleasantly proposing that I should start in a few days for St. Petersburg, as secretary to somebody going there on a 'mission of humanity'—grazie tante!
Did you hear of my meeting someone at the door whom I take to have been one of your brothers?
One thing vexed me in your letter—I will tell you, the praise of my letters. Now, one merit they have—in language mystical—that of having no merit. If I caught myself trying to write finely, graphically &c. &c., nay, if I found myself conscious of having in my own opinion, so written, all would be over! yes, over! I should be respecting you inordinately, paying a proper tribute to your genius, summoning the necessary collectedness,—plenty of all that! But the feeling with which I write to you, not knowing that it is writing,—with you, face and mouth and hair and eyes opposite me, touching me, knowing that all is as I say, and helping out the imperfect phrases from your own intuition—that would be gone—and what in its place? 'Let us eat and drink for to-morrow we write to Ambleside.' No, no, love, nor can it ever be so, nor should it ever be so if—even if, preserving all that intimate relation, with the carelessness, still, somehow, was obtained with no effort in the world, graphic writing and philosophic and what you please—for I will be—would be, better than my works and words with an infinite stock beyond what I put into convenient circulation whether in fine speeches fit to remember, or fine passages to quote. For the rest, I had meant to tell you before now, that you often put me 'in a maze' when you particularize letters of mine—'such an one was kind' &c. I know, sometimes I seem to give the matter up in despair, I take out paper and fall thinking on you, and bless you with my whole heart and then begin: 'What a fine day this is?' I distinctly remember having done that repeatedly—but the converse is not true by any means, that (when the expression may happen to fall more consentaneously to the mind's motion) that less is felt, oh no! But the particular thought at the time has not been of the insufficiency of expression, as in the other instance.
Now I will leave off—to begin elsewhere—for I am always with you, beloved, best beloved! Now you will write? And walk much, and sleep more? Bless you, dearest—ever—
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-marks, Mis-sent to Mitcham. February 19 and 20, 1846.]
Best and kindest of all that ever were to be loved in dreams, and wondered at and loved out of them, you are indeed! I cannot make you feel how I felt that night when I knew that to save me an anxious thought you had come so far so late—it was almost too much to feel, and is too much to speak. So let it pass. You will never act so again, ever dearest—you shall not. If the post sins, why leave the sin to the post; and I will remember for the future, will be ready to remember, how postmen are fallible and how you live at the end of a lane—and not be uneasy about a silence if there should be one unaccounted for. For the Tuesday coming, I shall remember that too—who could forget it?... I put it in the niche of the wall, one golden lamp more of your giving, to throw light purely down to the end of my life—I do thank you. And the truth is, I should have been in a panic, had there been no letter that evening—I was frightened the day before, then reasoned the fears back and waited: and if there had been no letter after all—. But you are supernaturally good and kind. How can I ever 'return' as people say (as they might say in their ledgers) ... any of it all? How indeed can I who have not even a heart left of my own, to love you with?
I quite trust to your promise in respect to the medical advice, if walking and rest from work do not prevent at once the recurrence of those sensations—it was a promise, remember. And you will tell me the very truth of how you are—and you will try the music, and not be nervous, dearest. Would not riding be good for you—consider. And why should you be 'alone' when your sister is in the house? How I keep thinking of you all day—you cannot really be alone with so many thoughts ... such swarms of thoughts, if you could but see them, drones and bees together!
George came in from Westminster Hall after we parted yesterday and said that he had talked with the junior counsel of the wretched plaintiffs in the Ferrers case, and that the belief was in the mother being implicated, although not from the beginning. It was believed too that the miserable girl had herself taken step after step into the mire, involved herself gradually, the first guilt being an extravagance in personal expenses, which she lied and lied to account for in the face of her family. 'Such a respectable family,' said George, 'the grandfather in court looking venerable, and everyone indignant upon being so disgraced by her!' But for the respectability in the best sense, I do not quite see. That all those people should acquiesce in the indecency (according to every standard of English manners in any class of society) of thrusting the personal expenses of a member of their family on Lord Ferrers, she still bearing their name—and in those peculiar circumstances of her supposed position too—where is the respectability? And they are furious with her, which is not to be wondered at after all. Her counsel had an interview with her previous to the trial, to satisfy themselves of her good faith, and she was quite resolute and earnest, persisting in every statement. On the coming out of the anonymous letters, Fitzroy Kelly said to the juniors that if anyone could suggest a means of explanation, he would be eager to carry forward the case, ... but for him he saw no way of escaping from the fact of the guilt of their client. Not a voice could speak for her. So George was told. There is no ground for a prosecution for a conspiracy, he says, but she is open to the charge for forgery, of course, and to the dreadful consequences, though it is not considered at all likely that Lord Ferrers could wish to disturb her beyond the ruin she has brought on her own life.