Think of Miss Mitford's growing quite cold about Mr. Chorley who has spent two days with her lately, and of her saying in a letter to me this morning that he is very much changed and grown to be 'a presumptuous coxcomb.' He has displeased her in some way—that is clear. What changes there are in the world.
Should I ever change to you, do you think, ... even if you came to 'love me less'—not that I meant to reproach you with that possibility. May God bless you, dear dearest. It is another miracle (beside the many) that I get nearer to the mountains yet still they seem more blue. Is not that strange?
Ever and wholly
E.B.B. to R.B.
Thursday Evening. [Post-mark, February 20, 1846.]
And I offended you by praising your letters—or rather mine, if you please—as if I had not the right! Still, you shall not, shall not fancy that I meant to praise them in the way you seem to think—by calling them 'graphic,' 'philosophic,'—why, did I ever use such words? I agree with you that if I could play critic upon your letters, it would be an end!—but no, no ... I did not, for a moment. In what I said I went back to my first impressions—and they were vital letters, I said—which was the resume of my thoughts upon the early ones you sent me, because I felt your letters to be you from the very first, and I began, from the beginning, to read every one several times over. Nobody, I felt, nobody of all these writers, did write as you did. Well!—and had I not a right to say that now at last, and was it not natural to say just that, when I was talking of other people's letters and how it had grown almost impossible for me to read them; and do I deserve to be scolded? No indeed.
And if I had the misfortune to think now, when you say it is a fine day, that that is said in more music than it could be said in by another—where is the sin against you, I should like to ask. It is yourself who is the critic, I think, after all. But over all the brine, I hold my letters—just as Camoens did his poem. They are best to me—and they are best. I knew what they were, before I knew what you were—all of you. And I like to think that I never fancied anyone on a level with you, even in a letter.
What makes you take them to be so bad, I suppose, is just feeling in them how near we are. You say that!—not I.
Bad or good, you are better—yes, 'better than the works and words'!—though it was very shameful of you to insinuate that I talked of fine speeches and passages and graphical and philosophical sentences, as if I had proposed a publication of 'Elegant Extracts' from your letters. See what blasphemy one falls into through a beginning of light speech! It is wiser to talk of St. Petersburg; for all Voltaire's ... 'ne disons pas de mal de Nicolas.'
Wiser—because you will not go. If you were going ... well!—but there is no danger—it would not do you good to go, I am so happy this time as to be able to think—and your 'mission of humanity' lies nearer—'strictly private and confidential'? but not in Harley Street—so if you go there, dearest, keep to the 'one hour' and do not suffer yourself to be tired and stunned in those hot rooms and made unwell again—it is plain that you cannot bear that sort of excitement. For Mr. Kenyon's note, ... it was a great temptation to make a day of Friday—but I resist both for Monday's sake and for yours, because it seems to me safer not to hurry you from one house to another till you are tired completely. I shall think of you so much the nearer for Mr. Kenyon's note—which is something gained. In the meanwhile you are better, which is everything, or seems so. Ever dearest, do you remember what it is to me that you should be better, and keep from being worse again—I mean, of course, try to keep from being worse—be wise ... and do not stay long in those hot Harley Street rooms. Ah—now you will think that I am afraid of the unicorns!—
Through your being ill the other day I forgot, and afterwards went on forgetting, to speak of and to return the ballad—which is delightful; I have an unspeakable delight in those suggestive ballads, which seem to make you touch with the end of your finger the full warm life of other times ... so near they bring you, yet so suddenly all passes in them. Certainly there is a likeness to your Duchess—it is a curious crossing. And does it not strike you that a verse or two must be wanting in the ballad—there is a gap, I fancy.
Tell Mr. Kenyon (if he enquires) that you come here on Monday instead of Saturday—and if you can help it, do not mention Wednesday—it will be as well, not. You met Alfred at the door—he came up to me afterwards and observed that 'at last he had seen you!' 'Virgilium tantum vidi!'
As to the thing which you try to say in the first page of this letter, and which you 'stop' yourself in saying ... I need not stop you in it....
And now there is no time, if I am to sleep to-night. May God bless you, dearest, dearest.
I must be your own while He blesses me.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Friday Afternoon. [Post-mark, February 20, 1846.]
Here is my Ba's dearest first letter come four hours after the second, with 'Mis-sent to Mitcham' written on its face as a reason,—one more proof of the negligence of somebody! But I do have it at last—what should I say? what do you expect me to say? And the first note seemed quite as much too kind as usual!
Let me write to-morrow, sweet? I am quite well and sure to mind all you bid me. I shall do no more than look in at that place (they are the cousins of a really good friend of mine, Dr. White—I go for him) if even that—for to-morrow night I must go out again, I fear—to pay the ordinary compliment for an invitation to the R.S.'s soiree at Lord Northampton's. And then comes Monday—and to-night any unicorn I may see I will not find myself at liberty to catch. (N.B.—should you meditate really an addition to the 'Elegant Extracts'—mind this last joke is none of mine but my father's; when walking with me when a child, I remember, he bade a little urchin we found fishing with a stick and a string for sticklebacks in a ditch—'to mind that he brought any sturgeon he might catch to the king'—he having a claim on such a prize, by courtesy if not right).
As for Chorley, he is neither the one nor the other of those ugly things. One remembers Regan's 'Oh Heaven—so you will rail at me, when you are in the mood.' But what a want of self-respect such judgments argue, or rather, want of knowledge what true self-respect is: 'So I believed yesterday, and so now—and yet am neither hasty, nor inapprehensive, nor malevolent'—what then?
—But I will say more of my mind—(not of that)—to-morrow, for time presses a little—so bless you my ever ever dearest—I love you wholly.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday Morning. [Post-mark, February 21, 1846.]
As my sisters did not dine at home yesterday and I see nobody else in the evening, I never heard till just now and from Papa himself, that 'George was invited to meet Mr. Browning and Mr. Procter.' How surprised you will be. It must have been a sudden thought of Mr. Kenyon's.
And I have been thinking, thinking since last night that I wrote you then a letter all but ... insolent ... which, do you know, I feel half ashamed to look back upon this morning—particularly what I wrote about 'missions of humanity'—now was it not insolent of me to write so? If I could take my letter again I would dip it into Lethe between the lilies, instead of the post office:—but I can't—so if you wondered, you must forget as far as possible, and understand how it was, and that I was in brimming spirits when I wrote, from two causes ... first, because I had your letter which was a pure goodness of yours, and secondly because you were 'noticeably' better you said, or 'noticeably well' rather, to mind my quotations. So I wrote what I wrote, and gave it to Arabel when she came in at midnight, to give it to Henrietta who goes out before eight in the morning and often takes charge of my letters, and it was too late, at the earliest this morning, to feel a little ashamed. Miss Thomson told me that she had determined to change the type of the few pages of her letterpress which had been touched, and that therefore Mr. Burges's revisions of my translations should be revised back again. She appears to be a very acute person, full of quick perceptions—naturally quick, and carefully trained—a little over anxious perhaps about mental lights, and opening her eyes still more than she sees, which is a common fault of clever people, if one must call it a fault. I like her, and she is kind and cordial. Will she ask you to help her book with a translation or two, I wonder. Perhaps—if the courage should come. Dearest, how I shall think of you this evening, and how near you will seem, not to be here. I had a letter from Mr. Mathews the other day, and smiled to read in it just what I had expected, that he immediately sent Landor's verses on you to a few editors, friends of his, in order to their communication to the public. He received my apology for myself with the utmost graciousness. A kind good man he is.
After all, do you know, I am a little vexed that I should have even seemed to do wrong in my speech about the letters. It must have been wrong, if it seemed so to you, I fancy now. Only I really did no more mean to try your letters ... mine ... such as they are to me now, by the common critical measure, than the shepherds praised the pure tenor of the angels who sang 'Peace upon earth' to them. It was enough that they knew it for angels' singing. So do you forgive me, beloved, and put away from you the thought that I have let in between us any miserable stuff 'de metier,' which I hate as you hate. And I will not say any more about it, not to run into more imprudences of mischief.
On the other hand I warn you against saying again what you began to say yesterday and stopped. Do not try it again. What may be quite good sense from me, is from you very much the reverse, and pray observe that difference. Or did you think that I was making my own road clear in the the thing I said about—'jilts'? No, you did not. Yet I am ready to repeat of myself as of others, that if I ceased to love you, I certainly would act out the whole consequence—but that is an impossible 'if' to my nature, supposing the conditions of it otherwise to be probable. I never loved anyone much and ceased to love that person. Ask every friend of mine, if I am given to change even in friendship! And to you...! Ah, but you never think of such a thing seriously—and you are conscious that you did not say it very sagely. You and I are in different positions. Now let me tell you an apologue in exchange for your Wednesday's stories which I liked so, and mine perhaps may make you 'a little wiser'—who knows?
It befell that there stood in hall a bold baron, and out he spake to one of his serfs ... 'Come thou; and take this baton of my baronie, and give me instead thereof that sprig of hawthorn thou holdest in thine hand.' Now the hawthorn-bough was no larger a thing than might be carried by a wood-pigeon to the nest, when she flieth low, and the baronial baton was covered with fine gold, and the serf, turning it in his hands, marvelled greatly.
And he answered and said, 'Let not my lord be in haste, nor jest with his servant. Is it verily his will that I should keep his golden baton? Let him speak again—lest it repent him of his gift.'
And the baron spake again that it was his will. 'And I'—he said once again—'shall it be lawful for me to keep this sprig of hawthorn, and will it not repent thee of thy gift?'
Then all the servants who stood in hall, laughed, and the serf's hands trembled till they dropped the baton into the rushes, knowing that his lord did but jest....
Which mine did not. Only, de te fabula narratur up to a point.
And I have your letter. 'What did I expect?' Why I expected just that, a letter in turn. Also I am graciously pleased (yes, and very much pleased!) to 'let you write to-morrow.' How you spoil me with goodness, which makes one 'insolent' as I was saying, now and then.
The worst is, that I write 'too kind' letters—I!—and what does that criticism mean, pray? It reminds me, at least, of ... now I will tell you what it reminds me of.
A few days ago Henrietta said to me that she was quite uncomfortable. She had written to somebody a not kind enough letter, she thought, and it might be taken ill. 'Are you ever uncomfortable, Ba, after you have sent letters to the post?' she asked me.
'Yes,' I said, 'sometimes, but from a reason just the very reverse of your reason, my letters, when they get into the post, seem too kind,—rather.' And my sisters laughed ... laughed.
But if you think so beside, I must seriously set to work, you see, to correct that flagrant fault, and shall do better in time dis faventibus, though it will be difficult.
Mr. Kenyon's dinner is a riddle which I cannot read. You are invited to meet Miss Thomson and Mr. Bayley and 'no one else.' George is invited to meet Mr. Browning and Mr. Procter and 'no one else'—just those words. The 'absolu' (do you remember Balzac's beautiful story?) is just you and 'no one else,' the other elements being mere uncertainties, shifting while one looks for them.
Am I not writing nonsense to-night? I am not 'too wise' in any case, which is some comfort. It puts one in spirits to hear of your being 'well,' ever and ever dearest. Keep so for me. May God bless you hour by hour. In every one of mine I am your own
For Miss Mitford ...
But people are not angels quite ...
and she sees the whole world in stripes of black and white, it is her way. I feel very affectionately towards her, love her sincerely. She is affectionate to me beyond measure. Still, always I feel that if I were to vex her, the lower deep below the lowest deep would not be low enough for me. I always feel that. She would advertise me directly for a wretch proper.
Then, for all I said about never changing, I have ice enough over me just now to hold the sparrows!—in respect to a great crowd of people, and she is among them—for reasons—for reasons.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Saturday Morning. [Post-mark, February 23, 1846.]
So all was altered, my love—and, instead of Miss T. and the other friend, I had your brother and Procter—to my great pleasure. After, I went to that place, and soon got away, and am very well this morning in the sunshine; which I feel with you, do I not? Yesterday after dinner we spoke of Mrs. Jameson, and, as my wont is—(Here your letter reaches me—let me finish this sentence now I have finished kissing you, dearest beyond all dearness—My own heart's Ba!)—oh, as I am used, I left the talking to go on by itself, with the thought busied elsewhere, till at last my own voice startled me for I heard my tongue utter 'Miss Barrett ... that is, Mrs. Jameson says' ... or 'does ... or does not.' I forget which! And if anybody noticed the gaucherie it must have been just your brother!
Now to these letters! I do solemnly, unaffectedly wonder how you can put so much pure felicity into an envelope so as that I shall get it as from the fount head. This to-day, those yesterday—there is, I see, and know, thus much goodness in line after line, goodness to be scientifically appreciated, proved there—but over and above, is it in the writing, the dots and traces, the seal, the paper—here does the subtle charm lie beyond all rational accounting for? The other day I stumbled on a quotation from J. Baptista Porta—wherein he avers that any musical instrument made out of wood possessed of medicinal properties retains, being put to use, such virtues undiminished,—and that, for instance, a sick man to whom you should pipe on a pipe of elder-tree would so receive all the advantage derivable from a decoction of its berries. From whence, by a parity of reasoning, I may discover, I think, that the very ink and paper were—ah, what were they? Curious thinking won't do for me and the wise head which is mine, so I will lie and rest in my ignorance of content and understand that without any magic at all you simply wish to make one person—which of your free goodness proves to be your R.B.—to make me supremely happy, and that you have your wish—you do bless me! More and more, for the old treasure is piled undiminished and still the new comes glittering in. Dear, dear heart of my heart, life of my life, will this last, let me begin to ask? Can it be meant I shall live this to the end? Then, dearest, care also for the life beyond, and put in my mind how to testify here that I have felt, if I could not deserve that a gift beyond all gifts! I hope to work hard, to prove I do feel, as I say—it would be terrible to accomplish nothing now.
With which conviction—renewed conviction time by time, of your extravagance of kindness to me unworthy,—will it seem characteristically consistent when I pray you not to begin frightening me, all the same, with threats of writing less kindly? That must not be, love, for your sake now—if you had not thrown open those windows of heaven I should have no more imagined than that Syrian lord on whom the King leaned 'how such things might be'—but, once their influence showered, I should know, too soon and easily, if they shut up again! You have committed your dear, dearest self to that course of blessing, and blessing on, on, for ever—so let all be as it is, pray, pray!
No—not all. No more, ever, of that strange suspicion—'insolent'—oh, what a word!—nor suppose I shall particularly wonder at its being fancied applicable to that, of all other passages of your letter! It is quite as reasonable to suspect the existence of such a quality there as elsewhere: how can such a thing, could such a thing come from you to me? But, dear Ba, do you know me better! Do feel that I know you, I am bold to believe, and that if you were to run at me with a pointed spear I should be sure it was a golden sanative, Machaon's touch, for my entire good, that I was opening my heart to receive! As for words, written or spoken—I, who sin forty times in a day by light words, and untrue to the thought, I am certainly not used to be easily offended by other peoples' words, people in the world. But your words! And about the 'mission'; if it had not been a thing to jest at, I should not have begun, as I did—as you felt I did. I know now, what I only suspected then, and will tell you all the matter on Monday if you care to hear. The 'humanity' however, would have been unquestionable if I had chosen to exercise it towards the poor weak incapable creature that wants somebody, and urgently, I can well believe.
As for your apologue, it is naught—as you felt, and so broke off—for the baron knew well enough it was a spray of the magical tree which once planted in his domain would shoot up, and out, and all round, and be glorious with leaves and musical with birds' nests, and a fairy safeguard and blessing thenceforward and for ever, when the foolish baton had been broken into ounces of gold, even if gold it were, and spent and vanished: for, he said, such gold lies in the highway, men pick it up, more of it or less; but this one slip of the flowering tree is all of it on this side Paradise. Whereon he laid it to his heart and was happy—in spite of his disastrous chase the night before, when so far from catching an unicorn, he saw not even a respectable prize-heifer, worth the oil-cake and rape-seed it had doubtless cost to rear her—'insolence!'
I found no opportunity of speaking to Mr. K. about Monday, but nothing was said of last Wednesday, and he must know I did not go yesterday. So, Monday is laughing in sunshine surely! Bless you, my sweetest. I love you with my whole heart; ever shall love you.
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, February 24, 1846.]
Ever dearest, it is only when you go away, when you are quite gone, out of the house and the street, that I get up and think properly, and with the right gratitude of your flowers. Such beautiful flowers you brought me this time too! looking like summer itself, and smelling! Doing the 'honour due' to the flowers, makes your presence a little longer with me, the sun shines back over the hill just by that time, and then drops, till the next letter.
If I had had the letter on Saturday as ought to have been, no, I could not have answered it so that you should have my answer on Sunday—no, I should still have had to write first.
Now you understand that I do not object to the writing first, but only to the hearing second. I would rather write than not—I! But to be written to is the chief gladness of course; and with all you say of liking to have my letters (which I like to hear quite enough indeed) you cannot pretend to think that yours are not more to me, most to me! Ask my guardian-angel and hear what he says! Yours will look another way for shame of measuring joys with him! Because as I have said before, and as he says now, you are all to me, all the light, all the life; I am living for you now. And before I knew you, what was I and where? What was the world to me, do you think? and the meaning of life? And now, when you come and go, and write and do not write, all the hours are chequered accordingly in so many squares of white and black, as if for playing at fox and goose ... only there is no fox, and I will not agree to be goose for one ... that is you perhaps, for being 'too easily' satisfied.
So my claim is that you are more to me than I can be to you at any rate. Mr. Fox said on Sunday that I was a 'religious hermit' who wrote 'poems which ought to be read in a Gothic alcove'; and religious hermits, when they care to see visions, do it better, they all say, through fasting and flagellation and seclusion in dark places. St. Theresa, for instance, saw a clearer glory by such means, than your Sir Moses Montefiore through his hundred-guinea telescope. Think then, how every shadow of my life has helped to throw out into brighter, fuller significance, the light which comes to me from you ... think how it is the one light, seen without distractions.
I was thinking the other day that certainly and after all (or rather before all) I had loved you all my life unawares, that is, the idea of you. Women begin for the most part, (if ever so very little given to reverie) by meaning, in an aside to themselves, to love such and such an ideal, seen sometimes in a dream and sometimes in a book, and forswearing their ancient faith as the years creep on. I say a book, because I remember a friend of mine who looked everywhere for the original of Mr. Ward's 'Tremaine,' because nothing would do for her, she insisted, except just that excess of so-called refinement, with the book-knowledge and the conventional manners, (loue qui peut, Tremaine), and ended by marrying a lieutenant in the Navy who could not spell. Such things happen every day, and cannot be otherwise, say the wise:—and this being otherwise with me is miraculous compensation for the trials of many years, though such abundant, overabundant compensation, that I cannot help fearing it is too much, as I know that you are too good and too high for me, and that by the degree in which I am raised up you are let down, for us two to find a level to meet on. One's ideal must be above one, as a matter of course, you know. It is as far as one can reach with one's eyes (soul-eyes), not reach to touch. And here is mine ... shall I tell you? ... even to the visible outward sign of the black hair and the complexion (why you might ask my sisters!) yet I would not tell you, if I could not tell you afterwards that, if it had been red hair quite, it had been the same thing, only I prove the coincidence out fully and make you smile half.
Yet indeed I did not fancy that I was to love you when you came to see me—no indeed ... any more than I did your caring on your side. My ambition when we began our correspondence, was simply that you should forget I was a woman (being weary and blasee of the empty written gallantries, of which I have had my share and all the more perhaps from my peculiar position which made them so without consequence), that you should forget that and let us be friends, and consent to teach me what you knew better than I, in art and human nature, and give me your sympathy in the meanwhile. I am a great hero-worshipper and had admired your poetry for years, and to feel that you liked to write to me and be written to was a pleasure and a pride, as I used to tell you I am sure, and then your letters were not like other letters, as I must not tell you again. Also you influenced me, in a way in which no one else did. For instance, by two or three half words you made me see you, and other people had delivered orations on the same subject quite without effect. I surprised everybody in this house by consenting to see you. Then, when you came, you never went away. I mean I had a sense of your presence constantly. Yes ... and to prove how free that feeling was from the remotest presentiment of what has occurred, I said to Papa in my unconsciousness the next morning ... 'it is most extraordinary how the idea of Mr. Browning does beset me—I suppose it is not being used to see strangers, in some degree—but it haunts me ... it is a persecution.' On which he smiled and said that 'it was not grateful to my friend to use such a word.' When the letter came....
Do you know that all that time I was frightened of you? frightened in this way. I felt as if you had a power over me and meant to use it, and that I could not breathe or speak very differently from what you chose to make me. As to my thoughts, I had it in my head somehow that you read them as you read the newspaper—examined them, and fastened them down writhing under your long entomological pins—ah, do you remember the entomology of it all?
But the power was used upon me—and I never doubted that you had mistaken your own mind, the strongest of us having some exceptional weakness. Turning the wonder round in all lights, I came to what you admitted yesterday ... yes, I saw that very early ... that you had come here with the intention of trying to love whomever you should find, ... and also that what I had said about exaggerating the amount of what I could be to you, had just operated in making you more determined to justify your own presentiment in the face of mine. Well—and if that last clause was true a little, too ... why should I be sorry now ... and why should you have fancied for a moment, that the first could make me sorry. At first and when I did not believe that you really loved me, when I thought you deceived yourself, then, it was different. But now ... now ... when I see and believe your attachment for me, do you think that any cause in the world (except what diminished it) could render it less a source of joy to me? I mean as far as I myself am considered. Now if you ever fancy that I am vain of your love for me, you will be unjust, remember. If it were less dear, and less above me, I might be vain perhaps. But I may say before God and you, that of all the events of my life, inclusive of its afflictions, nothing has humbled me so much as your love. Right or wrong it may be, but true it is, and I tell you. Your love has been to me like God's own love, which makes the receivers of it kneelers.
Why all this should be written, I do not know—but you set me thinking yesterday in that backward line, which I lean back to very often, and for once, as you made me write directly, why I wrote, as my thoughts went, that way.
Say how you are, beloved—and do not brood over that 'Soul's Tragedy,' which I wish I had here with 'Luria,' because, so, you should not see it for a month at least. And take exercise and keep well—and remember how many letters I must have before Saturday. May God bless you. Do you want to hear me say
I cannot love you less...?
That is a doubtful phrase. And
I cannot love you more
is doubtful too, for reasons I could give. More or less, I really love you, but it does not sound right, even so, does it? I know what it ought to be, and will put it into the 'seal' and the 'paper' with the ineffable other things.
Dearest, do not go to St. Petersburg. Do not think of going, for fear it should come true and you should go, and while you were helping the Jews and teaching Nicholas, what (in that case) would become of your
R.B. to E.B.B.
Tuesday. [Post-mark, February 24, 1846.]
Ah, sweetest, in spite of our agreement, here is the note that sought not to go, but must—because, if there is no speaking of Mrs. Jamesons and such like without bringing in your dear name (not dearest name, my Ba!) what is the good of not writing it down, now, when I, though possessed with the love of it no more than usual, yet may speak, and to a hearer? And I have to thank you with all my heart for the good news of the increasing strength and less need for the opium—how I do thank you, my dearest—and desire to thank God through whose goodness it all is! This I could not but say now, to-morrow I will write at length, having been working a little this morning, with whatever effect. So now I will go out and see your elm-trees and gate, and think the thoughts over again, and coming home I shall perhaps find a letter.
Dearest, dearest—my perfect blessing you are!
May God continue his care for us. R.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Wednesday Morning. [Post-mark, February 25, 1846.]
Once you were pleased to say, my own Ba, that 'I made you do as I would.' I am quite sure, you make me speak as you would, and not at all as I mean—and for one instance, I never surely spoke anything half so untrue as that 'I came with the intention of loving whomever I should find'—No! wreathed shells and hollows in ruins, and roofs of caves may transform a voice wonderfully, make more of it or less, or so change it as to almost alter, but turn a 'no' into a 'yes' can no echo (except the Irish one), and I said 'no' to such a charge, and still say 'no.' I did have a presentiment—and though it is hardly possible for me to look back on it now without lending it the true colours given to it by the event, yet I can put them aside, if I please, and remember that I not merely hoped it would not be so (not that the effect I expected to be produced would be less than in anticipation, certainly I did not hope that, but that it would range itself with the old feelings of simple reverence and sympathy and friendship, that I should love you as much as I supposed I could love, and no more) but in the confidence that nothing could occur to divert me from my intended way of life, I made—went on making arrangements to return to Italy. You know—did I not tell you—I wished to see you before I returned? And I had heard of you just so much as seemed to make it impossible such a relation could ever exist. I know very well, if you choose to refer to my letters you may easily bring them to bear a sense in parts, more agreeable to your own theory than to mine, the true one—but that was instinct, Providence—anything rather than foresight. Now I will convince you! yourself have noticed the difference between the letters and the writer; the greater 'distance of the latter from you,' why was that? Why, if not because the conduct began with him, with one who had now seen you—was no continuation of the conduct, as influenced by the feeling, of the letters—else, they, if near, should have enabled him, if but in the natural course of time and with increase of familiarity, to become nearer—but it was not so! The letters began by loving you after their way—but what a world-wide difference between that love and the true, the love from seeing and hearing and feeling, since you make me resolve, what now lies blended so harmoniously, into its component parts. Oh, I know what is old from what is new, and how chrystals may surround and glorify other vessels meant for ordinary service than Lord N's! But I don't know that handling may not snap them off, some of the more delicate ones; and if you let me, love, I will not again, ever again, consider how it came and whence, and when, so curiously, so pryingly, but believe that it was always so, and that it all came at once, all the same; the more unlikelinesses the better, for they set off the better the truth of truths that here, ('how begot? how nourished?')—here is the whole wondrous Ba filling my whole heart and soul; and over-filling it, because she is in all the world, too, where I look, where I fancy. At the same time, because all is so wondrous and so sweet, do you think that it would be so difficult for me to analyse it, and give causes to the effects in sufficiently numerous instances, even to 'justify my presentiment?' Ah, dear, dearest Ba, I could, could indeed, could account for all, or enough! But you are unconscious, I do believe, of your power, and the knowledge of it would be no added grace, perhaps! So let us go on—taking a lesson out of the world's book in a different sense. You shall think I love you for—(tell me, you must, what for) while in my secret heart I know what my 'mission of humanity' means, and what telescopic and microscopic views it procures me. Enough—Wait, one word about the 'too kind letters'—could not the same Montefiore understand that though he deserved not one of his thousand guineas, yet that he is in disgrace if they bate him of his next gift by merely ten? It is all too kind—but I shall feel the diminishing of the kindness, be very sure! Of that there is, however, not too alarming a sign in this dearest, because last of all—dearest letter of all—till the next! I looked yesterday over the 'Tragedy,' and think it will do after all. I will bring one part at least next time, and 'Luria' take away, if you let me, so all will be off my mind, and April and May be the welcomer? Don't think I am going to take any extraordinary pains. There are some things in the 'Tragedy' I should like to preserve and print now, leaving the future to spring as it likes, in any direction, and these half-dead, half-alive works fetter it, if left behind.
Yet one thing will fetter it worse, only one thing—if you, in any respect, stay behind? You that in all else help me and will help me, beyond words—beyond dreams—if, because I find you, your own works stop—'then comes the Selah and the voice is hushed.' Oh, no, no, dearest, so would the help cease to be help—the joy to be joy, Ba herself to be quite Ba, and my own Siren singing song for song. Dear love, will that be kind, and right, and like the rest? Write and promise that all shall be resumed, the romance-poem chiefly, and I will try and feel more yours than ever now. Am I not with you in the world, proud of you—and vain, too, very likely, which is all the sweeter if it is a sin as you teach me. Indeed dearest, I have set my heart on your fulfilling your mission—my heart is on it! Bless you, my Ba—
I am so well as to have resumed the shower-bath (this morning)—and I walk, especially near the elms and stile—and mean to walk, and be very well—and you, dearest?
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, February 26, 1846.]
I confess that while I was writing those words I had a thought that they were not quite yours as you said them. Still it comes to something in their likeness, but we will not talk of it and break off the chrystals—they are so brittle, then? do you know that by an 'instinct.' But I agree that it is best not to talk—I 'gave it up' as a riddle long ago. Let there be 'analysis' even, and it will not be solution. I have my own thoughts of course, and you have yours, and the worst is that a third person looking down on us from some snow-capped height, and free from personal influences, would have his thoughts too, and he would think that if you had been reasonable as usual you would have gone to Italy. I have by heart (or by head at least) what the third person would think. The third person thundered to me in an abstraction for ever so long, and at intervals I hear him still, only you shall not to-day, because he talks 'damnable iterations' and teazes you. Nay, the first person is teazing you now perhaps, without going any further, and yet I must go a little further, just to say (after accepting all possible unlikelinesses and miracles, because everything was miraculous and impossible) that it was agreed between us long since that you did not love me for anything—your having no reason for it is the only way of your not seeming unreasonable. Also for my own sake. I like it to be so—I cannot have peace with the least change from it. Dearest, take the baron's hawthorn bough which, in spite of his fine dream of it is dead since the other day, and so much the worse than when I despised it last—take that dead stick and push it upright into the sand as the tide rises, and the whole blue sea draws up its glittering breadth and length towards and around it. But what then? What does that prove? ... as the philosopher said of the poem. So we ought not to talk of such things; and we get warned off even in the accidental illustrations taken up to light us. Still, the stick certainly did not draw the sea.
Dearest and best you were yesterday, to write me the little note! You are better than the imaginations of my heart, and they, as far as they relate to you (not further) are not desperately wicked, I think. I always expect the kindest things from you, and you always are doing some kindness beyond what is expected, and this is a miracle too, like the rest, now isn't it? When the knock came last night, I knew it was your letter, and not another's. Just another little leaf of my Koran! How I thank you ... thank you! If I write too kind letters, as you say, why they may be too kind for me to send, but not for you to receive; and I suppose I think more of you than of me, which accounts for my writing them, accounts and justifies. And that is my reflection not now for the first time. For we break rules very often—as that exegetical third person might expound to you clearly out of the ninety-sixth volume of the 'Code of Conventions,' only you are not like another, nor have you been to me like another—you began with most improvident and (will you let me say?) unmasculine generosity, and Queen Victoria does not sit upon a mat after the fashion of Queen Pomare, nor should.
But ... but ... you know very fully that you are breaking faith in the matter of the 'Tragedy' and 'Luria'—you promised to rest—and you rest for three days. Is it so that people get well? or keep well? Indeed I do not think I shall let you have 'Luria.' Ah—be careful, I do beseech you—be careful. There is time for a pause, and the works will profit by it themselves. And you! And I ... if you are ill!—
For the rest I will let you walk in my field, and see my elms as much as you please ... though I hear about the shower bath with a little suspicion. Why, if it did you harm before, should it not again? and why should you use it, if it threatens harm? Now tell me if it hasn't made you rather unwell since the new trial!—tell me, dear, dearest.
As for myself, I believe that you set about exhorting me to be busy, just that I might not reproach you for the over-business. Confess that that was the only meaning of the exhortation. But no, you are quite serious, you say. You even threaten me in a sort of underground murmur, which sounds like a nascent earthquake; and if I do not write so much a day directly, your stipendiary magistrateship will take away my license to be loved ... I am not to be Ba to you any longer ... you say! And is this right? now I ask you. Ever so many chrystals fell off by that stroke of the baton, I do assure you. Only you did not mean quite what you said so too articulately, and you will unsay it, if you please, and unthink it near the elms.
As for the writing, I will write ... I have written ... I am writing. You do not fancy that I have given up writing?—No. Only I have certainly been more loitering and distracted than usual in what I have done, which is not my fault—nor yours directly—and I feel an indisposition to setting about the romance, the hand of the soul shakes. I am too happy and not calm enough, I suppose, to have the right inclination. Well—it will come. But all in blots and fragments there are verses enough, to fill a volume done in the last year.
And if there were not ... if there were none ... I hold that I should be Ba, and also your Ba ... which is 'insolence' ... will you say?
R.B. to E.B.B.
Thursday. [Post-mark, February 26, 1846.]
As for the 'third person,' my sweet Ba, he was a wise speaker from the beginning; and in our case he will say, turning to me—'the late Robert Hall—when a friend admired that one with so high an estimate of the value of intellectuality in woman should yet marry some kind of cook-maid animal, as did the said Robert; wisely answered, "you can't kiss Mind"! May you not discover eventually,' (this is to me) 'that mere intellectual endowments—though incontestably of the loftiest character—mere Mind, though that Mind be Miss B's—cannot be kissed—nor, repent too late the absence of those humbler qualities, those softer affections which, like flowerets at the mountain's foot, if not so proudly soaring as, as, as!...' and so on, till one of us died, with laughing or being laughed at! So judges the third person! and if, to help him, we let him into your room at Wimpole Street, suffered him to see with Flush's eyes, he would say with just as wise an air 'True, mere personal affections may be warm enough, but does it augur well for the durability of an attachment that it should be wholly, exclusively based on such perishable attractions as the sweetness of a mouth, the beauty of an eye? I could wish, rather, to know that there was something of less transitory nature co-existent with this—some congeniality of Mental pursuit, some—' Would he not say that? But I can't do his platitudes justice because here is our post going out and I have been all the morning walking in the perfect joy of my heart, with your letter, and under its blessing—dearest, dearest Ba—let me say more to-morrow—only this now, that you—ah, what are you not to me! My dearest love, bless you—till to-morrow when I will strengthen the prayer; (no, lengthen it!)
Ever your own.
'Hawthorn'—to show how Spring gets on!
[Footnote 1: Sprig of Hawthorn enclosed with letter.]
E.B.B. to R.B.
Thursday Evening. [Post-mark, February 27, 1846.]
If all third persons were as foolish as this third person of yours, ever dearest, first and second persons might follow their own devices without losing much in the way of good counsel. But you are unlucky in your third person as far as the wits go, he talks a great deal of nonsense, and Flush, who is sensible, will have nothing to do with him, he says, any more than you will with Sir Moses:—he is quite a third person singular for the nonsense he talks!
So, instead of him, you shall hear what I have been doing to-day. The sun, which drew out you and the hawthorns, persuaded me that it was warm enough to go down-stairs—and I put on my cloak as if I were going into the snow, and went into the drawing-room and took Henrietta by surprise as she sate at the piano singing. Well, I meant to stay half an hour and come back again, for I am upon 'Tinkler's ground' in the drawing-room and liable to whole droves of morning visitors—and Henrietta kept me, kept me, because she wanted me, besought me, to stay and see the great sight of Capt. Surtees Cook—plus his regimentals—fresh from the royal presence at St. James's, and I never saw him in my life, though he is a sort of cousin. So, though I hated it as you may think, ... not liking to be unkind to my sister, I stayed and stayed one ten minutes after another, till it seemed plain that he wasn't coming at all (as I told her) and that Victoria had kept him to dinner, enchanted with the regimentals. And half laughing and half quarrelling, still she kept me by force, until a knock came most significantly ... and 'There is Surtees' said she ... 'now you must and shall stay! So foolish,' (I had my hand on the door-handle to go out) 'he, your own cousin too! who always calls you Ba, except before Papa.' Which might have encouraged me perhaps, but I can't be sure of it, as the very next moment apprized us both that no less a person than Mrs. Jameson was standing out in the passage. The whole 36th. regiment could scarcely have been more astounding to me. As to staying to see her in that room, with the prospect of the military descent in combination, I couldn't have done it for the world! so I made Henrietta, who had drawn me into the scrape, take her up-stairs, and followed myself in a minute or two—and the corollary of this interesting history is, that being able to talk at all after all that 'fuss,' and after walking 'up-stairs and down-stairs' like the ancestor of your spider, proves my gigantic strength—now doesn't it?
For the rest, 'here be proofs' that the first person can be as foolish as any third person in the world. What do you think?
And Mrs. Jameson was kind beyond speaking of, and talked of taking me to Italy. What do you say? It is somewhere about the fifth or sixth proposition of the sort which has come to me. I shall be embarrassed, it seems to me, by the multitude of escorts to Italy. But the kindness, one cannot laugh at so much kindness.
I wanted to hear her speak of you, and was afraid. I could not name you. Yet I did want to hear the last 'Bell' praised.
She goes to Ireland for two months soon, but prints a book first, a collection of essays. I have not seen Mr. Kenyon, with whom she dined yesterday. The Macreadys were to be there, and he told me a week ago that he very nearly committed himself in a 'social mistake' by inviting you to meet them.
Ah my hawthorn spray! Do you know, I caught myself pitying it for being gathered, with that green promise of leaves on it! There is room too on it for the feet of a bird! Still I shall keep it longer than it would have stayed in the hedge, that is certain!
The first you ever gave me was a yellow rose sent in a letter, and shall I tell you what that means—the yellow rose? 'Infidelity,' says the dictionary of flowers. You see what an omen, ... to begin with!
Also you see that I am not tired with the great avatar to-day—the 'fell swoop' rather—mine, into the drawing-room, and Mrs. Jameson's on me.
And I shall hear to-morrow again, really? I 'let' you. And you are best, kindest, dearest, every day. Did I ever tell you that you made me do what you choose? I fancied that I only thought so. May God bless you. I am your own.
Shall I have the 'Soul's Tragedy' on Saturday?—any of it? But do not work—I beseech you to take care.
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, February 27, 1846.]
To be sure my 'first person' was nonsensical, and, in that respect made speak properly, I hope, only he was cut short in the middle of his performance by the exigencies of the post. So, never mind what such persons say, my sweetest, because they know nothing at all—quod erat demonstrandum. But you, love, you speak roses, and hawthorn-blossoms when you tell me of the cloak put on, and the descent, and the entry, and staying and delaying. I will have had a hand in all that; I know what I wished all the morning, and now this much came true! But you should have seen the regimentals, if I could have so contrived it, for I confess to a Chinese love for bright red—the very names 'vermilion' 'scarlet' warm me, yet in this cold climate nobody wears red to comfort one's eye save soldiers and fox hunters, and old women fresh from a Parish Christmas Distribution of cloaks. To dress in floating loose crimson silk, I almost understand being a Cardinal! Do you know anything of Nat Lee's Tragedies? In one of them a man angry with a Cardinal cries—
Stand back, and let me mow this poppy down, This rank red weed that spoils the Churches' corn.
Is not that good? and presently, when the same worthy is poisoned (that is the Cardinal)—they bid him—'now, Cardinal, lie down and roar!'
Think of thy scarlet sins!
Of the justice of all which, you will judge with no Mrs. Jameson for guide when we see the Sistina together, I trust! By the way, yesterday I went to Dulwich to see some pictures, by old Teniers, Murillo, Gainsborough, Raphael!—then twenty names about, and last but one, as if just thought of, 'Correggio.' The whole collection, including 'a divine picture by Murillo,' and Titian's Daughter (hitherto supposed to be in the Louvre)—the whole I would, I think, have cheerfully given a pound or two for the privilege of not possessing—so execrable as sign-paintings even! 'Are there worse poets in their way than painters?' Yet the melancholy business is here—that the bad poet goes out of his way, writes his verses in the language he learned in order to do a hundred other things with it, all of which he can go on and do afterwards—but the painter has spent the best of his life in learning even how to produce such monstrosities as these, and to what other good do his acquisitions go? This short minute of life our one chance, an eternity on either side! and a man does not walk whistling and ruddy by the side of hawthorn hedges in spring, but shuts himself up and conies out after a dozen years with 'Titian's Daughter' and, there, gone is his life, let somebody else try!
I have tried—my trial is made too!
To-morrow you shall tell me, dearest, that Mrs. Jameson wondered to see you so well—did she not wonder? Ah, to-morrow! There is a lesson from all this writing and mistaking and correcting and being corrected; and what, but that a word goes safely only from lip to lip, dearest? See how the cup slipped from the lip and snapped the chrystals, you say! But the writing is but for a time—'a time and times and half a time!'—would I knew when the prophetic weeks end! Still, one day, as I say, no more writing, (and great scandalization of the third person, peeping through the fringes of Flush's ears!) meanwhile, I wonder whether if I meet Mrs. Jameson I may practise diplomacy and say carelessly 'I should be glad to know what Miss B. is like—' No, that I must not do, something tells me, 'for reasons, for reasons'—
I do not know—you may perhaps have to wait a little longer for my 'divine Murillo' of a Tragedy. My sister is copying it as I give the pages, but—in fact my wise head does ache a little—it is inconceivable! As if it took a great storm to topple over some stone, and once the stone pushed from its right place, any bird's foot, which would hardly bend the hawthorn spray, may set it trembling! The aching begins with reading the presentation-list at the Drawing-room quite naturally, and with no shame at all! But it is gentle, well-behaved aching now, so I do care, as you bid me, Ba, my Ba, whom I call Ba to my heart but could not, I really believe, call so before another, even your sister, if—if—
But Ba, I call you boldly here, and I dare kiss your dear, dear eyes, till to-morrow—Bless you, my own.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Sunday. [Post-mark, March 2, 1846.]
You never could think that I meant any insinuation against you by a word of what was said yesterday, or that I sought or am likely to seek a 'security'! do you know it was not right of you to use such an expression—indeed no. You were angry with me for just one minute, or you would not have used it—and why? Now what did I say that was wrong or unkind even by construction? If I did say anything, it was three times wrong, and unjust as well as unkind, and wronged my own heart and consciousness of all that you are to me, more than it could you. But you began speaking of yourself just as a woman might speak under the same circumstances (you remember what you said), and then I, remembering that all the men in the world would laugh such an idea to scorn, said something to that effect, you know. I once was in company with a man, however, who valued himself very much on his constancy to a woman who was so deeply affected by it that she became his wife at last ... and the whole neighbourhood came out to stare at him on that ground as a sort of monster. And can you guess what the constancy meant? Seven years before, he loved that woman, he said, and she repulsed him. 'And in the meantime, how many?' I had the impertinence to ask a female friend who told me the tale. 'Why,' she answered with the utmost simplicity, 'I understand that Miss A. and Miss B. and Mrs. C. would not listen to him, but he took Miss D.'s rejection most to heart.' That was the head and front of his 'constancy' to Miss E., who had been loved, she boasted, for seven years ... that is, once at the beginning and once at the end. It was just a coincidence of the 'premier pas' and the 'pis aller.'
Beloved, I could not mean this for you; you are not made of such stuff, as we both know.
And for myself, it was my compromise with my own scruples, that you should not be 'chained' to me, not in the merest metaphor, that you should not seem to be bound, in honour or otherwise, so that if you stayed with me it should be your free choice to stay, not the consequence of a choice so many months before. That was my compromise with my scruples, and not my doubt of your affection—and least of all, was it an intention of trifling with you sooner or later that made me wish to suspend all decisions as long as possible. I have decided (for me) to let it be as you shall please—now I told you that before. Either we will live on as we are, until an obstacle arises,—for indeed I do not look for a 'security' where you suppose, and the very appearance of it there, is what most rebuts me—or I will be yours in the obvious way, to go out of England the next half-hour if possible. As to the steps to be taken (or not taken) before the last step, we must think of those. The worst is that the only question is about a form. Virtually the evil is the same all round, whatever we do. Dearest, it was plain to see yesterday evening when he came into this room for a moment at seven o'clock, before going to his own to dress for dinner ... plain to see, that he was not altogether pleased at finding you here in the morning. There was no pretext for objecting gravely—but it was plain that he was not pleased. Do not let this make you uncomfortable, he will forget all about it, and I was not scolded, do you understand. It was more manner, but my sisters thought as I did of the significance:—and it was enough to prove to me (if I had not known) what a desperate game we should be playing if we depended on a yielding nerve there.
And to-day I went down-stairs (to prove how my promises stand) though I could find at least ten good excuses for remaining in my own room, for our cousin, Sam Barrett, who brought the interruption yesterday and put me out of humour (it wasn't the fault of the dear little cousin, Lizzie ... my 'portrait' ... who was 'so sorry,' she said, dear child, to have missed Papa somewhere on the stairs!) the cousin who should have been in Brittany yesterday instead of here, sate in the drawing-room all this morning, and had visitors there, and so I had excellent excuses for never moving from my chair. Yet, the field being clear at half-past two! I went for half an hour, just—just for you. Did you think of me, I wonder? It was to meet your thoughts that I went, dear dearest.
How clever these sketches are. The expression produced by such apparently inadequate means is quite striking; and I have been making my brothers admire them, and they 'wonder you don't think of employing them in an illustrated edition of your works.' Which might be, really! Ah, you did not ask for 'Luria'! Not that I should have let you have it!—I think I should not indeed. Dearest, you take care of the head ... and don't make that tragedy of the soul one for mine, by letting it make you ill. Beware too of the shower-bath—it plainly does not answer for you at this season. And walk, and think of me for your good, if such a combination should be possible.
And I think of you ... if I do not of Italy. Yet I forget to speak to you of the Dulwich Gallery. I never saw those pictures, but am astonished that the whole world should be wrong in praising them. 'Divine' is a bad word for Murillo in any case—because he is intensely human in his most supernatural subjects. His beautiful Trinity in the National Gallery, which I saw the last time I went out to look at pictures, has no deity in it—and I seem to see it now. And do you remember the visitation of the angels to Abraham (the Duke of Sutherland's picture—is it not?) where the mystic visitors look like shepherds who had not even dreamt of God? But I always understood that that Dulwich Gallery was famous for great works—you surprise me! And for painters ... their badness is more ostentatious than that of poets—they stare idiocy out of the walls, and set the eyes of sensitive men on edge. For the rest, however, I very much doubt whether they wear their lives more to rags, than writers who mistake their vocation in poetry do. There is a mechanism in poetry as in the other art—and, to men not native to the way of it, it runs hard and heavily. The 'cudgelling of the brain' is as good labour as the grinding of the colours, ... do you not think?
If ever I am in the Sistine Chapel, it will not be with Mrs. Jameson—no. If ever I should be there, what teaching I shall want, I who have seen so few pictures, and love them only as children do, with an unlearned love, just for the sake of the thoughts they bring. Wonderfully ignorant I am, to have had eyes and ears so long! There is music, now, which lifts the hair on my head, I feel it so much, ... yet all I know of it as art, all I have heard of the works of the masters in it, has been the mere sign and suggestion, such as the private piano may give. I never heard an oratorio, for instance, in my life—judge by that! It is a guess, I make, at all the greatness and divinity ... feeling in it, though, distinctly and certainly, that a composer like Beethoven must stand above the divinest painter in soul-godhead, and nearest to the true poet, of all artists. And this I felt in my guess, long before I knew you. But observe how, if I had died in this illness, I should have left a sealed world behind me! you, unknown too—unguessed at, you, ... in many respects, wonderfully unguessed at! Lately I have learnt to despise my own instincts. And apart from those—and you, ... it was right for me to be melancholy, in the consciousness of passing blindfolded under all the world-stars, and of going out into another side of the creation, with a blank for the experience of this ... the last revelation, unread! How the thought of it used to depress me sometimes!
Talking of music, I had a proposition the other day from certain of Mr. Russell's (the singer's) friends, about his setting to music my 'Cry of the Children.' His programme exhibits all the horrors of the world, I see! Lifeboats ... madhouses ... gamblers' wives ... all done to the right sort of moaning. His audiences must go home delightfully miserable, I should fancy. He has set the 'Song of the Shirt' ... and my 'Cry of the Children' will be acceptable, it is supposed, as a climax of agony. Do you know this Mr. Russell, and what sort of music he suits to his melancholy? But to turn my 'Cry' to a 'Song,' a burden, it is said, is required—he can't sing it without a burden! and behold what has been sent 'for my approval'.... I shall copy it verbatim for you....
And the threads twirl, twirl, twirl, Before each boy and girl; And the wheels, big and little, still whirl, whirl, whirl.
... accompaniment agitato, imitating the roar of the machinery!
This is not endurable ... ought not to be ... should it now? Do tell me.
May God bless you, very dearest! Let me hear how you are—and think how I am
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, March 2, 1846.]
Dearest, I have been kept in town and just return in time to say why you have no note ... to-morrow I will write ... so much there is to say on the subject of this letter I find.
Bless you, all beloved—
Oh, do not sleep another night on that horrible error I have led you into! The 'Dulwich Gallery'!—!!!—oh, no. Only some pictures to be sold at the Greyhound Inn, Dulwich—'the genuine property of a gentleman deceased.'
R.B. to E.B.B.
Sunday Evening. [Post-mark, March 2, 1846.]
One or two words, if no more, I must write to dearest Ba, the night would go down in double blackness if I had neither written nor been written to! So here is another piece of 'kindness' on my part, such as I have received praise for of late! My own sweetest, there is just this good in such praise, that by it one comes to something pleasantly definite amid the hazy uncertainties of mere wishes and possibilities—while my whole heart does, does so yearn, love, to do something to prove its devotion for you; and, now and then, amuses itself with foolish imaginings of real substantial services to which it should be found equal if fortune so granted; suddenly you interpose with thanks, in such terms as would all too much reward the highest of even those services which are never to be; and for what?—for a note, a going to Town, a ——! Well, there are definite beginnings certainly, if you will recognise them—I mean, that since you do accept, far from 'despising this day of small things,' then I may take heart, and be sure that even though none of the great achievements should fall to my happy chance, still the barrenest, flattest life will—must of needs produce in its season better fruits than these poor ones—I keep it, value it, now, that it may produce such.
Also I determine never again to 'analyse,' nor let you analyse if the sweet mouth can be anyway stopped: the love shall be one and indivisible—and the Loves we used to know from
One another huddled lie ... Close beside Her tenderly—
(which is surely the next line). Now am I not anxious to know what your father said? And if anybody else said or wondered ... how should I know? Of all fighting—the warfare with shadows—what a work is there. But tell me,—and, with you for me—
Bless me dearest ever, as the face above mine blesses me—
Sir Moses set off this morning, I hear—somebody yesterday called the telescope an 'optical delusion,' anticipating many more of the kind! So much for this 'wandering Jew.'
E.B.B. to R.B.
Monday Evening. [Post-mark, March 3, 1846.]
Upon the whole, I think, I am glad when you are kept in town and prevented from writing what you call 'much' to me. Because in the first place, the little from you, is always much to me—and then, besides, the letter comes, and with it the promise of another! Two letters have I had from you to-day, ever dearest! How I thank you!—yes, indeed! It was like yourself to write yesterday ... to remember what a great gap there would have been otherwise, as it looked on this side—here. The worst of Saturday is (when you come on it) that Sunday follows—Saturday night bringing no letter. Well, it was very good of you, best of you!
For the 'analyzing' I give it up willingly, only that I must say what altogether I forgot to say in my last letter, that it was not I, if you please, who spoke of the chrystals breaking away! And you, to quote me with that certainty! "The chrystals are broken off," you say.' I say!! When it was in your letter, and not at all in mine!!
The truth is that I was stupid, rather, about the Dulwich collection—it was my fault. I caught up the idea of the gallery out of a heap of other thoughts, and really might have known better if I had given myself a chance, by considering.
Mr. Kenyon came to-day, and has taken out a licence, it seems to me, for praising you, for he praised and praised. Somebody has told him (who had spent several days with you in a house with a large library) that he came away 'quite astounded by the versatility of your learning'—and that, to complete the circle, you discoursed as scientifically on the training of greyhounds and breeding of ducks as if you had never done anything else all your life. Then dear Mr. Kenyon talked of the poems; and hoped, very earnestly I am sure, that you would finish 'Saul'—which you ought to do, must do—only not now. By the way Mrs. Coleridge had written to him to enquire whether you had authority for the 'blue lilies,' rather than white. Then he asked about 'Luria' and 'whether it was obscure'; and I said, not unless the people, who considered it, began by blindfolding themselves.
And where do you think Mr. Kenyon talks of going next February—a long while off to be sure? To Italy of course. Everybody I ever heard of seems to be going to Italy next winter. He visits his brother at Vienna, and 'may cross the Alps and get to Pisa'—it is the shadow of a scheme—nothing certain, so far.
I did not go down-stairs to-day because the wind blew and the thermometer fell. To-morrow, perhaps I may. And you, dearest dearest, might have put into the letters how you were when you wrote them. You might—but you did not feel well and would not say so. Confess that that was the reason. Reason or no reason, mention yourself to-morrow, and for the rest, do not write a long letter so as to increase the evil. There was nothing which I can remember as requiring an answer in what I wrote to you, and though I will have my letter of course, it shall be as brief as possible, if briefness is good for you—now always remember that. Why if I, who talk against 'Luria,' should work the mischief myself, what should I deserve? I should be my own jury directly and not recommend to mercy ... not to mine. Do take care—care for me just so much.
And, except that taking care of your health, what would you do for me that you have not done? You have given me the best of the possible gifts of one human soul to another, you have made my life new, and am I to count these things as small and insufficient? Ah, you know, you know that I cannot, ought not, will not.
May God bless you. He blesses me in letting me be grateful to you as your Ba.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Tuesday. [Post-mark, March 3, 1846.]
First and most important of all,—dearest, 'angry'—with you, and for that! It is just as if I had spoken contemptuously of that Gallery I so love and so am grateful to—having been used to go there when a child, far under the age allowed by the regulations—those two Guidos, the wonderful Rembrandt of Jacob's vision, such a Watteau, the triumphant three Murillo pictures, a Giorgione music-lesson group, all the Poussins with the 'Armida' and 'Jupiter's nursing'—and—no end to 'ands'—I have sate before one, some one of those pictures I had predetermined to see, a good hour and then gone away ... it used to be a green half-hour's walk over the fields. So much for one error, now for the second like unto it; what I meant by charging you with seeing, (not, not 'looking for')—seeing undue 'security' in that, in the form,—I meant to say 'you talk about me being 'free' now, free till then, and I am rather jealous of the potency attributed to the form, with all its solemnity, because it is a form, and no more—yet you frankly agree with me that that form complied with, there is no redemption; yours I am then sure enough, to repent at leisure &c. &c.' So I meant to ask, 'then, all now said, all short of that particular form of saying it, all goes for comparatively nothing'? Here it is written down—you 'wish to suspend all decisions as long as possible'—that form effects the decision, then,—till then, 'where am I'? Which is just what Lord Chesterfield cautions people against asking when they tell stories. Love, Ba, my own heart's dearest, if all is not decided now—why—hear a story, a propos of storytelling, and deduce what is deducible. A very old Unitarian minister met a still older evangelical brother—John Clayton (from whose son's mouth I heard what you shall hear)—the two fell to argument about the true faith to be held—after words enough, 'Well,' said the Unitarian, as winding up the controversy with an amicable smile—'at least let us hope we are both engaged in the pursuit of Truth!'—'Pursuit do you say?' cried the other, 'here am I with my years eighty and odd—if I haven't found Truth by this time where is my chance, pray?' My own Ba, if I have not already decided, alas for me and the solemn words that are to help! Though in another point of view there would be some luxurious feeling, beyond the ordinary, in knowing one was kept safe to one's heart's good by yet another wall than the hitherto recognised ones. Is there any parallel in the notion I once heard a man deliver himself of in the street—a labourer talking with his friends about 'wishes'—and this one wished, if he might get his wish, 'to have a nine gallon cask of strong ale set running that minute and his own mouth to be tied under it'—the exquisiteness of the delight was to be in the security upon security,—the being 'tied.' Now, Ba says I shall not be 'chained' if she can help!
But now—here all the jesting goes. You tell me what was observed in the 'moment's' visit; by you, and (after, I suppose) by your sisters. First, I will always see with your eyes there—next, what I see I will never speak, if it pain you; but just this much truth I ought to say, I think. I always give myself to you for the worst I am,—full of faults as you will find, if you have not found them. But I will not affect to be so bad, so wicked, as I count wickedness, as to call that conduct other than intolerable—there, in my conviction of that, is your real 'security' and mine for the future as the present. That a father choosing to give out of his whole day some five minutes to a daughter, supposed to be prevented from participating in what he, probably, in common with the whole world of sensible men, as distinguished from poets and dreamers, consider every pleasure of life, by a complete foregoing of society—that he, after the Pisa business and the enforced continuance, and as he must believe, permanence of this state in which any other human being would go mad—I do dare say, for the justification of God, who gave the mind to be used in this world,—where it saves us, we are taught, or destroys us,—and not to be sunk quietly, overlooked, and forgotten; that, under these circumstances, finding ... what, you say, unless he thinks he does find, he would close the door of his house instantly; a mere sympathizing man, of the same literary tastes, who comes good-naturedly, on a proper and unexceptionable introduction, to chat with and amuse a little that invalid daughter, once a month, so far as is known, for an hour perhaps,—that such a father should show himself 'not pleased plainly,' at such a circumstance ... my Ba, it is SHOCKING! See, I go wholly on the supposition that the real relation is not imagined to exist between us. I so completely could understand a repugnance to trust you to me were the truth known, that, I will confess, I have several times been afraid the very reverse of this occurrence would befall; that your father would have at some time or other thought himself obliged, by the usual feeling of people in such cases, to see me for a few minutes and express some commonplace thanks after the customary mode (just as Capt. Domett sent a heap of unnecessary thanks to me not long ago for sending now a letter now a book to his son in New Zealand—keeping up the spirits of poor dear Alfred now he is cut off from the world at large)—and if this had been done, I shall not deny that my heart would have accused me—unreasonably I know but still, suppression, and reserve, and apprehension—the whole of that is horrible always! But this way of looking on the endeavour of anybody, however humble, to just preserve your life, remedy in some degree the first, if it was the first, unjustifiable measure,—this being 'displeased'—is exactly what I did not calculate upon. Observe, that in this only instance I am able to do as I shall be done by; to take up the arms furnished by the world, the usages of society—this is monstrous on the world's showing! I say this now that I may never need recur to it—that you may understand why I keep such entire silence henceforth.
Get but well, keep but as well, and all is easy now. This wonderful winter—the spring—the summer—you will take exercise, go up and down stairs, get strong. I pray you, at your feet, to do this, dearest! Then comes Autumn, with the natural expectations, as after rouge one expects noir: the likelihood of a severe winter after this mild one, which to prevent, you reiterate your demand to go and save your life in Italy, ought you not to do that? And the matters brought to issue, (with even, if possible, less shadow of ground for a refusal than before, if you are well, plainly well enough to bear the voyage) there I will bid you 'be mine in the obvious way'—if you shall preserve your belief in me—and you may in much, in all important to you. Mr. Kenyon's praise is undeserved enough, but yesterday Milnes said I was the only literary man he ever knew, tenax propositi, able to make out a life for himself and abide in it—'for,' he went on, 'you really do live without any of this titillation and fussy dependence upon adventitious excitement of all kinds, they all say they can do without.' That is more true—and I intend by God's help to live wholly for you; to spend my whole energies in reducing to practice the feeling which occupies me, and in the practical operation of which, the other work I had proposed to do will be found included, facilitated—I shall be able—but of this there is plenty time to speak hereafter—I shall, I believe, be able to do this without even allowing the world to very much misinterpret—against pure lying there is no defence, but all up to that I hope to hinder or render unimportant—as you shall know in time and place.
I have written myself grave, but write to me, dear, dearest, and I will answer in a lighter mood—even now I can say how it was yesterday's hurry happened. I called on Milnes—who told me Hanmer had broken a bone in his leg and was laid up, so I called on him too—on Moxon, by the way, (his brother telling me strangely cheering news, from the grimmest of faces, about my books selling and likely to sell ... your wishes, Ba!)—then in Bond Street about some business with somebody, then on Mrs. Montagu who was out walking all the time, and home too. I found a letter from Mr. Kenyon, perfectly kind, asking me to go on Monday to meet friends, and with yours to-day comes another confirming the choice of the day. How entirely kind he is!
I am very well, much better, indeed—taking that bath with sensibly good effect, to-night I go to Montagu's again; for shame, having kept away too long.
And the rest shall answer yours—dear! Not 'much to answer?' And Beethoven, and Painting and—what is the rest and shall be answered! Bless you, now, my darling—I love you, ever shall love you, ever be your own.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Tuesday Evening. [Post-mark, March 4, 1846.]
Yes, but, dearest, you mistake me, or you mistake yourself. I am sure I do not over-care for forms—it is not my way to do it—and in this case ... no. Still you must see that here is a fact as well as a form, and involving a frightful quantity of social inconvenience (to use the mildest word) if too hastily entered on. I deny altogether looking for, or 'seeing' any 'security' in it for myself—it is a mere form for the heart and the happiness: illusions may pass after as before. Still the truth is that if they were to pass with you now, you stand free to act according to the wide-awakeness of your eyes, and to reform your choice ... see! whereas afterward you could not carry out such a reformation while I was alive, even if I helped you. All I could do for you would be to walk away. And you pretend not to see this broad distinction?—ah. For me I have seen just this and no more, and have felt averse to forestall, to seem to forestall even by an hour, or a word, that stringency of the legal obligation from which there is in a certain sense no redemption. Tie up your drinker under the pour of his nine gallons, and in two minutes he will moan and writhe (as you perfectly know) like a Brinvilliers under the water-torture. That he asked to be tied up, was unwise on his own principle of loving ale. And you sha'n't be 'chained' up, if you were to ask twenty times: if you have found truth or not in the water-well.
You do not see aright what I meant to tell you on another subject. If he was displeased, (and it was expressed by a shadow a mere negation of pleasure) it was not with you as a visitor and my friend. You must not fancy such a thing. It was a sort of instinctive indisposition towards seeing you here—unexplained to himself, I have no doubt—of course unexplained, or he would have desired me to receive you never again, that would have been done at once and unscrupulously. But without defining his own feeling, he rather disliked seeing you here—it just touched one of his vibratory wires, brushed by and touched it—oh, we understand in this house. He is not a nice observer, but, at intervals very wide, he is subject to lightnings—call them fancies, sometimes right, sometimes wrong. Certainly it was not in the character of a 'sympathising friend' that you made him a very little cross on Monday. And yet you never were nor will be in danger of being thanked, he would not think of it. For the reserve, the apprehension—dreadful those things are, and desecrating to one's own nature—but we did not make this position, we only endure it. The root of the evil is the miserable misconception of the limits and character of parental rights—it is a mistake of the intellect rather than of the heart. Then, after using one's children as one's chattels for a time, the children drop lower and lower toward the level of the chattels, and the duties of human sympathy to them become difficult in proportion. And (it seems strange to say it, yet it is true) love, he does not conceive of at all. He has feeling, he can be moved deeply, he is capable of affection in a peculiar way, but that, he does not understand, any more than he understands Chaldee, respecting it less of course.
And you fancy that I could propose Italy again? after saying too that I never would? Oh no, no—yet there is time to think of this, a superfluity of time, ... 'time, times and half a time' and to make one's head swim with leaning over a precipice is not wise. The roar of the world comes up too, as you hear and as I heard from the beginning. There will be no lack of 'lying,' be sure—'pure lying' too—and nothing you can do, dearest dearest, shall hinder my being torn to pieces by most of the particularly affectionate friends I have in the world. Which I do not think of much, any more than of Italy. You will be mad, and I shall be bad ... and that will be the effect of being poets! 'Till when, where are you?'—why in the very deepest of my soul—wherever in it is the fountain head of loving! beloved, there you are!
Some day I shall ask you 'in form,'—as I care so much for forms, it seems,—what your 'faults' are, these immense multitudinous faults of yours, which I hear such talk of, and never, never, can get to see. Will you give me a catalogue raisonnee of your faults? I should like it, I think. In the meantime they seem to be faults of obscurity, that is, invisible faults, like those in the poetry which do not keep it from selling as I am so, so glad to understand. I am glad too that Mr. Milnes knows you a little.
Now I must end, there is no more time to-night. God bless you, very dearest! Keep better ... try to be well—as I do for you since you ask me. Did I ever think that you would think it worth while to ask me that? What a dream! reaching out into the morning! To-day however I did not go down-stairs, because it was colder and the wind blew its way into the passages:—if I can to-morrow without risk, I will, ... be sure ... be sure. Till Thursday then!—till eternity!
'Till when, where am I,' but with you? and what, but yours
I have been writing 'autographs' (save my mark) for the North and the South to-day ... the Fens, and Golden Square. Somebody asked for a verse, ... from either 'Catarina' or 'Flush' ... 'those poems' &c. &c.! Such a concatenation of criticisms. So I preferred Flush of course—i.e. gave him the preferment.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Wednesday Morning. [Post-mark, March 4, 1846.]
Ah, sweetest, don't mind people and their lies any more than I shall; if the toad does 'take it into his toad's head to spit at you'—you will not 'drop dead,' I warrant. All the same, if one may make a circuit through a flower-bed and see the less of his toad-habits and general ugliness, so much the better—no words can express my entire indifference (far below contempt) for what can be said or done. But one thing, only one, I choose to hinder being said, if I can—the others I would not if I could—why prevent the toad's puffing himself out thrice his black bigness if it amuses him among those wet stones? We shall be in the sun.
I dare say I am unjust—hasty certainly, in the other matter—but all faults are such inasmuch as they are 'mistakes of the intellect'—toads may spit or leave it alone,—but if I ever see it right, exercising my intellect, to treat any human beings like my 'chattels'—I shall pay for that mistake one day or another, I am convinced—and I very much fear that you would soon discover what one fault of mine is, if you were to hear anyone assert such a right in my presence.
Well, I shall see you to-morrow—had I better come a little later, I wonder?—half-past three, for instance, staying, as last time, till ... ah, it is ill policy to count my treasure aloud! Or shall I come at the usual time to-morrow? If I do not hear, at the usual time!—because, I think you would—am sure you would have considered and suggested it, were it necessary.
Bless you, dearest—ever your own.
I said nothing about that Mr. Russell and his proposition—by all means, yes—let him do more good with that noble, pathetic 'lay'—and do not mind the 'burthen,' if he is peremptory—so that he duly specify 'by the singer'—with that precaution nothing but good can come of his using it.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Thursday. [Post-mark, March 6, 1846.]
Ever dearest I lose no time in writing, you see, so as to be written to at the soonest—and there is another reason which makes me hasten to write ... it is not all mercantile calculation. I want you to understand me.
Now listen! I seem to understand myself: it seems to me that every word I ever said to you on one subject, is plainly referable to a class of feelings of which you could not complain ... could not. But this is my impression; and yours is different:—you do not understand, you do not see by my light, and perhaps it is natural that you should not, as we stand on different steps of the argument. Still I, who said what I did, for you, and from an absorbing consideration of what was best for you, cannot consent, even out of anxiety for your futurity, to torment you now, to vex you by a form of speech which you persist in translating into a want of trust in you ... (I, want trust in you!!) into a need of more evidence about you from others ... (could you say so?) and even into an indisposition on my part to fulfil my engagement—no, dearest dearest, it is not right of you. And therefore, as you have these thoughts reasonably or unreasonably, I shall punish you for them at once, and 'chain' you ... (as you wish to be chained), chain you, rivet you—do you feel how the little fine chain twists round and round you? do you hear the stroke of the riveting? and you may feel that too. Now, it is done—now, you are chained—Bia has finished the work—I, Ba! (observe the anagram!) and not a word do you say, of Prometheus, though you have the conscience of it all, I dare say. Well! you must be pleased, ... as it was 'the weight of too much liberty' which offended you: and now you believe, perhaps, that I trust you, love you, and look to you over the heads of the whole living world, without any one head needing to stoop; you must, if you please, because you belong to me now and shall believe as I choose. There's a ukase for you! Cry out ... repent ... and I will loose the links, and let you go again—shall it be 'My dear Miss Barrett?'
Seriously, you shall not think of me such things as you half said, if not whole said, to-day. If all men were to speak evil of you, my heart would speak of you the more good—that would be the one result with me. Do I not know you, soul to soul? should I believe that any of them could know you as I know you? Then for the rest, I am not afraid of 'toads' now, not being a child any longer. I am not inclined to mind, if you do not mind, what may be said about us by the benevolent world, nor will other reasons of a graver kind affect me otherwise than by the necessary pain. Therefore the whole rests with you—unless illness should intervene—and you will be kind and good (will you not?) and not think hard thoughts of me ever again—no. It wasn't the sense of being less than you had a right to pretend to, which made me speak what you disliked—for it is I who am 'unworthy,' and not another—not certainly that other!
I meant to write more to-night of subjects farther off us, but my sisters have come up-stairs and I must close my letter quickly. Beloved, take care of your head! Ah, do not write poems, nor read, nor neglect the walking, nor take that shower-bath. Will you, instead, try the warm bathing? Surely the experiment is worth making for a little while. Dearest beloved, do it for your own
R.B. to E.B.B.
Friday Morning. [Post-mark, March 6, 1846.]
I am altogether your own, dearest—the words were only words and the playful feelings were play—while the fact has always been so irresistibly obvious as to make them break on and off it, fantastically like water turning to spray and spurts of foam on a great solid rock. Now you call the rock, a rock, but you must have known what chance you had of pushing it down when you sent all those light fancies and free-leaves, and refusals-to-hold-responsible, to do what they could. It is a rock; and may be quite barren of good to you,—not large enough to build houses on, not small enough to make a mantelpiece of, much less a pedestal for a statue, but it is real rock, that is all.
It is always I who 'torment' you—instead of taking the present and blessing you, and leaving the future to its own cares. I certainly am not apt to look curiously into what next week is to bring, much less next month or six months, but you, the having you, my own, dearest beloved, that is as different in kind as in degree from any other happiness or semblance of it that even seemed possible of realization. Then, now, the health is all to stay, or retard us—oh, be well, my Ba!
Let me speak of that letter—I am ashamed at having mentioned those circumstances, and should not have done so, but for their insignificance—for I knew that if you ever did hear of them, all any body would say would not amount to enough to be repeated to me and so get explained at once. Now that the purpose is gained, it seems little worth gaining. You bade me not send the letter: I will not.
As for 'what people say'—ah—Here lies a book, Bartoli's 'Simboli' and this morning I dipped into his Chapter XIX. His 'Symbol' is 'Socrate fatto ritrar su' Boccali' and the theme of his dissertating, 'L'indegnita del mettere in disprezzo i piu degni filosofi dell'antichita.' He sets out by enlarging on the horror of it—then describes the character of Socrates, then tells the story of the representation of the 'Clouds,'and thus gets to his 'symbol'—'le pazzie fatte spacciare a Socrate in quella commedia ... il misero in tanto scherno e derisione del pubblico, che perfino i vasai dipingevano il suo ritratto sopra gli orci, i fiaschi, i boccali, e ogni vasellamento da piu vile servigio. Cosi quel sommo filosofo ... fu condotto a far di se par le case d'Atene una continua commedia, con solamente vederlo comparir cosi scontraffatto e ridicolo, come i vasai sel formavano d'invenzione'—
There you have what a very clever man can say in choice Tuscan on a passage in AElian which he takes care not to quote nor allude to, but which is the sole authority for the fact. AElian, speaking of Socrates' magnanimity, says that on the first representation, a good many foreigners being present who were at a loss to know 'who could be this Socrates'—the sage himself stood up that he might be pointed out to them by the auditory at large ... 'which' says AElian—'was no difficulty for them, to whom his features were most familiar,—the very potters being in the habit of decorating their vessels with his likeness'—no doubt out of a pleasant and affectionate admiration. Yet see how 'people' can turn this out of its sense,—'say' their say on the simplest, plainest word or deed, and change it to its opposite! 'God's great gift of speech abused' indeed!
But what shall we hear of it there, my Siren?
On Monday—is it not? Who was it looked into the room just at our leave-taking?
Bless you, my ever dearest,—remember to walk, to go down-stairs—and be sure that I will endeavour to get well for my part. To-day I am very well—with this letter!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday Evening. [Post-mark, March 7, 1846.]
Always you, is it, who torments me? always you? Well! I agree to bear the torments as Socrates his persecution by the potters:—and by the way he liked those potters, as Plato shows, and was fain to go to them for his illustrations ... as I to you for all my light. Also, while we are on the subject, I will tell you another fault of your Bartoli ... his 'choice Tuscan' filled one of my pages, in the place of my English better than Tuscan.
For the letter you mentioned, I meant to have said in mine yesterday, that I was grateful to you for telling me of it—that was one of the prodigalities of your goodness to me ... not thrown away, in one sense, however superfluous. Do you ever think how I must feel when you overcome me with all this generous tenderness, only beloved! I cannot say it.
Because it is colder to-day I have not been down-stairs but let to-morrow be warm enough—facilis descensus. There's something infernal to me really, in the going down, and now too that our cousin is here! Think of his beginning to attack Henrietta the other day.... 'So Mr. C. has retired and left the field to Surtees Cook. Oh ... you needn't deny ... it's the news of all the world except your father. And as to him, I don't blame you—he never will consent to the marriage of son or daughter. Only you should consider, you know, because he won't leave you a shilling, &c. &c....' You hear the sort of man. And then in a minute after ... 'And what is this about Ba?' 'About Ba' said my sisters, 'why who has been persuading you of such nonsense?' 'Oh, my authority is very good,—perfectly unnecessary for you to tell any stories, Arabel,—a literary friendship, is it?' ... and so on ... after that fashion! This comes from my brothers of course, but we need not be afraid of its passing beyond, I think, though I was a good deal vexed when I heard first of it last night and have been in cousinly anxiety ever since to get our Orestes safe away from those Furies his creditors, into Brittany again. He is an intimate friend of my brothers besides the relationship, and they talk to him as to each other, only they oughtn't to have talked that, and without knowledge too.
I forgot to tell you that Mr. Kenyon was in an immoderate joy the day I saw him last, about Mr. Poe's 'Raven' as seen in the Athenaeum extracts, and came to ask what I knew of the poet and his poetry, and took away the book. It's the rhythm which has taken him with 'glamour' I fancy. Now you will stay on Monday till the last moment, and go to him for dinner at six.
Who 'looked in at the door?' Nobody. But Arabel a little way opened it, and hearing your voice, went back. There was no harm—is no fear of harm. Nobody in the house would find his or her pleasure in running the risk of giving me pain. I mean my brothers and sisters would not.
Are you trying the music to charm the brain to stillness? Tell me. And keep from that 'Soul's Tragedy' which did so much harm—oh, that I had bound you by some Stygian oath not to touch it.
So my rock ... may the birds drop into your crevices the seeds of all the flowers of the world—only it is not for those, that I cling to you as the single rock in the salt sea.
Ever I am
R.B. to E.B.B.
Saturday Morning. [Post-mark, March 7, 1846.]
You call me 'kind'; and by this time I have no heart to call you such names—I told you, did I not once? that 'Ba' had got to convey infinitely more of you to my sense than 'dearest,' 'sweetest,' all or any epithets that break down with their load of honey like bees—to say you are 'kind,' you that so entirely and unintermittingly bless me,—it will never do now, 'Ba.' All the same, one way there is to make even 'Ba' dearer,—'my Ba,' I say to myself!
About my fears—whether of opening doors or entering people—one thing is observable and prevents the possibility of any misconception—I desire, have been in the habit of desiring, to increase them, far from diminishing—they relate, of course, entirely to you—and only through you affect me the least in the world. Put your well-being out of the question, so far as I can understand it to be involved,—and the pleasure and pride I should immediately choose would be that the whole world knew our position. What pleasure, what pride! But I endeavour to remember on all occasions—and perhaps succeed in too few—that it is very easy for me to go away and leave you who cannot go. I only allude to this because some people are 'naturally nervous' and all that—and I am quite of another kind.
Last evening I went out—having been kept at home in the afternoon to see somebody ... went walking for hours. I am quite well to-day and, now your letter comes, my Ba, most happy. And, as the sun shines, you are perhaps making the perilous descent now, while I write—oh, to meet you on the stairs! And I shall really see you on Monday, dearest? So soon, it ought to feel, considering the dreary weeks that now get to go between our days! For music, I made myself melancholy just now with some 'Concertos for the Harpsichord by Mr. Handel'—brought home by my father the day before yesterday;—what were light, modern things once! Now I read not very long ago a French memoir of 'Claude le Jeune' called in his time the Prince of Musicians,—no, 'Phoenix'—the unapproachable wonder to all time—that is, twenty years after his death about—and to this pamphlet was prefixed as motto this startling axiom—'In Music, the Beau Ideal changes every thirty years'—well, is not that true? The Idea, mind, changes—the general standard ... so that it is no answer that a single air, such as many one knows, may strike as freshly as ever—they were not according to the Ideal of their own time—just now, they drop into the ready ear,—next hundred years, who will be the Rossini? who is no longer the Rossini even I remember—his early overtures are as purely Rococo as Cimarosa's or more. The sounds remain, keep their character perhaps—the scale's proportioned notes affect the same, that is,—the major third, or minor seventh—but the arrangement of these, the sequence the law—for them, if it should change every thirty years! To Corelli nothing seemed so conclusive in Heaven or earth as this