I don't believe there is one of his sonatas wherein that formula does not do duty. In these things of Handel that seems replaced by
—that was the only true consummation! Then,—to go over the hundred years,—came Rossini's unanswerable coda:
which serves as base to the infinity of songs, gone, gone—so gone by! From all of which Ba draws this 'conclusion' that these may be worse things than Bartoli's Tuscan to cover a page with!—yet, yet the pity of it! Le Jeune, the Phoenix, and Rossini who directed his letters to his mother as 'mother of the famous composer'—and Henry Lawes, and Dowland's Lute, ah me!
Well, my conclusion is the best, the everlasting, here and I trust elsewhere—I am your own, my Ba, ever your
E.B.B. to R.B.
Tuesday Morning. [Post-mark, March 10, 1846.]
Now I shall know what to believe when you talk of very bad and very indifferent doings of yours. Dearest, I read your 'Soul's Tragedy' last night and was quite possessed with it, and fell finally into a mute wonder how you could for a moment doubt about publishing it. It is very vivid, I think, and vital, and impressed me more than the first act of 'Luria' did, though I do not mean to compare such dissimilar things, and for pure nobleness 'Luria' is unapproachable—will prove so, it seems to me. But this 'Tragedy' shows more heat from the first, and then, the words beat down more closely ... well! I am struck by it all as you see. If you keep it up to this passion, if you justify this high key-note, it is a great work, and worthy of a place next 'Luria.' Also do observe how excellently balanced the two will be, and how the tongue of this next silver Bell will swing from side to side. And you to frighten me about it. Yes, and the worst is (because it was stupid in me) the worst is that I half believed you and took the manuscript to be something inferior—for you—and the adviseableness of its publication, a doubtful case. And yet, after all, the really worst is, that you should prove yourself such an adept at deceiving! For can it be possible that the same
who (I heard the other day) said once that he could 'wait three hundred years,' should not feel the life of centuries in this work too—can it be? Why all the pulses of the life of it are beating in even my ears!
Tell me, beloved, how you are—I shall hear it to-night—shall I not? To think of your being unwell, and forced to go here and go there to visit people to whom your being unwell falls in at best among the secondary evils!—makes me discontented—which is one shade more to the uneasiness I feel. Will you take care, and not give away your life to these people? Because I have a better claim than they ... and shall put it in, if provoked ... shall. Then you will not use the shower-bath again—you promise? I dare say Mr. Kenyon observed yesterday how unwell you were looking—tell me if he didn't! Now do not work, dearest! Do not think of Chiappino, leave him behind ... he has a good strong life of his own, and can wait for you. Oh—but let me remember to say of him, that he and the other personages appear to me to articulate with perfect distinctness and clearness ... you need not be afraid of having been obscure in this first part. It is all as lucid as noon.
Shall I go down-stairs to-day? 'No' say the privy-councillors, 'because it is cold,' but I shall go peradventure, because the sun brightens and brightens, and the wind has gone round to the west.
George had come home yesterday before you left me, but the stars were favourable to us and kept him out of this room. Now he is at Worcester—went this morning, on those never ending 'rounds,' poor fellow, which weary him I am sure.
And why should music and the philosophy of it make you 'melancholy,' ever dearest, more than the other arts, which each has the seal of the age, modifying itself after a fashion and to one? Because it changes more, perhaps. Yet all the Arts are mediators between the soul and the Infinite, ... shifting always like a mist, between the Breath on this side, and the Light on that side ... shifted and coloured; mediators, messengers, projected from the Soul, to go and feel, for Her, out there!
You don't call me 'kind' I confess—but then you call me 'too kind' which is nearly as bad, you must allow on your part. Only you were not in earnest when you said that, as it appeared afterward. Were you, yesterday, in pretending to think that I owed you nothing ... I?
May God bless you. He knows that to give myself to you, is not to pay you. Such debts are not so paid.
Yet I am your
People's Journal for March 7th.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Tuesday Morning. [Post-mark, March 10, 1846.]
Dear, dear Ba, if you were here I should not much speak to you, not at first—nor, indeed, at last,—but as it is, sitting alone, only words can be spoken, or (worse) written, and, oh how different to look into the eyes and imagine what might be said, what ought to be said, though it never can be—and to sit and say and write, and only imagine who looks above me, looks down, understanding and pardoning all! My love, my Ba, the fault you found once with some expressions of mine about the amount of imperishable pleasures already hoarded in my mind, the indestructible memories of you; that fault, which I refused to acquiesce under the imputation of, at first, you remember—well, what a fault it was, by this better light! If all stopped here and now; horrible! complete oblivion were the thing to be prayed for, rather! As it is, now, I must go on, must live the life out, and die yours. And you are doing your utmost to advance the event of events,—the exercise, and consequently (is it not?) necessarily improved sleep, and the projects for the fine days, the walking ... a pure bliss to think of! Well, now—I think I shall show seamanship of a sort, and 'try another tack'—do not be over bold, my sweetest; the cold is considerable,—taken into account the previous mildness. One ill-advised (I, the adviser, I should remember!) too early, or too late descent to the drawing-room, and all might be ruined,—thrown back so far ... seeing that our flight is to be prayed for 'not in the winter'—and one would be called on to wait, wait—in this world where nothing waits, rests, as can be counted on. Now think of this, too, dearest, and never mind the slowness, for the sureness' sake! How perfectly happy I am as you stand by me, as yesterday you stood, as you seem to stand now!
I will write to-morrow more: I came home last night with a head rather worse; which in the event was the better, for I took a little medicine and all is very much improved to-day. I shall go out presently, and return very early and take as much care as is proper—for I thought of Ba, and the sublimities of Duty, and that gave myself airs of importance, in short, as I looked at my mother's inevitable arrow-root this morning. So now I am well; so now, is dearest Ba well? I shall hear to-night ... which will have its due effect, that circumstance, in quickening my retreat from Forster's Rooms. All was very pleasant last evening—and your letter &c. went a qui de droit, and Mr. W. Junior had to smile good-naturedly when Mr. Burges began laying down this general law, that the sons of all men of genius were poor creatures—and Chorley and I exchanged glances after the fashion of two Augurs meeting at some street-corner in Cicero's time, as he says. And Mr. Kenyon was kind, kinder, kindest, as ever, 'and thus ends a wooing'!—no, a dinner—my wooing ends never, never; and so prepare to be asked to give, and give, and give till all is given in Heaven! And all I give you is just my heart's blessing; God bless you, my dearest, dearest Ba!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Tuesday Evening. [Post-mark, March 11, 1846.]
You find my letter I trust, for it was written this morning in time; and if these two lines should not be flattery ... oh, rank flattery! ... why happy letter is it, to help to bring you home ten minutes earlier, when you never ought to have left home—no, indeed! I knew how it would be yesterday, and how you would be worse and not better. You are not fit to go out, dear dearest, to sit in the glare of lights and talk and listen, and have the knives and forks to rattle all the while and remind you of the chains of necessity. Oh—should I bear it, do you think? I was thinking, when you went away—after you had quite gone. You would laugh to see me at my dinner—Flush and me—Flush placing in me such an heroic confidence, that, after he has cast one discriminating glance on the plate, and, in the case of 'chicken,' wagged his tail with an emphasis, ... he goes off to the sofa, shuts his eyes and allows a full quarter of an hour to pass before he returns to take his share. Did you ever hear of a dog before who did not persecute one with beseeching eyes at mealtimes? And remember, this is not the effect of discipline. Also if another than myself happens to take coffee or break bread in the room here, he teazes straightway with eyes and paws, ... teazes like a common dog and is put out of the door before he can be quieted by scolding. But with me he is sublime! Moreover he has been a very useful dog in his time (in the point of capacity), causing to disappear supererogatory dinners and impossible breakfasts which, to do him justice, is a feat accomplished without an objection on his side, always.
So, when you write me such a letter, I write back to you about Flush. Dearest beloved, but I have read the letter and felt it in my heart, through and through! and it is as wise to talk of Flush foolishly, as to fancy that I could say how it is felt ... this letter! Only when you spoke last of breaking off with such and such recollections, it was the melancholy of the breaking off which I protested against, was it not? and not the insufficiency of the recollections. There might have been something besides in jest. Ah, but you remember, if you please, that I was the first to wish (wishing for my own part, if I could wish exclusively) to break off in the middle the silken thread, and you told me, not—you forbade me—do you remember? For, as happiness goes, the recollections were enough, ... are enough for me! I mean that I should acknowledge them to be full compensation for the bitter gift of life, such as it was, to me! if that subject-matter were broken off here! 'Bona verba' let me speak nevertheless. You mean, you say, to run all risks with me, and I don't mean to draw back from my particular risk of ... what am I to do to you hereafter to make you vexed with me? What is there in marriage to make all these people on every side of us, (who all began, I suppose, by talking of love,) look askance at one another from under the silken mask ... and virtually hate one another through the tyranny of the stronger and the hypocrisy of the weaker party. It never could be so with us—I know that. But you grow awful to me sometimes with the very excess of your goodness and tenderness, and still, I think to myself, if you do not keep lifting me up quite off the ground by the strong faculty of love in you, I shall not help falling short of the hope you have placed in me—it must be 'supernatural' of you, to the end! or I fall short and disappoint you. Consider this, beloved. Now if I could put my soul out of my body, just to stand up before you and make it clear.
I did go to the drawing-room to-day ... would ... should ... did. The sun came out, the wind changed ... where was the obstacle? I spent a quarter of an hour in a fearful solitude, listening for knocks at the door, as a ghost-fearer might at midnight, and 'came home' none the worse in any way. Be sure that I shall 'take care' better than you do, and there, is the worst of it all—for you let people make you ill, and do it yourself upon occasion.
You know from my letter how I found you out in the matter of the 'Soul's Tragedy.' Oh! so bad ... so weak, so unworthy of your name! If some other people were half a quarter as much the contrary!
And so, good-night, dear dearest. In spite of my fine speeches about 'recollections,' I should be unhappy enough to please you, with only those ... without you beside! I could not take myself back from being
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, March 11, 1846.]
Dear, dear Ba, but indeed I did return home earlier by two or three good hours than the night before—and to find no letter,—none of yours! That was reserved for this morning early, and then a rest came, a silence, over the thoughts of you—and now again, comes this last note! Oh, my love—why—what is it you think to do, or become 'afterward,' that you may fail in and so disappoint me? It is not very unfit that you should thus punish yourself, and that, sinning by your own ambition of growing something beyond my Ba even, you should 'fear' as you say! For, sweet, why wish, why think to alter ever by a line, change by a shade, turn better if that were possible, and so only rise the higher above me, get further from instead of nearer to my heart? What I expect, what I build my future on, am quite, quite prepared to 'risk' everything for,—is that one belief that you will not alter, will just remain as you are—meaning by 'you,' the love in you, the qualities I have known (for you will stop me, if I do not stop myself) what I have evidence of in every letter, in every word, every look. Keeping these, if it be God's will that the body passes,—what is that? Write no new letters, speak no new words, look no new looks,—only tell me, years hence that the present is alive, that what was once, still is—and I am, must needs be, blessed as ever! You speak of my feeling as if it were a pure speculation—as if because I see somewhat in you I make a calculation that there must be more to see somewhere or other—where bdellium is found, the onyx-stone may be looked for in the mystic land of the four rivers! And perhaps ... ah, poor human nature!—perhaps I do think at times on what may be to find! But what is that to you? I offer for the bdellium—the other may be found or not found ... what I see glitter on the ground, that will suffice to make me rich as—rich as—
So bless you my own Ba! I would not wait for paper, and you must forgive half-sheets, instead of a whole celestial quire to my love and praise. Are you so well? So adventurous? Thank you from my heart of hearts. And I am quite well to-day (and have received a note from Procter just this minute putting off his dinner on account of the death of his wife's sister's husband abroad). Observe this sheet I take as I find—I mean, that the tear tells of no improper speech repented of—what English, what sense, what a soul's tragedy! but then, what real, realest love and more than love for my ever dearest Ba possesses her own—
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, March 12, 1846.]
When my Orpheus writes '[Greek: Peri lithon]' he makes a great mistake about onyxes—there is more true onyx in this letter of his that I have just read, than he will ever find in the desert land he goes to. And for what 'glitters on the ground,' it reminds me of the yellow metal sparks found in the Malvern Hills, and how we used to laugh years ago at one of our geological acquaintances, who looked mole-hills up that mountain-range in the scorn of his eyes, saying ... 'Nothing but mica!!' Is anybody to be rich through 'mica', I wonder? through 'Nothing but mica?' 'As rich as—as rich as' ... Walter the Pennyless?
Dearest, best you are nevertheless, and it is a sorry jest which I can break upon your poverty, with that golden heart of yours so apprehended of mine! Why if I am 'ambitious'—is it not because you love me as if I were worthier of your love, and that, so, I get frightened of the opening of your eyelids to the unworthiness? 'A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep'—there, is my 'ambition for afterward.' Oh—you do not understand how with an unspeakable wonder, an astonishment which keeps me from drawing breath, I look to this Dream, and 'see your face as the face of an angel,' and fear for the vanishing, ... because dreams and angels do pass away in this world. But you, I understand you, and all your goodness past expression, past belief of mine, if I had not known you ... just you. If it will satisfy you that I should know you, love you, love you—why then indeed—because I never bowed down to any of the false gods I know the gold from the mica, ... I! 'My own beloved'—you should have my soul to stand on if it could make you stand higher. Yet you shall not call me 'ambitious.'
To-day I went down-stairs again, and wished to know whether you were walking in your proportion—and your letter does call you 'better,' whether you walked enough or not, and it bears the Deptford post-mark. On Saturday I shall see how you are looking. So pale you were last time! I know Mr. Kenyon must have observed it, (dear Mr. Kenyon ... for being 'kinder and kindest') and that one of the 'augurs' marvelled at the other! By the way I forgot yesterday to tell you how Mr. Burges's 'apt remark' did amuse me. And Mr. Kenyon who said much the same words to me last week in relation to this very Wordsworth junior, writhed, I am sure, and wished the ingenious observer with the lost plays of AEschylus—oh, I seem to see Mr. Kenyon's face! He was to have come to tell me how you all behaved at dinner that day, but he keeps away ... you have given him too much to think of perhaps.
I heard from Miss Mitford to-day that Mr. Chorley's hope is at an end in respect to the theatre, and (I must tell you) she praises him warmly for his philosophy and fortitude under the disappointment. How much philosophy does it take,—please to instruct me,—in order to the decent bearing of such disasters? Can I fancy one, shorter than you by a whole head of the soul, condescending to 'bear' such things? No, indeed.
Be good and kind, and do not work at the 'Tragedy' ... do not.
So you and I have written out all the paper in London! At least, I send and send in vain to have more envelopes 'after my kind,' and the last answer is, that a 'fresh supply will arrive in eight days from Paris, and that in the meanwhile they are quite out in the article.' An awful sign of the times, is this famine of envelopes ... not to speak of the scarcity of little sheets:—and the augurs look to it all of course.
For my part I think more of Chiappino—Chiappino holds me fast.
But I must let you go—it is too late. This dearest letter, which you sent me! I thank you for it with ever so much dumbness. May God bless you and keep you, and make you happy for me.
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, March 12, 1846.]
How I get to understand this much of Law—that prior possession is nine points of it! Just because your infinite adroitness got first hold of the point of view whence our connection looks like 'a dream' ... I find myself shut out of my very own, unable to say what is oftenest in my thought; whereas the dear, miraculous dream you were, and are, my Ba! Only, vanish—that you will never! My own, and for ever!
Yesterday I read the poor, inconceivably inadequate notice in the People's Journal. How curiously wrong, too, in the personal guesses! Sad work truly. For my old friend Mrs. Adams—no, I must be silent: the lyrics seem doggerel in its utter purity. And so the people are to be instructed in the new age of gold! I heard two days ago precisely what I told you—that there was a quarrel, &c. which this service was to smooth over, no doubt. Chorley told me, in a hasty word only, that all was over, Mr. Webster would not have anything to do with his play. The said W. is one of the poorest of poor creatures, and as Chorley was certainly forewarned, forearmed I will hope him to have been likewise—still it is very disappointing—he was apparently nearer than most aspirants to the prize,—having the best will of the actresses on whose shoulder the burthen was to lie. I hope they have been quite honest with him—knowing as I do the easy process of transferring all sorts of burthens, in that theatrical world, from responsible to irresponsible members of it, actors to manager, manager to actors, as the case requires. And it is a 'hope deferred' with Chorley; not for the second or third time. I am very glad that he cares no more than you tell me.
Still you go down-stairs, and still return safely, and every step leads us nearer to my 'hope.' How unremittingly you bless me—a visit promises a letter, a letter brings such news, crowns me with such words, and speaks of another visit—and so the golden links extend. Dearest words, dearest letters—as I add each to my heap, I say—I do say—'I was poor, it now seems, a minute ago, when I had not this!' Bless you, dear, dear Ba. On Saturday I shall be with you, I trust—may God bless you! Ever your own
E.B.B. to R.B.
Sunday. [Post-mark, March 16, 1846.]
Ever dearest I am going to say one word first of all lest I should forget it afterward, of the two or three words which you said yesterday and so passingly that you probably forget to-day having said them at all. We were speaking of Mr. Chorley and his house, and you said that you did not care for such and such things for yourself, but that for others—now you remember the rest. And I just want to say what it would have been simpler to have said at the time—only not so easy—(I couldn't say it at the time) that you are not if you please to fancy that because I am a woman I have not the pretension to do with as little in any way as you yourself ... no, it is not that I mean to say.... I mean that you are not, if you please, to fancy that, because I am a woman, I look to be cared for in those outside things, or should have the slightest pleasure in any of them. So never wish nor regret in your thoughts to be able or not to be able to care this and this for me; for while you are thinking so, our thoughts go different ways, which is wrong. Mr. Fox did me a great deal too much honour in calling me 'a religious hermit'; he was 'curiously' in fault, as you saw. It is not my vocation to sit on a stone in a cave—I was always too fond of lolling upon sofas or in chairs nearly as large,—and this, which I sit in, was given to me when I was a child by my uncle, the uncle I spoke of to you once, and has been lolled in nearly ever since ... when I was well enough. Well—that is a sort of luxury, of course—but it is more idle than expensive, as a habit, and I do believe that it is the 'head and foot of my offending' in that matter. Yes—'confiteor tibi' besides, that I do hate white dimity curtains, which is highly improper for a religious hermit of course, but excusable in me who would accept brown serge as a substitute with ever so much indifference. It is the white light which comes in the dimity which is so hateful to me. To 'go mad in white dimity' seems perfectly natural, and consequential even. Set aside these foibles, and one thing is as good as another with me, and the more simplicity in the way of living, the better. If I saw Mr. Chorley's satin sofas and gilded ceilings I should call them very pretty I dare say, but never covet the possession of the like—it would never enter my mind to do so. Then Papa has not kept a carriage since I have been grown up (they grumble about it here in the house, but when people have once had great reverses they get nervous about spending money) so I shall not miss the Clarence and greys ... and I do entreat you not to put those two ideas together again of me and the finery which has nothing to do with me. I have talked a great deal too much of all this, you will think, but I want you, once for all, to apply it broadly to the whole of the future both in the general view and the details, so that we need not return to the subject. Judge for me as for yourself—what is good for you is good for me. Otherwise I shall be humiliated, you know; just as far as I know your thoughts.
Mr. Kenyon has been here to-day—and I have been down-stairs—two great events! He was in brilliant spirits and sate talking ever so long, and named you as he always does. Something he asked, and then said suddenly ... 'But I don't see why I should ask you, when I ought to know him better than you can.' On which I was wise enough to change colour, as I felt, to the roots of my hair. There is the effect of a bad conscience! and it has happened to me before, with Mr. Kenyon, three times—once particularly, when I could have cried with vexation (to complete the effects!), he looked at me with such infinite surprise in a dead pause of any speaking. That was in the summer; and all to be said for it now, is, that it couldn't be helped: couldn't!
Mr. Kenyon asked of 'Saul.' (By the way, you never answered about the blue lilies.) He asked of 'Saul' and whether it would be finished in the new number. He hangs on the music of your David. Did you read in the Athenaeum how Jules Janin—no, how the critic on Jules Janin (was it the critic? was it Jules Janin? the glorious confusion is gaining on me I think) has magnificently confounded places and persons in Robert Southey's urn by the Adriatic and devoted friendship for Lord Byron? And immediately the English observer of the phenomenon, after moralizing a little on the crass ignorance of Frenchmen in respect to our literature, goes on to write like an ignoramus himself, on Mme. Charles Reybaud, encouraging that pure budding novelist, who is in fact a hack writer of romances third and fourth rate, of questionable purity enough, too. It does certainly appear wonderful that we should not sufficiently stand abreast here in Europe, to justify and necessitate the establishment of an European review—journal rather—(the 'Foreign Review,' so called, touching only the summits of the hills) a journal which might be on a level with the intelligent readers of all the countries of Europe, and take all the rising reputations of each, with the national light on them as they rise, into observation and judgment. If nobody can do this, it is a pity I think to do so much less—both in France and England—to snatch up a French book from over the Channel as ever and anon they do in the Athenaeum, and say something prodigiously absurd of it, till people cry out 'oh oh' as in the House of Commons.
Oh—oh—and how wise I am to-day, as if I were a critic myself! Yesterday I was foolish instead—for I couldn't get out of my head all the evening how you said that you would come 'to see a candle held up at the window.' Well! but I do not mean to love you any more just now—so I tell you plainly. Certainly I will not. I love you already too much perhaps. I feel like the turning Dervishes turning in the sun when you say such words to me—and I never shall love you any 'less,' because it is too much to be made less of.
And you write to-morrow? and will tell me how you are? honestly will tell me? May God bless you, most dear!
I am yours—'Tota tua est'
R.B. to E.B.B.
Sunday. [Post-mark, March 16, 1846.]
How will the love my heart is full of for you, let me be silent? Insufficient speech is better than no speech, in one regard—the speaker had tried words, and if they fail, hereafter he needs not reflect that he did not even try—so with me now, that loving you, Ba, with all my heart and soul, all my senses being lost in one wide wondering gratitude and veneration, I press close to you to say so, in this imperfect way, my dear dearest beloved! Why do you not help me, rather than take my words, my proper word, from me and call them yours, when yours they are not? You said lately love of you 'made you humble'—just as if to hinder me from saying that earnest truth!—entirely true it is, as I feel ever more convincingly. You do not choose to understand it should be so, nor do I much care, for the one thing you must believe, must resolve to believe in its length and breadth, is that I do love you and live only in the love of you.
I will rest on the confidence that you do so believe! You know by this that it is no shadowy image of you and not you, which having attached myself to in the first instance, I afterward compelled my fancy to see reproduced, so to speak, with tolerable exactness to the original idea, in you, the dearest real you I am blessed with—you know what the eyes are to me, and the lips and the hair. And I, for my part, know now, while fresh from seeing you, certainly know, whatever I may have said a short time since, that you will go on to the end, that the arm round me will not let me go,—over such a blind abyss—I refuse to think, to fancy, towards what it would be to loose you now! So I give my life, my soul into your hand—the giving is a mere form too, it is yours, ever yours from the first—but ever as I see you, sit with you, and come away to think over it all, I find more that seems mine to give; you give me more life and it goes back to you.
I shall hear from you to-morrow—then, I will go out early and get done with some calls, in the joy and consciousness of what waits me, and when I return I will write a few words. Are these letters, these merest attempts at getting to talk with you through the distance—yet always with the consolation of feeling that you will know all, interpret all and forgive it and put it right—can such things be cared for, expected, as you say? Then, Ba, my life must be better ... with the closeness to help, and the 'finding out the way' for which love was always noted. If you begin making in fancy a lover to your mind, I am lost at once—but the one quality of affection for you, which would sooner or later have to be placed on his list of component graces; that I will dare start supply—the entire love you could dream of is here. You think you see some of the other adornments, and only too many; and you will see plainer one day, but with that I do not concern myself—you shall admire the true heroes—but me you shall love for the love's sake. Let me kiss you, you, my dearest, dearest—God bless you ever—
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, March 16, 1846.]
Indeed I would, dearest Ba, go with entire gladness and pride to see a light that came from your room—why should that surprise you? Well, you will know one day.
We understand each other too about the sofas and gilding—oh, I know you, my own sweetest! For me, if I had set those matters to heart, I should have turned into the obvious way of getting them—not out of it, as I did resolutely from the beginning. All I meant was, to express a very natural feeling—if one could give you diamonds for flowers, and if you liked diamonds,—then, indeed! As it is, wherever we are found shall be, if you please, 'For the love's sake found therein—sweetest house was ever seen!'
Mr. Kenyon must be merciful. Lilies are of all colours in Palestine—one sort is particularized as white with a dark blue spot and streak—the water lily, lotos, which I think I meant, is blue altogether.
I have walked this morning to town and back—I feel much better, 'honestly'! The head better—the spirits rising—as how should they not, when you think all will go well in the end, when you write to me that you go down-stairs and are stronger—and when the rest is written?
Not more now, dearest, for time is pressing, but you will answer this,—the love that is not here,—not the idle words, and I will reply to-morrow. Thursday is so far away yet!
Bless you, my very own, only dearest!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Monday Evening. [Post-mark, March 17, 1846.]
Dearest, you are dearest always! Talk of Sirens, ... there must be some masculine ones 'rari nantes,' I fancy, (though we may not find them in unquestionable authorities like your AElian!) to justify this voice I hear. Ah, how you speak, with that pretension, too, to dumbness! What should people be made of, in order to bear such words, do you think? Will all the wax from all the altar-candles in the Sistine Chapel, keep the piercing danger from their ears? Being tied up a good deal tighter than Ulysses did not save me. Dearest dearest: I laugh, you see, as usual, not to cry! But deep down, deeper than the Sirens go, deep underneath the tides, there, I bless and love you with the voice that makes no sound.
Other human creatures (how often I do think it to myself!) have their good things scattered over their lives, sown here and sown there, down the slopes, and by the waysides. But with me ... I have mine all poured down on one spot in the midst of the sands!—if you knew what I feel at moments, and at half-hours, when I give myself up to the feeling freely and take no thought of red eyes. A woman once was killed with gifts, crushed with the weight of golden bracelets thrown at her: and, knowing myself, I have wondered more than a little, how it was that I could bear this strange and unused gladness, without sinking as the emotion rose. Only I was incredulous at first, and the day broke slowly ... and the gifts fell like the rain ... softly; and God gives strength, by His providence, for sustaining blessings as well as stripes. Dearest—
For the rest I understand you perfectly—perfectly. It was simply to your thoughts, that I replied ... and that you need not say to yourself any more, as you did once to me when you brought me flowers, that you wished they were diamonds. It was simply to prevent the accident of such a thought, that I spoke out mine. You would not wish accidentally that you had a double-barrelled gun to give me, or a cardinal's hat, or a snuff box, and I meant to say that you might as well—as diamonds and satin sofas a la Chorley. Thoughts are something, and your thoughts are something more. To be sure they are!
You are better you say, which makes me happy of course. And you will not make the 'better' worse again by doing wrong things—that is my petition. It was the excess of goodness to write those two letters for me in one day, and I thank you, thank you. Beloved, when you write, let it be, if you choose, ever so few lines. Do not suffer me (for my own sake) to tire you, because two lines or three bring you to me ... remember ... just as a longer letter would.
But where, pray, did I say, and when, that 'everything would end well?' Was that in the dream, when we two met on the stairs? I did not really say so I think. And 'well' is how you understand it. If you jump out of the window you succeed in getting to the ground, somehow, dead or alive ... but whether that means 'ending well,' depends on your way of considering matters. I am seriously of opinion nevertheless, that if 'the arm,' you talk of, drops, it will not be for weariness nor even for weakness, but because it is cut off at the shoulder. I will not fail to you,—may God so deal with me, so bless me, so leave me, as I live only for you and shall. Do you doubt that, my only beloved! Ah, you know well—too well, people would say ... but I do not think it 'too well' myself, ... knowing you.
Here is a gossip which Mr. Kenyon brought me on Sunday—disbelieving it himself, he asseverated, though Lady Chantrey said it 'with authority,'—that Mr. Harness had offered his hand heart and ecclesiastical dignities to Miss Burdett Coutts. It is Lady Chantrey's and Mr. Kenyon's secret, remember.
And ... will you tell me? How can a man spend four or five successive months on the sea, most cheaply—at the least pecuniary expense, I mean? Because Miss Mitford's friend Mr. Buckingham is ordered by his medical adviser to complete his cure by these means; and he is not rich. Could he go with sufficient comfort by a merchant's vessel to the Mediterranean ... and might he drift about among the Greek islands?
R.B. to E.B.B.
'Out of window' would be well, as I see the leap, if it ended (so far as I am concerned) in the worst way imaginable—I would I 'run the risk' (Ba's other word) rationally, deliberately,—knowing what the ordinary law of chances in this world justifies in such a case; and if the result after all was unfortunate, it would be far easier to undergo the extremest penalty with so little to reproach myself for,—than to put aside the adventure,—waive the wondrous probability of such best fortune, in a fear of the barest possibility of an adverse event, and so go to my grave, Walter the Penniless, with an eternal recollection that Miss Burdett Coutts once offered to wager sundry millions with me that she could throw double-sixes a dozen times running—which wager I wisely refused to accept because it was not written in the stars that such a sequence might never be. I had rather, rather a thousand-fold lose my paltry stake, and be the one recorded victim to such an unexampled unluckiness that half a dozen mad comets, suns gone wrong, and lunatic moons must have come laboriously into conjunction for my special sake to bring it to pass, which were no slight honour, properly considered!—And this is my way of laughing, dearest Ba, when the excess of belief in you, and happiness with you, runs over and froths if it don't sparkle—underneath is a deep, a sea not to be moved. But chance, chance! there is no chance here! I have gained enough for my life, I can only put in peril the gaining more than enough. You shall change altogether my dear, dearest love, and I will be happy to the last minute on what I can remember of this past year—I could do that. Now, jump with me out, Ba! If you feared for yourself—all would be different, sadly different—But saying what you do say, promising 'the strength of arm'—do not wonder that I call it an assurance of all being 'well'! All is best, as you promise—dear, darling Ba!—and I say, in my degree, with all the energy of my nature, as you say, promise as you promise—only meaning a worship of you that is solely fit for me, fit by position—are not you my 'mistress?' Come, some good out of those old conventions, in which you lost faith after the Bower's disappearance, (it was carried by the singing angels, like the house at Loretto, to the Siren's isle where we shall find it preserved in a beauty 'very rare and absolute')—is it not right you should be my Lady, my Queen? and you are, and ever must be, dear Ba. Because I am suffered to kiss the lips, shall I ever refuse to embrace the feet? and kiss lips, and embrace feet, love you wholly, my Ba! May God bless you—
Ever your own,
It would be easy for Mr. Buckingham to find a Merchant-ship bound for some Mediterranean port, after a week or two in harbour, to another and perhaps a third—Naples, Palermo, Syra, Constantinople, and so on. The expense would be very trifling, but the want of comfort enormous for an invalid—the one advantage is the solitariness of the one passenger among all those rough new creatures. I like it much, and soon get deep into their friendship, but another has other ways of viewing matters. No one article provided by the ship in the way of provisions can anybody touch. Mr. B. must lay in his own stock, and the horrors of dirt and men's ministry are portentous, yet by a little arrangement beforehand much might be done. Still, I only know my own powers of endurance, and counsel nobody to gain my experience. On the other hand, were all to do again, I had rather have seen Venice so, with the five or six weeks' absolute rest of the mind's eyes, than any other imaginable way,—except Balloon-travelling.
Do you think they meant Landor's 'Count Julian'—the 'subject of his tragedy' sure enough,—and that he was the friend of Southey? So it struck me—
E.B.B. to R.B.
Tuesday Evening. [Post-mark, March 18, 1846.]
Ah well—we shall see. Only remember that it is not my fault if I throw the double sixes, and if you, on [some sun-shiny day, (a day too late to help yourself) stand face to face with a milkwhite unicorn.] Ah—do not be angry. It is ungrateful of me to write so—I put a line through it to prove I have a conscience after all. I know that you love me, and I know it so well that I was reproaching myself severely not long ago, for seeming to love your love more than you. Let me tell you how I proved that, or seemed. For ever so long, you remember, I have been talking finely about giving you up for your good and so on. Which was sincere as far as the words went—but oh, the hypocrisy of our souls!—of mine, for instance! 'I would give you up for your good'—but when I pressed upon myself the question whether (if I had the power) I would consent to make you willing to be given up, by throwing away your love into the river, in a ring like Charlemagne's, ... why I found directly that I would throw myself there sooner. I could not do it in fact—I shrank from the test. A very pitiful virtue of generosity, is your Ba's! Still, it is not possible, I think, that she should 'love your love more than you.' There must be a mistake in the calculation somewhere—a figure dropt. It would be too bad for her!
Your account of your merchantmen, though with Venice in the distance, will scarcely be attractive to a confirmed invalid, I fear—and yet the steamers will be found expensive beyond his means. The sugar-vessels, which I hear most about, give out an insufferable smell and steam—let us talk of it a little on Thursday. On Monday I forgot.
For Landor's 'Julian,' oh no, I cannot fancy it to be probable that those Parisians should know anything of Landor, even by a mistake. Do you not suppose that the play is founded (confounded) on Shelley's poem, as the French use materials ... by distraction, into confusion? The 'urn by the Adriatic' (which all the French know how to turn upside down) fixes the reference to Shelley—does it not?
Not a word of the head—what does that mean, I wonder. I have not been down-stairs to-day—the wind is too cold—but you have walked? ... there was no excuse for you. God bless you, ever dearest. It is my last word till Thursday's first. A fine queen you have, by the way!—a queen Log, whom you had better leave in the bushes! Witness our hand....
[Footnote 1: The words in brackets are struck out.]
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, March 18, 1846.]
Indeed, dearest, you shall not have last word as you think,—all the 'risk' shall not be mine, neither; how can I, in the event, throw ambs-ace (is not that the old word?) and not peril your stakes too, when once we have common stock and are partners? When I see the unicorn and grieve proportionately, do you mean to say you are not going to grieve too, for my sake? And if so—why, you clearly run exactly the same risk,—must,—unless you mean to rejoice in my sorrow! So your chance is my chance; my success your success, you say, and my failure, your failure, will you not say? You see, you see, Ba, my own—own! What do you think frightened me in your letter for a second or two? You write 'Let us talk on Thursday ... Monday I forgot'—which I read,—'no, not on Thursday—I had forgotten! It is to be Monday when we meet next'!—whereat
... as a goose In death contracts his talons close,
as Hudibras sings—I clutched the letter convulsively—till relief came.
So till to-morrow—my all-beloved! Bless you. I am rather hazy in the head as Archer Gurney will find in due season—(he comes, I told you)—but all the morning I have been going for once and for ever through the 'Tragedy,' and it is done—(done for). Perhaps I may bring it to-morrow—if my sister can copy all; I cut out a huge kind of sermon from the middle and reserve it for a better time—still it is very long; so long! So, if I ask, may I have 'Luria' back to morrow? So shall printing begin, and headache end—and 'no more for the present from your loving'
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday. [Post-mark, March 20, 1846.]
I shall be late with my letter this morning because my sisters have been here talking, talking ... and I did not like to say exactly 'Go away that I may write.' Mr. Kenyon shortened our time yesterday too by a whole half-hour or three quarters—the stars are against us. He is coming on Sunday, however, he says, and if so, Monday will be safe and clear—and not a word was said after you went, about you: he was in a good joyous humour, as you saw, and the letter he brought was, oh! so complimentary to me—I will tell you. The writer doesn't see anything 'in Browning and Turner,' she confesses—'may perhaps with time and study,' but for the present sees nothing,—only has wide-open eyes of admiration for E.B.B. ... now isn't it satisfactory to me? Do you understand the full satisfaction of just that sort of thing ... to be praised by somebody who sees nothing in Shakespeare?—to be found on the level of somebody so flat? Better the bad-word of the Britannia, ten times over! And best, to take no thought of bad or good words! ... except such as I shall have to-night, perhaps! Shall I?
Will you be pleased to understand in the meanwhile a little about the 'risks' I am supposed to run, and not hold to such a godlike simplicity ('gods and bulls,' dearest!) as you made show of yesterday? If we two went to the gaming-table, and you gave me a purse of gold to play with, should I have a right to talk proudly of 'my stakes?' and would any reasonable person say of both of us playing together as partners, that we ran 'equal risks'? I trow not—and so do you ... when you have not predetermined to be stupid, and mix up the rouge and noir into 'one red' of glorious confusion. What had I to lose on the point of happiness when you knew me first?—and if now I lose (as I certainly may according to your calculation) the happiness you have given me, why still I am your debtor for the gift ... now see! Yet to bring you down into my ashes ... that has been so intolerable a possibility to me from the first. Well, perhaps I run more risk than you, under that one aspect. Certainly I never should forgive myself again if you were unhappy. 'What had I to do,' I should think, 'with touching your life?' And if ever I am to think so, I would rather that I never had known you, seen your face, heard your voice—which is the uttermost sacrifice and abnegation. I could not say or sacrifice any more—not even for you! You, for you ... is all I can!
Since you left me I have been making up my mind to your having the headache worse than ever, through the agreement with Moxon. I do, do beseech you to spare yourself, and let 'Luria' go as he is, and above all things not to care for my infinite foolishnesses as you see them in those notes. Remember that if you are ill, it is not so easy to say, 'Now I will be well again.' Ever dearest, care for me in yourself—say how you are.... I am not unwell to-day, but feel flagged and weak rather with the cold ... and look at your flowers for courage and an assurance that the summer is within hearing. May God bless you ... blessing us, beloved!
Mr. Poe has sent me his poems and tales—so now I must write to thank him for his dedication. Just now I have the book. As to Mr. Buckingham, he will go, Constantinople and back, before we talk of him.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Saturday Morning. [Post-mark, March 21, 1846.]
Dearest,—it just strikes me that I might by some chance be kept in town this morning—(having to go to Milnes' breakfast there)—so as not to find the note I venture to expect, in time for an answer by our last post to-night. But I will try—this only is a precaution against the possibility. Dear, dear Ba! I cannot thank you, know not how to thank you for the notes! I adopt every one, of course, not as Ba's notes but as Miss Barrett's, not as Miss Barrett's but as anybody's, everybody's—such incontestable improvements they suggest. When shall I tell you more ... on Monday or Tuesday? That I must know—because you appointed Monday, 'if nothing happened—' and Mr. K. happened—can you let me hear by our early post to-morrow—as on Monday I am to be with Moxon early, you know—and no letters arrive before 11-1/2 or 12. I was not very well yesterday, but to-day am much better—and you,—I say how I am precisely to have a double right to know all about you, dearest, in this snow and cold! How do you bear it? And Mr. K. spoke of 'that being your worst day.' Oh, dear dearest Ba, remember how I live in you—on the hopes, with the memory of you. Bless you ever!
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, March 21, 1846.]
I do not understand how my letters limp so instead of flying as they ought with the feathers I give them, and how you did not receive last night, nor even early this morning, what left me at two o'clock yesterday. But I understand now the not hearing from you—you were not well. Not well, not well ... that is always 'happening' at least. And Mr. Moxon, who is to have his first sheet, whether you are well or ill! It is wrong ... yes, very wrong—and if one point of wrongness is touched, we shall not easily get right again—as I think mournfully, feeling confident (call me Cassandra, but I cannot jest about it) feeling certain that it will end (the means being so persisted in) by some serious illness—serious sorrow,—on yours and my part.
As to Monday, Mr. Kenyon said he would come again on Sunday—in which case, Monday will be clear. If he should not come on Sunday, he will or may on Monday,—yet—oh, in every case, perhaps you can come on Monday—there will be no time to let you know of Mr. Kenyon—and probably we shall be safe, and your being in town seems to fix the day. For myself I am well enough, and the wind has changed, which will make me better—this cold weather oppresses and weakens me, but it is close to April and can't last and won't last—it is warmer already. Beware of the notes! They are not Ba's—except for the insolence, nor EBB's—because of the carelessness. If I had known, moreover, that you were going to Moxon's on Monday, they should have gone to the fire rather than provoked you into superfluous work for the short interval. Just so much are they despised of both EBB and Ba.
I am glad I did not hear from you yesterday because you were not well, and you must never write when you are not well. But if you had been quite well, should I have heard?—I doubt it. You meant me to hear from you only once, from Thursday to Monday. Is it not the truth now that you hate writing to me?
The Athenaeum takes up the 'Tales from Boccaccio' as if they were worth it, and imputes in an underground way the authorship to the members of the 'coterie' so called—do you observe that? There is an implication that persons named in the poem wrote the poem themselves. And upon whom does the critic mean to fix the song of 'Constancy' ... the song which is 'not to puzzle anybody' who knows the tunes of the song-writers! The perfection of commonplace it seems to me. It might have been written by the 'poet Bunn.' Don't you think so?
While I write this you are in town, but you will not read it till Sunday unless I am more fortunate than usual. On Monday then! And no word before? No—I shall be sure not to hear to-night. Now do try not to suffer through 'Luria.' Let Mr. Moxon wait a week rather. There is time enough.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Sunday. [Post-mark, March 23, 1846.]
Oh, my Ba—how you shall hear of this to-morrow—that is all: I hate writing? See when presently I only write to you daily, hourly if you let me? Just this now—I will be with you to-morrow in any case—I can go away at once, if need be, or stay—if you like you can stop me by sending a note for me to Moxon's before 10 o'clock—if anything calls for such a measure.
Now briefly,—I am unwell and entirely irritated with this sad 'Luria'—I thought it a failure at first, I find it infinitely worse than I thought—it is a pure exercise of cleverness, even where most successful; clever attempted reproduction of what was conceived by another faculty, and foolishly let pass away. If I go on, even hurry the more to get on, with the printing,—it is to throw out and away from me the irritating obstruction once and forever. I have corrected it, cut it down, and it may stand and pledge me to doing better hereafter. I say, too, in excuse to myself, unlike the woman at her spinning-wheel, 'He thought of his flax on the whole far more than of his singing'—more of his life's sustainment, of dear, dear Ba he hates writing to, than of these wooden figures—no wonder all is as it is?
Here is a pure piece of the old Chorley leaven for you, just as it reappears ever and anon and throws one back on the mistrust all but abandoned! Chorley knows I have not seen that Powell for nearly fifteen months—that I never heard of the book till it reached me in a blank cover—that I never contributed a line or word to it directly or indirectly—and I should think he also knows that all the sham learning, notes &c., all that saves the book from the deepest deep of contempt, was contributed by Heraud (a regular critic in the 'Athenaeum'), who received his pay for the same: he knows I never spoke in my life to 'Jones or Stephens'—that there is no 'coterie' of which I can, by any extension of the word, form a part—that I am in this case at the mercy of a wretched creature who to get into my favour again (to speak the plain truth) put in the gross, disgusting flattery in the notes—yet Chorley, knowing this, none so well, and what the writer's end is—(to have it supposed I, and the others named—Talfourd, for instance—ARE his friends and helpers)—he condescends to further it by such a notice, written with that observable and characteristic duplicity, that to poor gross stupid Powell it shall look like an admiring 'Oh, fie—so clever but so wicked'!—a kind of D'Orsay's praise—while to the rest of his readers, a few depreciatory epithets—slight sneers convey his real sentiments, he trusts! And this he does, just because Powell buys an article of him once a quarter and would expect notice. I think I hear Chorley—'You know, I cannot praise such a book—it is too bad'—as if, as if—oh, it makes one sicker than having written 'Luria,' there's one comfort! I shall call on Chorley and ask for his account of the matter. Meantime nobody will read his foolish notice without believing as he and Powell desire! Bless you, my own Ba—to-morrow makes amends to R.B.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Tuesday. [Post-mark, March 24, 1846.]
How ungrateful I was to your flowers yesterday, never looking at them nor praising them till they were put away, and yourself gone away—and that was your fault, be it remembered, because you began to tell me of the good news from Moxon's, and, in the joy of it, I missed the flowers ... for the nonce, you know. Afterward they had their due, and all the more that you were not there. My first business when you are out of the room and the house, and the street perhaps, is to arrange the flowers and to gather out of them all the thoughts you leave between the leaves and at the end of the stalks. And shall I tell you what happened, not yesterday, but the Thursday before? no, it was the Friday morning, when I found, or rather Wilson found and held up from my chair, a bunch of dead blue violets. Quite dead they seemed! You had dropped them and I had sate on them, and where we murdered them they had lain, poor things, all the night through. And Wilson thought it the vainest of labours when she saw me set about reviving them, cutting the stalks afresh, and dipping them head and ears into water—but then she did not know how you, and I, and ours, live under a miraculous dispensation, and could only simply be astonished when they took to blowing again as if they never had wanted the dew of the garden, ... yes, and when at last they outlived all the prosperity of the contemporary white violets which flourished in water from the beginning, and were free from the disadvantage of having been sate upon. Now you shall thank me for this letter, it is at once so amusing and instructive. After all, too, it teaches you what the great events of my life are, not that the resuscitation of your violets would not really be a great event to me, even if I led the life of a pirate, between fire and sea, otherwise. But take you away ... out of my life!—and what remains? The only greenness I used to have (before you brought your flowers) was as the grass growing in deserted streets, ... which brings a proof, in every increase, of the extending desolation.
Dearest, I persist in thinking that you ought not to be too disdainful to explain your meaning in the Pomegranates. Surely you might say in a word or two that, your title having been doubted about (to your surprise, you might say!), you refer the doubters to the Jewish priest's robe, and the Rabbinical gloss ... for I suppose it is a gloss on the robe ... do you not think so? Consider that Mr. Kenyon and I may fairly represent the average intelligence of your readers,—and that he was altogether in the clouds as to your meaning ... had not the most distant notion of it,—while I, taking hold of the priest's garment, missed the Rabbins and the distinctive significance, as completely as he did. Then for Vasari, it is not the handbook of the whole world, however it may be Mrs. Jameson's. Now why should you be too proud to teach such persons as only desire to be taught? I persist—I shall teaze you.
This morning my brothers have been saying ... 'Ah you had Mr. Browning with you yesterday, I see by the flowers,' ... just as if they said 'I see queen Mab has been with you.' Then Stormie took the opportunity of swearing to me by all his gods that your name was mentioned lately in the House of Commons—is that true? or untrue? He forgot to tell me at the time, he says,—and you were named with others and in relation to copyright matters. Is it true?
Mr. Hornblower Gill is the author of a Hymn to Passion week, and wrote to me as the 'glorifier of pain!' to remind me that the best glory of a soul is shown in the joy of it, and that all chief poets except Dante have seen, felt, and written it so. Thus and therefore was matured his purpose of writing an 'ode to joy,' as I told you. The man seems to have very good thoughts, ... but he writes like a colder Cowley still ... no impulse, no heat for fusing ... no inspiration, in fact. Though I have scarcely done more than glance at his 'Passion week,' and have little right to give an opinion.
If you have killed Luria as you helped to kill my violets, what shall I say, do you fancy? Well—we shall see! Do not kill yourself, beloved, in any case! The [Greek: iostephanoi Mousai] had better die themselves first! Ah—what am I writing? What nonsense? I mean, in deep earnest, the deepest, that you should take care and exercise, and not be vexed for Luria's sake—Luria will have his triumph presently! May God bless you—prays your own
R.B. to E.B.B.
Tuesday Afternoon. [Post-mark, March 24, 1846.]
My own dearest, if you do—(for I confess to nothing of the kind), but if you should detect an unwillingness to write at certain times, what would that prove,—I mean, what that one need shrink from avowing? If I never had you before me except when writing letters to you—then! Why, we do not even talk much now! witness Mr. Buckingham and his voyage that ought to have been discussed!—Oh, how coldly I should write,—how the bleak-looking paper would seem unpropitious to carry my feeling—if all had to begin and try to find words this way!
Now, this morning I have been out—to town and back—and for all the walking my head aches—and I have the conviction that presently when I resign myself to think of you wholly, with only the pretext,—the make-believe of occupation, in the shape of some book to turn over the leaves of,—I shall see you and soon be well; so soon! You must know, there is a chair (one of the kind called gondola-chairs by upholsterers—with an emphasized o)—which occupies the precise place, stands just in the same relation to this chair I sit on now, that yours stands in and occupies—to the left of the fire: and, how often, how always I turn in the dusk and see the dearest real Ba with me.
How entirely kind to take that trouble, give those sittings for me! Do you think the kindness has missed its due effect? No, no, I am glad,—(knowing what I now know,—what you meant should be, and did all in your power to prevent) that I have not received the picture, if anything short of an adequate likeness. 'Nil nisi—te!' But I have set my heart on seeing it—will you remember next time, next Saturday?
I will leave off now. To-morrow, dearest, only dearest Ba, I will write a longer letter—the clock stops it this afternoon—it is later than I thought, and our poor crazy post! This morning, hoping against hope, I ran to meet our postman coming meditatively up the lane—with a letter, indeed!—but Ba's will come to-night—and I will be happy, already am happy, expecting it. Bless you, my own love,
E.B.B. to R.B.
Tuesday Evening. [Post-mark, March 25, 1846.]
Ah; if I 'do' ... if I 'should' ... if I shall ... if I will ... if I must ... what can all the 'ifs' prove, but a most hypothetical state of the conscience? And in brief, I beg you to stand convinced of one thing, that whenever the 'certain time' comes for to 'hate writing to me' confessedly, 'avowedly,' (oh what words!) I shall not like it at all—not for all the explanations ... and the sights in gondola chairs, which the person seen is none the better for! The [Greek: eidolon] sits by the fire—the real Ba is cold at heart through wanting her letter. And that's the doctrine to be preached now, ... is it? I 'shrink,' shrink from it. That's your word!—and mine! Dearest, I began by half a jest and end by half-gravity, which is the fault of your doctrine and not of me I think. Yet it is ungrateful to be grave, when practically you are good and just about the letters, and generous too sometimes, and I could not bear the idea of obliging you to write to me, even once ... when.... Now do not fancy that I do not understand. I understand perfectly, on the contrary. Only do you try not to dislike writing when you write, or not to write when you dislike it ... that, I ask of you, dear dearest—and forgive me for all this over-writing and teazing and vexing which is foolish and womanish in the bad sense. It is a way of meeting, ... the meeting in letters, ... and next to receiving a letter from you, I like to write one to you ... and, so, revolt from thinking it lawful for you to dislike.... Well! the Goddess of Dulness herself couldn't have written this better, anyway, nor more characteristically.
I will tell you how it is. You have spoilt me just as I have spoilt Flush. Flush looks at me sometimes with reproachful eyes 'a fendre le coeur,' because I refuse to give him my fur cuffs to tear to pieces. And as for myself, I confess to being more than half jealous of the [Greek: eidolon] in the gondola chair, who isn't the real Ba after all, and yet is set up there to do away with the necessity 'at certain times' of writing to her. Which is worse than Flush. For Flush, though he began by shivering with rage and barking and howling and gnashing his teeth at the brown dog in the glass, has learnt by experience what that image means, ... and now contemplates it, serene in natural philosophy. Most excellent sense, all this is!—and dauntlessly 'delivered!'
Your head aches, dearest. Mr. Moxon will have done his worst, however, presently, and then you will be a little better I do hope and trust—and the proofs, in the meanwhile, will do somewhat less harm than the manuscript. You will take heart again about 'Luria' ... which I agree with you, is more diffuse ... that is, less close, than any of your works, not diffuse in any bad sense, but round, copious, and another proof of that wonderful variety of faculty which is so striking in you, and which signalizes itself both in the thought and in the medium of the thought. You will appreciate 'Luria' in time—or others will do it for you. It is a noble work under every aspect. Dear 'Luria'! Do you remember how you told me of 'Luria' last year, in one of your early letters? Little I thought that ever, ever, I should feel so, while 'Luria' went to be printed! A long trail of thoughts, like the rack in the sky, follows his going. Can it be the same 'Luria,' I think, that 'golden-hearted Luria,' whom you talked of to me, when you complained of keeping 'wild company,' in the old dear letter? And I have learnt since, that 'golden-hearted' is not a word for him only, or for him most. May God bless you, best and dearest! I am your own to live and to die—
Say how you are. I shall be down-stairs to-morrow if it keeps warm.
Miss Thomson wants me to translate the Hector and Andromache scene from the 'Iliad' for her book; and I am going to try it.
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME
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