And one thing I want to persuade you of, which is, that all you gain by travel is the discovery that you have gained nothing, and have done rightly in trusting to your innate ideas—or not rightly in distrusting them, as the case may be. You get, too, a little ... perhaps a considerable, good, in finding the world's accepted moulds everywhere, into which you may run and fix your own fused metal,—but not a grain Troy-weight do you get of new gold, silver or brass. After this, you go boldly on your own resources, and are justified to yourself, that's all. Three scratches with a pen, even with this pen,—and you have the green little Syrenusa where I have sate and heard the quails sing. One of these days I shall describe a country I have seen in my soul only, fruits, flowers, birds and all.
Ever yours, dear Miss Barrett,
[Footnote 1: A rough sketch follows in the original.]
E.B.B. to R.B.
Thursday Morning. [Post-mark, April 18, 1845.]
If you did but know dear Mr. Browning how often I have written ... not this letter I am about to write, but another better letter to you, ... in the midst of my silence, ... you would not think for a moment that the east wind, with all the harm it does to me, is able to do the great harm of putting out the light of the thought of you to my mind; for this, indeed, it has no power to do. I had the pen in my hand once to write; and why it fell out, I cannot tell you. And you see, ... all your writing will not change the wind! You wished all manner of good to me one day as the clock struck ten; yes, and I assure you I was better that day—and I must not forget to tell you so though it is so long since. And therefore, I was logically bound to believe that you had never thought of me since ... unless you thought east winds of me! That was quite clear; was it not? or would have been; if it had not been for the supernatural conviction, I had above all, of your kindness, which was too large to be taken in the hinge of a syllogism. In fact I have long left off thinking that logic proves anything—it doesn't, you know.
But your Lamia has taught you some subtle 'viperine' reasoning and motiving, for the turning down one street instead of another. It was conclusive.
Ah—but you will never persuade me that I am the better, or as well, for the thing that I have not. We look from different points of view, and yours is the point of attainment. Not that you do not truly say that, when all is done, we must come home to place our engines, and act by our own strength. I do not want material as material; no one does—but every life requires a full experience, a various experience—and I have a profound conviction that where a poet has been shut from most of the outward aspects of life, he is at a lamentable disadvantage. Can you, speaking for yourself, separate the results in you from the external influences at work around you, that you say so boldly that you get nothing from the world? You do not directly, I know—but you do indirectly and by a rebound. Whatever acts upon you, becomes you—and whatever you love or hate, whatever charms you or is scorned by you, acts on you and becomes you. Have you read the 'Improvisatore'? or will you? The writer seems to feel, just as I do, the good of the outward life; and he is a poet in his soul. It is a book full of beauty and had a great charm to me.
As to the Polkas and Cellariuses I do not covet them of course ... but what a strange world you seem to have, to me at a distance—what a strange husk of a world! How it looks to me like mandarin-life or something as remote; nay, not mandarin-life but mandarin manners, ... life, even the outer life, meaning something deeper, in my account of it. As to dear Mr. Kenyon I do not make the mistake of fancying that many can look like him or talk like him or be like him. I know enough to know otherwise. When he spoke of me he should have said that I was better notwithstanding the east wind. It is really true—I am getting slowly up from the prostration of the severe cold, and feel stronger in myself.
But Mrs. Norton discourses excellent music—and for the rest, there are fruits in the world so over-ripe, that they will fall, ... without being gathered. Let Maynooth witness to it! if you think it worth while!
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.
And is it nothing to be 'justified to one's self in one's resources?' 'That's all,' indeed! For the 'soul's country' we will have it also—and I know how well the birds sing in it. How glad I was by the way to see your letter!
R.B. to E.B.B.
Wednesday Morning. [Post-mark, April 30, 1845.]
If you did but know, dear Miss Barrett, how the 'full stop' after 'Morning' just above, has turned out the fullest of stops,—and how for about a quarter of an hour since the ink dried I have been reasoning out the why and wherefore of the stopping, the wisdom of it, and the folly of it....
By this time you see what you have got in me—You ask me questions, 'if I like novels,' 'if the "Improvisatore" is not good,' 'if travel and sightseeing do not effect this and that for one,' and 'what I am devising—play or poem,'—and I shall not say I could not answer at all manner of lengths—but, let me only begin some good piece of writing of the kind, and ... no, you shall have it, have what I was going to tell you stops such judicious beginnings,—in a parallel case, out of which your ingenuity shall, please, pick the meaning—There is a story of D'Israeli's, an old one, with an episode of strange interest, or so I found it years ago,—well, you go breathlessly on with the people of it, page after page, till at last the end must come, you feel—and the tangled threads draw to one, and an out-of-door feast in the woods helps you ... that is, helps them, the people, wonderfully on,—and, lo, dinner is done, and Vivian Grey is here, and Violet Fane there,—and a detachment of the party is drafted off to go catch butterflies, and only two or three stop behind. At this moment, Mr. Somebody, a good man and rather the lady's uncle, 'in answer to a question from Violet, drew from his pocket a small neatly written manuscript, and, seating himself on an inverted wine-cooler, proceeded to read the following brief remarks upon the characteristics of the Moeso-gothic literature'—this ends the page,—which you don't turn at once! But when you do, in bitterness of soul, turn it, you read—'On consideration, I' (Ben, himself) 'shall keep them for Mr. Colburn's New Magazine'—and deeply you draw thankful breath! (Note this 'parallel case' of mine is pretty sure to meet the usual fortune of my writings—you will ask what it means—and this it means, or should mean, all of it, instance and reasoning and all,—that I am naturally earnest, in earnest about whatever thing I do, and little able to write about one thing while I think of another)—
I think I will really write verse to you some day—this day, it is quite clear I had better give up trying.
No, spite of all the lines in the world, I will make an end of it, as Ophelia with her swan's-song,—for it grows too absurd. But remember that I write letters to nobody but you, and that I want method and much more. That book you like so, the Danish novel, must be full of truth and beauty, to judge from the few extracts I have seen in Reviews. That a Dane should write so, confirms me in an old belief—that Italy is stuff for the use of the North, and no more—pure Poetry there is none, nearly as possible none, in Dante even—material for Poetry in the pitifullest romancist of their thousands, on the contrary—strange that those great wide black eyes should stare nothing out of the earth that lies before them! Alfieri, with even grey eyes, and a life of travel, writes you some fifteen tragedies as colourless as salad grown under a garden glass with matting over it—as free, that is, from local colouring, touches of the soil they are said to spring from,—think of 'Saulle,' and his Greek attempts!
I expected to see Mr. Kenyon, at a place where I was last week, but he kept away. Here is the bad wind back again, and the black sky. I am sure I never knew till now whether the East or West or South were the quarter to pray for—But surely the weather was a little better last week, and you, were you not better? And do you know—but it's all self-flattery I believe,—still I cannot help fancying the East wind does my head harm too!
Ever yours faithfully,
E.B.B. to R.B.
Thursday. [Post-mark, May 2, 1845.]
People say of you and of me, dear Mr. Browning, that we love the darkness and use a sphinxine idiom in our talk; and really you do talk a little like a sphinx in your argument drawn from 'Vivian Grey.' Once I sate up all night to read 'Vivian Grey'; but I never drew such an argument from him. Not that I give it up (nor you up) for a mere mystery. Nor that I can 'see what you have got in you,' from a mere guess. But just observe! If I ask questions about novels, is it not because I want to know how much elbow-room there may be for our sympathies ... and whether there is room for my loose sleeves, and the lace lappets, as well as for my elbows; and because I want to see you by the refracted lights as well as by the direct ones; and because I am willing for you to know me from the beginning, with all my weaknesses and foolishnesses, ... as they are accounted by people who say to me 'no one would ever think, without knowing you, that you were so and so.' Now if I send all my idle questions to Colburn's Magazine, with other Gothic literature, and take to standing up in a perpendicular personality like the angel on the schoolman's needle, in my letters to come, without further leaning to the left or the right—why the end would be that you would take to 'running after the butterflies,' for change of air and exercise. And then ... oh ... then, my 'small neatly written manuscripts' might fall back into my desk...! (Not a 'full stop'!.)
Indeed ... I do assure you ... I never for a moment thought of 'making conversation' about the 'Improvisatore' or novels in general, when I wrote what I did to you. I might, to other persons ... perhaps. Certainly not to you. I was not dealing round from one pack of cards to you and to others. That's what you meant to reproach me for you know,—and of that, I am not guilty at all. I never could think of 'making conversation' in a letter to you—never. Women are said to partake of the nature of children—and my brothers call me 'absurdly childish' sometimes: and I am capable of being childishly 'in earnest' about novels, and straws, and such 'puppydogs' tails' as my Flush's! Also I write more letters than you do, ... I write in fact almost as you pay visits, ... and one has to 'make conversation' in turn, of course. But—give me something to vow by—whatever you meant in the 'Vivian Grey' argument, you were wrong in it! and you never can be much more wrong—which is a comfortable reflection.
Yet you leap very high at Dante's crown—or you do not leap, ... you simply extend your hand to it, and make a rustling among the laurel leaves, which is somewhat prophane. Dante's poetry only materials for the northern rhymers! I must think of that ... if you please ... before I agree with you. Dante's poetry seems to come down in hail, rather than in rain—but count me the drops congealed in one hailstone! Oh! the 'Flight of the Duchess'—do let us hear more of her! Are you (I wonder) ... not a 'self-flatterer,' ... but ... a flatterer.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Saturday Morning. [Post-mark, May 3, 1845.]
Now shall you see what you shall see—here shall be 'sound speech not to be reproved,'—for this morning you are to know that the soul of me has it all her own way, dear Miss Barrett, this green cool nine-in-the-morning time for my chestnut tree over there, and for me who only coaxed my good-natured—(really)—body up, after its three-hours' night-rest on condition it should lounge, or creep about, incognito and without consequences—and so it shall, all but my right-hand which is half-spirit and 'cuts' its poor relation, and passes itself off for somebody (that is, some soul) and is doubly active and ready on such occasions—Now I shall tell you all about it, first what last letter meant, and then more. You are to know, then that for some reason, that looked like an instinct, I thought I ought not to send shaft on shaft, letter-plague on letter, with such an uninterrupted clanging ... that I ought to wait, say a week at least having killed all your mules for you, before I shot down your dogs—but not being exactly Phoibos Apollon, you are to know further that when I did think I might go modestly on, ... [Greek: omoi], let me get out of this slough of a simile, never mind with what dislocation of ancles! Plainly, from waiting and turning my eyes away (not from you, but from you in your special capacity of being written-to, not spoken-to) when I turned again you had grown formidable somehow—though that's not the word,—nor are you the person, either,—it was my fortune, my privilege of being your friend this one way, that it seemed a shame for me to make no better use of than taking it up with talk about books and I don't know what. Write what I will, you would read for once, I think—well, then,—what I shall write shall be—something on this book, and the other book, and my own books, and Mary Hewitt's books, and at the end of it—good bye, and I hope here is a quarter of an hour rationally spent. So the thought of what I should find in my heart to say, and the contrast with what I suppose I ought to say ... all these things are against me. But this is very foolish, all the same, I need not be told—and is part and parcel of an older—indeed primitive body of mine, which I shall never wholly get rid of, of desiring to do nothing when I cannot do all; seeing nothing, getting, enjoying nothing, where there is no seeing and getting and enjoying wholly—and in this case, moreover, you are you, and know something about me, if not much, and have read Bos on the art of supplying Ellipses, and (after, particularly, I have confessed all this, why and how it has been) you will subaudire when I pull out my Mediaeval-Gothic-Architectural-Manuscript (so it was, I remember now,) and instruct you about corbeils and ogives ... though, after all, it was none of Vivian's doing, that,—all the uncle kind or man's, which I never professed to be. Now you see how I came to say some nonsense (I very vaguely think what) about Dante—some desperate splash I know I made for the beginning of my picture, as when a painter at his wits' end and hunger's beginning says 'Here shall the figure's hand be'—and spots that down, meaning to reach it naturally from the other end of his canvas,—and leaving off tired, there you see the spectral disjoined thing, and nothing between it and rationality. I intended to shade down and soften off and put in and leave out, and, before I had done, bring Italian Poets round to their old place again in my heart, giving new praise if I took old,—anyhow Dante is out of it all, as who knows but I, with all of him in my head and heart? But they do fret one, those tantalizing creatures, of fine passionate class, with such capabilities, and such a facility of being made pure mind of. And the special instance that vexed me, was that a man of sands and dog-roses and white rock and green sea-water just under, should come to Italy where my heart lives, and discover the sights and sounds ... certainly discover them. And so do all Northern writers; for take up handfuls of sonetti, rime, poemetti, doings of those who never did anything else,—and try and make out, for yourself, what ... say, what flowers they tread on, or trees they walk under,—as you might bid them, those tree and flower loving creatures, pick out of our North poetry a notion of what our daisies and harebells and furze bushes and brambles are—'Odorosi fioretti, rose porporine, bianchissimi gigli.' And which of you eternal triflers was it called yourself 'Shelley' and so told me years ago that in the mountains it was a feast
When one should find those globes of deep red gold— Which in the woods the strawberry-tree doth bear, Suspended in their emerald atmosphere.
so that when my Uncle walked into a sorb-tree, not to tumble sheer over Monte Calvano, and I felt the fruit against my face, the little ragged bare-legged guide fairly laughed at my knowing them so well—'Niursi—sorbi!' No, no,—does not all Naples-bay and half Sicily, shore and inland, come flocking once a year to the Piedigrotta fete only to see the blessed King's Volanti, or livery servants all in their best; as though heaven opened; and would not I engage to bring the whole of the Piano (of Sorrento) in likeness to a red velvet dressing gown properly spangled over, before the priest that held it out on a pole had even begun his story of how Noah's son Shem, the founder of Sorrento, threw it off to swim thither, as the world knows he did? Oh, it makes one's soul angry, so enough of it. But never enough of telling you—bring all your sympathies, come with loosest sleeves and longest lace-lappets, and you and yours shall find 'elbow room,' oh, shall you not! For never did man, woman or child, Greek, Hebrew, or as Danish as our friend, like a thing, not to say love it, but I liked and loved it, one liking neutralizing the rebellious stir of its fellow, so that I don't go about now wanting the fixed stars before my time; this world has not escaped me, thank God; and—what other people say is the best of it, may not escape me after all, though until so very lately I made up my mind to do without it;—perhaps, on that account, and to make fair amends to other people, who, I have no right to say, complain without cause. I have been surprised, rather, with something not unlike illness of late—I have had a constant pain in the head for these two months, which only very rough exercise gets rid of, and which stops my 'Luria' and much besides. I thought I never could be unwell. Just now all of it is gone, thanks to polking all night and walking home by broad daylight to the surprise of the thrushes in the bush here. And do you know I said 'this must go, cannot mean to stay, so I will not tell Miss Barrett why this and this is not done,'—but I mean to tell you all, or more of the truth, because you call me 'flatterer,' so that my eyes widened again! I, and in what? And of whom, pray? not of you, at all events,—of whom then? Do tell me, because I want to stand with you—and am quite in earnest there. And 'The Flight of the Duchess,' to leave nothing out, is only the beginning of a story written some time ago, and given to poor Hood in his emergency at a day's notice,—the true stuff and story is all to come, the 'Flight,' and what you allude to is the mere introduction—but the Magazine has passed into other hands and I must put the rest in some 'Bell' or other—it is one of my Dramatic Romances. So is a certain 'Saul' I should like to show you one day—an ominous liking—for nobody ever sees what I do till it is printed. But as you do know the printed little part of me, I should not be sorry if, in justice, you knew all I have really done,—written in the portfolio there,—though that would be far enough from this me, that wishes to you now. I should like to write something in concert with you, how I would try!
I have read your letter through again. Does this clear up all the difficulty, and do you see that I never dreamed of 'reproaching you for dealing out one sort of cards to me and everybody else'—but that ... why, 'that' which I have, I hope, said, so need not resay. I will tell you—Sydney Smith laughs somewhere at some Methodist or other whose wont was, on meeting an acquaintance in the street, to open at once on him with some enquiry after the state of his soul—Sydney knows better now, and sees that one might quite as wisely ask such questions as the price of Illinois stock or condition of glebe-land,—and I could say such—'could,'—the plague of it! So no more at present from your loving.... Or, let me tell you I am going to see Mr. Kenyon on the 12th inst.—that you do not tell me how you are, and that yet if you do not continue to improve in health ... I shall not see you—not—not—not—what 'knots' to untie! Surely the wind that sets my chestnut-tree dancing, all its baby-cone-blossoms, green now, rocking like fairy castles on a hill in an earthquake,—that is South West, surely! God bless you, and me in that—and do write to me soon, and tell me who was the 'flatterer,' and how he never was
E.B.B. to R.B.
Monday—and Tuesday. [Post-mark, May 6, 1845.]
So when wise people happen to be ill, they sit up till six o'clock in the morning and get up again at nine? Do tell me how Lurias can ever be made out of such ungodly imprudences. If the wind blows east or west, where can any remedy be, while such evil deeds are being committed? And what is to be the end of it? And what is the reasonableness of it in the meantime, when we all know that thinking, dreaming, creating people like yourself, have two lives to bear instead of one, and therefore ought to sleep more than others, ... throwing over and buckling in that fold of death, to stroke the life-purple smoother. You have to live your own personal life, and also Luria's life—and therefore you should sleep for both. It is logical indeed—and rational, ... which logic is not always ... and if I had 'the tongue of men and of angels,' I would use it to persuade you. Polka, for the rest, may be good; but sleep is better. I think better of sleep than I ever did, now that she will not easily come near me except in a red hood of poppies. And besides, ... praise your 'goodnatured body' as you like, ... it is only a seeming goodnature! Bodies bear malice in a terrible way, be very sure!—appear mild and smiling for a few short years, and then ... out with a cold steel; and the soul has it, 'with a vengeance,' ... according to the phrase! You will not persist, (will you?) in this experimental homicide. Or tell me if you will, that I may do some more tearing. It really, really is wrong. Exercise is one sort of rest and you feel relieved by it—and sleep is another: one being as necessary as the other.
This is the first thing I have to say. The next is a question. What do you mean about your manuscripts ... about 'Saul' and the portfolio? for I am afraid of hazardously supplying ellipses—and your 'Bos' comes to [Greek: bous epi glosse]. I get half bribed to silence by the very pleasure of fancying. But if it could be possible that you should mean to say you would show me.... Can it be? or am I reading this 'Attic contraction' quite the wrong way? You see I am afraid of the difference between flattering myself and being flattered; the fatal difference. And now will you understand that I should be too overjoyed to have revelations from the 'Portfolio,' ... however incarnated with blots and pen-scratches, ... to be able to ask impudently of them now? Is that plain?
It must be, ... at any rate, ... that if you would like to 'write something together' with me, I should like it still better. I should like it for some ineffable reasons. And I should not like it a bit the less for the grand supply of jests it would administer to the critical Board of Trade, about visible darkness, multiplied by two, mounting into palpable obscure. We should not mind ... should we? you would not mind, if you had got over certain other considerations deconsiderating to your coadjutor. Yes—but I dare not do it, ... I mean, think of it, ... just now, if ever: and I will tell you why in a Mediaeval-Gothic-architectural manuscript.
The only poet by profession (if I may say so,) except yourself, with whom I ever had much intercourse even on paper, (if this is near to 'much') has been Mr. Horne. We approached each other on the point of one of Miss Mitford's annual editorships; and ever since, he has had the habit of writing to me occasionally; and when I was too ill to write at all, in my dreary Devonshire days, I was his debtor for various little kindnesses, ... for which I continue his debtor. In my opinion he is a truehearted and generous man. Do you not think so? Well—long and long ago, he asked me to write a drama with him on the Greek model; that is, for me to write the choruses, and for him to do the dialogue. Just then it was quite doubtful in my own mind, and worse than doubtful, whether I ever should write again; and the very doubtfulness made me speak my 'yes' more readily. Then I was desired to make a subject, ... to conceive a plan; and my plan was of a man, haunted by his own soul, ... (making her a separate personal Psyche, a dreadful, beautiful Psyche)—the man being haunted and terrified through all the turns of life by her. Did you ever feel afraid of your own soul, as I have done? I think it is a true wonder of our humanity—and fit subject enough for a wild lyrical drama. I should like to write it by myself at least, well enough. But with him I will not now. It was delayed ... delayed. He cut the plan up into scenes ... I mean into a list of scenes ... a sort of ground-map to work on—and there it lies. Nothing more was done. It all lies in one sheet—and I have offered to give up my copyright of idea in it—if he likes to use it alone—or I should not object to work it out alone on my own side, since it comes from me: only I will not consent now to a double work in it. There are objections—none, be it well understood, in Mr. Horne's disfavour,—for I think of him as well at this moment, and the same in all essential points, as I ever did. He is a man of fine imagination, and is besides good and generous. In the course of our acquaintance (on paper—for I never saw him) I never was angry with him except once; and then, I was quite wrong and had to confess it. But this is being too 'mediaeval.' Only you will see from it that I am a little entangled on the subject of compound works, and must look where I tread ... and you will understand (if you ever hear from Mr. Kenyon or elsewhere that I am going to write a compound-poem with Mr. Horne) how it was true, and isn't true any more.
Yes—you are going to Mr. Kenyon's on the 12th—and yes—my brother and sister are going to meet you and your sister there one day to dinner. Shall I have courage to see you soon, I wonder! If you ask me, I must ask myself. But oh, this make-believe May—it can't be May after all! If a south-west wind sate in your chestnut tree, it was but for a few hours—the east wind 'came up this way' by the earliest opportunity of succession. As the old 'mysteries' showed 'Beelzebub with a bearde,' even so has the east wind had a 'bearde' of late, in a full growth of bristling exaggerations—the English spring-winds have excelled themselves in evil this year; and I have not been down-stairs yet.—But I am certainly stronger and better than I was—that is undeniable—and I shall be better still. You are not going away soon—are you? In the meantime you do not know what it is to be ... a little afraid of Paracelsus. So right about the Italians! and the 'rose porporine' which made me smile. How is the head?
Is the 'Flight of the Duchess' in the portfolio? Of course you must ring the Bell. That poem has a strong heart in it, to begin so strongly. Poor Hood! And all those thoughts fall mixed together. May God bless you.
[Footnote 1: Aeschylus, Agamemnon 36: 'An ox hath trodden on my tongue'—a Greek proverb implying silence.]
E.B.B. to R.B.
Sunday—in the last hour of it. [Post-mark, May 12, 1845.]
May I ask how the head is? just under the bag? Mr. Kenyon was here to-day and told me such bad news that I cannot sleep to-night (although I did think once of doing it) without asking such a question as this, dear Mr. Browning.
Let me hear how you are—Will you? and let me hear (if I can) that it was prudence or some unchristian virtue of the sort, and not a dreary necessity, which made you put aside the engagement for Tuesday—for Monday. I had been thinking so of seeing you on Tuesday ... with my sister's eyes—for the first sight.
And now if you have done killing the mules and the dogs, let me have a straight quick arrow for myself, if you please. Just a word, to say how you are. I ask for no more than a word, lest the writing should be hurtful to you.
May God bless you always.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Monday. [Post-mark, May 12, 1845.]
My dear, own friend, I am quite well now, or next to it—but this is how it was,—I have gone out a great deal of late, and my head took to ringing such a literal alarum that I wondered what was to come of it; and at last, a few evenings ago, as I was dressing for a dinner somewhere, I got really bad of a sudden, and kept at home to my friend's heartrending disappointment. Next morning I was no better—and it struck me that I should be really disappointing dear kind Mr. Kenyon, and wasting his time, if that engagement, too, were broken with as little warning,—so I thought it best to forego all hopes of seeing him, at such a risk. And that done, I got rid of every other promise to pay visits for next week and next, and told everybody, with considerable dignity, that my London season was over for this year, as it assuredly is—and I shall be worried no more, and let walk in the garden, and go to bed at ten o'clock, and get done with what is most expedient to do, and my 'flesh shall come again like a little child's,' and one day, oh the day, I shall see you with my own, own eyes ... for, how little you understand me; or rather, yourself,—if you think I would dare see you, without your leave, that way! Do you suppose that your power of giving and refusing ends when you have shut your room-door? Did I not tell you I turned down another street, even, the other day, and why not down yours? And often as I see Mr. Kenyon, have I ever dreamed of asking any but the merest conventional questions about you; your health, and no more?
I will answer your letter, the last one, to-morrow—I have said nothing of what I want to say.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Tuesday Morning. [Post-mark, May 13, 1845.]
Did I thank you with any effect in the lines I sent yesterday, dear Miss Barrett? I know I felt most thankful, and, of course, began reasoning myself into the impropriety of allowing a 'more' or a 'most' in feelings of that sort towards you. I am thankful for you, all about you—as, do you not know?
Thank you, from my soul.
Now, let me never pass occasion of speaking well of Horne, who deserves your opinion of him,—it is my own, too.—He has unmistakable genius, and is a fine, honest, enthusiastic chivalrous fellow—it is the fashion to affect to sneer at him, of late, I think—the people he has praised fancying that they 'pose' themselves sculpturesquely in playing the Greatly Indifferent, and the other kind shaking each other's hands in hysterical congratulations at having escaped such a dishonour: I feel grateful to him, I know, for his generous criticism, and glad and proud of in any way approaching such a man's standard of poetical height. And he might be a disappointed man too,—for the players trifled with and teased out his very nature, which has a strange aspiration for the horrible tin-and-lacquer 'crown' they give one from their clouds (of smooth shaven deal done over blue)—and he don't give up the bad business yet, but thinks a 'small' theatre would somehow not be a theatre, and an actor not quite an actor ... I forget in what way, but the upshot is, he bates not a jot in that rouged, wigged, padded, empty-headed, heartless tribe of grimacers that came and canted me; not I, them;—a thing he cannot understand—so, I am not the one he would have picked out to praise, had he not been loyal. I know he admires your poetry properly. God help him, and send some great artist from the country, (who can read and write beside comprehending Shakspeare, and who 'exasperates his H's' when the feat is to be done)—to undertake the part of Cosmo, or Gregory, or what shall most soothe his spirit! The subject of your play is tempting indeed—and reminds one of that wild Drama of Calderon's which frightened Shelley just before his death—also, of Fuseli's theory with reference to his own Picture of Macbeth in the witches' cave ... wherein the apparition of the armed head from the cauldron is Macbeth's own.
'If you ask me, I must ask myself'—that is, when I am to see you—I will never ask you! You do not know what I shall estimate that permission at,—nor do I, quite—but you do—do not you? know so much of me as to make my 'asking' worse than a form—I do not 'ask' you to write to me—not directly ask, at least.
I will tell you—I ask you not to see me so long as you are unwell, or mistrustful of—
No, no, that is being too grand! Do see me when you can, and let me not be only writing myself
A kind, so kind, note from Mr. Kenyon came. We, I and my sister, are to go in June instead.... I shall go nowhere till then; I am nearly well—all save one little wheel in my head that keeps on its
That you are better I am most thankful.
'Next letter' to say how you must help me with all my new Romances and Lyrics, and Lays and Plays, and read them and heed them and end them and mend them!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Thursday. [Post-mark, May 16, 1845.]
But how 'mistrustfulness'? And how 'that way?' What have I said or done, I, who am not apt to be mistrustful of anybody and should be a miraculous monster if I began with you! What can I have said, I say to myself again and again.
One thing, at any rate, I have done, 'that way' or this way! I have made what is vulgarly called a 'piece of work' about little; or seemed to make it. Forgive me. I am shy by nature:—and by position and experience, ... by having had my nerves shaken to excess, and by leading a life of such seclusion, ... by these things together and by others besides, I have appeared shy and ungrateful to you. Only not mistrustful. You could not mean to judge me so. Mistrustful people do not write as I write, surely! for wasn't it a Richelieu or Mazarin (or who?) who said that with five lines from anyone's hand, he could take off his head for a corollary? I think so.
Well!—but this is to prove that I am not mistrustful, and to say, that if you care to come to see me you can come; and that it is my gain (as I feel it to be) and not yours, whenever you do come. You will not talk of having come afterwards I know, because although I am 'fast bound' to see one or two persons this summer (besides yourself, whom I receive of choice and willingly) I cannot admit visitors in a general way—and putting the question of health quite aside, it would be unbecoming to lie here on the sofa and make a company-show of an infirmity, and hold a beggar's hat for sympathy. I should blame it in another woman—and the sense of it has had its weight with me sometimes.
For the rest, ... when you write, that I do not know how you would value, &c. nor yourself quite, you touch very accurately on the truth ... and so accurately in the last clause, that to read it, made me smile 'tant bien que mal.' Certainly you cannot 'quite know,' or know at all, whether the least straw of pleasure can go to you from knowing me otherwise than on this paper—and I, for my part, 'quite know' my own honest impression, dear Mr. Browning, that none is likely to go to you. There is nothing to see in me; nor to hear in me—I never learnt to talk as you do in London; although I can admire that brightness of carved speech in Mr. Kenyon and others. If my poetry is worth anything to any eye, it is the flower of me. I have lived most and been most happy in it, and so it has all my colours; the rest of me is nothing but a root, fit for the ground and the dark. And if I write all this egotism, ... it is for shame; and because I feel ashamed of having made a fuss about what is not worth it; and because you are extravagant in caring so for a permission, which will be nothing to you afterwards. Not that I am not touched by your caring so at all! I am deeply touched now; and presently, ... I shall understand. Come then. There will be truth and simplicity for you in any case; and a friend. And do not answer this—I do not write it as a fly trap for compliments. Your spider would scorn me for it too much. Also, ... as to the how and when. You are not well now, and it cannot be good for you to do anything but be quiet and keep away that dreadful musical note in the head. I entreat you not to think of coming until that is all put to silence satisfactorily. When it is done, ... you must choose whether you would like best to come with Mr. Kenyon or to come alone—and if you would come alone, you must just tell me on what day, and I will see you on any day unless there should be an unforeseen obstacle, ... any day after two, or before six. And my sister will bring you up-stairs to me; and we will talk; or you will talk; and you will try to be indulgent, and like me as well as you can. If, on the other hand, you would rather come with Mr. Kenyon, you must wait, I imagine, till June,—because he goes away on Monday and is not likely immediately to return—no, on Saturday, to-morrow.
In the meantime, why I should be 'thanked,' is an absolute mystery to me—but I leave it!
You are generous and impetuous; that, I can see and feel; and so far from being of an inclination to mistrust you or distrust you, I do profess to have as much faith in your full, pure loyalty, as if I had known you personally as many years as I have appreciated your genius. Believe this of me—for it is spoken truly.
In the matter of Shakespeare's 'poor players' you are severe—and yet I was glad to hear you severe—it is a happy excess, I think. When men of intense reality, as all great poets must be, give their hearts to be trodden on and tied up with ribbons in turn, by men of masks, there will be torture if there is not desecration. Not that I know much of such things—but I have heard. Heard from Mr. Kenyon; heard from Miss Mitford; who however is passionately fond of the theatre as a writer's medium—not at all, from Mr. Horne himself, ... except what he has printed on the subject.
Yes—he has been infamously used on the point of the 'New Spirit'—only he should have been prepared for the infamy—it was leaping into a gulph, ... not to 'save the republic,' but 'pour rire': it was not merely putting one's foot into a hornet's nest, but taking off a shoe and stocking to do it. And to think of Dickens being dissatisfied! To think of Tennyson's friends grumbling!—he himself did not, I hope and trust. For you, you certainly were not adequately treated—and above all, you were not placed with your peers in that chapter—but that there was an intention to do you justice, and that there is a righteous appreciation of you in the writer, I know and am sure,—and that you should be sensible to this, is only what I should know and be sure of you. Mr. Horne is quite above the narrow, vicious, hateful jealousy of contemporaries, which we hear reproached, too justly sometimes, on men of letters.
I go on writing as if I were not going to see you—soon perhaps. Remember that the how and the when rest with you—except that it cannot be before next week at the soonest. You are to decide.
Always your friend,
R.B. to E.B.B.
Friday Night. [Post-mark, May 17, 1845.]
My friend is not 'mistrustful' of me, no, because she don't fear I shall make mainprize of the stray cloaks and umbrellas down-stairs, or turn an article for Colburn's on her sayings and doings up-stairs,—but spite of that, she does mistrust ... so mistrust my common sense,—nay, uncommon and dramatic-poet's sense, if I am put on asserting it!—all which pieces of mistrust I could detect, and catch struggling, and pin to death in a moment, and put a label in, with name, genus and species, just like a horrible entomologist; only I won't, because the first visit of the Northwind will carry the whole tribe into the Red Sea—and those horns and tails and scalewings are best forgotten altogether. And now will I say a cutting thing and have done. Have I trusted my friend so,—or said even to myself, much less to her, she is even as—'Mr. Simpson' who desireth the honour of the acquaintance of Mr. B. whose admirable works have long been his, Simpson's, especial solace in private—and who accordingly is led to that personage by a mutual friend—Simpson blushing as only adorable ingenuousness can, and twisting the brim of his hat like a sailor giving evidence. Whereupon Mr. B. beginneth by remarking that the rooms are growing hot—or that he supposes Mr. S. has not heard if there will be another adjournment of the House to-night—whereupon Mr. S. looketh up all at once, brusheth the brim smooth again with his sleeve, and takes to his assurance once more, in something of a huff, and after staying his five minutes out for decency's sake, noddeth familiarly an adieu, and spinning round on his heel ejaculateth mentally—'Well, I did expect to see something different from that little yellow commonplace man ... and, now I come to think, there was some precious trash in that book of his'—Have I said 'so will Miss Barrett ejaculate?'
Dear Miss Barrett, I thank you for the leave you give me, and for the infinite kindness of the way of giving it. I will call at 2 on Tuesday—not sooner, that you may have time to write should any adverse circumstances happen ... not that they need inconvenience you, because ... what I want particularly to tell you for now and hereafter—do not mind my coming in the least, but—should you be unwell, for instance,—just send or leave word, and I will come again, and again, and again—my time is of no importance, and I have acquaintances thick in the vicinity.
Now if I do not seem grateful enough to you, am I so much to blame? You see it is high time you saw me, for I have clearly written myself out!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Saturday. [Post-mark, May 17, 1845.]
I shall be ready on Tuesday I hope, but I hate and protest against your horrible 'entomology.' Beginning to explain, would thrust me lower and lower down the circles of some sort of an 'Inferno'; only with my dying breath I would maintain that I never could, consciously or unconsciously, mean to distrust you; or, the least in the world, to Simpsonize you. What I said, ... it was you that put it into my head to say it—for certainly, in my usual disinclination to receive visitors, such a feeling does not enter. There, now! There, I am a whole 'giro' lower! Now, you will say perhaps that I distrust you, and nobody else! So it is best to be silent, and bear all the 'cutting things' with resignation! that is certain.
Still I must really say, under this dreadful incubus-charge of Simpsonism, ... that you, who know everything, or at least make awful guesses at everything in one's feelings and motives, and profess to be able to pin them down in a book of classified inscriptions, ... should have been able to understand better, or misunderstand less, in a matter like this—Yes! I think so. I think you should have made out the case in some such way as it was in nature—viz. that you had lashed yourself up to an exorbitant wishing to see me, ... (you who could see, any day, people who are a hundredfold and to all social purposes, my superiors!) because I was unfortunate enough to be shut up in a room and silly enough to make a fuss about opening the door; and that I grew suddenly abashed by the consciousness of this. How different from a distrust of you! how different!
Ah—if, after this day, you ever see any interpretable sign of distrustfulness in me, you may be 'cutting' again, and I will not cry out. In the meantime here is a fact for your 'entomology.' I have not so much distrust, as will make a doubt, as will make a curiosity for next Tuesday. Not the simplest modification of curiosity enters into the state of feeling with which I wait for Tuesday:—and if you are angry to hear me say so, ... why, you are more unjust than ever.
(Let it be three instead of two—if the hour be as convenient to yourself.)
Before you come, try to forgive me for my 'infinite kindness' in the manner of consenting to see you. Is it 'the cruellest cut of all' when you talk of infinite kindness, yet attribute such villainy to me? Well! but we are friends till Tuesday—and after perhaps.
If on Tuesday you should be not well, pray do not come—Now, that is my request to your kindness.
[Footnote 1: Envelope endorsed by Robert Browning:—Tuesday, May 20, 1845, 3-4-1/2 p.m.]
R.B. to E.B.B.
Tuesday Evening. [Post-mark, May 21, 1845.]
I trust to you for a true account of how you are—if tired, if not tired, if I did wrong in any thing,—or, if you please, right in any thing—(only, not one more word about my 'kindness,' which, to get done with, I will grant is exceptive)—but, let us so arrange matters if possible,—and why should it not be—that my great happiness, such as it will be if I see you, as this morning, from time to time, may be obtained at the cost of as little inconvenience to you as we can contrive. For an instance—just what strikes me—they all say here I speak very loud—(a trick caught from having often to talk with a deaf relative of mine). And did I stay too long?
I will tell you unhesitatingly of such 'corrigenda'—nay, I will again say, do not humiliate me—do not again,—by calling me 'kind' in that way.
I am proud and happy in your friendship—now and ever. May God bless you!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Wednesday Morning. [Post-mark, May 22, 1845.]
Indeed there was nothing wrong—how could there be? And there was everything right—as how should there not be? And as for the 'loud speaking,' I did not hear any—and, instead of being worse, I ought to be better for what was certainly (to speak it, or be silent of it,) happiness and honour to me yesterday.
Which reminds me to observe that you are so restricting our vocabulary, as to be ominous of silence in a full sense, presently. First, one word is not to be spoken—and then, another is not. And why? Why deny me the use of such words as have natural feelings belonging to them—and how can the use of such be 'humiliating' to you? If my heart were open to you, you could see nothing offensive to you in any thought there or trace of thought that has been there—but it is hard for you to understand, with all your psychology (and to be reminded of it I have just been looking at the preface of some poems by some Mr. Gurney where he speaks of 'the reflective wisdom of a Wordsworth and the profound psychological utterances of a Browning') it is hard for you to understand what my mental position is after the peculiar experience I have suffered, and what [Greek: ti emoi kai soi] a sort of feeling is irrepressible from me to you, when, from the height of your brilliant happy sphere, you ask, as you did ask, for personal intercourse with me. What words but 'kindness' ... but 'gratitude'—but I will not in any case be unkind and ungrateful, and do what is displeasing to you. And let us both leave the subject with the words—because we perceive in it from different points of view; we stand on the black and white sides of the shield; and there is no coming to a conclusion.
But you will come really on Tuesday—and again, when you like and can together—and it will not be more 'inconvenient' to me to be pleased, I suppose, than it is to people in general—will it, do you think? Ah—how you misjudge! Why it must obviously and naturally be delightful to me to receive you here when you like to come, and it cannot be necessary for me to say so in set words—believe it of
[Mr. Browning's letter, to which the following is in answer was destroyed, see page 268 of the present volume.]
[Footnote 1: 'What have I to do with thee?']
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday Evening. [Post-mark, May 24, 1845.]
I intended to write to you last night and this morning, and could not,—you do not know what pain you give me in speaking so wildly. And if I disobey you, my dear friend, in speaking, (I for my part) of your wild speaking, I do it, not to displease you, but to be in my own eyes, and before God, a little more worthy, or less unworthy, of a generosity from which I recoil by instinct and at the first glance, yet conclusively; and because my silence would be the most disloyal of all means of expression, in reference to it. Listen to me then in this. You have said some intemperate things ... fancies,—which you will not say over again, nor unsay, but forget at once, and for ever, having said at all; and which (so) will die out between you and me alone, like a misprint between you and the printer. And this you will do for my sake who am your friend (and you have none truer)—and this I ask, because it is a condition necessary to our future liberty of intercourse. You remember—surely you do—that I am in the most exceptional of positions; and that, just because of it, I am able to receive you as I did on Tuesday; and that, for me to listen to 'unconscious exaggerations,' is as unbecoming to the humilities of my position, as unpropitious (which is of more consequence) to the prosperities of yours. Now, if there should be one word of answer attempted to this; or of reference; I must not ... I will not see you again—and you will justify me later in your heart. So for my sake you will not say it—I think you will not—and spare me the sadness of having to break through an intercourse just as it is promising pleasure to me; to me who have so many sadnesses and so few pleasures. You will!—and I need not be uneasy—and I shall owe you that tranquillity, as one gift of many. For, that I have much to receive from you in all the free gifts of thinking, teaching, master-spirits, ... that, I know!—it is my own praise that I appreciate you, as none can more. Your influence and help in poetry will be full of good and gladness to me—for with many to love me in this house, there is no one to judge me ... now. Your friendship and sympathy will be dear and precious to me all my life, if you indeed leave them with me so long or so little. Your mistakes in me ... which I cannot mistake (—and which have humbled me by too much honouring—) I put away gently, and with grateful tears in my eyes; because all that hail will beat down and spoil crowns, as well as 'blossoms.'
If I put off next Tuesday to the week after—I mean your visit,—shall you care much? For the relations I named to you, are to be in London next week; and I am to see one of my aunts whom I love, and have not met since my great affliction—and it will all seem to come over again, and I shall be out of spirits and nerves. On Tuesday week you can bring a tomahawk and do the criticism, and I shall try to have my courage ready for it—Oh, you will do me so much good—and Mr. Kenyon calls me 'docile' sometimes I assure you; when he wants to flatter me out of being obstinate—and in good earnest, I believe I shall do everything you tell me. The 'Prometheus' is done—but the monodrama is where it was—and the novel, not at all. But I think of some half promises half given, about something I read for 'Saul'—and the 'Flight of the Duchess'—where is she?
You are not displeased with me? no, that would be hail and lightning together—I do not write as I might, of some words of yours—but you know that I am not a stone, even if silent like one. And if in the unsilence, I have said one word to vex you, pity me for having had to say it—and for the rest, may God bless you far beyond the reach of vexation from my words or my deeds!
Your friend in grateful regard,
R.B. to E.B.B.
Saturday Morning. [Post-mark, May 24, 1845.]
Don't you remember I told you, once on a time that you 'knew nothing of me'? whereat you demurred—but I meant what I said, and knew it was so. To be grand in a simile, for every poor speck of a Vesuvius or a Stromboli in my microcosm there are huge layers of ice and pits of black cold water—and I make the most of my two or three fire-eyes, because I know by experience, alas, how these tend to extinction—and the ice grows and grows—still this last is true part of me, most characteristic part, best part perhaps, and I disown nothing—only,—when you talked of 'knowing me'! Still, I am utterly unused, of these late years particularly, to dream of communicating anything about that to another person (all my writings are purely dramatic as I am always anxious to say) that when I make never so little an attempt, no wonder if I bungle notably—'language,' too is an organ that never studded this heavy heavy head of mine. Will you not think me very brutal if I tell you I could almost smile at your misapprehension of what I meant to write?—Yet I will tell you, because it will undo the bad effect of my thoughtlessness, and at the same time exemplify the point I have all along been honestly earnest to set you right upon ... my real inferiority to you; just that and no more. I wrote to you, in an unwise moment, on the spur of being again 'thanked,' and, unwisely writing just as if thinking to myself, said what must have looked absurd enough as seen apart from the horrible counterbalancing never-to-be-written rest of me—by the side of which, could it be written and put before you, my note would sink to its proper and relative place, and become a mere 'thank you' for your good opinion—which I assure you is far too generous—for I really believe you to be my superior in many respects, and feel uncomfortable till you see that, too—since I hope for your sympathy and assistance, and 'frankness is everything in such a case.' I do assure you, that had you read my note, only having 'known' so much of me as is implied in having inspected, for instance, the contents, merely, of that fatal and often-referred-to 'portfolio' there (Dii meliora piis!), you would see in it, (the note not the portfolio) the blandest utterance ever mild gentleman gave birth to. But I forgot that one may make too much noise in a silent place by playing the few notes on the 'ear-piercing fife' which in Othello's regimental band might have been thumped into decent subordination by his 'spirit-stirring drum'—to say nothing of gong and ophicleide. Will you forgive me, on promise to remember for the future, and be more considerate? Not that you must too much despise me, neither; nor, of all things, apprehend I am attitudinizing a la Byron, and giving you to understand unutterable somethings, longings for Lethe and all that—far from it! I never committed murders, and sleep the soundest of sleeps—but 'the heart is desperately wicked,' that is true, and though I dare not say 'I know' mine, yet I have had signal opportunities, I who began life from the beginning, and can forget nothing (but names, and the date of the battle of Waterloo), and have known good and wicked men and women, gentle and simple, shaking hands with Edmund Kean and Father Mathew, you and—Ottima! Then, I had a certain faculty of self-consciousness, years and years ago, at which John Mill wondered, and which ought to be improved by this time, if constant use helps at all—and, meaning, on the whole, to be a Poet, if not the Poet ... for I am vain and ambitious some nights,—I do myself justice, and dare call things by their names to myself, and say boldly, this I love, this I hate, this I would do, this I would not do, under all kinds of circumstances,—and talking (thinking) in this style to myself, and beginning, however tremblingly, in spite of conviction, to write in this style for myself—on the top of the desk which contains my 'Songs of the Poets—NO. I M.P.', I wrote,—what you now forgive, I know! Because I am, from my heart, sorry that by a foolish fit of inconsideration I should have given pain for a minute to you, towards whom, on every account, I would rather soften and 'sleeken every word as to a bird' ... (and, not such a bird as my black self that go screeching about the world for 'dead horse'—corvus (picus)—mirandola!) I, too, who have been at such pains to acquire the reputation I enjoy in the world,—(ask Mr. Kenyon,) and who dine, and wine, and dance and enhance the company's pleasure till they make me ill and I keep house, as of late: Mr. Kenyon, (for I only quote where you may verify if you please) he says my common sense strikes him, and its contrast with my muddy metaphysical poetry! And so it shall strike you—for though I am glad that, since you did misunderstand me, you said so, and have given me an opportunity of doing by another way what I wished to do in that,—yet, if you had not alluded to my writing, as I meant you should not, you would have certainly understood something of its drift when you found me next Tuesday precisely the same quiet (no, for I feel I speak too loudly, in spite of your kind disclaimer, but—) the same mild man-about-town you were gracious to, the other morning—for, indeed, my own way of worldly life is marked out long ago, as precisely as yours can be, and I am set going with a hand, winker-wise, on each side of my head, and a directing finger before my eyes, to say nothing of an instinctive dread I have that a certain whip-lash is vibrating somewhere in the neighbourhood in playful readiness! So 'I hope here be proofs,' Dogberry's satisfaction that, first, I am but a very poor creature compared to you and entitled by my wants to look up to you,—all I meant to say from the first of the first—and that, next, I shall be too much punished if, for this piece of mere inconsideration, you deprive me, more or less, or sooner or later, of the pleasure of seeing you,—a little over boisterous gratitude for which, perhaps, caused all the mischief! The reasons you give for deferring my visits next week are too cogent for me to dispute—that is too true—and, being now and henceforward 'on my good behaviour,' I will at once cheerfully submit to them, if needs must—but should your mere kindness and forethought, as I half suspect, have induced you to take such a step, you will now smile with me, at this new and very unnecessary addition to the 'fears of me' I have got so triumphantly over in your case! Wise man, was I not, to clench my first favourable impression so adroitly ... like a recent Cambridge worthy, my sister heard of; who, being on his theological (or rather, scripture-historical) examination, was asked by the Tutor, who wished to let him off easily, 'who was the first King of Israel?'—'Saul' answered the trembling youth. 'Good!' nodded approvingly the Tutor. 'Otherwise called Paul,' subjoined the youth in his elation! Now I have begged pardon, and blushingly assured you that was only a slip of the tongue, and that I did really mean all the while, (Paul or no Paul), the veritable son of Kish, he that owned the asses, and found listening to the harp the best of all things for an evil spirit! Pray write me a line to say, 'Oh ... if that's all!' and remember me for good (which is very compatible with a moment's stupidity) and let me not for one fault, (and that the only one that shall be), lose any pleasure ... for your friendship I am sure I have not lost—God bless you, my dear friend!
And by the way, will it not be better, as co-operating with you more effectually in your kind promise to forget the 'printer's error' in my blotted proof, to send me back that same 'proof,' if you have not inflicted proper and summary justice on it? When Mephistopheles last came to see us in this world outside here, he counselled sundry of us 'never to write a letter,—and never to burn one'—do you know that? But I never mind what I am told! Seriously, I am ashamed.... I shall next ask a servant for my paste in the 'high fantastical' style of my own 'Luria.'
E.B.B. to R.B.
Sunday [May 25, 1845].
I owe you the most humble of apologies dear Mr. Browning, for having spent so much solemnity on so simple a matter, and I hasten to pay it; confessing at the same time (as why should I not?) that I am quite as much ashamed of myself as I ought to be, which is not a little. You will find it difficult to believe me perhaps when I assure you that I never made such a mistake (I mean of over-seriousness to indefinite compliments), no, never in my life before—indeed my sisters have often jested with me (in matters of which they were cognizant) on my supernatural indifference to the superlative degree in general, as if it meant nothing in grammar. I usually know well that 'boots' may be called for in this world of ours, just as you called for yours; and that to bring 'Bootes,' were the vilest of mal-a-pro-pos-ities. Also, I should have understood 'boots' where you wrote it, in the letter in question; if it had not been for the relation of two things in it—and now I perfectly seem to see how I mistook that relation; ('seem to see'; because I have not looked into the letter again since your last night's commentary, and will not—) inasmuch as I have observed before in my own mind, that a good deal of what is called obscurity in you, arises from a habit of very subtle association; so subtle, that you are probably unconscious of it, ... and the effect of which is to throw together on the same level and in the same light, things of likeness and unlikeness—till the reader grows confused as I did, and takes one for another. I may say however, in a poor justice to myself, that I wrote what I wrote so unfortunately, through reverence for you, and not at all from vanity in my own account ... although I do feel palpably while I write these words here and now, that I might as well leave them unwritten; for that no man of the world who ever lived in the world (not even you) could be expected to believe them, though said, sung, and sworn.
For the rest, it is scarcely an apposite moment for you to talk, even 'dramatically,' of my 'superiority' to you, ... unless you mean, which perhaps you do mean, my superiority in simplicity—and, verily, to some of the 'adorable ingenuousness,' sacred to the shade of Simpson, I may put in a modest claim, ... 'and have my claim allowed.' 'Pray do not mock me' I quote again from your Shakespeare to you who are a dramatic poet; ... and I will admit anything that you like, (being humble just now)—even that I did not know you. I was certainly innocent of the knowledge of the 'ice and cold water' you introduce me to, and am only just shaking my head, as Flush would, after a first wholesome plunge. Well—if I do not know you, I shall learn, I suppose, in time. I am ready to try humbly to learn—and I may perhaps—if you are not done in Sanscrit, which is too hard for me, ... notwithstanding that I had the pleasure yesterday to hear, from America, of my profound skill in 'various languages less known than Hebrew'!—a liberal paraphrase on Mr. Horne's large fancies on the like subject, and a satisfactory reputation in itself—as long as it is not necessary to deserve it. So I here enclose to you your letter back again, as you wisely desire; although you never could doubt, I hope, for a moment, of its safety with me in the completest of senses: and then, from the heights of my superior ... stultity, and other qualities of the like order, ... I venture to advise you ... however (to speak of the letter critically, and as the dramatic composition it is) it is to be admitted to be very beautiful, and well worthy of the rest of its kin in the portfolio, ... 'Lays of the Poets,' or otherwise, ... I venture to advise you to burn it at once. And then, my dear friend, I ask you (having some claim) to burn at the same time the letter I was fortunate enough to write to you on Friday, and this present one—don't send them back to me; I hate to have letters sent back—but burn them for me and never mind Mephistopheles. After which friendly turn, you will do me the one last kindness of forgetting all this exquisite nonsense, and of refraining from mentioning it, by breath or pen, to me or another. Now I trust you so far:—you will put it with the date of the battle of Waterloo—and I, with every date in chronology; seeing that I can remember none of them. And we will shuffle the cards and take patience, and begin the game again, if you please—and I shall bear in mind that you are a dramatic poet, which is not the same thing, by any means, with us of the primitive simplicities, who don't tread on cothurns nor shift the mask in the scene. And I will reverence you both as 'a poet' and as 'the poet'; because it is no false 'ambition,' but a right you have—and one which those who live longest, will see justified to the uttermost.... In the meantime I need not ask Mr. Kenyon if you have any sense, because I have no doubt that you have quite sense enough—and even if I had a doubt, I shall prefer judging for myself without interposition; which I can do, you know, as long as you like to come and see me. And you can come this week if you do like it—because our relations don't come till the end of it, it appears—not that I made a pretence 'out of kindness'—pray don't judge me so outrageously—but if you like to come ... not on Tuesday ... but on Wednesday at three o'clock, I shall be very glad to see you; and I, for one, shall have forgotten everything by that time; being quick at forgetting my own faults usually. If Wednesday does not suit you, I am not sure that I can see you this week—but it depends on circumstances. Only don't think yourself obliged to come on Wednesday. You know I began by entreating you to be open and sincere with me—and no more—I require no 'sleekening of every word.' I love the truth and can bear it—whether in word or deed—and those who have known me longest would tell you so fullest. Well!—May God bless you. We shall know each other some day perhaps—and I am
Always and faithfully your friend,
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, May 26, 1845.]
Nay—I must have last word—as all people in the wrong desire to have—and then, no more of the subject. You said I had given you great pain—so long as I stop that, think anything of me you choose or can! But before your former letter came, I saw the pre-ordained uselessness of mine. Speaking is to some end, (apart from foolish self-relief, which, after all, I can do without)—and where there is no end—you see! or, to finish characteristically—since the offering to cut off one's right-hand to save anybody a headache, is in vile taste, even for our melodramas, seeing that it was never yet believed in on the stage or off it,—how much worse to really make the ugly chop, and afterwards come sheepishly in, one's arm in a black sling, and find that the delectable gift had changed aching to nausea! There! And now, 'exit, prompt-side, nearest door, Luria'—and enter R.B.—next Wednesday,—as boldly as he suspects most people do just after they have been soundly frightened!
I shall be most happy to see you on the day and at the hour you mention.
God bless you, my dear friend,
E.B.B. to R.B.
Monday Morning. [Post-mark, May 27, 1845.]
You will think me the most changeable of all the changeable; but indeed it is not my fault that I cannot, as I wished, receive you on Wednesday. There was a letter this morning; and our friends not only come to London but come to this house on Tuesday (to-morrow) to pass two or three days, until they settle in an hotel for the rest of the season. Therefore you see, it is doubtful whether the two days may not be three, and the three days four; but if they go away in time, and if Saturday should suit you, I will let you know by a word; and you can answer by a yea or nay. While they are in the house, I must give them what time I can—and indeed, it is something to dread altogether.
I send you the note I had begun before receiving yours of last night, and also a fragment from Mrs. Hedley's herein enclosed, a full and complete certificate, ... that you may know ... quite know, ... what the real and only reason of the obstacle to Wednesday is. On Saturday perhaps, or on Monday more certainly, there is likely to be no opposition, ... at least not on the 'cote gauche' (my side!) to our meeting—but I will let you know more.
For the rest, we have both been a little unlucky, there's no denying, in overcoming the embarrassments of a first acquaintance—but suffer me to say as one other last word, (and quite, quite the last this time!) in case there should have been anything approaching, however remotely, to a distrustful or unkind tone in what I wrote on Sunday, (and I have a sort of consciousness that in the process of my self-scorning I was not in the most sabbatical of moods perhaps—) that I do recall and abjure it, and from my heart entreat your pardon for it, and profess, notwithstanding it, neither to 'choose' nor 'to be able' to think otherwise of you than I have done, ... as of one most generous and most loyal; for that if I chose, I could not; and that if I could, I should not choose.
Ever and gratefully your friend,
—And now we shall hear of 'Luria,' shall we not? and much besides. And Miss Mitford has sent me the most high comical of letters to read, addressed to her by 'R.B. Haydon historical painter' which has made me quite laugh; and would make you; expressing his righteous indignation at the 'great fact' and gross impropriety of any man who has 'thoughts too deep for tears' agreeing to wear a 'bag-wig' ... the case of poor Wordsworth's going to court, you know.—Mr. Haydon being infinitely serious all the time, and yet holding the doctrine of the divine right of princes in his left hand.
How is your head? may I be hoping the best for it? May God bless you.
[Footnote 1: ... me on Tuesday, or Wednesday? if on Tuesday, I shall come by the three o'clock train; if on Wednesday, early in the morning, as I shall be anxious to secure rooms ... so that your Uncle and Arabel may come up on Thursday.]
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, May 28, 1845.]
Saturday, Monday, as you shall appoint—no need to say that, or my thanks—but this note troubles you, out of my bounden duty to help you, or Miss Mitford, to make the Painter run violently down a steep place into the sea, if that will amuse you, by further informing him, what I know on the best authority, that Wordsworth's 'bag-wig,' or at least, the more important of his court-habiliments, were considerately furnished for the nonce by Mr. Rogers from his own wardrobe, to the manifest advantage of the Laureate's pocket, but more problematic improvement of his person, when one thinks on the astounding difference of 'build' in the two Poets:—the fact should be put on record, if only as serving to render less chimerical a promise sometimes figuring in the columns of provincial newspapers—that the two apprentices, some grocer or other advertises for, will be 'boarded and clothed like one of the family.' May not your unfinished (really good) head of the great man have been happily kept waiting for the body which can now be added on, with all this picturesqueness of circumstances. Precept on precept ... but then, line upon line, is allowed by as good authority, and may I not draw my confirming black line after yours, yet not break pledge? I am most grateful to you for doing me justice—doing yourself, your own judgment, justice, since even the play-wright of Theseus and the Amazon found it one of his hardest devices to 'write me a speech, lest the lady be frightened, wherein it shall be said that I, Pyramus, am not Pyramus, but &c. &c.' God bless you—one thing more, but one—you could never have misunderstood the asking for the letter again, I feared you might refer to it 'pour constater le fait'—
And now I am yours—
My head is all but well now; thank you.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday Morning. [Post-mark, May 30, 1845.]
Just one word to say that if Saturday, to-morrow, should be fine—because in the case of its raining I shall not expect you; you will find me at three o'clock.
Yes—the circumstances of the costume were mentioned in the letter; Mr. Rogers' bag-wig and the rest, and David Wilkie's sword—and also that the Laureate, so equipped, fell down upon both knees in the superfluity of etiquette, and had to be picked up by two lords-in-waiting. It is a large exaggeration I do not doubt—and then I never sympathised with the sighing kept up by people about that acceptance of the Laureateship which drew the bag-wig as a corollary after it. Not that the Laureateship honoured him, but that he honoured it; and that, so honouring it, he preserves a symbol instructive to the masses, who are children and to be taught by symbols now as formerly. Isn't it true? or at least may it not be true? And won't the court laurel (such as it is) be all the worthier of you for Wordsworth's having worn it first?
And in the meantime I shall see you to-morrow perhaps? or if it should rain, on Monday at the same hour.
Ever yours, my dear friend,
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday Morning. [Post-mark, June 7, 1845.]
When I see all you have done for me in this 'Prometheus,' I feel more than half ashamed both of it and of me for using your time so, and forced to say in my own defence (not to you but myself) that I never thought of meaning to inflict such work on you who might be doing so much better things in the meantime both for me and for others—because, you see, it is not the mere reading of the MS., but the 'comparing' of the text, and the melancholy comparisons between the English and the Greek, ... quite enough to turn you from your [Greek: philanthropou tropou] that I brought upon you; and indeed I did not mean so much, nor so soon! Yet as you have done it for me—for me who expected a few jottings down with a pencil and a general opinion; it is of course of the greatest value, besides the pleasure and pride which come of it; and I must say of the translation, (before putting it aside for the nonce), that the circumstance of your paying it so much attention and seeing any good in it, is quite enough reward for the writer and quite enough motive for self-gratulation, if it were all torn to fragments at this moment—which is a foolish thing to say because it is so obvious, and because you would know it if I said it or not.
And while you were doing this for me, you thought it unkind of me not to write to you; yes, and you think me at this moment the very princess of apologies and excuses and depreciations and all the rest of the small family of distrust—or of hypocrisy ... who knows? Well! but you are wrong ... wrong ... to think so; and you will let me say one word to show where you are wrong—not for you to controvert, ... because it must relate to myself especially, and lies beyond your cognizance, and is something which I must know best after all. And it is, ... that you persist in putting me into a false position, with respect to fixing days and the like, and in making me feel somewhat as I did when I was a child, and Papa used to put me up on the chimney-piece and exhort me to stand up straight like a hero, which I did, straighter and straighter, and then suddenly 'was 'ware' (as we say in the ballads) of the walls' growing alive behind me and extending two stony hands to push me down that frightful precipice to the rug, where the dog lay ... dear old Havannah, ... and where he and I were likely to be dashed to pieces together and mix our uncanonised bones. Now my present false position ... which is not the chimney-piece's, ... is the necessity you provide for me in the shape of my having to name this day, or that day, ... and of your coming because I name it, and of my having to think and remember that you come because I name it. Through a weakness, perhaps, or morbidness, or one knows not how to define it, I cannot help being uncomfortable in having to do this,—it is impossible. Not that I distrust you—you are the last in the world I could distrust: and then (although you may be sceptical) I am naturally given to trust ... to a fault ... as some say, or to a sin, as some reproach me:—and then again, if I were ever such a distruster, it could not be of you. But if you knew me—! I will tell you! if one of my brothers omits coming to this room for two days, ... I never ask why it happened! if my own father omits coming up-stairs to say 'good night,' I never say a word; and not from indifference. Do try to make out these readings of me as a dixit Casaubonus; and don't throw me down as a corrupt text, nor convict me for an infidel which I am not. On the contrary I am grateful and happy to believe that you like to come here; and even if you came here as a pure act of charity and pity to me, as long as you chose to come I should not be too proud to be grateful and happy still. I could not be proud to you, and I hope you will not fancy such a possibility, which is the remotest of all. Yes, and I am anxious to ask you to be wholly generous and leave off such an interpreting philosophy as you made use of yesterday, and forgive me when I beg you to fix your own days for coming for the future. Will you? It is the same thing in one way. If you like to come really every week, there is no hindrance to it—you can do it—and the privilege and obligation remain equally mine:—and if you name a day for coming on any week, where there is an obstacle on my side, you will learn it from me in a moment. Why I might as well charge you with distrusting me, because you persist in making me choose the days. And it is not for me to do it, but for you—I must feel that—and I cannot help chafing myself against the thought that for me to begin to fix days in this way, just because you have quick impulses (like all imaginative persons), and wish me to do it now, may bring me to the catastrophe of asking you to come when you would rather not, ... which, as you say truly, would not be an important vexation to you; but to me would be worse than vexation; to me—and therefore I shrink from the very imagination of the possibility of such a thing, and ask you to bear with me and let it be as I prefer ... left to your own choice of the moment. And bear with me above all—because this shows no want of faith in you ... none ... but comes from a simple fact (with its ramifications) ... that you know little of me personally yet, and that you guess, even, but very little of the influence of a peculiar experience over me and out of me; and if I wanted a proof of this, we need not seek further than the very point of discussion, and the hard worldly thoughts you thought I was thinking of you yesterday,—I, who thought not one of them! But I am so used to discern the correcting and ministering angels by the same footsteps on the ground, that it is not wonderful I should look down there at any approach of a [Greek: philia taxis] whatever to this personal me. Have I not been ground down to browns and blacks? and is it my fault if I am not green? Not that it is my complaint—I should not be justified in complaining; I believe, as I told you, that there is more gladness than sadness in the world—that is, generally: and if some natures have to be refined by the sun, and some by the furnace (the less genial ones) both means are to be recognised as good, ... however different in pleasurableness and painfulness, and though furnace-fire leaves scorched streaks upon the fruit. I assured you there was nothing I had any power of teaching you: and there is nothing, except grief!—which I would not teach you, you know, if I had the occasion granted.
It is a multitude of words about nothing at all, ... this—but I am like Mariana in the moated grange and sit listening too often to the mouse in the wainscot. Be as forbearing as you can—and believe how profoundly it touches me that you should care to come here at all, much more, so often! and try to understand that if I did not write as you half asked, it was just because I failed at the moment to get up enough pomp and circumstance to write on purpose to certify the important fact of my being a little stronger or a little weaker on one particular morning. That I am always ready and rejoiced to write to you, you know perfectly well, and I have proved, by 'superfluity of naughtiness' and prolixity through some twenty posts:—and this, and therefore, you will agree altogether to attribute no more to me on these counts, and determine to read me no more backwards with your Hebrew, putting in your own vowel points without my leave! Shall it be so?
Here is a letter grown from a note which it meant to be—and I have been interrupted in the midst of it, or it should have gone to you earlier. Let what I have said in it of myself pass unquestioned and unnoticed, because it is of me and not of you, ... and, if in any wise lunatical, all the talking and writing in the world will not put the implied moon into another quarter. Only be patient with me a little, ... and let us have a smooth ground for the poems which I am foreseeing the sight of with such pride and delight—Such pride and delight!
And one thing ... which is chief, though it seems to come last!... you will have advice (will you not?) if that pain does not grow much better directly? It cannot be prudent or even safe to let a pain in the head go on so long, and no remedy be attempted for it, ... and you cannot be sure that it is a merely nervous pain and that it may not have consequences; and this, quite apart from the consideration of suffering. So you will see some one with an opinion to give, and take it? Do, I beseech you. You will not say 'no'? Also ... if on Wednesday you should be less well than usual, you will come on Thursday instead, I hope, ... seeing that it must be right for you to be quiet and silent when you suffer so, and a journey into London can let you be neither. Otherwise, I hold to my day, ... Wednesday. And may God bless you my dear friend.
You are right I see, nearly everywhere, if not quite everywhere in the criticisms—but of course I have not looked very closely—that is, I have read your papers but not in connection with a my side of the argument—but I shall lose the post after all.
[Footnote 1: Aeschylus, Prometheus II.: 'trick of loving men,' see note 3, on p. 39 above.]
R.B. to E.B.B.
Saturday Morning, [Post-mark, June 7, 1845.]
I ventured to hope this morning might bring me news of you—First East-winds on you, then myself, then those criticisms!—I do assure you I am properly apprehensive. How are you? May I go on Wednesday without too much [Greek: anthadia].
Pray remember what I said and wrote, to the effect that my exceptions were, in almost every case, to the 'reading'—not to your version of it: but I have not specified the particular ones—not written down the Greek, of my suggested translations—have I? And if you do not find them in the margin of your copy, how you must wonder! Thus, in the last speech but one, of Hermes, I prefer Porson and Blomfield's [Greek: ei med' atychon ti chala manion];—to the old combinations that include [Greek: eutyche]—though there is no MS. authority for emendation, it seems. But in what respect does Prometheus 'fare well,' or 'better' even, since the beginning? And is it not the old argument over again, that when a man fails he should repent of his ways?—And while thinking of Hermes, let me say that '[Greek: mede moi diplas odous prosbales]' is surely—'Don't subject me to the trouble of a second journey ... by paying no attention to the first.' So says Scholiast A, and so backs him Scholiast B, especially created, it should appear, to show there could be in rerum natura such another as his predecessor. A few other remarks occur to me, which I will tell you if you please; now, I really want to know how you are, and write for that.
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, June 9, 1845.]
Just after my note left, yours came—I will try so to answer it as to please you; and I begin by promising cheerfully to do all you bid me about naming days &c. I do believe we are friends now and for ever. There can be no reason, therefore, that I should cling tenaciously to any one or other time of meeting, as if, losing that, I lost everything—and, for the future, I will provide against sudden engagements, outrageous weather &c., to your heart's content. Nor am I going to except against here and there a little wrong I could get up, as when you imply from my quick impulses and the like. No, my dear friend—for I seem sure I shall have quite, quite time enough to do myself justice in your eyes—Let time show!
Perhaps I feel none the less sorely, when you 'thank' me for such company as mine, that I cannot avoid confessing to myself that it would not be so absolutely out of my power, perhaps, to contrive really and deserve thanks in a certain acceptation—I might really try, at all events, and amuse you a little better, when I do have the opportunity,—and I do not—but there is the thing! It is all of a piece—I do not seek your friendship in order to do you good—any good—only to do myself good. Though I would, God knows, do that too.
Enough of this.
I am much better, indeed,—but will certainly follow your advice should the pain return. And you—you have tried a new journey from your room, have you not?
Do recollect, at any turn, any chance so far in my favour,—that I am here and yours should you want any fetching and carrying in this outside London world. Your brothers may have their own business to mind, Mr. Kenyon is at New York, we will suppose; here am I—what else, what else makes me count my cleverness to you, as I know I have done more than once, by word and letter, but the real wish to be set at work? I should have, I hope, better taste than to tell any everyday acquaintance, who could not go out, one single morning even, on account of a headache, that the weather was delightful, much less that I had been walking five miles and meant to run ten—yet to you I boasted once of polking and waltzing and more—but then would it not be a very superfluous piece of respect in the four-footed bird to keep his wings to himself because his Master Oceanos could fly forsooth? Whereas he begins to wave a flap and show how ready they are to be off—for what else were the good of him? Think of this—and
Know me for yours
For good you are, to those notes—you shall have more,—that is, the rest—on Wednesday then, at 3, except as you except. God bless you.
Oh, let me tell you—I suppose Mr. Horne must be in town—as I received a letter two days ago, from the contriver of some literary society or other who had before written to get me to belong to it, protesting against my reasons for refusing, and begging that 'at all events I would suspend my determination till I had been visited by Mr. H. on the subject'—and, as they can hardly mean to bring him express from the Drachenfels for just that, he is returned no doubt—and as he is your friend, I take the opportunity of mentioning the course I shall pursue with him or any other friend of yours I may meet,—(and everybody else, I may add—) the course I understand you to desire, with respect to our own intimacy. While I may acknowledge, I believe, that I correspond with you, I shall not, in any case, suffer it to be known that I see, or have seen you. This I just remind you of, lest any occasion of embarrassment should arise, for a moment, from your not being quite sure how I had acted in any case.—Con che, le bacio le mani—a rivederla!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Tuesday Morning. [Post-mark, June 10, 1845.]
I must thank you by one word for all your kindness and consideration—which could not be greater; nor more felt by me. In the first place, afterwards (if that should not be Irish dialect) do understand that my letter passed from my hands to go to yours on Friday, but was thrown aside carelessly down stairs and 'covered up' they say, so as not to be seen until late on Saturday; and I can only humbly hope to have been cross enough about it (having conscientiously tried) to secure a little more accuracy another time.—And then, ... if ever I should want anything done or found, ... (a roc's egg or the like) you may believe me that I shall not scruple to ask you to be the finder; but at this moment I want nothing, indeed, except your poems; and that is quite the truth. Now do consider and think what I could possibly want in your 'outside London world'; you, who are the 'Genius of the lamp'!—Why if you light it and let me read your romances, &c., by it, is not that the best use for it, and am I likely to look for another? Only I shall remember what you say, gratefully and seriously; and if ever I should have a good fair opportunity of giving you trouble (as if I had not done it already!), you may rely upon my evil intentions; even though dear Mr. Kenyon should not actually be at New York, ... which he is not, I am glad to say, as I saw him on Saturday.
Which reminds me that he knows of your having been here, of course! and will not mention it; as he understood from me that you would not.—Thank you! Also there was an especial reason which constrained me, on pain of appearing a great hypocrite, to tell Miss Mitford the bare fact of my having seen you—and reluctantly I did it, though placing some hope in her promise of discretion. And how necessary the discretion is, will appear in the awful statistical fact of our having at this moment, as my sisters were calculating yesterday, some forty relations in London—to say nothing of the right wing of the enemy. For Mr. Horne, I could have told you, and really I thought I had told you of his being in England.
Last paragraph of all is, that I don't want to be amused, ... or rather that I am amused by everything and anything. Why surely, surely, you have some singular ideas about me! So, till to-morrow,
Instead of writing this note to you yesterday, as should have been, I went down-stairs—or rather was carried—and am not the worse.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday. [Post-mark, June 14, 1845.]
Yes, the poem is too good in certain respects for the prizes given in colleges, (when all the pure parsley goes naturally to the rabbits), and has a great deal of beauty here and there in image and expression. Still I do not quite agree with you that it reaches the Tennyson standard any wise; and for the blank verse, I cannot for a moment think it comparable to one of the grand passages in 'Oenone,' and 'Arthur' and the like. In fact I seem to hear more in that latter blank verse than you do, ... to hear not only a 'mighty line' as in Marlowe, but a noble full orbicular wholeness in complete passages—which always struck me as the mystery of music and great peculiarity in Tennyson's versification, inasmuch as he attains to these complete effects without that shifting of the pause practised by the masters, ... Shelley and others. A 'linked music' in which there are no links!—that, you would take to be a contradiction—and yet something like that, my ear has always seemed to perceive; and I have wondered curiously again and again how there could be so much union and no fastening. Only of course it is not model versification—and for dramatic purposes, it must be admitted to be bad.
Which reminds me to be astonished for the second time how you could think such a thing of me as that I wanted to read only your lyrics, ... or that I 'preferred the lyrics' ... or something barbarous in that way? You don't think me 'ambidexter,' or 'either-handed' ... and both hands open for what poems you will vouchsafe to me; and yet if you would let me see anything you may have in a readable state by you, ... 'The Flight of the Duchess' ... or act or scene of 'The Soul's Tragedy,' ... I shall be so glad and grateful to you! Oh—if you change your mind and choose to be bien prie, I will grant it is your right, and begin my liturgy directly. But this is not teazing (in the intention of it!) and I understand all about the transcription, and the inscrutableness of rough copies,—that is, if you write as I do, so that my guardian angel or M. Champollion cannot read what is written. Only whatever they can, (remember!) I can: and you are not to mind trusting me with the cacistography possible to mortal readers.
The sun shines so that nobody dares complain of the east wind—and indeed I am better altogether. May God bless you, my dear friend.
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, June 14, 1845.]
When I ask my wise self what I really do remember of the Prize poem, the answer is—both of Chapman's lines a-top, quite worth any prize for their quoter—then, the good epithet of 'Green Europe' contrasting with Africa—then, deep in the piece, a picture of a Vestal in a vault, where I see a dipping and winking lamp plainest, and last of all the ominous 'all was dark' that dismisses you. I read the poem many years ago, and never since, though I have an impression that the versification is good, yet from your commentary I see I must have said a good deal more in its praise than that. But have you not discovered by this time that I go on talking with my thoughts away?
I know, I have always been jealous of my own musical faculty (I can write music).—Now that I see the uselessness of such jealousy, and am for loosing and letting it go, it may be cramped possibly. Your music is more various and exquisite than any modern writer's to my ear. One should study the mechanical part of the art, as nearly all that there is to be studied—for the more one sits and thinks over the creative process, the more it confirms itself as 'inspiration,' nothing more nor less. Or, at worst, you write down old inspirations, what you remember of them ... but with that it begins. 'Reflection' is exactly what it names itself—a re-presentation, in scattered rays from every angle of incidence, of what first of all became present in a great light, a whole one. So tell me how these lights are born, if you can! But I can tell anybody how to make melodious verses—let him do it therefore—it should be exacted of all writers.
You do not understand what a new feeling it is for me to have someone who is to like my verses or I shall not ever like them after! So far differently was I circumstanced of old, that I used rather to go about for a subject of offence to people; writing ugly things in order to warn the ungenial and timorous off my grounds at once. I shall never do so again at least! As it is, I will bring all I dare, in as great quantities as I can—if not next time, after then—certainly. I must make an end, print this Autumn my last four 'Bells,' Lyrics, Romances, 'The Tragedy,' and 'Luna,' and then go on with a whole heart to my own Poem—indeed, I have just resolved not to begin any new song, even, till this grand clearance is made—I will get the Tragedy transcribed to bring—