'Tell me what I have a claim to hear': I can hear it, and be as grateful as I was before and am now—your friendship is my pride and happiness. If you told me your love was bestowed elsewhere, and that it was in my power to serve you there, to serve you there would still be my pride and happiness. I look on and on over the prospect of my love, it is all onwards—and all possible forms of unkindness ... I quite laugh to think how they are behind ... cannot be encountered in the route we are travelling! I submit to you and will obey you implicitly—obey what I am able to conceive of your least desire, much more of your expressed wish. But it was necessary to make this avowal, among other reasons, for one which the world would recognize too. My whole scheme of life (with its wants, material wants at least, closely cut down) was long ago calculated—and it supposed you, the finding such an one as you, utterly impossible—because in calculating one goes upon chances, not on providence—how could I expect you? So for my own future way in the world I have always refused to care—any one who can live a couple of years and more on bread and potatoes as I did once on a time, and who prefers a blouse and a blue shirt (such as I now write in) to all manner of dress and gentlemanly appointment, and who can, if necessary, groom a horse not so badly, or at all events would rather do it all day long than succeed Mr. Fitzroy Kelly in the Solicitor-Generalship,—such an one need not very much concern himself beyond considering the lilies how they grow. But now I see you near this life, all changes—and at a word, I will do all that ought to be done, that every one used to say could be done, and let 'all my powers find sweet employ' as Dr. Watts sings, in getting whatever is to be got—not very much, surely. I would print these things, get them away, and do this now, and go to you at Pisa with the news—at Pisa where one may live for some L100 a year—while, lo, I seem to remember, I do remember, that Charles Kean offered to give me 500 of those pounds for any play that might suit him—to say nothing of Mr. Colburn saying confidentially that he wanted more than his dinner 'a novel on the subject of Napoleon'! So may one make money, if one does not live in a house in a row, and feel impelled to take the Princess's Theatre for a laudable development and exhibition of one's faculty.
Take the sense of all this, I beseech you, dearest—all you shall say will be best—I am yours—
Yes, Yours ever. God bless you for all you have been, and are, and will certainly be to me, come what He shall please!
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, September 16, 1845.]
I scarcely know how to write what is to be written nor indeed why it is to be written and to what end. I have tried in vain—and you are waiting to hear from me. I am unhappy enough even where I am happy—but ungrateful nowhere—and I thank you from my heart—profoundly from the depths of my heart ... which is nearly all I can do.
One letter I began to write and asked in it how it could become me to speak at all if 'from the beginning and at this moment you never dreamed of' ... and there, I stopped and tore the paper; because I felt that you were too loyal and generous, for me to bear to take a moment's advantage of the same, and bend down the very flowering branch of your generosity (as it might be) to thicken a little the fence of a woman's caution and reserve. You will not say that you have not acted as if you 'dreamed'—and I will answer therefore to the general sense of your letter and former letters, and admit at once that I did state to you the difficulties most difficult to myself ... though not all ... and that if I had been worthier of you I should have been proportionably less in haste to 'bid you leave that subject.' I do not understand how you can seem at the same moment to have faith in my integrity and to have doubt whether all this time I may not have felt a preference for another ... which you are ready 'to serve,' you say. Which is generous in you—but in me, where were the integrity? Could you really hold me to be blameless, and do you think that truehearted women act usually so? Can it be necessary for me to tell you that I could not have acted so, and did not? And shall I shrink from telling you besides ... you, who have been generous to me and have a right to hear it ... and have spoken to me in the name of an affection and memory most precious and holy to me, in this same letter ... that neither now nor formerly has any man been to my feelings what you are ... and that if I were different in some respects and free in others by the providence of God, I would accept the great trust of your happiness, gladly, proudly, and gratefully; and give away my own life and soul to that end. I would do it ... not, I do ... observe! it is a truth without a consequence; only meaning that I am not all stone—only proving that I am not likely to consent to help you in wrong against yourself. You see in me what is not:—that, I know: and you overlook in me what is unsuitable to you ... that I know, and have sometimes told you. Still, because a strong feeling from some sources is self-vindicating and ennobling to the object of it, I will not say that, if it were proved to me that you felt this for me, I would persist in putting the sense of my own unworthiness between you and me—not being heroic, you know, nor pretending to be so. But something worse than even a sense of unworthiness, God has put between us! and judge yourself if to beat your thoughts against the immovable marble of it, can be anything but pain and vexation of spirit, waste and wear of spirit to you ... judge! The present is here to be seen ... speaking for itself! and the best future you can imagine for me, what a precarious thing it must be ... a thing for making burdens out of ... only not for your carrying, as I have vowed to my own soul. As dear Mr. Kenyon said to me to-day in his smiling kindness ... 'In ten years you may be strong perhaps'—or 'almost strong'! that being the encouragement of my best friends! What would he say, do you think, if he could know or guess...! what could he say but that you were ... a poet!—and I ... still worse! Never let him know or guess!
And so if you are wise and would be happy (and you have excellent practical sense after all and should exercise it) you must leave me—these thoughts of me, I mean ... for if we might not be true friends for ever, I should have less courage to say the other truth. But we may be friends always ... and cannot be so separated, that your happiness, in the knowledge of it, will not increase mine. And if you will be persuaded by me, as you say, you will be persuaded thus ... and consent to take a resolution and force your mind at once into another channel. Perhaps I might bring you reasons of the class which you tell me 'would silence you for ever.' I might certainly tell you that my own father, if he knew that you had written to me so, and that I had answered you—so, even, would not forgive me at the end of ten years—and this, from none of the causes mentioned by me here and in no disrespect to your name and your position ... though he does not over-value poetry even in his daughter, and is apt to take the world's measures of the means of life ... but for the singular reason that he never does tolerate in his family (sons or daughters) the development of one class of feelings. Such an objection I could not bring to you of my own will—it rang hollow in my ears—perhaps I thought even too little of it:—and I brought to you what I thought much of, and cannot cease to think much of equally. Worldly thoughts, these are not at all, nor have been: there need be no soiling of the heart with any such:—and I will say, in reply to some words of yours, that you cannot despise the gold and gauds of the world more than I do, and should do even if I found a use for them. And if I wished to be very poor, in the world's sense of poverty, I could not, with three or four hundred a year of which no living will can dispossess me. And is it not the chief good of money, the being free from the need of thinking of it? It seems so to me.
The obstacles then are of another character, and the stronger for being so. Believe that I am grateful to you—how grateful, cannot be shown in words nor even in tears ... grateful enough to be truthful in all ways. You know I might have hidden myself from you—but I would not: and by the truth told of myself, you may believe in the earnestness with which I tell the other truths—of you ... and of this subject. The subject will not bear consideration—it breaks in our hands. But that God is stronger than we, cannot be a bitter thought to you but a holy thought ... while He lets me, as much as I can be anyone's, be only yours.
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, September 17, 1845.]
I do not know whether you imagine the precise effect of your letter on me—very likely you do, and write it just for that—for I conceive all from your goodness. But before I tell you what is that effect, let me say in as few words as possible what shall stop any fear—though only for a moment and on the outset—that you have been misunderstood, that the goodness outside, and round and over all, hides all or any thing. I understand you to signify to me that you see, at this present, insurmountable obstacles to that—can I speak it—entire gift, which I shall own, was, while I dared ask it, above my hopes—and wishes, even, so it seems to me ... and yet could not but be asked, so plainly was it dictated to me, by something quite out of those hopes and wishes. Will it help me to say that once in this Aladdin-cavern I knew I ought to stop for no heaps of jewel-fruit on the trees from the very beginning, but go on to the lamp, the prize, the last and best of all? Well, I understand you to pronounce that at present you believe this gift impossible—and I acquiesce entirely—I submit wholly to you; repose on you in all the faith of which I am capable. Those obstacles are solely for you to see and to declare ... had I seen them, be sure I should never have mocked you or myself by affecting to pass them over ... what were obstacles, I mean: but you do see them, I must think,—and perhaps they strike me the more from my true, honest unfeigned inability to imagine what they are,—not that I shall endeavour. After what you also apprise me of, I know and am joyfully confident that if ever they cease to be what you now consider them, you who see now for me, whom I implicitly trust in to see for me; you will then, too, see and remember me, and how I trust, and shall then be still trusting. And until you so see, and so inform me, I shall never utter a word—for that would involve the vilest of implications. I thank God—I do thank him, that in this whole matter I have been, to the utmost of my power, not unworthy of his introducing you to me, in this respect that, being no longer in the first freshness of life, and having for many years now made up my mind to the impossibility of loving any woman ... having wondered at this in the beginning, and fought not a little against it, having acquiesced in it at last, and accounted for it all to myself, and become, if anything, rather proud of it than sorry ... I say, when real love, making itself at once recognized as such, did reveal itself to me at last, I did open my heart to it with a cry—nor care for its overturning all my theory—nor mistrust its effect upon a mind set in ultimate order, so I fancied, for the few years more—nor apprehend in the least that the new element would harm what was already organized without its help. Nor have I, either, been guilty of the more pardonable folly, of treating the new feeling after the pedantic fashions and instances of the world. I have not spoken when it did not speak, because 'one' might speak, or has spoken, or should speak, and 'plead' and all that miserable work which, after all, I may well continue proud that I am not called to attempt. Here for instance, now ... 'one' should despair; but 'try again' first, and work blindly at removing those obstacles (—if I saw them, I should be silent, and only speak when a month hence, ten years hence, I could bid you look where they were)—and 'one' would do all this, not for the play-acting's sake, or to 'look the character' ... (that would be something quite different from folly ...) but from a not unreasonable anxiety lest by too sudden a silence, too complete an acceptance of your will; the earnestness and endurance and unabatedness ... the truth, in fact, of what had already been professed, should get to be questioned—But I believe that you believe me—And now that all is clear between us I will say, what you will hear, without fearing for me or yourself, that I am utterly contented ... ('grateful' I have done with ... it must go—) I accept what you give me, what those words deliver to me, as—not all I asked for ... as I said ... but as more than I ever hoped for,—all, in the best sense, that I deserve. That phrase in my letter which you objected to, and the other—may stand, too—I never attempted to declare, describe my feeling for you—one word of course stood for it all ... but having to put down some one point, so to speak, of it—you could not wonder if I took any extreme one first ... never minding all the untold portion that led up to it, made it possible and natural—it is true, 'I could not dream of that'—that I was eager to get the horrible notion away from never so flitting a visit to you, that you were thus and thus to me on condition of my proving just the same to you—just as if we had waited to acknowledge that the moon lighted us till we ascertained within these two or three hundred years that the earth happens to light the moon as well! But I felt that, and so said it:—now you have declared what I should never have presumed to hope—and I repeat to you that I, with all to be thankful for to God, am most of all thankful for this the last of his providences ... which is no doubt, the natural and inevitable feeling, could one always see clearly. Your regard for me is all success—let the rest come, or not come. In my heart's thankfulness I would ... I am sure I would promise anything that would gratify you ... but it would not do that, to agree, in words, to change my affections, put them elsewhere &c. &c. That would be pure foolish talking, and quite foreign to the practical results which you will attain in a better way from a higher motive. I will cheerfully promise you, however, to be 'bound by no words,' blind to no miracle; in sober earnest, it is not because I renounced once for all oxen and the owning and having to do with them, that I will obstinately turn away from any unicorn when such an apparition blesses me ... but meantime I shall walk at peace on our hills here nor go looking in all corners for the bright curved horn! And as for you ... if I did not dare 'to dream of that'—, now it is mine, my pride and joy prevent in no manner my taking the whole consolation of it at once, now—I will be confident that, if I obey you, I shall get no wrong for it—if, endeavouring to spare you fruitless pain, I do not eternally revert to the subject; do indeed 'quit' it just now, when no good can come of dwelling on it to you; you will never say to yourself—so I said—'the "generous impulse" has worn itself out ... time is doing his usual work—this was to be expected' &c. &c. You will be the first to say to me 'such an obstacle has ceased to exist ... or is now become one palpable to you, one you may try and overcome'—and I shall be there, and ready—ten years hence as now—if alive.
One final word on the other matters—the 'worldly matters'—I shall own I alluded to them rather ostentatiously, because—because that would be the one poor sacrifice I could make you—one I would cheerfully make, but a sacrifice, and the only one: this careless 'sweet habitude of living'—this absolute independence of mine, which, if I had it not, my heart would starve and die for, I feel, and which I have fought so many good battles to preserve—for that has happened, too—this light rational life I lead, and know so well that I lead; this I could give up for nothing less than—what you know—but I would give it up, not for you merely, but for those whose disappointment might re-act on you—and I should break no promise to myself—the money getting would not be for the sake of it; 'the labour not for that which is nought'—indeed the necessity of doing this, if at all, now, was one of the reasons which make me go on to that last request of all—at once; one must not be too old, they say, to begin their ways. But, in spite of all the babble, I feel sure that whenever I make up my mind to that, I can be rich enough and to spare—because along with what you have thought genius in me, is certainly talent, what the world recognizes as such; and I have tried it in various ways, just to be sure that I was a little magnanimous in never intending to use it. Thus, in more than one of the reviews and newspapers that laughed my 'Paracelsus' to scorn ten years ago—in the same column, often, of these reviews, would follow a most laudatory notice of an Elementary French book, on a new plan, which I 'did' for my old French master, and he published—'that was really an useful work'!—So that when the only obstacle is only that there is so much per annum to be producible, you will tell me. After all it would be unfair in me not to confess that this was always intended to be my own single stipulation—'an objection' which I could see, certainly,—but meant to treat myself to the little luxury of removing.
So, now, dearest—let me once think of that, and of you as my own, my dearest—this once—dearest, I have done with words for the present. I will wait. God bless you and reward you—I kiss your hands now. This is my comfort, that if you accept my feeling as all but unexpressed now, more and more will become spoken—or understood, that is—we both live on—you will know better what it was, how much and manifold, what one little word had to give out.
God bless you—
On Thursday,—you remember?
This is Tuesday Night—
I called on Saturday at the Office in St. Mary Axe—all uncertainty about the vessel's sailing again for Leghorn—it could not sail before the middle of the month—and only then if &c. But if I would leave my card &c. &c.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Wednesday Morning. [Post-mark, September 17, 1845.]
I write one word just to say that it is all over with Pisa; which was a probable evil when I wrote last, and which I foresaw from the beginning—being a prophetess, you know. I cannot tell you now how it has all happened—only do not blame me, for I have kept my ground to the last, and only yield when Mr. Kenyon and all the world see that there is no standing. I am ashamed almost of having put so much earnestness into a personal matter—and I spoke face to face and quite firmly—so as to pass with my sisters for the 'bravest person in the house' without contestation.
Sometimes it seems to me as if it could not end so—I mean, that the responsibility of such a negative must be reconsidered ... and you see how Mr. Kenyon writes to me. Still, as the matter lies, ... no Pisa! And, as I said before, my prophetic instincts are not likely to fail, such as they have been from the beginning.
If you wish to come, it must not be until Saturday at soonest. I have a headache and am weary at heart with all this vexation—and besides there is no haste now: and when you do come, if you do, I will trust to you not to recur to one subject, which must lie where it fell ... must! I had begun to write to you on Saturday, to say how I had forgotten to give you your MSS. which were lying ready for you ... the Hood poems. Would it not be desirable that you made haste to see them through the press, and went abroad with your Roman friends at once, to try to get rid of that uneasiness in the head? Do think of it—and more than think.
For me, you are not to fancy me unwell. Only, not to be worn a little with the last week's turmoil, were impossible—and Mr. Kenyon said to me yesterday that he quite wondered how I could bear it at all, do anything reasonable at all, and confine my misdoings to sending letters addressed to him at Brighton, when he was at Dover! If anything changes, you shall hear from—
Mr. Kenyon returns to Dover immediately. His kindness is impotent in the case.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Wednesday Evening. [Post-mark, September 18, 1845.]
But one word before we leave the subject, and then to leave it finally; but I cannot let you go on to fancy a mystery anywhere, in obstacles or the rest. You deserve at least a full frankness; and in my letter I meant to be fully frank. I even told you what was an absurdity, so absurd that I should far rather not have told you at all, only that I felt the need of telling you all: and no mystery is involved in that, except as an 'idiosyncrasy' is a mystery. But the 'insurmountable' difficulty is for you and everybody to see; and for me to feel, who have been a very byword among the talkers, for a confirmed invalid through months and years, and who, even if I were going to Pisa and had the best prospects possible to me, should yet remain liable to relapses and stand on precarious ground to the end of my life. Now that is no mystery for the trying of 'faith'; but a plain fact, which neither thinking nor speaking can make less a fact. But don't let us speak of it.
I must speak, however, (before the silence) of what you said and repeat in words for which I gratefully thank you—and which are not 'ostentatious' though unnecessary words—for, if I were in a position to accept sacrifices from you, I would not accept such a sacrifice ... amounting to a sacrifice of duty and dignity as well as of ease and satisfaction ... to an exchange of higher work for lower work ... and of the special work you are called to, for that which is work for anybody. I am not so ignorant of the right uses and destinies of what you have and are. You will leave the Solicitor-Generalships to the Fitzroy Kellys, and justify your own nature; and besides, do me the little right, (over the over-right you are always doing me) of believing that I would not bear or dare to do you so much wrong, if I were in the position to do it.
And for all the rest I thank you—believe that I thank you ... and that the feeling is not so weak as the word. That you should care at all for me has been a matter of unaffected wonder to me from the first hour until now—and I cannot help the pain I feel sometimes, in thinking that it would have been better for you if you never had known me. May God turn back the evil of me! Certainly I admit that I cannot expect you ... just at this moment, ... to say more than you say, ... and I shall try to be at ease in the consideration that you are as accessible to the 'unicorn' now as you ever could be at any former period of your life. And here I have done. I had done living, I thought, when you came and sought me out! and why? and to what end? That, I cannot help thinking now. Perhaps just that I may pray for you—which were a sufficient end. If you come on Saturday I trust you to leave this subject untouched,—as it must be indeed henceforth.
I am yours,
No word more of Pisa—I shall not go, I think.
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, September 18, 1845.]
Words!—it was written I should hate and never use them to any purpose. I will not say one word here—very well knowing neither word nor deed avails—from me.
My letter will have reassured you on the point you seem undecided about—whether I would speak &c.
I will come whenever you shall signify that I may ... whenever, acting in my best interests, you feel that it will not hurt you (weary you in any way) to see me—but I fear that on Saturday I must be otherwhere—I enclose the letter from my old foe. Which could not but melt me for all my moroseness and I can hardly go and return for my sister in time. Will you tell me?
It is dark—but I want to save the post—
E.B.B. to R.B.
Wednesday. [Post-mark, September 18, 1845.]
Of course you cannot do otherwise than go with your sister—or it will be 'Every man out of his humour' perhaps—and you are not so very 'savage' after all.
On Monday then, if you do not hear—to the contrary.
Papa has been walking to and fro in this room, looking thoughtfully and talking leisurely—and every moment I have expected I confess, some word (that did not come) about Pisa. Mr. Kenyon thinks it cannot end so—and I do sometimes—and in the meantime I do confess to a little 'savageness' also—at heart! All I asked him to say the other day, was that he was not displeased with me—and he wouldn't; and for me to walk across his displeasure spread on the threshold of the door, and moreover take a sister and brother with me, and do such a thing for the sake of going to Italy and securing a personal advantage, were altogether impossible, obviously impossible! So poor Papa is quite in disgrace with me just now—if he would but care for that!
May God bless you. Amuse yourself well on Saturday. I could not see you on Thursday any way, for Mr. Kenyon is here every day ... staying in town just on account of this Pisa business, in his abundant kindness.... On Monday then.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Thursday Morning. [Post-mark, September 18, 1845.]
But you, too, will surely want, if you think me a rational creature, my explanation—without which all that I have said and done would be pure madness, I think. It is just 'what I see' that I do see,—or rather it has proved, since I first visited you, that the reality was infinitely worse than I know it to be ... for at, and after the writing of that first letter, on my first visit, I believed—through some silly or misapprehended talk, collected at second hand too—that your complaint was of quite another nature—a spinal injury irremediable in the nature of it. Had it been so—now speak for me, for what you hope I am, and say how that should affect or neutralize what you were, what I wished to associate with myself in you? But as you now are:—then if I had married you seven years ago, and this visitation came now first, I should be 'fulfilling a pious duty,' I suppose, in enduring what could not be amended—a pattern to good people in not running away ... for where were now the use and the good and the profit and—
I desire in this life (with very little fluctuation for a man and too weak a one) to live and just write out certain things which are in me, and so save my soul. I would endeavour to do this if I were forced to 'live among lions' as you once said—but I should best do this if I lived quietly with myself and with you. That you cannot dance like Cerito does not materially disarrange this plan—nor that I might (beside the perpetual incentive and sustainment and consolation) get, over and above the main reward, the incidental, particular and unexpected happiness of being allowed when not working to rather occupy myself with watching you, than with certain other pursuits I might be otherwise addicted to—this, also, does not constitute an obstacle, as I see obstacles.
But you see them—and I see you, and know my first duty and do it resolutely if not cheerfully.
As for referring again, till leave by word or letter—you will see—
And very likely, the tone of this letter even will be misunderstood—because I studiously cut out all vain words, protesting &c.:—No—will it?
I said, unadvisedly, that Saturday was taken from me ... but it was dark and I had not looked at the tickets: the hour of the performance is later than I thought. If to-morrow does not suit you, as I infer, let it be Saturday—at 3—and I will leave earlier, a little, and all will be quite right here. One hint will apprise me.
God bless you, dearest friend.
Something else just heard, makes me reluctantly strike out Saturday—
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday Morning. [Post-mark, September 19, 1845.]
It is not 'misunderstanding' you to know you to be the most generous and loyal of all in the world—you overwhelm me with your generosity—only while you see from above and I from below, we cannot see the same thing in the same light. Moreover, if we did, I should be more beneath you in one sense, than I am. Do me the justice of remembering this whenever you recur in thought to the subject which ends here in the words of it.
I began to write last Saturday to thank you for all the delight I had had in Shelley, though you beguiled me about the pencil-marks, which are few. Besides the translations, some of the original poems were not in my copy and were, so, quite new to me. 'Marianne's Dream' I had been anxious about to no end—I only know it now.—
On Monday at the usual hour. As to coming twice into town on Saturday, that would have been quite foolish if it had been possible.
I am yours,
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, September 24, 1845.]
I have nothing to say about Pisa, ... but a great deal (if I could say it) about you, who do what is wrong by your own confession and are ill because of it and make people uneasy—now is it right altogether? is it right to do wrong?... for it comes to that:—and is it kind to do so much wrong?... for it comes almost to that besides. Ah—you should not indeed! I seem to see quite plainly that you will be ill in a serious way, if you do not take care and take exercise; and so you must consent to be teazed a little into taking both. And if you will not take them here ... or not so effectually as in other places; why not go with your Italian friends? Have you thought of it at all? I have been thinking since yesterday that it might be best for you to go at once, now that the probability has turned quite against me. If I were going, I should ask you not to do so immediately ... but you see how unlikely it is!—although I mean still to speak my whole thoughts—I will do that ... even though for the mere purpose of self-satisfaction. George came last night—but there is an adverse star this morning, and neither of us has the opportunity necessary. Only both he and I will speak—that is certain. And Arabel had the kindness to say yesterday that if I liked to go, she would go with me at whatever hazard—which is very kind—but you know I could not—it would not be right of me. And perhaps after all we may gain the point lawfully; and if not ... at the worst ... the winter may be warm (it is better to fall into the hands of God, as the Jew said) and I may lose less strength than usual, ... having more than usual to lose ... and altogether it may not be so bad an alternative. As to being the cause of any anger against my sister, you would not advise me into such a position, I am sure—it would be untenable for one moment.
But you ... in that case, ... would it not be good for your head if you went at once? I praise myself for saying so to you—yet if it really is good for you, I don't deserve the praising at all. And how was it on Saturday—that question I did not ask yesterday—with Ben Jonson and the amateurs? I thought of you at the time—I mean, on that Saturday evening, nevertheless.
You shall hear when there is any more to say. May God bless you, dearest friend! I am ever yours,
R.B. to E.B.B.
Wednesday Evening. [Post-mark, September 25, 1845.]
I walked to town, this morning, and back again—so that when I found your note on my return, and knew what you had been enjoining me in the way of exercise, I seemed as if I knew, too, why that energetic fit had possessed me and why I succumbed to it so readily. You shall never have to intimate twice to me that such an insignificant thing, even, as the taking exercise should be done. Besides, I have many motives now for wishing to continue well. But Italy just now—Oh, no! My friends would go through Pisa, too.
On that subject I must not speak. And you have 'more strength to lose,' and are so well, evidently so well; that is, so much better, so sure to be still better—can it be that you will not go!
Here are your new notes on my verses. Where are my words for the thanks? But you know what I feel, and shall feel—ever feel—for these and for all. The notes would be beyond price to me if they came from some dear Phemius of a teacher—but from you!
The Theatricals 'went off' with great eclat, and the performance was really good, really clever or better. Forster's 'Kitely' was very emphatic and earnest, and grew into great interest, quite up to the poet's allotted tether, which is none of the longest. He pitched the character's key note too gravely, I thought; beginning with certainty, rather than mere suspicion, of evil. Dickens' 'Bobadil' was capital—with perhaps a little too much of the consciousness of entire cowardice ... which I don't so willingly attribute to the noble would-be pacificator of Europe, besieger of Strigonium &c.—but the end of it all was really pathetic, as it should be, for Bobadil is only too clever for the company of fools he makes wonderment for: having once the misfortune to relish their society, and to need but too pressingly their 'tobacco-money,' what can he do but suit himself to their capacities?—And D. Jerrold was very amusing and clever in his 'Country Gull'—And Mr. Leech superb in the Town Master Mathew. All were good, indeed, and were voted good, and called on, and cheered off, and praised heartily behind their backs and before the curtain. Stanfield's function had exercise solely in the touching up (very effectively) sundry 'Scenes'—painted scenes—and the dresses, which were perfect, had the advantage of Mr. Maclise's experience. And—all is told!
And now; I shall hear, you promise me, if anything occurs—with what feeling, I wait and hope, you know. If there is no best of reasons against it, Saturday, you remember, is my day—This fine weather, too!
May God bless my dearest friend—
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, September 25, 1845.]
I have spoken again, and the result is that we are in precisely the same position; only with bitterer feelings on one side. If I go or stay they must be bitter: words have been said that I cannot easily forget, nor remember without pain; and yet I really do almost smile in the midst of it all, to think how I was treated this morning as an undutiful daughter because I tried to put on my gloves ... for there was no worse provocation. At least he complained of the undutifulness and rebellion (!!!) of everyone in the house—and when I asked if he meant that reproach for me, the answer was that he meant it for all of us, one with another. And I could not get an answer. He would not even grant me the consolation of thinking that I sacrificed what I supposed to be good, to him. I told him that my prospects of health seemed to me to depend on taking this step, but that through my affection for him, I was ready to sacrifice those to his pleasure if he exacted it—only it was necessary to my self-satisfaction in future years, to understand definitely that the sacrifice was exacted by him and was made to him, ... and not thrown away blindly and by a misapprehension. And he would not answer that. I might do my own way, he said—he would not speak—he would not say that he was not displeased with me, nor the contrary:—I had better do what I liked:—for his part, he washed his hands of me altogether.
And so I have been very wise—witness how my eyes are swelled with annotations and reflections on all this! The best of it is that now George himself admits I can do no more in the way of speaking, ... I have no spell for charming the dragons, ... and allows me to be passive and enjoins me to be tranquil, and not 'make up my mind' to any dreadful exertion for the future. Moreover he advises me to go on with the preparations for the voyage, and promises to state the case himself at the last hour to the 'highest authority'; and judge finally whether it be possible for me to go with the necessary companionship. And it seems best to go to Malta on the 3rd of October—if at all ... from steam-packet reasons ... without excluding Pisa ... remember ... by any means.
Well!—and what do you think? Might it be desirable for me to give up the whole? Tell me. I feel aggrieved of course and wounded—and whether I go or stay that feeling must last—I cannot help it. But my spirits sink altogether at the thought of leaving England so—and then I doubt about Arabel and Stormie ... and it seems to me that I ought not to mix them up in a business of this kind where the advantage is merely personal to myself. On the other side, George holds that if I give up and stay even, there will be displeasure just the same, ... and that, when once gone, the irritation will exhaust and smooth itself away—which however does not touch my chief objection. Would it be better ... more right ... to give it up? Think for me. Even if I hold on to the last, at the last I shall be thrown off—that is my conviction. But ... shall I give up at once? Do think for me.
And I have thought that if you like to come on Friday instead of Saturday ... as there is the uncertainty about next week, ... it would divide the time more equally: but let it be as you like and according to circumstances as you see them. Perhaps you have decided to go at once with your friends—who knows? I wish I could know that you were better to-day. May God bless you
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, September 25, 1845.]
You have said to me more than once that you wished I might never know certain feelings you had been forced to endure. I suppose all of us have the proper place where a blow should fall to be felt most—and I truly wish you may never feel what I have to bear in looking on, quite powerless, and silent, while you are subjected to this treatment, which I refuse to characterize—so blind is it for blindness. I think I ought to understand what a father may exact, and a child should comply with; and I respect the most ambiguous of love's caprices if they give never so slight a clue to their all-justifying source. Did I, when you signified to me the probable objections—you remember what—to myself, my own happiness,—did I once allude to, much less argue against, or refuse to acknowledge those objections? For I wholly sympathize, however it go against me, with the highest, wariest, pride and love for you, and the proper jealousy and vigilance they entail—but now, and here, the jewel is not being over guarded, but ruined, cast away. And whoever is privileged to interfere should do so in the possessor's own interest—all common sense interferes—all rationality against absolute no-reason at all. And you ask whether you ought to obey this no-reason? I will tell you: all passive obedience and implicit submission of will and intellect is by far too easy, if well considered, to be the course prescribed by God to Man in this life of probation—for they evade probation altogether, though foolish people think otherwise. Chop off your legs, you will never go astray; stifle your reason altogether and you will find it is difficult to reason ill. 'It is hard to make these sacrifices!'—not so hard as to lose the reward or incur the penalty of an Eternity to come; 'hard to effect them, then, and go through with them'—not hard, when the leg is to be cut off—that it is rather harder to keep it quiet on a stool, I know very well. The partial indulgence, the proper exercise of one's faculties, there is the difficulty and problem for solution, set by that Providence which might have made the laws of Religion as indubitable as those of vitality, and revealed the articles of belief as certainly as that condition, for instance, by which we breathe so many times in a minute to support life. But there is no reward proposed for the feat of breathing, and a great one for that of believing—consequently there must go a great deal more of voluntary effort to this latter than is implied in the getting absolutely rid of it at once, by adopting the direction of an infallible church, or private judgment of another—for all our life is some form of religion, and all our action some belief, and there is but one law, however modified, for the greater and the less. In your case I do think you are called upon to do your duty to yourself; that is, to God in the end. Your own reason should examine the whole matter in dispute by every light which can be put in requisition; and every interest that appears to be affected by your conduct should have its utmost claims considered—your father's in the first place; and that interest, not in the miserable limits of a few days' pique or whim in which it would seem to express itself; but in its whole extent ... the hereafter which all momentary passion prevents him seeing ... indeed, the present on either side which everyone else must see. And this examination made, with whatever earnestness you will, I do think and am sure that on its conclusion you should act, in confidence that a duty has been performed ... difficult, or how were it a duty? Will it not be infinitely harder to act so than to blindly adopt his pleasure, and die under it? Who can not do that?
I fling these hasty rough words over the paper, fast as they will fall—knowing to whom I cast them, and that any sense they may contain or point to, will be caught and understood, and presented in a better light. The hard thing ... this is all I want to say ... is to act on one's own best conviction—not to abjure it and accept another will, and say 'there is my plain duty'—easy it is, whether plain or no!
How 'all changes!' When I first knew you—you know what followed. I supposed you to labour under an incurable complaint—and, of course, to be completely dependent on your father for its commonest alleviations; the moment after that inconsiderate letter, I reproached myself bitterly with the selfishness apparently involved in any proposition I might then have made—for though I have never been at all frightened of the world, nor mistrustful of my power to deal with it, and get my purpose out of it if once I thought it worth while, yet I could not but feel the consideration, of what failure would now be, paralyse all effort even in fancy. When you told me lately that 'you could never be poor'—all my solicitude was at an end—I had but myself to care about, and I told you, what I believed and believe, that I can at any time amply provide for that, and that I could cheerfully and confidently undertake the removing that obstacle. Now again the circumstances shift—and you are in what I should wonder at as the veriest slavery—and I who could free you from it, I am here scarcely daring to write ... though I know you must feel for me and forgive what forces itself from me ... what retires so mutely into my heart at your least word ... what shall not be again written or spoken, if you so will ... that I should be made happy beyond all hope of expression by. Now while I dream, let me once dream! I would marry you now and thus—I would come when you let me, and go when you bade me—I would be no more than one of your brothers—'no more'—that is, instead of getting to-morrow for Saturday, I should get Saturday as well—two hours for one—when your head ached I should be here. I deliberately choose the realization of that dream (—of sitting simply by you for an hour every day) rather than any other, excluding you, I am able to form for this world, or any world I know—And it will continue but a dream.
God bless my dearest E.B.B.
You understand that I see you to-morrow, Friday, as you propose.
I am better—thank you—and will go out to-day.
You know what I am, what I would speak, and all I would do.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday Evening. [Post-mark, September 27, 1845.]
I had your letter late last night, everyone almost, being out of the house by an accident, so that it was left in the letter-box, and if I had wished to answer it before I saw you, it had scarcely been possible.
But it will be the same thing—for you know as well as if you saw my answer, what it must be, what it cannot choose but be, on pain of sinking me so infinitely below not merely your level but my own, that the depth cannot bear a glance down. Yet, though I am not made of such clay as to admit of my taking a base advantage of certain noble extravagances, (and that I am not I thank God for your sake) I will say, I must say, that your words in this letter have done me good and made me happy, ... that I thank and bless you for them, ... and that to receive such a proof of attachment from you, not only overpowers every present evil, but seems to me a full and abundant amends for the merely personal sufferings of my whole life. When I had read that letter last night I did think so. I looked round and round for the small bitternesses which for several days had been bitter to me, and I could not find one of them. The tear-marks went away in the moisture of new, happy tears. Why, how else could I have felt? how else do you think I could? How would any woman have felt ... who could feel at all ... hearing such words said (though 'in a dream' indeed) by such a speaker?
And now listen to me in turn. You have touched me more profoundly than I thought even you could have touched me—my heart was full when you came here to-day. Henceforward I am yours for everything but to do you harm—and I am yours too much, in my heart, ever to consent to do you harm in that way. If I could consent to do it, not only should I be less loyal ... but in one sense, less yours. I say this to you without drawback and reserve, because it is all I am able to say, and perhaps all I shall be able to say. However this may be, a promise goes to you in it that none, except God and your will, shall interpose between you and me, ... I mean, that if He should free me within a moderate time from the trailing chain of this weakness, I will then be to you whatever at that hour you shall choose ... whether friend or more than friend ... a friend to the last in any case. So it rests with God and with you—only in the meanwhile you are most absolutely free ... 'unentangled' (as they call it) by the breadth of a thread—and if I did not know that you considered yourself so, I would not see you any more, let the effort cost me what it might. You may force me feel: ... but you cannot force me to think contrary to my first thought ... that it were better for you to forget me at once in one relation. And if better for you, can it be bad for me? which flings me down on the stone-pavement of the logicians.
And now if I ask a boon of you, will you forget afterwards that it ever was asked? I have hesitated a great deal; but my face is down on the stone-pavement—no—I will not ask to-day—It shall be for another day—and may God bless you on this and on those that come after, my dearest friend.
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, September 27, 1845.]
Think for me, speak for me, my dearest, my own! You that are all great-heartedness and generosity, do that one more generous thing?
God bless you for
What can it be you ask of me!—'a boon'—once my answer to that had been the plain one—but now ... when I have better experience of—No, now I have BEST experience of how you understand my interests; that at last we both know what is my true good—so ask, ask! My own, now! For there it is!—oh, do not fear I am 'entangled'—my crown is loose on my head, not nailed there—my pearl lies in my hand—I may return it to the sea, if I will!
What is it you ask of me, this first asking?
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, September 29, 1845.]
Then first, ... first, I ask you not to misunderstand. Because we do not ... no, we do not ... agree (but disagree) as to 'what is your true good' ... but disagree, and as widely as ever indeed.
The other asking shall come in its season ... some day before I go, if I go. It only relates to a restitution—and you cannot guess it if you try ... so don't try!—and perhaps you can't grant it if you try—and I cannot guess.
Cabins and berths all taken in the Malta steamer for both third and twentieth of October! see what dark lanterns the stars hold out, and how I shall stay in England after all as I think! And thus we are thrown back on the old Gibraltar scheme with its shifting of steamers ... unless we take the dreary alternative of Madeira!—or Cadiz! Even suppose Madeira, ... why it were for a few months alone—and there would be no temptation to loiter as in Italy.
Don't think too hardly of poor Papa. You have his wrong side ... his side of peculiar wrongness ... to you just now. When you have walked round him you will have other thoughts of him.
Are you better, I wonder? and taking exercise and trying to be better? May God bless you! Tuesday need not be the last day if you like to take one more besides—for there is no going until the fourth or seventh, ... and the seventh is the more probable of those two. But now you have done with me until Tuesday.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Wednesday. [Post-mark, October 1, 1845.]
I have read to the last line of your 'Rosicrucian'; and my scepticism grew and grew through Hume's process of doubtful doubts, and at last rose to the full stature of incredulity ... for I never could believe Shelley capable of such a book (call it a book!), not even with a flood of boarding-school idiocy dashed in by way of dilution. Altogether it roused me to deny myself so far as to look at the date of the book, and to get up and travel to the other end of the room to confront it with other dates in the 'Letters from Abroad' ... (I, who never think of a date except the 'A.D.,' and am inclined every now and then to write that down as 1548 ...) well! and on comparing these dates in these two volumes before my eyes, I find that your Rosicrucian was 'printed for Stockdale' in 1822, and that Shelley died in the July of the same year!!—There, is a vindicating fact for you! And unless the 'Rosicrucian' went into more editions than one, and dates here from a later one, ... which is not ascertainable from this fragment of a titlepage, ... the innocence of the great poet stands proved—now doesn't it? For nobody will say that he published such a book in the last year of his life, in the maturity of his genius, and that Godwin's daughter helped him in it! That 'dripping dew' from the skeleton is the only living word in the book!—which really amused me notwithstanding, from the intense absurdity of the whole composition ... descriptions ... sentiments ... and morals.
Judge yourself if I had not better say 'No' about the cloak! I would take it if you wished such a kindness to me—and although you might find it very useful to yourself ... or to your mother or sister ... still if you wished me to take it I should like to have it, and the mantle of the prophet might bring me down something of his spirit! but do you remember ... do you consider ... how many talkers there are in this house, and what would be talked—or that it is not worth while to provoke it all? And Papa, knowing it, would not like it—and altogether it is far better, believe me, that you should keep your own cloak, and I, the thought of the kindness you meditated in respect to it. I have heard nothing more—nothing.
I was asked the other day by a very young friend of mine ... the daughter of an older friend who once followed you up-stairs in this house ... Mr. Hunter, an Independent minister ... for 'Mr. Browning's autograph.' She wants it for a collection ... for her album—and so, will you write out a verse or two on one side of note paper ... not as you write for the printers ... and let me keep my promise and send it to her? I forgot to ask you before. Or one verse will do ... anything will do ... and don't let me be bringing you into vexation. It need not be of MS. rarity.
You are not better ... really ... I fear. And your mother's being ill affects you more than you like to admit, I fear besides. Will you, when you write, say how both are ... nothing extenuating, you know. May God bless you, my dearest friend.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Thursday. [Post-mark, October 2, 1845.]
Well, let us hope against hope in the sad matter of the novel—yet, yet,—it is by Shelley, if you will have the truth—as I happen to know—proof last being that Leigh Hunt told me he unearthed it in Shelley's own library at Marlow once, to the writer's horror and shame—'He snatched it out of my hands'—said H. Yet I thrust it into yours ... so much for the subtle fence of friends who reach your heart by a side-thrust, as I told you on Tuesday, after the enemy has fallen back breathless and baffled. As for the date, that Stockdale was a notorious pirate and raker-up of rash publications ... and, do you know, I suspect the title-page is all that boasts such novelty,—see if the book, the inside leaves, be not older evidently!—a common trick of the 'trade' to this day. The history of this and 'Justrozzi,' as it is spelt,—the other novel,—may be read in Medwin's 'Conversations'—and, as I have been told, in Lady Ch. Bury's 'Reminiscences' or whatever she calls them ... the 'Guistrozzi' was certainly 'written in concert with'—somebody or other ... for I confess the whole story grows monstrous and even the froth of wine strings itself in bright bubbles,—ah, but this was the scum of the fermenting vat, do you see? I am happy to say I forget the novel entirely, or almost—and only keep the exact impression which you have gained ... through me! 'The fair cross of gold he dashed on the floor'—(that is my pet-line ... because the 'chill dew' of a place not commonly supposed to favour humidity is a plagiarism from Lewis's 'Monk,' it now flashes on me! Yes, Lewis, too, puts the phrase into intense italics.) And now, please read a chorus in the 'Prometheus Unbound' or a scene from the 'Cenci'—and join company with Shelley again!
—From 'chill dew' I come to the cloak—you are quite right—and I give up that fancy. Will you, then, take one more precaution when all proper safe-guards have been adopted; and, when everything is sure, contrive some one sureness besides, against cold or wind or sea-air; and say 'this—for the cloak which is not here, and to help the heart's wish which is,'—so I shall be there palpably. Will you do this? Tell me you will, to-morrow—and tell me all good news.
My Mother suffers still.... I hope she is no worse—but a little better—certainly better. I am better too, in my unimportant way.
Now I will write you the verses ... some easy ones out of a paper-full meant to go between poem and poem in my next number, and break the shock of collision.
Let me kiss your hand—dearest! My heart and life—all is yours, and forever—God make you happy as I am through you—Bless you
E.B.B. to R.B.
Saturday. [Post-mark, October 6, 1845.]
Tuesday is given up in full council. The thing is beyond doubting of, as George says and as you thought yesterday. And then George has it in his head to beguile the Duke of Palmella out of a smaller cabin, so that I might sail from the Thames on the twentieth—and whether he succeeds or not, I humbly confess that one of the chief advantages of the new plan if not the very chief (as I see it) is just in the delay.
Your spring-song is full of beauty as you know very well—and 'that's the wise thrush,' so characteristic of you (and of the thrush too) that I was sorely tempted to ask you to write it 'twice over,' ... and not send the first copy to Mary Hunter notwithstanding my promise to her. And now when you come to print these fragments, would it not be well if you were to stoop to the vulgarism of prefixing some word of introduction, as other people do, you know, ... a title ... a name? You perplex your readers often by casting yourself on their intelligence in these things—and although it is true that readers in general are stupid and can't understand, it is still more true that they are lazy and won't understand ... and they don't catch your point of sight at first unless you think it worth while to push them by the shoulders and force them into the right place. Now these fragments ... you mean to print them with a line between ... and not one word at the top of it ... now don't you! And then people will read
Oh, to be in England
and say to themselves ... 'Why who is this? ... who's out of England?' Which is an extreme case of course; but you will see what I mean ... and often I have observed how some of the very most beautiful of your lyrics have suffered just from your disdain of the usual tactics of writers in this one respect.
And you are not better, still—you are worse instead of better ... are you not? Tell me—And what can you mean about 'unimportance,' when you were worse last week ... this expiring week ... than ever before, by your own confession? And now?—And your mother?
Yes—I promise! And so, ... Elijah will be missed instead of his mantle ... which will be a losing contract after all. But it shall be as you say. May you be able to say that you are better! God bless you.
Never think of the 'White Slave.' I had just taken it up. The trash of it is prodigious—far beyond Mr. Smythe. Not that I can settle upon a book just now, in all this wind, to judge of it fairly.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Monday Morning. [Post-mark, October 6, 1845.]
I should certainly think that the Duke of Palmella may be induced, and with no great difficulty, to give up a cabin under the circumstances—and then the plan becomes really objection-proof, so far as mortal plans go. But now you must think all the boldlier about whatever difficulties remain, just because they are so much the fewer. It is cold already in the mornings and evenings—cold and (this morning) foggy—I did not ask if you continue to go out from time to time.... I am sure you should,—you would so prepare yourself properly for the fatigue and change—yesterday it was very warm and fine in the afternoon, nor is this noontime so bad, if the requisite precautions are taken. And do make 'journeys across the room,' and out of it, meanwhile, and stand when possible—get all the strength ready, now that so much is to be spent. Oh, if I were by you!
Thank you, thank you—I will devise titles—I quite see what you say, now you do say it. I am (this Monday morning, the prescribed day for efforts and beginnings) looking over and correcting what you read—to press they shall go, and then the plays can follow gently, and then ... 'Oh to be in Pisa. Now that E.B.B. is there!'—And I shall be there!... I am much better to-day; and my mother better—and to-morrow I shall see you—So come good things together!
Dearest—till to-morrow and ever I am yours, wholly yours—May God bless you!
You do not ask me that 'boon'—why is that?—Besides, I have my own real boons to ask too, as you will inevitably find, and I shall perhaps get heart by your example.
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, October 7, 1845.]
Ah but the good things do not come together—for just as your letter comes I am driven to asking you to leave Tuesday for Wednesday.
On Tuesday Mr. Kenyon is to be here or not to be here, he says—there's a doubt; and you would rather go to a clear day. So if you do not hear from me again I shall expect you on Wednesday unless I hear to the contrary from you:—and if anything happens to Wednesday you shall hear. Mr. Kenyon is in town for only two days, or three. I never could grumble against him, so good and kind as he is—but he may not come after all to-morrow—so it is not grudging the obolus to Belisarius, but the squandering of the last golden days at the bottom of the purse.
Do I 'stand'—Do I walk? Yes—most uprightly. I 'walk upright every day.' Do I go out? no, never. And I am not to be scolded for that, because when you were looking at the sun to-day, I was marking the east wind; and perhaps if I had breathed a breath of it ... farewell Pisa. People who can walk don't always walk into the lion's den as a consequence—do they? should they? Are you 'sure that they should?' I write in great haste. So Wednesday then ... perhaps!
And yours every day.
You understand. Wednesday—if nothing to the contrary.
R.B. to E.B.B.
12—Wednesday. [Post-mark, October 8, 1845.]
Well, dearest, at all events I get up with the assurance I shall see you, and go on till the fatal 11-1/4 p.m. believing in the same, and then, if after all there does come such a note as this with its instructions, why, first, it is such a note and such a gain, and next it makes a great day out of to-morrow that was to have been so little of a day, that is all. Only, only, I am suspicious, now, of a real loss to me in the end; for, putting off yesterday, I dared put off (on your part) Friday to Saturday ... while now ... what shall be said to that?
Dear Mr. Kenyon to be the smiling inconscious obstacle to any pleasure of mine, if it were merely pleasure!
But I want to catch our next post—to-morrow, then, excepting what is to be excepted!
Bless you, my dearest—
E.B.B. to R.B.
Wednesday Evening. [Post-mark, October 8, 1845.]
Mr. Kenyon never came. My sisters met him in the street, and he had been 'detained all day in the city and would certainly be here to-morrow,' Wednesday! And so you see what has happened to Wednesday! Moreover he may come besides on Thursday, ... I can answer for nothing. Only if I do not write and if you find Thursday admissible, will you come then? In the case of an obstacle, you shall hear. And it is not (in the meantime) my fault—now is it? I have been quite enough vexed about it, indeed.
Did the Monday work work harm to the head, I wonder? I do fear so that you won't get through those papers with impunity—especially if the plays are to come after ... though ever so 'gently.' And if you are to suffer, it would be right to tongue-tie that silver Bell, and leave the congregations to their selling of cabbages. Which is unphilanthropic of me perhaps, ... [Greek: o philtate].
Be sure that I shall be 'bold' when the time for going comes—and both bold and capable of the effort. I am desired to keep to the respirator and the cabin for a day or two, while the cold can reach us; and midway in the bay of Biscay some change of climate may be felt, they say. There is no sort of danger for me; except that I shall stay in England. And why is it that I feel to-night more than ever almost, as if I should stay in England? Who can tell? I can tell one thing. If I stay, it will not be from a failure in my resolution—that will not be—shall not be. Yes—and Mr. Kenyon and I agreed the other day that there was something of the tigress-nature very distinctly cognisable under what he is pleased to call my 'Ba-lambishness.'
Then, on Thursday!... unless something happens to Thursday ... and I shall write in that case. And I trust to you (as always) to attend to your own convenience—just as you may trust to me to remember my own 'boon.' Ah—you are curious, I think! Which is scarcely wise of you—because it may, you know, be the roc's egg after all. But no, it isn't—I will say just so much. And besides I did say that it was a 'restitution,' which limits the guesses if it does not put an end to them. Unguessable, I choose it to be.
And now I feel as if I should not stay in England. Which is the difference between one five minutes and another. May God bless you.
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, October 11, 1845.]
Dear Mr. Kenyon has been here again, and talking so (in his kindness too) about the probabilities as to Pisa being against me ... about all depending 'on one throw' and the 'dice being loaded' &c. ... that I looked at him aghast as if he looked at the future through the folded curtain and was licensed to speak oracles:—and ever since I have been out of spirits ... oh, out of spirits—and must write myself back again, or try. After all he may be wrong like another—and I should tell you that he reasons altogether from the delay ... and that 'the cabins will therefore be taken' and the 'circular bills' out of reach! He said that one of his purposes in staying in town, was to 'knout' me every day—didn't he?
Well—George will probably speak before he leaves town, which will be on Monday! and now that the hour approaches, I do feel as if the house stood upon gunpowder, and as if I held Guy Fawkes's lantern in my right hand. And no: I shall not go. The obstacles will not be those of Mr. Kenyon's finding—and what their precise character will be I do not see distinctly. Only that they will be sufficient, and thrown by one hand just where the wheel should turn, ... that, I see—and you will, in a few days.
Did you go to Moxon's and settle the printing matter? Tell me. And what was the use of telling Mr. Kenyon that you were 'quite well' when you know you are not? Will you say to me how you are, saying the truth? and also how your mother is?
To show the significance of the omission of those evening or rather night visits of Papa's—for they came sometimes at eleven, and sometimes at twelve—I will tell you that he used to sit and talk in them, and then always kneel and pray with me and for me—which I used of course to feel as a proof of very kind and affectionate sympathy on his part, and which has proportionably pained me in the withdrawing. They were no ordinary visits, you observe, ... and he could not well throw me further from him than by ceasing to pay them—the thing is quite expressively significant. Not that I pretend to complain, nor to have reason to complain. One should not be grateful for kindness, only while it lasts: that would be a short-breathed gratitude. I just tell you the fact, proving that it cannot be accidental.
Did you ever, ever tire me? Indeed no—you never did. And do understand that I am not to be tired 'in that way,' though as Mr. Boyd said once of his daughter, one may be so 'far too effeminate.' No—if I were put into a crowd I should be tired soon—or, apart from the crowd, if you made me discourse orations De Corona ... concerning your bag even ... I should be tired soon—though peradventure not very much sooner than you who heard. But on the smooth ground of quiet conversation (particularly when three people don't talk at once as my brothers do ... to say the least!) I last for a long while:—not to say that I have the pretension of being as good and inexhaustible a listener to your own speaking as you could find in the world. So please not to accuse me of being tired again. I can't be tired, and won't be tired, you see.
And now, since I began to write this, there is a new evil and anxiety—a worse anxiety than any—for one of my brothers is ill; had been unwell for some days and we thought nothing of it, till to-day Saturday: and the doctors call it a fever of the typhoid character ... not typhus yet ... but we are very uneasy. You must not come on Wednesday if an infectious fever be in the house—that must be out of the question. May God bless you—I am quite heavy-hearted to-day, but never less yours,
R.B. to E.B.B.
Sunday. [Post-mark, October 13, 1845].
These are bad news, dearest—all bad, except the enduring comfort of your regard; the illness of your brother is worst ... that would stay you, and is the first proper obstacle. I shall not attempt to speak and prove my feelings,—you know what even Flush is to me through you: I wait in anxiety for the next account.
If after all you do not go to Pisa; why, we must be cheerful and wise, and take courage and hope. I cannot but see with your eyes and from your place, you know,—and will let this all be one surprizing and deplorable mistake of mere love and care ... but no such another mistake ought to be suffered, if you escape the effects of this. I will not cease to believe in a better event, till the very last, however, and it is a deep satisfaction that all has been made plain and straight up to this strange and sad interposition like a bar. You have done your part, at least—with all that forethought and counsel from friends and adequate judges of the case—so, if the bar will not move, you will consider—will you not, dearest?—where one may best encamp in the unforbidden country, and wait the spring and fine weather. Would it be advisable to go where Mr. Kenyon suggested, or elsewhere? Oh, these vain wishes ... the will here, and no means!
My life is bound up with yours—my own, first and last love. What wonder if I feared to tire you—I who, knowing you as I do, admiring what is so admirable (let me speak), loving what must needs be loved, fain to learn what you only can teach; proud of so much, happy in so much of you; I, who, for all this, neither come to admire, nor feel proud, nor be taught,—but only, only to live with you and be by you—that is love—for I know the rest, as I say. I know those qualities are in you ... but at them I could get in so many ways.... I have your books, here are my letters you give me; you would answer my questions were I in Pisa—well, and it all would amount to nothing, infinitely much as I know it is; to nothing if I could not sit by you and see you.... I can stop at that, but not before. And it seems strange to me how little ... less than little I have laid open of my feelings, the nature of them to you—I smile to think how if all this while I had been acting with the profoundest policy in intention, so as to pledge myself to nothing I could not afterwards perform with the most perfect ease and security, I should have done not much unlike what I have done—to be sure, one word includes many or all ... but I have not said ... what I will not even now say ... you will know—in God's time to which I trust.
I will answer your note now—the questions. I did go—(it may amuse you to write on)—to Moxon's. First let me tell you that when I called there the Saturday before, his brother (in his absence) informed me, replying to the question when it came naturally in turn with a round of like enquiries, that your poems continued to sell 'singularly well'—they would 'end in bringing a clear profit,' he said. I thought to catch him, and asked if they had done so ... 'Oh; not at the beginning ... it takes more time—he answered. On Thursday I saw Moxon—he spoke rather encouragingly of my own prospects. I send him a sheetful to-morrow, I believe, and we are 'out' on the 1st of next month. Tennyson, by the way, has got his pension, L200 per annum—by the other way, Moxon has bought the MSS. of Keats in the possession of Taylor the publisher, and is going to bring out a complete edition; which is pleasant to hear.
After settling with Moxon I went to Mrs. Carlyle's—who told me characteristic quaintnesses of Carlyle's father and mother over the tea she gave me. And all yesterday, you are to know, I was in a permanent mortal fright—for my uncle came in the morning to intreat me to go to Paris in the evening about some urgent business of his,—a five-minutes matter with his brother there,—and the affair being really urgent and material to his and the brother's interest, and no substitute being to be thought of, I was forced to promise to go—in case a letter, which would arrive in Town at noon, should not prove satisfactory. So I calculated times, and found I could be at Paris to-morrow, and back again, certainly by Wednesday—and so not lose you on that day—oh, the fear I had!—but I was sure then and now, that the 17th would not see you depart. But night came, and the last Dover train left, and I drew breath freely—this morning I find the letter was all right—so may it be with all worse apprehensions! What you fear, precisely that, never happens, as Napoleon observed and thereon grew bold. I had stipulated for an hour's notice, if go I must—and that was to be wholly spent in writing to you—for in quiet consternation my mother cared for my carpet bag.
And so, I shall hear from you to-morrow ... that is, you will write then, telling me all about your brother. As for what you say, with the kindest intentions, 'of fever-contagion' and keeping away on Wednesday on that account, it is indeed 'out of the question,'—for a first reason (which dispenses with any second) because I disbelieve altogether in contagion from fevers, and especially from typhus fevers—as do much better-informed men than myself—I speak quite advisedly. If there should be only that reason, therefore, you will not deprive me of the happiness of seeing you next Wednesday.
I am not well—have a cold, influenza or some unpleasant thing, but am better than yesterday—My mother is much better, I think (she and my sister are resolute non-contagionists, mind you that!)
God bless you and all you love! dearest, I am your
E.B.B. to R.B.
Saturday. [Post-mark, October 14, 1845.]
It was the merest foolishness in me to write about fevers and the rest as I did to-day, just as if it could do any good, all the wringing of hands in the world. And there is no typhus yet ... and no danger of any sort I hope and trust!—and how weak it is that habit of spreading the cloud which is in you all around you, how weak and selfish ... and unlike what you would do ... just as you are unlike Mr. Kenyon. And you are unlike him—and you were right on Thursday when you said so, and I was wrong in setting up a phrase on the other side ... only what I said came by an instinct because you seemed to be giving him all the sunshine to use and carry, which should not be after all. But you are unlike him and must be ... seeing that the producers must differ from the 'nati consumere fruges' in the intellectual as in the material. You create and he enjoys, and the work makes you pale and the pleasure makes him ruddy, and it is so of a necessity. So differs the man of genius from the man of letters—and then dear Mr. Kenyon is not even a man of letters in a full sense ... he is rather a Sybarite of letters. Do you think he ever knew what mental labour is? I fancy not. Not more than he has known what mental inspiration is! And not more than he has known what the strife of the heart is ... with all his tenderness and sensibility. He seems to me to evade pain, and where he suffers at all to do so rather negatively than positively ... if you understand what I mean by that ... rather by a want than by a blow: the secret of all being that he has a certain latitudinarianism (not indifferentism) in his life and affections, and has no capacity for concentration and intensity. Partly by temperament and partly by philosophy he contrives to keep the sunny side of the street—though never inclined to forget the blind man at the corner. Ah, dear Mr. Kenyon: he is magnanimous in toleration, and excellent in sympathy—and he has the love of beauty and the reverence of genius—but the faculty of worship he has not: he will not worship aright either your heroes or your gods ... and while you do it he only 'tolerates' the act in you. Once he said ... not to me ... but I heard of it: 'What, if genius should be nothing but scrofula?' and he doubts (I very much fear) whether the world is not governed by a throw of those very same 'loaded dice,' and no otherwise. Yet he reveres genius in the acting of it, and recognizes a God in creation—only it is but 'so far,' and not farther. At least I think not—and I have a right to think what I please of him, holding him as I do, in such true affection. One of the kindest and most indulgent of human beings has he been to me, and I am happy to be grateful to him.
Sunday.—The Duke of Palmella takes the whole vessel for the 20th and therefore if I go it must be on the 17th. Therefore (besides) as George must be on sessions to-morrow, he will settle the question with Papa to-night. In the meantime our poor Occy is not much better, though a little, and is ordered leeches on his head, and is confined to his bed and attended by physician and surgeon. It is not decided typhus, but they will not answer for its not being infectious; and although he is quite at the top of the house, two stories above me, I shall not like you to come indeed. And then there will be only room for a farewell, and I who am a coward shrink from the saying of it. No—not being able to see you to-morrow, (Mr. Kenyon is to be here to-morrow, he says) let us agree to throw away Wednesday. I will write, ... you will write perhaps—and above all things you will promise to write by the 'Star' on Monday, that the captain may give me your letter at Gibraltar. You promise? But I shall hear from you before then, and oftener than once, and you will acquiesce about Wednesday and grant at once that there can be no gain, no good, in that miserable good-bye-ing. I do not want the pain of it to remember you by—I shall remember very well without it, be sure. Still it shall be as you like—as you shall chose—and if you are disappointed about Wednesday (if it is not vain in me to talk of disappointments) why do with Wednesday as you think best ... always understanding that there's no risk of infection.
Monday.—All this I had written yesterday—and to-day it all is worse than vain. Do not be angry with me—do not think it my fault—but I do not go to Italy ... it has ended as I feared. What passed between George and Papa there is no need of telling: only the latter said that I 'might go if I pleased, but that going it would be under his heaviest displeasure.' George, in great indignation, pressed the question fully: but all was vain ... and I am left in this position ... to go, if I please, with his displeasure over me, (which after what you have said and after what Mr. Kenyon has said, and after what my own conscience and deepest moral convictions say aloud, I would unhesitatingly do at this hour!) and necessarily run the risk of exposing my sister and brother to that same displeasure ... from which risk I shrink and fall back and feel that to incur it, is impossible. Dear Mr. Kenyon has been here and we have been talking—and he sees what I see ... that I am justified in going myself, but not in bringing others into difficulty. The very kindness and goodness with which they desire me (both my sisters) 'not to think of them,' naturally makes me think more of them. And so, tell me that I am not wrong in taking up my chain again and acquiescing in this hard necessity. The bitterest 'fact' of all is, that I had believed Papa to have loved me more than he obviously does: but I never regret knowledge ... I mean I never would unknow anything ... even were it the taste of the apples by the Dead sea—and this must be accepted like the rest. In the meantime your letter comes—and if I could seem to be very unhappy after reading it ... why it would be 'all pretence' on my part, believe me. Can you care for me so much ... you? Then that is light enough to account for all the shadows, and to make them almost unregarded—the shadows of the life behind. Moreover dear Occy is somewhat better—with a pulse only at ninety: and the doctors declare that visitors may come to the house without any manner of danger. Or I should not trust to your theories—no, indeed: it was not that I expected you to be afraid, but that I was afraid—and if I am not ashamed for that, why at least I am, for being lache about Wednesday, when you thought of hurrying back from Paris only for it! You could think that!—You can care for me so much!—(I come to it again!) When I hold some words to my eyes ... such as these in this letter ... I can see nothing beyond them ... no evil, no want. There is no evil and no want. Am I wrong in the decision about Italy? Could I do otherwise? I had courage and to spare—but the question, you see, did not regard myself wholly. For the rest, the 'unforbidden country' lies within these four walls. Madeira was proposed in vain—and any part of England would be as objectionable as Italy, and not more advantageous to me than Wimpole Street. To take courage and be cheerful, as you say, is left as an alternative—and (the winter may be mild!) to fall into the hands of God rather than of man: and I shall be here for your November, remember.
And now that you are not well, will you take care? and not come on Wednesday unless you are better? and never again bring me wet flowers, which probably did all the harm on Thursday? I was afraid for you then, though I said nothing. May God bless you.
Ever yours I am—your own.
Ninety is not a high pulse ... for a fever of this kind—is it? and the heat diminishes, and his spirits are better—and we are all much easier ... have been both to-day and yesterday indeed.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Tuesday Morning, [Post-mark, October 14, 1845.]
Be sure, my own, dearest love, that this is for the best; will be seen for the best in the end. It is hard to bear now—but you have to bear it; any other person could not, and you will, I know, knowing you—will be well this one winter if you can, and then—since I am not selfish in this love to you, my own conscience tells me,—I desire, more earnestly than I ever knew what desiring was, to be yours and with you and, as far as may be in this life and world, YOU—and no hindrance to that, but one, gives me a moment's care or fear; but that one is just your little hand, as I could fancy it raised in any least interest of yours—and before that, I am, and would ever be, still silent. But now—what is to make you raise that hand? I will not speak now; not seem to take advantage of your present feelings,—we will be rational, and all-considering and weighing consequences, and foreseeing them—but first I will prove ... if that has to be done, why—but I begin speaking, and I should not, I know.
Bless you, love!
To-morrow I see you, without fail. I am rejoiced as you can imagine, at your brother's improved state.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Tuesday, [Post-mark, October 15, 1845.]
Will this note reach you at the 'fatal hour' ... or sooner? At any rate it is forced to ask you to take Thursday for Wednesday, inasmuch as Mr. Kenyon in his exceeding kindness has put off his journey just for me, he says, because he saw me depressed about the decision, and wished to come and see me again to-morrow and talk the spirits up, I suppose. It is all so kind and good, that I cannot find a voice to grumble about the obligation it brings of writing thus. And then, if you suffer from cold and influenza, it will be better for you not to come for another day, ... I think that, for comfort. Shall I hear how you are to-night, I wonder? Dear Occy 'turned the corner,' the physician said, yesterday evening, and, although a little fluctuating to-day, remains on the whole considerably better. They were just in time to keep the fever from turning to typhus.
How fast you print your book, for it is to be out on the first of November! Why it comes out suddenly like the sun. Mr. Kenyon asked me if I had seen anything you were going to print; and when I mentioned the second part of the 'Duchess' and described how your perfect rhymes, perfectly new, and all clashing together as by natural attraction, had put me at once to shame and admiration, he began to praise the first part of the same poem (which I had heard him do before, by the way) and extolled it as one of your most striking productions.
And so until Thursday! May God bless you—
and as the heart goes, ever yours.
I am glad for Tennyson, and glad for Keats. It is well to be able to be glad about something—is is it not? about something out of ourselves. And (in myself) I shall be most glad, if I have a letter to-night. Shall I?
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, October 15, 1845.]
Thanks, my dearest, for the good news—of the fever's abatement—it is good, too, that you write cheerfully, on the whole: what is it to me that you write is of me ... I shall never say that! Mr. Kenyon is all kindness, and one gets to take it as not so purely natural a thing, the showing kindness to those it concerns, and belongs to,—well! On Thursday, then,—to-morrow! Did you not get a note of mine, a hurried note, which was meant for yesterday-afternoon's delivery?
Mr. Forster came yesterday and was very profuse of graciosities: he may have, or must have meant well, so we will go on again with the friendship, as the snail repairs his battered shell.
My poems went duly to press on Monday night—there is not much correctable in them,—you make, or you spoil, one of these things; that is, I do. I have adopted all your emendations, and thrown in lines and words, just a morning's business; but one does not write plays so. You may like some of my smaller things, which stop interstices, better than what you have seen; I shall wonder to know. I am to receive a proof at the end of the week—will you help me and over-look it. ('Yes'—she says ... my thanks I do not say!—)
While writing this, the Times catches my eye (it just came in) and something from the Lancet is extracted, a long article against quackery—and, as I say, this is the first and only sentence I read—'There is scarcely a peer of the realm who is not the patron of some quack pill or potion: and the literati too, are deeply tainted. We have heard of barbarians who threw quacks and their medicines into the sea: but here in England we have Browning, a prince of poets, touching the pitch which defiles and making Paracelsus the hero of a poem. Sir E.L. Bulwer writes puffs for the water doctors in a style worthy of imitation by the scribe that does the poetical for Moses and Son. Miss Martineau makes a finessing servant girl her physician-general: and Richard Howitt and the Lady aforesaid stand God-father and mother to the contemptible mesmeric vagaries of Spencer Hall.'—Even the sweet incense to me fails of its effect if Paracelsus is to figure on a level with Priessnitz, and 'Jane'!
What weather, now at last! Think for yourself and for me—could you not go out on such days?
I am quite well now—cold, over and gone. Did I tell you my Uncle arrived from Paris on Monday, as they hoped he would—so my travel would have been to great purpose!
Bless my dearest—my own!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Wednesday. [Post-mark, October 16, 1845.]
Your letter which should have reached me in the morning of yesterday, I did not receive until nearly midnight—partly through the eccentricity of our new postman whose good pleasure it is to make use of the letter-box without knocking; and partly from the confusion in the house, of illness in different ways ... the very servants being ill, ... one of them breaking a blood-vessel—for there is no new case of fever; ... and for dear Occy, he grows better slowly day by day. And just so late last night, five letters were found in the letter-box, and mine ... yours ... among them—which accounts for my beginning to answer it only now.
What am I to say but this ... that I know what you are ... and that I know also what you are to me,—and that I should accept that knowledge as more than sufficient recompense for worse vexations than these late ones. Therefore let no more be said of them: and no more need be said, even if they were not likely to prove their own end good, as I believe with you. You may be quite sure that I shall be well this winter, if in any way it should be possible, and that I will not be beaten down, if the will can do anything. I admire how, if all had happened so but a year ago, (yet it could not have happened quite so!), I should certainly have been beaten down—and how it is different now, ... and how it is only gratitude to you, to say that it is different now. My cage is not worse but better since you brought the green groundsel to it—and to dash oneself against the wires of it will not open the door. We shall see ... and God will oversee. And in the meantime you will not talk of extravagances; and then nobody need hold up the hand—because, as I said and say, I am yours, your own—only not to hurt you. So now let us talk of the first of November and of the poems which are to come out then, and of the poems which are to come after then—and of the new avatar of 'Sordello,' for instance, which you taught me to look for. And let us both be busy and cheerful—and you will come and see me throughout the winter, ... if you do not decide rather on going abroad, which may be better ... better for your health's sake?—in which case I shall have your letters.
And here is another ... just arrived. How I thank you. Think of the Times! Still it was very well of them to recognise your principality. Oh yes—do let me see the proof—I understand too about the 'making and spoiling.'
Almost you forced me to smile by thinking it worth while to say that you are 'not selfish.' Did Sir Percival say so to Sir Gawaine across the Round Table, in those times of chivalry to which you belong by the soul? Certainly you are not selfish! May God bless you.
The fever may last, they say, for a week longer, or even a fortnight—but it decreases. Yet he is hot still, and very weak.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday. [Post-mark, October 17, 1845.]
Do tell me what you mean precisely by your 'Bells and Pomegranates' title. I have always understood it to refer to the Hebraic priestly garment—but Mr. Kenyon held against me the other day that your reference was different, though he had not the remotest idea how. And yesterday I forgot to ask, for not the first time. Tell me too why you should not in the new number satisfy, by a note somewhere, the Davuses of the world who are in the majority ('Davi sumus, non Oedipi') with a solution of this one Sphinx riddle. Is there a reason against it?
Occy continues to make progress—with a pulse at only eighty-four this morning. Are you learned in the pulse that I should talk as if you were? I, who have had my lessons? He takes scarcely anything yet but water, and his head is very hot still—but the progress is quite sure, though it may be a lingering case.
Your beautiful flowers!—none the less beautiful for waiting for water yesterday. As fresh as ever, they were; and while I was putting them into the water, I thought that your visit went on all the time. Other thoughts too I had, which made me look down blindly, quite blindly, on the little blue flowers, ... while I thought what I could not have said an hour before without breaking into tears which would have run faster then. To say now that I never can forget; that I feel myself bound to you as one human being cannot be more bound to another;—and that you are more to me at this moment than all the rest of the world; is only to say in new words that it would be a wrong against myself, to seem to risk your happiness and abuse your generosity. For me ... though you threw out words yesterday about the testimony of a 'third person,' ... it would be monstrous to assume it to be necessary to vindicate my trust of you—I trust you implicitly—and am not too proud to owe all things to you. But now let us wait and see what this winter does or undoes—while God does His part for good, as we know. I will never fail to you from any human influence whatever—that I have promised—but you must let it be different from the other sort of promise which it would be a wrong to make. May God bless you—you, whose fault it is, to be too generous. You are not like other men, as I could see from the beginning—no.