Shall I have the proof to-night, I ask myself.
And if you like to come on Monday rather than Tuesday, I do not see why there should be a 'no' to that. Judge from your own convenience. Only we must be wise in the general practice, and abstain from too frequent meetings, for fear of difficulties. I am Cassandra you know, and smell the slaughter in the bath-room. It would make no difference in fact; but in comfort, much.
Ever your own—
R.B. to E.B.B.
Saturday. [Post-mark, October 18, 1845.]
I must not go on tearing these poor sheets one after the other,—the proper phrases will not come,—so let them stay, while you care for my best interests in their best, only way, and say for me what I would say if I could—dearest,—say it, as I feel it!
I am thankful to hear of the continued improvement of your brother. So may it continue with him! Pulses I know very little about—I go by your own impressions which are evidently favourable.
I will make a note as you suggest—or, perhaps, keep it for the closing number (the next), when it will come fitly in with two or three parting words I shall have to say. The Rabbis make Bells and Pomegranates symbolical of Pleasure and Profit, the gay and the grave, the Poetry and the Prose, Singing and Sermonizing—such a mixture of effects as in the original hour (that is quarter of an hour) of confidence and creation. I meant the whole should prove at last. Well, it has succeeded beyond my most adventurous wishes in one respect—'Blessed eyes mine eyes have been, if—' if there was any sweetness in the tongue or flavour in the seeds to her. But I shall do quite other and better things, or shame on me! The proof has not yet come.... I should go, I suppose, and enquire this afternoon—and probably I will.
I weigh all the words in your permission to come on Monday ... do not think I have not seen that contingency from the first! Let it be Tuesday—no sooner! Meanwhile you are never away—never from your place here.
God bless my dearest.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Monday Morning. [In the same envelope with the preceding letter.]
This arrived on Saturday night—I just correct it in time for this our first post—will it do, the new matter? I can take it to-morrow—when I am to see you—if you are able to glance through it by then.
The 'Inscription,' how does that read?
There is strange temptation, by the way, in the space they please to leave for the presumable 'motto'—'they but remind me of mine own conception' ... but one must give no clue, of a silk's breadth, to the 'Bower,' yet, One day!
—Which God send you, dearest, and your
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, October 22, 1845.]
Even at the risk of teazing you a little I must say a few words, that there may be no misunderstanding between us—and this, before I sleep to-night. To-day and before to-day you surprised me by your manner of receiving my remark about your visits, for I believed I had sufficiently made clear to you long ago how certain questions were ordered in this house and how no exception was to be expected for my sake or even for yours. Surely I told you this quite plainly long ago. I only meant to say in my last letter, in the same track ... (fearing in the case of your wishing to come oftener that you might think it unkind in me not to seem to wish the same) ... that if you came too often and it was observed, difficulties and vexations would follow as a matter of course, and it would be wise therefore to run no risk. That was the head and front of what I meant to say. The weekly one visit is a thing established and may go on as long as you please—and there is no objection to your coming twice a week now and then ... if now and then merely ... if there is no habit ... do you understand? I may be prudent in an extreme perhaps—and certainly everybody in the house is not equally prudent!—but I did shrink from running any risk with that calm and comfort of the winter as it seemed to come on. And was it more than I said about the cloak? was there any newness in it? anything to startle you? Still I do perfectly see that whether new or old, what it involves may well be unpleasant to you—and that (however old) it may be apt to recur to your mind with a new increasing unpleasantness. We have both been carried too far perhaps, by late events and impulses—but it is never too late to come back to a right place, and I for my part come back to mine, and entreat you my dearest friend, first, not to answer this, and next, to weigh and consider thoroughly 'that particular contingency' which (I tell you plainly, I who know) the tongue of men and of angels would not modify so as to render less full of vexations to you. Let Pisa prove the excellent hardness of some marbles! Judge. From motives of self-respect, you may well walk an opposite way ... you.... When I told you once ... or twice ... that 'no human influence should' &c. &c., ... I spoke for myself, quite over-looking you—and now that I turn and see you, I am surprised that I did not see you before ... there. I ask you therefore to consider 'that contingency' well—not forgetting the other obvious evils, which the late decision about Pisa has aggravated beyond calculation ... for as the smoke rolls off we see the harm done by the fire. And so, and now ... is it not advisable for you to go abroad at once ... as you always intended, you know ... now that your book is through the press? What if you go next week? I leave it to you. In any case I entreat you not to answer this—neither let your thoughts be too hard on me for what you may call perhaps vacillation—only that I stand excused (I do not say justified) before my own moral sense. May God bless you. If you go, I shall wait to see you till your return, and have letters in the meantime. I write all this as fast as I can to have it over. What I ask of you is, to consider alone and decide advisedly ... for both our sakes. If it should be your choice not to make an end now, ... why I shall understand that by your not going ... or you may say 'no' in a word ... for I require no 'protestations' indeed—and you may trust to me ... it shall be as you choose. You will consider my happiness most by considering your own ... and that is my last word.
Wednesday morning.—I did not say half I thought about the poems yesterday—and their various power and beauty will be striking and surprising to your most accustomed readers. 'St. Praxed'—'Pictor Ignotus'—'The Ride'—'The Duchess'!—Of the new poems I like supremely the first and last ... that 'Lost Leader' which strikes so broadly and deep ... which nobody can ever forget—and which is worth all the journalizing and pamphleteering in the world!—and then, the last 'Thought' which is quite to be grudged to that place of fragments ... those grand sea-sights in the long lines. Should not these fragments be severed otherwise than by numbers? The last stanza but one of the 'Lost Mistress' seemed obscure to me. Is it so really? The end you have put to 'England in Italy' gives unity to the whole ... just what the poem wanted. Also you have given some nobler lines to the middle than met me there before. 'The Duchess' appears to me more than ever a new-minted golden coin—the rhythm of it answering to your own description, 'Speech half asleep, or song half awake?' You have right of trove to these novel effects of rhythm. Now if people do not cry out about these poems, what are we to think of the world?
May God bless you always—send me the next proof in any case.
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, October 23, 1845.]
But I must answer you, and be forgiven, too, dearest. I was (to begin at the beginning) surely not 'startled' ... only properly aware of the deep blessing I have been enjoying this while, and not disposed to take its continuance as pure matter of course, and so treat with indifference the first shadow of a threatening intimation from without, the first hint of a possible abstraction from the quarter to which so many hopes and fears of mine have gone of late. In this case, knowing you, I was sure that if any imaginable form of displeasure could touch you without reaching me, I should not hear of it too soon—so I spoke—so you have spoken—and so now you get 'excused'? No—wondered at, with all my faculty of wonder for the strange exalting way you will persist to think of me; now, once for all, I will not pass for what I make no least pretence to. I quite understand the grace of your imaginary self-denial, and fidelity to a given word, and noble constancy; but it all happens to be none of mine, none in the least. I love you because I love you; I see you 'once a week' because I cannot see you all day long; I think of you all day long, because I most certainly could not think of you once an hour less, if I tried, or went to Pisa, or 'abroad' (in every sense) in order to 'be happy' ... a kind of adventure which you seem to suppose you have in some way interfered with. Do, for this once, think, and never after, on the impossibility of your ever (you know I must talk your own language, so I shall say—) hindering any scheme of mine, stopping any supposable advancement of mine. Do you really think that before I found you, I was going about the world seeking whom I might devour, that is, be devoured by, in the shape of a wife ... do you suppose I ever dreamed of marrying? What would it mean for me, with my life I am hardened in—considering the rational chances; how the land is used to furnish its contingent of Shakespeare's women: or by 'success,' 'happiness' &c. &c. you never never can be seeing for a moment with the world's eyes and meaning 'getting rich' and all that? Yet, put that away, and what do you meet at every turn, if you are hunting about in the dusk to catch my good, but yourself?
I know who has got it, caught it, and means to keep it on his heart—the person most concerned—I, dearest, who cannot play the disinterested part of bidding you forget your 'protestation' ... what should I have to hold by, come what will, through years, through this life, if God shall so determine, if I were not sure, sure that the first moment when you can suffer me with you 'in that relation,' you will remember and act accordingly. I will, as you know, conform my life to any imaginable rule which shall render it possible for your life to move with it and possess it, all the little it is worth.
For your friends ... whatever can be 'got over,' whatever opposition may be rational, will be easily removed, I suppose. You know when I spoke lately about the 'selfishness' I dared believe I was free from, I hardly meant the low faults of ... I shall say, a different organization to mine—which has vices in plenty, but not those. Besides half a dozen scratches with a pen make one stand up an apparent angel of light, from the lawyer's parchment; and Doctors' Commons is one bland smile of applause. The selfishness I deprecate is one which a good many women, and men too, call 'real passion'—under the influence of which, I ought to say 'be mine, what ever happens to you'—but I know better, and you know best—and you know me, for all this letter, which is no doubt in me, I feel, but dear entire goodness and affection, of which God knows whether I am proud or not—and now you will let me be, will not you. Let me have my way, live my life, love my love.
When I am, praying God to bless her ever,
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, October 24, 1845.]
'And be forgiven' ... yes! and be thanked besides—if I knew how to thank you worthily and as I feel ... only that I do not know it, and cannot say it. And it was not indeed 'doubt' of you—oh no—that made me write as I did write; it was rather because I felt you to be surely noblest, ... and therefore fitly dearest, ... that it seemed to me detestable and intolerable to leave you on this road where the mud must splash up against you, and never cry 'gare.' Yet I was quite enough unhappy yesterday, and before yesterday ... I will confess to-day, ... to be too gratefully glad to 'let you be' ... to 'let you have your way'—you who overcome always! Always, but where you tell me not to think of you so and so!—as if I could help thinking of you so, and as if I should not take the liberty of persisting to think of you just so. 'Let me be'—Let me have my way.' I am unworthy of you perhaps in everything except one thing—and that, you cannot guess. May God bless you—
Ever I am yours.
The proof does not come!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday. [Post-mark, October 25, 1845.]
I wrote briefly yesterday not to make my letter longer by keeping it; and a few last words which belong to it by right, must follow after it ... must—for I want to say that you need not indeed talk to me about squares being not round, and of you being not 'selfish'! You know it is foolish to talk such superfluities, and not a compliment.
I won't say to my knowledge of you and faith in you ... but to my understanding generally. Why should you say to me at all ... much less for this third or fourth time ... 'I am not selfish?' to me who never ... when I have been deepest asleep and dreaming, ... never dreamed of attributing to you any form of such a fault? Promise not to say so again—now promise. Think how it must sound to my ears, when really and truly I have sometimes felt jealous of myself ... of my own infirmities, ... and thought that you cared for me only because your chivalry touched them with a silver sound—and that, without them, you would pass by on the other side:—why twenty times I have thought that and been vexed—ungrateful vexation! In exchange for which too frank confession, I will ask for another silent promise ... a silent promise—no, but first I will say another thing.
First I will say that you are not to fancy any the least danger of my falling under displeasure through your visits—there is no sort of risk of it for the present—and if I ran the risk of making you uncomfortable about that, I did foolishly, and what I meant to do was different. I wish you also to understand that even if you came here every day, my brothers and sisters would simply care to know if I liked it, and then be glad if I was glad:—the caution referred to one person alone. In relation to whom, however, there will be no 'getting over'—you might as well think to sweep off a third of the stars of Heaven with the motion of your eyelashes—this, for matter of fact and certainty—and this, as I said before, the keeping of a general rule and from no disrespect towards individuals: a great peculiarity in the individual of course. But ... though I have been a submissive daughter, and this from no effort, but for love's sake ... because I loved him tenderly (and love him), ... and hoped that he loved me back again even if the proofs came untenderly sometimes—yet I have reserved for myself always that right over my own affections which is the most strictly personal of all things, and which involves principles and consequences of infinite importance and scope—even though I never thought (except perhaps when the door of life was just about to open ... before it opened) never thought it probable or possible that I should have occasion for the exercise; from without and from within at once. I have too much need to look up. For friends, I can look any way ... round, and down even—the merest thread of a sympathy will draw me sometimes—or even the least look of kind eyes over a dyspathy—'Cela se peut facilement.' But for another relation—it was all different—and rightly so—and so very different—'Cela ne se peut nullement'—as in Malherbe.
And now we must agree to 'let all this be,', and set ourselves to get as much good and enjoyment from the coming winter (better spent at Pisa!) as we can—and I begin my joy by being glad that you are not going since I am not going, and by being proud of these new green leaves in your bay which came out with the new number. And then will come the tragedies—and then, ... what beside? We shall have a happy winter after all ... I shall at least; and if Pisa had been better, London might be worse: and for me to grow pretentious and fastidious and critical about various sorts of purple ... I, who have been used to the brun fonce of Mme. de Sevigne, (fonce and enfonce ...)—would be too absurd. But why does not the proof come all this time? I have kept this letter to go back with it.
I had a proposition from the New York booksellers about six weeks ago (the booksellers who printed the poems) to let them re-print those prose papers of mine in the Athenaeum, with additional matter on American literature, in a volume by itself—to be published at the same time both in America and England by Wiley and Putnam in Waterloo Place, and meaning to offer liberal terms, they said. Now what shall I do? Those papers are not fit for separate publication, and I am not inclined to the responsibility of them; and in any case, they must give as much trouble as if they were re-written (trouble and not poetry!), before I could consent to such a thing. Well!—and if I do not ... these people are just as likely to print them without leave ... and so without correction. What do you advise? What shall I do? All this time they think me sublimely indifferent, they who pressed for an answer by return of packet—and now it is past six ... eight weeks; and I must say something.
Am I not 'femme qui parle' to-day? And let me talk on ever so, the proof won't come. May God bless you—and me as I am
And the silent promise I would have you make is this—that if ever you should leave me, it shall be (though you are not 'selfish') for your sake—and not for mine: for your good, and not for mine. I ask it—not because I am disinterested; but because one class of motives would be valid, and the other void—simply for that reason.
Then the femme qui parle (looking back over the parlance) did not mean to say on the first page of this letter that she was ever for a moment vexed in her pride that she should owe anything to her adversities. It was only because adversities are accidents and not essentials. If it had been prosperities, it would have been the same thing—no, not the same thing!—but far worse.
Occy is up to-day and doing well.
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, October 27, 1845.]
How does one make 'silent promises' ... or, rather, how does the maker of them communicate that fact to whomsoever it may concern? I know, there have been many, very many unutterable vows and promises made,—that is, thought down upon—the white slip at the top of my notes,—such as of this note; and not trusted to the pen, that always comes in for the shame,—but given up, and replaced by the poor forms to which a pen is equal; and a glad minute I should account that, in which you collected and accepted those 'promises'—because they would not be all so unworthy of me—much less you! I would receive, in virtue of them, the ascription of whatever worthiness is supposed to lie in deep, truest love, and gratitude—
Read my silent answer there too!
All your letter is one comfort: we will be happy this winter, and after, do not fear. I am most happy, to begin, that your brother is so much better: he must be weak and susceptible of cold, remember.
It was on my lip, I do think, last visit, or the last but one, to beg you to detach those papers from the Athenaeum's gachis. Certainly this opportunity is most favourable, for every reason: you cannot hesitate, surely. At present those papers are lost—lost for practical purposes. Do pray reply without fail to the proposers; no, no harm of these really fine fellows, who could do harm (by printing incorrect copies, and perhaps eking out the column by suppositious matter ... ex-gr. they strengthened and lengthened a book of Dickens', in Paris, by adding quant. suff. of Thackeray's 'Yellowplush Papers' ... as I discovered by a Parisian somebody praising the latter to me as Dickens' best work!)—and who do really a good straightforward un-American thing. You will encourage 'the day of small things'—though this is not small, nor likely to have small results. I shall be impatient to hear that you have decided. I like the progress of these Americans in taste, their amazing leaps, like grasshoppers up to the sun—from ... what is the 'from,' what depth, do you remember, say, ten or twelve years back?—to—Carlyle, and Tennyson, and you! So children leave off Jack of Cornwall and go on just to Homer.
I can't conceive why my proof does not come—I must go to-morrow and see. In the other, I have corrected all the points you noted, to their evident improvement. Yesterday I took out 'Luria' and read it through—the skeleton—I shall hope to finish it soon now. It is for a purely imaginary stage,—very simple and straightforward. Would you ... no, Act by Act, as I was about to propose that you should read it; that process would affect the oneness I most wish to preserve.
On Tuesday—at last, I am with you. Till when be with me ever, dearest—God bless you ever—
R.B. to E.B.B.
Tuesday 9 a.m. [In the same envelope with the preceding letter.]
I got this on coming home last night—have just run through it this morning, and send it that time may not be lost. Faults, faults; but I don't know how I have got tired of this. The Tragedies will be better, at least the second—
At 3 this day! Bless you—
E.B.B. to R.B.
I write in haste, not to lose time about the proof. You will see on the papers here my doubtfulnesses such as they are—but silence swallows up the admirations ... and there is no time. 'Theocrite' overtakes that wish of mine which ran on so fast—and the 'Duchess' grows and grows the more I look—and 'Saul' is noble and must have his full royalty some day. Would it not be well, by the way, to print it in the meanwhile as a fragment confessed ... sowing asterisks at the end. Because as a poem of yours it stands there and wants unity, and people can't be expected to understand the difference between incompleteness and defect, unless you make a sign. For the new poems—they are full of beauty. You throw largesses out on all sides without counting the coins: how beautiful that 'Night and Morning' ... and the 'Earth's Immortalities' ... and the 'Song' too. And for your 'Glove,' all women should be grateful,—and Ronsard, honoured, in this fresh shower of music on his old grave ... though the chivalry of the interpretation, as well as much beside, is so plainly yours, ... could only be yours perhaps. And even you are forced to let in a third person ... close to the doorway ... before you can do any good. What a noble lion you give us too, with the 'flash on his forehead,' and 'leagues in the desert already' as we look on him! And then, with what a 'curious felicity' you turn the subject 'glove' to another use and strike De Lorge's blow back on him with it, in the last paragraph of your story! And the versification! And the lady's speech—(to return!) so calm, and proud—yet a little bitter!
Am I not to thank you for all the pleasure and pride in these poems? while you stand by and try to talk them down, perhaps.
Tell me how your mother is—tell me how you are ... you who never were to be told twice about walking. Gone the way of all promises, is that promise?
R.B. to E.B.B.
Wednesday Night. [Post-mark, October 30, 1845.]
Like your kindness—too, far too generous kindness,—all this trouble and correcting,—and it is my proper office now, by this time, to sit still and receive, by right Human (as opposed to Divine). When you see the pamphlet's self, you will find your own doing,—but where will you find the proofs of the best of all helping and counselling and inciting, unless in new works which shall justify the unsatisfaction, if I may not say shame, at these, these written before your time, my best love?
Are you doing well to-day? For I feel well, have walked some eight or nine miles—and my mother is very much better ... is singularly better. You know whether you rejoiced me or no by that information about the exercise you had taken yesterday. Think what telling one that you grow stronger would mean!
'Vexatious' with you! Ah, prudence is all very right, and one ought, no doubt, to say, 'of course, we shall not expect a life exempt from the usual proportion of &c. &c.—' but truth is still more right, and includes the highest prudence besides, and I do believe that we shall be happy; that is, that you will be happy: you see I dare confidently expect the end to it all ... so it has always been with me in my life of wonders—absolute wonders, with God's hand over all.... And this last and best of all would never have begun so, and gone on so, to break off abruptly even here, in this world, for the little time.
So try, try, dearest, every method, take every measure of hastening such a consummation. Why, we shall see Italy together! I could, would, will shut myself in four walls of a room with you and never leave you and be most of all then 'a lord of infinite space'—but, to travel with you to Italy, or Greece. Very vain, I know that, all such day dreaming! And ungrateful, too; with the real sufficing happiness here of being, and knowing that you know me to be, and suffer me to tell you I am yours, ever your own.
God bless you, my dearest—
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, November 1, 1845.]
All to-day, Friday, Miss Mitford has been here! She came at two and went away at seven—and I feel as if I had been making a five-hour speech on the corn laws in Harriet Martineau's parliament; ... so tired I am. Not that dear Miss Mitford did not talk both for me and herself, ... for that, of course she did. But I was forced to answer once every ten minutes at least—and Flush, my usual companion, does not exact so much—and so I am tired and come to rest myself on this paper. Your name was not once spoken to-day; a little from my good fencing: when I saw you at the end of an alley of associations, I pushed the conversation up the next—because I was afraid of questions such as every moment I expected, with a pair of woman's eyes behind them; and those are worse than Mr. Kenyon's, when he puts on his spectacles. So your name was not once spoken—not thought of, I do not say—perhaps when I once lost her at Chevy Chase and found her suddenly with Isidore the queen's hairdresser, my thoughts might have wandered off to you and your unanswered letter while she passed gradually from that to this—I am not sure of the contrary. And Isidore, they say, reads Beranger, and is supposed to be the most literary person at court—and wasn't at Chevy Chase one must needs think.
One must needs write nonsense rather—for I have written it there. The sense and the truth is, that your letter went to the bottom of my heart, and that my thoughts have turned round it ever since and through all the talking to-day. Yes indeed, dreams! But what is not dreaming is this and this—this reading of these words—this proof of this regard—all this that you are to me in fact, and which you cannot guess the full meaning of, dramatic poet as you are ... cannot ... since you do not know what my life meant before you touched it, ... and my angel at the gate of the prison! My wonder is greater than your wonders, ... I who sate here alone but yesterday, so weary of my own being that to take interest in my very poems I had to lift them up by an effort and separate them from myself and cast them out from me into the sunshine where I was not—feeling nothing of the light which fell on them even—making indeed a sort of pleasure and interest about that factitious personality associated with them ... but knowing it to be all far on the outside of me ... myself ... not seeming to touch it with the end of my finger ... and receiving it as a mockery and a bitterness when people persisted in confounding one with another. Morbid it was if you like it—perhaps very morbid—but all these heaps of letters which go into the fire one after the other, and which, because I am a woman and have written verses, it seems so amusing to the letter-writers of your sex to write and see 'what will come of it,' ... some, from kind good motives I know, ... well, ... how could it all make for me even such a narrow strip of sunshine as Flush finds on the floor sometimes, and lays his nose along, with both ears out in the shadow? It was not for me ... me ... in any way: it was not within my reach—I did not seem to touch it as I said. Flush came nearer, and I was grateful to him ... yes, grateful ... for not being tired! I have felt grateful and flattered ... yes flattered ... when he has chosen rather to stay with me all day than go down-stairs. Grateful too, with reason, I have been and am to my own family for not letting me see that I was a burthen. These are facts. And now how am I to feel when you tell me what you have told me—and what you 'could would and will' do, and shall not do?... but when you tell me?
Only remember that such words make you freer and freer—if you can be freer than free—just as every one makes me happier and richer—too rich by you, to claim any debt. May God bless you always. When I wrote that letter to let you come the first time, do you know, the tears ran down my cheeks.... I could not tell why: partly it might be mere nervousness. And then, I was vexed with you for wishing to come as other people did, and vexed with myself for not being able to refuse you as I did them.
When does the book come out? Not on the first, I begin to be glad.
I trust that you go on to take exercise—and that your mother is still better. Occy's worst symptom now is too great an appetite ... a monster-appetite indeed.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Tuesday. [Post-mark, November 4, 1845.]
Only a word to tell you Moxon promises the books for to-morrow, Wednesday—so towards evening yours will reach you—'parve liber, sine me ibis' ... would I were by you, then and ever! You see, and know, and understand why I can neither talk to you, nor write to you now, as we are now;—from the beginning, the personal interest absorbed every other, greater or smaller—but as one cannot well,—or should not,—sit quite silently, the words go on, about Horne, or what chances—while you are in my thought.
But when I have you ... so it seems ... in my very heart; when you are entirely with me—oh, the day—then it will all go better, talk and writing too.
Love me, my own love; not as I love you—not for—but I cannot write that. Nor do I ask anything, with all your gifts here, except for the luxury of asking. Withdraw nothing, then, dearest, from your
E.B.B. to R.B.
Wednesday. [Post-mark, November 6, 1845.]
I had your note last night, and am waiting for the book to-day; a true living breathing book, let the writer say of it what he will. Also when it comes it won't certainly come 'sine te.' Which is my comfort.
And now—not to make any more fuss about a matter of simple restitution—may I have my letter back?... I mean the letter which if you did not destroy ... did not punish for its sins long and long ago ... belongs to me—which, if destroyed, I must lose for my sins, ... but, if undestroyed, which I may have back; may I not? is it not my own? must I not?—that letter I was made to return and now turn to ask for again in further expiation. Now do I ask humbly enough? And send it at once, if undestroyed—do not wait till Saturday.
I have considered about Mr. Kenyon and it seems best, in the event of a question or of a remark equivalent to a question, to confess to the visits 'generally once a week' ... because he may hear, one, two, three different ways, ... not to say the other reasons and Chaucer's charge against 'doubleness.' I fear ... I fear that he (not Chaucer) will wonder a little—and he has looked at me with scanning spectacles already and talked of its being a mystery to him how you made your way here; and I, who though I can bespeak self-command, have no sort of presence of mind (not so much as one would use to play at Jack straws) did not help the case at all. Well—it cannot be helped. Did I ever tell you what he said of you once—'that you deserved to be a poet—being one in your heart and life:' he said that of you to me, and I thought it a noble encomium and deserving its application.
For the rest ... yes: you know I do—God knows I do. Whatever I can feel is for you—and perhaps it is not less, for not being simmered away in too much sunshine as with women accounted happier. I am happy besides now—happy enough to die now.
May God bless you, dear—dearest—
Ever I am yours—
The book does not come—so I shall not wait. Mr. Kenyon came instead, and comes again on Friday he says, and Saturday seems to be clear still.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Just arrived!—(mind, the silent writing overflows the page, and laughs at the black words for Mr. Kenyon to read!)—But your note arrived earlier—more of that, when I write after this dreadful dispatching-business that falls on me—friend A. and B. and C. must get their copy, and word of regard, all by next post!—
Could you think that that untoward letter lived one moment after it returned to me? I burned it and cried 'serve it right'! Poor letter,—yet I should have been vexed and offended then to be told I could love you better than I did already. 'Live and learn!' Live and love you—dearest, as loves you
You will write to reassure me about Saturday, if not for other reasons. See your corrections ... and understand that in one or two instances in which they would seem not to be adopted, they are so, by some modification of the previous, or following line ... as in one of the Sorrento lines ... about a 'turret'—see! (Can you give me Horne's address—I would send then.)
E.B.B. to R.B.
Thursday Evening. [Post-mark, November 7, 1845.]
I see and know; read and mark; and only hope there is no harm done by my meddling; and lose the sense of it all in the sense of beauty and power everywhere, which nobody could kill, if they took to meddling more even. And now, what will people say to this and this and this—or 'O seclum insipiens et inficetum!' or rather, O ungrateful right hand which does not thank you first! I do thank you. I have been reading everything with new delight; and at intervals remembering in inglorious complacency (for which you must try to forgive me) that Mr. Forster is no longer anything like an enemy. And yet (just see what contradiction!) the British Quarterly has been abusing me so at large, that I can only take it to be the achievement of a very particular friend indeed,—of someone who positively never reviewed before and tries his new sword on me out of pure friendship. Only I suppose it is not the general rule, and that there are friends 'with a difference.' Not that you are to fancy me pained—oh no!—merely surprised. I was prepared for anything almost from the quarter in question, but scarcely for being hung 'to the crows' so publicly ... though within the bounds of legitimate criticisms, mind. But oh—the creatures of your sex are not always magnanimous—that is true. And to put you between me and all ... the thought of you ... in a great eclipse of the world ... that is happy ... only, too happy for such as I am; as my own heart warns me hour by hour.
'Serve me right'—I do not dare to complain. I wished for the safety of that letter so much that I finished by persuading myself of the probability of it: but 'serve me right' quite clearly. And yet—but no more 'and yets' about it. 'And yets' fray the silk.
I see how the 'turret' stands in the new reading, triumphing over the 'tower,' and unexceptionable in every respect. Also I do hold that nobody with an ordinary understanding has the slightest pretence for attaching a charge of obscurity to this new number—there are lights enough for the critics to scan one another's dull blank of visage by. One verse indeed in that expressive lyric of the 'Lost Mistress,' does still seem questionable to me, though you have changed a word since I saw it; and still I fancy that I rather leap at the meaning than reach it—but it is my own fault probably ... I am not sure. With that one exception I am quite sure that people who shall complain of darkness are blind ... I mean, that the construction is clear and unembarrassed everywhere. Subtleties of thought which are not directly apprehensible by minds of a common range, are here as elsewhere in your writings—but if to utter things 'hard to understand' from that cause be an offence, why we may begin with 'our beloved brother Paul,' you know, and go down through all the geniuses of the world, and bid them put away their inspirations. You must descend to the level of critic A or B, that he may look into your face.... Ah well!—'Let them rave.' You will live when all those are under the willows. In the meantime there is something better, as you said, even than your poetry—as the giver is better than the gift, and the maker than the creature, and you than yours. Yes—you than yours.... (I did not mean it so when I wrote it first ... but I accept the 'bona verba,' and use the phrase for the end of my letter) ... as you are better than yours; even when so much yours as your own
May I see the first act first? Let me!—And you walk?
Mr. Horne's address is Hill Side, Fitzroy Park, Highgate.
There is no reason against Saturday so far. Mr. Kenyon comes to-morrow, Friday, and therefore—!—and if Saturday should become impracticable, I will write again.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Sunday Evening. [Post-mark, November 10, 1845.]
When I come back from seeing you, and think over it all, there never is a least word of yours I could not occupy myself with, and wish to return to you with some ... not to say, all ... the thoughts and fancies it is sure to call out of me. There is nothing in you that does not draw out all of me. You possess me, dearest ... and there is no help for the expressing it all, no voice nor hand, but these of mine which shrink and turn away from the attempt. So you must go on, patiently, knowing me more and more, and your entire power on me, and I will console myself, to the full extent, with your knowledge—penetration, intuition—somehow I must believe you can get to what is here, in me, without the pretence of my telling or writing it. But, because I give up the great achievements, there is no reason I should not secure any occasion of making clear one of the less important points that arise in our intercourse ... if I fancy I can do it with the least success. For instance, it is on my mind to explain what I meant yesterday by trusting that the entire happiness I feel in the letters, and the help in the criticising might not be hurt by the surmise, even, that those labours to which you were born, might be suspended, in any degree, through such generosity to me. Dearest, I believed in your glorious genius and knew it for a true star from the moment I saw it; long before I had the blessing of knowing it was MY star, with my fortune and futurity in it. And, when I draw back from myself, and look better and more clearly, then I do feel, with you, that the writing a few letters more or less, reading many or few rhymes of any other person, would not interfere in any material degree with that power of yours—that you might easily make one so happy and yet go on writing 'Geraldines' and 'Berthas'—but—how can I, dearest, leave my heart's treasures long, even to look at your genius?... and when I come back and find all safe, find the comfort of you, the traces of you ... will it do—tell me—to trust all that as a light effort, an easy matter?
Yet, if you can lift me with one hand, while the other suffices to crown you—there is queenliness in that, too!
Well, I have spoken. As I told you, your turn comes now. How have you determined respecting the American Edition? You tell me nothing of yourself! It is all ME you help, me you do good to ... and I take it all! Now see, if this goes on! I have not had every love-luxury, I now find out ... where is the proper, rationally to-be-expected—'lovers' quarrel'? Here, as you will find! 'Irae; amantium'.... I am no more 'at a loss with my Naso,' than Peter Ronsard. Ah, but then they are to be reintegratio amoris—and to get back into a thing, one must needs get for a moment first out of it ... trust me, no! And now, the natural inference from all this? The consistent inference ... the 'self-denying ordinance'? Why—do you doubt? even this,—you must just put aside the Romance, and tell the Americans to wait, and make my heart start up when the letter is laid to it; the letter full of your news, telling me you are well and walking, and working for my sake towards the time—informing me, moreover, if Thursday or Friday is to be my day—.
May God bless you, my own love.
I will certainly bring you an Act of the Play ... for this serpent's reason, in addition to the others ... that—No, I will tell you that—I can tell you now more than even lately!
Ever your own
E.B.B. to R.B.
Monday. [Post-mark, November 11, 1845.]
If it were possible that you could do me harm in the way of work, (but it isn't) it would be possible, not through writing letters and reading manuscripts, but because of a reason to be drawn from your own great line
What man is strong until he stands alone?
What man ... what woman? For have I not felt twenty times the desolate advantage of being insulated here and of not minding anybody when I made my poems?—of living a little like a disembodied spirit, and caring less for suppositious criticism than for the black fly buzzing in the pane?—That made me what dear Mr. Kenyon calls 'insolent,'—untimid, and unconventional in my degree; and not so much by strength, you see, as by separation. You touch your greater ends by mere strength; breaking with your own hands the hampering threads which, in your position would have hampered me.
Still ... when all is changed for me now, and different, it is not possible, ... for all the changing, nor for all your line and my speculation, ... that I should not be better and stronger for being within your influences and sympathies, in this way of writing as in other ways. We shall see—you will see. Yet I have been idle lately I confess; leaning half out of some turret-window of the castle of Indolence and watching the new sunrise—as why not?—Do I mean to be idle always?—no!—and am I not an industrious worker on the average of days? Indeed yes! Also I have been less idle than you think perhaps, even this last year, though the results seem so like trifling: and I shall set about the prose papers for the New York people, and the something rather better besides we may hope ... may I not hope, if you wish it? Only there is no 'crown' for me, be sure, except what grows from this letter and such letters ... this sense of being anything to one! there is no room for another crown. Have I a great head like Goethe's that there should be room? and mine is bent down already by the unused weight—and as to bearing it, ... 'Will it do,—tell me; to treat that as a light effort, an easy matter?'
Now let me remember to tell you that the line of yours I have just quoted, and which has been present with me since you wrote it, Mr. Chorley has quoted too in his new novel of 'Pomfret.' You were right in your identifying of servant and waistcoat—and Wilson waited only till you had gone on Saturday, to give me a parcel and note; the novel itself in fact, which Mr. Chorley had the kindness to send me 'some days or weeks,' said the note, 'previous to the publication.' Very goodnatured of him certainly: and the book seems to me his best work in point of sustainment and vigour, and I am in process of being interested in it. Not that he is a maker, even for this prose. A feeler ... an observer ... a thinker even, in a certain sphere—but a maker ... no, as it seems to me—and if I were he, I would rather herd with the essayists than the novelists where he is too good to take inferior rank and not strong enough to 'go up higher.' Only it would be more right in me to be grateful than to talk so—now wouldn't it?
And here is Mr. Kenyon's letter back again—a kind good letter ... a letter I have liked to read (so it was kind and good in you to let me!)—and he was with me to-day and praising the 'Ride to Ghent,' and praising the 'Duchess,' and praising you altogether as I liked to hear him. The Ghent-ride was 'very fine'—and the
Into the midnight they galloped abreast
drew us out into the night as witnesses. And then, the 'Duchess' ... the conception of it was noble, and the vehicle, rhythm and all, most characteristic and individual ... though some of the rhymes ... oh, some of the rhymes did not find grace in his ears—but the incantation-scene, 'just trenching on the supernatural,' that was taken to be 'wonderful,' ... 'showing extraordinary power, ... as indeed other things did ... works of a highly original writer and of such various faculty!'—Am I not tired of writing your praises as he said then? So I shall tell you, instead of any more, that I went down to the drawing-room yesterday (because it was warm enough) by an act of supererogatory virtue for which you may praise me in turn. What weather it is! and how the year seems to have forgotten itself into April.
But after all, how have I answered your letter? and how are such letters to be answered? Do we answer the sun when he shines? May God bless you ... it is my answer—with one word besides ... that I am wholly and ever your
On Thursday as far as I know yet—and you shall hear if there should be an obstacle. Will you walk? If you will not, you know, you must be forgetting me a little. Will you remember me too in the act of the play?—but above all things in taking the right exercise, and in not overworking the head. And this for no serpent's reason.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Two letters in one—Wednesday. [Post-mark, November 15, 1845.]
I shall see you to-morrow and yet am writing what you will have to read perhaps. When you spoke of 'stars' and 'geniuses' in that letter, I did not seem to hear; I was listening to those words of the letter which were of a better silver in the sound than even your praise could be; and now that at last I come to hear them in their extravagance (oh such pure extravagance about 'glorious geniuses'—) I can't help telling you they were heard last, and deserved it.
Shall I tell you besides?—The first moment in which I seemed to admit to myself in a flash of lightning the possibility of your affection for me being more than dream-work ... the first moment was that when you intimated (as you have done since repeatedly) that you cared for me not for a reason, but because you cared for me. Now such a 'parceque' which reasonable people would take to be irrational, was just the only one fitted to the uses of my understanding on the particular question we were upon ... just the 'woman's reason' suitable to the woman ...; for I could understand that it might be as you said, and, if so, that it was altogether unanswerable ... do you see? If a fact includes its own cause ... why there it stands for ever—one of 'earth's immortalities'—as long as it includes it.
And when unreasonableness stands for a reason, it is a promising state of things, we may both admit, and proves what it would be as well not too curiously to enquire into. But then ... to look at it in a brighter aspect, ... I do remember how, years ago, when talking the foolishnesses which women will talk when they are by themselves, and not forced to be sensible, ... one of my friends thought it 'safest to begin with a little aversion,' and another, wisest to begin with a great deal of esteem, and how the best attachments were produced so and so, ... I took it into my head to say that the best was where there was no cause at all for it, and the more wholly unreasonable, the better still; that the motive should lie in the feeling itself and not in the object of it—and that the affection which could (if it could) throw itself out on an idiot with a goitre would be more admirable than Abelard's. Whereupon everybody laughed, and someone thought it affected of me and no true opinion, and others said plainly that it was immoral, and somebody else hoped, in a sarcasm, that I meant to act out my theory for the advantage of the world. To which I replied quite gravely that I had not virtue enough—and so, people laughed as it is fair to laugh when other people are esteemed to talk nonsense. And all this came back to me in the south wind of your 'parceque,' and I tell it as it came ... now.
Which proves, if it proves anything, ... while I have every sort of natural pleasure in your praises and like you to like my poetry just as I should, and perhaps more than I should; yet why it is all behind ... and in its place—and why I have a tendency moreover to sift and measure any praise of yours and to separate it from the superfluities, far more than with any other person's praise in the world.
Friday evening.—Shall I send this letter or not? I have been 'tra 'l si e 'l no,' and writing a new beginning on a new sheet even—but after all you ought to hear the remote echo of your last letter ... far out among the hills, ... as well as the immediate reverberation, and so I will send it,—and what I send is not to be answered, remember!
I read Luria's first act twice through before I slept last night, and feel just as a bullet might feel, not because of the lead of it but because shot into the air and suddenly arrested and suspended. It ('Luria') is all life, and we know (that is, the reader knows) that there must be results here and here. How fine that sight of Luria is upon the lynx hides—how you see the Moor in him just in the glimpse you have by the eyes of another—and that laugh when the horse drops the forage, what wonderful truth and character you have in that!—And then, when he is in the scene—: 'Golden-hearted Luria' you called him once to me, and his heart shines already ... wide open to the morning sun. The construction seems to me very clear everywhere—and the rhythm, even over-smooth in a few verses, where you invert a little artificially—but that shall be set down on a separate strip of paper: and in the meantime I am snatched up into 'Luria' and feel myself driven on to the ends of the poet, just as a reader should.
But you are not driven on to any ends? so as to be tired, I mean? You will not suffer yourself to be overworked because you are 'interested' in this work. I am so certain that the sensations in your head demand repose; and it must be so injurious to you to be perpetually calling, calling these new creations, one after another, that you must consent to be called to, and not hurry the next act, no, nor any act—let the people have time to learn the last number by heart. And how glad I am that Mr. Fox should say what he did of it ... though it wasn't true, you know ... not exactly. Still, I do hold that as far as construction goes, you never put together so much unquestionable, smooth glory before, ... not a single entanglement for the understanding ... unless 'the snowdrops' make an exception—while for the undeniableness of genius it never stood out before your readers more plainly than in that same number! Also you have extended your sweep of power—the sea-weed is thrown farther (if not higher) than it was found before; and one may calculate surely now how a few more waves will cover the brown stones and float the sight up away through the fissure of the rocks. The rhythm (to touch one of the various things) the rhythm of that 'Duchess' does more and more strike me as a new thing; something like (if like anything) what the Greeks called pedestrian-metre, ... between metre and prose ... the difficult rhymes combining too quite curiously with the easy looseness of the general measure. Then 'The Ride'—with that touch of natural feeling at the end, to prove that it was not in brutal carelessness that the poor horse was driven through all that suffering ... yes, and how that one touch of softness acts back upon the energy and resolution and exalts both, instead of weakening anything, as might have been expected by the vulgar of writers or critics. And then 'Saul'—and in a first place 'St. Praxed'—and for pure description, 'Fortu' and the deep 'Pictor Ignotus'—and the noble, serene 'Italy in England,' which grows on you the more you know of it—and that delightful 'Glove'—and the short lyrics ... for one comes to 'select' everything at last, and certainly I do like these poems better and better, as your poems are made to be liked. But you will be tired to hear it said over and over so, ... and I am going to 'Luria,' besides.
When you write will you say exactly how you are? and will you write? And I want to explain to you that although I don't make a profession of equable spirits, (as a matter of temperament, my spirits were always given to rock a little, up and down) yet that I did not mean to be so ungrateful and wicked as to complain of low spirits now and to you. It would not be true either: and I said 'low' to express a merely bodily state. My opium comes in to keep the pulse from fluttering and fainting ... to give the right composure and point of balance to the nervous system. I don't take it for 'my spirits' in the usual sense; you must not think such a thing. The medical man who came to see me made me take it the other day when he was in the room, before the right hour and when I was talking quite cheerfully, just for the need he observed in the pulse. 'It was a necessity of my position,' he said. Also I do not suffer from it in any way, as people usually do who take opium. I am not even subject to an opium-headache. As to the low spirits I will not say that mine have not been low enough and with cause enough; but even then, ... why if you were to ask the nearest witnesses, ... say, even my own sisters, ... everybody would tell you, I think, that the 'cheerfulness' even then, was the remarkable thing in me—certainly it has been remarked about me again and again. Nobody has known that it was an effort (a habit of effort) to throw the light on the outside,—I do abhor so that ignoble groaning aloud of the 'groans of Testy and Sensitude'—yet I may say that for three years I never was conscious of one movement of pleasure in anything. Think if I could mean to complain of 'low spirits' now, and to you. Why it would be like complaining of not being able to see at noon—which would simply prove that I was very blind. And you, who are not blind, cannot make out what is written—so you need not try. May God bless you long after you have done blessing me!
Now I am half tempted to tear this letter in two (and it is long enough for three) and to send you only the latter half. But you will understand—you will not think that there is a contradiction between the first and last ... you cannot. One is a truth of me—and the other a truth of you—and we two are different, you know.
You are not over-working in 'Luria'? That you should not, is a truth, too.
I observed that Mr. Kenyon put in 'Junior' to your address. Ought that to be done? or does my fashion of directing find you without hesitation?
Mr. Kenyon asked me for Mr. Chorley's book, or you should have it. Shall I send it to you presently?
R.B. to E.B.B.
Sunday Morning. [Post-mark, November 17, 1845.]
At last your letter comes—and the deep joy—(I know and use to analyse my own feelings, and be sober in giving distinctive names to their varieties; this is deep joy,)—the true love with which I take this much of you into my heart, ... that proves what it is I wanted so long, and find at last, and am happy for ever. I must have more than 'intimated'—I must have spoken plainly out the truth, if I do myself the barest justice, and told you long ago that the admiration at your works went away, quite another way and afar from the love of you. If I could fancy some method of what I shall say happening without all the obvious stumbling-blocks of falseness, &c. which no foolish fancy dares associate with you ... if you COULD tell me when I next sit by you—'I will undeceive you,—I am not the Miss B.—she is up-stairs and you shall see her—I only wrote those letters, and am what you see, that is all now left you' (all the misapprehension having arisen from me, in some inexplicable way) ... I should not begin by saying anything, dear, dearest—but after that, I should assure you—soon make you believe that I did not much wonder at the event, for I have been all my life asking what connection there is between the satisfaction at the display of power, and the sympathy with—ever-increasing sympathy with—all imaginable weakness? Look now: Coleridge writes on and on,—at last he writes a note to his 'War-Eclogue,' in which he avers himself to have been actuated by a really—on the whole—benevolent feeling to Mr. Pitt when he wrote that stanza in which 'Fire' means to 'cling to him everlastingly'—where is the long line of admiration now that the end snaps? And now—here I refuse to fancy—you KNOW whether, if you never write another line, speak another intelligible word, recognize me by a look again—whether I shall love you less or more ... MORE; having a right to expect more strength with the strange emergency. And it is because I know this, build upon this entirely, that as a reasonable creature, I am bound to look first to what hangs farthest and most loosely from me ... what might go from you to your loss, and so to mine, to say the least ... because I want ALL of you, not just so much as I could not live without—and because I see the danger of your entirely generous disposition and cannot quite, yet, bring myself to profit by it in the quiet way you recommend. Always remember, I never wrote to you, all the years, on the strength of your poetry, though I constantly heard of you through Mr. K. and was near seeing you once, and might have easily availed myself of his intervention to commend any letter to your notice, so as to reach you out of the foolish crowd of rushers-in upon genius ... who come and eat their bread and cheese on the high-altar, and talk of reverence without one of its surest instincts—never quiet till they cut their initials on the cheek of the Medicean Venus to prove they worship her. My admiration, as I said, went its natural way in silence—but when on my return to England in December, late in the month, Mr. K. sent those Poems to my sister, and I read my name there—and when, a day or two after, I met him and, beginning to speak my mind on them, and getting on no better than I should now, said quite naturally—'if I were to write this, now?'—and he assured me with his perfect kindness, you would be even 'pleased' to hear from me under those circumstances ... nay,—for I will tell you all, in this, in everything—when he wrote me a note soon after to reassure me on that point ... THEN I did write, on account of my purely personal obligation, though of course taking that occasion to allude to the general and customary delight in your works: I did write, on the whole, UNWILLINGLY ... with consciousness of having to speak on a subject which I felt thoroughly concerning, and could not be satisfied with an imperfect expression of. As for expecting THEN what has followed ... I shall only say I was scheming how to get done with England and go to my heart in Italy. And now, my love—I am round you ... my whole life is wound up and down and over you.... I feel you stir everywhere. I am not conscious of thinking or feeling but about you, with some reference to you—so I will live, so may I die! And you have blessed me beyond the bond, in more than in giving me yourself to love; inasmuch as you believed me from the first ... what you call 'dream-work' was real of its kind, did you not think? and now you believe me, I believe and am happy, in what I write with my heart full of love for you. Why do you tell me of a doubt, as now, and bid me not clear it up, 'not answer you?' Have I done wrong in thus answering? Never, never do me direct wrong and hide for a moment from me what a word can explain as now. You see, you thought, if but for a moment, I loved your intellect—or what predominates in your poetry and is most distinct from your heart—better, or as well as you—did you not? and I have told you every thing,—explained everything ... have I not? And now I will dare ... yes, dearest, kiss you back to my heart again; my own. There—and there!
And since I wrote what is above, I have been reading among other poems that sonnet—'Past and Future'—which affects me more than any poem I ever read. How can I put your poetry away from you, even in these ineffectual attempts to concentrate myself upon, and better apply myself to what remains?—poor, poor work it is; for is not that sonnet to be loved as a true utterance of yours? I cannot attempt to put down the thoughts that rise; may God bless me, as you pray, by letting that beloved hand shake the less ... I will only ask, the less ... for being laid on mine through this life! And, indeed, you write down, for me to calmly read, that I make you happy! Then it is—as with all power—God through the weakest instrumentality ... and I am past expression proud and grateful—My love,
I am your
I must answer your questions: I am better—and will certainly have your injunction before my eyes and work quite moderately. Your letters come straight to me—my father's go to Town, except on extraordinary occasions, so that all come for my first looking-over. I saw Mr. K. last night at the Amateur Comedy—and heaps of old acquaintances—and came home tired and savage—and yearned literally, for a letter this morning, and so it came and I was well again. So, I am not even to have your low spirits leaning on mine? It was just because I always find you alike, and ever like yourself, that I seemed to discern a depth, when you spoke of 'some days' and what they made uneven where all is agreeable to me. Do not, now, deprive me of a right—a right ... to find you as you are; get no habit of being cheerful with me—I have universal sympathy and can show you a SIDE of me, a true face, turn as you may. If you are cheerful ... so will I be ... if sad, my cheerfulness will be all the while behind, and propping up, any sadness that meets yours, if that should be necessary. As for my question about the opium ... you do not misunderstand that neither: I trust in the eventual consummation of my—shall I not say, our—hopes; and all that bears upon your health immediately or prospectively, affects me—how it affects me! Will you write again? Wednesday, remember! Mr. K. wants me to go to him one of the three next days after. I will bring you some letters ... one from Landor. Why should I trouble you about 'Pomfret.'
And Luria ... does it so interest you? Better is to come of it. How you lift me up!—
E.B.B. to R.B.
Monday. [Post-mark, November 18, 1845.]
How you overcome me as always you do—and where is the answer to anything except too deep down in the heart for even the pearl-divers? But understand ... what you do not quite ... that I did not mistake you as far even as you say here and even 'for a moment.' I did not write any of that letter in a 'doubt' of you—not a word.... I was simply looking back in it on my own states of feeling, ... looking back from that point of your praise to what was better ... (or I should not have looked back)—and so coming to tell you, by a natural association, how the completely opposite point to that of any praise was the one which struck me first and most, viz. the no-reason of your reasoning ... acknowledged to be yours. Of course I acknowledge it to be yours, ... that high reason of no reason—I acknowledged it to be yours (didn't I?) in acknowledging that it made an impression on me. And then, referring to the traditions of my experience such as I told them to you, I meant, so, farther to acknowledge that I would rather be cared for in that unreasonable way, than for the best reason in the world. But all that was history and philosophy simply—was it not?—and not doubt of you.
The truth is ... since we really are talking truths in this world ... that I never have doubted you—ah, you know!—I felt from the beginning so sure of the nobility and integrity in you that I would have trusted you to make a path for my soul—that, you know. I felt certain that you believed of yourself every word you spoke or wrote—and you must not blame me if I thought besides sometimes (it was the extent of my thought) that you were self-deceived as to the nature of your own feelings. If you could turn over every page of my heart like the pages of a book, you would see nothing there offensive to the least of your feelings ... not even to the outside fringes of your man's vanity ... should you have any vanity like a man; which I do doubt. I never wronged you in the least of things—never ... I thank God for it. But 'self-deceived,' it was so easy for you to be: see how on every side and day by day, men are—and women too—in this sort of feelings. 'Self-deceived,' it was so possible for you to be, and while I thought it possible, could I help thinking it best for you that it should be so—and was it not right in me to persist in thinking it possible? It was my reverence for you that made me persist! What was I that I should think otherwise? I had been shut up here too long face to face with my own spirit, not to know myself, and, so, to have lost the common illusions of vanity. All the men I had ever known could not make your stature among them. So it was not distrust, but reverence rather. I sate by while the angel stirred the water, and I called it Miracle. Do not blame me now, ... my angel!
Nor say, that I 'do not lean' on you with all the weight of my 'past' ... because I do! You cannot guess what you are to me—you cannot—it is not possible:—and though I have said that before, I must say it again ... for it comes again to be said. It is something to me between dream and miracle, all of it—as if some dream of my earliest brightest dreaming-time had been lying through these dark years to steep in the sunshine, returning to me in a double light. Can it be, I say to myself, that you feel for me so? can it be meant for me? this from you?
If it is your 'right' that I should be gloomy at will with you, you exercise it, I do think—for although I cannot promise to be very sorrowful when you come, (how could that be?) yet from different motives it seems to me that I have written to you quite superfluities about my 'abomination of desolation,'—yes indeed, and blamed myself afterwards. And now I must say this besides. When grief came upon grief, I never was tempted to ask 'How have I deserved this of God,' as sufferers sometimes do: I always felt that there must be cause enough ... corruption enough, needing purification ... weakness enough, needing strengthening ... nothing of the chastisement could come to me without cause and need. But in this different hour, when joy follows joy, and God makes me happy, as you say, through you ... I cannot repress the ... 'How have I deserved this of Him?'—I know I have not—I know I do not.
Could it be that heart and life were devastated to make room for you?—If so, it was well done,—dearest! They leave the ground fallow before the wheat.
'Were you wrong in answering?' Surely not ... unless it is wrong to show all this goodness ... and too much, it may be for me. When the plants droop for drought and the copious showers fall suddenly, silver upon silver, they die sometimes of the reverse of their adversities. But no—that, even, shall not be a danger! And if I said 'Do not answer,' I did not mean that I would not have a doubt removed—(having no doubt!—) but I was simply unwilling to seem to be asking for golden words ... going down the aisles with that large silken purse, as queteuse. Try to understand.
On Wednesday then!—George is invited to meet you on Thursday at Mr. Kenyon's.
The Examiner speaks well, upon the whole, and with allowances ... oh, that absurdity about metaphysics apart from poetry!—'Can such things be' in one of the best reviews of the day? Mr. Kenyon was here on Sunday and talking of the poems with real living tears in his eyes and on his cheeks. But I will tell you. 'Luria' is to climb to the place of a great work, I see. And if I write too long letters, is it not because you spoil me, and because (being spoilt) I cannot help it?—May God bless you always—
R.B. to E.B.B.
Here is the copy of Landor's verses.
You know thoroughly, do you not, why I brought all those good-natured letters, desperate praise and all? Not, not out of the least vanity in the world—nor to help myself in your sight with such testimony: would it seem very extravagant, on the contrary, if I said that perhaps I laid them before your eyes in a real fit of compunction at not being, in my heart, thankful enough for the evident motive of the writers,—and so was determined to give them the 'last honours' if not the first, and not make them miss you because, through my fault, they had missed me? Does this sound too fantastical? Because it is strictly true: the most laudatory of all, I skimmed once over with my flesh creeping—it seemed such a death-struggle, that of good nature over—well, it is fresh ingratitude of me, so here it shall end.
I am not ungrateful to you—but you must wait to know that:—I can speak less than nothing with my living lips.
I mean to ask your brother how you are to-night ... so quietly!
God bless you, my dearest, and reward you.
Mrs. Shelley—with the 'Ricordi.'
Of course, Landor's praise is altogether a different gift; a gold vase from King Hiram; beside he has plenty of conscious rejoicing in his own riches, and is not left painfully poor by what he sends away. That is the unpleasant point with some others—they spread you a board and want to gird up their loins and wait on you there. Landor says 'come up higher and let us sit and eat together.' Is it not that?
Now—you are not to turn on me because the first is my proper feeling to you, ... for poetry is not the thing given or taken between us—it is heart and life and myself, not mine, I give—give? That you glorify and change and, in returning then, give me!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Thursday. [Post-mark, November 21, 1845.]
Thank you! and will you, if your sister made the copy of Landor's verses for me as well as for you, thank her from me for another kindness, ... not the second nor the third? For my own part, be sure that if I did not fall on the right subtle interpretation about the letters, at least I did not 'think it vain' of you! vain: when, supposing you really to have been over-gratified by such letters, it could have proved only an excess of humility!—But ... besides the subtlety,—you meant to be kind to me, you know,—and I had a pleasure and an interest in reading them—only that ... mind. Sir John Hanmer's, I was half angry with! Now is he not cold?—and is it not easy to see why he is forced to write his own scenes five times over and over? He might have mentioned the 'Duchess' I think; and he a poet! Mr. Chorley speaks some things very well—but what does he mean about 'execution,' en revanche? but I liked his letter and his candour in the last page of it. Will Mr. Warburton review you? does he mean that? Now do let me see any other letters you receive. May I? Of course Landor's 'dwells apart' from all: and besides the reason you give for being gratified by it, it is well that one prophet should open his mouth and prophesy and give his witness to the inspiration of another. See what he says in the letter.... 'You may stand quite alone if you will—and I think you will.' That is a noble testimony to a truth. And he discriminates—he understands and discerns—they are not words thrown out into the air. The 'profusion of imagery covering the depth of thought' is a true description. And, in the verses, he lays his finger just on your characteristics—just on those which, when you were only a poet to me, (only a poet: does it sound irreverent? almost, I think!) which, when you were only a poet to me, I used to study, characteristic by characteristic, and turn myself round and round in despair of being ever able to approach, taking them to be so essentially and intensely masculine that like effects were unattainable, even in a lower degree, by any female hand. Did I not tell you so once before? or oftener than once? And must not these verses of Landor's be printed somewhere—in the Examiner? and again in the Athenaeum? if in the Examiner, certainly again in the Athenaeum—it would be a matter of course. Oh those verses: how they have pleased me! It was an act worthy of him—and of you.
George has been properly 'indoctrinated,' and, we must hope, will do credit to my instructions. Just now ... just as I was writing ... he came in to say good-morning and good-night (he goes to chambers earlier than I receive visitors generally), and to ask with a smile, if I had 'a message for my friend' ... that was you ... and so he was indoctrinated. He is good and true, honest and kind, but a little over-grave and reasonable, as I and my sisters complain continually. The great Law lime-kiln dries human souls all to one colour—and he is an industrious reader among law books and knows a good deal about them, I have heard from persons who can judge; but with a sacrifice of impulsiveness and liberty of spirit, which I should regret for him if he sate on the Woolsack even. Oh—that law! how I do detest it! I hate it and think ill of it—I tell George so sometimes—and he is good-natured and only thinks to himself (a little audibly now and then) that I am a woman and talking nonsense. But the morals of it, and the philosophy of it! And the manners of it! in which the whole host of barristers looks down on the attorneys and the rest of the world!—how long are these things to last!
Theodosia Garrow, I have seen face to face once or twice. She is very clever—very accomplished—with talents and tastes of various kinds—a musician and linguist, in most modern languages I believe—and a writer of fluent graceful melodious verses, ... you cannot say any more. At least I cannot—and though I have not seen this last poem in the 'Book of Beauty,' I have no more trust ready for it than for its predecessors, of which Mr. Landor said as much. It is the personal feeling which speaks in him, I fancy—simply the personal feeling—and, that being the case, it does not spoil the discriminating appreciation on the other page of this letter. I might have the modesty to admit besides that I may be wrong and he, right, all through. But ... 'more intense than Sappho'!—more intense than intensity itself!—to think of that!—Also the word 'poetry' has a clear meaning to me, and all the fluency and facility and quick ear-catching of a tune which one can find in the world, do not answer to it—no.
How is the head? will you tell me? I have written all this without a word of it, and yet ever since yesterday I have been uneasy, ... I cannot help it. You see you are not better but worse. 'Since you were in Italy'—Then is it England that disagrees with you? and is it change away from England that you want? ... require, I mean. If so—why what follows and ought to follow? You must not be ill indeed—that is the first necessity. Tell me how you are, exactly how you are; and remember to walk, and not to work too much—for my sake—if you care for me—if it is not too bold of me to say so. I had fancied you were looking better rather than otherwise: but those sensations in the head are frightful and ought to be stopped by whatever means; even by the worst, as they would seem to me. Well—it was bad news to hear of the increase of pain; for the amendment was a 'passing show' I fear, and not caused even by thoughts of mine or it would have appeared before; while on the other side (the sunny side of the way) I heard on that same yesterday, what made me glad as good news, a whole gospel of good news, and from you too who profess to say 'less than nothing,' and that was that 'the times seemed longer to you':—do you remember saying it? And it made me glad ... happy—perhaps too glad and happy—and surprised: yes, surprised!—for if you had told me (but you would not have told me) if you had let me guess ... just the contrary, ... 'that the times seemed shorter,' ... why it would have seemed to me as natural as nature—oh, believe me it would, and I could not have thought hardly of you for it in the most secret or silent of my thoughts. How am I to feel towards you, do you imagine, ... who have the world round you and yet make me this to you? I never can tell you how, and you never can know it without having my heart in you with all its experiences: we measure by those weights. May God bless you! and save me from being the cause to you of any harm or grief!... I choose it for my blessing instead of another. What should I be if I could fail willingly to you in the least thing? But I never will, and you know it. I will not move, nor speak, nor breathe, so as willingly and consciously to touch, with one shade of wrong, that precious deposit of 'heart and life' ... which may yet be recalled.
And, so, may God bless you and your
Remember to say how you are.
I sent 'Pomfret'—and Shelley is returned, and the letters, in the same parcel—but my letter goes by the post as you see. Is there contrast enough between the two rival female personages of 'Pomfret.' I fancy not. Helena should have been more 'demonstrative' than she appeared in Italy, to secure the 'new modulation' with Walter. But you will not think it a strong book, I am sure, with all the good and pure intention of it. The best character ... most life-like ... as conventional life goes ... seems to me 'Mr. Rose' ... beyond all comparison—and the best point, the noiseless, unaffected manner in which the acting out of the 'private judgment' in Pomfret himself is made no heroic virtue but simply an integral part of the love of truth. As to Grace she is too good to be interesting, I am afraid—and people say of her more than she expresses—and as to 'generosity,' she could not do otherwise in the last scenes.
But I will not tell you the story after all.
At the beginning of this letter I meant to write just one page; but my generosity is like Grace's, and could not help itself. There were the letters to write of, and the verses! and then, you know, 'femme qui parle' never has done. Let me hear! and I will be as brisk as a monument next time for variety.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Friday Night. [Post-mark, November 22, 1845.]
How good and kind to send me these books! (The letter I say nothing of, according to convention: if I wrote down 'best and kindest' ... oh, what poorest words!) I shall tell you all about 'Pomfret,' be sure. Chorley talked of it, as we walked homewards together last night,—modestly and well, and spoke of having given away two copies only ... to his mother one, and the other to—Miss Barrett, and 'she seemed interested in the life of it, entered into his purpose in it,' and I listened to it all, loving Chorley for his loveability which is considerable at other times, and saying to myself what might run better in the child's couplet—'Not more than others I deserve, Though God has given me more'!—Given me the letter which expresses surprise that I shall feel these blanks between the days when I see you longer and longer! So am I surprised—that I should have mentioned so obvious a matter at all; or leave unmentioned a hundred others its correlatives which I cannot conceive you to be ignorant of, you! When I spread out my riches before me, and think what the hour and more means that you endow one with, I do—not to say could—I do form resolutions, and say to myself—'If next time I am bidden stay away a FORTNIGHT, I will not reply by a word beyond the grateful assent.' I do, God knows, lay up in my heart these priceless treasures,—shall I tell you? I never in my life kept a journal, a register of sights, or fancies, or feelings; in my last travel I put down on a slip of paper a few dates, that I might remember in England, on such a day I was on Vesuvius, in Pompeii, at Shelley's grave; all that should be kept in memory is, with me, best left to the brain's own process. But I have, from the first, recorded the date and the duration of every visit to you; the numbers of minutes you have given me ... and I put them together till they make ... nearly two days now; four-and-twenty-hour-long-days, that I have been by you—and I enter the room determining to get up and go sooner ... and I go away into the light street repenting that I went so soon by I don't know how many minutes—for, love, what is it all, this love for you, but an earnest desiring to include you in myself, if that might be; to feel you in my very heart and hold you there for ever, through all chance and earthly changes!
There, I had better leave off; the words!
I was very glad to find myself with your brother yesterday; I like him very much and mean to get a friend in him—(to supply the loss of my friend ... Miss Barrett—which is gone, the friendship, so gone!) But I did not ask after you because I heard Moxon do it. Now of Landor's verses: I got a note from Forster yesterday telling me that he, too, had received a copy ... so that there is no injunction to be secret. So I got a copy for dear Mr. Kenyon, and, lo! what comes! I send the note to make you smile! I shall reply that I felt in duty bound to apprise you; as I did. You will observe that I go to that too facile gate of his on Tuesday, my day ... from your house directly. The worst is that I have got entangled with invitations already, and must go out again, hating it, to more than one place.
I am very well—quite well; yes, dearest! The pain is quite gone; and the inconvenience, hard on its trace. You will write to me again, will you not? And be as brief as your heart lets you, to me who hoard up your words and get remote and imperfect ideas of what ... shall it be written?... anger at you could mean, when I see a line blotted out; a second-thoughted finger-tip rapidly put forth upon one of my gold pieces!
I rather think if Warburton reviews me it will be in the Quarterly, which I know he writes for. Hanmer is a very sculpturesque passionless high-minded and amiable man ... this coldness, as you see it, is part of him. I like his poems, I think, better than you—'the Sonnets,' do you know them? Not 'Fra Cipolla.' See what is here, since you will not let me have only you to look at—this is Landor's first opinion—expressed to Forster—see the date! and last of all, see me and know me, beloved! May God bless you!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Saturday. [Post-mark, November 22, 1845.]
Mr. Kenyon came yesterday—and do you know when he took out those verses and spoke his preface and I understood what was to follow, I had a temptation from my familiar Devil not to say I had read them before—I had the temptation strong and clear. For he (Mr. K.) told me that your sister let him see them—.
But no—My 'vade retro' prevailed, and I spoke the truth and shamed the devil and surprised Mr. Kenyon besides, as I could observe. Not an observation did he make till he was just going away half an hour afterwards, and then he said rather dryly ... 'And now may I ask how long ago it was when you first read these verses?—was it a fortnight ago?' It was better, I think, that I should not have made a mystery of such a simple thing, ... and yet I felt half vexed with myself and with him besides. But the verses,—how he praised them! more than I thought of doing ... as verses—though there is beauty and music and all that ought to be. Do you see clearly now that the latter lines refer to the combination in you,—the qualities over and above those held in common with Chaucer? And I have heard this morning from two or three of the early readers of the Chronicle (I never care to see it till the evening) that the verses are there—so that my wishes have fulfilled themselves there at least—strangely, for wishes of mine ... which generally 'go by contraries' as the soothsayers declare of dreams. How kind of you to send me the fragment to Mr. Forster! and how I like to read it. Was the Hebrew yours then ... written then, I mean ... or written now?
Mr. Kenyon told me that you were to dine with him on Tuesday, and I took for granted, at first hearing, that you would come on Wednesday perhaps to me—and afterwards I saw the possibility of the two ends being joined without much difficulty. Still, I was not sure, before your letter came, how it might be.
That you really are better is the best news of all—thank you for telling me. It will be wise not to go out too much—'aequam servare mentem' as Landor quotes, ... in this as in the rest. Perhaps that worst pain was a sort of crisis ... the sharp turn of the road about to end ... oh, I do trust it may be so.
Mr. K. wrote to Landor to the effect that it was not because he (Mr. K.) held you in affection, nor because the verses expressed critically the opinion entertained of you by all who could judge, nor because they praised a book with which his own name was associated ... but for the abstract beauty of those verses ... for that reason he could not help naming them to Mr. Landor. All of which was repeated to me yesterday.
Also I heard of you from George, who admired you—admired you ... as if you were a chancellor in posse, a great lawyer in esse—and then he thought you ... what he never could think a lawyer ... 'unassuming.' And you ... you are so kind! Only that makes me think bitterly what I have thought before, but cannot write to-day.
It was good-natured of Mr. Chorley to send me a copy of his book, and he sending so few—very! George who admires you, does not tolerate Mr. Chorley ... (did I tell ever?) declares that the affectation is 'bad,' and that there is a dash of vulgarity ... which I positively refuse to believe, and should, I fancy, though face to face with the most vainglorious of waistcoats. How can there be vulgarity even of manners, with so much mental refinement? I never could believe in those combinations of contradictions.
'An obvious matter,' you think! as obvious, as your 'green hill' ... which I cannot see. For the rest ... my thought upon your 'great fact' of the 'two days,' is quite different from yours ... for I think directly, 'So little'! so dreadfully little! What shallow earth for a deep root! What can be known of me in that time? 'So there, is the only good, you see, that comes from making calculations on a slip of paper! It is not and it cannot come to good.' I would rather look at my seventy-five letters—there is room to breathe in them. And this is my idea (ecce!) of monumental brevity—and hic jacet at last
R.B. to E.B.B.
Sunday Night. [Post-mark, November 24, 1845.]
But a word to-night, my love—for my head aches a little,—I had to write a long letter to my friend at New Zealand, and now I want to sit and think of you and get well—but I must not quite lose the word I counted on.
So, that way you will take my two days and turn them against me? Oh, you! Did I say the 'root' had been striking then, or rather, that the seeds, whence the roots take leisure and grow, they had been planted then—and might not a good heart and hand drop acorns enough to grow up into a complete Dodona-grove,—when the very rook, say farmers, hides and forgets whole navies of ship-wood one day to be, in his summer storing-journeys? But this shall do—I am not going to prove what may be, when here it is, to my everlasting happiness.
—And 'I am kind'—there again! Do I not know what you mean by that? Well it is some comfort that you make all even in some degree, and take from my faculties here what you give them, spite of my protesting, in other directions. So I could not when I first saw you admire you very much, and wish for your friendship, and be willing to give you mine, and desirous of any opportunity of serving you, benefiting you; I could not think the finding myself in a position to feel this, just this and no more, a sufficiently fortunate event ... but I must needs get up, or imitate, or ... what is it you fancy I do? ... an utterly distinct, unnecessary, inconsequential regard for you, which should, when it got too hard for shamming at the week's end,—should simply spoil, in its explosion and departure, all the real and sufficing elements of an honest life-long attachment and affections! that I should do this, and think it a piece of kindness does....