Must you see 'Pauline'? At least then let me wait a few days; to correct the misprints which affect the sense, and to write you the history of it; what is necessary you should know before you see it. That article I suppose to be by Heraud—about two thirds—and the rest, or a little less, by that Mr. Powell—whose unimaginable, impudent vulgar stupidity you get some inkling of in the 'Story from Boccaccio'—of which the words quoted were his, I am sure—as sure as that he knows not whether Boccaccio lived before or after Shakspeare, whether Florence or Rome be the more northern city,—one word of Italian in general, or letter of Boccaccio's in particular. When I took pity on him once on a time and helped his verses into a sort of grammar and sense, I did not think he was a buyer of other men's verses, to be printed as his own; thus he bought two modernisations of Chaucer—'Ugolino' and another story from Leigh Hunt—and one, 'Sir Thopas' from Horne, and printed them as his own, as I learned only last week. He paid me extravagant court and, seeing no harm in the mere folly of the man, I was on good terms with him, till ten months ago he grossly insulted a friend of mine who had written an article for the Review—(which is as good as his, he being a large proprietor of the delectable property, and influencing the voices of his co-mates in council)—well, he insulted my friend, who had written that article at my special solicitation, and did all he could to avoid paying the price of it—Why?—Because the poor creature had actually taken the article to the Editor as one by his friend Serjeant Talfourd contributed for pure love of him, Powell the aforesaid,—cutting, in consequence, no inglorious figure in the eyes of Printer and Publisher! Now I was away all this time in Italy or he would never have ventured on such a piece of childish impertinence. And my friend being a true gentleman, and quite unused to this sort of 'practice,' in the American sense, held his peace and went without his 'honorarium.' But on my return, I enquired, and made him make a proper application, which Mr. Powell treated with all the insolence in the world—because, as the event showed, the having to write a cheque for 'the Author of the Article'—that author's name not being Talfourd's ... there was certain disgrace! Since then (ten months ago) I have never seen him—and he accuses himself, observe, of 'sucking my plots while I drink his tea'—one as much as the other! And now why do I tell you this, all of it? Ah,—now you shall hear! Because, it has often been in my mind to ask you what you know of this Mr. Powell, or ever knew. For he, (being profoundly versed in every sort of untruth, as every fresh experience shows me, and the rest of his acquaintance) he told me long ago, 'he used to correspond with you, and that he quarrelled with you'—which I supposed to mean that he began by sending you his books (as with one and everybody) and that, in return to your note of acknowledgment, he had chosen to write again, and perhaps, again—is it so? Do not write one word in answer to me—the name of such a miserable nullity, and husk of a man, ought not to have a place in your letters—and that way he would get near to me again; near indeed this time!—So tell me, in a word—or do not tell me.
How I never say what I sit down to say! How saying the little makes me want to say the more! How the least of little things, once taken up as a thing to be imparted to you, seems to need explanations and commentaries; all is of importance to me—every breath you breathe, every little fact (like this) you are to know!
I was out last night—to see the rest of Frank Talfourd's theatricals; and met Dickens and his set—so my evenings go away! If I do not bring the Act you must forgive me—yet I shall, I think; the roughness matters little in this stage. Chorley says very truly that a tragedy implies as much power kept back as brought out—very true that is. I do not, on the whole, feel dissatisfied—as was to be but expected—with the effect of this last—the shelve of the hill, whence the end is seen, you continuing to go down to it, so that at the very last you may pass off into a plain and so away—not come to a stop like your horse against a church wall. It is all in long speeches—the action, proper, is in them—they are no descriptions, or amplifications—but here, in a drama of this kind, all the events, (and interest), take place in the minds of the actors ... somewhat like 'Paracelsus' in that respect. You know, or don't know, that the general charge against me, of late, from the few quarters I thought it worth while to listen to, has been that of abrupt, spasmodic writing—they will find some fault with this, of course.
How you know Chorley! That is precisely the man, that willow blowing now here now there—precisely! I wish he minded the Athenaeum, its silence or eloquence, no more nor less than I—but he goes on painfully plying me with invitation after invitation, only to show me, I feel confident, that he has no part nor lot in the matter: I have two kind little notes asking me to go on Thursday and Saturday. See the absurd position of us both; he asks more of my presence than he can want, just to show his own kind feeling, of which I do not doubt; and I must try and accept more hospitality than suits me, only to prove my belief in that same! For myself—if I have vanity which such Journals can raise; would the praise of them raise it, they who praised Mr. Mackay's own, own 'Dead Pan,' quite his own, the other day?—By the way, Miss Cushman informed me the other evening that the gentleman had written a certain 'Song of the Bell' ... 'singularly like Schiller's; considering that Mr. M. had never seen it!' I am told he writes for the Athenaeum, but don't know. Would that sort of praise be flattering, or his holding the tongue—which Forster, deep in the mysteries of the craft, corroborated my own notion about—as pure willingness to hurt, and confessed impotence and little clever spite, and enforced sense of what may be safe at the last? You shall see they will not notice—unless a fresh publication alters the circumstances—until some seven or eight months—as before; and then they will notice, and praise, and tell anybody who cares to enquire, 'So we noticed the work.' So do not you go expecting justice or injustice till I tell you. It answers me to be found writing so, so anxious to prove I understand the laws of the game, when that game is only 'Thimble-rig' and for prizes of gingerbread-nuts—Prize or no prize, Mr. Dilke does shift the pea, and so did from the beginning—as Charles Lamb's pleasant sobriquet (Mr. Bilk, he would have it) testifies. Still he behaved kindly to that poor Frances Brown—let us forget him.
And now, my Audience, my crown-bearer, my path-preparer—I am with you again and out of them all—there, here, in my arms, is my proved palpable success! My life, my poetry, gained nothing, oh no!—but this found them, and blessed them. On Tuesday I shall see you, dearest—am much better; well to-day—are you well—or 'scarcely to be called an invalid'? Oh, when I have you, am by you—
Bless you, dearest—And be very sure you have your wish about the length of the week—still Tuesday must come! And with it your own, happy, grateful
E.B.B. to R.B.
Tuesday Night. [Post-mark, January 14, 1846.]
Ah Mr. Kenyon!—how he vexed me to-day. To keep away all the ten days before, and to come just at the wrong time after all! It was better for you, I suppose—believe—to go with him down-stairs—yes, it certainly was better: it was disagreeable enough to be very wise! Yet I, being addicted to every sort of superstition turning to melancholy, did hate so breaking off in the middle of that black thread ... (do you remember what we were talking of when they opened the door?) that I was on the point of saying 'Stay one moment,' which I should have repented afterwards for the best of good reasons. Oh, I should have liked to have 'fastened off' that black thread, and taken one stitch with a blue or a green one!
You do not remember what we were talking of? what you, rather, were talking of? And what I remember, at least, because it is exactly the most unkind and hard thing you ever said to me—ever dearest, so I remember it by that sign! That you should say such a thing to me—! think what it was, for indeed I will not write it down here—it would be worse than Mr. Powell! Only the foolishness of it (I mean, the foolishness of it alone) saves it, smooths it to a degree!—the foolishness being the same as if you asked a man where he would walk when he lost his head. Why, if you had asked St. Denis beforehand, he would have thought it a foolish question.
And you!—you, who talk so finely of never, never doubting; of being such an example in the way of believing and trusting—it appears, after all, that you have an imagination apprehensive (or comprehensive) of 'glass bottles' like other sublunary creatures, and worse than some of them. For mark, that I never went any farther than to the stone-wall hypothesis of your forgetting me!—I always stopped there—and never climbed, to the top of it over the broken-bottle fortification, to see which way you meant to walk afterwards. And you, to ask me so coolly—think what you asked me. That you should have the heart to ask such a question!
And the reason—! and it could seem a reasonable matter of doubt to you whether I would go to the south for my health's sake!—And I answered quite a common 'no' I believe—for you bewildered me for the moment—and I have had tears in my eyes two or three times since, just through thinking back of it all ... of your asking me such questions. Now did I not tell you when I first knew you, that I was leaning out of the window? True, that was—I was tired of living ... unaffectedly tired. All I cared to live for was to do better some of the work which, after all, was out of myself, and which I had to reach across to do. But I told you. Then, last year, for duty's sake I would have consented to go to Italy! but if you really fancy that I would have struggled in the face of all that difficulty—or struggled, indeed, anywise, to compass such an object as that—except for the motive of your caring for it and me—why you know nothing of me after all—nothing! And now, take away the motive, and I am where I was—leaning out of the window again. To put it in plainer words (as you really require information), I should let them do what they liked to me till I was dead—only I wouldn't go to Italy—if anybody proposed Italy out of contradiction. In the meantime I do entreat you never to talk of such a thing to me any more.
You know, if you were to leave me by your choice and for your happiness, it would be another thing. It would be very lawful to talk of that.
And observe! I perfectly understand that you did not think of doubting me—so to speak! But you thought, all the same, that if such a thing happened, I should be capable of doing so and so.
Well—I am not quarrelling—I am uneasy about your head rather. That pain in it—what can it mean? I do beseech you to think of me just so much as will lead you to take regular exercise every day, never missing a day; since to walk till you are tired on Tuesday and then not to walk at all until Friday is not taking exercise, nor the thing required. Ah, if you knew how dreadfully natural every sort of evil seems to my mind, you would not laugh at me for being afraid. I do beseech you, dearest! And then, Sir John Hanmer invited you, besides Mr. Warburton, and suppose you went to him for a very little time—just for the change of air? or if you went to the coast somewhere. Will you consider, and do what is right, for me? I do not propose that you should go to Italy, observe, nor any great thing at which you might reasonably hesitate. And—did you ever try smoking as a remedy? If the nerves of the head chiefly are affected it might do you good, I have been thinking. Or without the smoking, to breathe where tobacco is burnt,—that calms the nervous system in a wonderful manner, as I experienced once myself when, recovering from an illness, I could not sleep, and tried in vain all sorts of narcotics and forms of hop-pillow and inhalation, yet was tranquillized in one half hour by a pinch of tobacco being burnt in a shovel near me. Should you mind it very much? the trying I mean?
Wednesday.—For 'Pauline'—when I had named it to you I was on the point of sending for the book to the booksellers—then suddenly I thought to myself that I should wait and hear whether you very, very much would dislike my reading it. See now! Many readers have done virtuously, but I, (in this virtue I tell you of) surpassed them all!—And now, because I may, I 'must read it':—and as there are misprints to be corrected, will you do what is necessary, or what you think is necessary, and bring me the book on Monday? Do not send—bring it. In the meanwhile I send back the review which I forgot to give to you yesterday in the confusion. Perhaps you have not read it in your house, and in any case there is no use in my keeping it.
Shall I hear from you, I wonder! Oh my vain thoughts, that will not keep you well! And, ever since you have known me, you have been worse—that, you confess!—and what if it should be the crossing of my bad star? You of the 'Crown' and the 'Lyre,' to seek influences from the 'chair of Cassiopeia'! I hope she will forgive me for using her name so! I might as well have compared her to a professorship of poetry in the university of Oxford, according to the latest election. You know, the qualification, there, is,—not to be a poet.
How vexatious, yesterday! The stars (talking of them) were out of spherical tune, through the damp weather, perhaps, and that scarlet sun was a sign! First Mr. Chorley!—and last, dear Mr. Kenyon; who will say tiresome things without any provocation. Did you walk with him his way, or did he walk with you yours? or did you only walk down-stairs together?
Write to me! Remember that it is a month to Monday. Think of your very own, who bids God bless you when she prays best for herself!—
Say particularly how you are—now do not omit it. And will you have Miss Martineau's books when I can lend them to you? Just at this moment I dare not, because they are reading them here.
Let Mr. Mackay have his full proprietary in his 'Dead Pan'—which is quite a different conception of the subject, and executed in blank verse too. I have no claims against him, I am sure!
But for the man!—To call him a poet! A prince and potentate of Commonplaces, such as he is!—I have seen his name in the Athenaeum attached to a lyric or two ... poems, correctly called fugitive,—more than usually fugitive—but I never heard before that his hand was in the prose department.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Wednesday. [Post-mark, January 14, 1846.]
Was I in the wrong, dearest, to go away with Mr. Kenyon? I well knew and felt the price I was about to pay—but the thought did occur that he might have been informed my probable time of departure was that of his own arrival—and that he would not know how very soon, alas, I should be obliged to go—so ... to save you any least embarrassment in the world, I got—just that shake of the hand, just that look—and no more! And was it all for nothing, all needless after all? So I said to myself all the way home.
When I am away from you—a crowd of things press on me for utterance—'I will say them, not write them,' I think:—when I see you—all to be said seems insignificant, irrelevant,—'they can be written, at all events'—I think that too. So, feeling so much, I say so little!
I have just returned from Town and write for the Post—but you mean to write, I trust.
That was not obtained, that promise, to be happy with, as last time!
How are you?—tell me, dearest; a long week is to be waited now!
Bless you, my own, sweetest Ba.
I am wholly your
R.B. to E.B.B.
Thursday. [Post-mark, January 15, 1846.]
Dearest, dearer to my heart minute by minute, I had no wish to give you pain, God knows. No one can more readily consent to let a few years more or less of life go out of account,—be lost—but as I sate by you, you so full of the truest life, for this world as for the next,—and was struck by the possibility, all that might happen were I away, in the case of your continuing to acquiesce—dearest, it is horrible—could not but speak. If in drawing you, all of you, closer to my heart, I hurt you whom I would—outlive ... yes,—cannot speak here—forgive me, Ba.
My Ba, you are to consider now for me. Your health, your strength, it is all wonderful; that is not my dream, you know—but what all see. Now, steadily care for us both—take time, take counsel if you choose; but at the end tell me what you will do for your part—thinking of me as utterly devoted, soul and body, to you, living wholly in your life, seeing good and ill only as you see,—being yours as your hand is,—or as your Flush, rather. Then I will, on my side, prepare. When I say 'take counsel'—I reserve my last right, the man's right of first speech. I stipulate, too, and require to say my own speech in my own words or by letter—remember! But this living without you is too tormenting now. So begin thinking,—as for Spring, as for a New Year, as for a new life.
I went no farther than the door with Mr. Kenyon. He must see the truth; and—you heard the playful words which had a meaning all the same.
No more of this; only, think of it for me, love!
One of these days I shall write a long letter—on the omitted matters, unanswered questions, in your past letters. The present joy still makes me ungrateful to the previous one; but I remember. We are to live together one day, love!
Will you let Mr. Poe's book lie on the table on Monday, if you please, that I may read what he does say, with my own eyes? That I meant to ask, too!
How too, too kind you are—how you care for so little that affects me! I am very much better—I went out yesterday, as you found: to-day I shall walk, beside seeing Chorley. And certainly, certainly I would go away for a week, if so I might escape being ill (and away from you) a fortnight; but I am not ill—and will care, as you bid me, beloved! So, you will send, and take all trouble; and all about that crazy Review! Now, you should not!—I will consider about your goodness. I hardly know if I care to read that kind of book just now.
Will you, and must you have 'Pauline'? If I could pray you to revoke that decision! For it is altogether foolish and not boylike—and I shall, I confess, hate the notion of running over it—yet commented it must be; more than mere correction! I was unluckily precocious—but I had rather you saw real infantine efforts (verses at six years old, and drawings still earlier) than this ambiguous, feverish—Why not wait? When you speak of the 'Bookseller'—I smile, in glorious security—having a whole bale of sheets at the house-top. He never knew my name even!—and I withdrew these after a very little time.
And now—here is a vexation. May I be with you (for this once) next Monday, at two instead of three o'clock? Forster's business with the new Paper obliges him, he says, to restrict his choice of days to Monday next—and give up my part of Monday I will never for fifty Forsters—now, sweet, mind that! Monday is no common day, but leads to a Saturday—and if, as I ask, I get leave to call at 2—and to stay till 3-1/2—though I then lose nearly half an hour—yet all will be comparatively well. If there is any difficulty—one word and I re-appoint our party, his and mine, for the day the paper breaks down—not so long to wait, it strikes me!
Now, bless you, my precious Ba—I am your own—
—Your own R.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Thursday Morning. [Post-mark, January 17, 1846.]
Our letters have crossed; and, mine being the longest, I have a right to expect another directly, I think. I have been calculating: and it seems to me—now what I am going to say may take its place among the paradoxes,—that I gain most by the short letters. Last week the only long one came last, and I was quite contented that the 'old friend' should come to see you on Saturday and make you send me two instead of the single one I looked for: it was a clear gain, the little short note, and the letter arrived all the same. I remember, when I was a child, liking to have two shillings and sixpence better than half a crown—and now it is the same with this fairy money, which will never turn all into pebbles, or beans, whatever the chronicles may say of precedents.
Arabel did tell Mr. Kenyon (she told me) that 'Mr. Browning would soon go away'—in reply to an observation of his, that 'he would not stay as I had company'; and altogether it was better,—the lamp made it look late. But you do not appear in the least remorseful for being tempted of my black devil, my familiar, to ask such questions and leave me under such an impression—'mens conscia recti' too!!—
And Mr. Kenyon will not come until next Monday perhaps. How am I? But I am too well to be asked about. Is it not a warm summer? The weather is as 'miraculous' as the rest, I think. It is you who are unwell and make people uneasy, dearest. Say how you are, and promise me to do what is right and try to be better. The walking, the changing of the air, the leaving off Luria ... do what is right, I earnestly beseech you. The other day, I heard of Tennyson being ill again, ... too ill to write a simple note to his friend Mr. Venables, who told George. A little more than a year ago, it would have been no worse a thing to me to hear of your being ill than to hear of his being ill!—How the world has changed since then! To me, I mean.
Did I say that ever ... that 'I knew you must be tired?' And it was not even so true as that the coming event threw its shadow before?
Thursday night.—I have begun on another sheet—I could not write here what was in my heart—yet I send you this paper besides to show how I was writing to you this morning. In the midst of it came a female friend of mine and broke the thread—the visible thread, that is.
And now, even now, at this safe eight o'clock, I could not be safe from somebody, who, in her goodnature and my illfortune, must come and sit by me—and when my letter was come—'why wouldn't I read it? What wonderful politeness on my part.' She would not and could not consent to keep me from reading my letter. She would stand up by the fire rather.
No, no, three times no. Brummel got into the carriage before the Regent, ... (didn't he?) but I persisted in not reading my letter in the presence of my friend. A notice on my punctiliousness may be put down to-night in her 'private diary.' I kept the letter in my hand and only read it with those sapient ends of the fingers which the mesmerists make so much ado about, and which really did seem to touch a little of what was inside. Not all, however, happily for me! Or my friend would have seen in my eyes what they did not see.
May God bless you! Did I ever say that I had an objection to read the verses at six years old—or see the drawings either? I am reasonable, you observe! Only, 'Pauline,' I must have some day—why not without the emendations? But if you insist on them, I will agree to wait a little—if you promise at last to let me see the book, which I will not show. Some day, then! you shall not be vexed nor hurried for the day—some day. Am I not generous? And I was 'precocious' too, and used to make rhymes over my bread and milk when I was nearly a baby ... only really it was mere echo-verse, that of mine, and had nothing of mark or of indication, such as I do not doubt that yours had. I used to write of virtue with a large 'V,' and 'Oh Muse' with a harp, and things of that sort. At nine years old I wrote what I called 'an epic'—and at ten, various tragedies, French and English, which we used to act in the nursery. There was a French 'hexameter' tragedy on the subject of Regulus—but I cannot even smile to think of it now, there are so many grave memories—which time has made grave—hung around it. How I remember sitting in 'my house under the sideboard,' in the dining-room, concocting one of the soliloquies beginning
Que suis je? autrefois un general Remain: Maintenant esclave de Carthage je souffre en vain.
Poor Regulus!—Can't you conceive how fine it must have been altogether? And these were my 'maturer works,' you are to understand, ... and 'the moon was bright at ten o'clock at night' years before. As to the gods and goddesses, I believed in them all quite seriously, and reconciled them to Christianity, which I believed in too after a fashion, as some greater philosophers have done—and went out one day with my pinafore full of little sticks (and a match from the housemaid's cupboard) to sacrifice to the blue-eyed Minerva who was my favourite goddess on the whole because she cared for Athens. As soon as I began to doubt about my goddesses, I fell into a vague sort of general scepticism, ... and though I went on saying 'the Lord's prayer' at nights and mornings, and the 'Bless all my kind friends' afterwards, by the childish custom ... yet I ended this liturgy with a supplication which I found in 'King's Memoirs' and which took my fancy and met my general views exactly.... 'O God, if there be a God, save my soul if I have a soul.' Perhaps the theology of many thoughtful children is scarcely more orthodox than this: but indeed it is wonderful to myself sometimes how I came to escape, on the whole, as well as I have done, considering the commonplaces of education in which I was set, with strength and opportunity for breaking the bonds all round into liberty and license. Papa used to say ... 'Don't read Gibbon's history—it's not a proper book. Don't read "Tom Jones"—and none of the books on this side, mind!' So I was very obedient and never touched the books on that side, and only read instead Tom Paine's 'Age of Reason,' and Voltaire's 'Philosophical Dictionary,' and Hume's 'Essays,' and Werther, and Rousseau, and Mary Wollstonecraft ... books, which I was never suspected of looking towards, and which were not 'on that side' certainly, but which did as well.
How I am writing!—And what are the questions you did not answer? I shall remember them by the answers I suppose—but your letters always have a fulness to me and I never seem to wish for what is not in them.
But this is the end indeed.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Thursday Night. [In the same envelope with the preceding letter.]
Ever dearest—how you can write touching things to me; and how my whole being vibrates, as a string, to these! How have I deserved from God and you all that I thank you for? Too unworthy I am of all! Only, it was not, dearest beloved, what you feared, that was 'horrible,' it was what you supposed, rather! It was a mistake of yours. And now we will not talk of it any more.
Friday morning.—For the rest, I will think as you desire: but I have thought a great deal, and there are certainties which I know; and I hope we both are aware that nothing can be more hopeless than our position in some relations and aspects, though you do not guess perhaps that the very approach to the subject is shut up by dangers, and that from the moment of a suspicion entering one mind, we should be able to meet never again in this room, nor to have intercourse by letter through the ordinary channel. I mean, that letters of yours, addressed to me here, would infallibly be stopped and destroyed—if not opened. Therefore it is advisable to hurry on nothing—on these grounds it is advisable. What should I do if I did not see you nor hear from you, without being able to feel that it was for your happiness? What should I do for a month even? And then, I might be thrown out of the window or its equivalent—I look back shuddering to the dreadful scenes in which poor Henrietta was involved who never offended as I have offended ... years ago which seem as present as to-day. She had forbidden the subject to be referred to until that consent was obtained—and at a word she gave up all—at a word. In fact she had no true attachment, as I observed to Arabel at the time—a child never submitted more meekly to a revoked holiday. Yet how she was made to suffer. Oh, the dreadful scenes! and only because she had seemed to feel a little. I told you, I think, that there was an obliquity—an eccentricity, or something beyond—on one class of subjects. I hear how her knees were made to ring upon the floor, now! she was carried out of the room in strong hysterics, and I, who rose up to follow her, though I was quite well at that time and suffered only by sympathy, fell flat down upon my face in a fainting-fit. Arabel thought I was dead.
I have tried to forget it all—but now I must remember—and throughout our intercourse I have remembered. It is necessary to remember so much as to avoid such evils as are inevitable, and for this reason I would conceal nothing from you. Do you remember, besides, that there can be no faltering on my 'part,' and that, if I should remain well, which is not proved yet, I will do for you what you please and as you please to have it done. But there is time for considering!
Only ... as you speak of 'counsel,' I will take courage to tell you that my sisters know, Arabel is in most of my confidences, and being often in the room with me, taxed me with the truth long ago—she saw that I was affected from some cause—and I told her. We are as safe with both of them as possible ... and they thoroughly understand that if there should be any change it would not be your fault.... I made them understand that thoroughly. From themselves I have received nothing but the most smiling words of kindness and satisfaction (I thought I might tell you so much), they have too much tenderness for me to fail in it now. My brothers, it is quite necessary not to draw into a dangerous responsibility. I have felt that from the beginning, and shall continue to feel it—though I hear and can observe that they are full of suspicions and conjectures, which are never unkindly expressed. I told you once that we held hands the faster in this house for the weight over our heads. But the absolute knowledge would be dangerous for my brothers: with my sisters it is different, and I could not continue to conceal from them what they had under their eyes; and then, Henrietta is in a like position. It was not wrong of me to let them know it?—no?
Yet of what consequence is all this to the other side of the question? What, if you should give pain and disappointment where you owe such pure gratitude. But we need not talk of these things now. Only you have more to consider than I, I imagine, while the future comes on.
Dearest, let me have my way in one thing: let me see you on Tuesday instead of on Monday—on Tuesday at the old hour. Be reasonable and consider. Tuesday is almost as near as the day before it; and on Monday, I shall be hurried at first, lest Papa should be still in the house, (no harm, but an excuse for nervousness: and I can't quote a noble Roman as you can, to the praise of my conscience!) and you will be hurried at last, lest you should not be in time for Mr. Forster. On the other hand, I will not let you be rude to the Daily News, ... no, nor to the Examiner. Come on Tuesday, then, instead of Monday, and let us have the usual hours in a peaceable way,—and if there is no obstacle,—that is, if Mr. Kenyon or some equivalent authority should not take note of your being here on Tuesday, why you can come again on the Saturday afterwards—I do not see the difficulty. Are we agreed? On Tuesday, at three o'clock. Consider, besides, that the Monday arrangement would hurry you in every manner, and leave you fagged for the evening—no, I will not hear of it. Not on my account, not on yours!
Think of me on Monday instead, and write before. Are not these two lawful letters? And do not they deserve an answer?
My life was ended when I knew you, and if I survive myself it is for your sake:—that resumes all my feelings and intentions in respect to you. No 'counsel' could make the difference of a grain of dust in the balance. It is so, and not otherwise. If you changed towards me, it would be better for you I believe—and I should be only where I was before. While you do not change, I look to you for my first affections and my first duty—and nothing but your bidding me, could make me look away.
In the midst of this, Mr. Kenyon came and I felt as if I could not talk to him. No—he does not 'see how it is.' He may have passing thoughts sometimes, but they do not stay long enough to produce—even an opinion. He asked if you had been here long.
It may be wrong and ungrateful, but I do wish sometimes that the world were away—even the good Kenyon-aspect of the world.
And so, once more—may God bless you!
I am wholly yours—
Tuesday, remember! And say that you agree.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Saturday. [Post-mark, January 17, 1846.]
Did my own Ba, in the prosecution of her studies, get to a book on the forb—no, unforbidden shelf—wherein Voltaire pleases to say that 'si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer'? I feel, after reading these letters,—as ordinarily after seeing you, sweetest, or hearing from you,—that if marriage did not exist, I should infallibly invent it. I should say, no words, no feelings even, do justice to the whole conviction and religion of my soul—and though they may be suffered to represent some one minute's phase of it, yet, in their very fulness and passion they do injustice to the unrepresented, other minute's, depth and breadth of love ... which let my whole life (I would say) be devoted to telling and proving and exemplifying, if not in one, then in another way—let me have the plain palpable power of this; the assured time for this ... something of the satisfaction ... (but for the fantasticalness of the illustration) ... something like the earnestness of some suitor in Chancery if he could once get Lord Lyndhurst into a room with him, and lock the door on them both, and know that his whole story must be listened to now, and the 'rights of it,'—dearest, the love unspoken now you are to hear 'in all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth ... at the hour of death, and'—
If I did not know this was so,—nothing would have been said, or sought for. Your friendship, the perfect pride in it, the wish for, and eager co-operation in, your welfare, all that is different, and, seen now, nothing.
I will care for it no more, dearest—I am wedded to you now. I believe no human being could love you more—that thought consoles me for my own imperfection—for when that does strike me, as so often it will, I turn round on my pursuing self, and ask 'What if it were a claim then, what is in Her, demanded rationally, equitably, in return for what were in you—do you like that way!'—And I do not, Ba—you, even, might not—when people everyday buy improveable ground, and eligible sites for building, and don't want every inch filled up, covered over, done to their hands! So take me, and make me what you can and will—and though never to be more yours, yet more like you, I may and must be—Yes, indeed—best, only love!
And am I not grateful to your sisters—entirely grateful for that crowning comfort; it is 'miraculous,' too, if you please—for you shall know me by finger-tip intelligence or any art magic of old or new times—but they do not see me, know me—and must moreover be jealous of you, chary of you, as the daughters of Hesperus, of wonderers and wistful lookers up at the gold apple—yet instead of 'rapidly levelling eager eyes'—they are indulgent? Then—shall I wish capriciously they were not your sisters, not so near you, that there might be a kind of grace in loving them for it'—but what grace can there be when ... yes, I will tell you—no, I will not—it is foolish!—and it is not foolish in me to love the table and chairs and vases in your room.
Let me finish writing to-morrow; it would not become me to utter a word against the arrangement—and Saturday promised, too—but though all concludes against the early hour on Monday, yet—but this is wrong—on Tuesday it shall be, then,—thank you, dearest! you let me keep up the old proper form, do you not?—I shall continue to thank, and be gratified &c. as if I had some untouched fund of thanks at my disposal to cut a generous figure with on occasion! And so, now, for your kind considerateness thank you ... that I say, which, God knows, could not say, if I died ten deaths in one to do you good, 'you are repaid'—
To-morrow I will write, and answer more. I am pretty well, and will go out to-day—to-night. My Act is done, and copied—I will bring it. Do you see the Athenaeum? By Chorley surely—and kind and satisfactory. I did not expect any notice for a long time—all that about the 'mist,' 'unchanged manner' and the like is politic concession to the Powers that Be ... because he might tell me that and much more with his own lips or unprofessional pen, and be thanked into the bargain, yet he does not. But I fancy he saves me from a rougher hand—the long extracts answer every purpose—
There is all to say yet—to-morrow!
And ever, ever your own; God bless you!
Admire the clean paper.... I did not notice that I have been writing in a desk where a candle fell! See the bottoms of the other pages!
R.B. to E.B.B.
Sunday Evening. [Post-mark, January 19, 1846.]
You may have seen, I put off all the weighty business part of the letter—but I shall do very little with it now. To be sure, a few words will serve, because you understand me, and believe in enough of me. First, then, I am wholly satisfied, thoroughly made happy in your assurance. I would build up an infinity of lives, if I could plan them, one on the other, and all resting on you, on your word—I fully believe in it,—of my feeling, the gratitude, let there be no attempt to speak. And for 'waiting'; 'not hurrying',—I leave all with you henceforth—all you say is most wise, most convincing.
On the saddest part of all,—silence. You understand, and I can understand through you. Do you know, that I never used to dream unless indisposed, and rarely then—(of late I dream of you, but quite of late)—and those nightmare dreams have invariably been of one sort. I stand by (powerless to interpose by a word even) and see the infliction of tyranny on the unresisting man or beast (generally the last)—and I wake just in time not to die: let no one try this kind of experiment on me or mine! Though I have observed that by a felicitous arrangement, the man with the whip puts it into use with an old horse commonly. I once knew a fine specimen of the boilingly passionate, desperately respectable on the Eastern principle that reverences a madman—and this fellow, whom it was to be death to oppose, (some bloodvessel was to break)—he, once at a dinner party at which I was present, insulted his wife (a young pretty simple believer in his awful immunities from the ordinary terms that keep men in order)—brought the tears into her eyes and sent her from the room ... purely to 'show off' in the eyes of his guests ... (all males, law-friends &c., he being a lawyer.) This feat accomplished, he, too, left us with an affectation of compensating relentment, to 'just say a word and return'—and no sooner was his back to the door than the biggest, stupidest of the company began to remark 'what a fortunate thing it was that Mr. So-and-so had such a submissive wife—not one of the women who would resist—that is, attempt to resist—and so exasperate our gentleman into ... Heaven only knew what!' I said it was, in one sense, a fortunate thing; because one of these women, without necessarily being the lion-tressed Bellona, would richly give him his desert, I thought—'Oh, indeed?' No—this man was not to be opposed—wait, you might, till the fit was over, and then try what kind argument would do—and so forth to unspeakable nausea. Presently we went up-stairs—there sate the wife with dried eyes, and a smile at the tea-table—and by her, in all the pride of conquest, with her hand in his, our friend—disposed to be very good-natured of course. I listened arrectis auribus, and in a minute he said he did not know somebody I mentioned. I told him, that I easily conceived—such a person would never condescend to know him, &c., and treated him to every consequence ingenuity could draw from that text—and at the end marched out of the room; and the valorous man, who had sate like a post, got up, took a candle, followed me to the door, and only said in unfeigned wonder, 'What can have possessed you, my dear B?'—All which I as much expected beforehand, as that the above mentioned man of the whip keeps quiet in the presence of an ordinary-couraged dog. All this is quite irrelevant to the case—indeed, I write to get rid of the thought altogether. But I do hold it the most stringent duty of all who can, to stop a condition, a relation of one human being to another which God never allowed to exist between Him and ourselves. Trees live and die, if you please, and accept will for a law—but with us, all commands surely refer to a previously-implanted conviction in ourselves of their rationality and justice. Or why declare that 'the Lord is holy, just and good' unless there is recognised and independent conception of holiness and goodness, to which the subsequent assertion is referable? 'You know what holiness is, what it is to be good? Then, He is that'—not, 'that is so—because he is that'; though, of course, when once the converse is demonstrated, this, too, follows, and may be urged for practical purposes. All God's urgency, so to speak, is on the justice of his judgments, rightness of his rule: yet why? one might ask—if one does believe that the rule is his; why ask further?—Because, his is a 'reasonable service,' once for all.
Understand why I turn my thoughts in this direction. If it is indeed as you fear, and no endeavour, concession, on my part will avail, under any circumstances—(and by endeavour, I mean all heart and soul could bring the flesh to perform)—in that case, you will not come to me with a shadow past hope of chasing.
The likelihood is, I over frighten myself for you, by the involuntary contrast with those here—you allude to them—if I went with this letter downstairs and said simply 'I want this taken to the direction to-night, and am unwell and unable to go, will you take it now?' my father would not say a word, or rather would say a dozen cheerful absurdities about his 'wanting a walk,' 'just having been wishing to go out' &c. At night he sits studying my works—illustrating them (I will bring you drawings to make you laugh)—and yesterday I picked up a crumpled bit of paper ... 'his notion of what a criticism on this last number ought to be,—none, that have appeared, satisfying him!'—So judge of what he will say! And my mother loves me just as much more as must of necessity be.
Once more, understand all this ... for the clock scares me of a sudden—I meant to say more—far more.
But may God bless you ever—my own dearest, my Ba—
I am wholly your R.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Sunday. [Post-mark, January 19, 1846.]
Your letter came just after the hope of one had past—the latest Saturday post had gone, they said, and I was beginning to be as vexed as possible, looking into the long letterless Sunday. Then, suddenly came the knock—the postman redivivus—just when it seemed so beyond hoping for—it was half past eight, observe, and there had been a post at nearly eight—suddenly came the knock, and your letter with it. Was I not glad, do you think?
And you call the Athenaeum 'kind and satisfactory'? Well—I was angry instead. To make us wait so long for an 'article' like that, was not over-kind certainly, nor was it 'satisfactory' to class your peculiar qualities with other contemporary ones, as if they were not peculiar. It seemed to me cold and cautious, from the causes perhaps which you mention, but the extracts will work their own way with everybody who knows what poetry is, and for others, let the critic do his worst with them. For what is said of 'mist' I have no patience because I who know when you are obscure and never think of denying it in some of your former works, do hold that this last number is as clear and self-sufficing to a common understanding, as far as the expression and medium goes, as any book in the world, and that Mr. Chorley was bound in verity to say so. If I except that one stanza, you know, it is to make the general observation stronger. And then 'mist' is an infamous word for your kind of obscurity. You never are misty, not even in 'Sordello'—never vague. Your graver cuts deep sharp lines, always—and there is an extra-distinctness in your images and thoughts, from the midst of which, crossing each other infinitely, the general significance seems to escape. So that to talk of a 'mist,' when you are obscurest, is an impotent thing to do. Indeed it makes me angry.
But the suggested virtue of 'self-renunciation' only made me smile, because it is simply nonsense ... nonsense which proves itself to be nonsense at a glance. So genius is to renounce itself—that is the new critical doctrine, is it? Now is it not foolish? To recognize the poetical faculty of a man, and then to instruct him in 'self-renunciation' in that very relation—or rather, to hint the virtue of it, and hesitate the dislike of his doing otherwise? What atheists these critics are after all—and how the old heathens understood the divinity of gifts better, beyond any comparison. We may take shame to ourselves, looking back.
Now, shall I tell you what I did yesterday? It was so warm, so warm, the thermometer at 68 in this room, that I took it into my head to call it April instead of January, and put on a cloak and walked down-stairs into the drawing-room—walked, mind! Before, I was carried by one of my brothers,—even to the last autumn-day when I went out—I never walked a step for fear of the cold in the passages. But yesterday it was so wonderfully warm, and I so strong besides—it was a feat worthy of the day—and I surprised them all as much as if I had walked out of the window instead. That kind dear Stormie, who with all his shyness and awkwardness has the most loving of hearts in him, said that he was 'so glad to see me'!
Well!—setting aside the glory of it, it would have been as wise perhaps if I had abstained; our damp detestable climate reaches us otherwise than by cold, and I am not quite as well as usual this morning after an uncomfortable feverish night—not very unwell, mind, nor unwell at all in the least degree of consequence—and I tell you, only to show how susceptible I really am still, though 'scarcely an invalid,' say the complimenters.
What a way I am from your letter—that letter—or seem to be rather—for one may think of one thing and yet go on writing distrustedly of other things. So you are 'grateful' to my sisters ... you! Now I beseech you not to talk such extravagances; I mean such extravagances as words like these imply—and there are far worse words than these, in the letter ... such as I need not put my finger on; words which are sense on my lips, but no sense at all on yours, and which make me disquietedly sure that you are under an illusion. Observe!—certainly I should not choose to have a 'claim,' see! Only, what I object to, in 'illusions,' 'miracles,' and things of that sort, is the want of continuity common to such. When Joshua caused the sun to stand still, it was not for a year even!—Ungrateful, I am!
And 'pretty well' means 'not well' I am afraid—or I should be gladder still of the new act. You will tell me on Tuesday what 'pretty well' means, and if your mother is better—or I may have a letter to-morrow—dearest! May God bless you!
To-morrow too, at half past three o'clock, how joyful I shall be that my 'kind considerateness' decided not to receive you until Tuesday. My very kind considerateness, which made me eat my dinner to-day!
A hundred letters I have, by this last, ... to set against Napoleon's Hundred Days—did you know that?
So much better I am to-night: it was nothing but a little chill from the damp—the fog, you see!
R.B. to E.B.B.
Monday Morning. [Post-mark, January 19, 1846.]
Love, if you knew but how vexed I was, so very few minutes after my note left last night; how angry with the unnecessary harshness into which some of the phrases might be construed—you would forgive me, indeed. But, when all is confessed and forgiven, the fact remains—that it would be the one trial I know I should not be able to bear; the repetition of these 'scenes'—intolerable—not to be written of, even my mind refuses to form a clear conception of them.
My own loved letter is come—and the news; of which the reassuring postscript lets the interrupted joy flow on again. Well, and I am not to be grateful for that; nor that you do 'eat your dinner'? Indeed you will be ingenious to prevent me! I fancy myself meeting you on 'the stairs'—stairs and passages generally, and galleries (ah, thou indeed!) all, with their picturesque accidents, of landing-places, and spiral heights and depths, and sudden turns and visions of half open doors into what Quarles calls 'mollitious chambers'—and above all, landing-places—they are my heart's delight—I would come upon you unaware in a landing-place in my next dream! One day we may walk on the galleries round and over the inner court of the Doges' Palace at Venice; and read, on tablets against the wall, how such an one was banished for an 'enormous dig (intacco) into the public treasure'—another for ... what you are not to know because his friends have got chisels and chipped away the record of it—underneath the 'giants' on their stands, and in the midst of the cortile the bronze fountains whence the girls draw water.
So you too wrote French verses?—Mine were of less lofty argument—one couplet makes me laugh now for the reason of its false quantity—I translated the Ode of Alcaeus; and the last couplet ran thus....
Harmodius, et toi, cher Aristogiton!
* * * * *
* * * * *
Comme l'astre du jour, brillera votre nom!
The fact was, I could not bear to hurt my French Master's feelings—who inveterately maltreated 'ai's and oi's' and in this instance, an 'ei.' But 'Pauline' is altogether of a different sort of precocity—you shall see it when I can master resolution to transcribe the explanation which I know is on the fly-leaf of a copy here. Of that work, the Athenaeum said [several words erased] now, what outrageous folly! I care, and you care, precisely nothing about its sayings and doings—yet here I talk!
Now to you—Ba! When I go through sweetness to sweetness, at 'Ba' I stop last of all, and lie and rest. That is the quintessence of them all,—they all take colour and flavour from that. So, dear, dear Ba, be glad as you can to see me to-morrow. God knows how I embalm every such day,—I do not believe that one of the forty is confounded with another in my memory. So, that is gained and sure for ever. And of letters, this makes my 104th and, like Donne's Bride,
... I take, My jewels from their boxes; call My Diamonds, Pearls, and Emeralds, and make Myself a constellation of them all!
Bless you, my own Beloved!
I am much better to-day—having been not so well yesterday—whence the note to you, perhaps! I put that to your charity for construction. By the way, let the foolish and needless story about my whilome friend be of this use, that it records one of the traits in that same generous love, of me, I once mentioned, I remember—one of the points in his character which, I told you, would account, if you heard them, for my parting company with a good deal of warmth of attachment to myself.
What a day! But you do not so much care for rain, I think. My Mother is no worse, but still suffering sadly.
Ever your own, dearest ever—
E.B.B. to R.B.
Wednesday. [Post-mark, January 22, 1846.]
Ever since I ceased to be with you—ever dearest,—have been with your 'Luria,' if that is ceasing to be with you—which it is, I feel at last. Yet the new act is powerful and subtle, and very affecting, it seems to me, after a grave, suggested pathos; the reasoning is done on every hand with admirable directness and adroitness, and poor Luria's iron baptism under such a bright crossing of swords, most miserably complete. Still ... is he to die so? can you mean it? Oh—indeed I foresaw that—not a guess of mine ever touched such an end—and I can scarcely resign myself to it as a necessity, even now ... I mean, to the act, as Luria's act, whether it is final or not—the act of suicide being so unheroical. But you are a dramatic poet and right perhaps, where, as a didactic poet, you would have been wrong, ... and, after the first shock, I begin to see that your Luria is the man Luria and that his 'sun' lights him so far and not farther than so, and to understand the natural reaction of all that generous trust and hopefulness, what naturally it would be. Also, it is satisfactory that Domizia, having put her woman's part off to the last, should be too late with it—it will be a righteous retribution. I had fancied that her object was to isolate him, ... to make his military glory and national recompense ring hollowly to his ears, and so commend herself, drawing back the veil.
Puccio's scornful working out of the low work, is very finely given, I think, ... and you have 'a cunning right hand,' to lift up Luria higher in the mind of your readers, by the very means used to pull down his fortunes—you show what a man he is by the very talk of his rivals ... by his 'natural godship' over Puccio. Then Husain is nobly characteristic—I like those streaks of Moorish fire in his speeches. 'Why 'twas all fighting' &c. ... that passage perhaps is over-subtle for a Husain—but too nobly right in the abstract to be altered, if it is so or not. Domizia talks philosophically besides, and how eloquently;—and very noble she is where she proclaims
The angel in thee and rejects the sprites That ineffectual crowd about his strength, And mingle with his work and claim a share!—
But why not 'spirits' rather than 'sprites,' which has a different association by custom? 'Spirits' is quite short enough, it seems to me, for a last word—it sounds like a monosyllable that trembles—or thrills, rather. And, do you know, I agree with yourself a little when you say (as did you not say?) that some of the speeches—Domizia's for instance—are too lengthy. I think I should like them to coil up their strength, here and there, in a few passages. Luria ... poor Luria ... is great and pathetic when he stands alone at last, and 'all his waves have gone over him.' Poor Luria!—And now, I wonder where Mr. Chorley will look, in this work,—along all the edges of the hills,—to find, or prove, his favourite 'mist!' On the glass of his own opera-lorgnon, perhaps:—shall we ask him to try that?
But first, I want to ask you something—I have had it in my head a long time, but it might as well have been in a box—and indeed if it had been in the box with your letters, I should have remembered to speak of it long ago. So now, at last, tell me—how do you write, O my poet? with steel pens, or Bramah pens, or goose-quills or crow-quills?—Because I have a penholder which was given to me when I was a child, and which I have used both then and since in the production of various great epics and immortal 'works,' until in these latter years it has seemed to me too heavy, and I have taken into service, instead of it, another two-inch-long instrument which makes Mr. Kenyon laugh to look at—and so, my fancy has run upon your having the heavier holder, which is not very heavy after all, and which will make you think of me whether you choose it or not, besides being made of a splinter from the ivory gate of old, and therefore not unworthy of a true prophet. Will you have it, dearest? Yes—because you can't help it. When you come ... on Saturday!—
And for 'Pauline,' ... I am satisfied with the promise to see it some day ... when we are in the isle of the sirens, or ready for wandering in the Doges' galleries. I seem to understand that you would really rather wish me not to see it now ... and as long as I do see it! So that shall be!—Am I not good now, and not a teazer? If there is any poetical justice in 'the seven worlds,' I shall have a letter to-night.
By the way, you owe me two letters by your confession. A hundred and four of mine you have, and I, only a hundred and two of yours ... which is a 'deficit' scarcely creditable to me, (now is it?) when, according to the law and ordinance, a woman's hundred and four letters would take two hundred and eight at least, from the other side, to justify them. Well—I feel inclined to wring out the legal per centage to the uttermost farthing; but fall into a fit of gratitude, notwithstanding, thinking of Monday, and how the second letter came beyond hope. Always better, you are, than I guess you to be,—and it was being best, to write, as you did, for me to hear twice on one day!—best and dearest!
But the first letter was not what you feared—I know you too well not to know how that letter was written and with what intention. Do you, on the other hand, endeavour to comprehend how there may be an eccentricity and obliquity in certain relations and on certain subjects, while the general character stands up worthily of esteem and regard—even of yours. Mr. Kenyon says broadly that it is monomania—neither more nor less. Then the principle of passive filial obedience is held—drawn (and quartered) from Scripture. He sees the law and the gospel on his side. Only the other day, there was a setting forth of the whole doctrine, I hear, down-stairs—'passive obedience, and particularly in respect to marriage.' One after the other, my brothers all walked out of the room, and there was left for sole auditor, Captain Surtees Cook, who had especial reasons for sitting it out against his will,—so he sate and asked 'if children were to be considered slaves' as meekly as if he were asking for information. I could not help smiling when I heard of it. He is just succeeding in obtaining what is called an 'adjutancy,' which, with the half pay, will put an end to many anxieties.
Dearest—when, in the next dream, you meet me in the 'landing-place,' tell me why I am to stand up to be reviewed again. What a fancy, that is of yours, for 'full-lengths'—and what bad policy, if a fancy, to talk of it so! because you would have had the glory and advantage, and privilege, of seeing me on my feet twenty times before now, if you had not impressed on me, in some ineffable manner, that to stand on my head would scarcely be stranger. Nevertheless you shall have it your own way, as you have everything—which makes you so very, very, exemplarily submissive, you know!
Mr. Kenyon does not come—puts it off to Saturday perhaps.
The Daily News I have had a glance at. A weak leading article, I thought ... and nothing stronger from Ireland:—but enough advertisements to promise a long future. What do you think? or have you not seen the paper? No broad principles laid down. A mere newspaper-support of the 'League.'
May God bless you. Say how you are—and do walk, and 'care' for yourself,
and, so, for your own
Have I expressed to you at all how 'Luria' impresses me more and more? You shall see the 'remarks' with the other papers—the details of what strikes me.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Thursday Morning. [Post-mark, January 22, 1846.]
But you did not get the letter last evening—no, for all my good intentions—because somebody came over in the morning and forced me to go out ... and, perhaps, I knew what was coming, and had all my thoughts there, that is, here now, with my own letters from you. I think so—for this punishment, I will tell you, came for some sin or other last night. I woke—late, or early—and, in one of those lucid moments when all things are thoroughly perceived,—whether suggested by some forgotten passage in the past sleep itself, I don't know—but I seem to apprehend, comprehend entirely, for the first time, what would happen if I lost you—the whole sense of that closed door of Catarina's came on me at once, and it was I who said—not as quoting or adapting another's words, but spontaneously, unavoidably, 'In that door, you will not enter, I have'.... And, dearest, the
Unwritten it must remain.
What is on the other leaf, no ill-omen, after all,—because I strengthened myself against a merely imaginary evil—as I do always; and thus—I know I never can lose you,—you surely are more mine, there is less for the future to give or take away than in the ordinary cases, where so much less is known, explained, possessed, as with us. Understand for me, my dearest—
And do you think, sweet, that there is any free movement of my soul which your penholder is to secure? Well, try,—it will be yours by every right of discovery—and I, for my part, will religiously report to you the first time I think of you 'which, but for your present I should not have done'—or is it not a happy, most happy way of ensuring a better fifth act to Luria than the foregoing? See the absurdity I write—when it will be more probably the ruin of the whole—for was it not observed in the case of a friend of mine once, who wrote his own part in a piece for private theatricals, and had ends of his own to serve in it,—that he set to work somewhat after this fashion: 'Scene 1st. A breakfast chamber—Lord and Lady A. at table—Lady A./ No more coffee my dear?—Lord A./ One more cup! (Embracing her). Lady A./ I was thinking of trying the ponies in the Park—are you engaged? Lord A./ Why, there's that bore of a Committee at the House till 2. (Kissing her hand).' And so forth, to the astonishment of the auditory, who did not exactly see the 'sequitur' in either instance. Well, dearest, whatever comes of it, the 'aside,' the bye-play, the digression, will be the best, and only true business of the piece. And though I must smile at your notion of securing that by any fresh appliance, mechanical or spiritual, yet I do thank you, dearest, thank you from my heart indeed—(and I write with Bramahs always—not being able to make a pen!)
If you have gone so far with 'Luria,' I fancy myself nearly or altogether safe. I must not tell you, but I wished just these feelings to be in your mind about Domizia, and the death of Luria: the last act throws light back on all, I hope. Observe only, that Luria would stand, if I have plied him effectually with adverse influences, in such a position as to render any other end impossible without the hurt to Florence which his religion is, to avoid inflicting—passively awaiting, for instance, the sentence and punishment to come at night, would as surely inflict it as taking part with her foes. His aim is to prevent the harm she will do herself by striking him, so he moves aside from the blow. But I know there is very much to improve and heighten in this fourth act, as in the others—but the right aspect of things seems obtained and the rest of the work is plain and easy.
I am obliged to leave off—the rest to-morrow—and then dear, Saturday! I love you utterly, my own best, dearest—
E.B.B. to R.B.
Thursday Night. [Post-mark, January 23, 1846.]
Yes, I understand your 'Luria'—and there is to be more light; and I open the window to the east and wait for it—a little less gladly than for you on Saturday, dearest. In the meanwhile you have 'lucid moments,' and 'strengthen' yourself into the wisdom of learning to love me—and, upon consideration, it does not seem to be so hard after all ... there is 'less for the future to take away' than you had supposed—so that is the way? Ah, 'these lucid moments, in which all things are thoroughly perceived';—what harm they do me!—And I am to 'understand for you,' you say!—Am I?
On the other side, and to make the good omen complete, I remembered, after I had sealed my last letter, having made a confusion between the ivory and horn gates, the gates of false and true visions, as I am apt to do—and my penholder belongs to the ivory gate, ... as you will perceive in your lucid moments—poor holder! But, as you forget me on Wednesdays, the post testifying, ... the sinecure may not be quite so certain as the Thursday's letter says. And I too, in the meanwhile, grow wiser, ... having learnt something which you cannot do,—you of the 'Bells and Pomegranates': You cannot make a pen. Yesterday I looked round the world in vain for it.
Mr. Kenyon does not come—will not perhaps until Saturday! Which reminds me—Mr. Kenyon told me about a year ago that he had been painfully employed that morning in parting two—dearer than friends—and he had done it he said, by proving to either, that he or she was likely to mar the prospects of the other. 'If I had spoken to each, of himself or herself,' he said, 'I never could have done it.'
Was not that an ingenious cruelty? The remembrance rose up in me like a ghost, and made me ask you once to promise what you promised ... (you recollect?) because I could not bear to be stabbed with my own dagger by the hand of a third person ... so! When people have lucid moments themselves, you know, it is different.
And shall I indeed have a letter to-morrow? Or, not having the penholder yet, will you....
Goodnight. May God bless you—
Ever and wholly your
R.B. to E.B.B.
[Post-mark, January 23, 1846.]
Now, of all perverse interpretations that ever were and never ought to have been, commend me to this of Ba's—after I bade her generosity 'understand me,' too!—which meant, 'let her pick out of my disjointed sentences a general meaning, if she can,—which I very well know their imperfect utterance would not give to one unsupplied with the key of my whole heart's-mystery'—and Ba, with the key in her hand, to pretend and poke feathers and penholders into the key-hole, and complain that the wards are wrong! So—when the poor scholar, one has read of, uses not very dissimilar language and argument—who being threatened with the deprivation of his Virgil learnt the AEneid by heart and then said 'Take what you can now'!—that Ba calls 'feeling the loss would not be so hard after all'!—I do not, at least. And if at any future moment I should again be visited—as I earnestly desire may never be the case—with a sudden consciousness of the entire inutility of all earthly love (since of my love) to hold its object back from the decree of God, if such should call it away; one of those known facts which, for practical good, we treat as supremely common-place, but which, like those of the uncertainty of life—the very existence of God, I may say—if they were not common-place, and could they be thoroughly apprehended (except in the chance minutes which make one grow old, not the mere years)—the business of the world would cease; but when you find Chaucer's graver at his work of 'graving smale seles' by the sun's light, you know that the sun's self could not have been created on that day—do you 'understand' that, Ba? And when I am with you, or here or writing or walking—and perfectly happy in the sunshine of you, I very well know I am no wiser than is good for me and that there seems no harm in feeling it impossible this should change, or fail to go on increasing till this world ends and we are safe, I with you, for ever. But when—if only once, as I told you, recording it for its very strangeness, I do feel—in a flash—that words are words, and could not alter that decree ... will you tell me how, after all, that conviction and the true woe of it are better met than by the as thorough conviction that, for one blessing, the extreme woe is impossible now—that you are, and have been, mine, and me—one with me, never to be parted—so that the complete separation not being to be thought of, such an incomplete one as is yet in Fate's power may be the less likely to attract her notice? And, dearest, in all emergencies, see, I go to you for help; for your gift of better comfort than is found in myself. Or ought I, if I could, to add one more proof to the Greek proverb 'that the half is greater than the whole'—and only love you for myself (it is absurd; but if I could disentwine you from my soul in that sense), only see my own will, and good (not in your will and good, as I now see them and shall ever see) ... should you say I did love you then? Perhaps. And it would have been better for me, I know—I should not have written this or the like—there being no post in the Siren's isle, as you will see.
And the end of the whole matter is—what? Not by any means what my Ba expects or ought to expect; that I say with a flounce 'Catch me blotting down on paper, again, the first vague impressions in the weakest words and being sure I have only to bid her "understand"!—when I can get "Blair on Rhetoric," and the additional chapter on the proper conduct of a letter'! On the contrary I tell you, Ba, my own heart's dearest, I will provoke you tenfold worse; will tell you all that comes uppermost, and what frightens me or reassures me, in moments lucid or opaque—and when all the pen-stumps and holders refuse to open the lock, out will come the key perforce; and once put that knowledge—of the entire love and worship of my heart and soul—to its proper use, and all will be clear—tell me to-morrow that it will be clear when I call you to account and exact strict payment for every word and phrase and full-stop and partial stop, and no stop at all, in this wicked little note which got so treacherously the kisses and the thankfulness—written with no penholder that is to belong to me, I hope—but with the feather, possibly, which Sycorax wiped the dew from, as Caliban remembered when he was angry! All but—(that is, all was wrong but)—to be just ... the old, dear, so dear ending which makes my heart beat now as at first ... and so, pays for all! Wherefore, all is right again, is it not? and you are my own priceless Ba, my very own—and I will have you, if you like that style, and want you, and must have you every day and all day long—much less see you to-morrow stand—
... Now, there breaks down my new spirit—and, shame or no, I must pray you, in the old way, not to receive me standing—I should not remain master of myself I do believe!
You have put out of my head all I intended to write—and now I slowly begin to remember the matters they seem strangely unimportant—that poor impotency of a Newspaper! No—nothing of that for the present. To-morrow my dearest! Ba's first comment—'To-morrow? To-day is too soon, it seems—yet it is wise, perhaps, to avoid the satiety &c. &c. &c. &c. &c.'
Does she feel how I kissed that comment back on her dear self as fit punishment?
E.B.B. to R.B.
[Post-mark, January 26, 1846.]
I must begin by invoking my own stupidity! To forget after all the penholder! I had put it close beside me too on the table, and never once thought of it afterwards from first to last—just as I should do if I had a common-place book, the memoranda all turning to obliviscenda as by particular contact. So I shall send the holder with Miss Martineau's books which you can read or not as you like ... they have beauty in passages ... but, trained up against the wall of a set design, want room for branching and blossoming, great as her skill is. I like her 'Playfellow' stories twice as well. Do you know them? Written for children, and in such a fine heroic child-spirit as to be too young and too old for nobody. Oh, and I send you besides a most frightful extract from an American magazine sent to me yesterday ... no, the day before ... on the subject of mesmerism—and you are to understand, if you please, that the Mr. Edgar Poe who stands committed in it, is my dedicator ... whose dedication I forgot, by the way, with the rest—so, while I am sending, you shall have his poems with his mesmeric experience and decide whether the outrageous compliment to E.B.B. or the experiment on M. Vandeleur [Valdemar] goes furthest to prove him mad. There is poetry in the man, though, now and then, seen between the great gaps of bathos.... 'Politian' will make you laugh—as the 'Raven' made me laugh, though with something in it which accounts for the hold it took upon people such as Mr. N.P. Willis and his peers—it was sent to me from four different quarters besides the author himself, before its publication in this form, and when it had only a newspaper life. Some of the other lyrics have power of a less questionable sort. For the author, I do not know him at all—never heard from him nor wrote to him—and in my opinion, there is more faculty shown in the account of that horrible mesmeric experience (mad or not mad) than in his poems. Now do read it from the beginning to the end. That 'going out' of the hectic, struck me very much ... and the writhing away of the upper lip. Most horrible!—Then I believe so much of mesmerism, as to give room for the full acting of the story on me ... without absolutely giving full credence to it, understand.
Ever dearest, you could not think me in earnest in that letter? It was because I understood you so perfectly that I felt at liberty for the jesting a little—for had I not thought of that before, myself, and was I not reproved for speaking of it, when I said that I was content, for my part, even so? Surely you remember—and I should not have said it if I had not felt with you, felt and known, that 'there is, with us, less for the future to give or take away than in the ordinary cases.' So much less! All the happiness I have known has come to me through you, and it is enough to live for or die in—therefore living or dying I would thank God, and use that word 'enough' ... being yours in life and death. And always understanding that if either of us should go, you must let it be this one here who was nearly gone when she knew you, since I could not bear—
Now see if it is possible to write on this subject, unless one laughs to stop the tears. I was more wise on Friday.
Let me tell you instead of my sister's affairs, which are so publicly talked of in this house that there is no confidence to be broken in respect to them—yet my brothers only see and hear, and are told nothing, to keep them as clear as possible from responsibility. I may say of Henrietta that her only fault is, her virtues being written in water—I know not of one other fault. She has too much softness to be able to say 'no' in the right place—and thus, without the slightest levity ... perfectly blameless in that respect, ... she says half a yes or a quarter of a yes, or a yes in some sort of form, too often—but I will tell you. Two years ago, three men were loving her, as they called it. After a few months, and the proper quantity of interpretations, one of them consoled himself by giving nick-names to his rivals. Perseverance and Despair he called them, and so, went up to the boxes to see out the rest of the play. Despair ran to a crisis, was rejected in so many words, but appealed against the judgment and had his claim admitted—it was all silence and mildness on each side ... a tacit gaining of ground,—Despair 'was at least a gentleman,' said my brothers. On which Perseverance came on with violent re-iterations,—insisted that she loved him without knowing it, or should—elbowed poor Despair into the open streets, who being a gentleman wouldn't elbow again—swore that 'if she married another he would wait till she became a widow, trusting to Providence' ... did wait every morning till the head of the house was out, and sate day by day, in spite of the disinclination of my sisters and the rudeness of all my brothers, four hours in the drawing-room ... let himself be refused once a week and sate all the longer ... allowed everybody in the house (and a few visitors) to see and hear him in fits of hysterical sobbing, and sate on unabashed, the end being that he sits now sole regnant, my poor sister saying softly, with a few tears of remorse for her own instability, that she is 'taken by storm and cannot help it.' I give you only the resume of this military movement—and though I seem to smile, which it was impossible to avoid at some points of the evidence as I heard it from first one person and then another, yet I am woman enough rather to be glad that the decision is made so. He is sincerely attached to her, I believe; and the want of refinement and sensibility (for he understood her affections to be engaged to another at one time) is covered in a measure by the earnestness,—and justified too by the event—everybody being quite happy and contented, even to Despair, who has a new horse and takes lessons in music.
That's love—is it not? And that's my answer (if you look for it) to the question you asked me yesterday.
Yet do not think that I am turning it all to game. I could not do so with any real earnest sentiment ... I never could ... and now least, and with my own sister whom I love so. One may smile to oneself and yet wish another well—and so I smile to you—and it is all safe with you I know. He is a second or third cousin of ours and has golden opinions from all his friends and fellow-officers—and for the rest, most of these men are like one another.... I never could see the difference between fuller's earth and common clay, among them all.
What do you think he has said since—to her too?—'I always persevere about everything. Once I began to write a farce—which they told me was as bad as could be. Well!—I persevered!—I finished it.' Perfectly unconscious, both he and she were of there being anything mal a propos in that—and no kind of harm was meant,—only it expresses the man.
Dearest—it had better be Thursday I think—our day! I was showing to-day your father's drawings,—and my brothers, and Arabel besides, admired them very much on the right grounds. Say how you are. You did not seem to me to answer frankly this time, and I was more than half uneasy when you went away. Take exercise, dear, dearest ... think of me enough for it,—and do not hurry 'Luria.' May God bless you!
R.B. to E.B.B.
Sunday Evening. [Post-mark, January 26, 1846.]
I will not try and write much to-night, dearest, for my head gives a little warning—and I have so much to think of!—spite of my penholder being kept back from me after all! Now, ought I to have asked for it? Or did I not seem grateful enough at the promise? This last would be a characteristic reason, seeing that I reproached myself with feeling too grateful for the 'special symbol'—the 'essential meaning' of which was already in my soul. Well then, I will—I do pray for it—next time; and I will keep it for that one yesterday and all its memories—and it shall bear witness against me, if, on the Siren's isle, I grow forgetful of Wimpole Street. And when is 'next time' to be—Wednesday or Thursday? When I look back on the strangely steady widening of my horizon—how no least interruption has occurred to visits or letters—oh, care you, sweet—care for us both!
That remark of your sister's delights me—you remember?—that the anger would not be so formidable. I have exactly the fear of encountering that, which the sense of having to deal with a ghost would induce: there's no striking at it with one's partizan. Well, God is above all! It is not my fault if it so happens that by returning my love you make me exquisitely blessed; I believe—more than hope, I am sure I should do all I ever now can do, if you were never to know it—that is, my love for you was in the first instance its own reward—if one must use such phrases—and if it were possible for that ... not anger, which is of no good, but that opposition—that adverse will—to show that your good would be attained by the—
But it would need to be shown to me. You have said thus to me—in the very last letter, indeed. But with me, or any man, the instincts of happiness develop themselves too unmistakably where there is anything like a freedom of will. The man whose heart is set on being rich or influential after the worldly fashion, may be found far enough from the attainment of either riches or influence—but he will be in the presumed way to them—pumping at the pump, if he is really anxious for water, even though the pump be dry—but not sitting still by the dusty roadside.
I believe—first of all, you—but when that is done, and I am allowed to call your heart mine,—I cannot think you would be happy if parted from me—and that belief, coming to add to my own feeling in that case. So, this will be—I trust in God.
In life, in death, I am your own, my own! My head has got well already! It is so slight a thing, that I make such an ado about! Do not reply to these bodings—they are gone—they seem absurd! All steps secured but the last, and that last the easiest! Yes—far easiest! For first you had to be created, only that; and then, in my time; and then, not in Timbuctoo but Wimpole Street, and then ... the strange hedge round the sleeping Palace keeping the world off—and then ... all was to begin, all the difficulty only begin:—and now ... see where is reached! And I kiss you, and bless you, my dearest, in earnest of the end!
E.B.B. to R.B.
Monday. [Post-mark, January 27, 1846.]
You have had my letter and heard about the penholder. Your fancy of 'not seeming grateful enough,' is not wise enough for you, dearest; when you know that I know your common fault to be the undue magnifying of everything that comes from me, and I am always complaining of it outwardly and inwardly. That suddenly I should set about desiring you to be more grateful,—even for so great a boon as an old penholder,—would be a more astounding change than any to be sought or seen in a prime minister.
Another mistake you made concerning Henrietta and her opinion—and there's no use nor comfort in leaving you in it. Henrietta says that the 'anger would not be so formidable after all'! Poor dearest Henrietta, who trembles at the least bending of the brows ... who has less courage than I, and the same views of the future! What she referred to, was simply the infrequency of the visits. 'Why was I afraid,' she said—'where was the danger? who would be the informer?'—Well! I will not say any more. It is just natural that you, in your circumstances and associations, should be unable to see what I have seen from the beginning—only you will not hereafter reproach me, in the most secret of your thoughts, for not having told you plainly. If I could have told you with greater plainness I should blame myself (and I do not) because it is not an opinion I have, but a perception. I see, I know. The result ... the end of all ... perhaps now and then I see that too ... in the 'lucid moments' which are not the happiest for anybody. Remember, in all cases, that I shall not repent of any part of our past intercourse; and that, therefore, when the time for decision comes, you will be free to look at the question as if you saw it then for the first moment, without being hampered by considerations about 'all those yesterdays.'
For him ... he would rather see me dead at his foot than yield the point: and he will say so, and mean it, and persist in the meaning.
Do you ever wonder at me ... that I should write such things, and have written others so different? I have thought that in myself very often. Insincerity and injustice may seem the two ends, while I occupy the straight betwixt two—and I should not like you to doubt how this may be! Sometimes I have begun to show you the truth, and torn the paper; I could not. Yet now again I am borne on to tell you, ... to save you from some thoughts which you cannot help perhaps.
There has been no insincerity—nor is there injustice. I believe, I am certain, I have loved him better than the rest of his children. I have heard the fountain within the rock, and my heart has struggled in towards him through the stones of the rock ... thrust off ... dropping off ... turning in again and clinging! Knowing what is excellent in him well, loving him as my only parent left, and for himself dearly, notwithstanding that hardness and the miserable 'system' which made him appear harder still, I have loved him and been proud of him for his high qualities, for his courage and fortitude when he bore up so bravely years ago under the worldly reverses which he yet felt acutely—more than you and I could feel them—but the fortitude was admirable. Then came the trials of love—then, I was repulsed too often, ... made to suffer in the suffering of those by my side ... depressed by petty daily sadnesses and terrors, from which it is possible however for an elastic affection to rise again as past. Yet my friends used to say 'You look broken-spirited'—and it was true. In the midst, came my illness,—and when I was ill he grew gentler and let me draw nearer than ever I had done: and after that great stroke ... you know ... though that fell in the middle of a storm of emotion and sympathy on my part, which drove clearly against him, God seemed to strike our hearts together by the shock; and I was grateful to him for not saying aloud what I said to myself in my agony, 'If it had not been for you'...! And comparing my self-reproach to what I imagined his self-reproach must certainly be (for if I had loved selfishly, he had not been kind), I felt as if I could love and forgive him for two ... (I knowing that serene generous departed spirit, and seeming left to represent it) ... and I did love him better than all those left to me to love in the world here. I proved a little my affection for him, by coming to London at the risk of my life rather than diminish the comfort of his home by keeping a part of my family away from him. And afterwards for long and long he spoke to me kindly and gently, and of me affectionately and with too much praise; and God knows that I had as much joy as I imagined myself capable of again, in the sound of his footstep on the stairs, and of his voice when he prayed in this room; my best hope, as I have told him since, being, to die beneath his eyes. Love is so much to me naturally—it is, to all women! and it was so much to me to feel sure at last that he loved me—to forget all blame—to pull the weeds up from that last illusion of life:—and this, till the Pisa-business, which threw me off, far as ever, again—farther than ever—when George said 'he could not flatter me' and I dared not flatter myself. But do you believe that I never wrote what I did not feel: I never did. And I ask one kindness more ... do not notice what I have written here. Let it pass. We can alter nothing by ever so many words. After all, he is the victim. He isolates himself—and now and then he feels it ... the cold dead silence all round, which is the effect of an incredible system. If he were not stronger than most men, he could not bear it as he does. With such high qualities too!—so upright and honourable—you would esteem him, you would like him, I think. And so ... dearest ... let that be the last word.
I dare say you have asked yourself sometimes, why it was that I never managed to draw you into the house here, so that you might make your own way. Now that is one of the things impossible to me. I have not influence enough for that. George can never invite a friend of his even. Do you see? The people who do come here, come by particular license and association ... Capt. Surtees Cook being one of them. Once ... when I was in high favour too ... I asked for Mr. Kenyon to be invited to dinner—he an old college friend, and living close by and so affectionate to me always—I felt that he must be hurt by the neglect, and asked. It was in vain. Now, you see—
May God bless you always! I wrote all my spirits away in this letter yesterday, and kept it to finish to-day ... being yours every day, glad or sad, ever beloved!—
R.B. to E.B.B.
Tuesday. [Post-mark, January 27, 1846.]
Why will you give me such unnecessary proofs of your goodness? Why not leave the books for me to take away, at all events? No—you must fold up, and tie round, and seal over, and be at all the pains in the world with those hands I see now. But you only threaten; say you 'shall send'—as yet, and nothing having come, I do pray you, if not too late, to save me the shame—add to the gratitude you never can now, I think ... only think, for you are a siren, and I don't know certainly to what your magic may not extend. Thus, in not so important a matter, I should have said, the day before yesterday, that no letter from you could make my heart rise within me, more than of old ... unless it should happen to be of twice the ordinary thickness ... and then there's a fear at first lest the over-running of my dealt-out measure should be just a note of Mr. Kenyon's, for instance! But yesterday the very seal began with 'Ba'—Now, always seal with that seal my letters, dearest! Do you recollect Donne's pretty lines about seals?
Quondam fessus Amor loquens Amato, Tot et tanta loquens amica, scripsit: Tandem et fessa manus dedit Sigillum.
And in his own English,
When love, being weary, made an end Of kind expressions to his friend, He writ; when hand could write no more, He gave the seal—and so left o'er.
(By the way, what a mercy that he never noticed the jingle in posse of ending 'expressions' and beginning 'impressions.')
How your account of the actors in the 'Love's Labour Lost' amused me! I rather like, though, the notion of that steady, business-like pursuit of love under difficulties; and the sobbing proves something surely! Serjt. Talfourd says—is it not he who says it?—'All tears are not for sorrow.' I should incline to say, from my own feeling, that no tears were. They only express joy in me, or sympathy with joy—and so is it with you too, I should think.
Understand that I do not disbelieve in Mesmerism—I only object to insufficient evidence being put forward as quite irrefragable. I keep an open sense on the subject—ready to be instructed; and should have refused such testimony as Miss Martineau's if it had been adduced in support of something I firmly believed—'non tali auxilio'—indeed, so has truth been harmed, and only so, from the beginning. So, I shall read what you bid me, and learn all I can.
I am not quite so well this week—yesterday some friends came early and kept me at home—for which I seem to suffer a little; less, already, than in the morning—so I will go out and walk away the whirring ... which is all the mighty ailment. As for 'Luria' I have not looked at it since I saw you—which means, saw you in the body, because last night I saw you; as I wonder if you know!
Thursday, and again I am with you—and you will forget nothing ... how the farewell is to be returned? Ah, my dearest, sweetest Ba; how entirely I love you!
May God bless you ever—
2. p.m. Your parcel arrives ... the penholder; now what shall I say? How am I to use so fine a thing even in writing to you? I will give it you again in our Isle, and meantime keep it where my other treasures are—my letters and my dear ringlet.
Thank you—all I can thank.
R.B. to E.B.B.
Wednesday. [Post-mark, January 28, 1846.]
Ever dearest—I will say, as you desire, nothing on that subject—but this strictly for myself: you engaged me to consult my own good in the keeping or breaking our engagement; not your good as it might even seem to me; much less seem to another. My only good in this world—that against which all the world goes for nothing—is to spend my life with you, and be yours. You know that when I claim anything, it is really yourself in me—you give me a right and bid me use it, and I, in fact, am most obeying you when I appear most exacting on my own account—so, in that feeling, I dare claim, once for all, and in all possible cases (except that dreadful one of your becoming worse again ... in which case I wait till life ends with both of us), I claim your promise's fulfilment—say, at the summer's end: it cannot be for your good that this state of things should continue. We can go to Italy for a year or two and be happy as day and night are long. For me, I adore you. This is all unnecessary, I feel as I write: but you will think of the main fact as ordained, granted by God, will you not, dearest?—so, not to be put in doubt ever again—then, we can go quietly thinking of after matters. Till to-morrow, and ever after, God bless my heart's own, own Ba. All my soul follows you, love—encircles you—and I live in being yours.
E.B.B. to R.B.
Friday Morning. [Post-mark, January 31, 1846.]
Let it be this way, ever dearest. If in the time of fine weather, I am not ill, ... then ... not now ... you shall decide, and your decision shall be duty and desire to me, both—I will make no difficulties. Remember, in the meanwhile, that I have decided to let it be as you shall choose ... shall choose. That I love you enough to give you up 'for your good,' is proof (to myself at least) that I love you enough for any other end:—but you thought too much of me in the last letter. Do not mistake me. I believe and trust in all your words—only you are generous unawares, as other men are selfish.
More, I meant to say of this; but you moved me as usual yesterday into the sunshine, and then I am dazzled and cannot see clearly. Still I see that you love me and that I am bound to you:—and 'what more need I see,' you may ask; while I cannot help looking out to the future, to the blue ridges of the hills, to the chances of your being happy with me. Well! I am yours as you see ... and not yours to teaze you. You shall decide everything when the time comes for doing anything ... and from this to then, I do not, dearest, expect you to use 'the liberty of leaping out of the window,' unless you are sure of the house being on fire! Nobody shall push you out of the window—least of all, I.
For Italy ... you are right. We should be nearer the sun, as you say, and further from the world, as I think—out of hearing of the great storm of gossiping, when 'scirocco is loose.' Even if you liked to live altogether abroad, coming to England at intervals, it would be no sacrifice for me—and whether in Italy or England, we should have sufficient or more than sufficient means of living, without modifying by a line that 'good free life' of yours which you reasonably praise—which, if it had been necessary to modify, we must have parted, ... because I could not have borne to see you do it; though, that you once offered it for my sake, I never shall forget.
Mr. Kenyon stayed half an hour, and asked, after you went, if you had been here long. I reproached him with what they had been doing at his club (the Athenaeum) in blackballing Douglas Jerrold, for want of something better to say—and he had not heard of it. There were more black than white balls, and Dickens was so enraged at the repulse of his friend that he gave in his own resignation like a privy councillor.
But the really bad news is of poor Tennyson—I forgot to tell you—I forget everything. He is seriously ill with an internal complaint and confined to his bed, as George heard from a common friend. Which does not prevent his writing a new poem—he has finished the second book of it—and it is in blank verse and a fairy tale, and called the 'University,' the university-members being all females. If George has not diluted the scheme of it with some law from the Inner Temple, I don't know what to think—it makes me open my eyes. Now isn't the world too old and fond of steam, for blank verse poems, in ever so many books, to be written on the fairies? I hope they may cure him, for the best deed they can do. He is not precisely in danger, understand—but the complaint may run into danger—so the account went.