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Title: The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1 of 2)
Author: Kenyon, Frederic G. (Frederic George), Sir, 1863-1952
Language: English
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[Illustration: Elizabeth Barrett Browning]



THE LETTERS
OF
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING


EDITED WITH BIOGRAPHICAL ADDITIONS
BY
FREDERIC G. KENYON

_WITH PORTRAITS_


IN TWO VOLUMES

VOLUME I.

_THIRD EDITION_


1898



PREFACE


The writer of any narrative of Mrs. Browning's life, or the editor of
a collection of her letters, is met at the outset of his task by the
knowledge that both Mrs. Browning herself and her husband more than,
once expressed their strong dislike of any such publicity in regard to
matters of a personal and private character affecting themselves. The
fact that expressions to this effect are publicly extant is one which
has to be faced or evaded; but if it could not be fairly faced, and
the apparent difficulty removed, the present volumes would never
have seen the light. It would be a poor qualification for the task of
preparing a record of Mrs. Browning's life, to be willing therein to
do violence to her own expressed wishes and those of her husband. But
the expressions to which reference has been made are limited, either
formally or by implication, to publications made during their own
lifetime. They shrank, as any sensitive person must shrink, from
seeing their private lives, their personal characteristics, above
all, their sorrows and bereavements, offered to the inspection and
criticism of the general public; and it was to such publications that
their protests referred. They could not but be aware that the details
of their lives would be of interest to the public which read and
admired their works, and there is evidence that they recognised that
the public has some claims with regard to writers who have appealed
to, and partly lived by, its favour. They only claimed that during
their own lifetime their feelings should be consulted first; when they
should have passed away, the rights of the public would begin.

It is in this spirit that the following collection of Mrs. Browning's
letters has now been prepared, in the conviction that the lovers of
English literature will be glad to make a closer and more intimate
acquaintance with one--or, it may truthfully be said, with two--of
the most interesting literary characters of the Victorian age. It is a
selection from a large mass of letters, written at all periods in Mrs.
Browning's life, which Mr. Browning, after his wife's death, reclaimed
from the friends to whom they had been written, or from their
representatives. No doubt, Mr. Browning's primary object was to
prevent publications which would have been excessively distressing
to his feelings; but the letters, when once thus collected, were
not destroyed (as was the case with many of his own letters), but
carefully preserved, and so passed into the possession of his son,
Mr. R. Barrett Browning, with whose consent they are now published. In
this collection are comprised the letters to Miss Browning (the poet's
sister, whose consent has also been freely given to the publication),
Mr. H.S. Boyd, Mrs. Martin, Miss Mitford, Mrs. Jameson, Mr. John
Kenyon, Mr. Chorley, Miss Blagden, Miss Haworth, and Miss Thomson
(Madame Emil Braun).[1] To these have been added a number of letters
which have been kindly lent by their possessors for the purpose of the
present volumes.

[Footnote 1: Mrs. Sutherland-Orr had access to these letters for her
biography of Robert Browning, and quotes several passages from
them. With this exception, none of the letters have been published
previously; and the published letters of Miss Barrett to Mr. R.H.
Horne have not been drawn upon, except for biographical information.]


The duties of the editor have been mainly those of selection and
arrangement. With regard to the former task one word is necessary. It
may be thought that the almost entire absence of bitterness (except on
certain political topics), of controversy, of personal ill feeling
of any kind, is due to editorial excisions. This is not the case.
The number of passages that have been removed for fear of hurting the
feelings of persons still living is almost infinitesimal; and in
these the cause of offence is always something inherent in the facts
recorded, not in the spirit in which they are mentioned. No person had
less animosity than Mrs. Browning; it seems as though she could hardly
bring herself to speak harshly of anyone. The omissions that have been
made are almost wholly of passages containing little or nothing of
interest, or repetitions of what has been said elsewhere; and
they have been made with the object of diminishing the bulk and
concentrating the interest of the collection, never with the purpose
of modifying the representation of the writer's character.

The task of arranging the letters has been more arduous owing to Mrs.
Browning's unfortunate habit of prefixing no date's, or incomplete
ones, to her letters. Many of them are dated merely by the day of the
week or month, and can only be assigned to their proper place in the
series on internal evidence. In some cases, however, the envelopes
have been preserved, and the date is then often provided by the
postmarks. These supply fixed points by which the others can be
tested; and ultimately all have fallen into line in chronological
order, and with at least approximate dates to each letter.

The correspondence, thus arranged in chronological order, forms an
almost continuous record of Mrs. Browning's life, from the early
days in Herefordshire to her death in Italy in 1861; but in order to
complete the record, it has been thought well to add connecting links
of narrative, which should serve to bind the whole together into the
unity of a biography. It is a chronicle, rather than a biography in
the artistic sense of the term; a chronicle of the events of a life in
which there were but few external events of importance, and in which
the subject of the picture is, for the most part, left to paint her
own portrait, and that, moreover, unconsciously. Still, this is a
method which may be held to have its advantages, in that it can hardly
be affected by the feelings or prejudices of the biographer; and if
it does not present a finished portrait to the reader, it provides him
with the materials from which he can form a portrait for himself. The
external events are placed upon record, either in the letters or in
the connecting links of narrative; the character and opinions of Mrs.
Browning reveal themselves in her correspondence; and her genius is
enshrined in her poetry. And these three elements make up all that may
be known of her personality, all with which a biographer has to deal.

It is essentially her character, not her genius, that is presented
to the reader of these letters. There are some letter-writers whose
genius is so closely allied with their daily life that it shines
through into their familiar correspondence with their friends, and
their letters become literature. Such, in their very different ways,
with very different types of genius and very different habits of daily
life, are Gray, Cowper, Lamb, perhaps Fitzgerald. But letter-writers
such as these are few. More often the correspondence of men and women
of letters is valuable for the light it throws upon the character and
opinions of those whose character and opinions we are led to regard
with admiration or respect, or at least interest, on account of their
other writings. In these cases it may be held that the publication
is justifiable or not, according as the character which it reveals is
affected favourably or the reverse. Not all truth, even about famous
men, is useful for publication, but only such as enables us to
appreciate better the works which have made them famous. Their highest
selves are expressed in their literary work; and it is a poor service
to truth to insist on bringing to light the fact that they also had
lower selves--common, dull, it may be vicious. What illustrates their
genius and enhances our respect for their character, may rightly be
made known; but what shakes our belief and mars our enjoyment in them,
is simply better left in obscurity.

With regard to Mrs. Browning, however, there is no room for doubt
upon these points. These letters, familiarly written to her private
friends, without the smallest idea of publication, treating of the
thoughts that came uppermost in the ordinary language of conversation,
can lay no claim to make a new revelation of her genius. On the other
hand, perhaps because the circumstances of Mrs. Browning's life
cut her off to an unusual extent from personal intercourse with her
friends, and threw her back upon letter-writing as her principal means
of communication with them, they contain an unusually full revelation
of her character. And this is not wholly unconnected with her literary
genius, since her personal convictions, her moral character, entered
more fully than is often the case into the composition of her poetry.
Her best poetry is that which is most full of her personal emotions.
The 'Sonnets from the Portuguese,' the 'Cry of the Children,'
'Cowper's Grave,' the 'Dead Pan,' 'Aurora Leigh,' and all the Italian
poems, owe their value to the pure and earnest character, the strong
love of truth and right, the enthusiasm on behalf of what is oppressed
and the indignation against all kinds of oppression and wrong, which
were prominent elements in a personality of exceptional worth and
beauty.

An editor can generally serve his readers best by remaining in the
background; but he is allowed one moment for the expression of his
personal feelings, when he thanks those who have assisted him in his
work. In the present case there are many to whom it is a pleasure to
offer such thanks. In the first place, I have to thank Mr. R. Barrett
Browning and Miss Browning most cordially for having accepted the
proposal of the publishers (Messrs. Smith, Elder & Co., to whom
likewise my gratitude is due) to put so pleasant and congenial a
task into my hands. Mr. Browning has also contributed a number of
suggestions and corrections while the sheets have been passing through
the press. I have also to thank those who have been kind enough to
offer letters in their possession for inclusion in these volumes: Lady
Alwyne Compton for the letters to Mr. Westwood; Mrs. Arthur Severn
for the letters to Mr. Ruskin; Mr. G.L. Craik for the letters to Miss
Mulock; Mrs. Commeline for the letters to Miss Commeline; Mr. T.J.
Wise for the letters to Mr. Cornelius Mathews; Mr. C. Aldrich for
the letter to Mrs. Kinney; Col. T.W. Higginson for a letter to Miss
Channing; and the Rev. G. Bainton for a letter to Mr. Kenyon. It
has not been possible to print all the letters which have been thus
offered; but this does not diminish the kindness of the lenders, nor
the gratitude of the editor.

Finally, I should wish to offer my sincere thanks to Lady Edmond
Fitzmaurice for much assistance and advice in the selection and
revision of the letters; a labour which her friendship with Mr.
Browning towards the close of his life has prompted her to bestow most
freely and fully upon this memorial of his wife.

F.G.K.

_July 1897_.



CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME


CHAPTER I
1806-1835

Birth--Hope End--Early Poems--Sidmouth--'Prometheus'


CHAPTER II
1835-1841

London--Magazine Poems--'The Seraphim and other Poems'--Torquay--Death
of Edward Barrett--Return to London


CHAPTER III
1841-1843

Wimpole Street--'The Greek Christian Poets'--'The English
Poets'--'The New Spirit of the Age'--Miscellaneous Letters



CHAPTER IV
1844-1846

The 'Poems' of 1844--Miss Martineau and Mesmerism--Pro-posed
Journey to Italy

CHAPTER V
1846-1849

Friendship with Robert Browning--Love and Marriage--Paris
and Pisa--Florence--Vallombrosa--Casa Guidi--Italian Politics
in 1848

CHAPTER VI
1849-1851

Birth of a Son--Death of Mrs. Browning, senior--Bagni di
Lucca--New Edition of Poems--Siena--Florentine Life

PORTRAIT OF ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING. _Frontispiece_ CASA GUIDI



THE LETTERS
OF
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING



CHAPTER I

1806-1835


Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, still better known to the world as
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, was born on March 6, 1806, the eldest
child of Edward and Mary Moulton Barrett. I Both the date and place
of her birth have been matters of uncertainty and dispute, and even so
trustworthy an authority as the 'Dictionary of National Biography' is
inaccurate with respect to them. All doubt has, however, been set at
rest by the discovery of the entry of her birth in the parish register
of Kelloe Church, in the county of Durham.[2] She was born at Coxhoe
Hall, the residence of Mr. Barrett's only brother, Samuel, about
five miles south of the city of Durham. Her father, whose name was
originally Edward Barrett Moulton, had assumed the additional surname
of Barrett on the death of his maternal grandfather, to whose estates
in Jamaica he was the heir. Of Mr. Barrett it is recorded by Mr.
Browning, in the notes prefixed by him to the collected edition of his
wife's poems, that 'on the early death of his father he was brought
from Jamaica to England when a very young child, as a ward of the
late Chief Baron Lord Abinger, then Mr. Scarlett, whom he frequently
accompanied in his post-chaise when on circuit. He was sent to Harrow,
but received there so savage a punishment for a supposed offence
(burning the toast)'--which, indeed, has been a 'supposed offence' at
other schools than Harrow--'by the youth whose fag he had become, that
he was withdrawn from the school by his mother, and the delinquent
was expelled. At the age of sixteen he was sent by Mr. Scarlett to
Cambridge, and thence, for an early marriage, went to Northumberland.'
His wife was Miss Mary Graham-Clarke, daughter of J. Graham-Clarke,
of Fenham Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but of her nothing seems to be
known, and her comparatively early death causes her to be little heard
of in the record of her daughter's life.

[Footnote 2: See _Notes and Queries_ for July 20, 1889, supplemented
by a note from Mr. Browning himself in the same paper on August 24.]

Nothing is to be gained by trying to trace back the genealogy of the
Barrett family, and it need merely be noted that it had been
connected for some generations with the island of Jamaica, and owned
considerable estates there.[3] It is a curious coincidence that Robert
Browning was likewise in part of West Indian descent, and so, too, was
John Kenyon, the lifelong friend of both, by whose means the poet and
poetess were first introduced to one another.

[Footnote 3: These estates still remain in the family, and Mr. Charles
Barrett, the eldest surviving brother of Mrs. Browning, now lives
there.]

The family of Mr. Edward Barrett was a fairly large one, consisting,
besides Elizabeth, of two daughters, Henrietta and Arabel, and eight
sons--Edward, whose tragic death at Torquay saddened so much of his
sister's life, Charles (the 'Stormie' of the letters), Samuel, George,
Henry, Alfred, Septimus, and Octavius; Mr. Barrett's inventiveness
having apparently given out with the last two members of his family,
reducing him to the primitive method of simple enumeration, an
enumeration in which, it may be observed, the daughters counted for
nothing. Not many of these, however, can have been born at Coxhoe; for
while Elizabeth was still an infant--apparently about the beginning
of the year 1809--Mr. Barrett removed to his newly purchased estate
of Hope End, in Herefordshire, among the Malvern hills, and only a few
miles from Malvern itself. It is to Hope End that the admirers of Mrs.
Browning must look as the real home of her childhood and youth. Here
she spent her first twenty years of conscious life. Here is the scene
of the childish reminiscences which are to be found among her earlier
poems, of 'Hector in the Garden,' 'The Lost Bower,' and 'The Deserted
Garden.' And here too her earliest verses were written, and the
foundations laid of that omnivorous reading of literature of all sorts
and kinds, which was so strong a characteristic of her tastes and
leanings.

On this subject she may be left to tell her own tale. In a letter
written on October 5, 1843, to Mr. R.H. Horne, she furnishes him with
the following biographical details for his study of her in 'The New
Spirit of the Age.' They supply us with nearly all that we know of her
early life and writings.

'And then as to stories, my story amounts to the knife-grinder's, with
nothing at all for a catastrophe. A bird in a cage would have as good
a story, Most of my events, and nearly all my intense pleasures, have
passed in my _thoughts_. I wrote verses--as I dare say many have done
who never wrote any poems--very early; at eight years old and earlier.
But, what is less common, the early fancy turned into a will, and
remained with me, and from that day to this, poetry has been a
distinct object with me--an object to read, think, and live for. And I
could make you laugh, although you could not make the public laugh,
by the narrative of nascent odes, epics, and didactics crying aloud on
obsolete muses from childish lips. The Greeks were my demi-gods, and
haunted me out of Pope's Homer, until I dreamt more of Agamemnon than
of Moses the black pony. And thus my great "epic" of eleven or twelve
years old, in four books, and called "The Battle of Marathon," and of
which fifty copies were printed because papa was bent upon spoiling
me--is Pope's Homer done over again, or rather undone; for, although a
curious production for a child, it gives evidence only of an
imitative faculty and an ear, and a good deal of reading in a peculiar
direction. The love of Pope's Homer threw me into Pope on one side and
into Greek on the other, and into Latin as a help to Greek--and the
influence of all these tendencies is manifest so long afterwards as
in my "Essay on Mind," a didactic poem written when I was seventeen or
eighteen, and long repented of as worthy of all repentance. The poem
is imitative in its form, yet is not without traces of an individual
thinking and feeling--the bird pecks through the shell in it. With
this it has a pertness and pedantry which did not even then belong to
the character of the author, and which I regret now more than I do the
literary defectiveness.

'All this time, and indeed the greater part of my life, we lived at
Hope End, a few miles from Malvern, in a retirement scarcely broken to
me except by books and my own thoughts, and it is a beautiful country,
and was a retirement happy in many ways, although the very peace of it
troubles the heart as it looks back. There I had my fits of Pope, and
Byron, and Coleridge, and read Greek as hard under the trees as some
of your Oxonians in the Bodleian; gathered visions from Plato and the
dramatists, and eat and drank Greek and made my head ache with it. Do
you know the Malvern Hills? The hills of Piers Plowman's Visions? They
seem to me my native hills; for, although I was born in the county of
Durham, I was an infant when I went first into their neighbourhood,
and lived there until I had passed twenty by several years. Beautiful,
beautiful hills they are! And yet, not for the whole world's beauty
would I stand in the sunshine and the shadow of them any more. It
would be a mockery, like the taking back of a broken flower to its
stalk.'[4]

[Footnote 4: R.H. Horne, _Letters of E.B. Browning_, i. 158-161.]

So, while the young Robert Browning was enthusiastically declaiming
passages of Pope's Homer, and measuring out heroic couplets with
his hand round the dining table in Camberwell, Elizabeth Barrett was
drinking from the same fount of inspiration among the Malvern Hills,
and was already turning it to account in the production of her first
epic. The fifty copies of the 'Battle of Marathon,' which Mr. Barrett,
proud of his daughter's precocity, insisted on having printed, bear
the date of 1819. Only five of them are now known to exist, and these
are all in private hands; even the British Museum possesses only the
reprint which the hero-worship of the present generation caused to be
produced in 1891. Seven years later, when she had just reached the
age of twenty, her first volume of verse was offered to the world
in general. It was entitled 'An Essay on Mind, and other Poems,' and
included, besides the didactic poem after the manner of Pope which
formed the _pièce de rèsistance_, a number of shorter pieces, several
of which, as she informed Horne,[5] had been written when she was not
more than thirteen.

[Footnote 5: R.H. Horne, _Letters of E.B. Browning_, i. 164.]

It was during the years at Hope End that Elizabeth Barrett was
first attacked by serious illness. 'At fifteen,' she says in her
autobiographical letter, already quoted in part, 'I nearly died;' and
this may be connected with a statement by Mrs. Richmond Ritchie, to
the effect that 'one day, when Elizabeth was about fifteen, the young
girl, impatient for her ride, tried to saddle her pony alone, in a
field, and fell with the saddle upon her, in some way injuring her
spine so seriously that she was for years upon her back.'[6] The
latter part of this statement cannot indeed be quite accurate; for
her period of long confinement to a sick-room was of later date, and
began, according to her own statement, from a different cause. Mr.
R. Barrett Browning states that the injury to the spine was not
discovered for some time, but was afterwards attributed, not to a
fall, but to a strain whilst tightening her pony's girths. No doubt
this injury contributed towards the general weakness of health to
which she was always subject.

[Footnote 6: _Dict. of Nat. Biography_, vii. 78.]

Of her earliest letters, belonging to the Hope End period, very few
have been preserved, and most of those which remain are of little
interest. The first to be printed here belongs to the period of her
mother's last illness, which ended in her death on October 1, 1828. It
is addressed to Mrs. James Martin, a lifelong friend, whose name will
appear frequently in these pages. At the time when it was written she
was living near Tewkesbury, within visiting distance of the Barretts.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Hope End: Thursday, [about September 1828].

My dear Mrs. Martin,--I am happy to be able to tell you that Mr.
Garden was here two days ago, and that he has not thought it necessary
to adopt any violent measure with regard to our beloved invalid.
He seems entirely to rely, for her ultimate restoration, upon a
discipline as to diet, and a course of strengthening medicine. This
is most satisfactory to us; and her spirits have been soothed and
tranquillised by his visit. She has slept quietly for the last few
nights, and reports herself to be _brisker_ and stronger, and to
be comparatively free from pain. This account is, perhaps, too
favorable,[7] and will appear so to you when you see her, as I am
afraid you will, not looking much better, _much_ more cheerful, than
when you paid us your last visit. But when we are very _willing_ to
hope, we are apt to be too _ready_ to hope: though really, without
being _too_ sanguine, we may consider quiet nights and diminished pain
to be satisfactory signs of amendment. I know you will be glad to hear
of them, and I hope you will _witness_ them very soon, in spite of
this repulsive snow. It will do mama good, and I am sure it will give
us all pleasure, to benefit by some of your charitable pilgrimages
over the hill.

With our best regards, and sincerest thanks for your kind interest

Believe me, dear Mrs. Martin, most truly yours,

E.B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 7: Mrs. Browning usually spells such words as 'favour,'
'honour,' and the like, without the _u_, after the fashion which one
is accustomed to regard as American.]



_To Miss Commeline_
Hope End: Monday, [October 1828].

My dear Miss Commeline,--Thank you for the sympathy and interest
which you have extended towards us in our heavy affliction. Even _you_
cannot know _all_ that we have lost; but God knows, and it has pleased
Him to take away the blessing that He gave. And all _must_ be right
since He doeth all! Indeed we did not foresee this great grief! If we
had we could not have felt it less; but I should not then have been
denied the consolation of being with her at the last.

It is idle to speak now of such thoughts, and circumstances have
unquestionably been rightly and mercifully ordered. We are all well
and composed--poor papa supporting us by his own surpassing fortitude.
It is an inexpressible comfort to me to witness his calmness.

I cannot say that we shall not be glad to see you, but the weather is
dreary and the distance long: and if you were to come, we might not be
able to meet you and to speak to you with calmness. In that case you
would receive a melancholy impression which I should like to spare
you. Perhaps it would be better for you and less selfish in us, if
we were to defer this meeting a little while longer--but do what you
prefer doing! I can never forget the regard and esteem entertained for
you by one whose tenderness and watchfulness I have felt every day
and hour since she gave me that life which her loss embitters--whose
memory is more precious to me than any earthly blessing left behind; I
have written what is ungrateful, and what I ought not to have written,
and what I ought not to feel, and do not always feel, but I did not
just then remember that I had so much left to love.


_To Mrs. Boyd_
Hope End: Saturday morning, [1828-1832].

My dear Mrs. Boyd,--You were quite wrong in supposing that papa was
likely to complain about 'the number of letters from Malvern;' and as
to my doing so, why did you suggest that? To fill up a sentence, or
to conjure up some kind of limping excuse for idle people? Among
idle people, perhaps you have written _me_ down. But the reason of
my silence was far more reasonable than yours. I have been engaged in
alternately wishing in earnest and wishing in vain for the power of
saying when I could go to Malvern--and in being unwell besides. For
the last week I have not been at all well, and indeed was obliged
yesterday to go to bed after breakfast instead of after tea, where
I contrived to abstract myself out of a good deal of pain into Lord
Byron's Life by Moore. To-day this abstraction is not necessary; I am
much better; and, indeed, little remains of the indisposition but
the _vulgar fractions_ of a cough and cold. I dare say (and Occyta[8]
agrees with me) cold was at the bottom of it all, for I was so very
wise as to lie down upon the grass last Monday, when the sun was
shining deceitfully, though the snow was staring at me from the
hedges, with an expression anything but dog-daysical!

Henrietta's face-ache is quite well, and I don't mean to give any more
bulletins to-day. I hope your 'tolerably well' is turned into 'quite
well' too by this time.

In reply to your query, I will mention that _the existence_ actually
extended until Thursday without the visit here--a phenomenon in
physics and metaphysics. I was desired by a note a short time
previously, 'to embrace all my circle with the utmost tenderness,'
_as proxy_. Considering the extent of the said circle, this was a very
comprehensive request, and a very unreasonable one to offer to anyone
less than the hundred-armed Indian god Baly. I am glad that
your alternative of a house is so near to the right side of the
turnpike--in which case, a _miss_ is certainly not as _bad_ as
a _mile_. May Place is to be vacated in May, though its present
inhabitants do not leave Malvern. I mention this to you, but pray
don't _re-mention_ it to anybody. The rent is 15£. Mr. Boyd[9] will
not be angry with me for not going to see him sooner than I can. At
least, I am sure he ought not. Though you are all kind enough to wish
me to go, I always think and know (which is consolatory to everything
but my vanity) that no one can wish it half as much as I myself do.

Believe me, dear Mrs. Boyd, affectionately yours,

E.B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 8: Octavius, her youngest brother.]

[Footnote 9: Hugh Stuart Boyd, the blind scholar whose friendship with
Elizabeth Barrett is commemorated in her poem, 'Wine of Cyprus,'
and in three sonnets expressly addressed to him. He was at this time
living at Great Malvern, where Miss Barrett frequently visited him,
reading and discussing Greek literature with him, especially the works
of the Greek Christian Fathers. But to call him her tutor, as has more
than once been done, is a mistake: see Miss Barrett's letter to; him
of March 3, 1845. Her knowledge of Greek was due to her volunteering
to share her brother Edward's work under his tutor, Mr. MacSwiney.]


The fear 1832 brought a great change in the fortunes of the Barrett
family, and may be said to mark the end of the purely formative period
in Elizabeth Barrett's life. Hitherto she had been living in the home
and among the surroundings of her childhood, absorbing literature
rather than producing it; or if producing it, still mainly for her own
amusement and instruction, rather than with any view of appealing to
the general public. But in 1832 this home was broken up by the sale,
of Hope End,[10] and with the removal thence we seem to find
her embarking definitely on literature as the avowed pursuit and
occupation of her life. Sidmouth in Devonshire was the place to which
the Barrett family now removed, and the letters begin henceforth to be
longer and more frequent, and to tell a more connected tale.

[Footnote 10: Mr. Ingram, in his _Life of E.B. Browning_ ('Eminent
Women' Series) connects this fact with the abolition of colonial
slavery, and a consequent decrease in Mr. Barrett's income; but since
the abolition only took place in 1833, while Hope End was given up in
the preceding year, this conclusion does not appear to be certain.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
[Sidmouth: September 1832.]

How can I thank you enough, dearest Mrs. Martin, for your letter?
How kind of you to write so soon and so very kindly! The postmark and
handwriting were in themselves pleasant sights to me, and the kindness
yet more welcome. Believe that I am grateful to you for _all_ your
kindness--for your kindness now, and your kindness in the days which
are past. Some of those past days were very happy, and some of them
very sorrowful--more sorrowful than even our last days at dear, dear
Hope End. _Then_, I well recollect, though I could not then thank you
as I ought, how you _felt for_ us and _with_ us. Do not think I can
ever forget _that time_, or _you_. I had written a note to you, which
the bearer of Bummy's and Arabel's to Colwall[11] omitted to take.
Afterwards I thought it best to spare you any more farewells, which
are upon human lips, of all words, the most natural, and of all the
most painful.

They told us of our having past your carriage in Ledbury. Dear
Mrs. Martin, I cannot dwell upon the pain of that first hour of our
journey; but you will know what it must have been. The dread of it,
for some hours before, was almost worse; but it is all over now,
blessed be God. Before the first day's journey was at end, we felt
inexpressibly relieved--relieved from the restlessness and anxiety
which have so long oppressed us--and now we are calmer and happier
than we have been for very long. If we could only have papa and Bro
and Sette[12] with us! About half an hour before we set off, papa
found out that he _could not_ part with Sette, who sleeps with
him, and is always an amusing companion to him. Papa was, however,
unwilling to separate him perforce from his little playfellows, and
asked him whether he wished very much to go. Sette's heart was quite
full, but he answered immediately, 'Oh, no, papa, I would _much_
rather stay with _you_.' He is a dear affectionate little thing. He
and Bro being with poor Papa, we are far more comfortable about him
than we should otherwise be--and perhaps our going was his sharpest
pang. I hope it was, as it is over. Do not think, dear Mrs. Martin,
that you or Mr. Martin can ever 'intrude'--you know you use that
word in your letter. I have often been afraid, on account of papa not
having been for so long a time at Colwall, lest you should fancy that
he did not value your society and your kindness. Do not fancy it.
Painful circumstances produce--as we have often had occasion to
observe--different effects upon different minds; and some feeling,
with which I certainly have no sympathy has made papa shrink from
society of any kind lately. He would not even attend the religious
societies in Ledbury, which he was so much pledged to support, and so
interested in supporting. If you knew how much he has talked of you,
and asked every particular about you, you could not fancy that his
regard for you was estranged. He has an extraordinary degree of
strength of mind on most points--and strong feeling, when it is not
allowed to run in the natural channel, will sometimes force its way
where it is not expected. You will think it strange; but never up to
this moment has he even alluded to the subject, before _us_--never, at
the moment of parting with us. And yet, though he had not power to say
_one word_, he could play at cricket with the boys on the very last
evening.

We slept at the York House in Bath. Bath is a beautiful town _as
a town_, and the country harmonises well with it, without being a
beautiful country. As _mere country_, nobody would stand still to look
at it; though as town country, many bodies would. Somersetshire in
general seems to be hideous, and I could fancy from the walls which
intersect it in every direction, that they had been turned to stone
by looking at the _Gorgonic_ scenery. The part of Devonshire through
which our journey lay is nothing _very_ pretty, though it must be
allowed to be beautiful after Somersetshire. We arrived here almost
in the dark, and were besieged by the crowd of disinterested
tradespeople, who _would_ attend us through the town to our house, to
help to unload the carriages. This was not a particularly agreeable
reception in spite of its cordiality; and the circumstance of there
being not a human being in our house, and not even a rushlight
burning, did not reassure us. People were tired of expecting us every
day for three weeks. Nearly the whole way from Honiton to this place
is a descent. Poor dear Bummy said she thought we were going into
the _bowels of the earth_, but suspect she thought we were going
much deeper. Between you and me, she does not seem _delighted_ with
Sidmouth; but her spirits are a great deal better, and in time she
will, I dare say, be better pleased. _We_ like very much what we have
seen of it. The town is small and not superfluously clean, but, of
course, the respectable houses are not a part of the town. Ours is one
which the Grand Duchess Helena had, not at all _grand_, but extremely
comfortable and cheerful, with a splendid sea view in front, and
pleasant green, hills and trees behind. The drawing-room's four
windows all look to the sea, and I am never tired of looking out of
them. I was doing so, with a most hypocritical book before me, when
your letter arrived, and I _felt_ all that you said in it. I always
thought that the sea was the sublimest object in nature. Mont
Blanc--Niagara must be nothing to it. _There_, the Almighty's form
glasses itself in tempests--and not only in tempests, but in calm--in
space, in eternal motion, in eternal regularity. How can we look at
it, and consider our puny sorrows, and not say, 'We are dumb--because
_Thou_ didst it'? Indeed, dear Mrs. Martin, we must feel every hour,
and we shall feel every year, that what He did is _well done_--and not
only well, but mercifully.

Mr. and Mrs. H----, with whom papa is slightly acquainted, have
called upon us, and shown us many kind attentions. They are West India
people, not very polished, but certainly _very_ good-natured. We hear
that the place is extremely full and gay; but this is, of course, only
an _on dit_ to us at present. I have been riding a donkey two or three
times, and enjoy very much going to the edge of the sea. The air has
made me sleep more soundly than I have done for some time, and I dare
say it will do me a great deal of good in every way.

You may suppose what a southern climate this is, when I tell you that
myrtles and verbena, three or four feet high, and hydrangeas are in
flower in the gardens--even in ours, which is about a hundred and
fifty yards from the sea. I have written to the end of my paper. Give
our kindest regards to Mr. Martin, and ever believe me,

Your affectionate and grateful
E.B.B.

[Footnote 11: The Martins' home near Malvern, about a mile from Hope
End.]

[Footnote 12: Her brothers Edward and Septimus.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
[Sidmouth:] Wednesday, September 27, 1832 [postmark].

How very kind of you, dearest Mrs. Martin, to write to me so much at
length and at such a time. Indeed, it was exactly the time when, if
we were where we have been, we should have wished you to walk over
the hill and talk to us; and although, after all that the most zealous
friends of letter writing can say for it, it is _not_ such a happy
thing as talking with those you care for, yet it is the next happiest
thing. I am sure I thought so when I read your letter ...

And now I must tell you about ourselves. Papa and Bro and Sette have
made us so much happier by coming, and we have the comfort of seeing
dear papa in good spirits, and not only satisfied but pleased with
this place. It is scarcely possible, at least it seems so to me, to do
otherwise than admire the beauty of the country. It is the very land
of green lanes and pretty thatched cottages. I don't mean the kind of
cottages which are generally thatched, with pigstyes and cabbages and
dirty children, but thatched cottages with verandas and shrubberies,
and sounds from the harp or piano coming through the windows. When
you stand upon any of the hills which stand round Sidmouth, the whole
valley seems to be thickly wooded down to the very verge of the sea,
and these pretty villas to be springing from the ground almost as
thickly and quite as naturally as the trees themselves. There are
certainly many more houses out of the town than in it, and they all
stand apart, yet near, hiding in their own shrubberies, or behind the
green rows of elms which wall in the secluded lanes on either side.
Such a number of green lanes I never saw; some of them quite black
with foliage, where it is twilight in the middle of the day, and
others letting in beautiful glimpses of the spreading heathy hills
or of the sunny sea. I am sure you would like the transition from the
cliffs, from the bird's eye view to, I was going to say, the mole's
eye view, but I believe moles don't see quite clearly enough to suit
my purpose. There are a great number of people here. Sam was at an
evening party a week ago where there were a hundred and twenty people;
but they don't walk about the parade and show themselves as one might
expect. _We_ know only the Herrings and Mrs. and the Miss Polands
and Sir John Kean. Mrs. and Miss Weekes, and Mr. and Mrs. James have
called upon us, but we were out when they came. I suppose it will be
necessary to return their visits and to know them; and when we do,
you shall hear about them, and about everybody whom we know. I
am certainly much better in health, stronger than I was, and less
troubled with the cough. Every day I attend [_word torn out_]
their walks on my donkey, if we do not go in a boat, which is still
pleasanter. I believe Henrietta walks out about _three_ times a day.
She is looking particularly well, and often talks, and I am sure still
oftener thinks, of you. You know how fond of you she is. Papa walks
out with her--and _us_; and we all, down to

Occyta, breakfast and drink tea together. The dining takes place at
five o'clock. To-morrow, if this lovely weather will stand still and
be accommodating, we talk of rowing to Dawlish, which is about ten
miles off. We have had a few cases of cholera, at least _suspicious_
cases: one a fortnight before we arrived, and five since, in
the course of a month. All dead except one. I confess a little
nervousness; but it is wearing away. The disease does not seem to make
any progress; and for the last six days there have been no patients at
all.

Do let us hear very soon, my dear Mrs. Martin, how you are--how your
spirits are, and whether Rome is still in your distance. Surely no
plan could be more delightful for you than this plan; and if you don't
stay _very_ long away, I shall be sorry to hear of your abandoning it.
Do you recollect your promise of coming to see us? _We_ do.

You must have had quite enough now of my 'little hand' and of my
details. Do not go to Matton or to the Bartons or to Eastnor without
giving my love. How often my thoughts are at _home_! I cannot help
calling it so still in my thoughts. I may like other places, but no
other place can ever appear to me to deserve that name.

Dearest Mrs. Martin's affectionate
E.B. BARRETT.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Sidmouth: December 14, 1832.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--I hope you are very angry indeed with us for
not writing. We are as penitent as we ought to be--that is, I am,
for I believe I am the idle person; yet not altogether idle, but
procrastinating and waiting for news rather more worthy of being read
in Rome than any which even now I can send you.... And now, my dear
Mrs. Martin, I mean to thank you, as I ought to have done long ago,
for your kindness in offering to procure for me the _Archbishop of
Dublin's_[13] valuable opinion upon my 'Prometheus. I am sure that if
you have not thought me very ungrateful, you must be very indulgent.
My mind was at one time so crowded by painful thoughts, that they shut
out many others which are interesting to me; and among other things, I
forgot once or twice, when I had an opportunity, to thank _you_, dear
Mrs. Martin. I believe I should have taken advantage of your proposal,
but papa said to me, 'If he criticises your manuscript in a manner
which does not satisfy you, you won't be easy without defending
yourself, and he might be drawn into taking more trouble than you
have now any idea of giving him.' I sighed a little at losing such an
opportunity of gaining a great advantage, but there seemed to be some
reason in what papa said I have completed a preface and notes to my
translation; and since doing so, a work of exactly the same character
by a Mr. Medwin has been published, and commended in Bulwer's
magazine.[14] Therefore it is probable enough that my trouble,
excepting as far as my own amusement went, has been in vain. But papa
means to try Mr. Valpy, I believe. He left us since I began to write
this letter, with a promise of returning before Christmas Day. We
_do_ miss him. Mr. Boyd has made me quite angry by publishing his
translations by rotation in numbers of the 'Wesleyan Magazine,'
instead of making them up into a separate publication, as I had
persuaded him to do. There is the effect, you see, of going, even for
a time, out of my reach! The readers of the 'Wesleyan Magazine' are
pious people, but not cultivated, nor, for the most part, capable of
estimating either the talents of Gregory or his translator's. I have
begun already to _insist_ upon another publication in a separate form,
and shall gain my point, I dare say. I have been reading Bulwer's
novels and Mrs. Trollope's libels, and Dr. Parr's works. I am sure
_you_ are not an admirer of Mrs. Trollope's. She has neither the
delicacy nor the candour which constitute true nobility of mind and
her extent of talent forms but a scanty veil to shadow her other
defects. Bulwer has quite delighted me. He has all the dramatic talent
which Scott has, and all the passion which Scott has not, and
he appears to me to be besides a far profounder discriminator of
character. There are very fine things in his 'Denounced.' We subscribe
to the best library here, but the best is not a good one. I have,
however, a table-load of my own books, and with them I can always be
satisfied. Do you know that Mr. Curzon has left Ledbury? We were glad
to receive your letter from Dover although it told us that you were
removing so far from us. Do let us hear of your enjoying Italy. Is
there much English society in Rome, and is it like English society
here? I can scarcely fancy an invitation card, 'Mrs. Huggin-muggin at
home,' carried through the _Via Sacra_. I am sure my 'little hand' has
done its duty to-day. I shall leave the corners to Henrietta. Give
our kindest regards to Mr. Martin, and ever believe me, my dear Mrs.
Martin,

Your affectionate
E.B.B.

[Footnote 13: Archbishop Whately.]

[Footnote 14: _The New Monthly Magazine_, at this time edited by
Bulwer, afterwards the first Lord Lytton.]


The letter just printed contains the first allusion in Miss Barrett's
letters to any of her own writings. The translation of the 'Prometheus
Bound' of Aeschylus was the first-fruits of the removal to Sidmouth.
It was written, as she told Horne eleven years afterwards, 'in twelve
days, and should have been thrown into the fire afterwards--the only
means of giving it a little warmth.'[15] Indeed, so dissatisfied
did she subsequently become with it, that she did what she could to
suppress it, and in the collected edition of 1850 substituted another
version, written in 1845, which she hoped would secure the final
oblivion of her earlier attempt.[16] The letter given above shows that
the composition of the earlier version took place at the end of 1832;
and in the following year it was published by Mr. Valpy, along with
some shorter poems, of which Miss Barrett subsequently wrote that 'a
few of the fugitive poems may be worth a little, perhaps; but they
have not so much goodness as to overcome the badness of the blasphemy
of Aeschylus.' The volume, which was published anonymously, received
two sentences of contemptuous notice from the 'Athenaeum,' in which
the reviewer advised 'those who adventure in the hazardous lists of
poetic translation to touch anyone rather than Aeschylus, and they may
take warning by the author before us.'[17]

[Footnote 15: _Letters to R.H. Home_, i. 162.]

[Footnote 16: It need hardly be said that the literary resurrectionist
has been too much for her, and the version of 1833 has recently
been reprinted. Of this reprint the best that can be said is that it
provides an occasion for an essay by Mrs. Meynell.]

[Footnote 17: _Athenaeum_, June 8, 1833.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
Sidmouth: May 27, 1833.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--I am half afraid of your being very angry
indeed with me; and perhaps it would be quite as well to spare this
sheet of paper an angry look of yours, by consigning it over to
Henrietta. Yet do believe me, I have been anxious to write to you a
long time, and did not know where to direct my letter. The history
of all my unkindness to you is this: I delayed answering your kind
welcome letter from Rome, for three weeks, because Henrietta was at
Torquay, and I knew that she would like to write in it, and because
I was unreasonable enough to expect to hear every day of her coming
home. At the end of the three weeks, and on consulting your dates and
plans, I found out that you would probably have quitted Rome before
any letter of mine arrived there. Since then, I have been inquiring,
and all in vain, about where I could find you out. All I could hear
was, that you were somewhere between Italy and England; and all I
could do was, to wait patiently, and throw myself at your feet as soon
as you came within sight and hearing. And now do be as generous as you
can, my dear Mrs. Martin, and try to forgive one who never _could_ be
guilty of the fault of forgetting you, notwithstanding appearances. We
heard only yesterday of your being expected at Colwall. And although
we cannot welcome you there, otherwise than in this way, at the
distance of 140 miles, yet we must welcome you in this way, and assure
both of you how glad we are that the same island holds all of us once
more. It pleased us very much to hear how you were enjoying yourselves
in Rome; and you must please us now by telling us that you are
enjoying yourselves at Colwall, and that you bear the change with
English philosophy. The fishing at Abbeville was a link between
the past and the present; and would make the transition between the
eternal city and the eternal tithes a little less striking. My wonder
is how you could have persuaded yourselves to keep your promise and
leave Italy as soon as you did. Tell me how you managed it. And tell
me everything about yourselves--how you are and how you feel, and
whether you look backwards or forwards with the most pleasure, and
whether the influenza has been among your welcomers to England.
Henrietta and Arabel and Daisy[18] were confined by it to their beds
for several days and the two former are only now recovering their
strength. Three or four of the other boys had symptoms which were not
strong enough to put them to bed. As for me, I have been quite well
all the spring, and almost all the winter. I don't know when I have
been so long well as I have been lately; without a cough or anything
else disagreeable. Indeed, if I may place the influenza in a
parenthesis, we have all been perfectly well, in spite of our
fishing and boating and getting wet three times a day. There is good
trout-fishing at the Otter, and the noble river Sid, which, if I liked
to stand in it, _might_ cover my ankles. And lately, Daisy and
Sette and Occyta have studied the art of catching shrimps, and soak
themselves up to their waists like professors. My love of water
concentrates itself in the boat; and this I enjoy very much, when the
sea is as blue and calm as the sky, which it has often been lately. Of
society we have had little indeed; but Henrietta had more than much
of it at Torquay during three months; and as for me, you know I don't
want any though I am far from meaning to speak disrespectfully of _Mr.
Boyds_, which has been a pleasure and comfort to me. His house is
not farther than a five minutes' walk from ours; and I often make it
_four_ in my haste to get there. Ask Eliza Cliffe to lend you the May
number of the 'Wesleyan Magazine;' and if you have an opportunity of
procuring last December's number, _do_ procure _that_. There are
some translations in each of them, which I think you will like. The
December translation is my favourite, though I was amanuensis only
in the May one. Henrietta and Arabel have a drawing master, and are
meditating soon beginning to sketch out of doors--that is, if before
the meditation is at an end we do not leave Sidmouth. Our plans are
quite uncertain; and papa has not, I believe, made up his mind whether
or not to take this house on after the beginning of next month;
when our engagement with our present landlord closes. If we do leave
Sidmouth, you know as well as I do where we shall go. Perhaps to
Boulogne! perhaps to the Swan River. The West Indians are irreparably
ruined if the Bill passes. Papa says that in the case of its passing,
nobody in his senses would think of even attempting the culture of
sugar, and that they had better hang weights to the sides of the
island of Jamaica and sink it at once. Don't you think certain heads
might be found heavy enough for the purpose? No insinuation, I assure
you, against the Administration, in spite of the dagger in their right
hands. Mr. Atwood seems to me a demi-god of ingratitude! So much for
the 'fickle reek of popular breath' to which men have erected their
temple of the winds--who would trust a feather to it? I am almost more
sorry for poor Lord Grey who is going to ruin us, than for our poor
selves who are going to be ruined. You will hear that my 'Prometheus
and other Poems' came into light a few weeks ago--a fortnight ago, I
think. I dare say I shall wish it out of the light before I have done
with it. And I dare say Henrietta is wishing me anywhere, rather than
where I am. Certainly I have past _all bounds_. Do write soon, and
tell us everything about Mr. Martin and yourself. And ever believe me,
dearest Mrs. Martin,

Your affectionate
E.B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 18: Alfred, the fifth brother.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
Sidmouth: September 7, 1833.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Are you a _little_ angry _again_? I do hope
not. I should have written long ago if it had not been for Henrietta;
and Henrietta would have written very lately if it had not been for
me: and we must beg of you to forgive us both for the sake of each
other. Thank you for the kind letter which I have been so tardy in
thanking you for, but which was not, on that account, the less gladly
received. Do believe how much it pleases me _always_ to see and read
dear Mrs. Martin's handwriting. But I must try to tell you some
less ancient truths. We are still in the ruinous house. Without any
poetical fiction, the walls are too frail for even _me_, who enjoy the
situation in a most particularly particular manner, to have any desire
to pass the winter within them. One wind we have had the privilege of
hearing already; and down came the tiles while we were at dinner, and
made us all think that down something else was coming. We have had
one chimney pulled down to prevent it from tumbling down; and have
received especial injunctions from the bricklayers not to lean too
much out of the windows, for fear the walls should follow the destiny
of the chimney. Altogether there is every reasonable probability
that the whole house will in the course of next winter be as like
Persepolis as anything so ugly can be! If another house which will fit
us can be found in Sidmouth, I am sure papa will take it; but, as he
said the other day, 'If I can't find a house, I must go.' I hope he
may find one, and as near the sea as this ruin. I have enjoyed its
moonlight and its calmness all the summer; and am prepared to enjoy
its tempestuousness of the winter with as true an enjoyment. What we
shall do ultimately, I do not even dream; and, if I know papa, _he_
does not. My visions of the future are confined to 'what shall I
write or read next,' and 'when shall we next go out in the boat,' and
_they_, you know, can do no harm to anybody. Of one thing I have a
comforting certainty--that wherever we may go or stay, the decree
which moves or fixes us will and must be the 'wisest virtuousest
discreetest best!' ...

So, I will change the subject to myself. You told me that you were
going to read my book, and I want to know what you think of it. If you
were given to compliment and insincerity, I should be afraid of asking
you; because, among other _evident_ reasons, I might then appear to
be asking for your praise instead of your opinion. As it is--I want to
know what you think of my book. Is the translation stiff? If you know
me at all (and I venture to hope that you do) you will be certain that
I shall _like_ your honesty, and love you for being honest, even if
you put on the very blackest of black caps....

Of course you know that the late Bill has ruined the West Indians.
That is settled. The consternation here is very great. Nevertheless I
am glad, and always shall be, that the negroes are--virtually--free!

May God bless you, dear Mrs. Martin!
Ever believe me, your affectionate
E.B. BARRETT.


_To H.S. Boyd_
Sidmouth: Friday [1834].

My dear Friend,--I don't know how I shall begin to persuade you not to
be angry with me, but perhaps the best plan will be to confess as many
sins as would cover this sheet of paper, and then to go on with my
merits. Certainly I am altogether guiltless of your charge of not
noticing your book's arrival because no Calvinism arrived with it.
I told you the bare truth when I told you _why_ I did not write
immediately. The passage relating to Calvinism I certainly read,
and as certainly was sorry for; but as certainly as both those
certainties, such reading and such regret had nothing whatever to do
with the silence which made you so angry with me.

The other particular thing of which I should have written is Mr.
Parker and my letters. I am more and, more sorry that you should have
sent them to him at all--not that their loss is any loss to anybody,
but that I scarcely like the idea--indeed, I don't like it at all--of
their remaining, worthless as they are, at Mr. P.'s mercy. As for
my writing about them, I should not be able to make up my mind to
do _that_. You know I had nothing to do with their being sent to Mr.
Parker, and was indeed in complete ignorance of it. Besides, I should
be half ashamed to write to him now on any subject. A very long
interregnum took place in our correspondence, which was his own work;
and when he wrote to me the summer before last, I delayed from week
to week, and then from month to month, answering it. And now I feel
ashamed to write at all.

Perhaps you will wonder why I am not ashamed to write to _you_. Indeed
I have meant to do it very, very often. Don't be severe upon me. I am
always afraid of writing to you too often, and so the opposite fault
is apt to be run into--of writing too seldom. IF THAT is a _fault_.
You see my scepticism is becoming faster and faster developed.

Let me hear from you soon, if you are not angry. I have been reading
the Bridgewater treatise, and am now trying to understand Prout upon
Chemistry. I shall be worth something at last, shall I not? Who knows
but what I may die a glorious death under the _pons asinorum_ after
all? Prout (if I succeed in understanding him) does not hold that
matter is infinitely divisible; and so I suppose the seeds of
matter--the ultimate molecules--are a kind of _tertium quid_ between
matter and spirit. Certainly I can't believe that any kind of matter,
primal or ultimate, can be _indivisible_, which it must according to
his view.

Chalmers's treatise is, as to eloquence, surpassingly beautiful; as to
matter, I could not walk with him all the way, although I longed to
do it, for he walked on flowers, and under shade--'no tree on which a
fine bird did not sit.' ...

Believe me, your affectionate friend,
E.B.B.


_To H.S. Boyd_
Sidmouth: September 14, [1834].

My dear Mr. Boyd,--I won't ask you to forgive me for not writing
before, because I know very well that you would rather have not heard
from me immediately.... And so, you and Mrs. Mathew have been tearing
to pieces--to the very rags--all my elaborate theology! And when Mr.
Young is 'strong enough,' he is to help you at your cruel work! 'The
points upon which you and I differed' are so numerous, that if I
really _am_ wrong upon every one of them, Mrs. Mathew has indeed
reason to 'punish me with hard thoughts.' Well, she can't help my
feeling for her much esteem, although I never saw her. And if I _were_
to see her, I would not argue with her; I would only ask her to let me
love her. I am weary of controversy in religion, and should be so
were I stronger and more successful in it than I am or care to be. The
command is not 'argue with one another,' but 'love one another.' It
is better to love than to convince. They who lie on the bosom of Jesus
must lie there _together_!

Not a word about your book![19] Don't you mean to tell me anything
of it? I saw a review of it--rather a satisfactory one--I think in an
_August_ number of the 'Athenaeum.' If you will look into 'Fraser's
Magazine' for August, at an article entitled 'Rogueries of Tom Moore,'
you will be amused with a notice of the 'Edinburgh Review's' criticism
in the text, and of yourself in a note. We have had a crowded Bible
meeting, and a Church Missionary and London Missionary meeting
besides; and I went last Tuesday to the Exmouth Bible meeting with
Mrs. Maling, Miss Taylor, and Mr. Hunter. We did not return until
half-past one in the morning.... The Bishop of Barbadoes and the Dean
of Winchester were walking together on the beach yesterday, making
Sidmouth look quite episcopal. You would not have despised it _half so
much_, had you been here.

Do you know any person who would like to send his or her son to
Sidmouth, for the sake of the climate, and private instruction: and
if you do, will you mention it to me? I am very sorry to hear of Mrs.
Boyd being so unwell. Arabel had a letter two days ago from Annie, and
as it mentions Mrs. Boyd's having gone to Dover, I trust that she is
well again. Should she be returned, give my love to her.

The black-edged paper may make you wonder at its cause. Our dear
aunt Mrs. Butler died last month at Dieppe--and died _in Jesus_. Miss
Clarke is going, if she is not gone, to Italy for the winter.

Believe me, affectionately yours,
E.B. BARRETT.

Write to me whenever you _dislike it least_, and tell me what your
plans are. I hear nothing about our leaving Sidmouth.

[Footnote 19: _The Fathers not Papists_, including a reprint of some
translations from the Greek Fathers, which Mr. Boyd had published
previously.]


_To Miss Commeline_
September 22, 1834 [Sidmouth].

I am afraid that there can be no chance of my handwriting at least
being unforgotten by you, dear Miss Commeline, but in the case of your
having a very long memory you may remember the name which shall be
written at the end of this note, and which belongs to one who does
not, nor is likely to forget you! I was much, _much_ obliged to you
for the kind few lines you wrote to me--how long ago! No, do not
remember how long--do not remember _that_ for fear you should think me
unkind, and--what I am not! I have intended again and again to answer
your note, and I am doing it--_at last_! Are you all quite well? Mrs.
Commeline and all of you? Shall I ever see any of you again? Perhaps
I shall not; but even if I do not, I shall not cease to wish you to be
well and happy 'in the body or out of the body.'

We came to Sidmouth for two months, and you see we are here still; and
when we are likely to go is as uncertain as ever. I like the place,
and some of its inhabitants. I like the greenness and the tranquillity
and the sea; and the solitude of one dear seat which hangs over it,
and which is too far or too lonely for many others to like besides
myself. We are living in a thatched cottage, with a green lawn bounded
by a _Devonshire lane_. Do you know what that is? Milton did when he
wrote of 'hedgerow elms and hillocks green.' Indeed Sidmouth is a nest
among elms; and the lulling of the sea and the shadow of the hills
make it a peaceful one. But there are no majestic features in the
country. It is all green and fresh and secluded; and the grandeur is
concentrated upon the ocean without deigning to have anything to do
with the earth. I often find my thoughts where my footsteps once used
to be! but there is no use in speaking of that....

Pray believe me, affectionately yours,
E.B. BARRETT.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Sidmouth: Friday, December 19, 1834 [postmark].

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--... We have lately had deep anxiety with
regard to our dear papa. He left us two months ago to do his London
business: and a few weeks since we were told by a letter from him that
he was ill; he giving us to understand that his complaint was of
a rheumatic character. By the next coach, we were so daring (I can
scarcely understand how we managed it) as to send Henry to him:
thinking that it would be better to be scolded than to suffer him to
be alone and in suffering at a London hotel. We were not scolded: but
my prayer to be permitted to follow Henry was condemned to silence:
and what was said being said emphatically, I was obliged to submit,
and to be

thankful for the unsatisfactory accounts which for many days
afterwards we received.... I cannot help being anxious and fearful.
You know he is _all_ left to us--and that without him we should indeed
be orphans and desolate. Therefore you may well know what feelings
those are with which we look back upon his danger; and forwards to any
threatening of a return of it.... It may not be so. Do not, when you
write, allude to my fearing about it. Our only feeling now should
certainly be a deep feeling of thankfulness towards that God of all
consolation Who has permitted us to know His love in the midst of many
griefs; and Who while He has often cast upon us the sorrow and the
shadow, has yet enabled us to recognise it as that 'shadow of the
wings of the Almighty,' wherein we may 'rejoice.' We shall probably
see our dear papa next week. At least we know that he is only waiting
for strength and that he is already able to go out--I fear, not to
_walk_ out. Here we are all well. Belle Vue is sold, and we shall
probably have to leave it in March: but I do not think that we shall
do so before. Henrietta is still very anxious to leave Sidmouth
altogether; and I still feel that I shall very much grieve to leave
it: so that it is happy for us that neither is the _decider_ on this
point. I have often thought that it is happier _not_ to do what one
pleases, and perhaps you will agree with me--if you don't please at
the present moment to do something very particular. And do tell me,
dear Mrs. Martin, what you are pleasing to do, and what you are doing:
for it seems to me, and indeed is, a long time since I heard of
you and Mr. Martin _in detail_. Miss Maria Commeline sent a note to
Henrietta a fortnight ago: and in it was honorable mention of you--but
I won't interfere with the sublimities of your imagination, by telling
you what it was.... I should like to hear something of Hope End:
whether there are many alterations, and whether the new lodge, of
which I heard, is built. Even now, the thought stands before me
sometimes like an object in a dream that I shall see no more those
hills and trees which seemed to me once almost like portions of my
existence. This is not meant for murmuring. I have had much happiness
at Sidmouth, though with a character of its own. Henrietta and Arabel
and I are the only guardians just now of the three youngest boys, the
only ones at home: and I assure you, we have not too little to do.
They are no longer _little_ boys. There is an anxiety among us just
now to have letters from Jamaica--from my dear dear Bro--but the
packet is only 'expected.' The last accounts were comforting ones;
and I am living on the hope of seeing him back again in the spring.
Stormie and Georgie are doing well at Glasgow. So Dr. Wardlaw says....
Henrietta's particular love to you; and _do_ believe me always,

Your affectionate
E.B. BARRETT.

You have of course heard of poor Mrs. Boyd's death. Mr. Boyd and his
daughter are both in London, and likely, I think, to remain there.


_To H.S. Boyd_
Sidmouth: Tuesday [spring 1835].

My dear Mr. Boyd,--... Now I am going to tell you the only good news I
know, and you will be glad, I know, to be told what I am going to
tell you. Dear Georgie has taken his degree, and very honorably, at
Glasgow, and is coming to us in all the dignity of a Bachelor of Arts.
He was examined in Logic, Moral Philosophy, Greek and Latin, of course
publicly: and we have heard from a fellow student of his, that his
answers were more pertinent than those of any other of the examined,
and elicited much applause. Mr. Groube is the fellow student--but he
has ceased to be one, having found the Glasgow studies too heavy for
his health. Stormie shrank from the public examination, on account of
the hesitation in his speech. He would not go up; although, according
to report, as well qualified as Georgie. Mr. Groube says that the
ladies of Glasgow are preparing to break their hearts for Georgie's
departure: and he and Stormie leave Glasgow on May I. Now, I am sure
you will rejoice with me in the result of the examination. Do you not,
dear friend? I was very anxious about it; and almost resigned to hear
of a failure--for Georgie was in great alarm and prepared us for the
very worst. Therefore the surprise and pleasure were great.

I can't tell you of our plans; although the Glasgow students come to
us in a week and this house will be too small to receive them. We
may leave Sidmouth immediately, or not at all. I shall soon be quite
qualified to write a poem on the 'Pleasures of _Doubt_'--and a very
good subject it will be. The pleasures of certainty are generally far
less enjoyable--I mean as pleasures go in this unpleasing world. Papa
is in London, and much better when we heard from him last--and we are
awaiting his decree....

And now what remains for me to tell you? I believe I have read more
Hebrew than Greek lately; yet the dear Greek is not less dear than
ever. Who reads Greek to you? Who holds my office? Some one, I hope,
with an articulation of more congenial slowness.

Give Annie my kind love. May God preserve both of you!

Believe me, your affectionate friend,
E.B. BARRETT.



CHAPTER II

1835-1841

The residence of the Barretts at Sidmouth had never been a very
settled one--never intended to be permanent, and yet never having a
fixed term nor any reason for a fixed term. Hence it spread itself
gradually over a space of nearly three years, before the long
contemplated move to London actually took place. During the latter
part of that period, however, extant letters of Miss Barrett are
almost wholly wanting, and there is little information from any other
source as to the course of her life. It was apparently in the summer
of 1835 that Sidmouth was finally left behind, Mr. Barrett having
then taken a house at 74 Gloucester Place (near Baker Street), which,
though never regarded as more than a temporary residence, continued to
be the home of his family for the next three years.

The move to London was followed by two results of great importance
for Elizabeth Barrett. In the first place, her health, which had never
been strong, broke down altogether in the London atmosphere, and it is
from some time shortly after the arrival in Gloucester Place that
the beginning of her invalid life must be dated. On the other hand,
residence in London brought her into the neighbourhood of new friends;
and although the number of those admitted to see her in her sick-room
was always small, we yet owe to this fact the commencement of some of
her closest friendships, notably those with her distant cousin, John
Kenyon, and with Miss Mitford, the authoress of 'Our Village,' and of
a correspondence on a much fuller and more elaborate scale than any of
the earlier period. To this, no doubt, the fact of her confinement to
her room contributed not a little; for being unable to go out and see
her friends, much of her communication with them was necessarily by
letter. At the same time her literary activity was increasing. She
began to contribute poems to various magazines, and to be brought
thereby into connection with literary men; and she was also employed
on the longer compositions which went to make up her next volume of
published verse.

All this was, however, only of gradual development; and for some time
her correspondence is limited to Mr. Boyd, who was now living in St.
John's Wood, and Mrs. Martin. The exact date of the first letter is
uncertain, but it seems to belong to a time soon after the arrival of
the Barretts in town.


_To H.S. Boyd_
[74 Gloucester Place, London: autumn 1835.]

My dear Mr. Boyd,--As Georgie is going to do what I am afraid I shall
not be able to do to-day--namely, to visit _you_--he must take with
him a few lines from _Porsonia_ _greeting_, to say how glad I am to
feel myself again at only a short distance from you, and how still
gladder I shall be when the same room holds both of us. Don't be angry
because I have not visited you immediately. You know--or you _will_
know, if you consider--I cannot open the window and fly.

Papa and I were very much obliged to you for the poison--and are ready
to smile upon you whenever you give us the opportunity, as graciously
as Socrates did upon his executioner. How much you will have to say
to me about the Greeks, unless you begin first to abuse me about
the _Romans_; and if you begin _that_, the peroration will be a
very pathetic one, in my being turned out of your doors. Such is my
prophecy.

Papa has been telling me of your abusing my stanzas on Mrs. Hemans's
death. I had a presentiment that you would: and behold, why I said
nothing to you of them. Of course, I maintain, _versus_ both you and
papa, that they are very much to be admired: as well as everything
else proceeding from or belonging to ME. Upon which principle, I hope
you will admire George particularly.

Believe me, dear Mr. Boyd, your affectionate friend,
E.B. BARRETT.

Arabel's and my love to Annie. Won't she come to see us?


_To Mrs. Martin_
74 Gloucester Place, Portman Square, London: Jan. I, 1836.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--I am half willing and half unwilling to write
to you when, among such dearer interests and deep anxieties, you may
perhaps be scarcely at liberty to attend to what I write. And yet I
_will_ write, if it be only briefly, that you may not think--if you
think of us at all--that we have changed our hearts with our residence
so much as to forget to sympathise with you, dear Mrs. Martin, or to
neglect to apprise you ourselves of our movements. Indeed, a letter
to you should have been written among my first letters on arriving in
London, only Henrietta (my scape-goat, _you_ will say) said, '_I_ will
write to Mrs. Martin.' And then after I had waited, and determined
to write without waiting any longer, we heard of poor Mrs. Hanford's
affliction and your anxiety, and I have considered day after day
whether or not I should intrude upon you; until I find myself--_thus_!

I do hope that you have from the hand of God those consolations which
only He in Jesus Christ can give to the so afflicted. For I know well
that you are afflicted with the afflicted, and that with you sympathy
is suffering; and that while the tenderest earthly comfort is
administered by your presence and kindness to your dear friends, you
will feel bitterly for them what a little thing earthly comfort is,
when the earthly beloved perish before them. May He who is the Beloved
in the sight of His Father and His Church be near to them and you, and
cause you to _feel_ as well as _know_ the truth, that what is sudden
sorrow, to our judgments, is only long-prepared mercy in _His_ will
whose names are _Wisdom_ and _Love_. Should it not be, dear friend,
that the tears of our human eyes ought to serve the happy and touching
purpose of reminding us of those tears of Jesus which He shed in
assuming our sorrow with our flesh? And the memory of those tears
involves all comfort. A recognition of the oneness of the human nature
of that Divine Saviour who ever liveth, with ours which perishes and
sorrows so; an assurance drawn from thence of _His_ sympathy who sits
on the throne of God, with us who suffer in the dust of earth, and
of all those doctrines of redemption and sanctification and happiness
which come from Him and by Him.

Now you will forgive me for writing all this, dearest Mrs. Martin. I
like to write my thoughts and feelings out of my own head and heart,
just as they suggest themselves, when I write to you; and I cannot
think of affliction, particularly when it comes near to me in the
affliction or anxiety of dear friends, without looking back and
remembering what voice of God used to sound softly to me when none
other could speak comfort. You will forgive me, and not be angry with
me for trying, or seeming to try, to be a sermon writer.

Perhaps, dear Mrs. Martin, when you do feel inclined and able to
write, you would write me a few lines. Remember, I do not ask for them
_now_. No, do not think of writing now. I shall very much like to hear
how your dear charge is--whether there should appear any prospect of
improvement; and how poor Mrs. Hanford bears up against this heavy
calamity; and whether the anxiety and nursing affect your health. But
we shall try to hear this from the Biddulphs; and so do put me out of
your head, except when its thoughts would dwell on those on earth who
sympathise with you and care for you.

You see we are in London after all, and poor Sidmouth left afar. I
am almost inclined to say 'poor us' instead of 'poor Sidmouth.' But
I dare say I shall soon be able to see in my dungeon, and begin to be
amused with the spiders. Half my soul, in the meantime, seems to have
stayed behind on the seashore, which I love more than ever now that I
cannot walk on it in the body. London is wrapped up like a mummy, in
a yellow mist, so closely that I have had scarcely a glimpse of its
countenance since we came. Well, I am trying to like it all very much,
and I dare say that in time I may change my taste and my senses--and
succeed. We are in a house large enough to hold us, for four months,
at the end of which time, if the experiment of our being able to live
in London succeed, I _believe_ that papa's intention is to take an
unfurnished house and have his furniture from Ledbury. You may wonder
at me, but I wish that were settled _so_, and _now_. I am _satisfied_
with London, although I cannot enjoy it. We are not likely, in the
case of leaving it, to return to Devonshire, and I should look with
weary eyes to another strangership and pilgrimage even among green
fields that know not these fogs. Papa's object in settling here refers
to my brothers. George will probably enter as a barrister student at
the Inner Temple on the fifth or sixth of this month, and he will
have the advantage of his home by our remaining where we are. Another
advantage of London is, that we shall see here those whom we might see
nowhere else. This year, dear Mrs. Martin, may it bring with it the
true pleasure of seeing _you_! Three have gone, and we have not seen
you.... May God bless you and all that you care for, being with you
always as the God of consolation and peace.

Your affectionate
E.B. BARRETT.

It is from the middle of this year that Miss Barrett's active
appearance as an author may be dated. Hitherto her publications had
been confined to a few small anonymous volumes, printed rather to
please herself and her friends than with any idea of appealing to a
wider public. She was now anxious to take this farther step, and, with
that object, to obtain admission to some of the literary magazines.
This was obtained through the instrumentality of Mr. R.H. Home,
subsequently best known as the author of 'Orion.' He was at this
time personally unknown to Miss Barrett, but an application through a
common friend led both to the opening to the poetess of the pages of
the 'New Monthly Magazine,' then edited by Bulwer, and also to the
commencement of a friendship which has left its mark in the two
volumes of published letters to Mr. Home. The following is Mr. Home's
account of the opening of the acquaintance ('Letters,' i. 7, 8):


    'My first introduction to Miss Barrett was by a note from Mrs.
    Orme, inclosing one from the young lady containing a short
    poem with the modest request to be frankly told whether it
    might be ranked as poetry or merely verse. As there could be
    no doubt in the recipient's mind on that point, the poem was
    forwarded to Colburn's "New Monthly," edited at that time by
    Mr. Bulwer (afterwards the late [first] Lord Lytton), where it
    duly appeared in the current number. The next manuscript sent
    to me was "The Dead Pan," and the poetess at once started on
    her bright and noble career.'

The poem with which Miss Barrett thus made her bow to the world of
letters was 'The Romaunt of Margret,'[20] which appeared in the July
number of the magazine. Mr. Home must, however, have been in error
in speaking of 'The Dead Pan' as its successor, since that was not
written till some years later. More probably it was 'The Poet's
Vow,[21] which was printed in the October number of the 'New Monthly.'

[Footnote 20: _Poetical Works_, ii. 3.]

[Footnote 21: _Ib_. i. 277.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
[London:] October 14, Friday [1836].

My dear Friend,--Be as little angry with me as you can. I have not
been very well for a day or two, and shall enjoy a visit to you on
Monday so much more than I shall be able to do to-day, that I will ask
you to forgive my not going to you this week, and to receive me kindly
on that day instead--provided, you know, it is not wet.

The [Greek: Achaiides] approach the [Greek: Achaioi][22] more
tremblingly than usual, with the 'New Monthly Magazine' in their
hands. Now pray don't annoy yourself by reading a single word which
you would rather not read except for the sake of being kind to me.
And my prophecy is, that even by annoying yourself and making a
_strenuous_ effort, the whole force of friendship would not carry you
down the first page. Georgie says you want to know the verdict of the
'Athenaeum.' That paper unfortunately has been lent out of the house;
but my memory enables me to send you the words very correctly, I
think. After some observations on other periodicals, the writer goes
on to say: 'The "New Monthly Magazine" has not one heavy article. It
is rich in poetry, including some fine sonnets by the Corn Law Rhymer,
and a fine although too dreamy ballad, "The Poet's Vow." We are
almost tempted to pause and criticise the work of a writer of so much
inspiration and promise as the author of this poem, and exhort him
once again, to greater clearness of expression and less quaintness in
the choice of his phraseology; but this is not the time or place for
digression.'

You see my critic has condemned me with a very gracious countenance.
Do put on yours,

And believe me, affectionately yours,
E.B. BARRETT.


I forgot to say that you surprised and pleased me at the same time by
your praise of my 'Sea-mew.'[23] Love to Annie. We were glad to hear
that she did not _continue_ unwell, and that you are well again, too.
I hope you have had no return of the rheumatic pain.

[Footnote 22: Miss Barrett's Greek is habitually written without
accents or breathings.]

[Footnote 23: _Poetical Works_, ii. 278.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
[74 Gloucester Place:] Saturday, [October 1836].

My dear Friend,--I am much disappointed in finding myself at the end
of this week without having once seen you--particularly when your two
notes are waiting all this time to be answered. Do believe that they
were not, either of them, addressed to an ungrateful person, and that
the only reason of their being received _silently_ was my hope of
answering them more agreeably to both of us--by talking instead of
writing.

Yes; you have read my mystery.[24]

You paid a tithe to your human nature in reading only _nine-tenths_
of it, and the rest was a pure gift to your friendship for me, and is
taken and will be remembered as such. But you have a cruel heart for
a parody, and this one tried my sensibility so much that I cried--with
laughing. I confess to you notwithstanding, it was _very fair_, and
dealt its blow with a shining pointed weapon.

But what will you say to me when I confess besides that, in the face
of all your kind encouragement, my Drama of the Angels[25] has never
been touched until the last three days? It was _not_ out of pure
idleness on my part, nor of disregard to your admonition; but when my
thoughts were distracted with other things, books just begun inclosing
me all around, a whole load of books upon my conscience, I could not
possibly rise up to the gate of heaven and write about my angels.
You know one can't sometimes sit down to the sublunary, occupation
of reading Greek, unless one feels _free_ to it. And writing poetry
requires a double liberty, and an inclination which comes only of
itself.

But I have begun. I tried the blank metre once, and it _would not
do_, and so I had to begin again in lyrics. Something above an hundred
lines is written, and now I am in two panics, just as if one were not
enough. First, because it seems to me a very daring subject--a subject
almost beyond our sympathies, and therefore quite beyond the sphere of
human poetry. Perhaps when all is written courageously, I shall have
no courage left to publish it. Secondly, because all my tendencies
towards mysticism will be called into terrible operation by this
dreaming upon angels.

    Yes; you _will_ read a mystery,

but don't make any rash resolutions about reading anything. As I have
begun, I certainly will go on with the writing.

Here is a question for you:

Am I to accept your generous sacrifice of reading nine-tenths of my
'Vow,' as an atonement for your WANT OF CONFIDENCE IN ME? Oh,
your conscience will understand very well what I mean, without a
dictionary.

Arabel and I intend to pay you a visit on Monday, and if we can, and
it is convenient to you, we are inclined to invite ourselves to your
dinner table. But this is all dependent on the weather.

Believe me, dear Mr. Boyd, your affectionate friend,
E.B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 24: An allusion to the first line of 'The Poet's Vow.']

[Footnote 25: The 'Seraphim,' published in 1838.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
[74 Gloucester Place:] November 26, 1836 [postmark].

My dear Mr. Boyd,--I have been so busy that I have not been able until
this morning to take breath or _inspiration_ to answer your lyrics.
You shall see me soon, but I am sorry to say it can't be Monday or
Tuesday.

I have had another note from the editor of the 'New Monthly
Magazine'--very flattering, and praying for farther supplies. The
Angels were not ready, and I was obliged to send something else, which
I will not ask you to read. So don't be very uneasy.

Arabel's and my best love to Annie. And believe me in a great hurry,
for I won't miss this post,

Yours affectionately,
E.B. BARRETT.

  Your lyrics found me dull as prose
  Among a file of papers
  And analysing London fogs
  To nothing but the vapours.

  They knew their part; but through the fog
  Their flaming lightning raising;
  They missed my fancy, and instead,
  My choler set a-blazing.

  Quoth I, 'I need not care a pin
  For charge unjust, unsparing;
  Yet oh! for ancient bodkin[26] keen,
  To punish this _Pindáring_.

  'Yet oh! that I, a female Jove,
  These fogs sublime might float on,
  Where, eagle-like, my dove might show
  A very [Greek: _ugron nôton_].[27]

  'Then lightning should for lightning flash,
  Vexation for vexation,
  And shades of St. John's Wood should glow
  In awful conflagration.'

  I spoke; when lo! my birds of peace,
  The vengeance disallowing,
  Replied, 'Coo, coo!' But _keep in mind_,
  That _cooing_ is not _cowing_.[28]

[Footnote 26: The bodkin seems to be a favourite weapon with ancient
dames whose genius was for killing (note by E.B.B.).]

[Footnote 27: A reference to Pindar, _Pyth_.i. 9.]

[Footnote 28: These verses are inclosed with the foregoing letter, as
a retort to Mr. Boyd's parody.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
74 Gloucester Place: December 7, 1836.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Indeed I have long felt the need of writing
to you (I mean the need to myself), and although so many weeks and
even months have passed away in silence, they have not done so in lack
of affection and thought.

I had wished very much to have been able to tell you in this letter
where we had taken our house, or where we were going to take it. We
remain, however, in our usual state of conscious ignorance, although
there is a good deal of talking and walking about a house in Wimpole
Street--which, between ourselves, I am not very anxious to live in,
on account of the gloominesses of that street, and of that part of the
street, whose walls look so much like Newgate's turned inside out. I
would rather go on, in my old way, inhabiting castles in the air than
that particular house. Nevertheless, if it _is_ decided upon, I dare
say I shall contrive to be satisfied with it, and sleep and wake very
much as I should in any other. It will certainly be a point gained
to be settled somewhere, and I do so long to sit in my own
armchair--strange as it will look out of my own room--and to read from
my own books.... For our own particular parts, our healths continue
good--none of us, I think, the worse for fog or wind. As to wind, we
were almost elevated into the prerogative of _pigs_ in the late storm.
We could almost _see_ it, and the feeling it might have been fatal to
us. Bro and I were moralising about shipwrecks, in the dining-room,
when down came the chimney through the skylight into the entrance
passage. You may imagine the crashing effect of the bricks bounding
from the staircase downwards, breaking the stone steps in the process,
in addition to the falling in of twenty-four large panes of glass,
frames and all. We were terrified out of all propriety, and there has
been a dreadful calumny about Henrietta and me--that we had the hall
door open for the purpose of going out into the street with our
hair on end, if Bro had not _encouraged_ us by shutting the door and
locking it. I confess to opening the door, but deny the purpose of
it--at least, maintain that I only meant to keep in reserve a way of
escape, _in case_, as seemed probable, the whole house was on its
way to the ground. Indeed, we should think much of the _mercy_ of the
escape. Bro had been on the staircase only five minutes before. Sarah
the housemaid was actually there. She looked up accidentally and saw
the nodding chimneys, and ran down into the drawing-room to papa,
shrieking, but escaping with one graze of the hand from one brick. How
did _you_ fare in the wind? I never much imagined before that anything
so true to nature as a real live storm could make itself heard in our
streets. But it has come too surely, and carried away with it, besides
our chimney, all that was left to us of the country, in the shape of
the Kensington Garden trees. Now do write to me, dearest Mrs. Martin,
and soon, and tell me all you can of your chances and mischances, and
how Mr. Martin is getting on with the parish, and yourself with the
parishioners. But you have more the name of living at Colwall than the
thing. You seem to me to lead a far more wandering life than we,
for all our homelessness and 'pilgrim shoon.' Why, you have been in
Ireland since I last said a word to you, even upon paper....

I sometimes think that a pilgrim's life is the wisest--at least, the
most congenial to the 'uses of this world.' We give our sympathies and
associations to our hills and fields, and then the providence of God
gives _them_ to another, It is better, perhaps, to keep a stricter
_identity_, by calling only our thoughts our own.

Was there anybody in the world who ever loved London for itself? Did
Dr. Johnson, in his paradise of Fleet Street, love the pavement and
the walls? I doubt _that_--whether I ought to do so or not--though I
don't doubt at all that one may be contented and happy here, and love
much _in_ the place. But the place and the privileges of it don't mix
together in one's love, as is done among the hills and by the seaside.

I or Henrietta must have told you that one of my privileges has been
to see Wordsworth twice. He was very kind to me, and let me hear
his conversation. I went with him and Miss Mitford to Chiswick, and
thought all the way that I must certainly be dreaming. I saw her
almost every day of her week's visit to London (this was all long ago,
while you were in France); and she, who overflows with warm affections
and generous benevolences, showed me every present and absent
kindness, professing to love me, and asking me to write to her. Her
novel is to be published soon after Christmas, and I believe a new
tragedy is to appear about the same time, 'under the protection of Mr.
Forrest.' Papa has given me the first two volumes of Wordsworth's new
edition. The engraving in the first is his _own face_. You might think
me affected if I told you all I felt in seeing the living face.
His manners are very simple, and his conversation not at all
_prominent_--if you quite understand what I mean by _that_. I do
myself, for I saw at the same time Landor--the brilliant Landor!--and
_felt_ the difference between great genius and eminent talent; All
these visions have passed now. I hear and see nothing, except my doves
and the fireplace, and am doing little else than [_words torn out_]
write all day long. And then people ask me what I _mean_ in [_words
torn out_]. I hope you were among the six who understood or half
understood my 'Poet's Vow'--that is, if you read it at all. Uncle
Hedley made a long pause at the first part. But I have been reading,
too, Sheridan Knowles's play of the 'Wreckers.' It is full of passion
and pathos, and made me shed a great many tears. How do you get on
with the reading society? Do you see much or anything of Lady Margaret
Cocks, from whom I never hear now? I promised to let her have 'Ion,'
if I could, before she left Brighton, but the person to whom it was
lent did not return it to me in time. Will you tell her this, if you
do see her, and give her my kind regards at the same time? Dear Bell
was so sorry not to have seen you. If she had, you would have thought
her looking _very_ well, notwithstanding the thinness--perhaps, in
some measure, on account of it--and in _eminent_ spirits. I have not
seen her in such spirits for very, very long. And there she is, down
at Torquay, with the Hedleys and Butlers, making quite a colony of it,
and everybody, in each several letter, grumbling in an undertone at
the dullness of the place. What would _I_ give to see the waves once
more! But perhaps if I were there, I should grumble too. It is a
happiness to them to be _together_, and that, I am sure, they all
feel....

Believe me, dearest Mrs. Martin, your affectionate
E.B.B.

Oh that you would call me Ba![29]


[Footnote 29: Elizabeth Barrett's 'pet name' (see her poem, _Poetical
Works_, ii. 249), given to her as a child by her brother Edward, and
used by her family and friends, and by herself in her letters to them,
throughout her life.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
[74 Gloucester Place:]
Thursday, December 15, 1836 [postmark].

My dear Mr. Boyd,--... Two mornings since, I saw in the paper, under
the head of literary news, that a change of editorship was taking
place in the 'New Monthly Magazine;' and that Theodore Hook was to
preside in the room of Mr. Hall. I am so much too modest and too wise
to expect the patronage of two editors in succession, that I expect
both my poems in a return cover, by every twopenny post. Besides, what
has Theodore Hook to do with Seraphim? So, I shall leave that poem of
mine to your imagination; which won't be half as troublesome to you as
if I asked you to read it; begging you to be assured--to write it down
in your critical rubric--that it is the very finest composition you
ever read, _next_ (of course) to the beloved 'De Virginitate' of
Gregory Nazianzen.[30]

Mr. Stratten has just been here. I admire him more than I ever did,
for his admiration of my doves. By the way, I am sure he thought them
the most agreeable of the whole party; for he said, what he never did
before, that he could sit here for an hour! Our love to Annie--and
forgive me for Baskettiring a letter to you. I mean, of course, as to
size, not type.

Yours affectionately,
E.B. BARRETT.

Is your poem printed yet?

  [Footnote 30:Do you mind that deed of Até
  Which you bound me to so fast,--
  Reading 'De Virginitate,'
  From the first line to the last?
  How I said at ending solemn,
  As I turned and looked at you,
  That Saint Simeon on the column
  Had had somewhat less to do?

'Wine of Cyprus' (_Poetical Works_, iii. 139)]


_To H.S. Boyd_
[74 Gloucester Place:] Tuesday [Christmas 1836].

My dear Friend,--I am very much obliged to you for the _two_ copies
of your poem, so beautifully printed, with such 'majestical' types,
on such 'magnifical' paper, as to be almost worthy of Baskett himself.
You are too liberal in sending me more than one copy; and pray accept
in return a duplicate of gratitude.

As to my 'Seraphim,' they are not returned to me, as in the case of
their being unaccepted, I expressly begged they might be. Had the old
editor been the present one, my inference would of course be, that
their insertion was a determined matter; but as it is, I don't
know what to think.[31] A long list of great names, belonging to
_intending_ contributors, appeared in the paper a day or two ago, and
among them was Miss Mitford's.

Are you wroth with me for not saying a word about going to see
you? Arabel and I won't affirm it mathematically--but we are,
metaphysically, _talking_ of paying our visit to you next Tuesday.
Don't expect us, nevertheless.

Yours affectionately,
E.B. BARRETT.

What are my Christmas good wishes to be? That you may hold a Field in
your right hand, and a Baskerville in your left, before the year is
out! That degree of happiness will satisfy at least the _bodily_ part
of you.

You may wish, in return, for _me_, that I may learn to write rather
more legibly than 'at these presents.'

Our love to Annie.

Won't you send your new poem to Mr. Barker, to the care of Mr. Valpy,
with your Christmas benedictions?

[Footnote 31: As a matter of fact, 'The Seraphim' was not printed in
the _New Monthly_, being probably thought too long.]


_To Mrs. Martin_.
[74 Gloucester Place:] January 23, 1837 [postmark].

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--I am standing in Henrietta's place, she
says--but not, _I_ say, to answer your letter to _her_ yesterday, but
your letter to _me_, some weeks ago--which I meant to answer much
more immediately if the _ignis fatuus_ of a house (you see to what
a miserable fatuity I am reduced, of applying your pure country
metaphors to our brick pollutions) had not been gliding just
before us, and I had not much wished to be able to tell you of our
settlement. As it is, however, I must write, and shall keep a solemn
silence on the solemn subject of our shifting plans....

No! I was not at all disappointed in Wordsworth, although perhaps I
should not have singled him from the multitude as a great man. There
is a _reserve_ even in his countenance, which does not lighten
as Landor's does, whom I saw the same evening. His eyes have more
meekness than brilliancy; and in his slow even articulation there
is rather the solemnity and calmness of _truth_ itself, than the
animation and energy of those who seek for it. As to my being quite at
my ease when I spoke to him, why how could you ask such a question? I
trembled both in my soul and body. But he was very kind, and sate
near me and talked to me as long as he was in the room--and recited
a translation by Cary of a sonnet of Dante's--and altogether, it was
quite a dream! Landor too--Walter Savage Landor ... in whose hands
the ashes of antiquity burn again--gave me two Greek epigrams he had
lately written ... and talked brilliantly and prominently until Bro
(he and I went together) abused him for _ambitious_ singularity and
affectation. But it was very interesting. And dear Miss Mitford too!
and Mr. Raymond, a great Hebraist and the ancient author of 'A Cure
for a Heartache!' I never walked in the skies before; and perhaps
never shall again, when so many stars are out! I shall at least see
dear Miss Mitford, who wrote to me not long ago to say that she would
soon be in London with 'Otto,' her new tragedy, which was written at
Mr. Forrest's own request, he in the most flattering manner having
applied to her a stranger, as the authoress of 'Rienzi,' for a
dramatic work worthy of his acting--after rejecting many plays offered
to him, and among them Mr. Knowles's.... She says that her play will
be quite opposed, in its execution, to 'Ion,' as unlike it 'as a
ruined castle overhanging the Rhine, to a Grecian temple.' And I do
not doubt that it will be full of ability; although my own opinion
is that she stands higher as the authoress of 'Our Village' than of
'Rienzi,' and writes prose better than poetry, and transcends rather
in Dutch minuteness and high finishing, than in Italian ideality and
passion. I think besides that Mr. Forrest's rejection of any play
of Sheridan Knowles must refer rather to its unfitness for the
development of his own personal talent, than to its abstract demerit,
whatever Transatlantic tastes he may bring with him. The published
title of the last play is 'The Daughter,' not 'The Wreckers,' although
I believe it was acted as the last. I am very anxious to read 'Otto,'
not to _see_ it. I am not going to see it, notwithstanding an offered
temptation to sit in the authoress's own box. With regard to 'Ion,'
I think it is a beautiful work, but beautiful _rather_ morally than
intellectually. Is this right or not? Its moral tone is very noble,
and sends a grand and touching harmony into the midst of the full
discord of this utilitarian age. As dramatic _poetry_, it seems to me
to want, not beauty, but power, passion, and condensation. This is my
_doxy_ about 'Ion.' Its author[32] made me very proud by sending it to
me, although we do not know him personally. I have _heard_ that he is
a most amiable man (who else could have written 'Ion'?), but that he
was a little _elevated_ by his popularity last year!...

I have read Combe's 'Phrenology,' but not the 'Constitution of Man.'
The 'Phrenology' is very clever, and amusing; but I do not think it
logical or satisfactory. I forget whether 'slowness of the pulse' _is_
mentioned in it as a symptom of the poetical aestus. I am afraid, if
it be a symptom, I dare not take my place even in the 'forlorn hope of
poets' in this age so forlorn as to its poetry; for my pulse is in a
continual flutter and my feet not half cold enough for a pedestal--so
I must make my honours over to poor papa straightway. He has been
shivering and shuddering through the cold weather; and partaking our
influenza in the warmer. I am very sorry that you should have been a
sufferer too. It seems to have been a universal pestilence, even down
in Devonshire, where dear Bummy and the whole colony have had their
share of 'groans.' And one of my doves shook its pretty head and
ruffled its feathers and shut its eyes, and became subject to pap and
nursing and other infirmities for two or three days, until I was in
great consternation for the result. But it is well again--cooing as
usual; and so indeed we all are. But indeed, I can't write a
sentence more without saying some of the evil it deserves--of the
utilitarianisms of this corrupt age--among some of the chief of which
are steel pens!

I am so glad that you liked my 'Romaunt,' and so resigned that you did
not understand some of my 'Poet's Vow,' and so obliged that you should
care to go on reading what I write. They vouchsafed to publish in the
first number of the new series of the 'New Monthly' a little poem of
mine called 'The Island,'[33] but so incorrectly that I was glad at
the additional oblivion of my signature. If you see it, pray alter the
last senseless line of the first page into 'Leaf sounds with water, in
your ear,' and put 'amreeta' instead of 'amneta' on the second page;
and strike out '_of_' in the line which names Aeschylus! There are
other blunders, [but] these are intolerable, and cast me out of my
'contentment' for some time. I have begged for [proof] sheets in
future; and as none have come for the ensuing month, I suppose I shall
have nothing in the next number. They have a lyrical dramatic poem of
mine, 'The Two Seraphim,' which, whenever it appears, I shall like to
have your opinion of. As to the incomprehensible line in the 'Poet's
Vow' of which you asked me the meaning, 'One making one in strong
compass,' I meant to express how that oneness of God, 'in whom are all
things,' produces a oneness or sympathy (sympathy being the tendency
of many to become one) in all things. Do you understand? or is the
explanation to be explained? The unity of God preserves a unity in
men--that is, a perpetual sympathy between man and man--which sympathy
we must be subject to, if not in our joys, yet in our griefs. I
believe the subject itself involves the necessity of some mysticism;
but I must make no excuses. I am afraid that my very Seraphim will not
be thought to stand in a very clear light, even at heaven's gate. But
this is much _asay_ about nothing ...

The Bishop of Exeter is staying and preaching at Torquay. Do you not
envy them all for making part of his congregation? I am sure I do
_as much_. I envy you your before-breakfast activity. I am never a
_complete man_ without my breakfast--it seems to be some integral part
of my soul. _You_ 'read all O'Connell's speeches.' I never read any of
them--unless they take me by surprise. I keep my devotion for _unpaid_
patriots; but Miss Mitford is another devotee of Mr. O'Connell ...

Dearest Mrs. Martin's affectionate
E.B. BARRETT.

Thank you for the 'Ba' in Henrietta's letter. If you knew how many
people, whom I have known only within this year or two, whether I like
them or not, say 'Ba, Ba,' quite naturally and pastorally, you would
not come to me with the detestable 'Miss B.'

[Footnote 32: Serjeant Talfourd.]

[Footnote 33: _Poetical Works_, ii. 248.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
London: August 16, 1837.

My dear Mrs. Martin,--It seems a long long time since we had any
intercourse; and the answer to your last pleasant letter to Henrietta
_must_ go to you from me. We have heard of you that you don't mean to
return to England before the spring--which news proved me a prophet,
and disappointed me at the same time, for one can't enjoy even a
prophecy in this world without something vexing. Indeed, I do long to
see you again, dearest Mrs. Martin, and should always have the same
pleasure in it, and affection for you, if my friends and acquaintances
were as much multiplied as you _wrongly_ suppose them to be. But the
truth is that I have almost none at all, in this place; and, except
our relative Mr. Kenyon, not one literary in any sense. Dear Miss
Mitford, one of the very kindest of human beings, lies buried in
geraniums, thirty miles away. I could not conceive what Henrietta
had been telling you, or what you meant, for a long time--until we
conjectured that it must have been something about Lady Dacre, who
kindly sent me her book, and intimated that she would be glad to
receive me at her conversations--and you know me better than to
doubt whether I would go or not. There was an equal unworthiness and
unwillingness towards the honor of it. Indeed, dearest Mrs. Martin,
it is almost surprising how we contrive to be as dull in London as in
Devonshire--perhaps more so, for the sight of a multitude induces a
sense of seclusion which one has not without it; and, besides, there
were at Sidmouth many more known faces and listened-to voices than we
see and hear in this place. No house yet! And you will scarcely
have patience to read that papa has seen and likes another house in
Devonshire Place, and that he _may_ take it, and we _may_ be settled
in it, before the year closes. I myself think of the whole business
indifferently. My thoughts have turned so long on the subject of
houses, that the pivot is broken--and now they won't turn any more.
All that remains is, a sort of consciousness, that we should be more
comfortable in a house with cleaner carpets, and taken for rather
longer than a week at a time. Perhaps, after all, we are quite as well
_sur le tapis_ as it is. It is a thousand to one but that the feeling
of four red London walls closing around us for seven, eleven, or
twenty-five years, would be a harsh and hard one, and make us cry
wistfully to 'get out.' I am sure you will look up to your mountains,
and down to your lakes, and enter into this conjecture.

Talking of mountains and lakes is itself a trying thing to us poor
prisoners. Papa has talked several times of taking us into the country
for two months this summer, and we have dreamt of it a hundred times
in addition; but, after all, we are not likely to go I dare say. It
would have been very delightful--and who knows what may take place
next summer? We may not absolutely _die_, without seeing a tree.
Henrietta has seen a great many. You will have heard, I dare say, of
the enjoyment she had in her week at Camden House. She seems to have
walked from seven in the morning to seven at night; and was quite
delighted with the kindness within doors and the sunshine without. I
assure you that, fresh as she was from the air and dew, she saluted us
amidst the sentiment of our sisterly meeting just in this way--it was
almost her first exclamation--'What a very disagreeable smell there is
here!' And this, although she had brought geraniums enough from Camden
to perfume the Haymarket!...

I am happy to announce to you that a new little dove has appeared
from a shell--over which nobody had prognosticated good--on August
16, 1837. I and the senior doves appear equally delighted, and we
all three, in the capacity of good sitters and indefatigable
pullers-about, take a good deal of credit upon ourselves....

Arabel has begun oil painting, and without a master--and you can't
think how much effect and expression she has given to several of her
own sketches, notwithstanding all difficulties. Poor Henrietta is
without a piano, and is not to have one again _until we have another
house_! This is something like 'when Homer and Virgil are forgotten.'
_Speaking of Homer and Virgil_, I have been writing a 'Romance of the
Ganges,'[34] in order to illustrate an engraving in the new annual
to be edited by Miss Mitford, Finden's tableaux for 1838. It does not
sound a _very_ Homeric undertaking--I confess I don't hold any kind of
annual, gild it as you please, in too much honour and awe--but from
my wish to please her, and from the necessity of its being done in a
certain time, I was 'quite frightful,' as poor old Cooke used to
say, in order to express his own nervousness. But she was quite
pleased--she is very soon pleased--and the ballad, gone the way of
all writing, now-a-days, to the press. I do wish I could send you some
kind of news that would interest you; but you see scarcely any except
all this selfishness is in my beat. Dearest Bro draws and reads
German, and I fear is dull notwithstanding. But we are every one of
us more reconciled to London than we were. Well! I must not write
any more. Whenever you think of me, dearest Mrs. Martin, remember how
deeply and unchangeably I must regard you--both with my _mind_, my
_affections_, and that part of either, called my gratitude. BA.

Henrietta's kindest love and thanks for your letter. She desires me
to say that she and Bro are going to dine with Mrs. Robert Martin
to-morrow. I must tell you that Georgie and I went to hear Dr.
Chalmers preach, three Sundays ago. His sermon was on a text whose
extreme beauty would diffuse itself into any sermon preached upon
it--God is love. His eloquence was very great, and his views noble and
grasping. I expected much from his imagination, but not so much from
his knowledge. It was truer to Scripture than I was prepared for,
although there seemed to me some _want_ on the subject of the work
of the Holy Spirit on the heart, which work we cannot dwell upon too
emphatically. 'He worketh in us to will and to do,' and yet we are apt
to will and do without a transmission of the praise to Him. May God
bless you.

[Footnote 34: _Poetical Works_, ii. 83.]


_To Miss Commeline_
London: August 19, 1837.

My dear Miss Commeline,--I could not hear of your being in affliction
without very frequent thoughts of you and a desire to express some of
them in this way, and although so much time has passed I do hope that
you will believe in the sympathy with which I, or rather _we_, have
thought of you, and in the regard we shall not cease to feel for you
even if we meet no more in this world. It is blessed to know both
for ourselves and for each other that while there is a darkness that
_must_ come to all, there is a light which _may_; and may He who is
the light in the dark place be with you [now] and always, causing you
to feel rather the glory that is in Him than the shadow which is in
all beside--that so the sweetness of the consolation may pass the
bitterness of even grief. Do give my love to Mrs. Commeline and to
your sisters, and believe me, all of you, that the friends who have
gone from your neighbourhood have not gone from my old remembrance,
either of your kindness to them, or of their own feelings of interest
in you.

Trusting to such old remembrances, I will believe that you care to
know what we are doing and how we are settling--that word which has
now been on our lips for years, which it is marvellous to think how
it got upon human lips at all. We came from Sidmouth to try London and
ourselves, and see whether or not we could live together; and after
more than a year and a half close contact with smoke we find no very
good excuse for not remaining in it; and papa is going on with his
eternal hunt for houses--the wild huntsman in the ballad is nothing
to him, all except the sublimity--intending very seriously to take
the first he can. He is now about one in particular, but I won't tell
where it is because we have considered so many houses in particular
that our considerations have come to be a jest in general. I shall
be heartily glad, at least I _think_ so, for it is possible that
the reality of being bricked up for a lease time may not be very
agreeable. I think I shall be heartily glad when a house is taken, and
we have made it look like our own with our furniture and pictures and
books. I am so anxious to see my old books. I believe I shall begin at
the beginning and read every story book through in the joy of meeting,
and shall be as sedentary as ever I was in my own arm-chair. I
remember when I was a child spreading my vitality, not over trees and
flowers (I do that still--I still believe they have a certain animal
susceptibility to pleasure and pain; 'it is my creed,' and, being
Wordsworth's besides, I am not ashamed of it), but over chairs and
tables and books in particular, and being used to fancy a kind of love
in them to suit my love to them. And so if I were a child I should
have an intense pity for my poor folios, quartos, and duodecimos, to
say nothing of the arm-chair, shut up all these weeks and months in
boxes, without a rational eye to look upon them. Pray forgive me if I
have written a great deal of nonsense--'Je m'en doute.'

Henrietta has spent a fortnight at Chislehurst with the Martins, and
was very joyous there, and came back to us with that happy triumphant
air which I always fancy people 'just from the country' put on towards
us hapless Londoners.

But you must not think I am a discontented person and grumble all day
long at being in London. _There are many advantages here_, as I say to
myself whenever it is particularly disagreeable; and if we can't see
even a leaf or a sparrow without soot on it, there are the parrots at
the Zoological Gardens and the pictures at the Royal Academy; and real
live poets above all, with their heads full of the trees and birds and
sunshine of paradise. I have stood face to face with Wordsworth and
Landor; and Miss Mitford, who is in herself what she is in her books,
has become a dear friend of mine, but a distant one. She visits London
at long intervals, and lives thirty miles away....

Bro and I were studying German together all last summer with Henry,
before he left us to become a German, and I believe this is the last
of my languages, for I have begun absolutely to detest the sight of a
dictionary or grammar, which I never liked except as a means, and love
poetry with an intenser love, if that be possible, than I ever did.
Not that Greek is not as dear to me as ever, but I write more than I
read, even of Greek poetry, and am resolute to work whatever little
faculty I have, clear of imitations and conventionalisms which
cloud and weaken more poetry (particularly now-a-days) than would be
believed possible without looking into it....

As to society in London, I assure you that none of us have much, and
that as for me, you would wonder at seeing how possible it is to
live as secludedly in the midst of a multitude as in the centre
of solitude. My doves are my chief acquaintances, and I am so very
intimate with _them_ that they accept and even demand my assistance in
building their innumerable nests. Do tell me if there is any hope of
seeing any of you in London at any time. I say 'do tell me,' for I
will venture to ask you, dear Miss Commeline, to write me a few lines
in one of the idlest hours of one of your idlest days just to tell me
a little about you, and whether Mrs. Commeline is tolerably well. Pray
believe me under all circumstances,

Yours sincerely and affectionately,
E.B. BARRETT.

The spring of 1838 was marked by two events of interest to Miss
Barrett and her family. In the first place, Mr. Barrett's apparently
interminable search for a house ended in his selection of 50 Wimpole
Street, which continued to be his home for the rest of his life, and
which is, consequently, more than any other house in London, to
be associated with his daughter's memory. The second event was
the publication of 'The Seraphim, and other Poems,' which was Miss
Barrett's first serious appearance before the public, and in her
own name, as a poet. The early letters of this year refer to the
preparation of this volume, as well as to the authoress's health,
which was at this time in a very serious condition, owing to the
breaking of a blood-vessel. Indeed, from this time until her marriage
in 1846 she held her life on the frailest of tenures, and lived in all
respects the life of an invalid.


_To H.S. Boyd_
Monday morning, March 27, 1838 [postmark].

My dear Friend,--I do hope that you may not be very angry, but papa
thinks--and, indeed, I think--that as I have already _had_ two proof
sheets and forty-eight pages, and the printers have gone on to the
rest of the poem, it would not be very welcome to them if we were
to ask them to retrace their steps. Besides, I would rather--_I_ for
myself, _I_--that you had the whole poem at once and clearly printed
before you, to insure as many chances as possible of your liking it.
I am _promised_ to see the volume completed in three weeks from this
time, so that the dreadful moment of your reading it--I mean the
'Seraphim' part of it--cannot be far off, and perhaps, the season
being a good deal advanced even now, you might not, on consideration,
wish me to retard the appearance of the book, except for some very
sufficient reason. I feel very nervous about it--far more than I did
when my 'Prometheus' crept out [of] the Greek, or I myself out of
the shell, in the first 'Essay on Mind.' Perhaps this is owing to Dr.
Chambers's medicines, or perhaps to a consciousness that my present
attempt _is_ actually, and will be considered by others, more a trial
of strength than either of my preceding ones.

Thank you for the books, and especially for the _editio rarissima_,
which I should as soon have thought of your trusting to me as of your
admitting me to stand with gloves on within a yard of Baxter. This
extraordinary confidence shall not be abused.

I thank you besides for your kind inquiries about my health. Dr.
Chambers did not think me worse yesterday, notwithstanding the last
cold days, which have occasioned some uncomfortable sensations, and he
still thinks I shall be better in the summer season. In the meantime
he has ordered me to take ice--out of sympathy with nature, I suppose;
and not to speak a word, out of contradiction to my particular, human,
feminine nature.

Whereupon I revenge myself, you see, by talking all this nonsense upon
paper, and making you the victim.

To propitiate you, let me tell you that your commands have been
performed to the letter, and that one Greek motto (from 'Orpheus')
is given to the first part of 'The Seraphim,' and another from
_Chrysostom_ to the second.

Henrietta desires me to say that she means to go to see you very soon.
Give my very kind remembrance to Miss Holmes, and believe me,

Your affectionate friend,
E.B. BARRETT.

I saw Mr. Kenyon yesterday. He has a book just coming out.[35] I
should like you to read it. If you would, you would thank me for
saying so.

[Footnote 35: _Poems, for the most part occasional_, by John Kenyon.]


_To John Kenyon_[36]
[1838.]

Thank you, dearest Mr. Kenyon; and I should (and _shall_) thank Miss
Thomson too for caring to spend a thought on me after all the Parisian
glories and rationalities which I sympathise with by many degrees
nearer than you seem to do. We, in this England here, are just social
barbarians, to my mind--that is, we know how to read and write and
think, and even talk on occasion; but we carry the old rings in our
noses, and are proud of the flowers pricked into our cuticles. By so
much are they better than we on the Continent, I always think. Life
has a thinner rind, and so a livelier sap. And _that_ I can see in the
books and the traditions, and always understand people who like living
in France and Germany, and should like it myself, I believe, on some
accounts.

Where did you get your Bacchanalian song? Witty, certainly, but
the recollection of the _scores_ a little ghastly for the occasion,
perhaps. You have yourself sung into silence, too, all possible songs
of Bacchus, as the god and I know.

Here is a delightful letter from Miss Martineau. I cannot be so
selfish as to keep it to myself. The sense of natural beauty and the
_good_ sense of the remarks on rural manners are both exquisite of
their kinds, and Wordsworth is Wordsworth as she knows him. Have I
said that Friday will find me expecting the kind visit you promise?
_That_, at least, is what I meant to say with all these words.

Ever affectionately yours,
E.B.B.

[Footnote 36: John Kenyon (1784-1856) was born in Jamaica, the son
of a wealthy West Indian landowner, but came to England while quite
a boy, and was a conspicuous figure in literary society during the
second quarter of the century. He published some volumes of minor
verse, but is best known for his friendships with many literary men
and women, and for his boundless generosity and kindliness to all with
whom he was brought into contact. Crabb Robinson described him as a
man 'whose life is spent in making people happy.' He was a distant
cousin of Miss Barrett, and a friend of Robert Browning, who dedicated
to him his volume of 'Dramatic Romances,' besides writing and sending
to him 'Andrea del Sarto' as a substitute for a print of the painter's
portrait which he had been unable to find. The best account of Kenyon
is to be found in Mrs. Crosse's 'John Kenyon and his Friends' (in
_Red-Letter Days of My Life_, vol. i.).]


_To John Kenyon_
Wimpole Street: Sunday evening [1838?].

My dear Mr. Kenyon,--I am _so_ sorry to hear of your going, and I not
able to say 'good-bye' to you, that--I am _not_ writing this note on
that account.

It is a begging note, and now I am wondering to myself whether you
will think me very childish or womanish, or silly enough to be both
together (I know your thoughts upon certain parallel subjects), if
I go on to do my begging fully. I hear that you are going to Mr.
Wordsworth's--to Rydal Mount--and I want you to ask _for yourself_,
and then to send to me in a letter--by the post, I mean, two cuttings
out of the garden--of myrtle or geranium; I care very little which, or
what else. Only I say 'myrtle' because it is less given to die and I
say _two_ to be sure of my chances of saving one. Will you? You would
please me very much by doing it; and certainly not _dis_ please me by
refusing to do it. Your broadest 'no' would not sound half so strange
to me as my 'little crooked thing' does to you; but you see everybody
in the world is fanciful about something, and why not _E.B.B._?

Dear Mr. Kenyon, I have a book of yours--M. Rio's. If you want it
before you go, just write in two words, 'Send it,' or I shall infer
from your silence that I may keep it until you come back. No necessity
for answering this otherwise. Is it as bad as asking for autographs,
or worse? At any rate, believe me _in earnest_ this time--besides
being, with every wish for your enjoyment of mountains and lakes and
'cherry trees,'

Ever affectionately yours,
E.B.B.


_To H.S. Boyd_
[May 1838.]

My dear friend,--I am rather better than otherwise within the last
few days, but fear that nothing will make me essentially so except
the invisible sun. I am, however, a little better, and God's will is
always done in mercy.

As to the poems, do forgive me, dear Mr. Boyd; and refrain from
executing your cruel threat of suffering 'the desire of reading them
to pass away.'

I have not one sheet of them; and papa--and, to say the truth, I
myself--would so very much prefer your reading the preface first, that
you must try to indulge us in our phantasy. The book Mr. Bentley half
promises to finish the printing of this week. At any rate it is likely
to be all done in the next: and you may depend upon having a copy _as
soon_ as I have power over one.

With kind regards to Miss Holmes,
Believe me, your affectionate friend,
E.B.B.


_To H.S. Boyd_
50 Wimpole Street; Wednesday [May 1838].

Thank you for your inquiry, my dear friend. I had begun to fancy that
between Saunders and Otley and the 'Seraphim' I had fallen to the
ground of your disfavour. But I do trust to be able to send you a copy
before next Sunday.

I am thrown back a little just now by having caught a very bad cold,
which has of course affected my cough. The worst seems, however, to be
past, and Dr. Chambers told me yesterday that he expected to see me
in two days nearly as well as before this casualty. And I have been,
thank God, pretty well lately; and although when the stethoscope was
applied three weeks ago, it did not speak very satisfactorily of the
state of the lungs, yet Dr. Chambers seems to be hopeful still, and to
talk of the wonders which the summer sunshine (when it does come) may
be the means of doing for me. And people say that I look rather better
than worse, even now.

Did you hear of an autograph of Shakespeare's being sold lately for a
very large sum (I _think_ it was above a hundred pounds) on the credit
of its being the only genuine autograph extant? Is yours quite safe?
And are _you_ so, in your opinion of its veritableness?

I have just finished a very long barbarous ballad for Miss Mitford and
the Finden's tableaux of this year. The title is 'The Romaunt of the
Page,'[37] and the subject not of my own choosing.

I believe that you will certainly have 'The Seraphim' this week. Do
macadamise the frown from your brow in order to receive them.

Give my love to Miss Holmes.
Your affectionate friend,
E.B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 37: _Poetical Works_, ii. 40.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
June 7, 1838 [postmark].

My dear Mr. Boyd,--Papa is scarcely inclined, nor am I for myself, to
send my book or books to the East Indies. Let them alone, poor things,
until they can walk about a little! and then it will be time enough
for them to 'learn to _fly_.'

I am so sorry that Emily Harding saw Arabel and went away without this
note, which I have been meaning to write to you for several days, and
have been so absorbed and drawn away (all except my thoughts) by
other things necessary to be done, that I was forced to defer it. My
ballad,[38] containing a ladye dressed up like a page and galloping
off to Palestine in a manner that would scandalise you, went to Miss
Mitford this morning. But I augur from its length that she will not be
able to receive it into Finden.

Arabel has told me what Miss Harding told her of your being in the act
of going through my 'Seraphim' for the second time. For the feeling
of interest in me which brought this labour upon you, I thank you, my
dear friend. What your opinion _is_, and _will_ be, I am prepared to
hear with a good deal of awe. You will _certainly not approve of the
poem_.

There now! You see I am prepared. Therefore do not keep back one rough
word, for friendship's sake, but be as honest as--you could not help
being, without this request.

If I should live, I shall write (_I believe_) better poems than 'The
Seraphim;' which belief will help me to survive the condemnation heavy
upon your lips.

Affectionately yours,
E.B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 38: 'The Romaunt of the Page.']


'The Seraphim, and other Poems,' a duodecimo of 360 pages, at last
made its appearance at the end of May. At the time of its publication,
English poetry was experiencing one of its periods of ebb between
two flood tides of great achievement. Shelley, Keats, Byron, Scott,
Coleridge were dead; Wordsworth had ceased to produce poetry of the
first order; no fresh inspiration was to be expected from Landor,
Southey, Rogers, Campbell, and such other writers of the Georgian era
as still were numbered with the living. On the other hand, Tennyson,
though already the most remarkable among the younger poets, was still
but exercising himself in the studies in language and metrical music
by which his consummate art was developed; Browning had published only
'Pauline,' 'Paracelsus,' and 'Strafford;' the other poets who have
given distinction to the Victorian age had not begun to write. And
between the veterans of the one generation and the young recruits of
the next there was a singular want of writers of distinction. There
was thus every opportunity for a new poet when Miss Barrett entered
the lists with her first volume of acknowledged verse.

Its reception, on the whole, does credit alike to its own merits and
to the critics who reviewed it. It does not contain any of those poems
which have proved the most popular among its authoress's complete
works, except 'Cowper's Grave;' but 'The Seraphim' was a poem which
deserved to attract attention, and among the minor poems were 'The
Poet's Vow,' 'Isobel's Child,' 'The Romaunt of Margret,' 'My Doves,'
and 'The Sea-mew.' The volume did not suffice to win any wide
reputation for Miss Barrett, and no second edition was called for; on
the other hand, it was received with more than civility, with genuine
cordiality, by several among the reviewers, though they did not fail
to note its obvious defects. The 'Athenaeum'[39] began its review with
the following declaration:

    This is an extraordinary volume--especially welcome as an
    evidence of female genius and accomplishment--but it is hardly
    less disappointing than extraordinary. Miss Barrett's genius
    is of a high order; active, vigorous, and versatile, but
    unaccompanied by discriminating taste. A thousand strange and
    beautiful views flit across her mind, but she cannot look on
    them with steady gaze; her descriptions, therefore, are
    often shadowy and indistinct, and her language wanting in the
    simplicity of unaffected earnestness.

[Footnote 39: July 7, 1838.]

The 'Examiner,'[40] after quoting at length from the preface and 'The
Seraphim,' continued:

    Who will deny to the writer of such verses as these (and they
    are not sparingly met with in the volume) the possession of
    many of the highest qualities of the divine art? We regret
    to have some restriction to add to an admission we make so
    gladly. Miss Barrett is indeed a genuine poetess, of no common
    order; yet is she in danger of being spoiled by over-ambition;
    and of realising no greater or more final reputation than
    a hectical one, like Crashaw's. She has fancy, feeling,
    imagination, expression; but for want of some just equipoise
    or other, between the material and spiritual, she aims
    at flights which have done no good to the strongest, and
    therefore falls infinitely short, except in such detached
    passages as we have extracted above, of what a proper exercise
    of her genius would infallibly reach.... Very various, and
    in the main beautiful and true, are the minor poems. But the
    entire volume deserves more than ordinary attention.

[Footnote 40: June 24, 1838.]

The 'Atlas,'[41] another paper whose literary judgments were highly
esteemed at that date, was somewhat colder, and dwelt more on
the faults of the volume, but added nevertheless that 'there are
occasional passages of great beauty, and full of deep poetical
feeling. In 'The Romaunt of Margret' it detected the influence of
Tennyson--a suggestion which Miss Barrett repudiated rather warmly;
and it concluded with the declaration that the authoress 'possesses
a fine poetical temperament, and has given to the public, in this
volume, a work of considerable merit.'

[Footnote 41: June 23, 1838.]

Such were the principal voices among the critical world when Miss
Barrett first ventured into its midst; and she might well be satisfied
with them. Two years later, the 'Quarterly Review'[42] included her
name in a review of 'Modern English Poetesses,' along with Caroline
Norton, 'V.,' and others whose names are even less remembered to-day.
But though the reviewer speaks of her genius and learning in high
terms of admiration, he cannot be said to treat her sympathetically.
He objects to the dogmatic positiveness of her prefaces, and protests
warmly against her 'reckless repetition of the name of God'--a charge
which, in another connection, will be found fully and fairly met in
one of her later letters. On points of technique he criticises
her frequent use of the perfect participle with accented final
syllable--'kissed,' 'bowed,' and the like--and her fondness for the
adverb 'very;' both of which mannerisms he charges to the example of
Tennyson. He condemns the 'Prometheus,' though recognising it as 'a
remarkable performance for a young lady.' He criticises the subject of
'The Seraphim,' 'from which Milton would have shrunk;' but adds, 'We
give Miss Barrett, however, the full credit of a lofty purpose, and
admit, moreover, that several particular passages in her poem
are extremely fine; equally profound in thought and striking in
expression.' He sums up as follows:

[Footnote 42: September 1840.]

    In a word, we consider Miss Barrett to be a woman of undoubted
    genius and most unusual learning; but that she has indulged
    her inclination for themes of sublime mystery, not certainly
    without displaying great power, yet at the expense of that
    clearness, truth, and proportion, which are essential to
    beauty; and has most unfortunately fallen into the trammels
    of a school or manner of writing, which, of all that ever
    existed--Lycophron, Lucan, and Gongora not forgotten--is most
    open to the charge of being _vitiis imitabile exemplar_.

So much for the reception of 'The Seraphim' volume by the outside
world. The letters show how it appeared to the authoress herself.

The first of them deserves a word of special notice, because it is
likewise the first in these volumes addressed to Miss Mary Russell
Mitford, whose name holds a high and honourable place in the roll
of Miss Barrett's friends. Her own account of the beginning of the
friendship should be quoted in any record of Mrs. Browning's life.

'My first acquaintance with Elizabeth Barrett commenced about fifteen
years ago.[43] She was certainly one of the most interesting persons
that I had ever seen. Everybody who then saw her said the same;
so that it is not merely the impression of my partiality or my
enthusiasm. Of a slight, delicate figure, with a shower of dark curls
falling on either side of a most expressive face, large tender eyes,
richly fringed by dark eyelashes, a smile like a sunbeam, and such
a look of youthfulness that I had some difficulty in persuading a
friend, in whose carriage we went together to Chiswick, that the
translatress of the "Prometheus" of Aeschylus, the authoress of the
"Essay on Mind," was old enough to be introduced into company,
in technical language, was 'out.' Through the kindness of another
invaluable friend,[44] to whom I owe many obligations, but none so
great as this, I saw much of her during my stay in town. We met so
constantly and so familiarly that, in spite of the difference of
age,[45] intimacy ripened into friendship, and after my return into
the country we corresponded freely and frequently, her letters being
just what letters ought to be--her own talk put upon paper.'[46]

[Footnote 43: This was written about the end of 1851.]

[Footnote 44: Probably John Kenyon, whom Miss Mitford elsewhere calls
'the pleasantest man in London;' he, on his side, said of Miss Mitford
that 'she was better and stronger than any of her books.']

[Footnote 45: Nineteen years, Miss Mitford having been born in 1787.]

[Footnote 46: _Recollections of a Literary Life_, by Mary Russell
Mitford, p. 155 (1859).]

Miss Barrett's letters show how warmly she returned this feeling of
friendship, which lasted until Miss Mitford's death in 1855. Of the
earlier letters many must have disappeared: for it is evident from
Miss Mitford's just quoted words, and also from many references in
her published correspondence, that they were in constant communication
during these years of Miss Barrett's life in London. After her
marriage, however, the extant letters are far more frequent, and will
be found to fill a considerable place in the later pages of this work.


_To Miss Mitford_
50 Wimpole Street: Thursday [June 1838].

We thank you gratefully, dearest Miss Mitford. Papa and I and all of
us thank you for your more than kindnesses. The extracts were both
gladdening and surprising--and the one the more for being the other
also. Oh! it was _so_ kind of you, in the midst of your multitude of
occupations, to make time (out of love) to send them to us!

As to the ballad, dearest Miss Mitford, which you and Mr. Kenyon are
indulgent enough to like, remember that he passed his criticism
over it--before it went to you--and so if you did not find as many
obscurities as he did in it, the reason is--_his_ merit and not mine.
But don't believe him--no!--don't believe even Mr. Kenyon--whenever
he says that I am _perversely_ obscure. Unfortunately obscure, not
perversely--that is quite a wrong word. And the last time he used it
to me (and then, I assure you, another word still worse was with it)
I begged him to confine them for the future to his jesting moods.
Because, _indeed_, I am not in the very least degree perverse in this
fault of mine, which is my destiny rather than my choice, and comes
upon me, I think, just where I would eschew it most. So little has
perversity to do with its occurrence, that my fear of it makes me
sometimes feel quite nervous and thought-tied in composition....

I have not seen Mr. Kenyon since I wrote last. All last week I was
not permitted to get out of bed, and was haunted with leeches and
blisters. And in the course of it, Lady Dacre was so kind as to call
here, and to leave a note instead of the personal greeting which I was
not able to receive. The honor she did me a year ago, in sending me
her book, encouraged me to offer her my poems. I hesitated about doing
so at first, lest it should appear as if my vanity were dreaming of
a _return_; but Mr. Kenyon's opinion turned the balance. I was very
sorry not to have seen Lady Dacre and have written a reply to her
note expressive of this regret. But, after all, this inaudible voice
(except in its cough) could have scarcely made her understand that I
was obliged by her visit, had I been able to receive it.

Dr. Chambers has freed me again into the drawing-room, and I am much
better or he would not have done so. There is not, however, much
strength or much health, nor any near prospect of regaining either.
It is well that, in proportion to our feebleness, we may feel our
dependence upon God.

I feel as if I had not said half, and they have come to ask me if I
have not said _all_! My beloved friend, may you be happy in all ways!

Do write whenever you wish to talk and have no one to talk to nearer
you than I am! _Indeed_, I did not forget Dr. Mitford when I wrote
those words, although they look like it.

Your gratefully affectionate
E.B. BARRETT.


_To H.S. Boyd_
50 Wimpole Street: Wednesday morning [June 1838].

My dear Friend,--Do not think me depraved in ingratitude for not
sooner thanking you for the pleasure, made so much greater by the
surprise, which your note of judgment gave me. The truth is that I
have been very unwell, and delayed answering it immediately until the
painful physical feeling went away to make room for the pleasurable
moral one--and this I fancied it would do every hour, so that I might
be able to tell you at ease all that was in my thoughts. The fancy was
a vain one. The pain grew worse and worse, and Dr. Chambers has been
here for two successive days shaking his head as awfully as if it bore
all Jupiter's ambrosial curls; and is to be here again to-day, but
with, I trust, a less grave countenance, inasmuch as the leeches last
night did their duty, and I feel much better--God be thanked for the
relief. But I am not yet as well as before this attack, and am still
confined to my bed--and so you must rather imagine than read what I
thought and felt in reading your wonderful note. Of course it pleased
me very much, very very much--and, I dare say, would have made me vain
by this time, if it had not been for the opportune pain and the sight
of Dr. Chambers's face.

I sent a copy of my book to Nelly Bordman _before_ I read your
suggestion. I knew that her kind feeling for me would interest her in
the sight of it.

Thank you once more, dear Mr. Boyd! May all my critics be gentle after
the pattern of your gentleness!

Believe me, affectionately yours,
E.B. BARRETT.


_To H.S. Boyd_
50 Wimpole Street: June 17 [1838].

My dear Friend,--I send you a number of the 'Atlas' which you may
keep. It is a favorable criticism, certainly--but I confess this of my
vanity, that it has not altogether pleased me. You see what it is to
be spoilt.

As to the 'Athenaeum,' although I am _not_ conscious of the quaintness
and mannerism laid to my charge, and am very sure that I have always
written too naturally (that is, too much from the impulse of thought
and feeling) to have studied '_attitudes_,' yet the critic was quite
right in stating his opinion, and so am I in being grateful to him for
the liberal praise he has otherwise given me. Upon the whole, I like
his review better than even the 'Examiner,' notwithstanding my being
perfectly satisfied with _that_.

Thank you for the question about my health. I am very tolerably
well--for _me_: and am said to look better. At the same time I am
aware of being always on the verge of an increase of illness--I mean,
in a very excitable state--with a pulse that flies off at a word
and is only to be caught by digitalis. But I am better--for the
present--while the sun shines.

Thank you besides for your criticisms, which I shall hold in memory,
and use whenever I am not particularly _obstinate_, in all my
SUCCEEDING EDITIONS!

You will smile at that, and so do _I._

Arabel is walking in the Zoological Gardens with the Cliffes--but I
think you will see her before long.

Your affectionate friend,
E.B. BARRETT.

Don't let me forget to mention the Essays[47]. You shall have
yours--and Miss Bordman hers--and the delay has not arisen from either
forgetfulness or indifference on my part--although I never deny that
I don't like giving the Essay to anybody because I don't like it.
Now that sounds just like 'a woman's reason,' but it isn't, albeit so
reasonable! I meant to say 'because I don't like the ESSAY.'

[Footnote 47: i.e. copies of the _Essay on Mind_.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
50 Wimpole Street: Thursday, June 21 [1838].

My dear Friend,--Notwithstanding this silence so ungrateful in
appearance, I thank you at last, and very sincerely, for your kind
letter. It made me laugh, and amused me--and gratified me besides.
Certainly your 'quality of mercy is not strained.'

My reason for not writing more immediately is that Arabel has meant,
day after day, to go to you, and has had a separate disappointment for
every day. She says now, '_Indeed_, I hope to see Mr. Boyd to-morrow.'
But _I_ say that I will not keep this answer of mine to run the risk
of another day's contingencies, and that _it_ shall go, whether _she_
does or not.

I am better a great deal than I was last week, and have been allowed
by Dr. Chambers to come downstairs again, and occupy my old place
on the sofa. My health remains, however, in what I cannot help
considering myself, and in what, I _believe_, Dr. Chambers considers,
a very precarious state, and my weakness increases, of course, under
the remedies which successive attacks render necessary. Dr. Chambers
deserves my confidence--and besides the skill with which he has met
the different modifications of the complaint, I am grateful to him
for a feeling and a sympathy which are certainly rare in such of his
profession as have their attention diverted, as his must be, by an
immense practice, to fifty objects in a day. But, notwithstanding all,
one breath of the east wind undoes whatever he labours to do. It is
well to look up and remember that in the eternal reality these second
causes are no causes at all.

Don't leave this note about for Arabel to see. I am anxious not to
alarm her, or any one of my family: and it may please God to make me
as well and strong again as ever. And, indeed, I am twice as well this
week as I was last.

Your affectionate friend, dear Mr. Boyd,
E.B. BARRETT.

I have seen an extract from a private letter of Mr. Chorley, editor
of the 'Athenaeum,'[48] which speaks _huge_ praises of my poems. If he
were to say a tithe of them in print, it would be nine times above my
expectation!

[Footnote 48: This is an error. Mr. Chorley was not editor of the
_Athenaeum_, though he was one of its principal contributors.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
[June 1838.]

My dear Friend,--I begged your servant to wait--how long ago I am
afraid to think--but certainly I must not make this note very long. I
did intend to write to you to-day in any case. Since Saturday I have
had my thanks ready at the end of my fingers waiting to slide along
to the nib of my pen. Thank you for all your kindness and criticism,
which is kindness too--thank you at last. Would that I deserved the
praises as well as I do most of the findings-fault--and there is no
time now to say more of _them_. Yet I believe I have something to say,
and will find a time to say it in.

Dr. Chambers has just been here, and does not think me quite as well
as usual. The truth is that I was rather excited and tired yesterday
by rather too much talking and hearing talking, and suffer for it
to-day in my _pulse_. But I am better on the whole.

Mr. Cross,[49] the great lion, the insect-making lion, came yesterday
with Mr. Kenyon, and afterwards Lady Dacre. She is kind and gentle in
her manner. She told me that she had 'placed my book in the hands of
Mr. Bobus Smith, the brother of Sidney Smith, and the best judge
in England,' and that it was to be returned to her on Tuesday. If I
_should_ hear the 'judgment,' I will tell you, whether you care to
hear it or not. There is no other review, as far as I am aware.

Give my love to Miss Bordman. When is she coming to see me?

The thunder did not do me any harm.

Your affectionate friend, in great haste, although your servant is not
likely to think so, E.B.B.

[Footnote 49: Andrew Crosse, the electrician, who had recently
published his observations of a remarkable development of insect life
in connection with certain electrical experiments--a discovery which
caused much controversy at the time, on account of its supposed
bearings on the origin of life and the doctrine of creation.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
[June 1838.]

My dear Friend,--You must let me _feel_ my thanks to you, even when
I do not _say_ them. I have put up your various notes together, and
perhaps they may do me as much good hereafter, as they have already,
for the most part, given me pleasure.

The 'burden pure _have_ been' certainly was a misprint, as certainly
'nor man nor nature satisfy'[50] is ungrammatical. But I am _not_ so
sure about the passage in Isobel:

I am not used to tears at nights Instead of slumber--nor to prayer.

Now I think that the passage may imply a repetition of the words with
which it begins, after 'nor'--thus--'nor _am I used_ to prayer,' &c.
Either you or I may be right about it, and either 'or' or 'nor' may be
grammatical. At least, so I pray.[51]

You did not answer one question. Do you consider that '_apolyptic_'
stands without excuse?[52]

I never read Greek to any person except yourself and Mr. MacSwiney,
my brother's tutor. To him I read longer than a few weeks, but then
it was rather guessing and stammering and tottering through parts of
Homer and extracts from Xenophon than reading. _You_ would not have
called it reading if you had heard it.

I studied hard by myself afterwards, and the kindness with which
afterwards still you assisted me, if yourself remembers gladly _I_
remember _gratefully_ and gladly.

I have just been told that your servant was desired by you _not to
wait a minute_.

The wind is unfavorable for the sea. I do not think there is the least
probability of my going before the end of next week, if then. You
shall hear.

Affectionately yours,
E.B. BARRETT.

I am tolerably well. I have been forced to take digitalis again, which
makes me feel weak; but still I am better, I think.

[Footnote 50: Altered in later editions to 'satisfies.']

[Footnote 51: In later editions 'not' is repeated instead of 'nor,'
which looks like a compromise between her own opinion and Mr. Boyd's.]

[Footnote 52: The poem entitled 'Sounds,' in the volume of 1838,
contained the line 'As erst in Patmos apolyptic John,' presumably for
'apocalyptic.' This being naturally held to be 'without excuse,'
the line was altered in subsequent editions to 'As the seer-saint of
Patmos, loving John.']


In the course of this year the failure in Miss Barrett's health had
become so great that her doctor advised removal to a warmer climate
for the winter. Torquay was the place selected, and thither she
went in the autumn, accompanied by her brother Edward, her favourite
companion from childhood. Other members of the family, including Mr.
Barrett, joined them from time to time. At Torquay she was able to
live, but no more, and it was found necessary for her to stay during
the summers as well as the winters of the next three years. Letters
from this period are scarce, though it is clear from Miss Mitford's
correspondence that a continuous interchange of letters was kept up
between the two friends, and her acquaintanceship with Horne was now
ripening into a close literary intimacy. A story relating to Bishop
Phillpotts of Exeter, the hero of so many racy anecdotes, is contained
in a letter of Miss Barrett's which must have been written about
Christmas of either 1838 or 1839:--

'He [the bishop] was, however, at church on Christmas Day, and upon
Mr. Elliot's being mercifully inclined to omit the Athanasian Creed,
prompted him most episcopally from the pew with a "whereas;" and
further on in the Creed, when the benign reader substituted the
word _condemnation_ for the terrible one--"Damnation!" exclaimed the
bishop. The effect must have been rather startling.'

A slight acquaintance with the words of the Athanasian Creed will
suggest that the story had suffered in accuracy before it reached Miss
Barrett, who, of course, was unable to attend church, and whose own
ignorance on the subject may be accounted for by remembering that
she had been brought up as a Nonconformist. With a little correction,
however, the story may be added to the many others on record with
respect to 'Henry of Exeter.'

The following letter is shown, by the similarity of its contents
to the one which succeeds it, to belong to November 1839, when Miss
Barrett was entering on her second winter in Torquay.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Beacon Terrace, Torquay: November 24 [1839].

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Henrietta _shall not_ write to-day, whatever
she may wish to do. I felt, in reading your unreproaching letter
to her, as self-reproachful as anybody could with a great deal of
innocence (in the way of the world) to fall back upon. I felt sorry,
very sorry, not to have written something to you something sooner,
which was a possible thing--although, since the day of my receiving
your welcome letter, I have written scarcely at all, nor that little
without much exertion. Had it been with me as usual, be sure that
you should not have had any silence to complain of. Henrietta knew I
wished to write, and felt, I suppose, unwilling to take my place when
my filling it myself before long appeared possible. A long story--and
not as entertaining as Mother Hubbard. But I would rather tire
you than leave you under any wrong impression, where my regard and
thankfulness to you, dearest Mrs. Martin, are concerned.

To reply to your kind anxiety about me, I may call myself decidedly
better than I have been. Since October I I have not been out of
bed--except just for an hour a day, when I am lifted to the sofa with
the bare permission of my physician--who tells me that it is so much
easier to make me worse than better, that he dares not permit anything
like exposure or further exertion. I like him (Dr. Scully) very
much, and although he evidently thinks my case in the highest degree
precarious, yet knowing how much I bore last winter and understanding
from him that the worst _tubercular_ symptoms have not actually
appeared, I am willing to think it may be God's will to keep me here
still longer. I would willingly stay, if it were only for the sake of
that tender affection of my beloved family which it so deeply affects
me to consider. Dearest papa is with us now--to my great comfort
and joy: and looking very well!--and astonishing everybody with his
eternal youthfulness! Bro and Henrietta and Arabel besides, I can
count as companions--and then there is dear Bummy! We are fixed at
Torquay for the winter--that is, until the end of May: and after that,
if I have any will or power and am alive to exercise either, I do
trust and hope to go away. The death of my kind friend Dr. Bury
was, as you suppose, a great grief and shock to me. How could it be
otherwise, after his daily kindness to me for a year? And then his
young wife and child--and the rapidity (a three weeks' illness) with
which he was hurried away from the energies and toils and honors of
professional life to the stillness of _that_ death!

'_God's Will_' is the only answer to the mystery of the world's
afflictions....

Don't fancy me worse than I am--or that this bed-keeping is the result
of a gradual sinking. It is not so. A feverish attack prostrated me
on October 2--and such will leave their effects--and Dr. Scully is so
afraid of leading me into danger by saying, 'You may get up and dress
as usual' that you should not be surprised if (in virtue of being the
senior Torquay physician and correspondingly prudent) he left me
in this durance vile for a great part of the winter. I am decidedly
better than I was a month ago, really and truly.

May God bless you, dearest Mrs. Martin! My best and kindest regards
to Mr. Martin. Henrietta desires me to promise for her a letter to
Colwall soon; but I think that one from Colwall should come first. May
God bless you! Bro's fancy just now is painting in water colours and
he performs many sketches. Do you ever in your dreams of universal
benevolence dream of travelling into Devonshire?

Love your affectionate BA,

--found guilty of egotism and stupidity 'by this sign' and at once!


_To H.S. Boyd_
1 Beacon Terrace, Torquay:
Wednesday, November 27, 1839.

If you can forgive me, my ever dear friend, for a silence which has
not been intended, there will be another reason for being thankful to
you, in addition to the many. To do myself justice, one of my earliest
impulses on seeing my beloved Arabel, and recurring to the kindness
with which you desired that happiness for me long before I possessed
it, was to write and tell you how happy I felt. But she had promised,
she said, to write herself, and moreover she and only she was to send
you the ballad--in expectation of your dread judgment upon which I
delayed my own writing. It came in the first letter we received in our
new house, on the first of last October. An hour after reading it, I
was upon my bed; was attacked by fever in the night, and from that
bed have never even been lifted since--to these last days of
November--except for one hour a day to the sofa at two yards'
distance. I am very much better now, and have been so for some time;
but my physician is so persuaded, he says, that it is easier to do
me harm than good, that he will neither permit any present attempt at
further exertion, nor hint at the time when it may be advisable for
him to permit it. Under the circumstances it has of course been more
difficult than usual for me to write. Pray believe, my dear and kind
friend, in the face of all circumstances and appearances, that I never
forget you, nor am reluctant (oh, how could that be?) to write to you;
and that you shall often have to pay 'a penny for my thoughts' under
the new Postage Act--if it be in God's wisdom and mercy to spare me
through the winter. Under the new act I shall not mind writing ten
words and then stopping. As it is, they would scarcely be worth eleven
pennies.

Thank you again and again for your praise of the ballad, which both
delighted and _surprised_ me ... as I had scarcely hoped that you
might like it at all. Think of Mr. Tilt's never sending me a proof
sheet. The consequences are rather deplorable, and, if they had
occurred to you, might have suggested a deep melancholy for life.
In my case, _I_, who am, you know, hardened to sins of carelessness,
simply look _aghast_ at the misprints and mispunctuations coming in as
a flood, and sweeping away meanings and melodies together. The annual
itself is more splendid than usual, and its vignettes have illustrated
my story--angels, devils and all--most beautifully. Miss Mitford's
tales (in prose) have suffered besides by reason of Mr. Tilt--but are
attractive and graphic notwithstanding--and Mr. Horne has supplied a
dramatic poem of great power and beauty.

How I rejoice with you in the glorious revelation (about to be) of
Gregory's second volume! The 'De Virginitate' poem will, in its new
purple and fine linen, be more dazzling than ever.

Do you know that George is barrister-at-law of the Inner Temple--_is_?
I have seen him gazetted.

My dearest papa is with me now, making me very happy of course. I have
much reason to be happy--more to be grateful--yet am more obedient
to the former than to the latter impulse. May the Giver of good
give gratitude with as full a hand! May He bless _you_--and bring us
together again, if no more in the flesh, yet in the spirit!

Your ever affectionate friend,
E.B. BARRETT.

Do write--when you are able and _least_ disinclined. Do you approve of
Prince Albert or not?[53]

[Footnote 53: The engagement of Prince Albert to Queen Victoria took
place in October 1839.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
Torquay: May 29, 1840.

My ever dear Friend,--It was very pleasant to me to see your seal
upon a letter once more; and although the letter itself left me with
a mournful impression of your having passed some time so much less
happily than I would wish and pray for you, yet there remains the
pleasant thought to me still that you have not altogether forgotten
me. Do receive the expression of my most affectionate sympathy under
this and every circumstance--and I fear that the shock to your nerves
and spirits could not be a light one, however impressed you might be
and must be with the surety and verity of God's love working in all
His will. Poor poor Patience! Coming to be so happy with you, with
that joyous smile I thought so pretty! Do you not remember my telling
you so? Well--it is well and better for her; happier for her, if God
in Christ Jesus have received her, than her hopes were of the holiday
time with you. The holiday is _for ever_ now....

I heard from Nelly Bordman only a few days before receiving your
letter, and so far from preparing me for all this sadness and
gloom, she pleased me with her account of you whom she had lately
seen--dwelling upon your retrograde passage into youth, and the
delight you were taking in the presence and society of some still
more youthful, fair, and gay _monstrum amandum_, some prodigy of
intellectual accomplishment, some little Circe who never turned
anybodies into pigs. I learnt too from her for the first time that you
were settled at Hampstead! Whereabout at Hampstead, and for how long?
She didn't tell me _that_, thinking of course that I knew something
more about you than I do. Yes indeed; you _do_ treat me very shabbily.
I agree with you in thinking so. To think that so many hills and woods
should interpose between us--that I should be lying here, fast bound
by a spell, a sleeping beauty in a forest, and that _you_, who used
to be such a doughty knight, should not take the trouble of cutting
through even a hazel tree with your good sword, to find out what
had become of me. Now do tell me, the hazel tree being down at last,
whether you mean to live at Hampstead, whether you have taken a
house there and have carried your books there, and wear Hampstead
grasshoppers in your bonnet (as they did at Athens) to prove yourself
of the soil.

All this nonsense will make you think I am better, and indeed I am
pretty well just now--quite, however, confined to the bed--except when
lifted from it to the sofa baby-wise while they make it; even then
apt to faint. Bad symptoms too do not leave me; and I am obliged to be
blistered every few days--but I am free from any attack just now, and
am a good deal less feverish than I am occasionally. There has been
a consultation between an Exeter physician and my own, and they agree
exactly, both hoping that with care I shall pass the winter, and rally
in the spring, both hoping that I may be able to go about again with
some comfort and independence, although I never can be fit again for
anything like exertion....

Do you know, did you ever hear anything of Mr. Horne who wrote 'Cosmo
de Medici,' and the 'Death of Marlowe,' and is now desecrating his
powers (I beg your pardon) by writing the life of Napoleon? By the
way, he is the author of a dramatic sketch in the last Finden.

He is in my mind one of the very first poets of the day, and has
written to me so kindly (offering, although I never saw him in my
life, to cater for me in literature, and send me down anything likely
to interest me in the periodicals), that I cannot but think his
amiability and genius do honor to one another.


Do you remember Mr. Caldicott who used to preach in the infant
schoolroom at Sidmouth? He died here the death of a saint, as he had
lived a saintly life, about three weeks ago. It affected me a good
deal. But he was always so associated in my thoughts more with heaven
than earth, that scarcely a transition seems to have passed upon his
locality. 'Present with the Lord' is true of him now; even as 'having
his conversation in heaven' was formerly. There is little difference.

May it be so with us all, with you and with me, my ever and very dear
friend! In the meantime do not forget me. I never can forget _you_.

Your affectionate and grateful
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

Arabel desires her love to be offered to you.


_To H.S. Boyd_
1 Beacon Terrace, Torquay: July 8, 1840.

My ever dear Friend,--I must write to you, although it is so very
long, or at least seems so, since you wrote to me. But you say to
Arabel in speaking of me that I '_used_ to care for what is poetical;'
therefore, perhaps you say to yourself sometimes that I _used_ to
care for _you_! I am anxious to vindicate my identity to you, in that
respect above all.

It is a long, dreary time since I wrote to you. I admit the pause on
my own part, while I charge you with another. But _your_ silence has
embraced more pleasantness and less suffering to you than mine has to
me, and I thank God for a prosperity in which my unchangeable regard
for you causes me to share directly....

I have not rallied this summer as soon and well as I did last. I was
very ill early in April at the time of our becoming conscious to our
great affliction--so ill as to believe it utterly improbable, speaking
humanly, that I ever should be any better. I am, however, a very great
deal better, and gain strength by sensible degrees, however slowly,
and do hope for the best--'the best' meaning one sight more of London.
In the meantime I have not yet been able to leave my bed.

To prove to you that I who 'used to care' for poetry do so still, and
that I have not been absolutely idle lately, an 'Athenaeum' shall
be sent to you containing a poem on the subject of the removal of
Napoleon's ashes.[54] It is a fitter subject for you than for me.
Napoleon is no idol of _mine. I_ never made a 'setting sun' of him.
But my physician suggested the subject as a noble one and then there
was something suggestive in the consideration that the 'Bellerophon'
lay on those very bay-waters opposite to my bed.

Another poem (which you won't like, I dare say) is called 'The Lay of
the Rose,'[55] and appeared lately in a magazine. Arabel is going to
write it out for you, she desires me to tell you with her best love.
Indeed, I have written lately (as far as manuscript goes) a good deal,
only on all sorts of subjects and in as many shapes.

Lazarus would make a fine poem, wouldn't he? I lie here, weaving a
great many schemes. I am seldom at a loss for thread.

Do write sometimes to me, and tell me if you do anything besides
hearing the clocks strike and bells ring. My beloved papa is with me
still. There are so many mercies close around me (and his presence
is far from the least), that God's _Being_ seems proved to me,
_demonstrated_ to me, by His manifested love. May His blessing in
the full lovingness rest upon you always! Never fancy I can forget or
think of you coldly.

Your affectionate and grateful
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 54: 'Crowned and Buried' _(Poetical Works_, iii. 9).]

[Footnote 55: _Poetical Works_, iii. 152.]


The above letter was written only three days before the tragedy which
utterly wrecked Elizabeth Barrett's life for a time, and cast a
deep shadow over it which never wholly passed away--the death of her
brother Edward through drowning. On July 11, he and two friends had
gone for a sail in a small boat. They did not return when they were
expected, and presently a rumour came that a boat, answering in
appearance to theirs, had been seen to founder in Babbicombe Bay;
but it was not until three days later that final confirmation of the
disaster was obtained by the discovery of the bodies. What this blow
meant to the bereaved sister cannot be told: the horror with which she
refers to it, even at a distance of many years, shows how deeply it
struck. It was the loss of the brother whom she loved best of all; and
she had the misery of thinking that it was to attend on her that he
had come to the place where he met his death. Little wonder if Torquay
was thenceforward a memory from which she shrank, and if even the
sound of the sea became a horror to her.

One natural consequence of this terrible sorrow is a long break in her
correspondence. It is not until the beginning of 1841 that she seems
to have resumed the thread of her life and to have returned to her
literary occupations. Her health had inevitably suffered under the
shock, and in the autumn of 1840 Miss Mitford speaks of not daring to
expect more than a few months of lingering life. But when things were
at the worst, she began unexpectedly to take a turn for the better.
Through the winter she slowly gathered strength, and with strength the
desire to escape from Torquay, with its dreadful associations, and
to return to London. Meanwhile her correspondence with her friends
revived, and with Horne in particular she was engaged during 1841 in
an active interchange of views with regard to two literary projects.
Indeed, it was only the return to work that enabled her to struggle
against the numbing effect of the calamity which had overwhelmed her.
Some time afterwards (in October 1843) she wrote to Mrs. Martin:
'For my own part and experience--I do not say it as a phrase or
in exaggeration, but from very clear and positive conviction--I do
believe that I should be _mad_ at this moment, if I had not forced
back--dammed out--the current of rushing recollections by work, work,
work.' One of the projects in which she was concerned was 'Chaucer
Modernised,' a scheme for reviving interest in the father of English
poetry, suggested in the first instance by Wordsworth, but committed
to the care of Horne, as editor, for execution. According to the
scheme as originally planned, all the principal poets of the day were
to be invited to share the task of transmuting Chaucer into modern
language. Wordsworth, Leigh Hunt, Horne, and others actually executed
some portions of the work; Tennyson and Browning, it was hoped, would
lend a hand with some of the later parts. Horne invited Miss Barrett
to contribute, and, besides executing modernisations of 'Queen
Annelida and False Arcite' and 'The Complaint of Annelida,'[56] she
also advised generally on the work of the other writers during its
progress through the press. The other literary project was for a
lyrical drama, to be written in collaboration with Horne. It was to be
called 'Psyché Apocalypté,' and was to be a drama on the Greek model,
treating of the birth and self-realisation of the soul of man.

[Footnote 56: These versions are not reprinted in her collected
_Poetical Works_, but are to be found in 'Poems of Geoffrey Chaucer
modernised,' (1841).]

The sketch of its contents, given in the correspondence with Horne,
will make the modern reader accept with equanimity the fact that it
never progressed beyond the initial stage of drafting the plot. It is
allegorical, philosophical, fantastic, unreal--everything which was
calculated to bring out the worst characteristics of Miss Barrett's
style and to intensify her faults. Fortunately her removal from
Torquay to London interrupted the execution of the scheme. It
was never seriously taken up again, and, though never explicitly
abandoned, died a natural death from inanition, somewhat to the relief
of Miss Barrett, who had come to recognise its impracticability.

Apart from the correspondence with Horne, which has been published
elsewhere, very few letters are left from this period; but those which
here follow serve to bridge over the interval until the departure
from Torquay, which closes one well-marked period in the life of the
poetess.


_To Mrs. Martin_
December 11, 1840.

My ever dearest Mrs. Martin,--I should have written to you without
this last proof of your remembrance--this cape, which, warm and pretty
as it is, I value so much more as the work of your hands and gift of
your affection towards me. Thank you, dearest Mrs. Martin, and thank
you too for _all the rest_--for all your sympathy and love. And do
believe that although grief had so changed me from myself and warped
me from my old instincts, as to prevent my looking forwards with
pleasure to seeing you again, yet that full amends are made in the
looking back with a pleasure more true because more tender than any
old retrospections. Do give my love to dear Mr. Martin, and say what I
could not have said even if I had seen him.

Shall you really, dearest Mrs. Martin, come again? Don't think we do
not think of the hope you left us. Because we do indeed.

A note from papa has brought the comforting news that my dear, dear
Stormie is in England again, in London, and looking perfectly well. It
is a mercy which makes me very thankful, and would make me joyful if
anything could. But the meanings of some words change as we live on.
Papa's note is hurried. It was a sixty-day passage, and that is all he
tells me. Yes--there is something besides about Sette and Occy being
either unknown or misknown, through the fault of their growing. Papa
is not near returning, I think. He has so much to do and see, and so
much cause to be enlivened and renewed as to spirits, that I begged
him not to think about me and stay away as long as he pleased. And the
accounts of him and of all at home are satisfying, I thank God....

There is an east wind just now, which I feel. Nevertheless, Dr. Scully
has said, a few minutes since, that I am as well as he could hope,
considering the season.

May God bless you ever!
Your gratefully attached
BA.


_To Mrs. Martin_
March 29, 1841.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Have you thought 'The dream has come true'?
I mean the dream of the flowers which you pulled for me and I wouldn't
look at, even? I fear you must have thought that the dream about my
ingratitude has come true.

And yet it has not. Dearest Mrs. Martin, it has _not_. I have not
forgotten you or remembered you less affectionately through all the
silence, or longed less for the letters I did not ask for. But the
truth is, my faculties seem to hang heavily now, like flappers when
the spring is broken. _My_ spring _is_ broken, and a separate exertion
is necessary for the lifting up of each--and then it falls down again.
I never felt so before: there is no wonder that I should feel so now.
Nevertheless, I don't give up much to the pernicious languor--the
tendency to lie down to sleep among the snows of a weary journey--I
don't give up much to it. Only I find it sometimes at the root of
certain negligences--for instance, of this toward _you_.

Dearest Mrs. Martin, receive my sympathy, _our_ sympathy, in the
anxiety you have lately felt so painfully, and in the rejoicing for
its happy issue. Do say when you write (I take for granted, you see,
that you will write) how Mrs. B---- is now--besides the intelligence
more nearly touching me, of your own and Mr. Martin's health and
spirits. May God bless you both!

Ah! but you did not come: I was disappointed!

And Mrs. Hanford! Do you know, I tremble in my reveries sometimes,
lest you should think it, guess it to be half unkind in me not to have
made an exertion to see Mrs. Hanford. It was not from want of interest
in her--least of all from want of love to _you_. But I have not
stirred from my bed yet. But, to be honest, that was not the reason--I
did not feel as if I _could_, without a painful effort, which, on the
other hand, could not, I was conscious, result in the slightest shade
of satisfaction to her, receive and talk to her. Perhaps it is hard
for you to _fancy_ even how I shrink away from the very thought of
seeing a human face--except those immediately belonging to me in love
or relationship--(yours _does_, you know)--and a stranger's might be
easier to look at than one long known....

For my own part, my dearest Mrs. Martin, my heart has been lightened
lately by kind, _honest_ Dr. Scully (who would never give an opinion
just to please me), saying that I am 'quite right' to mean to go to
London, and shall probably be fit for the journey early in June.
He says that I may pass the winter there moreover, and with
impunity--that wherever I am it will probably be necessary for me
to remain shut up during the cold weather, and that under such
circumstances it is quite possible to warm a London room to as safe
a condition as a room _here_. So my heart is lightened of the fear
of opposition: and the only means of regaining whatever portion of
earthly happiness is not irremediably lost to me by the Divine decree,
I am free to use. In the meantime, it really does seem to me that I
make some progress in health--if the word in my lips be not a mockery.
Oh, I fancy I shall be strengthened to get home!

Your remarks on Chaucer pleased me very much. I am glad you liked what
I did--or tried to do--and as to the criticisms, you were right--and
they sha'n't be unattended to if the opportunity of correction be
given to me.

Ever your affectionate
BA.


_To H.S. Boyd_
August 28, 1841.

My very dear Friend,--I have fluctuated from one shadow of uncertainty
and anxiety to another, all the summer, on the subject to which my
last earthly wishes cling, and I delayed writing to you to be able to
say I am going to London. I may say so now--as far as the human may
say 'yes' or 'no' of their futurity. The carriage, a patent carriage
with a bed in it, and set upon some hundreds of springs, is, I
believe, on its road down to me, and immediately upon its arrival
we begin our journey. Whether we shall ever complete it remains
uncertain--_more_ so than other uncertainties. My physician appears a
good deal alarmed, calls it an undertaking full of hazard, and myself
the 'Empress Catherine' for insisting upon attempting it. But I must.
I go, as 'the doves to their windows,' to the only earthly daylight I
see here. I go to rescue myself from the associations of this dreadful
place. I go to restore to my poor papa the companionships family.
Enough has been done and suffered for _me_. I thank God I am going
home at last.

How kind it was in you, my very kind and ever very dear friend, to ask
me to visit you at Hampstead! I felt myself smiling while I read that
part of your letter, and laid it down and suffered the vision to arise
of your little room and your great Gregory and your dear self scolding
me softly as in the happy olden times for not reading slow enough.
Well--we do not know what _may_ happen! I _may_ (even that is
probable) read to you again. But now--ah, my dear friend--if you could
imagine me such as I am!--you would not think I could visit you! Yet
I am wonderfully better this summer; and if I can but reach home
and bear the first painful excitement, it will do me more good than
anything--I know it will! And if it does not, it will be _well_ even
so.

I shall tell them to send you the 'Athenaeum' of last week, where I
have a 'House of Clouds,'[57] which papa likes so much that he would
wish to live in it if it were not for the damp. There is not a clock
in one room--that's another objection. How are your clocks? Do they
go? and do you like their voices as well as you used to do?

I think Annie is not with you; but in case of her still being so, do
give her (and yourself too) Arabel's love and mine. I wish I heard of
you oftener. Is there nobody to write? May God bless you!

Your ever affectionate friend,
E.B.B.


_To H.S. Boyd_
August 31, 1831 [_sic_].

Thank you, my ever dear friend, with almost my last breath at Torquay,
for your kindness about the Gregory, besides the kind note itself. It
is, however, too late. We go, or mean at present to go, to-morrow;
and the carriage which is to waft us through the air upon a thousand
springs has actually arrived. You are not to think severely upon Dr.
Scully's candour with me as to the danger of the journey. He _does_
think it 'likely to do me harm;' therefore, you know, he was justified
by his medical responsibility in laying before me all possible
consequences. I have considered them all, and dare them gladly and
gratefully. Papa's domestic comfort is broken up by the separation in
his family, and the associations of this place lie upon me, struggle
as I may, like the oppression of a perpetual night-mare. It is an
instinct of self-preservation which impels me to escape--or to try
to escape. And In God's mercy--though God forbid that I should deny
either His mercy or His justice, if He should deny me--we may be
together in Wimpole Street in a few days. Nelly Bordman has kindly
written to me Mr. Jago's favourable opinion of the patent carriages,
and his conviction of my accomplishing the journey without
inconvenience.

May God bless you, my dear dear friend! Give my love to dearest Annie!
Perhaps, if I am ever really in Wimpole Street, _safe enough for
Greek_, you will trust the poems to me which you mention. I care as
much for poetry as ever, and could not more.

Your affectionate and grateful
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 57: _Poetical Works_, iii. 186.]



CHAPTER III

1841-1843


In September 1841 the journey from Torquay was actually achieved, and
Miss Barrett returned to her father's house in London, from which she
was never to be absent for more than a few hours at a time until the
day, five years later, when she finally left it to join her husband,
Robert Browning. Her life was that of an invalid, confined to her room
for the greater part of each year, and unable to see any but a
few intimate friends. Still, she regained some sort of strength,
especially during the warmth of the summer months, and was able to
throw herself with real interest into literary work. In a life such
as this there are few outward events to record, and its story is best
told in Miss Barrett's own letters, which, for the most part, need
little comment. The letters of the end of 1841 and beginning of 1842
are almost entirely written to Mr. Boyd, and the main subject of them
is the series of papers on the Greek Christian poets and the English
poets which, at the suggestion of Mr. Dilke, then editor of the
'Athenaeum,' she contributed to that periodical. Of the composition of
original poetry we hear less at this time.


_To H.S. Boyd_
50 Wimpole Street: October 2, 1841.

My very dear Friend,--I thank you for the letter and books which
crossed the threshold of this house before me, and looked like your
welcome to me home. I have read the passages you wished me to read--I
have read them _again_: for I remember reading them under your star
(or the greater part of them) a long while ago. You, on the other
hand, may remember of _me_, that I never could concede to you much
admiration for your Gregory as a poet--not even to his grand work 'De
Virginitate.' He is one of those writers, of whom there are instances
in our own times, who are only poetical in prose.

The passage imitative of Chryses I cannot think much of. Try to be
forgiving. It is toasted dry between the two fires of the Scriptures
and Homer, and is as stiff as any dry toast out of the simile. To be
sincere, I like dry toast better.

The Hymns and Prayers I very much prefer; and although I remembered a
good deal about them, it has given me a pleasure you will approve of
to go through them in this edition. The one which I like best, which I
like far best, which I think worth all the rest ('De Virginitate'
and all put together), is the _second_ upon page 292, beginning 'Soi
charis.' It is very fine, I think, written out of the heart and for
the heart, warm with a natural heat, and not toasted dry and brown and
stiff at a fire by any means.

Dear Mr. Boyd, I coveted Arabel's walk to you the other day. I shall
often covet my neighbour's walks, I believe, although (and may God be
praised for it!) I am more happy--that is, nearing to the feeling of
happiness now--than a month since I could believe possible to a heart
so bruised and crushed as mine has [been] be at home is a blessing and
a relief beyond what these words can say.

But, dear Mr. Boyd, you said something in a note to Arabel some little
time ago, which I will ask of your kindness to avoid saying again. I
have been through the whole summer very much better; and even if it
were not so I should dread being annoyed by more medical speculations.
Pray do not suggest any. I am not in a state to admit of experiments,
and my case is a very clear and simple one. I have not _one symptom_
like those of my old illness; and after more than fifteen years'
absolute suspension of them, their recurrence is scarcely probable. My
case is very clear: not tubercular consumption, not what is called a
'decline,' but an affection of the lungs which leans towards it. You
know a blood-vessel broke three years ago, and I never quite got over
it. Mr. Jago, not having seen me, could scarcely be justified in a
conjecture of the sort, when the opinions of four able physicians,
two of them particularly experienced in diseases of the chest, and
the other two the most eminent of the faculty in the east and west of
England, were decided and contrary, while coincident with each other.
Besides, you see, I am becoming better--and I could not desire more
than that. Dear Mr. Boyd, do not write a word about it any more,
either to me or others. I am sure you would not willingly disturb me.
Nelly Bordman is good and dear, but I can't let her prescribe for me
anything except her own affection.

I hope Arabel expressed for me my thankful sense of Mrs. Smith's kind
intention. But, indeed, although I would see _you_, dear Mr. Boyd,
gladly, or an angel or a fairy or any very particular friend, I am
not fit either in body or spirit for general society. I _can't_ see
people, and if I could it would be very bad for me. Is Mrs. Smith
writing? Are you writing? Part of me is worn out; but the poetical
part--that is, the _love_ of poetry--is growing in me as freshly and
strongly as if it were watered every day. Did anybody ever love it and
stop in the middle? I wonder if anybody ever did?... Believe me your
affectionateE.B.B.


_To H.S. Boyd_
50 Wimpole Street: December 29, 1841.

My dear Friend,--I should not have been half as idle about
transcribing these translations[58] if I had fancied you could care so
much to have them as Arabel tells me you do. They are recommended to
your mercy, O Greek Daniel! The _last_ sounds in my ears most like
English poetry; but I assure you I took the least pains with it. The
second is obscure as its original, if it do not (as it does not) equal
it otherwise. The first is yet more unequal to the Greek. I praised
that Greek poem above all of Gregory's, for the reason that it has
_unity and completeness_, for which, to speak generally, you may
search the streets and squares and alleys of Nazianzum in vain. Tell
me what you think of my part.

Ever affectionately yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

Have you a Plotinus, and would you trust him to me in that case? Oh
no, you do not tempt me with your musical clocks. My time goes to the
best music when I read or write; and whatever money I can spend upon
my own pleasures flows away in books.

[Footnote 58: Translations of three poems of Gregory Nazianzen,
printed in the _Athenaeum_ of January 8, 1842.]


_To Mr. Westwood_[59]
50 Wimpole Street: January 2, 1842.

Miss Barrett, inferring Mr. Westwood from the handwriting, begs his
acceptance of the unworthy little book[60] he does her the honour of
desiring to see.

It is more unworthy than he could have expected when he expressed that
desire, having been written in very early youth, when the mind was
scarcely free in any measure from trammels and Popes, and, what is
worse, when flippancy of language was too apt to accompany immaturity
of opinion. The miscellaneous verses are, still more than the chief
poem, 'childish things' in a strict literal sense, and the whole
volume is of little interest even to its writer except for personal
reasons--except for the traces of dear affections, since rudely
wounded, and of that _love_ of poetry which began with her sooner than
so soon, and must last as long as life does, without being subject
to the changes of life. Little more, therefore, can remain for such
a volume than to be humble and shrink from circulation. Yet Mr.
Westwood's kind words win it to his hands. Will he receive at the same
moment the expression of touched and gratified feelings with which
Miss Barrett read what he wrote on the subject of her later volumes,
still very imperfect, although more mature and true to the _truth_
within? Indeed she is thankful for what he said so kindly in his note
to her.

[Footnote 59: Mr. Thomas Westwood was the author of a volume of
'Poems,' published in 1840, 'Beads from a Rosary' (1843), 'The Burden
of the Bell' (1850), and other volumes of verse. Several of his
compositions were appearing occasionally in the _Athenaeum_ at the
time when this correspondence with Miss Barrett commenced.]

[Footnote 60: The _Essay on Mind_.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
50 Wimpole Street: January 6, 1842.

My dear Friend,--I have done your bidding and sent the translations
to the 'Athenaeum,' attaching to them an infamous prefatory note which
says all sorts of harm of Gregory's poetry. You will be very angry
with it and me.

And you _may_ be angry for another reason--that in the midst of my
true thankfulness for the emendations you sent me, I ventured to
reject one or two of them. You are right, probably, and I wrong; but
still, I thought within myself with a womanly obstinacy not altogether
peculiar to me,--'If he and I were to talk together about them, he
would kindly give up the point to me--so that, now we cannot talk
together, _I might as well take it_.' Well, you will see what I have
done. Try not to be angry with me. You shall have the 'Athenaeum' as
soon as possible.

My dear Mr. Boyd, you know how I disbelieved the probability of these
papers being accepted. You will comprehend my surprise on receiving
last night a very courteous: note from the editor, which I would
send to you if it were legible to anybody except people used to
learn reading from the pyramids. He wishes me to contribute to the
'Athenaeum' some prose papers in the form of reviews--'the review
being a mere form, and the book a mere text.' He is not very
clear--but I fancy that a few translations of _excerpta_, with a prose
analysis and synthesis of the original author's genius, might suit
his purpose. Now suppose I took up some of the early Christian Greek
poets, and wrote a few continuous papers _so_?[61] Give me your
advice, my dear friend! I think of Synesius, for one. Suppose you send
me a list of the names which occur to you! _Will_ you advise me? Will
you write directly? Will you make allowance for my teazing you? Will
you lend me your little Synesius, and Clarke's book? I mean the one
commenced by Dr. Clarke and continued by his son. Above all things,
however, I want the advice.

Ever affectionately yours,
E.B.B.


_To H.S. Boyd_
Wednesday, January 13, 1842 (postmark).

My dear Friend,--Thank you, thank you, for your kind suggestion and
advice altogether. I had just (when your note arrived) finished two
hymns of Synesius, one being the seventh and the other the ninth.
Oh! I do remember that you performed upon the latter, and my modesty
should have certainly bid me 'avaunt' from it. Nevertheless, it is so
fine, so prominent in the first class of Synesius's beauties, that I
took courage and dismissed my scruples, and have produced a version
which I have not compared to yours at all hitherto, but which probably
is much rougher and _rather_ closer, winning in faith what it loses
in elegance. 'Elegance' isn't a word for me, you know, generally
speaking. The barbarians herd with me, 'by two and three.'

I had a letter to-day from Mr. Dilke, who agrees to everything, closes
with the idea about 'Christian Greek poets' (only begging me to keep
away from theology), and suggesting a subsequent reviewal of English
poetical literature, from Chaucer down to our times.[62] Well, but
the Greek poets. With all your kindness, I have scarcely sufficient
materials for a full and minute survey of them. I have won a sight of
the 'Poetae Christiani,' but the price is ruinous--_fourteen guineas_,
and then the work consists almost entirely of Latin poets, deducting
Gregory and Nonnus, and John Damascenus, and a cento from Homer by
somebody or other. Turning the leaves rapidly, I do not see much else;
and you know I may get a separate copy of John Dam., and have access
to the rest. Try to turn in your head what I should do. Greg. Nyssen
did not write poems, did he? Have I a chance of seeing your copy of
Mr. Clarke's book? It would be useful in the matters of chronology.

I humbly beg your pardon, and Gregory's, for the insolence of my note.
It was as brief as it could be, and did not admit of any extended
reference and admiration to his qualities as an orator. But whoever
read it to you should have explained that when I wrote 'He was an
orator,' the word _orator_ was marked emphatically, so as to appear
printed in capital letters of emphasis. Do not say 'you _chose_,' 'you
_chose_.' I didn't and don't choose to be obstinate, indeed; but I
can't see the sense of that 'heavenly soul.'

Ever your grateful and affectionate
E.B.B.

I shall have room for praising Gregory in these papers.

[Footnote 61: The series of papers on the Greek Christian Poets
appeared in the _Athenaeum_ for February and March 1842; they are
reprinted in the _Poetical Works_, v. 109-200.]

[Footnote 62: This scheme took shape in the series of papers on the
English Poets which appeared in the _Athenaeum_ in the course of June
and August 1842 (reprinted in _Poetical Works_, v. 201-290).]


_To H.S. Boyd_
February 4, 1842.

My dear Friend,--You must be thinking, if you are not a St. Boyd for
good temper, that among the Gregorys and Synesiuses I have forgotten
everything about you. No; indeed it has not been so. I have never
_stopped_ being grateful to you for your kind notes, and the two last
pieces of Gregory, although I did not say an overt 'Thank you;' but
I have been very very busy besides, and thus I answered to myself for
your being kind enough to pardon a silence which was compelled rather
than voluntary.

Do you ever observe that as vexations don't come alone, occupations
don't, and that, if you happen to be engaged upon one particular
thing, it is the signal for your being waylaid by bundles of letters
desiring immediate answers, and proof sheets or manuscript works whose
writers request your opinion while their 'printer waits'? The old
saints are not responsible for all the filling up of my time. I have
been _busy upon busy_.

The first part of my story about the Greek poets went to the
'Athenaeum' some days ago, but, although graciously received by the
editor, it won't appear this week, or I should have had a proof sheet
(which was promised to me) before now. I must contrive to include all
I have to say on the subject in _three parts_. They will admit, they
tell me, a fourth _if I please_, but evidently they would prefer as
much brevity as I could vouchsafe. Only two poets are in the first
notice, and _twenty_ remain--and neither of the two is Gregory.

Will you let me see that volume of Gregory which contains the
'Christus Patiens'? Send it by any boy on the heath, and I will
remunerate him for the walk and the burden, and thank you besides. Oh,
don't be afraid! I am not going to charge it upon Gregory, but on the
younger Apollinaris, whose claim is stronger, and I rather wish to
refresh my recollection of the height and breadth of that tragic
misdemeanour.

It is quite true that I never have suffered much pain, and equally so
that I continue most decidedly better, notwithstanding the winter. I
feel, too--I do hope not ungratefully--the blessing granted to me in
the possibility of literary occupation,--which is at once occupation
and distraction. Carlyle (not the infidel, but the philosopher) calls
literature a 'fireproof pleasure.' How truly! How deeply I have felt
that truth!

May God bless you, dear Mr. Boyd. I don't despair of looking in your
face one day yet before my last.

Ever your affectionate and obliged
E.B.B.

Arabel's love.


_To H.S. Boyd_
March 2, 1842.

My ever very dear Friend,--Do receive the assurance that whether I
leave out the right word or put in the wrong one, you never can be
other to me than just _that_ while I live, and why not after I have
ceased to live? And now--what have I done in the meantime, to be
called 'Miss Barrett'? 'I pause for a reply.'

Of course it gives me very great pleasure to hear you speak so kindly
of my first paper. Some _bona avis_ as good as a nightingale must have
shaken its wings over me as I began it; and if it will but sit on
the same spray while I go on towards the end, I shall rejoice exactly
four-fold. The third paper went to Mr. Dilke to-day, and I was so
fidgety about getting it away (and it seemed to cling to my writing
case with both its hands), that I would not do any writing, even as
little as this note, until it was quite gone out of sight. You know it
is possible that he, the editor, may not please to have the _fourth_
paper; but even in that case, it is better for the 'Remarks' to remain
fragmentary, than be compressed till they are as dry as a _hortus
siccus_ of poets.

Certainly you do and must praise my number one too much. Number one
(that's myself) thinks so. I do really; and the supererogatory virtue
of kindness may be acknowledged out of the pale of the Romish Church.

In regard to Gregory and Synesius, you will see presently that I have
not wronged them altogether.

As you have ordered the 'Athenaeums,' I will not send one to-morrow
so as to repeat my ill fortune of being too late. But tell me if you
would like to have any from me, and how many.

It was very kind in you to pat Flush's[63] head in defiance of danger
and from pure regard for me. I kissed his head where you had patted
it; which association of approximations I consider as an imitation
of shaking hands with you and as the next best thing to it. You
understand--don't you?--that Flush is my constant companion, my
friend, my amusement, lying with his head on one page of my folios
while I read the other. (Not _your_ folios--I respect _your_ books,
be sure.) Oh, I dare say, if the truth were known, Flush understands
Greek excellently well.

I hope you are right in thinking that we shall meet again. Once I
wished _not_ to live, but the faculty of life seems to have sprung up
in me again, from under the crushing foot of heavy grief.

Be it all as God wills.

Believe me, your ever affectionate

E.B.B.

[Footnote 63: Miss Barrett's dog, the gift of Miss Mitford. His praise
is sung in her poem, 'To Flush, my Dog' (_Poetical Works_, iii. 19),
and in many of the following letters. He accompanied his mistress to
Italy, lived to a good old age, and now lies buried in the vaults of
Casa Guidi.]



_To H.S. Boyd_
Saturday night, March 5, 1842.

My very dear Friend,--I am quite angry with myself for forgetting your
questions when I answered your letter.

Could you really imagine that I have not looked into the Greek
tragedians for years, with my true love for Greek poetry? That is
asking a question, you will say, and not answering it. Well, then,
I answer by a 'Yes' the one you put to me. I had two volumes of
Euripides with me in Devonshire, and have read him as well as
Aeschylus and Sophocles--that is _from_ them--both before and since
I went there. You know I have gone through every line of the three
tragedians long ago, in the way of regular, consecutive reading.

You know also that I had at different times read different dialogues
of Plato; but when three years ago, and a few months previous to my
leaving home, I became possessed of a complete edition of his works,
edited by Bekker, why then I began with the first volume and went
through the whole of his writings, both those I knew and those I did
not know, one after another: and have at this time read, not only all
that is properly attributed to Plato, but even those dialogues and
epistles which pass falsely under his name--everything except two
books I think, or three, of the treatise 'De Legibus,' which I shall
finish in a week or two, as soon as I can take breath from Mr. Dilke.

Now the questions are answered.

Ever your affectionate and grateful friend,
E.B.B.


_To H.S. Boyd_
Thursday, March 10, 1842 [postmark].

My very dear Friend,--I did not know until to-day whether the paper
would appear on Saturday or not; but as I have now received the proof
sheets, there can be no doubt of it. I have been and _am_ hurried and
hunted almost into a corner through the pressing for the fourth paper,
and the difficulty about books. You will forgive a very short note to
night.

I have read of Aristotle only his Poetics, his Ethics, and his work
upon Rhetoric, but I mean to take him regularly into both hands when I
finish Plato's last page. Aristophanes I took with me into Devonshire;
and after all, I do not know much more of _him_ than three or four of
his plays may stand for. Next week, my very dear friend, I shall be at
your commands, and sit in spirit at your footstool, to hear and answer
anything you may care to ask me--but oh! what have I done that you
should talk to _me_ about 'venturing,' or 'liberty,' or anything of
that kind?

From your affectionate and grateful catechumen,
E.B.B.


_To H.S. Boyd_.
March 29, 1842.

My very dear Friend,--I received your long letter and receive your
short one, and thank you for the pleasure of both. Of course I am very
_very_ glad of your approval in the matter of the papers, and your
kindness could not have wished to give me more satisfaction than
it gave actually. Mr. Kenyon tells me that Mr. Burgess[64] has been
reading and commending the papers, and has brought me from him a newly
discovered scene of the 'Bacchae' of Euripides, edited by Mr. Burgess
himself for the 'Gentlemen's Magazine,' and of which he considers that
the 'Planctus Mariae,' at least the passage I extracted from it, is an
imitation. Should you care to see it? Say 'Yes,'--and I will send it
to you.

Do you think it was wrong to make _eternity_ feminine? I knew that
the Greek word was not feminine; but imagined that the English
personification should be so. Am I wrong in this? Will you consider
the subject again?

Ah, yes! That was a mistake of mine about putting Constantine for
Constantius. I wrote from memory, and the memory betrayed me. But say
nothing about it. Nobody will find it out. I send you Silentiarius and
some poems of Pisida in the same volume. Even if you had not asked for
them, I should have asked you to look at some passages which are fine
in both. It appears to me that Silentiarius writes difficult Greek,
overlaying his description with a multitude of architectural and
other far fetched words! Pisida is hard, too, occasionally, from other
causes, particularly in the 'Hexaëmeron,' which is not in the book
I send you but in another very gigantic one (as tall as the Irish
giants), which you may see if you please. I will send a coach and six
with it if you please.

John Mauropus, of the Three Towns, I owe the knowledge of to _you.
You_ lent me the book with his poems, you know. He is a great favorite
of mine in all ways. I very much admire his poetry.

Believe me, ever your affectionate and grateful

ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

Pray tell me what you think. I am sorry to observe that the book I
send you is marked very irregularly; that is, marked in some places,
unmarked in others, just as I happened to be near or far from
my pencil and inkstand. Otherwise I should have liked to compare
judgments with you.

Keep the book as long as you please; it is my own.

[Footnote 64: George Burges, the classical scholar. He had in 1832
contributed to the _Gentleman's Magazine_ (under a pseudonym) some
lines purporting to be a newly discovered portion of the _Bacchae_,
but really composed by himself on the basis of a parallel passage
in the _Christus Patiens_. It is apparently to these lines that Miss
Barrett alludes, though the 'discovery' was then nearly ten years
old.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
50 Wimpole Street: April 2, 1842.

My very dear Friend,--... As to your kind desire to hear whatever in
the way of favorable remark I have gathered together for fruit of my
papers, I put on a veil and tell you that Mr. Kenyon thought it well
done, although 'labour thrown away, from the unpopularity of
the subject;' that Miss Mitford was very much pleased, with the
warmheartedness common to her; that Mrs. Jamieson [_sic_] read them
'with great pleasure' unconsciously of the author; and that Mr. Home
the poet and Mr. Browning the poet were not behind in approbation. Mr.
Browning is said to be learned in Greek, especially in the dramatists;
and of Mr. Home I should suspect something similar. Miss Mitford and
Mrs. Jamieson, although very gifted and highly cultivated women,
are not Grecians, and therefore judge the papers simply as English
compositions.

The single unfavorable opinion _is_ Mr. Hunter's, who thinks that
the criticisms are not given with either sufficient seriousness or
diffidence, and that there is a painful sense of effort through the
whole. Many more persons may say so whose voices I do not hear. I am
glad that yours, my dear indulgent friend, is not one of them.

Believe me, your ever affectionate

ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.


_To H.S. Boyd_
May 17, 1842.

My very dear Friend,--Have you thought all unkindness out of my
silence? Yet the inference is not a true one, however it may look in
logic.

You do not like Silentiarius _very much_ (that is _my_ inference),
since you have kept him so short a time. And I quite agree with you
that he is not a poet of the same interest as Gregory Nazianzen,
however he may appear to me of more lofty cadence in his
versification. My own impression is that John of Euchaita is worth two
of each of them as a poet. His poems strike me as standing in the very
first class of the productions of the Christian centuries. Synesius
and John of Euchaita! I shall always think of those two together--not
by their similarity, but their dignity.

I return you the books you lent me with true thanks, and also those
which Mrs. Smith, I believe, left in your hands for me. I thank _you_
for them, and _you_ must be good enough to thank _her_. They were of
use, although of a rather sublime indifference for poets generally....

I shall send you soon the series of the Greek papers you asked for,
and also perhaps the first paper of a Survey of the English Poets,
under the pretence of a review of 'The Book of the Poets,' a
bookseller's selection published lately. I begin from Langland, of
Piers Plowman and the Malvern Hills. The first paper went to the
editor last week, and I have heard nothing as to whether it will
appear on Saturday or not, and perhaps if it does you won't care
to have it sent to you. Tell me if you do or don't. I have suffered
unpleasantly in the heart lately from this tyrannous dynasty of east
winds, but have been well otherwise, and am better, in _that_. Flushie
means to bark the next time he sees you in revenge for what you say of
him.

Good bye, dear Mr. Boyd; think of me as

Your ever affectionate
E.B.B.


_To H.S. Boyd_
June 3, 1842.

My very dear Friend,--I disobeyed you in not simply letting you know
of the publication of my 'English Poets,' because I did not know
myself when the publication was to take place, and I hope you will
forgive the innocent crime and accept the first number going to you
with this note. I warn you that there will be two numbers more at
_least_. Therefore do not prepare yourself for perhaps the impossible
magnanimity of reading them through.

And now I am fit for rivalship with your clocks, papa having given me
an Aeolian harp for the purpose. Do you know the music of an Aeolian
harp, and that nothing below the spherical harmonies is so sweet
and soft and mournfully wild? The amusing part of it is (after the
poetical) that Flushie is jealous and thinks it is alive, and takes
it as very hard that I should say 'beautiful' to anything except his
ears!

Arabel talks of going to see you; but if you are sensible to this
intense and most overcoming heat, you will pardon her staying away for
the present.

We have heard to-day that Annie proposes to publish her Miscellany by
subscription; and although I know it to be the only way, compatible
with publication at all, to avoid a pecuniary loss, yet the custom
is so entirely abandoned except in the case of persons of a lower
condition of life than _your daughter_, that I am sorry to think of
the observations it may excite. The whole scheme has appeared to me
from the beginning _most foolish_, and if you knew what I know of
the state and fortune of our ephemeral literature, you would use
what influence you have with her to induce her to condemn her
'contributions' to the adorning of a private annual rather than the
purpose in unhappy question. I wish I dared to appeal through my true
love for her to her own good sense once more.

My very dear friend's affectionate and grateful
E.B.B.

If you _do_ read any of the papers, let me know, I beseech you, your
full and free opinion of them.


_To H.S. Boyd_
June 22, 1842.

My very dear Friend,--I thank you gratefully for your two notes, with
their united kindness and candour--the latter still rarer than the
former, if less 'sweet upon the tongue.' Sir William Alexander's
tragedy _(that_ is the right name, I think, Sir William Alexander,
Earl of Stirling) you will not find mentioned among my dramatic
notices, because I was much pressed for room, and had to treat the
whole subject as briefly as possible, striking off, like the Roman,
only the heads of the flowers, and I did not, besides, receive your
injunction until my third paper on the dramatists was finished and in
the press. When you read it you will find some notice of that tragedy
by Marlowe, the first knowledge of which I owe to you, my dear Mr.
Boyd, as how much besides? And then comes the fourth paper, and I
tremble to anticipate the possible--nay, the very probable--scolding I
may have from you, upon my various heresies as to Dryden and Pope and
Queen Anne's versificators. In the meantime you have breathing time,
for Mr. Dilke, although very gracious and courteous to my offence of
extending the two papers he asked for _into four_,[65] yet could find
no room in the 'Athenaeum' last week for me, and only _hopes_ for it
this week. And after this week comes the British Association business,
which always fills every column for a month, so that a further delay
is possible enough. 'It will increase,' says Mr. Dilke, 'the zest of
the reader,' whereas _I_ say (at least think) that it will help him
quite to forget me. I explain all this lest you should blame me for
neglect to yourself in not sending the papers. I am so pleased that
you like at least the second article. That is encouragement to me.

Flushie did not seem to think the harp alive when it was taken out of
the window and laid close to him. He examined it particularly, and
is a philosophical dog. But I am sure that at first and while it was
playing he thought so.

In the same way he can't bear me to look into a glass, because he
thinks there is a little brown dog inside every looking glass, and he
is jealous of its being so close to _me_. He used to tremble and bark
at it, but now he is _silently_ jealous, and contents himself with
squeezing close, close to me and kissing me expressively.

My very dear friend's ever gratefully affectionate
E.B.B.

[Footnote 65: Ultimately five.]


_To John Kenyon_
50 Wimpole Street: Sunday night [September 1842].

My dear Mr. Kenyon,--Having missed my pleasure to-day by a coincidence
worse for me than for you, I must, tired as I am to-night, tell
you--ready for to-morrow's return of the books--what I have waited
three whole days hoping to tell you by word of mouth. But mind, before
I begin, I don't do so out of despair ever to see you again, because I
trust steadfastly to your kindness to _come_ again when _you_ are not
'languid' and I am alone as usual; only that I dare not keep back from
you any longer the following message of Miss Mitford. She says: 'Won't
he take us in his way to Torquay? or from Torquay? Beg him to do
so--and of all love, to tell us _when_.' Afterwards, again: 'I think
my father is better. Tell Mr. Kenyon what I say, and stand my friend
with him and beg him to come.'

Which I do in the most effectual way--in her own words.

She is much pleased by means of your introduction. 'Tell dear Mr.
Kenyon how very very much I like Mrs. Leslie. She seems all that is
good and kind, and to add great intelligence and agreeableness to
these prime qualities.'

Now I have done with being a messenger of the gods, and verily my
caduceus is trembling in my hand.

O Mr. Kenyon! what have you done? You will know the interpretation of
the reproach, your conscience holding the key of the cypher.

In the meantime I ought to be thanking you for your great kindness
about this divine Tennyson.[66] Beautiful! beautiful! After all, it
is a noble thing to be a poet. But notwithstanding the poetry of the
novelties--and you will observe that his two preceding volumes (only
one of which I had seen before, having inquired for the other vainly)
are included in these two--nothing appears to me quite equal to
'Oenone,' and perhaps a few besides of my ancient favorites. That is
not said in disparagement of the last, but in admiration of the
first. There is, in fact, more thought--more bare brave working of the
intellect--in the latter poems, even if we miss something of the high
ideality, and the music that goes with it, of the older ones. Only I
am always inclined to believe that philosophic thinking, like music,
is involved, however occultly, in high ideality of any kind.

You have not a key to the cypher of this at least, and I am so tired
that one word seems tumbling over another all the way.

Ever affectionately yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

You will let me keep your beautiful ballad and the gods[67] a little
longer.

[Footnote 66: This refers to the recent publication of Tennyson's
_Poems_, in two volumes, the first containing a re-issue of poems
previously published, while the second was wholly new, and included
such poems as the 'Morte d'Arthur,' 'Ulysses,' and 'Locksley Hall.']

[Footnote 67: No doubt Mr. Kenyon's translation of Schiller's 'Gods
of Greece,' which was the occasion of Miss Barrett's poem 'The Dead
Pan.']


_To H.S. Boyd_
September 14, 1842.

My very dear Friend,--I have made you wait a long time for the 'North
American Review,' because when your request came it was no longer
within my reach, and because since then I have not been so well
as usual from a sweep of the wing of the prevailing epidemic. Now,
however, I am _better_ than I was even before the attack, only wishing
that it were possible to hook-and-eye on another summer to the hem
of the garment of this last sunny one. At the end of such a double
summer, to measure things humanly, I might be able to go to see you at
Hampstead. Nevertheless, winters and adversities are more fit for us
than a constant sun.

I suppose, dear Mr. Boyd, you want only to have this review read to
you, and not _written_. Because it isn't out of laziness that I send
the book to you; and Arabel would copy whatever you please willingly,
provided you wished it. Keep the book as long as you please. I have
put a paper mark and a pencil mark at the page and paragraph where I
am taken up. It seems to me that the condemnation of 'The Seraphim' is
not too hard. The poem wants _unity_.

As to your 'words of fire' about Wordsworth, if I had but a cataract
at command I would try to quench them. His powers should not be judged
of by my extracts or by anybody's extracts from his last-published
volume.[68] Do you remember his grand ode upon Childhood--worth, to my
apprehension, just twenty of Dryden's 'St. Cecilia's Day'--his sonnet
upon Westminster Bridge, his lyric on a lark, in which the lark's
music swells and exults, and the many noble and glorious passages
of his 'Excursion'? You must not indeed blame me for estimating
Wordsworth at _his height_, and on the other side I readily confess to
you that he is occasionally, and not unfrequently, heavy and dull, and
that Coleridge had an intenser genius. Tell me if you know anything of
Tennyson. He has just published two volumes of poetry, one of which is
a republication, but both full of inspiration.

Ever my very dear friend's affectionate and grateful
E.B.B.


[Footnote 68: _Poems, chiefly of early and late years, including The
Borderers, a Tragedy_ (1842).]


_To Mrs. Martin_
50 Wimpole Street: October 22, 1842.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Waiting first for you to write to me, and
then waiting that I might write to you cheerfully, has ended by making
so long a silence that I am almost ashamed to break it. And perhaps,
even if I were not ashamed, you would be angry--perhaps you _are_
angry, and don't much care now whether or not you ever hear from me
again. Still I must write, and I must moreover ask you to write to me
again; and I must in particular assure you that I have continued to
love you sincerely, notwithstanding all the silence which might seem
to say the contrary. What I should like best just now is to have a
letter speaking comfortable details of your being comparatively well
again; yet I hope on without it that you really are so much better as
to be next to quite well. It was with great concern that I heard
of the indisposition which hung about you, dearest Mrs. Martin,
so long--I who had congratulated myself when I saw you last on the
promise of good health in your countenance. May God bless you, and
keep you better! And may you take care of yourself, and remember how
many love you in the world, from dear Mr. Martin down to--E.B.B.

Well, now I must look around me and consider what there is to tell
you. But I have been uneasy in various ways, sometimes by reason and
sometimes by fantasy; and even now, although my dear old friend Dr.
Scully is something better, he lies, I fear, in a very precarious
state, while dearest Miss Mitford's letters from the deathbed of her
father make my heart ache as surely almost as the post comes. There
is nothing more various in character, nothing which distinguishes
one human being from another more strikingly, than the expression of
feeling, the manner in which it influences the outward man. If I were
in her circumstances, I should sit paralysed--it would be impossible
to me to write or to cry. And she, who loves and feels with the
intensity of a nature warm in everything, seems to turn to sympathy
by the very instinct of grief, and sits at the deathbed of her last
relative, writing there, in letter after letter, every symptom,
physical or moral--even to the very words of the raving of a delirium,
and those, heart-breaking words! I could not write such letters; but I
know she feels as deeply as any mourner in the world can. And all this
reminds me of what you once asked me about the inscriptions in
Lord Brougham's villa at Nice. There are probably as many different
dialects for the heart as for the tongue, are there not?...

And now you will kindly like to have a word said about myself, and it
need not be otherwise than a word to give your kindness pleasure. The
long splendid summer, exhausting as the heat was to me sometimes, did
me essential good, and left me walking about the room and equal to
going downstairs (which I achieved four or five times), and even to
going out in the chair, without suffering afterwards. And, best of
all, the spitting of blood (I must tell you), which more or less kept
by me continually, _stopped quite_ some six weeks ago, and I have thus
more reasonable hopes of being really and essentially better than
I could have with such a symptom loitering behind accidental
improvements. Weak enough, and with a sort of pulse which is not
excellent, I certainly remain; but still, if I escape any decided
attack this winter--and I am in garrison now--there are expectations
of further good for next summer, and I may recover some moderate
degree of health and strength again, and be able to _do_ good instead
of receiving it only.

I write under the eyes of Wordsworth. Not Wordsworth's living eyes,
although the actual living poet had the infinite kindness to ask Mr.
Kenyon twice last summer when he was in London, if he might not
come to see me. Mr. Kenyon said 'No'--I couldn't have said 'No' to
Wordsworth, though I had never gone to sleep again afterwards. But
this Wordsworth who looks on me now is Wordsworth in a picture. Mr.
Haydon the artist, with the utmost kindness, has sent me the portrait
he was painting of the great poet--an unfinished portrait--and I am
to keep it until he wants to finish it. Such a head! such majesty! and
the poet stands musing upon Helvellyn! And all that--poet, Helvellyn,
and all--is in my room![69]

Give my kind love to Mr. Martin--_our_ kind love, indeed, to both of
you--and believe me, my dearest Mrs. Martin,

Your ever affectionate BA.

Is there any hope for us of you before the winter ends? Do consider.

_To H.S. Boyd_
Monday, October 31, 1842.

My very dear Friend,--I have put off from day to day sending you
these volumes, and in the meantime _I have had a letter from the great
poet_! Did Arabel tell you that my sonnet on the picture was sent to
Mr. Haydon, and that Mr. Haydon sent it to Mr. Wordsworth? The result
was that Mr. Wordsworth wrote to me. King John's barons were never
better pleased with their Charta than I am with this letter.[70]

But I won't tell you any more about it until you have read the poems
which I send you. Read first, to put you into good humour, the sonnet
written on Westminster Bridge, vol. iii. page 78. Then take from the
sixth volume, page 152, the passage beginning 'Within the soul' down
to page 153 at 'despair,' and again at page 155 beginning with

  I have seen
  A curious child, &c.

down to page 157 to the end of the paragraph. If you admit these
passages to be fine poetry, I wish much that you would justify me
further by reading, out of the _second_ volume, the two poems called
'Laodamia' and 'Tintern Abbey' at page 172 and page 161. I will not
ask you to read any more; but I dare say you will rush on of your own
account, in which case there is a fine ode upon the 'Power of Sound'
in the same volume. Wordsworth is a philosophical and Christian poet,
with depths in his soul to which poor Byron could never reach. Do be
candid. Nay, I need not say so, because you always are, as I am,

Your ever affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 69: It was this picture that called forth the sonnet, 'On
a Portrait of Wordsworth by B.R. Haydon' (_Poetical Works_, iii. 62),
alluded to in the next letter.]

[Footnote 70: The following is the letter from Wordsworth which gave
such pleasure to Miss Barrett, and which she treasured among her
papers for the rest of her life. Two slips of the pen have been
corrected between brackets.

'Rydal Mount: Oct. 26, '42.

'Dear Miss Barrett,--Through our common friend Mr. Haydon I have
received a sonnet which his portrait of me suggested. I should have
thanked you sooner for that effusion of a feeling towards myself, with
which I am much gratified, but I have been absent from home and much
occupied.

'The conception of your sonnet is in full accordance with the
painter's intended work, and the expression vigorous; yet the word
"ebb," though I do not myself object to it, nor wish to have it
altered, will I fear prove obscure to nine readers out of ten.

  "A vision free
  And noble, Haydon, hath thine art released."

Owing to the want of inflections in our language the construction here
is obscure. Would it not be a little [better] thus? I was going to
write a small change in the order of the words, but I find it would
not remove the objection. The verse, as I take it, would be somewhat
clearer thus, if you would tolerate the redundant syllable:

  "By a vision free
  And noble, Haydon, is thine art released."

I had the gratification of receiving, a good while ago, two copies of
a volume of your writing, which I have read with much pleasure, and
beg that the thanks which I charged a friend to offer may be repeated
[to] you.

'It grieved me much to hear from Mr. Kenyon that your health is so
much deranged. But for that cause I should have presumed to call upon
you when I was in London last spring.

'With every good wish, I remain, dear Miss Barrett, your much obliged

'WM. WORDSWORTH.'

[Postmark: Ambleside, Oct. 28, 1842.]

It may be added that although Miss Barrett altered the passage
criticised by the great poet, she did not accept his amendment. It now
runs

  'A noble vision free
  Our Haydon's hand has flung out from the mist.



_To H.S. Boyd_
December 4, 1842.

My very dear Friend,--You will think me in a discontented state of
mind when I knit my brows like a 'sleeve of care' over your kind
praises. But the truth is, I _won't_ be praised for being liberal in
Calvinism and love of Byron. _I_ liberal in commending Byron! Take out
my heart and try it! look at it and compare it with yours; and answer
and tell me if I do not love and admire Byron more warmly than you
yourself do. I suspect it indeed. Why, I am always reproached for my
love to Byron. Why, people say to me, '_You_, who overpraise Byron!'
Why, when I was a little girl (and, whatever you may think, my
tendency is not to cast off my old loves!) I used to think seriously
of dressing up like a boy and running away to be Lord Byron's page.
And _I_ to be praised now for being 'liberal' in admitting the merit
of his poetry! _I_!

As for the Calvinism, I don't choose to be liberal there either.
I don't call myself a Calvinist. I hang suspended between the two
doctrines, and hide my eyes in God's love from the sights which other
people _say_ they see. I believe simply that the saved are saved by
grace, and that they shall hereafter know it fully; and that the lost
are lost by their choice and free will--by choosing to sin and die;
and I believe absolutely that the deepest damned of all the lost will
not dare to whisper to the nearest devil that reproach of Martha: 'If
the Lord had been near me, I had not died.' But of the means of the
working of God's grace, and of the time of the formation of the
Divine counsels, I know nothing, guess nothing, and struggle to
guess nothing; and my persuasion is that when people talk of what was
ordained or approved by God before the foundations of the world, their
tendency is almost always towards a confusion of His eternal nature
with the human conditions of ours; and to an oblivion of the fact that
with _Him_ there can be no after nor before.

At any rate, I do not find it good for myself to examine any more the
brickbats of controversy--there is more than enough to think of in
truths clearly revealed; more than enough for the exercise of the
intellect and affections and adorations. I would rather not suffer
myself to be disturbed, and perhaps irritated, where it is not likely
that I should ever be informed. And although you tell me that your
system of investigation is different from some others, answer me with
your accustomed candour, and admit, my very dear friend, that this
argument does not depend upon the construction of a Greek sentence or
the meaning of a Greek word. Let a certain word[71] be 'fore-know' or
'publicly _favor_,' room for a stormy controversy yet remains. I went
through the Romans with you partially, and wholly by myself, by your
desire, and in reference to the controversy, long ago; and I could not
then, and cannot now, enter into that view of Taylor and Adam Clarke,
and yourself I believe, as to the _Jews and Gentiles_. Neither could
I conceive that a particular part of the epistle represents an actual
dialogue between a Jew and Gentile, since the form of question and
answer appears to me there simply rhetorical. The Apostle Paul was
learned in rhetoric; and I think he described so, by a rhetorical and
vivacious form, that struggle between the flesh and the spirit common
to all Christians; the spirit being triumphant through God in Christ
Jesus. These are my impressions. Yours are different. And since we
should not probably persuade each other, and since we are both of us
fond of and earnest in what we fancy to be the truth, why should
we cast away the thousand sympathies we rejoice in, religious and
otherwise, for the sake of a fruitless contention? 'What!' you would
say (by the time we had quarrelled half an hour), 'can't you talk
without being excited?' Half an hour afterwards: 'Pray _do_ lower
your voice--it goes through my head!' In another ten minutes: 'I could
scarcely have believed you to be so obstinate.' In another: 'Your
prejudices are insurmountable, and your reason most womanly--you are
degenerated to the last degree.' In another--why, _then_ you would
turn me and Flush out of the room and so finish the controversy
victoriously.

Was I wrong too, dearest Mr. Boyd, in sending the poems to the
'Athenaeum'? Well, I meant to be right. I fancied that you would
rather they were sent; and as your _name_ was not attached, there
could be no harm in leaving them to the editor's disposal. They
are not inserted, as I anticipated. The religious character was a
sufficient objection--their character of _prayer_. Mr. Dilke begged me
once, while I was writing for him, to write the name of God and Jesus
Christ as little as I could, because those names did not accord with
the secular character of the journal!

Ever your affectionate and grateful
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

Tell me how you like the sonnet; but you won't (I prophesy) like it.
Keep the 'Athenaeum.'

[Footnote 71: The Greek [Greek: progignôskein], used in Romans viii.
29.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
December 24, 1842.

My very dear Friend,--I am afraid that you will infer from my silence
that you have affronted me into ill temper by your parody upon my
sonnet. Yet 'lucus a non lucendo' were a truer derivation. I laughed
and thanked you over the parody, and put off writing to you until I
had the headache, which forced me to put it off again....

May God bless you, my dear Mr. Boyd. Mr. Savage Landor once said that
anybody who could write a parody deserved to be shot; but as he has
written one himself since saying so, he has probably changed his mind.
Arabel sends her love.

Ever your affectionate and grateful
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.


_To H.S. Boyd_
January 5, 1842 [1843].

My very dear Friend,--My surprise was inexpressible at your utterance
of the name. What! Ossian superior as a poet to Homer! Mr. Boyd saying
so! Mr. Boyd treading down the neck of Aeschylus while he praises
Ossian! The fact appears to me that anomalous thing among believers--a
miracle without an occasion.

I confess I never, never should have guessed the name; not though
I had guessed to Doomsday. In the first place I do not believe in
Ossian, and having partially examined the testimony (for I don't
pretend to any exact learning about it) I consider him as the poetical
_lay figure_ upon which Mr. Macpherson dared to cast his personality.
There is a sort of phraseology, nay, an identity of occasional
phrases, from the antique--but that these so-called Ossianic poems
were ever discovered and translated as they stand in their present
form, I believe in no wise. As Dr. Johnson wrote to Macpherson, so I
would say, 'Mr. Macpherson, I thought you an impostor, and think so
still.'

It is many years ago since I looked at Ossian, and I never did much
delight in him, as that fact proves. Since your letter came I have
taken him up again, and have just finished 'Carthon.' There are
beautiful passages in it, the most beautiful beginning, I think,
'Desolate is the dwelling of Moina,' and the next place being filled
by that address to the sun you magnify so with praise. But the charm
of these things is the _only_ charm of all the poems. There is a sound
of wild vague music in a monotone--nothing is articulate, nothing
_individual_, nothing various. Take away a few poetical phrases from
these poems, and they are colourless and bare. Compare them with the
old burning ballads, with a wild heart beating in each. How cold they
grow in the comparison! Compare them with Homer's grand breathing
personalities, with Aeschylus's--nay, but I cannot bear upon my lips
or finger the charge of the blasphemy of such comparing, even for
religion's sake....

I had another letter from America a few days since, from an American
poet of Boston who is establishing a magazine, and asked for
contributions from my pen. The Americans are as good-natured to me as
if they took me for the high Radical I am, you know.

You won't be angry with me for my obliquity (as you will consider it)
about Ossian. You know I always talk sincerely to you, and you have
not made me afraid of telling you the truth--that is, _my_ truth, the
truth of my belief and opinions.

I do not defend much in the 'Idiot Boy.' Wordsworth is a great poet,
but he does not always write equally.

And that reminds me of a distinction you suggest between Ossian and
Homer. _I_ fashion it in this way: Homer sometimes nods, but Ossian
_makes his readers nod_.

Ever your affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

Did I tell you that I had been reading through a manuscript
translation of the 'Gorgias' of Plato, by Mr. Hyman of Oxford, who is
a stepson of Mr. Haydon's the artist? It is an excellent translation
with learned notes, but it is _not elegant_. He means to try the
public upon it, but, as I have intimated to him, the Christians of the
present day are not civilised enough for Plato.

Arabel's love.


_To H.S. Boyd_
[About the end of January 1843.]

My very dear Friend,--The image you particularly admire in Ossian, I
admire with you, although I am not sure that I have not seen it or its
like somewhere in a classical poet, Greek or Latin. Perhaps Lord
Byron remembered it when in the 'Siege of Corinth' he said of
his Francesca's uplifted arm, 'You might have seen the moon shine
through.' It reminds me also that Maclise the artist, a man of
poetical imagination, gives such a transparency to the ghost of Banquo
in his picture of Macbeth's banquet, that we can discern through it
the lights of the festival. That is good poetry for a painter, is it
not?

I send you the magazines which I have just received from America, and
which contain, one of them, 'The Cry of the Human,' and the other,
four of my sonnets. My correspondent tells me that the 'Cry' is
considered there one of the most successful of my poems, but you
probably will not think so. Tell me exactly what you do think. At
page 343 of 'Graham's Magazine,' _Editor's Table_, is a review of
me, which, however extravagant in its appreciation, will give your
kindness pleasure. I confess to a good deal of pleasure myself from
these American courtesies, expressed not merely in the magazines,
but in the newspapers; a heap of which has been sent to me by my
correspondent--the 'New York Tribune,' 'The Union,' 'The Union Flag,'
&c.--all scattered over with extracts from my books and benignant
words about their writer. Among the extracts is the whole of the
review of Wordsworth from the London 'Athenaeum,' an unconscious
compliment, as they do not guess at the authorship, and one which you
won't thank them for. Keep the magazines, as I have duplicates.

Dearest Mr. Boyd, since you admit that I am not prejudiced about
Ossian, I take courage to tell you what I am thinking of.

_I am thinking_ (this is said in a whisper, and in confidence--of two
kinds), _I am thinking that you don't admire him quite as much as you
did three weeks ago_.

Ever most affectionately yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

Arabel not being here, I send her love without asking for it.


_To Mrs. Martin_
January 30, 1843.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Thank you for your letter and for dear Mr.
Martin's thought of writing one! Ah! _I_ thought he would not write,
but not for the reason you say; it was something more palpable and
less romantic! Well, I will not grumble any more about not having my
letter, since you are coming, and since you seem, my dear Mrs. Martin,
something in better spirits than your note from Southampton bore
token of. Madeira is the Promised Land, you know; and you should hope
hopefully for your invalid from his pilgrimage there. You should hope
with those who hope, my dearest Mrs. Martin....

Our '_event_' just now is a new purchase of a 'Holy Family,' supposed
to be by Andrea del Sarto. It has displaced the Glover over the
chimney-piece in the drawing-room, and dear Stormie and Alfred nearly
broke their backs in carrying it upstairs for me to see before the
placing. It is probably a fine picture, and I seem to see my
way through the dark of my ignorance, to admire the grouping and
colouring, whatever doubt as to the expression and divinity may occur
otherwise. Well, you will judge. I won't tell you _how_ I think of it.
And you won't care if I do. There is also a new very pretty landscape
piece, and you may imagine the local politics of the arrangement and
hanging, with their talk and consultation; while _I_, on the storey
higher, have my arranging to manage of my pretty new books and my
three hyacinths, and a pot of primroses which dear Mr. Kenyon had the
good nature to carry himself through the streets to our door. But all
the flowers forswear me, and die either suddenly or gradually as soon
as they become aware of the want of fresh air and light in my room.
Talking of air and light, what exquisite weather this is! What a
summer in winter! It is the fourth day since I have had the fire wrung
from me by the heat of temperature, and I sit here _very warm indeed_,
notwithstanding that bare grate. Nay, yesterday I had the door thrown
open for above an hour, and was warm still! You need not ask, you see,
how I am.

Tell me, have you read Mr. Dickens's 'America;' and what is your
thought of it like? If I were an American, it would make me rabid, and
certain of the free citizens _are_ furious, I understand, while others
'speak peace and ensue it,' admire as much of the book as deserves
any sort of admiration, and attribute the blameable parts to the
prejudices of the party with whom the writer 'fell in,' and not to
a want of honesty or brotherhood in his own intentions. I admire Mr.
Dickens as an imaginative writer, and I love the Americans--I cannot
possibly admire or love this book. Does Mr. Martin? Do _you_?

Henrietta would send her love to you if I could hear her voice nearer
than I do actually, as she sings to the guitar downstairs. And her
love is not the only one to be sent. Give mine to dear Mr. Martin,
though he can't make up his mind to the bore of writing to me. And
remember us all, both of you, as we do you.

Dearest Mrs. Martin, your affectionate BA.


_To James Martin_
February 6, 1843.

You make us out, my dear Mr. Martin, to be such perfect parallel lines
that I should be half afraid of completing the definition by our never
meeting, if it were not for what you say afterwards, of the coming
to London, and of promising to come and see Flush. If you should be
travelling while I am writing, it was only what happened to me when I
wrote not long ago to dearest Mrs. Martin, and everybody in this house
cried out against the fatuity of the coincidence. As if I could know
that she was travelling, when nobody told me, and I wasn't a witch!
If the same thing happens to-day, believe in the innocence of my
ignorance. I shall be consoled if it does--for certain reasons. But
for none in the world can I help thanking you for your letter, which
gave me so much pleasure from the first sight of the handwriting to
the thought of the kindness spent upon me in it, that after all I
cannot thank you as I would.

Yet I won't let you fancy me of such an irrational state of simplicity
as not to be fully aware that _you_, with your 'nature of the fields
and forests,' look down disdainfully and with an inward heat of
glorying, upon _me_ who have all my pastime in books--dead and
seethed. Perhaps, if it were a little warmer, I might even grant that
you are right in your pride. As it is, I grumble feebly to myself
something about the definition of _nature_, and how we in the town
(which 'God made' just as He made your hedges) have _our_ share
of nature too; and then I have secret thoughts of the state of the
thermometer, and wonder how people can breathe out of doors. In the
meantime, Flush, who is a better philosopher, pushes deep into
my furs, and goes to sleep. Perhaps I should fear the omen for my
correspondent.

Oh yes! That picture in 'Boz' is beautiful. For my own part, and by a
natural womanly contradiction, I have never cared so much in my life
for flowers as since being shut out from gardens--unless, indeed, in
the happy days of old when I had a garden of my own, and cut it out
into a great Hector of Troy, in relievo, with a high heroic box nose
and shoeties of columbine.[72] But that was long ago. Now I count the
buds of my primrose with a new kind of interest, and you never
saw such a primrose! I begin to believe in Ovid, and look for a
metamorphosis. The leaves are turning white and springing up as high
as corn. Want of air, and of sun, I suppose. I should be loth to think
it--want of friendship to _me_!

Do you know that the royal Boz lives close to us, three doors from Mr.
Kenyon in Harley Place? The new numbers appear to me admirable, and
full of life and blood--whatever we may say to the thick rouging and
extravagance of gesture. There is a beauty, a tenderness, too, in the
organ scene, which is worthy of the gilliflowers. But my admiration
for 'Boz' fell from its 'sticking place,' I confess, a good furlong,
when I read Victor Hugo; and my creed is, that, _not_ in his
tenderness, which is as much his own as his humour, but in his serious
powerful Jew-trial scenes, he has followed Hugo closely, and never
scarcely looked away from 'Les Trois Jours d'un Condamné.'

If you should not be on the road, I hope you won't be very long
before you are, and that dearest Mrs. Martin will put off building her
greenhouse--you see I believe she _will_ build it--until she gets home
again.

How kind of you and of her to have poor old Mrs. Barker at Colwall!

Do believe me, both of you, with love from all of _us_,

Very affectionately yours,
BA.

[Footnote 72: See 'Hector in the Garden' (_Poetical Works_, iii. 37).]


_To H.S. Boyd_
February 21, 1843.

Thank you, my very dear friend, I am as well as the east wind will
suffer me to be; and _that_, indeed, is not very well, my heart being
fuller of all manner of evil than is necessary to its humanity. But
the wind is changed, and the frost is gone, and it is not quite out of
my fancy yet that I may see you next summer. _You and summer are not
out of the question yet_. Therefore, you see, I cannot be very deep
in tribulation. But you may consider it a bad symptom that I have just
finished a poem of some five hundred lines in stanzas, called 'The
Lost Bower,'[73] and about nothing at all in particular.

As to Arabel, she is not an icicle. There are flowers which blow in
the frost--when we brambles are brown with their inward death--and she
is of them, dear thing. _You_ are not a bramble, though, and I hope
that when you talk of 'feeling the cold,' you mean simply to refer
to your sensation, and not to your health. Remember also, dearest Mr.
Boyd, what a glorious winter we have had. Take away the last ten days
and a few besides, and call the whole summer rather than winter. Ought
we to complain, really? Really, no.

I venture another prophecy upon the shoulders of the ast, though my
hand shakes so that nobody will read it.

_You can't abide my 'Cry of the Human,' and four sonnets_. They have
none of them found favor in your eyes.

In or out of favor,

Ever your affectionate E.B.B.

Do you think that next summer you _might, could_, or _would_ walk
across the park to see me--supposing always that I fail in my
aspiration to go and see you? I only ask by way of _hypothesis_.
Consider and revolve it so. We live on the verge of the town rather
than in it, and our noises are cousins to silence; and you should pass
into a room where the silence is most absolute. Flush's breathing is
my loudest sound, and then the watch's tickings, and then my own heart
when it beats too turbulently. Judge of the quiet and the solitude!

[Footnote 73: _Poetical Works_, iii. 105.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
April 19, 1843.

My very dear Friend,--The earth turns round, to be sure, and we turn
with it, but I never anticipated the day and the hour for _you_ to
turn round and be guilty of high treason to our Greeks. I cry '_Ai_!
_ai_!' as if I were a chorus, and all vainly. For, you see, arguing
about it will only convince you of my obstinacy, and not a bit of
Homer's supremacy. Ossian has wrapt you in a cloud, a fog, a true
Scotch mist. You have caught cold in the critical faculty, perhaps. At
any rate, I can't see a bit more of your reasonableness than I can see
of Fingal. _Sic transit_! Homer like the darkened half of the moon
in eclipse! You have spoilt for me now the finest image in your
Ossian-Macpherson.

My dearest Mr. Boyd, you will find as few believers in the genuineness
of these volumes among the most accomplished antiquarians in poetry
as in the genuineness of Chatterton's Rowley, and of Ireland's
Shakespeare. The latter impostures boasted of disciples in the first
instance, but the discipleship perished by degrees, and the place
thereof, during this present 1843, knows it no more. So has it been
with the belief in Macpherson's Ossian. Of those who believed in the
poems at the first sight of them, who kept his creed to the end? And
speaking so, I speak of Macpherson's contemporaries whom you respect.

I do not consider Walter Scott a great poet, but he was highly
accomplished in matters of poetical antiquarianism, and is certainly
citable as an authority on this question.

Try not to be displeased with me. I cannot conceal from you that my
astonishment is profound and unutterable at your new religion--your
new faith in this pseud-Ossian--and your desecration, in his service,
of the old Hellenic altars. And by the way, my own figure reminds me
to inquire of you whether you are not sometimes struck with a _want_
in him--a want very grave in poetry, and very strange in antique
poetry--the want of devotional feeling and conscience of God. Observe,
that all antique poets rejoice greatly and abundantly in their divine
mythology; and that if this Ossian be both antique and godless, he is
an exception, a discrepancy, a monster in the history of letters and
experience of humanity. As such I leave him.

Oh, how angry you will be with me. But you seemed tolerably prepared
in your last letter for my being in a passion.... Ever affectionately
yours,

ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

Why should I be angry with Flush? _He_ does not believe in Ossian. Oh,
I assure you he doesn't.


The following letter was called forth by a criticism of Mr. Kenyon's
on Miss Barrett's poem, _The Dead Pan_, which he had seen in
manuscript; but it also meets some criticisms which others had made
upon her last volume (see above, p. 65).


_To John Kenyan_
Wimpole Street: March 25, 1843.

My very dear Cousin,--Your kindness having touched me much, and your
good opinion, whether literary or otherwise, being of great price to
me, it is even with tears in my eyes that I begin to write to you upon
a difference between us. And what am I to say? To admit, of course,
in the first place, the injuriousness to the 'popularity,' of the
scriptural tone. But am I to sacrifice a principle to popularity?
Would you advise me to do so? Should I be more worthy of your kindness
by doing so? and could you (apart from the kindness) call my refusal
to do so either perverseness or obstinacy? Even if you could, I hope
you will try a little to be patient with me, and to forgive, at least,
what you find it impossible to approve.

My dear cousin, if you had not reminded me of Wordsworth's
exclamation--

  I would rather be
  A pagan, suckled in a creed outworn--

and if he had never made it, I do think that its significance would
have occurred to me, by a sort of instinct, in connection with this
discussion. Certainly _I_ would rather be a pagan whose religion
was actual, earnest, continual--for week days, work days, and song
days--than I would be a _Christian_ who, from whatever motive, shrank
from hearing or uttering the name of Christ out of a 'church.' I am no
fanatic, but I like truth and earnestness in all things, and I cannot
choose but believe that such a Christian shows but ill beside such
a pagan. What pagan poet ever thought of casting his gods out of
his poetry? In what pagan poem do they not shine and thunder? And if
_I_--to approach the point in question--if _I_, writing a poem the
end of which is the extolment of what I consider to be Christian truth
over the pagan myths shrank even _there_ from naming the name of my
God lest it should not meet the sympathies of some readers, or lest it
should offend the delicacies of other readers, or lest, generally,
it should be unfit for the purposes of poetry in what more forcible
manner than by that act (I appeal to Philip against Philip) can I
controvert my own poem, or secure to myself and my argument a logical
and unanswerable shame? If Christ's name is improperly spoken in that
poem, then indeed is Schiller right, and the true gods of poetry are
to be sighed for mournfully. For be sure that _Burns_ was right, and
that a poet without devotion is below his own order, and that poetry
without religion will gradually lose its elevation. And then, my dear
friend, we do not live among dreams. The Christian religion is true or
it is not, and if it is true it offers the highest and purest objects
of contemplation. And the poetical faculty, which expresses the
highest moods of the mind, passes naturally to the highest objects.
Who can separate these things? Did Dante? Did Tasso? Did Petrarch? Did
Calderon? Did Chaucer? Did the poets of our best British days? Did any
one of these shrink from speaking out Divine names when the occasion
came? Chaucer, with all his jubilee of spirit and resounding laughter,
had the name of Jesus Christ and God as frequently to familiarity on
his lips as a child has its father's name. You say 'our religion
is not vital--not week-day--enough.' Forgive me, but _that_ is a
confession of a wrong, not an argument. And if a poet be a poet, it is
his business to work for the elevation and purification of the public
mind, rather than for his own popularity! while if he be not a poet,
no sacrifice of self-respect will make amends for a defective faculty,
nor _ought_ to make amends.

My conviction is that the _poetry of Christianity_ will one day be
developed greatly and nobly, and that in the meantime we are wrong,
poetically as morally, in desiring to restrain it. No, I never felt
repelled by any Christian phraseology in Cowper--although he is not a
favorite poet of mine from other causes--nor in Southey, nor even
in James Montgomery, nor in Wordsworth where he writes
'ecclesiastically,' nor in Christopher North, nor in Chateaubriand,
nor in Lamartine.

It is but two days ago since I had a letter--and not from a
fanatic--to reproach my poetry for not being Christian enough, and
this is not the first instance, nor the second, of my receiving such
a reproach. I tell you this to open to you the possibility of another
side to the question, which makes, you see, a triangle of it!

Can you bear with such a long answer to your letter, and forbear
calling it a 'preachment'? There may be such a thing as an awkward and
untimely introduction of religion, I know, and I have possibly
been occasionally guilty in this way. But for _my principle_ I must
contend, for it is a poetical principle _and more_, and an entire
sincerity in respect to it is what I owe to you and to myself. Try to
forgive me, dear Mr. Kenyon. I would propitiate your indulgence for me
by a libation of your own eau de Cologne poured out at your feet!
It is excellent eau de Cologne, and you are very kind to me,
but, notwithstanding all, there is a foreboding within me that my
'conventicleisms' will be inodorous in your nostrils.

[_Incomplete_.]


_To John Kenyon_
Tuesday [about March 1843].

My very dear Cousin,--I have read your letter again and again, and
feel your kindness fully and earnestly. You have advised me about the
poem,[74] entering into the questions referring to it with the warmth
rather of the author of it than the critic of it, and this I am
sensible of as absolutely as anyone can be. At the same time, I have a
strong perception rather than opinion about the poem, and also, if you
would not think it too serious a word to use in such a place, I have
a _conscience_ about it. It was not written in a desultory fragmentary
way, the last stanzas thrown in, as they might be thrown out, but with
a _design_, which leans its whole burden on the last stanzas. In fact,
the last stanzas were in my mind to say, and all the others presented
the mere avenue to the end of saying them. Therefore I cannot throw
them out--I cannot yield to the temptation even of pleasing _you_ by
doing so; I make a compromise with myself, and _do not throw them
out, and do not print the poem_. Now say nothing against this, my dear
cousin, because I am obstinate, as you know, as you have good evidence
for knowing. I _will not_ either alter or print it. Then you have your
manuscript copy, which you can cut into any shape you please as long
as you keep it out of print; and seeing that the poem really does
belong to you, having had its origin in your paraphrase of Schiller's
stanzas, I see a great deal of poetical justice in the manuscript
copyright remaining in your hands. For the rest I shall have quite
enough to print and to be responsible for without it, and I am quite
satisfied to let it be silent for a few years until either I or you
(as may be the case even with _me_!) shall have revised our judgments
in relation to it.

This being settled, you must suffer me to explain (for mere personal
reasons, and not for the good of the poem) that no mortal priest (of
St. Peter's or otherwise) is referred to in a particular stanza, but
the Saviour Himself. Who is 'the High Priest of our profession,' and
the only 'priest' recognised in the New Testament. In the same way the
altar candles are altogether spiritual, or they could not be supposed,
even by the most amazing poetical exaggeration, to 'light the earth
and skies.' I explain this, only that I may not appear to you to have
compromised the principle of the poem, by compromising any truth (such
in my eyes) for the sake of a poetical effect.

And now I will not say any more. I know that you will be inclined
to cry, 'Print it in any case,' but I will entreat of your kindness,
which I have so much right to trust in while entreating, _not to say
one such word. Be kind, and let me follow my own way silently_. I have
not, indeed, like a spoilt child in a fret, thrown the poem up because
I would not alter it, though you have done much to spoil me. I act
advisedly, and have made up my mind as to what is the wisest and best
thing to do, and personally the pleasantest to myself, after a good
deal of serious reflection. 'Pan is dead,' and so best, for the
present at least.

I shall take your advice about the preface in every respect, and
thanks for the letter and Taylor's memoirs.

Miss Mitford talks of coming to town for a day, and of bringing Flush
with her, as soon as the weather settles, and to-day looks so like
it that I have mused this morning on the possibility of breaking
my prison doors and getting into the next room. Only there is a
forbidding north wind, they say.

Don't be vexed with me, dear Mr. Kenyon. You know there are
obstinacies in the world as well as mortalities, and thereto
appertaining. And then you will perceive through all mine, that it is
difficult for me to act against your judgment so far as to put my own
tenacity into print.

Ever gratefully and affectionately yours,
E.B.B.

[Footnote 74: 'The Dead Pan' (_Poetical Works_, iii. 280).]


It is to the honour of America that it recognised from the first the
genius of Miss Barrett; and for a large part of her life some of the
closest of her personal and literary connections were with Americans.
The same is true in both respects of Robert Browning. As appears from
some letters printed farther on in these volumes, at a time when the
sale of his poems in England was almost infinitesimal, they were known
and highly prized in the United States. Expressions of Mrs. Browning's
sympathy with America and of gratitude for the kindly feelings of
Americans recur frequently in the letters, and it is probable that
there are still extant in the States many letters written to friends
and correspondents there. Only three or four such have been made
available for the present collection; and of these the first follows
here in its place in the chronological sequence. It was written to Mr.
Cornelius Mathews, then editor of 'Graham's Magazine,' who had
invited Miss Barrett to send contributions to his periodical. The warm
expression in it of sympathy with the poetry of Robert Browning, whom
she did not yet know personally, is especially interesting to readers
of this later day, who, like the spectators at a Greek tragedy, watch
the development of a drama of which the _dénouement_ is already known
to them.


_To Cornelius Mathews_
50 Wimpole Street: April 28, 1843.

My dear Mr. Mathews,--In replying to your kind letter I send some
more verse for Graham's, praying such demi-semi-gods as preside over
contributors to magazines that I may not appear over-loquacious to
my editor. Of course it is not intended to thrust three or four poems
into one number. My pluralities go to you simply to 'bide your
time,' and be used one by one as the opportunity is presented. In the
meanwhile you have received, I hope, a short letter written to explain
my unwillingness to apply, as you desired me at first, to Wiley and
Putnam--an unwillingness justified by what you told me afterwards.
I did not apply, nor have I applied, and I would rather not apply
at all. Perhaps I shall hear from them presently. The pamphlet on
International Copyright is welcome at a distance, but it has not come
near me yet; and for all your kindness in relation to the prospective
gift of your works I thank you again and earnestly. You are kind to me
in many ways, and I would willingly know as much of your intellectual
habits as you teach me of your genial feelings. This 'Pathfinder'
(what an excellent name for an American journal!) I also owe to you,
with the summing up of your performances in it, and with a notice
of Mr. Browning's 'Blot on the Scutcheon,' which would make one
poet furious (the 'infelix Talfourd') and another a little
melancholy--namely, Mr. Browning himself. There is truth on both
sides, but it seems to me hard truth on Browning. I do assure you I
never saw him in my life--do not know him even by correspondence--and
yet, whether through fellow-feeling for Eleusinian mysteries, or
whether through the more generous motive of appreciation of his
powers, I am very sensitive to the thousand and one stripes with which
the assembly of critics doth expound its vocation over him, and the
'Athenaeum,' for instance, made me quite cross and misanthropical last
week.[75] The truth is--and the world should know the truth--it is
easier to find a more faultless writer than a poet of equal genius.
Don't let us fall into the category of the sons of Noah. Noah was once
drunk, indeed, but once he built the ark. Talking of poets, would
your 'Graham's Miscellany' care at all to have occasional poetical
contributions from Mr. Horne? I am in correspondence with him, and
I think I could manage an arrangement upon the same terms as my
engagement rests on, if you please and your friends please, that is,
and without formality, if it should give you any pleasure. He is a
writer of great power, I think. And this reminds me that you may be
looking all the while for the 'Athenaeum's' reply to your friend's
proposition--of which I lost no time in apprising the editor, Mr.
Dilke, and here are some of his words: 'An American friend who had
been long in England, and often conversed with me on the subject,
resolved on his return to establish such a correspondence. In all
things worth knowing--all reviews of good books' (which 'are published
first or simultaneously,' says Mr. Dilke, 'in London'), 'he was
anticipated, and after some months he was driven of necessity to
geological surveys, centenary celebrations, progress of railroads,
manufactures, &c., and thus the prospect was abandoned altogether.'
Having made this experiment, Mr. Dilke is unwilling to risk another.
Neither must we blame him for the reserve. When the international
copyright shall at once protect the national _meum_ and _tuum_ in
literature and give it additional fullness and value, we shall cease
to say insolently to you that what we want of your books we will get
without your help, but as it is, the Mr. Dilkes of us have nothing
much more courteous to do. I wish I could have been of any use to
your friend--I have done what I could. In regard to critical papers
of mine, I would willingly give myself up to you, seeing your good
nature; but it is the truth that I never published any prose papers
at all except the series on the Greek Christian poets and the other
series on the English poets in the 'Athenaeum' of last year, and both
of which you have probably seen. Afterwards I threw up my brief and
went back to my poetry, in which I feel that I must do whatever I am
equal to doing at all. That life is short and art long appears to us
more true than usual when we lie all day long on a sofa and are as
frightened of the east wind as if it were a tiger. Life is not only
short, but uncertain, and art is not only long, but absorbing. What
have I to do with writing '_scandal_' (as Mr. Jones would say) upon
my neighbour's work, when I have not finished my own? So I threw up my
brief into Mr. Dilke's hands, and went back to my verses. Whenever I
print another volume you shall have it, if Messrs. Wiley and Putnam
will convey it to you. How can I send you, by the way, anything I may
have to send you? Why will you not, as a nation, embrace our great
penny post scheme, and hold our envelopes in all acceptation? You do
not know--cannot guess--what a wonderful liberty our Rowland Hill has
given to British spirits, and how we '_flash_ a thought' instead of
'wafting' it from our extreme south to our extreme north, paying 'a
penny for our thought' and for the electricity included. I recommend
you our penny postage as the most successful revolution since the
'glorious three days' of Paris.

And so, you made merry with my scorn of my 'Prometheus.' Believe
me--believe me absolutely--I did not strike that others might spare,
but from an earnest remorse. When you know me better, you will know,
I hope, that I am _true_, whether right or wrong, and you know already
that I am right in this thing, the only merit of the translation being
its closeness. Can I be of any use to you, dear Mr. Mathews? When I
can, make use of me. You surprise and disappoint me in your sketch of
the Boston poet, for the letter he wrote to me struck me as frank and
honest. I wonder if he made any use of the verses I sent him; and
I wonder what I sent him--for I never made a note of it, through
negligence, and have quite forgotten. Are you acquainted with
Mrs. Sigourney? She has offended us much by her exposition of Mrs.
Southey's letter, and I must say not without cause. I rejoice in the
progress of 'Wakondah,' wishing the influences of mountain and river
to be great over him and in him. And so I will say the 'God bless you'
your kindness cares to hear, and remain,

Sincerely and thankfully yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

_(Endorsed in another hand)_
E.B. Barrett, London, received May 12, 1843,
4 poems, previously furnished to _Graham's Magazine_, $50.

[Footnote 75: The _Athenaeum_ of April 22 contained a review of
Browning's 'Dramatic Lyrics,' charging him with taking pleasure in
being enigmatical, and declaring this to be a sign of weakness, not
strength. It spoke of many of the pieces composing the volume as being
rather fragments and sketches than having any right to independent
existence.]


_To John Kenyan_
May 1, 1843

My dear Cousin,--Here is my copyright for you, and you will see that I
have put 'word' instead of 'sound,' as certainly the proper 'word.' Do
let me thank you once more for all the trouble and interest you have
taken with me and in me. Observe besides that I have altered the title
according to your unconscious suggestion, and made it 'The Dead
Pan,' which is a far better name, I think, than the repetition of the
_refrain_.

But I spoil my exemplary docility so far, by confessing that I don't
like 'scornful children' half--no, not half so well as my 'railing
children,' although, to be sure, you proved to me that the last was
nigh upon nonsense. You proved it--that is, you almost proved it, for
don't we say--at least, _mightn't_ we say--'the thunder was silent'?
'_thunder_' involving the idea of noise, as much as 'railing children'
do. Consider this--I give it up to you.[76]

I am ashamed to have kept Carlyle so long, but I quite failed in
trying to read him at my "usual pace--he _won't_ be read quick. After
all, and full of beauty and truth as that book is, and strongly as it
takes hold of my sympathies, there is nothing new in it--not even a
new Carlyleism, which I do not say by way of blaming the book, because
the author of it might use words like the apostle's: 'To write the
same things unto you, to me indeed is not grievous, and to you it is
safe.' The world being blind and deaf and rather stupid, requires a
reiteration of certain uncongenial truths....

Thank you for the address.
Ever affectionately yours,
E.B.B.

I observe that the _most questionable rhymes_ are not objected to by
Mr. Merivale; also--but this letter is too long already.

[Footnote 76: Mr. Kenyon's view evidently prevailed, for stanza 19 now
has 'scornful children.']


_To Mrs. Martin_
May 3, 1843.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--If _you_ promised (which you did), _I_ ought
to have promised--and therefore we may ask each other's pardon....

How is the dog? and how does dear Mr. Martin find himself in Arcadia?
Do we all stand in his recollection like a species of fog, or a
concentrated essence of brick wall? How I wish--and since I said it
aloud to you I have often wished it over in a whisper--that you would
put away your romance, or cut it in two, and spend six months of the
year in London with us! Miss Mitford believes that wishes, if wished
hard enough, realise themselves, but my experience has taught me a
less cheerful creed. Only if wishes _do_ realise themselves!

Miss Mitford is at Bath, where she has spent one week and is about to
spend two, and then goes on her way into Devonshire. She amused me so
the other day by desiring me to look at the date of Mr. Landor's poems
in their first edition, because she was sure that it must be fifty
years since, and she finds him at this 1843, the very Lothario
of Bath, enchanting the wives, making jealous the husbands, and
'enjoying,' altogether, the worst of reputations. I suggested that
if she proved him to be seventy-five, as long as he proved himself
enchanting, it would do no manner of good in the way of practical
ethics; and that, besides, for her to travel round the world to
investigate gentlemen's ages was invidious, and might be alarming as
to the safe inscrutability of ladies' ages. She is delighted with the
_scenery of Bath_, which certainly, take it altogether, marble and
mountains, is the most beautiful town I ever looked upon. Cheltenham,
I think, is a mere commonplace to it, although the avenues are
beautiful, to be sure....

Mrs. Southey complains that she has lost half her income by her
marriage, and her friend Mr. Landor is anxious to persuade, by the
means of intermediate friends, Sir Robert Peel to grant her a pension.
She is said to be in London now, and has at least left Keswick for
ever. It is not likely that Wordsworth should come here this year,
which I am sorry for now, although I should certainly be sorry if he
did come. A happy state of contradiction, not confined either to that
particular movement or no-movement, inasmuch as I was gratified by his
sending me the poem you saw, and yet read it with such extreme pain as
to incapacitate me from judging of it. Such stuff we are made of!

This is a long letter--and you are tired, I feel by instinct!

May God bless you, my dearest Mrs. Martin. Give my love to Mr. Martin,
and think of me as

Your very affectionate,

BA.

Henry and Daisy have been to see the _lying in state_, as lying stark
and dead is called whimsically, of the Duke of Sussex. It was a fine
sight, they say.


_To H.S. Boyd_
May 9, 1843 [postmark].

My very dear Friend,--I thank you much for the copies of your
'Anti-Puseyistic Pugilism.' The papers reached my hands quite safely
and so missed setting the world on fire; and I shall be as wary of
them evermore (be sure) as if they were gunpowder. Pray send them
to Mary Hunter. Why not? Why should you think that I was likely to
'object' to your doing so? She will laugh. _I_ laughed, albeit in no
smiling mood; for I have been transmigrating from one room to another,
and your packet found me half tired and half excited, and _whole_
grave. But I could not choose but laugh at your Oxford charge; and
when I had counted your great guns and javelin points and other
military appurtenances of the Punic war, I said to myself--or to
Flush, 'Well, Mr. Boyd will soon be back again with the dissenters.'
Upon which I think Flush said, 'That's a comfort.'

Mary's direction is, 111 London Road, Brighton. You ought to send
the verses to her yourself, if you mean to please her entirely: and
I cannot agree with you that there is the slightest danger in sending
them by the post. Letters are never opened, unless you tempt the flesh
by putting sovereigns, or shillings, or other metallic substances
inside the envelope; and if the devil entered into me causing me
to write a libel against the Queen, I would send it by the post
fearlessly from John o' Groat's to Land's End inclusive.

One of your best puns, if not the best,

  Hatching succession apostolical,
  With other falsehoods diabolical,

lies in an octosyllabic couplet; and what business has _that_ in your
heroic libel?

The 'pearl' of maidens sends her love to you.

Your very affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.


_To H.S. Boyd_
May 14, 1843.

My very dear Friend,--I hear with wonder from Arabel of your
repudiation of my word 'octosyllabic' for the two lines in your
controversial poem. Certainly, if you count the syllables on your
fingers, there are ten syllables in each line: of _that_ I am
perfectly aware; but the lines are none the less belonging to the
species of versification called octosyllabic. Do you not observe, my
dearest Mr. Boyd, that the final accent and rhyme fall on the eighth
syllable instead of the tenth, and that _that_ single circumstance
determines the class of verse--that they are in fact octosyllabic
verses with triple rhymes?

  Hatching succession apostolical,
  With other falsehoods diabolical.

Pope has double rhymes in his heroic verses, but how does he manage
them? Why, he admits eleven syllables, throwing the final accent and
rhyme on the tenth, thus:

  Worth makes the man, and want of it the f_e_llow,
  The rest is nought but leather and prun_e_lla.

Again, if there is a double rhyme to an octosyllabic verse, there
are always _nine_ syllables in that verse, the final accent and rhyme
falling on the eighth syllable, thus:

  Compound for sins that we're incl_i_ned to,
  By damning those we have no m_i_nd to.

('Hudibras.')

Again, if there is a triple rhyme to an octosyllabic verse (precisely
the present case) there must always be ten syllables in that verse,
the final accent and rhyme falling on the eighth syllable; thus from
'Hudibras' again:

  Then in their robes the penit_e_ntials
  Are straight presented with cred_e_ntials.
  Remember how in arms and p_o_litics,
  We still have worsted all your h_o_ly tricks.

You will admit that these last couplets are precisely of the same
structure as yours, and certainly they are octosyllabics, and made use
of by Butler in an octosyllabic poem, whereas yours, to be rendered of
the heroic structure, should run thus:

  Hatching at ease succession apostolical,
  With many other falsehoods diabolical.

I have written a good deal about an oversight on your part of little
consequence; but as you charged me with a mistake made in cold blood
and under corrupt influences from Lake-mists, why I was determined to
make the matter clear to you. And as to the _influences_, if I were
guilty of this mistake, or of a thousand mistakes, Wordsworth would
not be guilty _in_ me. I think of him now, exactly as I thought of him
during the first years of my friendship for you, only with _an equal_
admiration. He was a great poet to me always, and always, while I have
a soul for poetry, will be so; yet I said, and say in an under-voice,
but steadfastly, that Coleridge was the grander genius. There is
scarcely anything newer in my estimation of Wordsworth than in the
colour of my eyes!

Perhaps I was wrong in saying '_a pun._' But I thought I apprehended a
double sense in your application of the term 'Apostolical succession'
to Oxford's 'breeding' and 'hatching,' words which imply succession in
a way unecclesiastical.

After all which quarrelling, I am delighted to have to talk of your
coming nearer to me--within reach--almost within my reach. Now if I am
able to go in a carriage at all this summer, it will be hard but that
I manage to get across the park and serenade you in Greek under your
window.

Your ever affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.


_To H.S. Boyd_
May 18, 1843.

My very dear Friend,--Yes, you have surprised me!

I always have thought of you, and I always think and say, that you are
truthful and candid in a supreme degree, and therefore it is not your
candour about Wordsworth which surprises me.

He had the kindness to send me the poem upon Grace Darling when it
first appeared; and with a curious mixture of feelings (for I was much
gratified by his attention in sending it) I yet read it with _so_ much
pain from the nature of the subject, that my judgment was scarcely
free to consider the poetry--I could scarcely determine to myself what
I _thought_ of it from feeling too much.

_But_ I do confess to you, my dear friend, that I suspect--through the
mist of my sensations--the poem in question to be very inferior to his
former poems; I confess that the impression left on my mind is, of
its decided inferiority, and I have heard that the poet's friends and
critics (all except _one_) are mourning over its appearance; sighing
inwardly, 'Wordsworth is old.'

One thing is clear to me, however, and over _that_ I rejoice and
triumph greatly. If you can esteem this poem of 'Grace Darling,' you
must be susceptible to the grandeur and beauty of the poems which
preceded it; and the cause of your past reluctance to recognise the
poet's power must be, as I have always suspected, from your having
given a very partial attention and consideration to his poetry. You
were partial in your attention _I_, perhaps, was injudicious in my
extracts; but with your truth and his genius, I cannot doubt but that
the time will come for your mutual amity. Oh that I could stand as a
herald of peace, with my wool-twisted fillet! I do not understand the
Greek metres as well as you do, but I understand Wordsworth's genius
better, and do you forgive that it should console me.

I will ask about his collegian extraction. Such a question never
occurred to me. Apollo taught him under the laurels, while all the
Muses looked through the boughs.

Your ever affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT,

Oh, yes, it delights me that you should be nearer. Of course you know
that Wordsworth is Laureate.[77]

[Footnote 77: Wordsworth was nominated Poet Laureate after the death
of Southey in March 1843.]


_To John Kenyan_
May 19, 1843,

Thank you, my dear cousin, for all your kindness to me. There is
ivy enough for a thyrsus, and I almost feel ready to enact a sort of
Bacchus triumphalis 'for jollitie,' as I see it already planted, and
looking in at me through the window. I never thought to see such a
sight as _that_ in my London room, and am overwhelmed with my own
glory.

And then Mr. Browning's note! Unless you say 'nay' to me, I shall keep
this note, which has pleased me so much, yet not more than it ought.
_Now_, I forgive Mr. Merivale for his hard thoughts of my easy rhymes.
But all this pleasure, my dear Mr. Kenyon, I owe to _you_, and shall
remember that I do.

Ever affectionately yours,
E.B.B.


_To Mrs. Martin_
May 26, 1843.

... I thank you for your part in the gaining of my bed, dearest Mrs.
Martin, most earnestly; and am quite ready to believe that it
was gained by _wishdom_, which believing is wisdom! No, you would
certainly never recognise my prison if you were to see it. The bed,
like a sofa and no Bed; the large table placed out in the room,
towards the wardrobe end of it; the sofa rolled where a sofa should be
rolled--opposite the arm-chair: the drawers crowned with a coronal
of shelves fashioned by Sette and Co. (of papered deal and crimson
merino) to carry my books; the washing table opposite turned into a
cabinet with another coronal of shelves; and Chaucer's and Homer's
busts in guard over these two departments of English and Greek
poetry; three more busts consecrating the wardrobe which there was no
annihilating; and the window--oh, I must take a new paragraph for the
window, I am out of breath.

In the window is fixed a deep box full of soil, where are _springing
up_ my scarlet runners, nasturtiums, and convolvuluses, although they
were disturbed a few days ago by the revolutionary insertion among
them of a great ivy root with trailing branches so long and wide that
the top tendrils are fastened to Henrietta's window of the higher
storey, while the lower ones cover all my panes. It is Mr. Kenyon's
gift. He makes the like to flourish out of mere flowerpots, and
embower his balconies and windows, and why shouldn't this flourish
with me? But certainly--there is no shutting my eyes to the fact that
it does droop a little. Papa prophesies hard things against it every
morning, 'Why, Ba, it looks worse and worse,' and everybody preaches
despondency. I, however, persist in being sanguine, looking out for
new shoots, and making a sure pleasure in the meanwhile by listening
to the sound of the leaves against the pane, as the wind lifts them
and lets them fall. Well, what do you think of my ivy? Ask Mr. Martin,
if he isn't jealous already.

Have you read 'The Neighbours,' Mary Howitt's translation of Frederica
Bremer's Swedish? Yes, perhaps. Have you read 'The Home,'[1] fresh
from the same springs? _Do_, if you have not. It has not only charmed
me, but made me happier and better: it is fuller of Christianity than
the most orthodox controversy in Christendom; and represents to
my perception or imagination a perfect and beautiful embodiment of
Christian outward life from the inward, purely and tenderly. At the
same time, I should tell you that Sette says, 'I might have liked it
ten years ago, but it is too young and silly to give me any pleasure
now.' For _me_, however, it is not too young, and perhaps it won't be
for you and Mr. Martin. As to Sette, he is among the patriarchs, to
say nothing of the lawyers--and there we leave him....

Ever your affectionate
BA.

_To John Kenyan_
50 Wimpole Street:
Wednesday, or is it Thursday? [summer 1843].

My dear Cousin,--... I send you my friend Mr. Horne's new epic,[78]
and beg you, if you have an opportunity, to drop it at Mr. Eagles'
feet, so that he may pick it up and look at it. I have not gone
through it (I have another copy), but it appears to me to be full of
fine things. As to the author's fantasy of selling it for a farthing,
I do not enter into the secret of it--unless, indeed, he should
intend a sarcasm on the age's generous patronage of poetry, which is
possible.

[Footnote 78: _Orion_, the early editions of which were sold at a
farthing, in accordance with a fancy of the author. Miss Barrett
reviewed it in the _Athenaum_ (July 1843).]


_To John Kenyan_
June 30, 1843.

Thank you, my dear Mr. Kenyon, for the Camden Society books, and also
for these which I return; and also for the hope of seeing you, which
I kept through yesterday. I honor Mrs. Coleridge for the readiness of
reasoning and integrity in reasoning, for the learning, energy, and
impartiality which she has brought to her purpose, and I agree with
her in many of her objects; and disagree, by opposing her opponents
with a fuller front than she is always inclined to do. In truth, I
can never see anything in these sacramental ordinances except a
prospective sign in one (Baptism), and a memorial sign in the
other, the Lord's Supper, and could not recognise either under any
modification as a peculiar instrument of grace, mystery, or the like.
The tendencies we have towards making mysteries of God's simplicities
are as marked and sure as our missing the actual mystery upon
occasion. God's love is the true mystery, and the sacraments are only
too simple for us to understand. So you see I have read the book in
spite of prophecies. After all I should like to cut it in two--it
would be better for being shorter--and it might be clearer also. There
is, in fact, some dullness and perplexity--a few passages which are,
to my impression, contradictory of the general purpose--something
which is not generous, about nonconformity--and what I cannot help
considering a superfluous tenderness for Puseyism. Moreover she is
certainly wrong in imagining that the ante-Nicene fathers did not as
a body teach regeneration by baptism--even Gregory Nazianzen, the most
spiritual of many, did, and in the fourth century. But, after all,
as a work of theological controversy it is very un-bitter and
well-poised, gentle, and modest, and as the work of a woman _you_ must
admire it and _we_ be proud of it--_that_ remains certain at last.

Poor Mr. Haydon! I am so sorry for his reverse in the cartoons.[79] It
is a thunderbolt to him. I wonder, in the pauses of my regret, whether
Mr. Selous is _your_ friend--whether 'Boadicea visiting the Druids,'
suggested by you, I think, as a subject, is this victorious 'Boadicea'
down for a hundred pound prize? You will tell me when you come.

I have just heard an uncertain rumour of the arrival of your brother.
If it is not all air, I congratulate you heartily upon a happiness
only not past my appreciation.

Ever affectionately yours,
E.B.B.

I send the copy of 'Orion' for _yourself_, which you asked for. It is
in the fourth edition.

[Footnote 79: This refers to the competition for the cartoons to be
painted in the Houses of Parliament, in which Haydon was unsuccessful.
The disappointment was the greater, inasmuch as the scheme for
decorating the building with historical pictures was mainly due to his
initiative.]



_To Mrs. Martin_
July 8, 1843.

Thank you, my dearest Mrs. Martin, for your kind sign of interest in
the questioning note, although I will not praise the _stenography_ of
it. I shall be as brief to-day as you, not quite out of revenge,
but because I have been writing to George and am the less prone to
activities from having caught cold in an inscrutable manner, and being
stiff and sore from head to foot and inclined to be a little feverish
and irritable of nerves. No, it is not of the slightest consequence;
I tell you the truth. But I would have written to you the day before
yesterday if it had not been for this something between cramp and
rheumatism, which was rather unbearable at first, but yesterday was
better, and is to-day better than better, and to-morrow will leave me
quite well, if I may prophesy. I only mention it lest you should have
upbraided me for not answering your note in a moment, as it deserved
to be answered. So don't put any nonsense into Georgie's head--forgive
me for beseeching you! I have been very well--downstairs seven or
eight times; lying on the floor in Papa's room; meditating _the
chair_, which would have amounted to more than a meditation except
for this little contrariety. In a day or two more, if this cool warmth
perseveres in serving me, and no Ariel refills me 'with aches,' I
shall fulfil your kind wishes perhaps and be out--and so, no more
about me!...

Oh, I do believe you think me a Cockney--a metropolitan barbarian! But
I persist in seeing no merit and no superior innocence in being shut
up even in precincts of rose-trees, away from those great sources
of human sympathy and occasions of mental elevation and instruction
without which many natures grow narrow, many others gloomy, and
perhaps, if the truth were known, very few prosper entirely, lit is
not that I, who have always lived a good deal in solitude and live
in it still more now, and love the country even painfully in my
recollections of it, would decry either one or the other--solitude
is most effective in a contrast, and if you do not break the bark
you cannot bud the tree, and, in short (not to be _in long_), I could
write a dissertation, which I will spare you, 'about it and about it.'
...

Tell George to lend you--nay, I think I will be generous and let him
give you, although the author gave me the book--the copy of the new
epic, 'Orion,' which he has with him. You have probably observed the
advertisement, and are properly instructed that Mr. Horne the poet,
who has sold three editions already at a farthing a copy, and is
selling a fourth at a shilling, and is about to sell a fifth at half
a crown (on the precise principle of the aërial machine--launching
himself into popularity by a first impulse on the people), is my
unknown friend, with whom I have corresponded these four years without
having seen his face. Do you remember the beech leaves sent to me from
Epping Forest? Yes, you must. Well, the sender is the poet, and the
poem I think a very noble one, and I want you to think so too. So
hereby I empower you to take it away from George and keep it for my
sake--if you will!

Dear Mr. Martin was so kind as to come and see me as you commanded,
and I must tell you that I thought him looking so better than well
that I was more than commonly glad to see him. Give my love to him,
and join me in as much metropolitan missionary zeal as will bring you
both to London for six months of the year. Oh, I wish you would come!
Not that it is necessary for _you_, but that it will be _so_ good for
_us_.

My ivy is growing, and I have _green blinds_, against which there is
an outcry. They say that I do it out of envy, and for the equalisation
of complexions.

Ever your affectionate,
BA.


_To Mr. Westwood_
50 Wimpole Street: August 1843.

Dear Mr. Westwood,--I thank you very much for the kindness of your
questioning, and am able to answer that notwithstanding the, as it
seems to you, fatal significance of a woman's silence, I am alive
enough to be sincerely grateful for any degree of interest spent upon
me. As to Flush, he should thank you too, but at the present moment he
is quite absorbed in finding a cool place in this room to lie down in,
having sacrificed his usual favorite place at my feet, his head upon
them, oppressed by the torrid necessity of a thermometer above 70. To
Flopsy's acquaintance he would aspire gladly, only hoping that Flopsy
does not 'delight to bark and bite,' like dogs in general, because if
he does Flush would as soon be acquainted with a _cat_, he says, for
he does not pretend to be a hero. Poor Flush! 'the bright summer days
on which I am ever likely to take him out for a ramble over hill and
meadow' are never likely to shine! But he follows, or rather leaps
into my wheeled chair, and forswears merrier company even now, to be
near me. I am a good deal better, it is right to say, and look forward
to a possible prospect of being better still, though I may be shut out
from climbing the Brocken otherwise than in a vision.

You will see by the length of the 'Legend'[80] which I send to you (in
its only printed form) _why_ I do not send it to you in manuscript.
Keep the book as long as you please. My new volume is not yet in the
press, but I am writing more and more in a view to it, pleased with
the thought that some kind hands are already stretched out in welcome
and acceptance of what it may become. Not as idle as I appear, I have
also been writing some fugitive verses for American magazines. This is
my confession. Forgive its tediousness, and believe me thankfully and
very sincerely yours,

ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 80: _The Lay of the Brown Rosary_.]


_To Mr. Westwood_
50 Wimpole Street: September 2, 1843.

Dear Mr. Westwood,--Your letter comes to remind me how much I ought to
be ashamed of myself.... I received the book in all safety, and read
your kind words about my 'Rosary' with more grateful satisfaction than
appears from the evidence. It is great pleasure to me to have written
for such readers, and it is great hope to me to be able to write for
them. The transcription of the 'Rosary' is a compliment which I never
anticipated, or you should have had the manuscript copy you asked for,
although I have not a perfect one in my hands. The poem is full of
faults, as, indeed, all my poems appear to myself to be when I look
back upon them instead of looking down. I hope to be worthier in
poetry some day of the generous appreciation which you and your
friends have paid me in advance.

Tennyson is a great poet, I think, and Browning, the author of
'Paracelsus,' has to my mind very noble capabilities. Do you know Mr.
Horne's 'Orion,' the poem published for a farthing, to the wonder of
booksellers and bookbuyers who could not understand 'the speculation
in its eyes?' There are very fine things in this poem, and altogether
I recommend it to your attention. But what is 'wanting' in Tennyson?
He can think, he can feel, and his language is highly expressive,
characteristic, and harmonious. I am very fond of Tennyson. He makes
me thrill sometimes to the end of my fingers, as only a true great
poet can.

You praise me kindly, and if, indeed, the considerations you speak of
could be true of me, I am not one who could lament having 'learnt in
suffering what I taught in song.' In any case, working for the future
and counting gladly on those who are likely to consider any work of
mine acceptable to themselves, I shall be very sure not to forget my
friends at Enfield.

Dear Mr. Westwood, I remain sincerely yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.


_To Mrs. Martin_
September 4, 1843. Finished September 5.

My dearest Mrs. Martin, ... I have had a great gratification within
this week or two in receiving a letter--nay, two letters--from Miss
Martineau, one of the last strangers in the world from whom I had any
right to expect a kindness. Yet most kind, most touching in kindness,
were both of these letters, so much so that I was not far from crying
for pleasure as I read them. She is very hopelessly ill, you are
probably aware, at Tynemouth in Northumberland, suffering agonies from
internal cancer, and conquering occasional repose by the strength of
opium, but 'almost forgetting' (to use her own words) 'to wish for
health, in the intense enjoyment of pleasures independent of the
body.' She sent me a little work of hers called 'Traditions of
Palestine.' Her friends had hoped by the stationary character of some
symptoms that the disease was suspended, but lately it is said to be
gaining ground, and the serenity and elevation of her mind are more
and more triumphantly evident as the bodily pangs thicken....

And now I am going to tell you what will surprise you, if you do not
know it already. Stormie and Georgie are passing George's vacation on
the Rhine. You are certainly surprised if you did not know it. Papa
signed and sealed them away on the ground of its being good and
refreshing for both of them, and I was even mixed up a little with the
diplomacy of it, until I found _they were going_, and then it was a
hard, terrible struggle with me to be calm and see them go. But _that_
was childish, and when I had heard from them at Ostend I grew more
satisfied again, and attained to think less of the fatal influences of
_my star_. They went away in great spirits, Stormie 'quite elated,' to
use his own words, and then at the end of the six weeks they _must_ be
at home at Sessions; and no possible way of passing the interim could
be pleasanter and better and more exhilarating for themselves. The
plan was to go from Ostend by railroad to Brussels and Cologne, then
to pass down the Rhine to Switzerland, spend a few days at Geneva, and
a week in Paris as they return. The only fear is that Stormie won't go
to Paris. We have too many friends there--a strange obstacle.

Dearest Mrs. Martin, I am doing something more than writing you a
letter, I think.

May God bless you all with the most enduring consolations! Give my
love to Mr. Martin, and believe also, both of you, in my sympathy. I
am glad that your poor Fanny should be so supported. May God bless her
and all of you!

Dearest Mrs. Martin's affectionate
BA.

I am very well for _me_, and was out in the chair yesterday.


_To H.S. Boyd_
September 8, 1843.

My very dear Friend,--I ask you humbly not to fancy me in a passion
whenever I happen to be silent. For a woman to be silent is ominous, I
know, but it need not be significant of anything quite so terrible as
ill-humour. And yet it always happens so; if I do not write I am sure
to be cross in your opinion. You set me down directly as 'hurt,' which
means _irritable_; or 'offended,' which means _sulky_; your ideal of
me having, in fact, 'its finger in its eye' all day long.

I, on the contrary, humbled as I was by your hard criticism of my soft
rhymes about Flush,[81] waited for Arabel to carry a message for me,
begging to know whether you would care at all to see my 'Cry of the
Children'[82] before I sent it to you. But Arabel went without telling
me that she was going: twice she went to St. John's Wood and made no
sign; and now I find myself thrown on my own resources. Will you see
the 'Cry of the Human'[83] or not? It will not please you, probably.
It wants melody. The versification is eccentric to the ear, and the
subject (the factory miseries) is scarcely an agreeable one to the
fancy. Perhaps altogether you had better not see it, because I know
you think me to be deteriorating, and I don't want you to have further
hypothetical evidence of so false an opinion. Humbled as I am, I say
'so false an opinion.' Frankly, if not humbly, I believe myself to
have gained power since the time of the publication of the 'Seraphim,'
and lost nothing except happiness. Frankly, if not humbly!

With regard to the 'House of Clouds'[84] I disagree both with you and
Miss Mitford, thinking it, comparatively with my other poems, neither
so bad nor so good as you two account it. It has certainly been
singled out for great praise both at home and abroad, and only
the other day Mr. Horne wrote to me to reproach me for not having
mentioned it to him, because he came upon it accidentally and
considered it 'one of my best productions.' Mr. Kenyon holds the same
opinion. As for Flush's verses, they are what I call cobweb verses,
thin and light enough; and Arabel was mistaken in telling you that
Miss Mitford gave the prize to them. Her words were, 'They are as
tender and true as anything you ever wrote, but nothing is equal to
the "House of Clouds."' Those were her words, or to that effect, and I
refer to them to you, not for the sake of Flush's verses, which really
do not appear even to myself, their writer, worth a defence, but for
the sake of _your_ judgment of _her_ accuracy in judging.

Lately I have received two letters from the profoundest woman thinker
in England, Miss Martineau--letters which touched me deeply while they
gave me pleasure I did not expect.

My poor Flush has fallen into tribulation. Think of Catiline, the
great savage Cuba bloodhound belonging to this house, attempting last
night to worry him just as the first Catiline did Cicero. Flush was
rescued, but not before he had been wounded severely: and this morning
he is on three legs and in great depression of spirits. My poor, poor
Flushie! He lies on my sofa and looks up to me with most pathetic
eyes.

Where is Annie? If I send my love to her, will it ever be found again?

May God bless you both!
Dearest Mr. Boyd's affectionate and grateful
E.B.B.

[Footnote 81: 'To Flush, my dog' (_Poetical Works_, iii. 19).]

[Footnote 82: Published in _Blackwood's Magazine_ for August 1843, and
called forth by Mr. Horne's report as assistant commissioner on the
employment of children in mines and manufactories.]

[Footnote 83: Evidently a slip of the pen for 'Children.']

[Footnote 84: _Poetical Works_, iii. 186. Mr. Boyd's opinion of it may
be learnt from Miss Barrett's letter to Horne, dated August 31, 1843
(_Letters to R.H. Horne_, i. 84): 'Mr. Boyd told me that he had read
my papers on the Greek Fathers with the more satisfaction because he
had inferred from my "House of Clouds" that illness had _impaired my
faculties_.']


_To H.S. Boyd_
Monday, September 19, 1843.

My own dear Friend,--I should have written instantly to explain myself
out of appearances which did me injustice, only I have been in such
distress as to have no courage for writing. Flush was stolen away,
and for three days I could neither sleep nor eat, nor do anything much
more rational than cry. _Confiteor tibi_, oh reverend father. And if
you call me very silly, I am so used to the reproach throughout the
week as to be hardened to the point of vanity. The worst of it is,
now, that there will be no need of more 'Houses of Clouds' to prove to
you the deterioration of my faculties. Q.E.D.

In my own defence, I really believe that my distress arose somewhat
less from the mere separation from dear little Flushie than from the
consideration of how he was breaking his heart, cast upon the cruel
world. Formerly, when he has been prevented from sleeping on my bed he
has passed the night in moaning piteously, and often he has refused to
eat from a strange hand. And then he loves me, heart to heart; there
was no exaggeration in my verses about him, if there was no poetry.
And when I heard that he cried in the street and then vanished, there
was little wonder that I, on my part, should cry in the house.

With great difficulty we hunted the dog-banditti into their caves of
the city, and bribed them into giving back their victim. Money was the
least thing to think of in such case; I would have given a thousand
pounds if I had had them in my hand. The audacity of the wretched men
was marvellous. They said that they had been 'about stealing Flush
these two years,' and warned us plainly to take care of him for the
future.

The joy of the meeting between Flush and me would be a good subject
for a Greek ode--I recommend it to you. It might take rank next to the
epical parting of Hector and Andromache. He dashed up the stairs into
my room and into my arms, where I hugged him and kissed him, black as
he was--black as if imbued in a distillation of St. Giles's. Ah, I
can break jests about it _now_, you see. Well, to go back to the
explanations I promised to give you, I must tell you that Arabel
_perfectly forgot_ to say a word to me about 'Blackwood' and your wish
that I should send the magazine. It was only after I heard that you
had procured it yourself, and after I mentioned this to her, that she
remembered her omission all at once. Therefore I am quite vexed and
disappointed, I beg you to believe--_I_, who have pleasure in giving
you any printed verses of mine that you care to have. Never mind! I
may print another volume before long, and lay it at your feet. In
the meantime, you _endure_ my 'Cry of the Children' better than I had
anticipated--just because I never anticipated your being able to read
it to the end, and was over-delicate of placing it in your hands
on that very account. My dearest Mr. Boyd, you are right in your
complaint against the rhythm. The first stanza came into my head in a
hurricane, and I was obliged to make the other stanzas like it--_that_
is the whole mystery of the iniquity. If you look Mr. Lucas from head
to foot, you will never find such a rhythm on his person. The whole
crime of the versification belongs to _me_. So blame _me_, and by no
means another poet, and I will humbly confess that I deserve to be
blamed in some _measure_. There is a roughness, my own ear being
witness, and I give up the body of my criminal to the rod of your
castigation, kissing the last as if it were Flush.

A report runs in London that Mr. Boyd says of Elizabeth Barrett: 'She
is a person of the most perverted judgment in England.' Now, if this
be true, I shall not mend my evil position in your opinion, my very
dear friend, by confessing that I differ with you, the more the longer
I live, on the ground of what you call 'jumping lines.' I am speaking
not of particular cases, but of the principle, the general principle,
of these cases, and the tenacity of my judgment does not arise from
the teaching of 'Mr. Lucas,' but from the deeper study of the old
master-poets--English poets--those of the Elizabeth and James ages,
before the corruption of French rhythms stole in with Waller and
Denham, and was acclimated into a national inodorousness by Dryden
and Pope. We differ so much upon this subject that we must proceed
by agreeing to differ, and end, perhaps, by finding it agreeable to
differ; there can be no possible use in an argument. Only you must be
upright in justice, and find Wordsworth innocent of misleading me. So
far from having read him more within these three years, I have read
him _less_, and have taken no new review, I do assure you, of his
position and character as a poet, and these facts are testified unto
by the other fact that my poetry, neither in its best features nor its
worst, is adjusted after the fashion of his school.

But I am writing too much; you will have no patience with me. 'The
Excursion' is accused of being lengthy, and so you will tell me that I
convict myself of plagiarism, _currente calamo_.

I have just finished a poem of some eight hundred lines, called
'The Vision of Poets,'[85] philosophical, allegorical--anything but
popular. It is in stanzas, every one an octosyllabic triplet, which
you will think odd, and I have not _sanguinity_ enough to defend.

May God bless you, my dearest Mr. Boyd! Yes, I heard--I was glad to
hear--of your having resumed that which used to be so great a pleasure
to you--Miss Marcus's society. I remain,

Affectionately and gratefully yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

My love to dear Annie.

[Footnote 85: _Poetical Works_, i. 223.]


_To Mr. Westwood_
October 1843.

You are probably right in respect to Tennyson, for whom, with all
my admiration of him, I would willingly secure more exaltation and a
broader clasping of truth. Still, it is not possible to have so
much beauty without a certain portion of truth, the position of the
Utilitarians being true in the inverse. But I think as I did of 'uses'
and 'responsibilities,' and do hold that the poet is a preacher and
must look to his doctrine.

Perhaps Mr. Tennyson will grow more solemn, like the sun, as his day
goes on. In the meantime we have the noble 'Two Voices,' and, among
other grand intimations of a teaching power, certain stanzas to J.K.
(I think the initials are) on the death of his brother,[86] which very
deeply affected me.

Take away the last stanzas, which should be applied more definitely
to the _body_, or cut away altogether as a lie against eternal verity,
and the poem stands as one of the finest of monodies. The nature of
human grief never surely was more tenderly intimated or touched--it
brought tears to my eyes. Do read it. He is not a Christian poet, up
to this time, but let us listen and hear his next songs. He is one of
God's singers, whether he knows it or does not know it.

I am thinking, lifting up my pen, what I can write to you which
is likely to be interesting to you. After all I come to chaos and
silence, and even old night--it is growing so dark. I live in London,
to be sure, and except for the glory of it I might live in a desert,
so profound is my solitude and so complete my isolation from things
and persons without. I lie all day, and day after day, on the sofa,
and my windows do not even look into the street. To abuse myself with
a vain deceit of rural life I have had ivy planted in a box, and it
has flourished and spread over one window, and strikes against the
glass with a little stroke from the thicker leaves when the wind blows
at all briskly. _Then_ I think of forests and groves; it is my triumph
when the leaves strike the window pane, and this is not a sound like
a lament. Books and thoughts and dreams (almost too consciously
_dreamed_, however, for me--the illusion of them has almost passed)
and domestic tenderness can and ought to leave nobody lamenting.
Also God's wisdom, deeply steeped in His love, _is_ as far as we can
stretch out our hands.

[Footnote 86: The lines 'To J.S.,' which begin:

  'The wind that beats the mountain blows
  More softly round the open wold.'



_To Mr. Westwood_
50 Wimpole Street: December 26, 1843.

Dear Mr. Westwood,--You think me, perhaps, and not without apparent
reason, ungrateful and insensible to your letter, but indeed I am
neither one nor the other, and I am writing now to try and prove it to
you. I was much touched by some tones of kindness in the letter, and
it was welcome altogether, and I did not need the 'owl' which came
after to waken me, because I was wide awake enough from the first
moment; and now I see that you have been telling your beads, while I
seemed to be telling nothing, in that dread silence of mine. May all
true saints of poetry be propitious to the wearer of the 'Rosary.'

In answer to a question which you put to me long ago on the subject
of books of theology, I will confess to you that, although I have read
rather widely the divinity of the Greek Fathers, Gregory, Chrysostom,
and so forth, and have of course informed myself in the works
generally of our old English divines, Hooker, Jeremy Taylor, and so
forth, I am not by any means a frequent reader of books of theology as
such, and as the men of our times have made them. I have looked into
the 'Tracts' from curiosity and to hear what the world was talking
of, and I was disappointed _even_ in the degree of intellectual power
displayed in them. From motives of a desire of theological instruction
I very seldom read any book except God's own. The minds of persons are
differently constituted; and it is no praise to mine to admit that
I am apt to receive less of what is called edification from human
discourses on divine subjects, than disturbance and hindrance. I read
the Scriptures every day, and in as simple a spirit as I can; thinking
as little as possible of the controversies engendered in that great
sunshine, and as much as possible of the heat and glory belonging to
it. It is a sure fact in my eyes that we do not require so much _more
knowledge_, as a stronger apprehension, by the faith and affections,
of what we already know.

You will be sorry to hear that Mr. Tennyson is not well, although
his friends talk of nervousness, and do not fear much ultimate
mischief....[87]

It is such a lovely _May_ day, that I am afraid of breaking the spell
by writing down Christmas wishes.

Very faithfully yours,
ELIZABETH BARRETT.

[Footnote 87: About the same date she writes to Home (_Letters to R.H.
Horne_, i. 86): 'I am very glad to hear that nothing really very bad
is the matter with Tennyson. If anything were to happen to Tennyson,
the world should go into mourning.']


_To Mr. Westwood_
50 Wimpole Street: December 31, 1843.

If you do find the paper I was invited to write upon Wordsworth[88],
you will see to which class of your admiring or abhorring friends
I belong. Perhaps you will cry out quickly, 'To the blind admirers,
certes.' And I have a high admiration of Wordsworth. His spirit has
worked a good work, and has freed into the capacity of work other
noble spirits. He took the initiative in a great poetic movement, and
is not only to be praised for what he has done, but for what he
has helped his age to do. For the rest, Byron has more passion and
intensity, Shelley more fancy and music, Coleridge could see further
into the unseen, and not one of those poets has insulted his own
genius by the production of whole poems, such as I could name of
Wordsworth's, the vulgarity of which is childish, and the childishness
vulgar. Still, the wings of his genius are wide enough to cast a
shadow over its feet, and our gratitude should be stronger than our
critical acumen. Yes, I _will_ be a blind admirer of Wordsworth's. I
_will_ shut my eyes and be blind. Better so, than see too well for the
thankfulness which is his due from me....

Yes, I mean to print as much as I can find and make room for, 'Brown
Rosary' and all. I am glad you liked 'Napoleon,'[89] but I shall be
more glad if you decide when you see this new book that I have made
some general progress in strength and expression. Sometimes I rise
into hoping that I may have done so, or may do so still more.

The poet's work is no light work. His wheat will not grow without
labour any more than other kinds of wheat, and the sweat of the
spirit's brow is wrung by a yet harder necessity. And, thinking so, I
am inclined to a little regret that you should have hastened your book
even for the sake of a sentiment. Now you will be angry with me....

There are certain difficulties in the way of the critic
unprofessional, as I know by experience. Our most sweet voices
are scarcely admissible among the most sour ones of the regular
brotherhood....

Harriet Martineau is quite well,'trudging miles together in the snow,'
when the snow was, and in great spirits. Wordsworth is to be in London
in the spring. Tennyson is dancing the polka and smoking cloud upon
cloud at Cheltenham. Robert Browning is meditating a new poem, and an
excursion on the Continent. Miss Mitford came to spend a day with me
some ten days ago; sprinkled, as to the soul, with meadow dews. Am I
at the end of my account? I think so.

Did you read 'Blackwood'? and in that case have you had deep delight
in an exquisite paper by the Opium-eater, which my heart trembled
through from end to end? What a poet that man is! how he vivifies
words, or deepens them, and gives them profound significance....

I understand that poor Hood is supposed to be dying, really dying, at
last. Sydney Smith's last laugh mixes with his, or nearly so. But
Hood had a deeper heart, in one sense, than Sydney Smith, and is the
material of a greater man.

And what are you doing? Writing--reading--or musing of either? Are you
a reviewer-man--in opposition to the writer? Once, reviewing was my
besetting sin, but now it is only my frailty. Now that I lie here
at the mercy of every reviewer, I save myself by an instinct of
self-preservation from that 'gnawing tooth' (as Homer and Aeschylus
did rightly call it), and spring forward into definite work and
thought. Else, I should perish. Do you understand that? If you are a
reviewer-man you will, and if not, you must set it down among those
mysteries of mine which people talk of as profane.

May God bless you, &c. &c.
ELIZABETH BARRETT.

[Footnote 88: In the _Athenaeum_.]

[Footnote 89: 'Crowned and Buried' (_Poetical Works_, iii. 9).]


_To Mr. Westwood_
[Undated.]

You know as well as I do how the plague of rhymers, and of bad rhymes,
is upon the land, and it was only three weeks ago that, at a 'Literary
Institute' at Brighton, I heard of the Reverend somebody Stoddart
gravely proposing 'Poetry for the Million' to his audience; he
assuring them that 'poets made a mystery of their art,' but that in
fact nothing except an English grammar, and a rhyming dictionary, and
some instruction about counting on the fingers, was necessary in order
to make a poet of any man!

_This_ is a fact. And to this extent has the art, once called divine,
been desecrated among the educated classes of our country.

Very sincerely yours,
ELIZABETH BARRETT.

Besides the poems, to which reference has been made in the above
letters, Miss Barrett was engaged, during the year 1843, in
co-operating with her friend Mr. Home in the production of his great
critical enterprise, 'The New Spirit of the Age.' In this the much
daring author undertook no less a task than that of passing a sober
and serious judgment on his principal living comrades in the world of
letters. Not unnaturally he ended by bringing a hornets' nest about
his ears--alike of those who thought they should have been mentioned
and were not, and of those who were mentioned but in terms which did
not satisfy the good opinion of themselves with which Providence had
been pleased to gift them. The volumes appeared under Home's name
alone, and he took the whole responsibility; but he invited assistance
from others, and in particular used the collaboration of Miss Barrett
to no small extent. She did not indeed contribute any complete essay
to his work; but she expressed her opinion, when invited, on several
writers, in a series of elaborate letters, which were subsequently
worked up by Home into his own criticisms.[90] The secret of her
cooperation was carefully kept, and she does not appear to have
suffered any of the evil consequences of his indiscretions, real or
imagined. Another contribution from her consisted of the suggestion of
mottoes appropriate to each writer noticed at length; and in this work
she had an unknown collaborator in the person of Robert Browning. So
ends the somewhat uneventful year of 1843.

[Footnote 90: Her contributions to the essays on Tennyson and Carlyle
have recently been printed in Messrs. Nichols and Wise's _Literary
Anecdotes of the Nineteenth Century_, i. 33, ii. 105.]



CHAPTER IV

1844-46


The year 1844 marks an important epoch in the life of Mrs. Browning.
It was in this year that, as a result of the publication of her two
volumes of 'Poems,' she won her general and popular recognition as a
poetess whose rank was with the foremost of living writers. It was six
years since she had published a volume of verse; and in the meanwhile
she had been gaining strength and literary experience. She had tried
her wings in the pages of popular periodicals. She had profited by
the criticisms on her earlier work, and by intercourse with men of
letters; and though her defects in literary art were by no means
purged away, yet the flights of her inspiration were stronger and
more assured. The result is that, although the volumes of 1844 do not
contain absolutely her best work--no one with the 'Sonnets from the
Portuguese' in his mind can affirm so much as that--they contain that
which has been most generally popular, and which won her the position
which for the rest of her life she held in popular estimation among
the leaders of English poetry.

The principal poem in these two volumes is the 'Drama of Exile.' Of
the genesis of this work, Miss Barrett gives the following account in
a letter to Home, dated December 28 1843:

'A volume full of manuscripts had been ready for more than a year,
when suddenly, a short time ago, when I fancied I had no heavier work
than to make copy and corrections, I fell upon a fragment of a sort
of masque on "The First Day's Exile from Eden"--or rather it fell upon
me, and beset me till I would finish it.'[91]

[Footnote 91: _Letters to R.H. Home_, ii. 146.]

At one time it was intended to use its name as the title to the two
volumes; but this design was abandoned, and they appeared under the
simple description of 'Poems, by Elizabeth Barrett Barrett.' The
'Vision of Poets' comes next in length to the 'Drama'; and among the
shorter pieces were several which rank among her best work, 'The Cry
of the Children,' 'Wine of Cyprus,' 'The Dead Pan,' 'Bertha in the
Lane,' 'Crowned and Buried,' 'The Mourning Mother,' and 'The Sleep,'
together with such popular favourites as 'Lady Geraldine's Courtship,'
'The Romaunt of the Page,' and 'The Rhyme of the Duchess May.' Since
the publication of 'The Seraphim' volume, the new era of poetry had
developed itself to a notable extent. Tennyson had published the
best of his earlier verse, 'Locksley Hall,' 'Ulysses,' the 'Morte
d'Arthur,' 'The Lotus Eaters,' 'A Dream of Fair Women,' and many more;
Browning had issued his wonderful series of 'Bells and Pomegranates,'
including 'Pippa Passes,' 'King Victor and King Charles,' 'Dramatic
Lyrics,' 'The Return of the Druses,' and 'The Blot on the 'Scutcheon';
and it was among company such as this that Miss Barrett, by general
consent, now took her place.


_To Mrs. Martin_
January 8, 1844.

Thank you again and again, my dearest Mrs. Martin, for your flowers,
and the verses which gave them another perfume. The 'incense of the
heart' lost not a grain of its perfume in coming so far, and not a
leaf of the flowers was ruffled, and to see such gorgeous colours all
on a sudden at Christmas time was like seeing a vision, and almost
made Flush and me rub our eyes. Thank you, dearest Mrs. Martin; how
kind of you! The grace of the verses and the brightness of the flowers
were too much for me altogether. And when George exclaimed, 'Why, she
has certainly laid bare her greenhouse,' I had not a word to say in
justification of myself for being the cause of it.

Papa admired the branch of Australian origin so much that he walked
all over the house with it. Beautiful it is indeed; but my eyes turn
back to the camellias. I do believe that I like to look at a camellia
better than at a rose; and then _these_ have a double association....

I meant to write a long letter to you to-day, but Mr. Kenyon has
been to see me and cut my time short before post time. You remember,
perhaps, how his brother married a German, and, after an exile of many
years in Germany, returned last summer to England to settle. Well, he
can't bear us any longer! His wife is growing paler and paler with the
pressure of English social habits, or rather unsocial habits; and he
himself is a German at heart; and besides, being a man of a singularly
generous nature, and accustomed to give away in handfuls of silver
and gold one-third of every year's income, he dislikes the social
obligation of _spending_ it here. So they are going back. Poor Mr.
Kenyon! I am full of sympathy with him. This returning to England
was a dream of all last year to him. He gave up his house to the new
comers, and bought a new one; and talked of the brightness secured to
his latter years by the presence of his only remaining near relative;
and I see that, for all his effort towards a bright view of the
matter, he is disappointed--very. Should you suppose that four hundred
pounds in Vienna go as far as a thousand in England? I should never
have fancied it.

You shall hear from me, my dearest Mrs. Martin, in another few days;
and I send this as it is, just because I am benighted by the post
hour, and do not like to pass your kindness with even one day's
apparent neglect.

May God bless you and dear Mr. Martin. The kindest wishes for the long
slope of coming year, and for the many, I trust, beyond it, belong to
you from the deepest of our hearts.

But shall you not be coming--setting out--very soon, before I can
write again?

Your affectionate
BA.


_To John Kenyan_
[?January 1844.]

I am so sorry, dear Mr. Kenyon, to hear--which I did, last night, for
the first time--of your being unwell. I had hoped that to-day would
bring a better account, but your note, with its next week prospect, is
disappointing. The 'ignominy' would have been very preferable--to us,
at least, particularly as it need not have lasted beyond to-day,
dear Georgie being quite recovered, and at his law again, and no more
symptoms of small-pox in anybody. We should all be well, if it were
not for me and my cough, which is better, but I am not quite well, nor
have yet been out.

A letter came to me from dear Miss Mitford a few days since, which
I had hoped to talk to you about. Some of the subject of it is Mr.
Kenyon's '_only fault_,' which ought, of course, to be a large one to
weigh against the multitudinous ones of other people, but which seems
to be: 'He has the habit of walking in without giving notice. He
thinks it saves trouble, whereas in a small family, and at a distance
from a town, the effect is that one takes care to be provided for the
whole time that one expects him, and then, by some exquisite ill luck,
on the only day when one's larder is empty, in he comes!' And so, if
you have not written to interrupt her in this process of indefinite
expectation, the 'only fault' will, in her eyes, grow, as it ought, as
large as fifty others.

I do hope, dear Mr. Kenyon, soon to hear that you are better--and
well--and that your course of prophecy may not run smooth all through
next week.

Very truly yours,
E. BARRETT.


Saturday.
_To John Kenyon_
Saturday night [about March 1844].

I return Mr. Burges's criticism, which I omitted to talk to you of
this morning, but which interested me much in the reading. Do let him
understand how obliged to him I am for permitting me to look, for a
moment, according to his view of the question. Perhaps my poetical
sense is not convinced all through, and certainly my critical sense
is not worth convincing, but I am delighted to be able to call by
the name of Aeschylus, under the authority of Mr. Burges, those noble
electrical lines (electrical for double reasons) which had struck
me twenty times as Aeschylean, when I read them among the recognised
fragments of Sophocles. You hear Aeschylus's footsteps and voice in
the lines. No other of the gods could tread so heavily, or speak so
like thundering.

I wrote all this to begin with, hesitating how else to begin. My
very dear and kind friend, you understand--do you not?--through an
expression which, whether written or spoken, must remain imperfect, to
what deep, full feeling of gratitude your kindness has moved me.[92]
The good you have done me, and just at the moment when I should have
failed altogether without it, and in more than one way, and in a
deeper than the obvious degree--all this I know better than you do,
and I thank you for it from the bottom of my heart. I shall never
forget it, as long as I live to remember anything. The book may fail
signally after all--_that_ is another question; but I shall not fail,
to begin with, and _that_ I owe to _you_, for I was falling to pieces
in nerves and spirits when you came to help me. I had only enough
instinct left to be ashamed, a little, afterwards, of having sent you,
in company, too, with Miss Martineau's heroic cheerfulness, that note
of weak because unavailing complaint. It was a long compressed feeling
breaking suddenly into words. Forgive and forget that I ever so
troubled you--no, 'troubled' is not the word for your kindness!--and
remember, as I shall do, the great good you have done me.

May God bless you, my dear cousin.

Affectionately yours always,
E.B.B.

[Footnote 92: Referring to Mr. Kenyon's encouraging comments on the
'Drama of Exile,' which he had seen in manuscript at a time when Miss
Barrett was very despondent about it.]


This note is not to be answered.

I am thinking of writing to Moxon, as there does not seem much to
arrange. The type and size of Tennyson's books seem, upon examination,
to suit my purpose excellently.


_To John Kenyan_
March 21, 1844.

No, you never sent me back Miss Martineau's letter, my dear cousin;
but you will be sure, or rather Mr. Crabb Robinson will, to find it in
some too safe a place; and then I shall have it. In the meantime here
are the other letters back again. You will think that I was keeping
them for a deposit, a security, till I 'had my ain again,' but I have
only been idle and busy together. They are the most interesting that
can be, and have quite delighted me. By the way, _I_, who saw nothing
to object to in the 'Life in the Sick Room,' object very much to her
argument in behalf of it--an argument certainly founded on a miserable
misapprehension of the special doctrine referred to in her letter.
There is nothing so elevating and ennobling to the nature and mind
of man as the view which represents it raised into communion with God
Himself, by the justification and purification of God Himself. Plato's
dream brushed by the gate of this doctrine when it walked highest, and
won for him the title of 'Divine.' That it is vulgarised sometimes by
narrow-minded teachers in theory, and by hypocrites in action, might
be an argument (if admitted at all) against all truth, poetry, and
music!

On the other hand, I was glad to see the leaning on the Education
question; in which all my friends the Dissenters did appear to me so
painfully wrong and so unworthily wrong at once.

And Southey's letters! I did quite delight in _them_! They are more
_personal_ than any I ever saw of his; and have more warm every-day
life in them.

The particular Paul Pry in question (to come down to _my_ life) never
'intrudes.' It is his peculiarity. And I put the stop exactly where I
was bid; and was going to put Gabriel's speech,[93] only--with the
pen in my hand to do it--I found that the angel was a little too
exclamatory altogether, and that he had cried out, 'O ruined earth!'
and 'O miserable angel!' just before, approaching to the habit of a
mere caller of names. So I altered the passage otherwise; taking care
of your full stop after 'despair.' Thank you, my dear Mr. Kenyon.

Also I sent enough manuscript for the first sheet, and a note to
Moxon yesterday, last night, thanking him for his courtesy about Leigh
Hunt's poems; and following your counsel in every point. 'Only last
night,' you will say! But I have had _such_ a headache--and some very
painful vexation in the prospect of my maid's leaving me, who has been
with me throughout my illness; so that I am much attached to her,
with the best reasons for being so, while the idea of a stranger is
scarcely tolerable to me under my actual circumstances.

The 'Palm Leaves'[94] are full of strong thought and good
thought--thought expressed excellently well; but of poetry, in
the true sense, and of imagination in any, I think them bare and
cold--somewhat wintry leaves to come from the East, surely, surely!

May the change of air be rapid in doing you good--the weather seems to
be softening on purpose for you. May God bless you, dear Mr. Kenyon;
I never can thank you enough. When you return I shall be rustling my
'proofs' about you, to prove my faith in your kindness.

Ever affectionately yours,
E.B.B.

[Footnote 93: In the 'Drama of Exile,' near the beginning (_Poetical
Works_, i. 7).]

[Footnote 94: By Monckton Milnes, afterwards Lord Houghton.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
March 22, 1844.

My dearest Mr. Boyd,--I heard that once I wrote three times too long
a letter to you; I am aware that nine times too long a silence is
scarcely the way to make up for it. Forgive me, however, as far as you
can, for every sort of fault. When I once begin to write to you, I do
not know how to stop; and I have had so much to do lately as scarcely
to know how to begin to write to you. _Hence these_ faults--not quite
tears--in spite of my penitence and the quotation.

At last my book is in the press. My great poem (in the modest
comparative sense), my 'Masque of Exile' (as I call it at last[95]),
consists of some nineteen hundred or two thousand lines, and I call it
'Masque of _Exile_' because it refers to Lucifer's exile, and to that
other mystical exile of the Divine Being which was the means of the
return homewards of my Adam and Eve. After the exultation of boldness
of composition, I fell into one of my deepest fits of despondency, and
at last, at the end of most painful vacillations, determined not to
print it. Never was a manuscript so near the fire as my 'Masque' was.
I had not even the instinct of applying for help to anybody. In the
midst of this Mr. Kenyon came in by accident, and asked about my poem.
I told him that I had given it up, despairing of my republic. In the
kindest way he took it into his hands, and proposed to carry it home
and read it, and tell me his impression. 'You know,' he said, 'I have
a prejudice against these sacred subjects for poetry, but then I have
another prejudice _for you_, and one may neutralise the other.' The
next day I had a letter from him with the returned manuscript--a
letter which I was absolutely certain, before I opened it, would
counsel _against_ the publication. On the contrary! His impression is
clearly in favour of the poem, and, while he makes sundry criticisms
on minor points, he considers it very superior as a whole to anything
I ever did before--more sustained, and fuller in power. So my nerves
are braced, and I grow a man again; and the manuscript, as I told you,
is in the press. Moreover, you will be surprised to hear that I think
of bringing out _two volumes of poems_ instead of one, by advice
of Mr. Moxon, the publisher. Also, the Americans have commanded an
American edition, to come out in numbers, either a little before or
simultaneously with the English one, and provided with a separate
preface for themselves.

There now! I have told you all this, knowing your kindness, and that
you will care to hear of it.

It has given me the greatest concern to hear of dear Annie's illness,
and I do hope, both for your sake and for all our sakes, that we may
have better news of her before long.

But I don't mean to fall into another scrape to-day by writing too
much. May God bless you, my very dear friend!

I am ever your affectionate
E.B.B.


[Footnote 95: There was, however, a still later last, when it became
the 'Drama of Exile.']


_To H.S. Boyd_
April I, 1844.

My very dear Friend,--Your kind letter I was delighted to receive. You
mistake a good deal the capacities in judgment of 'the man.'[96] The
'man' is highly refined in his tastes, and leaning to the classical
(I was going to say to _your_ classical, only suddenly I thought of
Ossian) a good deal more than I do. He has written satires in the
manner of Pope, which admirers of Pope have praised warmly and
deservedly. If I had hesitated about the conclusiveness of his
judgments, it would have been because of his confessed indisposition
towards subjects religious and ways mystical, and his occasional
insufficient indulgence for rhymes and rhythms which he calls
'_Barrettian_.' But these things render his favourable inclination
towards my 'Drama of Exile' still more encouraging (as you will see)
to my hopes for it.

Still, I do tremble a good deal inwardly when I come to think of
what your own thoughts of my poem, and poems in their two-volume
development, may finally be. I am afraid of you. You will tell me the
truth as it appears to you--upon _that_ I may rely; and I should not
wish you to suppress a single disastrous thought for the sake of the
unpleasantness it may occasion to me. My own faith is that I have made
progress since 'The Seraphim,' only it is too possible (as I confess
to myself and you) that your opinion may be exactly contrary to it.

You are very kind in what you say about wishing to have some
conversation, as the medium of your information upon architecture,
with Octavius--Occy, as we call him. He is very much obliged to you,
and proposes, if it should not be inconvenient to you, to call upon
you on Friday, with Arabel, at about one o'clock. Friday is mentioned
because it is a holiday, no work being done at Mr. Barry's. Otherwise
he is engaged every day (except, indeed, Sunday) from nine in the
morning to five in the afternoon. May God bless you, dearest Mr. Boyd.
I am ever

Your affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 96: John Kenyon: see the last letter.]


_To Mr. Westwood_
April 16, 1844.

... Surely, surely, it was not likely I should lean to utilitarianism
in the notice on Carlyle, as I remember the writer of that
article leans somewhere--_I_, who am reproached with
trans-trans-transcendentalisms, and not without reason, or with
insufficient reason.

Oh, and I should say also that Mr. Home, in his kindness, has enlarged
considerably in his annotations and reflections on me personally.[97]
My being in correspondence with all the Kings of the East, for
instance, is an exaggeration, although literary work in one way will
bring with it, happily, literary association in others.... Still, I am
not a great letter writer, and I don't write 'elegant Latin verses,'
as all the gods of Rome know, and I have not been shut up in the dark
for seven years by any manner of means. By the way, a barrister said
to my barrister brother the other day, 'I suppose your sister is
dead?' 'Dead?' said he, a little struck; 'dead?' 'Why, yes. After Mr.
Home's account of her being sealed up hermetically in the dark for so
many years, one can only calculate upon her being dead by this time.'

ELIZABETH BARRETT.

Several of the letters to Mr. Boyd which follow refer to that
celebrated gift of Cyprus wine which led to the composition of one of
Miss Barrett's best known and most quoted poems.

[Footnote 97: In _The New Spirit of the Age_.]



_To H.S. Boyd_
June 18, 1844.

Thank you, my very dear friend! I write to you drunk with Cyprus.
Nothing can be worthier of either gods or demi-gods; and if, as you
say, Achilles did not drink of it, I am sorry for him. I suppose
Jupiter had it instead, just then--Hebe pouring it, and Juno's ox-eyes
bellowing their splendour at it, if you will forgive me that broken
metaphor, for the sake of Aeschylus's genius, and my own particular
intoxication.

Indeed, there _never was_, in modern days, such wine. Flush, to whom
I offered the last drop in my glass, felt it was supernatural, and
ran away. I have an idea that if he had drunk that drop, he would have
talked afterwards--either Greek or English.

Never was such wine! The very taste of ideal nectar, only stiller,
from keeping. If the bubbles of eternity were on it, _we_ should run
away, perhaps, like Flush.

Still, the thought comes to me, ought I to take it from you? Is it
right of me? are you not too kind in sending it? and should you be
allowed to be too kind? In any case, you must, not think of sending me
more than you have already sent. It is more than enough, and I am not
less than very much obliged to you.

I have passed the middle of my second volume, and I only hope that
critics may say of the rest that it smells of Greek wine. Dearest Mr.
Boyd's

Ever affectionate
E.B. BARRETT.


_To Mr. Westwood_
June 28, 1844.

My dear Mr. Westwood,--I have certainly and considerably increased
the evidence of my own death by the sepulchral silence of the last few
days. But after all I am not dead, not even _at heart_, so as to be
insensible to your kind anxiety, and I can assure you of this, upon
very fair authority, neither is the book dead yet. It has turned the
corner of the _felo de se_, and if it is to die, it will be by the
critics. The mystery of the long delay, it would not be very easy for
me to explain, notwithstanding I hear Mr. Moxon says: 'I suppose Miss
Barrett is not in a hurry about her publication;' and _I_ say: 'I
suppose Moxon is not in a hurry about the publication.' There may be
a little fault on my side, when I have kept a proof a day beyond the
hour, or when 'copy' has put out new buds in my hands as I passed it
to the printer's. Still, in my opinion, it is a good deal more the
fault of Mr. Moxon's not being in a hurry, than in the excessive
virtue of my patience, or vice of my indolence. Miss Mitford says, as
you do, that she never heard of so slow-footed a book.


_To H.S. Boyd_
50 Wimpole Street:
Wednesday, August I, 1844 [postmark].

My very dear Friend,--Have you expected to hear from me? and are you
vexed with me? I am a little ambitious of the first item--yet hopeful
of an escape from the last. If you did but know how I am pressed for
time, and how I have too much to do every day, you would forgive
me for my negligence; even if you had sent me nectar instead of
mountain,[98] and I had neglected laying my gratitude at your
feet. Last Saturday, upon its being discovered that my first volume
consisted of only 208 pages, and my second of 280 pages, Mr. Moxon
uttered a cry of reprehension, and wished to tear me to pieces by his
printers, as the Bacchantes did Orpheus. Perhaps you might have heard
my head moaning all the way to St. John's Wood! He wanted to tear away
several poems from the end of the second volume, and tie them on to
the end of the first! I could not and would not hear of this, because
I had set my mind on having 'Dead Pan' to conclude with. So there was
nothing for it but to finish a ballad poem called 'Lady Geraldine's
Courtship,' which was lying by me, and I did so by writing, i.e.
composing, _one hundred and forty lines last Saturday!_[99] I seemed
to be in a dream all day! Long lines too--with fifteen syllables in
each! I see you shake your head all this way off. Moreover it is a
'romance of the age,' treating of railroads, routes, and all manner
of 'temporalities,' and in so radical a temper that I expect to be
reproved for it by the Conservative reviews round. By the way, did I
tell you of the good news I had from America the third of this month?
The 'Drama of Exile' is in the hands of a New York publisher; and
having been submitted to various chief critics of the country on its
way, was praised loudly and extravagantly. This was, however, by a
_private reading_ only. A bookseller at Philadelphia had announced it
for publication--he intended to take it up when the English edition
reached America; but upon its being represented to him that the New
York publisher had proof sheets direct from the author and would give
copy money, he abandoned his intention to the other. I confess I feel
very much pleased at the kind spirit--the spirit of eager kindness
indeed--with which the Americans receive my poetry. It is not wrong
to be pleased, I hope. In this country there may be mortifications
waiting for me; quite enough to keep my modesty in a state of
cultivation. I do not know. I hope the work will be out this week, and
_then_! Did I explain to you that what 'Lady Geraldine's Courtship'
was wanted for was to increase the size of the first volume, so as to
restore the equilibrium of volumes, without dislocating 'Pan'? Oh, how
anxious I shall be to hear your opinion! If you tell me that I have
lost my intellects, what in the world shall I do _then_--what _shall_
I do? My Americans--that is, my Americans who were in at the private
reading, and perhaps I myself--are of opinion that I have made
great progress since 'The Seraphim.' It seems to me that I have more
_reach_, whether in thought or language. But then, to _you_ it may
appear quite otherwise, and I shall be very melancholy if it does.
Only you must tell me the _precise truth_; and I trust to you that you
will let me have it in its integrity.

All the life and strength which are in me, seem to have passed into my
poetry. It is my _pou sto_--not to move the world; but to live on in.

I must not forget to tell you that there is a poem towards the end of
the second volume, called 'Cyprus Wine,' which I have done myself the
honor and pleasure of associating with your name. I thought that you
would not be displeased by it, as a proof of grateful regard from me.

Talking of wines, the Mountain has its attraction, but certainly is
not to be compared to the Cyprus. You will see how I have praised the
latter. Well, now I must say 'good-bye,' which you will praise _me_
for!

Dearest Mr. Boyd's affectionate
E.B.B.

P.S.--_Nota bene_--I wish to forewarn you that I have cut away in the
text none of my vowels by apostrophes. When I say 'To efface,'
wanting two-syllable measure, I do not write 'T' efface' as in the old
fashion, but 'To efface' full length. This is the style of the day.
Also you will find me a little lax perhaps in metre--a freedom which
is the result not of carelessness, but of _conviction_, and indeed of
much patient study of the great Fathers of English poetry--not meaning
Mr. Pope. Be as patient with me as you can. You shall have the volumes
as soon as they are ready.


[Footnote 98: Evidently a reference to the name of some wine (perhaps
Montepulciano) sent her by Mr. Boyd. See the end of the letter.]

[Footnote 99: It will be observed that this is not quite the same as
the current legend, which asserts that the whole poem (of 412 lines)
was composed in twelve hours.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
August 6, 1844.

My very dear Friend,--I cannot be certain, from my recollections,
whether I did or did not write to you before, as you suggest; but
as you never received the letter and I was in a continual press of
different thoughts, the probability is that I did not write. The
Cyprus wine in the second vial I certainly _did_ receive; and was
grateful to you with the whole force of the aroma of it. And now I
will tell you an anecdote.

In the excess of my filial tenderness, I poured out a glass for papa,
and offered it to him with my right hand.

'_What is this_?' said he.

'_Taste it_,' said I as laconically, but with more emphasis.

He raised it to his lips; and, after a moment, recoiled, with such
a face as sinned against Adam's image, and with a shudder of deep
disgust.

'Why,' he said, 'what most beastly and nauseous thing is this? Oh,' he
said, 'what detestable drug is this? Oh, oh,' he said, 'I shall never,
never, get this horrible taste out of my mouth.'

I explained with the proper degree of dignity that 'it was Greek wine,
Cyprus wine, and of very great value.'

He retorted with acrimony, that 'it might be Greek, twice over; but
that it was exceedingly beastly.'

I resumed, with persuasive argument, that 'it could scarcely be
beastly, inasmuch as the taste reminded one of oranges and orange
flower together, to say nothing of the honey of Mount Hymettus.'

He took me up with stringent logic, 'that any wine must positively be
beastly, which, pretending to be wine, tasted sweet as honey, and
that it was beastly on my own showing!' I send you this report as an
evidence of a curious opinion. But drinkers of port wine cannot be
expected to judge of nectar--and I hold your 'Cyprus' to be pure
nectar.

I shall have pleasure in doing what you ask me to do--that is,
I _will_--if you promise never to call me Miss Barrett again.
You have often quite vexed me by it. There is
Ba--Elizabeth--Elzbeth--Ellie--any modification of my name you may
call me by--but I won't be called Miss Barrett by _you_. Do you
understand? Arabel means to carry your copy of my book to you. And I
beg you not to fancy that I shall be impatient for you to read the
two volumes through. If you _ever_ read them through, it will be
a sufficient compliment, and indeed I do not expect that you _ever
will_.

May God bless you, dearest Mr. Boyd.

I remain,

Your affectionate and grateful
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

The date of this last letter marks, as nearly as need be, the date of
publication of Miss Barrett's volumes. The letters which follow deal
mainly with their reception, first at the hand of friends, and then by
the regular critics. The general verdict of the latter was extremely
complimentary. Mr. Chorley, in the 'Athenaeum,'[100] described the
volumes as 'extraordinary,' adding that 'between her [Miss Barrett's]
poems and the slighter lyrics of most of the sisterhood, there is all
the difference which exists between the putting-on of "singing robes"
for altar service, and the taking up lute or harp to enchant an
indulgent circle of friends and kindred.' In the 'Examiner,'[101] John
Forster declared that 'Miss Barrett is an undoubted poetess of a high
and fine order as regards the first requisites of her art--imagination
and expression.... She is a most remarkable writer, and her volumes
contain not a little which the lovers of poetry will never willingly
let die,' a phrase then not quite so hackneyed as it has since become.
The 'Atlas'[102] asserted that 'the present volumes show extraordinary
powers, and, abating the failings of which all the followers of
Tennyson are guilty, extraordinary genius.' More influential even than
these, 'Blackwood'[103] paid her the compliment of a whole article,
criticising her faults frankly, but declaring that 'her poetical
merits infinitively outweigh her defects. Her genius is profound,
unsullied, and without a flaw.' All agreed in assigning her a high,
or the highest, place among the poetesses of England; but, as
Miss Barrett herself pointed out, this, in itself, was no great
praise.[104]

[Footnote 100: August 24, 1844.]

[Footnote 101: October 5, 1844.]

[Footnote 102: September 31, 1844.]

[Footnote 103: November 1844.]

[Footnote 104: See letter of January 3, 1845.]

With regard to individual poems, the critics did not take kindly to
the 'Drama of Exile,' and 'Blackwood' in particular criticised it at
considerable length, calling it 'the least successful of her works.'
The subject, while half challenging comparison with Milton, lends
itself only too readily to fancifulness and unreality, which were
among the most besetting sins of Miss Barrett's genius. The minor
poems were incomparably more popular, and the favourite of all was
that masterpiece of rhetorical sentimentality, 'Lady Geraldine's
Courtship.' It must have been a little mortifying to the authoress to
find this piece, a large part of which had been dashed off at a single
heat in order to supply the printers' needs, preferred to others on
which she had employed all the labour of her deliberate art; but with
the general tone of all the critics she had every reason to be as
content as her letters show her to have been. Only two criticisms
rankled: the one that she was a follower of Tennyson, the other that
her rhymes were slovenly and careless. And these appeared, in varying
shapes, in nearly all the reviews.

The former of these allegations is of little weight. Whatever
qualities Miss Barrett may have shared with Tennyson, her substantial
independence is unquestionable. It is a case rather of coincidence
than imitation; or if imitation, it is of a slight and unconscious
kind. The second criticism deserves fuller notice, because it is
constantly repeated to this day. The following letters show how
strongly Miss Barrett protested against it. As she told Horne,[105]
with reference to this very subject: 'If I fail ultimately before the
public--that is, before the people--for an ephemeral popularity does
not appear to me to be worth trying for--it will not be because I have
shrunk from the amount of labour, where labour could do anything. I
have _worked_ at poetry; it has not been with me reverie, but art.'
That her rhymes were inexact, especially in such poems as 'The Dead
Pan,' she did not deny; but her defence was that the inexactness was
due to a deliberate attempt to widen the artistic capabilities of the
English language. Partly, perhaps, as a result of her acquaintance
with Italian literature, she had a marked fondness for disyllabic
rhymes; and since pure rhymes of this kind are not plentiful in
English, she tried the experiment of using assonances instead. Hence
such rhymes as _silence_ and _islands_, _vision_ and _procession_,
_panther_ and _saunter_, examples which could be indefinitely
multiplied if need were. Now it may be that a writer with a very
sensitive ear would not have attempted such an experiment, and it is a
fact that public taste has not approved it; but the experiment itself
is as legitimate as, say, the metrical experiments in hexameters and
hendecasyllabics of Longfellow or Tennyson, and whether approved
or not it should be criticised as an experiment, not as mere
carelessness. That Mrs. Browning's ear was quite-capable of discerning
true rhymes is shown by the fact that she tacitly abandoned her
experiment in assonances. Not only in the pure and high art of the
'Sonnets from the Portuguese,' but even in 'Casa Guidi Windows,' the
rhetorical and sometimes colloquial tone of which might have been
thought to lend itself to such devices, imperfect rhymes occur but
rarely not exceeding the limits allowed to himself by every poet who
has rhymed _given_ and _heaven_; and the roll of those who have _not_
done so must be small indeed.

[Footnote 105: _Letters to R.H. Horne_, ii. 119.]

The point has seemed worth dwelling on, because it touches a
commonplace of criticism as regards Mrs. Browning; but we may now make
way for her own comments on her critics and friends.


_To H.S. Boyd_
Tuesday, August 13, 1844 [postmark].

My very dear Friend,--I must thank you for the great kindness with
which you have responded to a natural expression of feeling on
my part, and for all the pleasure of finding you pleased with the
inscription of 'Cyprus Wine.' Your note has given me much true
pleasure. Yes; if my verses survive me, I should wish them to relate
the fact of my being your debtor for many happy hours.

And now I must explain to you that most of the 'incorrectnesses' you
speak of may be 'incorrectnesses,' but are not _negligences_. I have
a theory about double rhymes for which--I shall be attacked by the
critics, but which I could justify perhaps on high authority, or at
least analogy. In fact, these volumes of mine have more double rhymes
than any two books of English poems that ever to my knowledge were
printed; I mean of English poems _not comic_. Now, of double rhymes
in use, which are perfect rhymes, you are aware how few there are, and
yet you are also aware of what an admirable effect in making a rhythm
various and vigorous, double rhyming is in English poetry. Therefore
I have used a certain licence; and after much thoughtful study of the
Elizabethan writers, have ventured it with the public. And do _you_
tell me, _you_ who object to the use of a different _vowel_ in a
double rhyme, _why_ you rhyme (as everybody does, without blame from
anybody) 'given' to 'heaven,' when you object to my rhyming 'remember'
and 'chamber'? The analogy surely is all on my side, and I _believe_
that the spirit of the English language is also.

I write all this because you will find many other sins of the sort,
besides those in the 'Cyprus Wine;' and because I wish you to consider
the subject as _a point for consideration_ seriously, and not to blame
me as a writer of careless verses. If I deal too much in licences, it
is not because I am idle, but because I am speculative for freedom's
sake. It is possible, you know, to be wrong conscientiously; and I
stand up for my conscience only.

I thank you earnestly for your candour hitherto, and I beseech you to
be candid to the end.

  It is tawny as Rhea's lion.

I know (although you don't say so) you object to that line. Yet
consider its structure. Does not the final 'y' of 'tawny' suppose an
apostrophe and apocope? Do you not run 'tawny as' into two syllables
naturally? I want you to see my principle.

With regard to blank verse, the great Fletcher admits sometimes
seventeen syllables into his lines.

I hope Miss Heard received her copy, and that you will not think me
arrogant in writing freely to you.

Believe me, I write only freely and not arrogantly; and I am impressed
with the conviction that my work abounds with far more faults than you
in your kindness will discover, notwithstanding your acumen.

Always your affectionate and grateful
ELIBET.


_To H.S. Boyd_
Wednesday, August 14, 1844 [postmark].

My dearest Mr. Boyd,--I must thank you for the great great pleasure
with which I have this moment read your note, the more welcome,
as (without hypocrisy) I had worked myself up into a nervous
apprehension, from your former one, that I should seem so 'rudis atque
incomposita' to you, in consequence of certain licences, as to end by
being intolerable. I know what an ear you have, and how you can hear
the dust on the wheel as it goes on. Well, I wrote to you yesterday,
to beg you to be patient and considerate.

But you are always given to surprise me with abundant kindness--with
supererogatory kindness. I believe in _that_, certainly.

I am very very glad that you think me stronger and more perspicuous.
For the perspicuity, I have struggled hard....

Your affectionate and grateful
ELZBETH.


_To Mr. Westwood_
50 Wimpole Street: August 22, 1844.

... Thank you for your welcome letter, so kind in its candour, _I_
angry that you should prefer 'The Seraphim'! Angry? No _indeed,
indeed_, I am grateful for 'The Seraphim,' and not exacting for the
'Drama,' and all the more because of a secret obstinate persuasion
that the 'Drama' will have a majority of friends in the end, and
perhaps deserve to have them. Nay, why should I throw perhapses over
my own impressions, and be insincere to you who have honoured me by
being sincere? Why should I dissemble my own belief that the 'Drama'
is worth two or three 'Seraphims'--_my own_ belief, you know, which is
worth nothing, writers knowing themselves so superficially, and having
such a natural leaning to their last work. Still, I may say honestly
to you, that I have a far more modest value for 'The Seraphim' than
your kindness suggests, and that I have seemed to myself to have a
clear insight into the fact that that poem was only borne up by the
minor poems published with it, from immediate destruction. There is a
want of unity in it which vexes me to think of, and the other faults
magnify themselves day by day, more and more, in my eyes. Therefore
it is not that I care _more_ for the 'Drama,' but I care less for 'The
Seraphim.' Both poems fall short of my aspiration and desire, but the
'Drama' seems to me fuller, freer and stronger, and worth the other
three times over. If it has anything new, I think it must be something
new into which I have lived, for certainly I wrote it sincerely and
from an inner impulse. In fact, I never wrote any poem with so much
sense of pleasure in the composition, and so rapidly, with continuous
flow--from fifty to a hundred lines a day, and quite in a glow of
pleasure and impulse all through. Still, you have not been used to see
me in blank verse, and there may be something in that. That the poem
is full of faults and imperfections I do not in the least doubt. I
have vibrated between exultations and despondencies in the correcting
and printing of it, though the composition went smoothly to an end,
and I am prepared to receive the bastinado to the critical degree, I
do assure you. The few opinions I have yet had are all to the effect
that my advance on the former publication is very great and obvious,
but then I am aware that people who thought exactly the contrary would
be naturally backward in giving me their opinion.... Indeed, I thank
you most earnestly. Truth and kindness, how rarely do they come
together! I am very grateful to you. It is curious that 'Duchess May'
is not a favorite of mine, and that I have sighed one or two secret
wishes towards its extirpation, but other writers besides yourself
have singled it out for praise in private letters to me. There has
been no printed review yet, I believe; and when I think of them, I
try to think of something else, for with no private friends among
the critical body (not that I should desire to owe security in such a
matter to private friendship) it is awful enough, this looking forward
to be reviewed. Never mind, the ultimate prosperity of the book lies
far above the critics, and can neither be mended nor made nor unmade
by _them_.


_To John Kenyan_
Wednesday morning [August 1844].

I return Mr. Chorley's[106] note, my dear cousin, with thankful
thoughts of him--as of you. I wish I could persuade you of the
rightness of my view about 'Essays on Mind' and such things, and how
the difference between them and my present poems is not merely the
difference between two schools, as you seemed to intimate yesterday,
nor even the difference between immaturity and maturity; but that it
is the difference between the dead and the living, between a copy and
an individuality, between what is myself and what is not myself. To
you who have a personal interest and--may I say? affection for me,
the girl's exercise assumes a factitious value, but to the public
the matter is otherwise and ought to be otherwise. And for the
'psychological' side of the question, _do_ observe that I have not
reputation enough to suggest a curiosity about _my legends_. Instead
of your 'legendary lore,' it would be just a legendary bore. Now you
understand what I mean. I do not underrate Pope nor his school, but I
_do_ disesteem everything which, bearing the shape of a book, is not
the true expression of a mind, and I know and feel (and so do _you_)
that a girl's exercise written when all the experience lay in books,
and the mind was suited rather for intelligence than production,
lying like an infant's face with an undeveloped expression, must
be valueless in itself, and if offered to the public directly or
indirectly as a work of mine, highly injurious to me. Why, of the
'Prometheus' volume, even, you know what I think and desire. 'The
Seraphim,' with all its feebleness and shortcomings and obscurities,
yet is the first utterance of my own individuality, and therefore the
only volume except the last which is not a disadvantage to me to have
thought of, and happily for me, the early books, never having been
advertised, nor reviewed, except by accident, once or twice, are as
safe from the public as manuscript.

Oh, I shudder to think of the lines which might have been 'nicked in,'
and all through Mr. Chorley's good nature. As if I had not sins enough
to ruin me in the new poems, without reviving juvenile ones, sinned
when I knew no better. Perhaps you would like to have the series of
epic poems which I wrote from nine years old to eleven. They might
illustrate some doctrine of innate ideas, and enrich (to that end) the
myths of metaphysicians.

And also agree with me in reverencing that wonderful genius _Keats_,
who, rising as a grand exception from among the vulgar herd of
juvenile versifiers, was an individual _man_ from the beginning, and
spoke with his own voice, though surrounded by the yet unfamiliar
murmur of antique echoes.[107] Leigh Hunt calls him 'the young poet'
very rightly. Most affectionately and gratefully yours,

E.B.B.

Do thank Mr. Chorley for me, will you?

[Footnote 106: Henry Fothergill Chorley (1808-1872) was one of the
principal members of the staff of the _Athenaeum_, especially in
literary and musical matters. Dr. Garnett (in the _Dictionary of
National Biography_) says of him, shortly after his first joining the
staff in 1833, that 'his articles largely contributed to maintain the
reputation the _Athenaeum_ had already acquired for impartiality at a
time when puffery was more rampant than ever before or since, and
when the only other London literary journal of any pretension was
notoriously venal.' He also wrote several novels and dramas, which met
with but little popular success.]

[Footnote 107: Compare Aurora Leigh's asseveration:

  'By Keats' soul, the man who never stepped
  In gradual progress like another man,
  But, turning grandly on his central self,
  Ensphered himself in twenty perfect years
  And died, _not_ young.'

('Aurora Leigh,' book i.; _Poetical Works_, vi. 38.)]



_To Mrs. Martin_
Thursday, August 1844.

Thank you, my dearest Mrs. Martin, for your most kind letter, a reply
to which should certainly, as you desired, have met you at Colwall;
only, right or wrong, I have been flurried, agitated, put out of the
way altogether, by Stormie's and Henry's plan of going to Egypt. Ah,
now you are surprised. Now you think me excusable for being silent
two days beyond my time--yes, and _they have gone_, it is no vague
speculation. You know, or perhaps you don't know, that, a little time
back, papa bought a ship, put a captain and crew of his own in it, and
began to employ it in his favourite 'Via Lactea' of speculations. It
has been once to Odessa with wool, I think; and now it has gone to
Alexandria with coals. Stormie was wild to go to both places; and with
regard to the last, papa has yielded. And Henry goes too. This was all
arranged weeks ago, but nothing was said of it until last Monday
to me; and when I heard it, I was a good deal moved of course, and
although resigned now to their having their way in it, and their
_pleasure_, which is better than their way, still I feel I have
entered a new anxiety, and shall not be quite at ease again till they
return....

And now to thank you, my ever-dearest Mrs. Martin, for your kind and
welcome letter from the Lakes. I knew quite at the first page, and
long before you said a word specifically, that dear Mr. Martin was
better, and think that such a scene, even from under an umbrella, must
have done good to the soul and body of both of you. I wish I could
have looked through your eyes for once. But I suppose that neither
through yours, nor through my own, am I ever likely to behold that
sight. In the meantime it is with considerable satisfaction that I
hear of your _failure of Wordsworth_, which was my salvation in a very
awful sense. Why, if you had done such a thing, you would have put me
to the shame of too much honor. The speculation consoles me entirely
for your loss in respect to Rydal Hall and its poet. By the way, I
heard the other day that Rogers, who was intending to visit him, said,
'It is a bad time of year for it. The god is on his pedestal; and
can only give gestures to his worshippers, and no conversation to his
friends.' ...

Although you did not find a letter from me on your return to Colwall,
I do hope that you found _me_--viz. my book, which Mr. Burden took
charge of, and promised to deliver or see delivered. When you have
read it, _do_ let me hear your own and Mr. Martin's true impression;
and whether you think it worse or better than 'The Seraphim.' The only
review which has yet appeared or had time to appear has been a very
kind and cordial one in the 'Athenaeum.' ...

Your ever affectionate
BA.


_To Mr. Westwood_
August 31, 1844.

My dear Mr. Westwood,--I send you the manuscript you ask for, and also
my certificate that, although I certainly was once a little girl,
yet I never in my life had fair hair, or received lessons when you
mention. I think a cousin of mine, now dead, may have done it. The
'Barrett Barrett' seems to specify my family. I have a little cousin
with bright fair hair at this moment who is an Elizabeth Barrett (the
subject of my 'Portrait'[108]), but then she is a 'Georgiana' besides,
and your friend must refer to times past. My hair is very dark indeed,
and always was, as long as I remember, and also I have a friend who
makes serious affidavit that I have never changed (except by being
rather taller) since I was a year old. Altogether, you cannot make a
case of identity out, and I am forced to give up the glory of being so
long remembered for my cleverness.

You do wrong in supposing me inclined to underrate Mr. Melville's
power. He is inclined to High-Churchism, and to such doctrines as
apostolical succession, and I, who, am a Dissenter, and a believer in
a universal Christianity, recoil from the exclusive doctrine.

But then, that is not depreciatory of his power and eloquence--surely
not.

E.B.

[Footnote 108: _Poetical Works_, iii. 172.]


_To Mr. Chorley_
50 Wimpole Street: Monday.
[About the end of August 1844.]

Dear Mr. Chorley,--Kindnesses are more frequent things with me than
gladnesses, but I thank you earnestly for both in the letter I have
this moment received.[109] You have given me a quick sudden pleasure
which goes deeper (I am very sure) than self-love, for it must be
something better than vanity that brings the tears so near the eyes. I
thank you, dear Mr. Chorley.

After all, we are not quite strangers. I have had some early
encouragement and direction from you, and much earlier (and later)
literary pleasures from such of your writings as did not refer to me.
I have studied 'Music and Manners'[110] under you, and found an excuse
for my love of romance-reading from your grateful fancy. Then, as dear
Miss Mitford's friend, you could not help being (however against your
will!) a little my acquaintance; and this she daringly promised to
make you in reality some day, till I took the fervour for prophecy.

Altogether I am justified, while I thank you as a stranger, to say one
more word as a friend, and _that_ shall be the best word--'_May God
bless you_!' The trials with which He tries us all are different, but
our faces may be turned towards the end in cheerfulness, for '_to_ the
end He has loved us.' I remain,

Very faithfully, your obliged
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

You may trust me with the secret of your kindness to me. It shall not
go farther.

[Footnote 109: A summary of its contents is given in the next letter
but one.]

[Footnote 110: _Music and Manners in France and Germany: a Series of
Travelling Sketches of Art and Society_, published by Mr. Chorley in
1841.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
Monday, September 1, 1844.

My dearest Mr. Boyd,--I thank you for the Cyprus, and also for a still
sweeter amreeta--your praise. Certainly to be praised as you praise
me might well be supposed likely to turn a sager head than mine, but
I feel that (with all my sensitive and grateful appreciation of such
words) I am removed rather below than above the ordinary temptations
of vanity. Poetry is to me rather a passion than an ambition, and
the gadfly which drives me along that road pricks deeper than an
expectation of fame could do.

Moreover, there will be plenty of counter-irritation to prevent me
from growing feverish under your praises. And as a beginning, I hear
that the 'John Bull' newspaper has cut me up with sanguinary gashes,
for the edification of its Sabbath readers. I have not seen it yet,
but I hear so. The 'Drama' is the particular victim. Do not send for
the paper. I will let you have it, if you should wish for it.

One thing is left to me to say. Arabel told you of a letter I had
received from a professional critic, and I am sorry that she should
have told you so without binding you to secrecy on the point at the
same time. In fact, the writer of the letter begged me _not_ to speak
of it, and I took an engagement to him _not_ to speak of it. Now it
would be very unpleasant to me, and dishonorable to me, if, after
entering into this engagement, the circumstance of the letter should
come to be talked about. Of course you will understand that I do not
object to your having been informed of the thing, only Arabel should
have remembered to ask you not to mention again the name of the critic
who wrote to me.

May God bless you, my very dear friend. I drink thoughts of you in
Cyprus every day.

Your ever affectionate
ELIBET.

There is no review in the 'Examiner' yet, nor any continuation in the
'Athenaeum.'[111]

[Footnote 111: The _Athenaeum_ had reserved the two longer poems, the
'Drama of Exile' and the 'Vision of Poets,' for possible notice in a
second article, which, however, never appeared.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
September 10, 1844.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--I will not lose a post in assuring you that
I was not silent because of any disappointment from your previous
letter. I could only feel the _kindness_ of that letter, and this was
certainly the chief and uppermost feeling at the time of reading it,
and since. Your preference of 'The Seraphim' one other person besides
yourself has acknowledged to me in the same manner, and although I
myself--perhaps from the natural leaning to last works, and perhaps
from a wise recognition of the complete failure of the poem called
'The Seraphim '--do disagree with you, yet I can easily forgive you
for such a thought, and believe that you see sufficient grounds for
entertaining it. More and more I congratulate myself (at any rate)
for the decision I came to at the last moment, and in the face of
some persuasions, to call the book 'Poems,' instead of trusting its
responsibility to the 'Drama,' by such a title as 'A Drama of Exile,
and Poems.' It is plain, as I anticipated, that for one person who is
ever so little pleased with the 'Drama,' fifty at least will like the
smaller poems. And perhaps they are right. The longer sustaining of a
subject requires, of course, more power, and I may have failed in it
altogether.

Yes, I think I may say that I am satisfied so far with the aspect of
things in relation to the book. You see there has scarcely been time
yet to give any except a sanguine or despondent judgment--I mean,
there is scarcely room yet for forming a very rational inference of
what will ultimately be, without the presentiments of hope or fear.
The book came out too late in August for any chance of a mention in
the September magazines, and at the dead time of year, when the
very critics were thinking more of holiday innocence than of their
carnivorous instincts. This will not hurt it ultimately, although it
might have hurt a _novel_. The regular critics will come back to it;
and in the meantime the newspaper critics are noticing it all round,
with more or less admissions to its advantage. The 'Atlas' is the best
of the newspapers for literary notices; and it spoke graciously on
the whole; though I do protest against being violently attached to
a 'school.' I have faults enough, I know; but it is just to say that
they are at least my own. Well, then! It is true that the 'Westminster
Review' says briefly what is great praise, and promises to take the
earliest opportunity of reviewing me 'at large.' So that with regard
to the critics, there seems to be a good prospect. Then I have had
some very pleasant private letters--one from Carlyle; an oath from
Miss Martineau to give her whole mind to the work and tell me her free
and full opinion, which I have not received yet; an assurance from an
acquaintance of Mrs. Jameson that she was much pleased. But the letter
which pleased me most was addressed to me by a professional critic,
personally unknown to me, who wrote to say that he had traced me up,
step by step, ever since I began to print, and that my last volumes
were so much better than any preceding them, and were such _living
books_, that they restored to him the impulses of his youth and
constrained him to thank me for the pleasant emotions they had
excited. I cannot say the name of the writer of this letter, because
he asked me not to do so, but of course it was very pleasant to read.
Now you will not call me vain for speaking of this. I would not
speak of it; only I want (you see) to prove to you how faithfully
and gratefully I have a trust in your kindness and sympathy. It is
certainly the best kindness to speak the truth to me. I have written
those poems as well as I could, and I hope to write others better. I
have not reached my own ideal; and I cannot expect to have satisfied
other people's expectation. But it is (as I sometimes say) the least
ignoble part of me, that I love poetry better than I love my own
successes in it.

I am glad that you like 'The Lost Bower.' The scene of that poem is
the wood above the garden at Hope End.

It is very true, my dearest Mrs. Martin, all that you say about the
voyage to Alexandria. And I do not feel the anxiety I _thought I
should_. In fact, _I am surprised to feel so little anxiety_. Still,
when they are at home again, I shall be happier than I am now, _that_
I feel strongly besides.

What I missed most in your first letter was what I do not miss in the
second, the good news of dear Mr. Martin. Both he and you are very
vainglorious, I suppose, about O'Connell; but although I was delighted
on every account at his late victory,[112] or rather at the late
victory of justice and constitutional law, he never was a hero of mine
and is not likely to become one. If he had been (by the way) a hero of
mine, I should have been quite ashamed of him for being so unequal to
his grand position as was demonstrated by the speech from the balcony.
Such poetry in the position, and such prose in the speech! He has not
the stuff in him of which heroes are made. There is a thread of cotton
everywhere crossing the silk....

With our united love to both of you,
Ever, dearest Mrs. Martin, most affectionately yours,
BA.



[Footnote 112: The reversal by the House of Lords of his conviction in
Ireland for conspiracy, which the English Court of Queen's Bench had
confirmed.]

_To Mrs. Martin_
Wednesday [about September 1844].

My dearest Mrs. Martin, ... Did I tell you that Miss Martineau had
promised and vowed to me to tell me the whole truth with respect to
the poems? Her letter did not come until a few days ago, and for a
full month after the publication; and I was so fearful of the probable
sentence that my hands shook as they broke the seal. But such a
pleasant letter! I have been overjoyed with it. She says that her
'predominant impression is of the _originality_'--very pleasant to
hear. I must not forget, however, to say that she complains of 'want
of variety' in the general effect of the drama, and that she 'likes
Lucifer less than anything in the two volumes.' You see how you have
high backers. Still she talks of 'immense advances,' which consoles me
again. In fact, there is scarcely a word to _require_ consolation
in her letter, and what did not please me least--nay, to do myself
justice, what put all the rest out of my head for some minutes with
joy--is the account she gives of herself. For she is better and likely
still to be better; she has recovered appetite and sleep, and lost the
most threatening symptoms of disease; she has been out for the first
time for four years and a half, lying on the grass flat, she says,
with my books open beside her day after day. (That _does_ sound vain
of me, but I cannot resist the temptation of writing it!) And
the means--the means! Such means you would never divine! It is
_mesmerism_. She is thrown into the magnetic trance twice a day; and
the progress is manifest; and the hope for the future clear. Now,
what do you both think? Consider what a case it is! No case of a
weak-minded woman and a nervous affection; but of the most manlike
woman in the three kingdoms--in the best sense of man--a woman gifted
with admirable fortitude, as well as exercised in high logic, a woman
of sensibility and of imagination certainly, but apt to carry her
reason unbent wherever she sets her foot; given to utilitarian
philosophy and the habit of logical analysis; and suffering under a
disease which has induced change of structure and yielded to no tried
remedy! Is it not wonderful, and past expectation? She suggests that
I should try the means--but I understand that in cases like mine the
remedy has done harm instead of good, by over-exciting the system. But
her experience will settle the question of the reality of magnetism
with a whole generation of infidels. For my own part, I have long been
a believer, _in spite of papa_. Then I have had very kind letters from
Mrs. Jameson, the 'Ennuyée'[113] and from Mr. Serjeant Talfourd and
some less famous persons. And a poet with a Welsh name wrote to me
yesterday to say that he was writing a poem 'similar to my "Drama of
Exile,"' and begged me to subscribe to it. Now I tell you all this to
make you smile, and because some of it will interest you more gravely.
It will prove to dear unjust Mr. Martin that I do not distrust your
sympathy. How could he think so of me? I am half vexed that he should
think so. Indeed--indeed I am not so morbidly vain. Why, if you had
told me that the books were without any sort of value in your eyes,
do you imagine that I should not have valued you, reverenced you
ever after for your truth, so sacred a thing in friendship? I really
believe it would have been my predominant feeling. But you proved your
truth without trying me so hardly; I had _both_ truth and praise from
you, and surely quite enough, and _more_ than enough, as many would
think, of the latter.

My dearest papa left us this morning to go for a few days into
Cornwall for the purpose of examining a quarry in which he has bought
or is about to buy shares, and he means to strike on for the Land's
End and to see Falmouth before he returns. It depresses me to think
of his being away; his presence or the sense of his nearness having
so much cheering and soothing influence with me; but it will be an
excellent change for him, even if he does not, as he expects, dig an
immense fortune out of the quarries....

Your affectionate and ever obliged
BA.

[Footnote 113: Mrs. Jameson's earliest book, and one which achieved
considerable popularity, was her _Diary of an Ennuyée_.]


_To Cornelius Mathews_
London, 50 Wimpole Street: October 1, 1844.

My dear Mr. Mathews,--I have just received your note, which, on the
principle of single sighs or breaths being wafted from Indies to the
poles, arrived quite safely, and I was very glad to have it. I shall
fall into monotony if I go on to talk of my continued warm sense of
your wonderful kindness to me, a stranger according to the manner of
men; and, indeed, I have just this moment been writing a note to
a friend two streets away, and calling it 'wonderful kindness.'
I cannot, however, of course, allow you to run the tether of your
impulse and furnish me with the reviews of my books and other things
you speak of at your own expense, and I should prefer, if you would
have the goodness to give the necessary direction to Messrs. Putnam
& Co., that they should send what would interest me to see, together
with a note of the pecuniary debt to themselves. I shall like to see
the reviews, of course; and that you should have taken the first word
of American judgment into your own mouth is a pleasant thought to
me, and leaves me grateful. In England I have no reason so far to
be otherwise than well pleased. There has not, indeed, been much yet
besides newspaper criticisms--except 'Ainsworth's Magazine,' which
is benignant!--there has not been time. The monthly reviews give
themselves 'pause' in such matters to set the plumes of their dignity,
and I am rather glad than otherwise not to have the first fruits of
their haste. The 'Atlas,' the best newspaper for literary reviews,
excepting always the 'Examiner,' who does not speak yet, is generous
to me, and I have reason to be satisfied with others. And our most
influential quarterly (after the 'Edinburgh' and right 'Quarterly'),
the 'Westminster Review,' promises an early paper with passing words
of high praise. What vexed me a little in one or two of the journals
was an attempt made to fix me in a school, and the calling me
a follower of Tennyson for my habit of using compound words,
noun-substantives, which I used to do before I knew a page of
Tennyson, and adopted from a study of our old English writers, and
Greeks and even Germans. The custom is so far from being peculiar to
Tennyson, that Shelley and Keats and Leigh Hunt are all redolent of
it, and no one can read our old poets without perceiving the leaning
of our Saxon to that species of coalition. Then I have had letters of
great kindness from 'Spirits of the Age,' whose praises are so many
crowns, and altogether am far from being out of spirits about the
prospect of my work. I am glad, however, that I gave the name of
'Poems' to the work instead of admitting the 'Drama of Exile' into the
title-page and increasing its responsibility; for one person who likes
the 'Drama,' ten like the other poems. Both Carlyle and Miss Martineau
select as favorite 'Lady Geraldine's Courtship,' which amuses and
surprises me somewhat. In that poem I had endeavoured to throw
conventionalities (turned asbestos for the nonce) into the fire of
poetry, to make them glow and glitter as if they were not dull things.
Well, I shall soon hear what _you_ like best--and worst. I wonder if
you have been very carnivorous with me! I tremble a little to think of
your hereditary claim to an instrument called the tomahawk. Still, I
am sure I shall have to think _most_, ever as now, of your kindness;
and _truth_ must be sacred to all of us, whether we have to suffer
or be glad by it. As for Mr. Horne, I cannot answer for what he has
received or not received. I had one note from him on silver paper
(fear of postage having reduced him to a transparency) from Germany,
and that is all, and I did not think him in good spirits in what he
said of himself. I will tell him what you have the goodness to say,
and something, too, on my own part. He has had a hard time of it with
his 'Spirit of the Age;' the attacks on the book here being bitter in
the extreme. Your 'Democratic' does not comfort him for the rest, by
the way, and, indeed, he is almost past comfort on the subject. I had
a letter the other day from Dr. Shelton Mackenzie, whom I do not know
personally, but who is about to publish a 'Living Author Dictionary,'
and who, by some association, talked of the effeminacy of 'the
American poets,' so I begged him to read your poems on 'Man' and
prepare an exception to his position. I wish to write more and must
not.

Most faithfully yours,
E.B.B.

Am I the first with the great and good news for America and England
that Harriet Martineau is better and likely to be better? She told me
so herself, and attributes the change to the agency of _mesmerism_.


_To H.S. Boyd_
October 4, 1844.

My dearest Mr. Boyd,--... As to 'The Lost Bower,' I am penitent about
having caused you so much disturbance. I sometimes fancy that a little
varying of the accents, though at the obvious expense of injuring
the smoothness of every line considered separately, gives variety
of cadence and fuller harmony to the general effect. But I do not
question that I deserve a great deal of blame on this point as on
others. Many lines in 'Isobel's Child' are very slovenly and weak from
a multitude of causes. I hope you will like 'The Lost Bower' better
when you try it again than you did at first, though I do not, of
course, expect that you will not see much to cry out against. The
subject of the poem was an actual fact of my childhood.

Oh, and I think I told you, when giving you the history of 'Lady
Geraldine's Courtship,' that I wrote the _thirteen_ last pages of it
in one day. I ought to have said _nineteen_ pages instead. But don't
tell anybody; only keep the circumstance in your mind when you need it
and see the faults. Nobody knows of it except you and Mr. Kenyon and
my own family for the reason I told you. I sent off that poem to the
press piece-meal, as I never in my life did before with any poem.
And since I wrote to you I have heard of Mr. Eagles, one of the first
writers in 'Blackwood' and a man of very refined taste, adding another
name to the many of those who have preferred it to anything in the
two volumes. He says that he has read it at least six times aloud to
various persons, and calls it a 'beautiful _sui generis_ drama.' On
which Mr. Kenyon observes that I am 'ruined for life, and shall be
sure never to take pains with any poem again.'

The American edition (did Arabel tell you?) was to be out in New
York a week ago, and was to consist of fifteen hundred copies in two
volumes, as in England.

She sends you the verses and asks you to make allowances for the delay
in doing so. I cannot help believing that if you were better read in
Wordsworth you would appreciate him better. Ever since I knew what
poetry is, I have believed in him as a great poet, and I do not
understand how reasonably there can be a doubt of it. Will you
remember that nearly all the first minds of the age have admitted
his power (without going to intrinsic evidence), and then say that
he _can_ be a mere Grub Street writer? It is not that he is only or
chiefly admired by the _profanum vulgus_, that he is a mere popular
and fashionable poet, but that men of genius in this and other
countries unite in confessing his genius. And is not this a
significant circumstance--significant, at least?...

Believe me, yourself, your affectionate and grateful
ELIBET B.B.

How kind you are, far too kind, about the Cyprus wine; I thank you
very much.


_To Mrs. Martin_
October 5, 1844.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--... Well, papa came back from Cornwall just
as I came back to my own room, and he was as pleased with his quarry
as I was to have the sight again of his face. During his absence,
Henrietta had a little polka (which did not bring the house down on
its knees), and I had a transparent blind put up in my open window.
There is a castle in the blind, and a castle gate-way, and two walks,
and several peasants, and groves of trees which rise in excellent
harmony with the fall of my green damask curtains--new, since you
saw me last. Papa insults me with the analogy of a back window in a
confectioner's shop, but is obviously moved when the sunshine lights
up the castle, notwithstanding. And Mr. Kenyon and everybody in
the house grow ecstatic rather than otherwise, as they stand in
contemplation before it, and tell me (what is obvious without their
evidence) that the effect is beautiful, and that the whole room
catches a light from it. Well, and then Mr. Kenyon has given me a new
table, with a rail round it to consecrate it from Flush's paws, and
large enough to hold all my varieties of vanities.

I had another letter from Miss Martineau the other day, and she says
she has a 'hat of her own, a parasol of her own,' and that she can
'walk a mile with ease.' _What do miracles mean_? Miracle or not,
however, one thing is certain--it is very joyful; and her own
sensations on being removed suddenly from the verge of the prospect
of a most painful death--a most painful and lingering death--must be
strange and overwhelming.

I hope I may hear soon from you that you had much pleasure at Clifton,
and some benefit in the air and change, and that dear Mr. Martin and
yourself are both as well as possible. Do you take in 'Punch'? If not,
you _ought_. Mr. Kenyon and I agreed the other day that we should be
more willing 'to take our politics' from 'Punch' than from any other
of the newspaper oracles. 'Punch' is very generous, and I like him for
everything, except for his rough treatment of Louis Philippe, whom
I believe to be a great man--for a king. And then, it is well worth
fourpence to laugh once a week. I do recommend 'Punch' to you.[114]
Douglas Jerrold is the editor, I fancy, and he has a troop of 'wits,'
such as Planché, Titmarsh, and the author of 'Little Peddlington,' to
support him....

Now I have written enough to tire you, I am sure. May God bless
you both! Did you read 'Coningsby,' that very able book, without
character, story, or specific teaching? It is well worth reading, and
worth wondering over. D'Israeli, who is a man of genius, has written,
nevertheless, books which will live longer, and move deeper. But
everybody should read 'Coningsby.' It is a sign of the times. Believe
me, my dearest Mrs. Martin,

Your very affectionate
BA.


_To John Kenyon_
Tuesday, October 8, 1844.

Thank you, my dearest cousin, for your kind little note, which I run
the chance of answering by that Wednesday's post you think you may
wait for. So (_via_ your table) I set about writing to you, and the
first word, of course, must be an expression of my contentment with
the 'Examiner' review. Indeed, I am more than contented--delighted
with it. I had some dread, vaguely fashioned, about the 'Examiner';
the very delay looked ominous. And then, I thought to myself, though
I did not say, that if Mr. Forster praised the verses on Flush to you,
it was just because he had no sympathy for anything else. But it is
all the contrary, you see, and I am the more pleased for the want of
previous expectation; and I must add that if _you_ were so kind as to
be glad of being associated with me by Mr. Forster's reference, _I_
was so _human_ as to be very very glad of being associated with _you_
by the same. Also you shall criticise 'Geraldine' exactly as you
like--mind, I don't think it all so rough as the extracts appear to
be, and some variety is attained by that playing at ball with
the _pause_, which causes the apparent roughness--still you shall
criticise 'Geraldine' exactly as you like. I have a great fancy for
writing some day a longer poem of a like class--a poem comprehending
the aspect and manners of modern life, and flinching at nothing of the
conventional. I think it might be done with good effect. You said once
that Tennyson had done it in 'Locksley Hall,' and I half agreed with
you. But looking at 'Locksley Hall' again, I find that not much has
been done in that _way_, noble and passionate and _full_ as the poem
is in other ways. But there is no story, no _manners_, no modern
allusion, except in the grand general adjuration to the 'Mother-age,'
and no approach to the treatment of a conventionality. But Crabbe, as
you say, has done it, and Campbell in his 'Theodore' in a few touches
was near to do it; but _Hayley_ clearly apprehends the species of poem
in his 'Triumphs of Temper' and 'Triumphs of Music,' and so did Miss
Seward, who called it the '_poetical novel_.' Now I do think that a
true poetical novel--modern, and on the level of the manners of the
day--might be as good a poem as any other, and much more popular
besides. Do you not think so?

I had a letter from dear Miss Mitford this morning, with yours, but I
can find nothing in it that you will care to hear again. She complains
of the vagueness of 'Coningsby,' and praises the French writers--a
sympathy between us, that last, which we wear hidden in our sleeves
for the sake of propriety. Not a word of coming to London, though I
asked. Neither have I heard again from Miss Martineau....

Ever most affectionately and gratefully yours,
E.B.B.

[Footnote 114: It will be remembered that 'Punch' had only been in
existence for three years at this time, which will account for this
apparently superfluous advice.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
October 15, 1844.

... Not a word more have I heard from Miss Martineau; and shall not
soon, perhaps, as she is commanded not to write, not to read--to do
nothing, in fact, except the getting better. I am not, I confess,
quite satisfied myself. But she herself appears to be so altogether,
and she speaks of '_symptoms_ having given way,' implying a structural
change. Yes, I use the common phrase in respect to mesmerism, and
think 'there is something in it.' Only I think, besides, that,
if something, there must be a great deal in it. Clairvoyance has
precisely the same evidence as the phenomenon of the trance has, and
scientific and philosophical minds are recognising all the phenomena
_as facts_ on all sides of us. Mr. Kenyon's is the best distinction,
and the immense quantity of _humbug_ which embroiders the truth
over and over, and round and round, makes it needful: 'I believe in
mesmerism, but not in _mesmerists_.'

We have had no other letter from our Egyptians, but can wait a little
longer without losing our patience.

The blind rises in favour, and the ivy would not fall, if it would but
live. Alas! I am going to try _guano_ as a last resource. You see, in
painting the windows, papa was forced to have it taken down, and the
ivy that grows on ruins and oaks is not usually taken down 'for the
nonce.' I think I shall have a myrtle grove in two or three large pots
inside the window. I have a mind to try it.

I heard twice from dear Mr. Kenyon at Dover, where he was detained by
the weather, but not since his entrance into France. Which is grand
enough word for the French Majesty itself--'entrance into France.' By
the way, I do hope you have some sympathy with me in my respect for
the King of the French--that right kingly king, Louis Philippe. If
France had _borne_ more liberty, he would not have withheld it, and,
for the rest, and in all truly royal qualities, he is the noblest
king, according to my idea, in Europe--the most royal king in the
encouragement of art and literature, and in the honoring of artists
and men of letters. Let a young unknown writer accomplish a successful
tragedy, and the next day he sits at the king's table--not in a
metaphor, but face to face. See how different the matter is in our
court, where the artists are shown up the back stairs, and where no
poet (even by the back stairs) can penetrate, unless so fortunate
as to be a banker also. What is the use of kings and queens in these
days, except to encourage arts and letters? Really I cannot see.
Anybody can hunt an otter out of a box--who has nerve enough.

I had a letter from America to-day, and heard that my book was not
published there until the fifth of this October. Still, a few copies
had preceded the publication, and made way among the critics, and
several reviews were in the course of germinating very greenly. Yes,
I was delighted with the 'Examiner,' and all the more so from having
interpreted the long delay of the notice, the gloomiest manner
possible. My friends try to persuade me that the book is making some
impression, and I am willing enough to be convinced. Thank you for all
your kind sympathy, my dear friend.

Now, do write to me soon again! Have you read Dr. Arnold's Life? I
have not, but am very anxious to do so, from the admirable extracts
in the 'Examiner' of last Saturday, and also from what I hear of it in
other quarters. That Dr. Arnold must have been _a man_, in the largest
and noblest sense. May God bless you, both of you! I think of you,
dearest Mrs. Martin, much, and remain

Your very affectionate
BA.


_To John Kenyon_
Saturday, October 29, 1844.

The moral of your letter, my dearest cousin, certainly is that no
green herb of a secret will spring up and flourish between you and me.

The loss of Flush was a secret. My aunt's intention of coming to
England (for I know not how to explain what she said to you, but by
the supposition of an unfulfilled intention!) was a secret. And Mr.
Chorley's letter to me was a third secret. All turned into light!

For the last, you may well praise me for discretion. The letter he
wrote was pleasanter to me than many of the kindnesses (apart from
your own) occasioned by my book--and when you asked me once 'what
letters I had received,' if ever a woman deserved to be canonised
for her silence, _I_ did! But the effort was necessary--for he
particularly desired that I would not mention to 'our common friends'
the circumstance of his having written to me; and 'common friends'
could only stand for 'Mr. Kenyon and Miss Mitford.' Of course what you
tell me, of his liking the poems better still, is delightful to hear;
but he reviewed them in the 'Athenaeum' surely! The review we read in
the 'Athenaeum' was by his hand--could not be mistaken ...

Well; but Flushie! It is too true that he has been lost--lost and won;
and true besides that I was a good deal upset by it _meo more_; and
that I found it hard to eat and sleep as usual while he was in the
hands of his enemies. It is a secret too. We would not tell papa of
it. Papa would have been angry with the unfortunate person who took
Flush out without a chain; and would have kicked against the pricks of
the necessary bribing of the thief in order to the getting him back.
Therefore we didn't tell papa; and as I had a very bad convenient
headache the day my eyes were reddest, I did not see him (except once)
till Flush was on the sofa again. As to the thieves, you are very kind
to talk daggers at them; and I feel no inclination to say 'Don't.' It
is quite too bad and cruel. And think of their exceeding insolence
in taking Flush away from this very door, while Arabel was waiting to
have the door opened on her return from her walk; and in observing (as
they gave him back for six guineas and a half) that they intended to
have him again at the earliest opportunity and that _then_ they must
have _ten_ guineas! I tell poor Flushie (while he looks very earnestly
in my face) that he and I shall be ruined at last, and that I shall
have no money to buy him cakes; but the worst is the anxiety! Whether
I am particularly silly, or not, I don't know; they say here, that I
am; but it seems to me impossible for anybody who really cares for a
dog, to think quietly of his being in the hands of those infamous men.
And then I know how poor Flushie must feel it. When he was brought
home, he began to cry in his manner, whine, as if his heart was full!
It was just what I was inclined to do myself--' and thus was Flushie
lost and won.'

But we are both recovered now, thank you; and intend to be very
prudent for the future. I am delighted to think of your being in
England; it is the next best thing to your being in London. In regard
to Miss Martineau, I agree with you word for word; but I cannot
overcome an additional _horror_, which you do not express, or feel
probably.

There is an excellent refutation of Puseyism in the 'Edinburgh
Review'--by whom? and I have been reading besides the admirable
paper by Macaulay in the same number. And now I must be done; having
resolved to let you hear without a post's delay. Otherwise I might
have American news for you, as I hear that a packet has come in.

My brothers arrived in great spirits at Malta, after a _three weeks'
voyage_ from Gibraltar; and must now be in Egypt, I think and trust.

May God bless you, my dear cousin.

Most affectionately yours,
E.B.B.


_To John Kenyan_
50 Wimpole Street: November 5, 1844.

Well, but am I really so bad? ' _Et tu_!' Can _you_ call me careless?
Remember all the altering of manuscript and proof--and remember how
the obscurities used to fly away before your cloud-compelling, when
you were the Jove of the criticisms! That the books (I won't call
them _our_ books when I am speaking of the faults) are remarkable for
defects and superfluities of evil, I can see quite as well as another;
but then I won't admit that ' it comes' of my carelessness, and
refusing to take pains. On the contrary, my belief is, that very few
writers called ' correct ' who have selected classical models to work
from, pay more laborious attention than I do habitually to the forms
of thought and expression. ' Lady Geraldine ' was an exception in her
whole history. If I write fast sometimes (and the historical fact is
that what has been written fastest, has pleased most), l am not apt
to print without consideration. I appeal to Philip sober, if I am!
My dearest cousin, do remember! As to the faults, I do not think of
defending them, be very sure. My consolation is, that I may try to do
better in time, if I may talk of time. The worst fault of all, as far
as expression goes (the adjective-substantives, whether in prose or
verse, I cannot make up my mind to consider faulty), is that kind of
obscurity which is the same thing with inadequate expression. Be very
sure--try to be very sure--that I am not obstinate and self-opiniated
beyond measure. To _you_ in case, who have done so much for me, and
who think of me so more than kindly, I feel it to be both duty and
pleasure to defer and yield. Still, you know, we could not, if we were
ten years about it, alter down the poems to the terms of all these
reviewers. You would not desire it, if it were possible. I do not
remember that you suggested any change in the verse on Aeschylus. The
critic[115] mistakes my allusion, which was to the fact that in the
acting of the Eumenides, when the great tragic poet did actually
'frown as the gods did,' women fell down fainting from the benches.
I did not refer to the effect of his human countenance 'during
composition.' But I am very grateful to the reviewer whoever he may
be--very--and with need. See how the 'Sun' shines in response to
'Blackwood' (thank you for sending me that notice), when previously we
had had but a wintry rag from the same quarter! No; if I am not spoilt
by _your kindness_, I am not likely to be so by any of these exoteric
praises, however beyond what I expected or deserved. And then I am
like a bird with one wing broken. Throw it out of the window; and
after the first feeling of pleasure in liberty, it falls heavily. I
have had moments of great pleasure in hearing whatever good has been
thought of the poems; but the feeling of _elation_ is too strong or
rather too _long_ for me....

Can it be true that Mr. Newman has at last joined the Church of
Rome?[116] If it is true, it will do much to prove to the most
illogical minds the real character of the late movement. It will prove
what the _point of sight_ is, as by the drawing of a straight line.
Miss Mitford told me that he had lately sent a message to a R.
Catholic convert from the English Church, to the effect--'you have
done a good deed, but not at a right time.' It can but be a question
of time, indeed, to the whole party; at least to such as are
logical--and honest.... [_Unsigned_]

[Footnote 115: In _Blackwood_.]

[Footnote 116: Newman did not actually enter the Church of Rome until
nearly a year later, in October 1845.]


_To John Kenyan_
50 Wimpole Street: November 8, 1844.

Thank you, my dear dear cousin, for the kind thought of sending me Mr.
Eagles's letter, and most for your own note. You know we _both_ saw
that he couldn't have written the paper in question; we _both_ were
poets and prophets by that sign, but I hope he understands that I
shall gratefully remember what his intention was. As to his 'friend'
who told him that I had 'imitated Tennyson,' why I can only say and
feel that it is very particularly provoking to hear such things said,
and that I wish people would find fault with my 'metre' in the place
of them. In the matter of 'Geraldine' I shall not be puffed up. I
shall take to mind what you suggest. Of course, if you find it hard to
read, it must be my fault. And then the fact of there being a _story_
to a poem will give a factitious merit in the eyes of many critics,
which could not be an occasion of vainglory to the consciousness of
the most vainglorious of writers. You made me smile by your suggestion
about the aptitude of critics aforesaid for courting Lady Geraldines.
Certes--however it may be--the poem has had more attention than its
due. Oh, and I must tell you that I had a letter the other day
from Mr. Westwood (one of my correspondents unknown) referring to
'Blackwood,' and observing on the mistake about Goethe. 'Did you not
mean "fell" the verb,' he said, 'or do _I_ mistake?' So, you see, some
people in the world did actually understand what I meant. I am eager
to prove that possibility sometimes.

How full of life of mind Mr. Eagles's letter is. Such letters always
bring me to think of Harriet Martineau's pestilent plan of doing to
destruction half of the intellectual life of the world, by suppressing
every mental breath breathed through the post office. She was not in
a state of clairvoyance when she said such a thing. I have not heard
from her, but you observed what the 'Critic' said of William Howitt's
being empowered by her to declare the circumstances of her recovery?

Again and again have I sent for Dr. Arnold's 'Life,' and I do hope to
have it to-day. I am certain, by the extracts, besides your opinion,
that I shall be delighted with it.

Why shouldn't Miss Martineau's apocalyptic housemaid[117] tell us
whether Flush has a soul, and what is its 'future destination'? As
to the fact of his soul, I have long had a strong opinion on it. The
'grand peut-être,' to which 'without revelation' the human argument is
reduced, covers dog-nature with the sweep of its fringes.

Did you ever read Bulwer's 'Eva, or the Unhappy Marriage'? _That_ is
a sort of poetical novel, with modern manners inclusive. But Bulwer,
although a poet in prose, writes all his rhythmetical compositions
somewhat prosaically, providing an instance of that curious difference
which exists between the poetical writer and the poet. It is easier
to give the instance than the reason, but I suppose the cause of the
rhythmetical impotence must lie somewhere in the want of the power of
concentration. For is it not true that the most prolix poet is capable
of briefer expression than the least prolix prose writer, or am I
wrong?...

Your ever affectionate
E.B.B.

[Footnote 117: Miss Martineau, besides having been cured by mesmerism
herself, was blest with a housemaid who had visions under the same
influence, concerning which Miss Martineau subsequently wrote at great
length in the _Athenaeum_.]


_To Cornelius Mathews_
50 Wimpole Street: November 14, 1844.

My dear Mr. Mathews,--I write to tell you--only that there is nothing
to tell--only in guard of my gratitude, lest you should come to
think all manner of evil of me and of my supposed propensity to let
everything pass like Mr. Horne's copies of the American edition of his
work, _sub silentio_. Therefore I must write, and you are to please to
understand that I have not up to this moment received either letter or
book by the packet of October 10 which was charged, according to your
intimation, with so much. I, being quite out of patience and out of
breath with expectation, have repeatedly sent to Mr. Putnam, and he
replies with undisturbed politeness that the ship has come in, and
that his part and lot in her, together with mine, remain at the
disposal of the Custom-house officers, and may remain some time
longer. So you see how it is. I am waiting--simply _waiting_, and it
is better to let you know that I am not forgetting instead.

In the meantime, your kindness will be glad to learn of the prosperity
of my poems in my own country. I am more than satisfied in my most
sanguine hope for them, and a little surprised besides. The critics
have been good to me. 'Blackwood' and 'Tait' have this month both been
generous, and the 'New Monthly' and 'Ainsworth's Magazine' did what
they could. Then I have the 'Examiner' in my favor, and such heads and
hearts as are better and purer than the purely critical, and I am very
glad altogether, and very grateful, and hope to live long enough to
acknowledge, if not to justify, much unexpected kindness. Of course,
some hard criticism is mixed with the liberal sympathy, as you will
see in 'Blackwood,' but some of it I deserve, even in my own eyes; and
all of it I am willing to be patient under. The strange thing is, that
without a single personal friend among these critics, they should have
expended on me so much 'gentillesse,' and this strangeness I feel
very sensitively. Mr. Horne has not returned to England yet, and in a
letter which I received from him some fortnight ago he desired to have
my book sent to him to Germany, just as if he never meant to return to
England again. I answered his sayings, and reiterated, in a way
that would make you smile, my information about your having sent the
American copies to him. I made my _oyez_ very plain and articulate.
He won't say again that he never heard of it--be sure of _that_. Well,
and then Mr. Browning is not in England either, so that whatever you
send for _him_ must await his return from the east or the west or
the south, wherever he is. The new spirit of the age is a wandering
spirit. Mr. Dickens is in Italy. Even Miss Mitford _talks_ of going to
France, which is an extreme case for _her_. Do you never feel inclined
to flash across the Atlantic to us, or can you really remain still in
one place?

I must not forget to assure you, dear Mr. Mathews, as I may
conscientiously do, even before I have looked into or received the
'Democratic Review,' that whatever fault you may find with me, my
strongest feeling on reading your article will or must be _the sense
of your kindness_. Of course I do not expect, nor should I wish, that
your personal interest in me (proved in so many ways) would destroy
your critical faculty in regard to me. Such an expectation, if I had
entertained it, would have been scarcely honorable to either of us,
and I may assure you that I never did entertain it. No; be at
rest about the article. It is not likely that I shall think it
'inadequate.' And I may as well mention in connection with it that
before you spoke of reviewing me _I_ (in my despair of Mr. Horne's
absence, and my impotency to assist your book) had thrown into my
desk, to watch for some opportunity of publication, a review of your
'Poems on Man,' from my own hand, and that I am still waiting and
considering and taking courage before I send it to some current
periodical. There is a difficulty--there is a feeling of shyness on
my part, because, as I told you, I have no personal friend or
introduction among the pressmen or the critics, and because the
'Athenaeum,' which I should otherwise turn to first, has already
treated of your work, and would not, of course, consent to reconsider
an expressed opinion. Well, I shall do it somewhere. Forgive me the
_appearance_ of my impotency under a general aspect.

Ah, you cannot guess at the estate of poetry in the eyes of even
such poetical English publishers as Mr. Moxon, who can write sonnets
himself. Poetry is in their eyes just a desperate speculation. A poet
must have tried his public before he tries the publisher--that is,
before he expects the publisher to run a risk for him. But I will make
any effort you like to suggest for any work of yours; I only tell you
how _things are_. By the way, if I ever told you that Tennyson was
ill, I may as rightly tell you now that he is well, again, or was
when I last heard of him. I do not know him personally. Also Harriet
Martineau can walk five miles a day with ease, and believes in
mesmerism with all her strength. Mr. Putnam had the goodness to write
and open his reading room to me, who am in prison instead in mine.

May God bless you. Do let me hear from you soon, and believe me ever
your friend,

E.B. BARRETT.


_To Mrs. Martin_
November 16, 1844.

My dearest Mrs. Martin, ... To-day I perceive in the 'contents' of the
new 'Westminster Review' that my poems are reviewed in it, and I hope
that you will both be interested enough in my fortunes to read at the
library what may be said of them. Did George tell you that he imagined
(as I also did) the 'Blackwood' paper to be by Mr. Phillimore the
barrister? Well, Mr. Phillimore denies it altogether, has in fact
quarrelled with Christopher North, and writes no more for him, so that
I am quite at a loss now where to carry my gratitude.

Do write to me soon. I hear that everybody should read Dr. Arnold's
'Life.' Do you know also 'E[=o]then,' a work of genius? You have read,
perhaps, Hewitt's 'Visits to Remarkable Places' in the first series
and second; and Mrs. Jameson's 'Visits and Sketches' and 'Life
in Mexico.' Do you know the 'Santa Fé Expedition,' and Custine's
'Russia,' and 'Forest Life' by Mrs. Clavers? You will think that my
associative process is in a most disorderly state, by all this running
up and down the stairs of all sorts of subjects, in the naming of
books. I would write a list, more as a list should be written, if I
could see my way better, and this will do for a beginning in any case.
You do not like romances, I believe, as I do, and then nearly every
romance now-a-days sets about pulling the joints of one's heart and
soul out, as a process of course. 'Ellen Middleton' (which I have
not read yet) is said to be very painful. Do you know Leigh Hunt's
exquisite essays called 'The Indicator and Companion' &c., published
by Moxon? I hold them at once in delight and reverence. May God bless
you both.

I am ever your affectionate
BA.



_To Mrs. Martin_
50 Wimpole Street:
Tuesday, November 26, 1844 [postmark].

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--I thank you much for your little notes; and
you know too well how my sympathy answers you, 'as face to face in a
glass,' for me to assure you of it here. Your account of yourselves
altogether I take to be satisfactory, because I never expected anybody
to gain strength very _rapidly_ while in the actual endurance of hard
medical discipline. I am glad you have found out a trustworthy adviser
at Dover, but I feel nevertheless that you may _both trust_ and _hope_
in Dr. Bright, of whom I heard the very highest praises the other
day....

Now really I don't know why I should fancy you to be so deeply
interested in Dr. Bright, that all this detail should be necessary.
What I _do_ want you to be interested in, is in Miss Martineau's
mesmeric experience,[118] for a copy of which, in the last
'Athenaeum,' I have sent ever since yesterday, in the intention of
sending it to you. You will admit it to be curious as philosophy, and
beautiful as composition; for the rest, I will not answer. Believing
in mesmerism as an agency, I hesitate to assent to the necessary
connection between Miss Martineau's cure and the power; and also I am
of opinion that unbelievers will not very generally become converts
through her representations. There is a tone of exaltation which
will be observed upon, and one or two sentences are suggestive to
scepticism. I will send it to you when I get the number. I understand
that an intimate friend of hers (a lady) travelled down from the
south of England to Tynemouth, simply to try to prevent the public
exposition, but could not prevail. Mr. Milnes has, besides, been her
visitor. He is fully a believer, she says, and affirms to having seen
the same phenomena in the East, but regards the whole subject with
_horror_. This still appears to be Mrs. Jameson's feeling, as you
know it is mine. Mrs. Jameson came again to this door with a note, and
overcoming by kindness, was let in on Saturday last; and sate with me
for nearly an hour, and so ran into what my sisters call 'one of my
sudden intimacies' that there was an embrace for a farewell. Of course
she won my affections through my vanity (Mr. Martin will be sure to
say, so I hasten to anticipate him) and by exaggerations about my
poetry; but really, and although my heart beat itself almost to pieces
for fear of seeing her as she walked upstairs, I do think I should
have liked her _without the flattery_. She is very light--has the
lightest of eyes, the lightest of complexions; no eyebrows, and what
looked to me like very pale red hair, and thin lips of no colour at
all. But with all this indecision of exterior the expression is
rather acute than soft; and the conversation in its principal
characteristics, analytical and examinative; throwing out no thought
which is not as clear as glass--critical, in fact, in somewhat of
an austere sense. I use 'austere,' of course, in its intellectual
relation, for nothing in the world could be kinder, or more graciously
kind, than her whole manner and words were to me. She is coming again
in two or three days, she says. Yes, and she said of Miss Martineau's
paper in the 'Athenaeum,' that she very much doubted the wisdom of
publishing it now; and that for the public's sake, if not for her own,
Miss M. should have waited till the excitement of recovered health
had a little subsided. She said of mesmerism altogether that she was
inclined to believe it, but had not finally made up her convictions.
She used words so exactly like some I have used myself that I must
repeat them, 'that if there was _anything_ in it, there was _so much_,
it became scarcely possible to limit consequences, and the subject
grew awful to contemplate.' ...

On Saturday I had some copies of my American edition, which dazzle the
English one; and one or two reviews, transatlantically transcendental
in 'oilie flatterie.' And I heard yesterday from the English publisher
Moxon, and he was 'happy to tell me that the work was selling very
well,' and this without an inquiry on my part. To say the truth, I
was _afraid_ to inquire. It is good news altogether. The 'Westminster
Review' won't be out till next month.

Wordsworth is so excited about the railroad that his wife persuaded
him to go away to recover his serenity, but he has returned raging
worse than ever. He says that fifty members of Parliament have
promised him their opposition. He is wrong, I think, but I also
consider that if the people remembered his genius and his age, and
suspended the obnoxious Act for a few years, they would be right....

May God bless you both.

Most affectionately yours,
BA.

[Footnote 118: The _Athenaum_ of November 23 contained the first of
a series of articles by Miss Martineau, giving her experiences of
mesmerism.]


_To James Martin_
December 10, 1844.

I have been thinking of you, my dear Mr. Martin, more and more the
colder it has been, and had made up my mind to write to-day, let me
feel as dull as I might. So, the vane only turns to _you_ instead
of to dearest Mrs. Martin in consequence of your letter--your letter
makes _that_ difference. I should have written to Dover in any
case....

You are to know that Miss Martineau's mesmeric experience is only
peculiar as being Harriet Martineau's, otherwise it exhibits the mere
commonplaces of the agency. You laugh, I see. I wish I could laugh
too. I mean, I seriously wish that I could disbelieve in the reality
of the power, which is in every way most repulsive to me....

Mrs. Martin is surprised at me and others on account of our 'horror.'
Surely it is a natural feeling, and she would herself be liable to it
if she were _more credulous_. The agency seems to me like the shaking
of the flood-gates placed by the Divine Creator between the unprepared
soul and the unseen world. Then--the subjection of the will and vital
powers of one individual to those of another, to the extent of the
apparent solution of the very identity, is abhorrent from me. And then
(as to the expediency of the matter, and to prove how far believers
may be carried) there is even now a religious sect at Cheltenham, of
persons who call themselves advocates of the 'third revelation,' and
profess to receive their system of theology entirely from patients in
the sleep.

In the meantime, poor Miss Martineau, as the consequence of her desire
to speak the truth as she apprehends it, is overwhelmed with atrocious
insults from all quarters. For my own part I would rather fall into
the hands of God than of man, and suffer as she did in the body,
instead of being the mark of these cruel observations. But she has
singular strength of mind, and calmly continues her testimony.

Miss Mitford writes to me: 'Be sure it is _all true_. I see it every
day in my Jane'--her maid, who is mesmerised for deafness, but not,
I believe, with much success curatively. As a remedy, the success
has been far greater in the Martineau case than in others. With
Miss Mitford's maid, the sleep is, however, produced; and the girl
professed, at the third _séance_, to be able to _see behind her_.

I am glad I have so much interesting matter to look forward to in the
'Eldon Memoirs' as Pincher's biography. I am only in the first volume.
Are English chancellors really made of such stuff? I couldn't have
thought it. Pincher will help to reconcile me to the Law Lords
perhaps.

And, to turn from Tory legislators, I am vainglorious in announcing to
you that the Anti-Corn-Law League has taken up my poems on the top of
its pikes as antithetic to 'War and Monopoly.' Have I not had a sonnet
from Gutter Lane? And has not the journal called the 'League' reviewed
me into the third heaven, high up--above the pure ether of the five
points? Yes, indeed. Of course I should be a (magna) chartist for
evermore, even without the previous predilection.

And what do you and Mrs. Martin say about O'Connell? Did you read
last Saturday's 'Examiner'? Tell her that I welcomed her kind letter
heartily, and that this is an answer to both of you. My best love
to her always. May God bless you, dear Mr. Martin! Probably I have
written your patience to an end. If papa or anybody were in the room,
I should have a remembrance for you.

I remain, myself,

Affectionately yours,
BA.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Wednesday [December 1844].

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Hardly had my letter gone to you yesterday,
when your kind present and not _et_ arrived. I thank you for my boots
with more than the warmth of the worsted, and feel all their merits to
my soul (each sole) while I thank you. A pair of boots or shoes
which 'can't be kicked off' is something highly desirable for me, in
Wilson's opinion; and this is the first thing which struck _her_.
But the 'great idea' 'à propos des bottes,' which occurred to myself,
ought to be unspeakable, like Miss Martineau's great ideas--for I do
believe it was--that I needn't have the trouble every morning, _now_,
of putting on my stockings....

My voice is thawing too, with all the rest. If the cold had lasted
I should have been dumb in a day or two more, and as it was, I was
forced to refuse to see Mrs. Jameson (who had the goodness to come
again) because I couldn't speak much above my breath. But I was
tolerably well and brave upon the whole. Oh, these murderous English
winters. The wonder is, how anybody can live through them....

Did I tell you, or Mr. Martin, that Rogers the poet, at eighty-three
or four years of age, bore the bank robbery[119] with the
light-hearted bearing of a man 'young and bold,' went out to dinner
two or three times the same week, and said witty things on his own
griefs. One of the other partners went to bed instead, and was not
likely, I heard, to 'get over it.' I felt quite glad and proud for
Rogers. He was in Germany last year, and this summer in Paris; but he
_first_ went to see Wordsworth at the Lakes.

It is a fine thing when a light burns so clear down into the socket,
isn't it? I, who am not a devout admirer of the 'Pleasures of Memory,'
do admire this perpetual youth and untired energy; it is a fine thing
to my mind. Then, there are other noble characteristics about this
Rogers. A common friend said the other day to Mr. Kenyon, 'Rogers
hates me, I know. He is always saying bitter speeches in relation to
me, and yesterday he said so and so. _But_,' he continued, 'if I were
in distress, there is one man in the world to whom I would go without
doubt and without hesitation, at once, and as to a brother, and _that_
man is _Rogers_.' Not that I would choose to be obliged to a man who
hated me; but it is an illustration of the fact that if Rogers is
bitter in his words, which we all know he is, he is always benevolent
and generous in his deeds. He makes an epigram on a man, and gives
him a thousand pounds; and the deed is the truer expression of his own
nature. An uncommon development of character, in any case.

May God bless you both!

Your most affectionate
BA.

I am going to tell you, in an antithesis, of the popularising of my
poems. I had a sonnet the other day from Gutter Lane, Cheapside, and
I heard that Count d'Orsay had written one of the stanzas of 'Crowned
and Buried' at the bottom of an engraving of Napoleon which hangs in
his room. Now I allow you to laugh at my vaingloriousness, and then
you may pin it to Mrs. Best's satisfaction in the dedication to
Dowager Majesty. By the way--no, out of the way--it is whispered that
when Queen Victoria goes to Strathfieldsea[120] (how do you spell it?)
she means to visit Miss Mitford, to which rumour Miss Mitford (being
that rare creature, a sensible woman) says: 'May God forbid.'

[Footnote 119: A great robbery from Rogers' bank on November 23,
1844, in which the thieves carried off 40,000£ worth of notes, besides
specie and securities.]

[Footnote 120: Strathfieldsaye, the Duke of Wellington's house.]


_To John Kenyan_
Wednesday morning [about December 1844].

I thank you, my dear cousin, and did so silently the day before
yesterday, when you were kind enough to bring me the review and write
the good news in pencil. I should be delighted to see you (this is to
certify) notwithstanding the frost; only my voice having suffered, and
being the ghost of itself, you might find it difficult to _hear_ me
without inconvenience. Which is for _you_ to consider, and not
for _me_. And indeed the fog, in addition to the cold, makes it
inexpedient for anyone to leave the house except upon business and
compulsion.

Oh no--we need not mind any scorn which assails Tennyson and _us_
together. There is a dishonor that does honor--and 'this is of it.' I
never heard of Barnes.[121]

Were you aware that the review you brought was in a newspaper called
the 'League,' and laudatory to the utmost extravagance--praising us
too for courage in opposing 'war and monopoly'?--the 'corn ships in
the offing' being duly named. I have heard that it is probably written
by Mr. Cobden himself, who writes for the journal in question, and is
an enthusiast in poetry. If I thought so to the point of conviction,
_do you know, I should be very much pleased_? You remember that I am a
sort of (magna) chartist--only going a little farther!

Flush was properly ashamed of himself when he came upstairs again for
his most ungrateful, inexplicable conduct towards you; and I lectured
him well; and upon asking him to 'promise never to behave ill to you
again,' he kissed my hands and wagged his tail most emphatically. It
altogether amounted to an oath, I think. The truth is that Flush's
nervous system rather than his temper was in fault, and that, in that
great cloak, he saw you as in a cloudy mystery. And then, when you
stumbled over the bell rope, he thought the world was come to an end.
He is not accustomed, you see, to the vicissitudes of life. Try to
forgive him and me--for his ingratitude seems to 'strike through' to
me; and I am not without remorse.

Ever most affectionately yours,
E.B.B.

I inclose Mr. Chorley's note which you left behind you, but which
I did not see until just now. _You_ know that I am not ashamed of
'_progress_.' On the contrary, my only hope is in it. But the question
is not _there_, nor, I think, for the public, except in cases of ripe,
established reputations, as I said before.

[Footnote 121: William Barnes, the Dorsetshire poet, the first part of
whose _Poems of Rural Life in the Dorset Dialect_ appeared in 1844.]


_To Mr. Westwood_
(On returning some illustrations of Spenser by Mr. Woods)
December 11, 1844.

... With many thanks, cordial and true, I thank you for the pleasure I
have enjoyed in connection with these proofs of genius. To be honest,
it is my own personal opinion (I give it to you for as much as it
is worth--not much!) that many of the subjects of these drawings
are unfit for graphic representation. What we can bear to see in the
poet's vision, and sustained on the wings of his divine music, we
shrink from a little when brought face to face with, as drawn out
in black and white. You will understand what I mean. The horror and
terror preponderate in the drawings, and what is sublime in the
poet is apt to be extravagant in the artist--and this, not from a
deficiency of power in the latter, but from a treading on ground
forbidden except to the poet's foot. I may be wrong, perhaps--I do
not pretend to be right. I only tell you (as you ask for them) what my
impressions are.

I need not say that I wish all manner of success to your friend the
artist, and laurels of the weight of gold while of the freshness of
grass--alas! an impossible vegetable!--fabulous as the Halcyon!



_To H.S. Boyd_
Monday, December 24, 1844 [postmark].

My dearest Mr. Boyd,--I wish I had a note from you to-day--which
optative aorist I am not sure of being either grammatical or
reasonable! Perhaps you have expected to hear from _me_ with more
reason....

I fancied that you would be struck by Miss Martineau's lucid and able
style. She is a very admirable woman--and the most logical intellect
of the age, for a woman. On this account it is that the men throw
stones at her, and that many of her own sex throw dirt; but if I
begin on this subject I shall end by gnashing my teeth. A righteous
indignation fastens on me. I had a note from her the other day,
written in a noble spirit, and saying, in reference to the insults
lavished on her, that she was prepared from the first for _publicity_,
and ventured it all for the sake of what she considered the truth--she
was sustained, she said, by the recollection of Godiva.

Do you remember who Godiva was--or shall I tell you? Think of
it--Godiva of Coventry, and peeping Tom. The worst and basest is, that
in this nineteenth century there are thousands of Toms to one.

I think, however, myself, and with all my admiration for Miss
Martineau, that her statement and her reasonings on it are not free
from vagueness and apparent contradictions. She writes in a state of
enthusiasm, and some of her expressions are naturally coloured by her
mood of mind and nerve.

May this Christmas give you ease and pleasantness, in various ways, my
dearest friend! My Christmas wish for myself is to hear that you are
well. I cannot bear to think of you suffering. Are the nights better?
May God bless you. Shall you not think it a great thing if the poems
go into a second edition within the twelvemonth? I am surprised at
your not being satisfied. Consider what poetry is, and that four
months have not passed since the publication of mine; and that, where
poems have to make their way by force of _themselves_, and not of name
nor of fashion, the first three months cannot present the period
of the quickest sale. That must be for afterwards. Think of me on
Christmas Day, as of one who gratefully loves you.

ELIBET.


A passing reference in a previous letter (above, p. 217) has told of
the beginning of another friendship, which was to hold a large place
in Miss Barrett's later life; and the next letter is the first now
extant which was written to this new friend, Anna Jameson. Mrs.
Jameson had not at this time written the works on sacred art with
which her name is now chiefly associated; but she was already engaged
in her long struggle to earn her livelihood by her pen. Her first
work, 'The Diary of an Ennuyée' (1826), written before her marriage,
had attracted considerable attention. Since then she had written
her 'Characteristics of Women,' 'Essays on Shakespeare's Female
Characters,' 'Visits and Sketches,' and a number of compilations
of less importance. Quite recently she had been engaged to write
handbooks to the public and private art galleries of London, and had
so embarked on the career of art authorship in which her best work was
done.

The beginning and end of the following letter are lost. The subject of
it is the long and hostile comment which appeared in the 'Athenaeum'
for December 28 on Miss Martineau's letters on mesmerism.


_To Mrs. Jameson_
[End of December 1844.]

... For the 'Athenaeum,' I have always held it as a journal, first--in
the very first rank--both in ability and integrity; and knowing Mr.
Dilke _is_ the 'Athenaeum,' I could make no mistake in my estimation
of himself. I have personal reasons for gratitude to both him and his
journal, and I have always felt that it was honorable to me to have
them. Also, I do not at all think that because a woman is a woman,
she is on that account to be spared the ordinary risks of the arena
in literature and philosophy. I think no such thing. Logical chivalry
would be still more radically debasing to us than any other. It is not
therefore at all as a Harriet Martineau, but as a thinking and feeling
Martineau (now _don't_ laugh), that I hold her to have been hardly
used in the late controversy. And, if you don't laugh at _that_, don't
be too grave either, with the thought of your own share and position
in the matter; because, as must be obvious to everyone (yourself
included), you did everything possible to you to prevent the
catastrophe, and no man and no friend could have done better. My
brother George told me of his conversation with you at Mr. Lough's,
but _are_ you not mistaken in fancying that she blames you, that
she is cold with you? I really think you must be. Why, if she is
displeased with you she must be unjust, _and is she ever unjust_? I
ask you. _I_ should imagine not, but then, with all my insolence of
talking of her as my friend, I only admire and love her at a distance,
in her books and in her letters, and do not know her face to face, and
in living womanhood at all. She wrote to me once, and since we have
corresponded; and as in her kindness she has called me her friend, I
leap hastily at an unripe fruit, perhaps, and echo back the word. She
is your friend in a completer, or, at least, a more ordinary sense;
and indeed it is impossible for me to believe without strong evidence
that she could cease to be your friend on such grounds as are
apparent. Perhaps she does not write because she cannot contain her
wrath against Mr. Dilke (which, between ourselves, she cannot, very
well), and respects your connection and regard for him. Is not _that_
a 'peradventure' worth considering? I am sure that you have no _right_
to be uneasy in any case.

And now I do not like to send you this letter without telling you
my impression about mesmerism, lest I seem reserved and 'afraid of
committing myself,' as prudent people are. I will confess, then,
that my _impression_ is in favour of the reality of mesmerism to some
unknown extent. I particularly dislike believing it, I would rather
believe most other things in the world; but the evidence of the 'cloud
of witnesses' does thunder and lightning so in my ears and eyes,
that I believe, while my blood runs cold. I would not be practised
upon--no, not for one of Flushie's ears, and I hate the whole
theory. It is hideous to my imagination, especially what is called
phrenological mesmerism. After all, however, truth is to be accepted;
and testimony, when so various and decisive, is an ascertainer of
truth. Now do not tell Mr. Dilke, lest he excommunicate me.

But I will not pity you for the increase of occupation produced by an
increase of such comfort as your mother's and sister's presence must
give. What it will be for you to have a branch to sun yourself on,
after a long flight against the wind!


_To Mr. Chorley_
50 Wimpole Street: January 3, 1845.

Dear Mr. Chorley,--I hope it will not be transgressing very much
against the etiquette of journalism, or against the individual
delicacy which is of more consequence to both of us, if I venture
to thank you by one word for the pages which relate to me in your
excellent article in the 'New Quarterly.' It is not my habit to thank
or to remonstrate with my reviewers, and indeed I believe I may tell
you that I never wrote to thank anyone before on these grounds. I
could not thank anyone for praising me--I would not thank him for
praising me against his conscience; and if he praised me to the
measure of his conscience only, I should have little (as far as the
praise went) to thank him for. Therefore I do not thank you for the
praise in your article, but for the kind cordial spirit which pervades
both praise and blame, for the willingness in praising, and for the
gentleness in finding fault; for the encouragement without unseemly
exaggeration, and for the criticisms without critical scorn. Allow me
to thank you for these things and for the pleasure I have received by
their means. I am bold to do it, because I hear that you confess the
reviewership; and am the bolder, because I recognised your hand in
an act of somewhat similar kindness in the 'Athenaeum' at the first
appearance of the poems.

While I am writing of the 'New Quarterly,' I take the liberty of
making a remark, not of course in relation to myself--I know too well
my duty to my judges--but to your view of the Vantage ground of the
poetesses of England. It is a strong impression with me that previous
to Joanna Baillie there was no such thing in England as a poetess;
and that so far from triumphing over the rest of the world in that
particular product, we lay until then under the feet of the world.
We hear of a Marie in Brittany who sang songs worthy to be mixed with
Chaucer's for true poetic sweetness, and in Italy a Vittoria Colonna
sang her noble sonnets. But in England, where is our poetess before
Joanna Baillie--poetess in the true sense? Lady Winchilsea had an
_eye_, as Wordsworth found out; but the Duchess of Newcastle had
more poetry in her--the comparative praise proving the negative
position--than Lady Winchilsea. And when you say of the French, that
they have only epistolary women and wits, while we have our Lady Mary,
why what would Lady Mary be to us _but_ for her letters and her wit?
Not a poetess, surely! unless we accept for poetry her graceful _vers
de société_.

Do forgive me if an impulse has carried me too far. It has been long
'a fact,' to my view of the matter, that Joanna Baillie is the first
female poet in all senses in England; and I fell with the whole weight
of fact and theory against the edge of your article.

I recall myself now to my first intention of being simply, but not
silently, grateful to you; and entreating you to pardon this letter
too quickly to think it necessary-to answer it....

I remain, very truly yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.


_To Mr. Chorley_
50 Wimpole Street: January 7, 1845.

Dear Mr. Chorley,--You are very good to deign to answer my
impertinences, and not to be disgusted by my defamations of 'the
grandmothers,' and (to diminish my perversity in your eyes) I am ready
to admit at once that we are generally too apt to run into premature
classification--the error of all imperfect knowledge; and into
unreasonable exclusiveness--the vice of it. We spoil the shining
surface of life by our black lines drawn through and through, as
if ominously for a game of the fox and goose. For my part, however
imperfect my practice may be, I am intimately convinced--and more and
more since my long seclusion--that to live in a house with windows on
every side, so as to catch both the morning and evening sunshine, is
the best and brightest thing we have to do--to say nothing about the
justest and wisest. Sympathies are our opportunities of good.

Moreover, I know nothing of your 'sweet mistress Anne.'[122] I never
read a verse of hers. Ignorance goes for much, you see, in all our
mal-criticisms, and my ignorance goes to this extent. I cannot write
to you of your Anglo-American poetess.

Also, in my sweeping speech about the grandmothers, I should have
stopped before such instances as the exquisite ballad of 'Auld Robin
Gray,' which is attributed to a woman, and the pathetic 'Ballow my
Babe,' which tradition calls 'Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament.' I have
certain doubts of my own, indeed, in relation to both origins, and
with regard to 'Robin Gray' in particular; but doubts are not worthy
stuff enough to be taken into an argument, and certainly, therefore,
I should have admitted those two ballads as worthy poems before the
_Joannan aera_.

For what I ventured to say otherwise, would you not consent to
join our sympathies, and receive the 'choir' (ah! but you are very
cunningly subtle in your distinctions; I am afraid I was too simple
for you) as agreeable writers of verses sometimes, leaving the word
_poet_ alone? Because, you see, what you call the 'bad dispensation'
by no means accounts for the want of the faculty of poetry, strictly
so called. England has had many learned women, not merely readers
but writers of the learned languages, in Elizabeth's time and
afterwards--women of deeper acquirements than are common now in the
greater diffusion of letters; and yet where were the poetesses? The
divine breath which seemed to come and go, and, ere it went,
filled the land with that crowd of true poets whom we call the old
dramatists--why did it never pass, even in the lyrical form, over the
lips of a woman? How strange! And can we deny that it was so? I look
everywhere for grandmothers and see none. It is not in the filial
spirit I am deficient, I do assure you--witness my reverent love of
the grandfathers!

Seriously, I do not presume to enter into argument with you, and this
in relation to a critical paper which I admire in so many ways and
am grateful for in some; but is not the poet a different man from the
cleverest versifier, and is it not well for the world to be taught
the difference? The divineness of poetry is far more to me than either
pride of sex or personal pride, and, though willing to acknowledge the
lowest breath of the inspiration, I cannot the 'powder and patch.' As
powder and patch I may, but not as poetry. And though I in turn may
suffer for this myself--though I too (_anch' io_) may be turned out of
'Arcadia,' and told that I am not a poet, still, I should be content,
I hope, that the divineness of poetry be proved in my humanness,
rather than lowered to my uses.

But you shall not think me exclusive. Of poor L.E.L., for instance,
I could write with _more_ praiseful appreciation than you can. It
appears to me that she had the gift--though in certain respects she
dishonored the art--and her latter lyrics are, many of them, of great
beauty and melody, such as, having once touched the ear of a reader,
live on in it. I observe in your 'Life of Mrs. Hemans' (shall I tell
you how often I have read those volumes?) she (Mrs. H.) never appears,
in any given letter or recorded opinion, to esteem her contemporary.
The antagonism lay, probably, in the higher parts of Mrs. Hemans's
character and mind, and we are not to wonder at it.

It is very pleasant to me to have your approbation of the sonnets on
George Sand, on the points of feeling and lightness, on which all my
readers have not absolved me equally, I have reason to know. I am more
a latitudinarian in literature than it is generally thought expedient
for women to be; and I have that admiration for _genius_, which dear
Mr. Kenyon calls my 'immoral sympathy with power;' and if Madame
Dudevant[123] is not the first female genius of any country or
age, I really do not know who is. And then she has certain
noblenesses--granting all the evil and 'perilous stuff'--noblenesses
and royalnesses which make me loyal. Do pardon me for intruding all
this on you, though you cannot justify me--_you_, who are occupied
beyond measure, and _I_, who know it! I have been under the delusion,
too, during this writing, of having something like a friend's claim
to write and be troublesome. I have lived so near your friends that I
keep the odour of them! A mere delusion, alas! my only personal
right in respect to you being one that I am not likely to forget or
waive--the right of being grateful to you.

But so, and looking again at the last words of your letter, I see that
you 'wish,' in the kindest of words, 'to do something more for me.'
I hope some day to take this 'something more' of your kindness out
in the pleasure of personal intercourse; and if, in the meantime, you
should consent to flatter my delusion by letting me hear from you now
and then, if ever you have a moment to waste and inclination to waste
it, why I, on my side, shall always be ready to thank you for the
'something more' of kindness, as bound in the duty of gratitude. In
any case I remain

Truly and faithfully yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 122: Probably Miss Anne Seward, a minor poetess who enjoyed
considerable popularity at the end of the eighteenth century. Her
elegies on Captain Cook and Major André went through several editions,
as did her _Louisa_, a poetical novel, a class of composition in
which she was the predecessor of Mrs. Browning herself. Her collected
poetical works were edited after her death by Sir Walter Scott
(1810).]

[Footnote 123: The real name of George Sand.]


_To Mr. Chorley_
[_The beginning of this letter is lost_]
[1845]

... to the awful consideration of the possibility of my reading
a novel or caring for the story of it (_proh pudor!_), that I am
probably, not to say certainly, the most complete and unscrupulous
romance reader within your knowledge. Never was a child who cared more
for 'a story' than I do; never even did I myself, _as_ a child, care
more for it than I do. My love of fiction began with my breath, and
will end with it; and goes on increasing; and the heights and depths
of the consumption which it has induced you may guess at perhaps,
but it is a sublime idea from its vastness, and will gain on you but
slowly. On my tombstone may be written '_Ci-gît_ the greatest novel
reader in the world,' and nobody will forbid the inscription; and I
approve of Gray's notion of paradise more than of his lyrics, when he
suggests the reading of romances ever new, [Greek: _eis tous aiônas_.]
Are you shocked at me? Perhaps so. And you see I make no excuses, as
an invalid might. Invalid or not, I should have a romance in a drawer,
if not behind a pillow, and I might as well be true and say so.
There is the love of literature, which is one thing, and the love
of fiction, which is another. And then, I am not fastidious, as Mrs.
Hemans was, in her high purity, and therefore the two loves have a
race-course clear.

This is a long preface to coming to speak of the 'Improvisatore.'[124]
I had sent for it already to the library, and shall dun them for it
twice as much for the sake of what you say. Only I hope I may care for
the story. I shall try.

And for the _rococo_, I have more feeling for it, in a sense, than I
once had, for, some two years ago, I passed through a long dynasty
of French memoirs, which made me feel quite differently about the
littlenesses of greatnesses. I measured them all from the heights
of the 'tabouret,'[125] and was a good Duchess, in the 'non-natural'
meaning, for the moment. Those memoirs are charming of their kind, and
if life were cut in filagree paper would be profitable reading to the
soul. Do you not think so? And you mean besides, probably, that you
care for _beauty in detail_, which we all should do if our senses were
better educated.

So the confession is not a dreadful one, after all, and mine may
involve more evil, and would to ninety-nine out of a hundred 'sensible
and cultivated people.' Think what Mrs. Ellis would say to the 'Women
of England' about me in her fifteenth edition, if she knew!

And do _you_ know that dear Miss Mitford spent this day week with me,
notwithstanding the rain?

Very truly yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

I have forgotten what I particularly wished to say--viz. that I never
thought of _expecting_ to hear from you. I understand that when you
write it is pure grace, and never to be expected. You have too much to
do, I understand perfectly.

The east wind seems to be blowing all my letters about to-day;
the _t's_ and _e's_ wave like willows. Now if crooked _e's_ mean a
'greenshade' (not taken rurally), what awful significance can have the
whole crooked alphabet?

[Footnote 124: By Hans Andersen; an English translation by Mary Howitt
was published in 1845.]

[Footnote 125: Duchesses in the French court had the privilege of
seating themselves on a _tabouret_ or stool while the King took his
meals; hence the _droit du tabouret_ comes to mean the rank of a
duchess.]



_To Mrs. Martin_
Saturday, January 1844 [should be 1845].[126]

I must tell you, my dearest Mrs. Martin, Mr. Kenyon has read to me an
extract from a private letter addressed by H. Martineau to Moxon the
publisher, to the effect that Lord Morpeth was down on his knees
in the middle of the room a few nights ago, in the presence of the
somnambule J., and conversing with her in Greek and Latin, that the
four Miss Liddels were also present, and that they five talked to
her during one _séance_ in five foreign languages, viz. Latin, Greek,
French, Italian, and German. When the mesmeriser touches the organ of
_imitation_ on J.'s head, while the strange tongue is in the course of
being addressed to her, she translates into English word for word
what is said; but when the organ of _language_ is touched, she simply
answers in English what is said.

My 'few words of comment' upon this are, that I feel to be more and
more standing on my head--which does not mean, you will be pleased to
observe, that I understand.

Well, and how are you both going on? My voice is quite returned; and
papa continues, I am sorry to say, to have a bad cold and cough. He
means to stay in the house to-day and try what prudence will do.

We have heard from Henry, at Alexandria still, but a few days before
sailing, and he and Stormie are bringing home, as a companion to
Flushie, a beautiful little gazelle. What do you think of it? I would
rather have it than the 'babby,' though the flourish of trumpets on
the part of the possessors seems quite in favor of the latter.

And I had a letter from Browning the poet last night, which threw me
into ecstasies--Browning, the author of 'Paracelsus,' and king of the
mystics.

[_The rest of this letter is missing_.]

[Footnote 126: The mention of her brothers being at Alexandria is
sufficient to show that 1845 must be the true date.]



_To Mrs. Martin_
Saturday, January 1845.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--I believe our last letters crossed, and we
might draw lots for the turn of receiving one, so that you are to take
it for supererogatory virtue in me altogether if I begin to write to
you as 'at these presents.' But I want to know how you both are, and
if your last account may continue to be considered the true one. You
have been poising yourself on the equal balance of letters, as weak
consciences are apt to do, but I write that you may write, and also,
a little, that I may thank you for the kindness of your last letter,
which was so very kind.

No, indeed, dearest Mrs. Martin. If I do not say oftener that I have
a strong and grateful trust in your affection for me, and therefore
in your interest in all that concerns me, it is not that it is less
strong and grateful. What I said or sang of Miss Martineau's letter
was no consequence of a distrust of _you_, but of a feeling within
myself that for me to show about such a letter was scarcely becoming,
and, in the matter of modesty, nowise discreet. I suppose I was
writing excuses to myself for showing it to you. I cannot otherwise
account for the saying and singing. And, for the rest, nobody can say
or sing that I am not frank enough to you--to the extent of telling
all manner of nonsense about myself which can only be supposed to be
interesting on the ground of your being presupposed to care a little
for the person concerned. Now am I not frank enough? And by the way, I
send you 'The Seraphim'[127] at last, by this day's railroad.

Thursday.

To prove to you that I had not forgotten you before your letter came,
here is the fragment of an unfinished one which I send you, to begin
with--an imperfect fossil letter, which no comparative anatomy will
bring much sense out of--except the plain fact _that you were not
forgotten_....

From Alexandria we heard yesterday that they sailed from thence on the
first of January, and the home passage may be long.

The _changes_ in Mary Minto on account of mesmerism were merely
imaginary as far as I can understand. Nobody here observed any change
in her. Oh no. These things will be fancied sometimes. That she is an
enthusiastic girl, and that the subject took strong hold upon her, is
true enough, and not the least in the world--according to my mind--to
be wondered at. By the way, I had a letter and the present of a work
on mesmerism--Mr. Newnham's--from his daughter, who sent it to me the
other day, in the kindest way, 'out of gratitude for my poetry,' as
she says, and from a desire that it might do me physical good in the
matter of health. I do not at all know her. I wrote to thank her, of
course, for the kindness and sympathy which, as she expressed them,
quite touched me; and to explain how I did not stand in reach just
now of the temptations of mesmerism. I might have said that I shrank
nearly as much from these 'temptations' as from Lord Bacon's stew of
infant children for the purposes of witchcraft.

Well, then, I am getting deeper and deeper into correspondence with
Robert Browning, poet and mystic, and we are growing to be the truest
of friends. If I live a little longer shut up in this room, I shall
certainly know everybody in the world. Mrs. Jameson came again
yesterday, and was very agreeable, but tried vainly to convince me
that the 'Vestiges of Creation,' which I take to be one of the most
melancholy books in the world, is the most comforting, and that Lady
Byron was an angel of a wife. I persisted (in relation to the former
clause) in a 'determinate counsel' not to be a fully developed monkey
if I could help it, but when Mrs. J. assured me that she knew all
the circumstances of the separation, though she could not betray a
confidence, and entreated me 'to keep my mind open' on a subject which
would one day be set in the light, I stroked down my feathers as well
as I could, and listened to reason. You know--or perhaps you do
_not_ know--that there are two women whom I have hated all my life
long--_Lady Byron and Marie Louise_. To prove how false the public
effigy of the former is, however, Mrs. Jameson told me that she knew
_nothing of mathematics, nothing of science_, and that the element
preponderating in her mind is the _poetical_ element--that she cares
much for _my_ poetry! How deep in the knowledge of the depths of
vanity must Mrs. J. be, to tell me _that_--now mustn't she? But there
was--yes, and is--a strong adverse feeling to work upon, and it is not
worked away.

Then, I have seen a copy of a note of Lord Morpeth to H. Martineau, to
the effect that he considered the mesmeric phenomena witnessed by him
(inclusive, remember, of the _languages_) to be 'equally beautiful,
wonderful, and _undeniable_' but he is prudent enough to desire that
no use should be made of this letter ... And now no more for to-day.

With love to Mr. Martin, ever believe me
Your affectionate
BA.

[Footnote 127: A copy of the 1838 volume for which Mrs. Martin had
asked.]


_To John Kenyan_
Saturday, February 8, 1845.

I return to you, dearest Mr. Kenyon, the two numbers of Jerold
Douglas's[128] magazine, and I wish 'by that same sign' I could invoke
your presence and advice on a letter I received this morning. You
never would guess what it is, and you will wonder when I tell you that
it offers a request from the _Leeds Ladies' Committee_, authorised and
backed by the London _General Council of the League_, to your cousin
Ba, that she would write them a poem for the Corn Law Bazaar to be
holden at Covent Garden next May. Now my heart is with the cause, and
my vanity besides, perhaps, for I do not deny that I am pleased with
the request so made, and if left to myself I should be likely at once
to say 'yes,' and write an agricultural-evil poem to complete the
factory-evil poem into a national-evil circle. And I do not myself
see how it would be implicating my name with a political party to the
extent of wearing a badge. The League is not a party, but 'the meeting
of the waters' of several parties, and I am trying to persuade papa's
Whiggery that I may make a poem which will be a fair exponent of the
actual grievance, leaving the remedy free for the hands of fixed-duty
men like him, or free-trade women like myself. As to wearing the badge
of a party, either in politics or religion, I may say that never in my
life was I so far from coveting such a thing. And then poetry breathes
in another outer air. And then there is not an existent set of
any-kind-of-politics I could agree with if I tried--_I_, who am a
sort of fossil republican! You shall see the letters when you
come. Remember what the 'League' newspaper said of the 'Cry of the
Children.'

Ever affectionately yours,
E.B.B.

[Footnote 128: Evidently a slip of the pen for Douglas Jerrold, whose
'Shilling Magazine' began to come out in 1845.]


_To Miss Commeline_
50 Wimpole Street: [February-March 1845].

My dear Miss Commeline,--I do hope that you will allow me to appear
to remember you as I never have ceased to do in reality, and at a time
when sympathy of friends is generally acceptable, to offer you mine
as if I had some right of friendship to do so. And I am encouraged the
more to attempt this because I never shall forget that in the hour of
the bitterest agony of my life your brother wrote me a letter which,
although I did not read it, I was too ill and distracted, I was yet
shown the outside of some months afterwards and enabled to appreciate
the sympathy fully. Such a kindness could not fail to keep alive in
me (if the need of keeping alive _were_!) the memory of the various
kindnesses received by me and mine from all your family, nor fail to
excite me to desire to impress upon you my remembrance of _you_ and
my regard, and the interest with which I hear of your joys and sorrows
whenever they are large enough to be seen from such a distance. Try
to believe this of me, dear Miss Commeline, yourself, and let your
sisters and your brother believe it also. If sorrow in its reaction
makes us think of our friends, let my name come among the list of
yours to you, and with it let the thought come that I am not the
coldest and least sincere. May God bless and comfort you, I say, with
a full heart, knowing what afflictions like yours are and must be,
but confident besides that 'we know not what we do' in weeping for the
dearest. In our sorrow we see the rough side of the stuff; in our joys
the smooth; and who shall say that when the taffeta is turned the most
_silk_ may not be in the sorrows? It is true, however, that sorrows
are heavy, and that sometimes the conditions of life (which sorrows
are) seem hard to us and overcoming, and I believe that much suffering
is necessary before we come to learn that the world is a good place to
live in and a good place to die in for even the most affectionate and
sensitive.

How glad I should be to hear from you some day, when it is not
burdensome for you to write at length and fully concerning all of
you--of your sister Maria, and of Laura, and of your brother, and
of all your occupations and plans, and whether it enters into your
dreams, not to say plans, ever to come to London, or to follow the
track of your many neighbours across the seas, perhaps....

For ourselves we have the happiness of seeing our dear papa so well,
that I am almost justified in fancying happily that you would not
think him altered. He has perpetual youth like the gods, and I may
make affidavit to your brother nevertheless that we never boiled him
up to it. Also his spirits are good and his 'step on the stair' so
light as to comfort me for not being able to run up and down them
myself. I am essentially better in health, but remain weak and
shattered and at the mercy of a breath of air through a crevice; and
thus the unusually severe winter has left me somewhat lower than usual
without surprising anybody. Henrietta and Arabel are quite well and at
home; George on circuit, always obliged by your proffered hospitality;
and Charles John and Henry returning from a voyage to Alexandria in
papa's own vessel, the 'Statira.' I set you an imperfect example of
egotism, and hope that you will double my _I's_ and _we's_, and kindly
trust to me for being interested in yours....

Yours affectionately,
E.B. BARRETT.


_To H.S. Boyd_
Saturday, March 3, 1845.

My dearest Friend,--I am aware that I should have written to you
before, but the cold weather is apt to disable me and to make me feel
idle when it does not do so quite. Now I am going to write about your
remarks on the 'Dublin Review.'

Certainly I agree with you that there can be no necessity for
explaining anything about the tutorship if you do not kick against the
pricks of the insinuation yourself, and especially as I consider that
you _were_ in a sense my 'tutor,' inasmuch as I may say, both that
nobody ever taught me so much Greek as you, and also that without you
I should have probably lived and died without any knowledge of the
Greek Fathers. The Greek classics I should have studied by love
and instinct; but the Fathers would probably have remained in their
sepulchres, as far as my reading them was concerned. Therefore, very
gratefully do I turn to you as my 'tutor' in the best sense, and the
more persons call you so, the better it is for the pleasures of my
gratitude. The review amused me by hitting on the right meaning there,
and besides by its percipiency about your remembering me during your
travels in the East, and sending me home the Cyprus wine. Some of
these reviewers have a wonderful gift at inferences. The 'Metropolitan
Magazine' for March (which is to be sent to you when papa has read
it) contains a flaming article in my favour, calling me 'the friend of
Wordsworth,' and, moreover, a very little lower than the angels. You
shall see it soon, and it is only just out, of course, being the March
number. The praise is beyond thanking for, and then I do not know whom
to thank--I cannot at all guess at the writer.

I have had a kind note from Lord Teynham, whose oblivion I had ceased
to doubt, it seemed so _proved_ to me that he had forgotten me. But
he writes kindly, and it gave me pleasure to have some sign of
recollection, if not of regard, from one whom I consider with
unalterable and grateful respect, and shall always, although I am
aware that he denies all sympathy to my works and ways in literature
and the world. In fact, and to set my poetry aside, he has joined that
'strait sect' of the Plymouth Brethren, and, of course, has straitened
his views since we met, and I, by the reaction of solitude and
suffering, have broken many bands which held me at that time. He was
always straiter than I, and now the difference is immense. For I think
the world wider than I once thought it, and I see God's love broader
than I once saw it. To the 'Touch not, taste not, handle not' of the
strict religionists, I feel inclined to cry, 'Touch, taste, handle,
_all things are pure_.' But I am writing this for you and not for
him, and you probably will agree with me, if you think as you used to
think, at least.

But I do not agree with _you_ on the League question, nor on the woman
question connected with it, only we will not quarrel to-day, and I
have written enough already without an argument at the end.

Can you guess what I have been doing lately? Washing out my
conscience, effacing the blot on my escutcheon, performing an
expiation, translating over again from the Greek the 'Prometheus' of
Aeschylus.

Yes, my very dear friend, I could not bear to let that frigid, rigid
exercise, called a version and called mine, cold as Caucasus, and
flat as the neighbouring plain, stand as my work. A palinodia, a
recantation was necessary to me, and I have achieved it. Do you blame
me or not? Perhaps I may print it in a magazine, but this is not
decided. How delighted I am to think of your being well. It makes me
very happy.

Your ever affectionate and grateful
ELIBET.


_To Mr. Westwood_
March 4, 1845.

I reproach myself, dear Mr. W., for my silence, and began to do so
before your kind note reminded me of its unkindness. I had indeed
my pen in my hand three days ago to write to you, but a cross fate
plucked at my sleeve for the ninety-ninth time, and left me guilty.
And you do not write to reproach me! You only avenge yourself softly
by keeping back all news of your health, and by not saying a word
of the effect on you of the winter which has done its spiriting
so ungently. Which brings me down to myself. For somebody has been
dreaming of me, and dreams, you know, must go by contraries. And
how could it be otherwise? Although I am on the whole essentially
better--on the whole!--yet the peculiar severity of the winter has
acted on me, and the truth is that for the last month, precisely
the last month, I have been feeling (off and on, as people say)
very uncomfortable. Not that I am essentially worse, but essentially
better, on the contrary, only that the feeling of discomfort and
trouble at the heart (physically) _will_ come with the fall of the
thermometer, and the voice will go!...

And then I have another question to enunciate--will the oracle answer?

Do you know _who wrote the article in the 'Metropolitan'_? Beseech
you, answer me. I have a suspicion, true, that the critics have been
supernaturally kind to me, but the kindness of this 'Metropolitan'
critic so passes the ordinary limit of kindness, metropolitan or
critical, that I cannot but look among my personal friends for the
writer of the article. Coming to personal friends, I reject one on one
ground and one on another--for one the graciousness is too graceful,
and for another the grace almost too gracious. I am puzzled and dizzy
with doubt; and--is it you? Answer me, will you? If so, I should owe
so much gratitude to you. Suffer me to pay it!--permit the pleasure to
me of paying it!--for I know too much of the pleasures of gratitude to
be willing to lose one of them.


_To John Kenyan_
March 6, [1845].

Thank you, dearest Mr. Kenyon--they are very fine. The poetry is in
_them_, rather than in Blair. And now I send them back, and Cunningham
and Jerrold, with thanks on thanks; and if you will be kind enough not
to insist on my reading the letters to Travis[129] within the 'hour,'
they shall wait for the 'Responsibility,' and the two go to you
together.

And as to the tiring, it has not been much, and the happy day was well
worth being tired _for_. It is better to be tired with pleasure than
with frost; and if I have the last fatigue too, why it is March,
and it is the hour of my martyrdom always. But I am not ill--only
uncomfortable.

Ah, the 'relenting'! it is rather a bad sign, I am afraid;
notwithstanding the subtilty of your consolations; but I stroke down
my philosophy, to make it shine, like a cat's back in the dark.
The argument from more deserving poets who prosper less is not very
comforting, is it? I trow not.

But as to the review, be sure--be very sure that it is not Mr.
Browning's. How you could _think_ even of Mr. Browning, surprises me.
Now, as for me, I know as well _as he does himself_ that he has had
nothing to do with it.

I should rather suspect Mr. Westwood, the author of some fugitive
poems, who writes to me sometimes; and the suspicion having occurred
to me, I have written to put the question directly. You shall hear, if
I hear in reply.

May God bless you always. I have heard from dear Miss Mitford.

Ever affectionately yours,
E.B.B.

[Footnote 129: By Porson, on the authenticity of I John v. 7.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
March 29, 1845 [postmark].

My dearest Mr. Boyd,--As Arabel has written out for you the
glorification of 'Peter of York,'[130] I shall use an edge of the same
paper to 'fall on your sense' with my gratitude about the Cyprus wine.
Indeed, I could almost upbraid you for sending me another bottle. It
is most supererogatory kindness in you to think of such a thing. And
I accept it, nevertheless, with thanks instead of remonstrances, and
promise you to drink your health in and the spring in together, and
the east wind out, if you do not object to it. I have been better for
several days, but my heart is not yet very orderly--not being able to
recover the veins, I suppose, all in a moment.

For the rest, you always mean what is right and affectionate, and I am
not apt to mistake your meanings in this respect. Be indulgent to me
as far as you can, when it appears to you that I sink far below your
religious standard, as I am sure I must do oftener than you remind
me. Also, it certainly does appear, to my mind, that we are not, as
Christians, called to the exclusive expression of Christian doctrine,
either in poetry or prose. All truth and all beauty and all music
belong to God--He is in all things; and in speaking of all, we speak
of Him. In poetry, which includes all things, 'the diapason closeth
full in God.' I would not lose a note of the lyre, and whatever He has
included in His creation I take to be holy subject enough for _me_.
That I am blamed for this view by many, I know, but I cannot see it
otherwise, and when you pay your visit to 'Peter of York' and me, and
are able to talk everything over, we shall agree tolerably well, I do
not doubt.

Ah, what a dream! What a thought! Too good even to come true!

I did not think that you would much like the 'Duchess May;' but among
the _profanum vulgus_ you cannot think how successful it has been.
There was an account in one of the fugitive reviews of a lady falling
into hysterics on the perusal of it, although _that_ was nothing to
the gush of tears of which there is a tradition, down the Plutonian
cheeks of a lawyer unknown, over 'Bertha in the Lane.' But these
things should not make anybody vain. It is the _story_ that has power
with people, just what _you_ do not care for!

About the reviews you ask a difficult question; but I suppose the
best, as reviews, are the 'Dublin Review,' 'Blackwood,' the 'New
Quarterly,' and the last 'American,' I forget the title at this
moment, the _Whig_ 'American,' _not_ the Democratic. The most
favorable to me are certainly the American unremembered, and the late
'Metropolitan,' which last was written, I hear, by Mr. Charles Grant,
a voluminous writer, but no poet. I consider myself singularly
happy in my reviews, and to have full reason for gratitude to the
profession.

I forgot to say that what the Dublin reviewer did me the honor of
considering an Irishism was the expression 'Do you mind' in 'Cyprus
Wine.' But he was wrong, because it occurs frequently among our elder
English writers, and is as British as London porter.

Now see how you throw me into figurative liquids, by your last Cyprus.
It is the true celestial, this last. But Arabel pleased me most by
bringing back so good an account of _you_.

Your ever affectionate and grateful
ELIBET.

[Footnote 130: A monster bell for York Minster, then being exhibited
at the Baker Street Bazaar. Mr. Boyd was an enthusiast on bells and
bell ringing.]


_To John Kenyan_
Friday [about January-March 1845].

Dearest Mr. Kenyon,--If your good nature is still not at ease, through
doubting about how to make Lizzy happy in a book, you will like
to hear perhaps that I have thought of a certain 'Family Robinson
Crusoe,' translated from the _German_, I think, _not_ a Robinson
_purified_, mind, but a Robinson multiplied and compounded.[131]
Children like reading it, I believe. And then there is a 'Masterman
Ready,' or some name like it, by Captain Marryat, also popular with
young readers. Or 'Seaward's Narrative,' by Miss Porter, would delight
her, as it did _me_, not so many years ago.

I mention these books, but know nothing of their price; and only
because you asked me, I do mention them. The fact is that she is not
hard to please as to literature, and will be delighted with anything.

To-day Mr. Poe sent me a volume containing his poems and tales
collected, so now I _must_ write and thank him for his dedication.
What is to be said, I wonder, when a man calls you the 'noblest of
your sex'? 'Sir, you are the most discerning of yours.' Were you
thanked for the garden ticket yesterday? No, everybody was ungrateful,
down to Flush, who drinks day by day out of his new purple cup, and
had it properly explained how _you_ gave it to him (_I_ explained
_that_), and yet never came upstairs to express to you his sense of
obligation.

Affectionately yours always,
E.B.B.

[Footnote 131: No doubt _The Swiss Family Robinson_.]


_To John Kenyan_
Saturday [beginning of April 1845].

My dearest Cousin,--After all _I_/ said to _you_, said the other day,
about Apuleius, and about what couldn't, shouldn't, and mustn't be
done in the matter, I ended by trying the unlawful art of translating
this prose into verse, and, one after another, have done all the
subjects of the Poniatowsky gems Miss Thompson sent the list of,
except _two_, which I am doing and shall finish anon.[132] In the
meantime it comes into my head that it is just as well for you to look
over my doings, and judge whether anything in them is to the purpose,
or at all likely to be acceptable. Especially I am anxious to impress
on you that, if I could think for a moment _you would hesitate about
rejecting the whole in a body_, from any consideration for _me_, I
should not merely be vexed but pained. Am I not your own cousin, to be
ordered about as you please? And so take notice that I will not _bear_
the remotest approach to ceremony in the matter. What is wrong? what
is right? what is too much? those are the only considerations.

Apuleius is _florid_, which favored the poetical design on his
sentences. Indeed he is more florid than I have always liked to make
my verses. It is not, of course, an absolute translation, but as a
running commentary on the text it is sufficiently faithful.

But probably (I say to myself) you do not want so many illustrations,
and all too from one hand?

The two I do not send are 'Psyche contemplating Cupid asleep,' and
'Psyche and the Eagle.'

And I wait to hear how Polyphemus is to _look_--and also Adonis.

The Magazine goes to you with many thanks. The sonnet is full of force
and expression, and I like it as well as ever I did--better even!

Oh--such happy news to-day! The 'Statira' is at Plymouth, and my
brothers quite well, notwithstanding their hundred days on the sea!
_It makes me happy_.

Yours most affectionately,
BA.

You shall have your 'Radical' almost immediately. I am ashamed. _In
such haste_.

[Footnote 132: These versions were not published in Mrs. Browning's
lifetime, but were included in the posthumous _Last Poems_ (1862).
They now appear in the _Poetical Works_, v. 72-83.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
April 3, 1845.

My very dear Friend,--I have been intending every day to write to tell
you that the Cyprus wine is as nectareous as possible, so fit for the
gods, in fact, that I have been forced to leave it off as unfit for
_me_; it made me so feverish. But I keep it until the sun shall have
made me a little less mortal; and in the meantime recognise thankfully
both its high qualities and _your_ kind ones. How delightful it is to
have this sense of a summer at hand. _Shall_ I see you this summer, I
wonder. That is a question among my dreams.

By the last American packet I had two letters, one from a poet of
Massachusetts, and another from a poetess: the _he_, Mr. Lowell, and
the _she_, Mrs. Sigourney. She says that the sound of my poetry is
stirring the 'deep green forests of the New World;' which sounds
pleasantly, does it not? And I understand from Mr. Moxon that a new
edition will be called for before very long, only not immediately....

Your affectionate and grateful friend,
ELIBET.

Arabel and Mr. Hunter talk of paying you a visit some day.


_To Mrs. Martin_
April 3, 1845.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--I wrote to you not many days ago, but I must
tell you that our voyagers are safe in Sandgate break in 'an ugly
hulk' (as poor Stormie says despondingly), suffering three or four
days of quarantine agony, and that we expect to see them on Monday or
Tuesday in the full bloom of their ill humour. I am happy to think,
according to the present symptoms, that the mania for sea voyages
is considerably abated. 'Nothing could be more miserable,' exclaims
Storm; 'the only comfort of the whole four months is the safety of
the beans, tell papa'--and the safety of the beans is rather a
Pythagoraean[133] equivalent for four months' vexation, though not
a bean of them all should have lost in freshness and value! He could
scarcely write, he said, for the chilblains on his hands, and was in
utter destitution of shirts and sheets. Oh! I have very good hopes
that for the future Wimpole Street may be found endurable.

Well, and you are at once angry and satisfied, I suppose, about
Maynooth; just as I am! satisfied with the justice as far as it goes,
and angry and disgusted at the hideous shrieks of intolerance and
bigotry which run through the country. The dissenters have very nearly
disgusted me, what with the Education clamour, and the Presbyterian
chapel cry, and now this Maynooth cry; and certainly it is wonderful
how people can see rights as rights in their own hands, and as wrongs
in the hands of their opposite neighbours. Moreover it seems to me
atrocious that we who insist on seven millions of Catholics supporting
a church they call heretical, should _dare_ to talk of our scruples
(conscientious scruples forsooth!) about assisting with a poor
pittance of very insufficient charity their 'damnable idolatry.' Why,
every cry of complaint we utter is an argument against the wrong we
have been committing for years and years, and must be so interpreted
by every honest and disinterested thinker in the world. Of course I
should prefer the Irish establishment coming down, to any endowment
at all; I should prefer a trial of the voluntary system throughout
Ireland; but as it is adjudged on all hands impossible to attempt this
in the actual state of parties and countries, why this Maynooth grant
and subsequent endowment of the Catholic Church in Ireland seem the
simple alternative, obviously and on the first principles of justice.
Macaulay was very great, was he not? He appeared to me _conclusive_ in
logic and sentiment. The sensation everywhere is extraordinary, I am
sorry really to say!

Wordsworth is in London, having been commanded up to the Queen's ball.
He went in Rogers's court dress, or did I tell you so the other day?
And I hear that the fair Majesty of England was quite 'fluttered' at
seeing him. 'She had not a word to say,' said Mrs. Jameson, who came
to see me the other day and complained of the omission as 'unqueenly;'
but I disagreed with her and thought the being '_fluttered_' far the
highest compliment. But she told me that a short time ago the Queen
confessed she never had read Wordsworth, on which a maid of honour
observed, 'That is a pity, he would do your Majesty a great deal of
good.' Mrs. Jameson declared that Miss Murray, a maid of honour, very
deeply attached to the Queen, assured her (Mrs. J.) of the answer
being quite as abrupt as _that_; as direct, and to the purpose; and
no offence intended or received. I like Mrs. Jameson better the more
I see her, and with grateful reason, she is so kind. Now do write
directly, and let me hear of you [in d]etail. And tell Mr. Martin to
make a point of coming home to us, with no grievances but political
ones. The Bazaar is to be something sublime in its degree, and I shall
have a sackcloth feeling all next week. All the rail carriages will
be wound up to radiate into it, I hear, and the whole country is to be
shot into the heart of London.

May God bless you.

Your ever affectionate
BA.

I hear that Guizot suffers intensely, and that there are fears lest he
may sink. Not that the complaint is mortal.

[Footnote 133: Referring to the Pythagorean doctrine of the sanctity
of beans.]


_To Mr. Westwood_
Wimpole Street: April 9, 1845.

Poor Hood! Ah! I had feared that the scene was closing on him. And I
am glad that a little of the poor gratitude of the world is laid down
at his door just now to muffle to his dying ear the harsher sounds
of life. I forgive much to Sir Robert for the sake of that
letter--though, after all, the minister is not high-hearted, or made
of heroic stuff.[134]

I am delighted that you should appreciate Mr. Browning's high
power--very high, according to my view--very high, and various. Yes,
'Paracelsus' you _should_ have. 'Sordello' has many fine things in
it, but, having been thrown down by many hands as unintelligible, and
retained in mine as certainly of the Sphinxine literature, with all
its power, I hesitate to be imperious to you in my recommendations of
it. Still, the book _is_ worth being _studied_--study is necessary
to it, as, indeed, though in a less degree, to all the works of this
poet; study is peculiarly necessary to it. He is a true poet, and a
poet, I believe, of a large '_future in-rus, about to be_.' He is only
growing to the height he will attain.


_To Mr. Westwood_
April 1845.

The sin of Sphinxine literature I admit. Have I not struggled hard to
renounce it? Do I not, day by day? Do you know that I have been
told that _I_ have written things harder to interpret than Browning
himself?--only I cannot, cannot believe it--he is so very hard. Tell
me honestly (and although I attributed the excessive good nature of
the 'Metropolitan' criticism to you, I _know_ that you can speak the
truth _truly_!) if anything like the Sphinxineness of Browning, you
discover in me; take me as far back as 'The Seraphim' volume and
answer! As for Browning, the fault is certainly great, and the
disadvantage scarcely calculable, it is so great. He cuts his language
into bits, and one has to join them together, as young children do
their dissected maps, in order to make any meaning at all, and to
study hard before one can do it. Not that I grudge the study or the
time. The depth and power of the significance (when it is apprehended)
glorifies the puzzle. With you and me it is so; but with the majority
of readers, even of readers of poetry, it is not and cannot be so.

The consequence is, that he is not read except in a peculiar circle
very strait and narrow. He will not die, because the principle of
life is in him, but he will not live the warm summer life which is
permitted to many of very inferior faculty, because he does not come
out into the sun.

Faithfully your friend,
E.B. BARRETT.

[Footnote 134: Hood died on May 3, 1845; while on his deathbed he
received from Sir Robert Peel the notification that he had conferred
on him a pension of 100£ a year, with remainder to his wife.]


The following letter relates to the controversy raging round Miss
Martineau and her mesmerism. Miss Barrett had evidently referred to it
in a letter to Mr. Chorley, which has not been preserved.


_To Mr. Chorley_
50 Wimpole Street: April 28, 1845.

Dear Mr. Chorley,--I felt quite sure that you would take my postscript
for a womanish thing, and a little doubtful whether you would not
take the whole allusion (in or out of a postscript) for an impertinent
thing; but the impulse to speak was stronger than the fear of
speaking; and from the peculiarities of my position, I have come to
write by impulses just as other people talk by them. Still, if I had
known that the subject was so painful to you, I certainly would not
have touched on it, strong as my feeling has been about it, and full
and undeniable as is my sympathy with our noble-minded friend, both as
a woman and a thinker. Not that I consider (of course I cannot) that
she has made out anything like a '_fact_' in the Tynemouth story--not
that I think the evidence offered in any sort sufficient; take it as
it was in the beginning and unimpugned--not that I have been otherwise
than of opinion throughout that she was precipitate and indiscreet,
however generously so, in her mode and time of advocating the mesmeric
question; but that she is at liberty as a thinking being (in my mind)
to hold an opinion, the grounds of which she cannot yet justify to
the world. Do you not think she may be? Have you not opinions yourself
beyond what you can prove to others? Have we not all? And because some
of the links of the outer chain of a logical argument fail, or seem to
fail, are we therefore to have our 'honours' questioned, because we
do not yield what is suspended to an inner uninjured chain of at once
subtler and stronger formation? For what I venture to object to in the
argument of the 'Athenaeum' is the making a _moral obligation_ of an
_intellectual act_, which is the first step and gesture (is it not?)
in all persecution for opinion; and the involving of the 'honour' of
an opponent in the motion of recantation she is invited to. This I do
venture to exclaim against. I do cry aloud against this; and I do say
this, that when we call it 'hard,' we are speaking of it softly. Why,
consider how it is! The 'Athenaeum' has done quite enough to _disprove
the proving_ of the wreck story,[135] and no more at all. The
disproving of the proof of the wreck story is indeed enough to
disprove the wreck story and to disprove mesmerism itself (as far as
the proof of mesmerism depends on the proof of the wreck story, and
no farther) with all doubters and undetermined inquirers; but with the
very large class of previous _believers_, this disproof of a proof
is a mere accident, and cannot be expected to have much logical
consequence. Believing that such things may be as this revelation of
a wreck, they naturally are less exacting of the stabilities of the
proving process. What we think probable we do not call severely for
the proof of. Moreover Miss Martineau is not only a believer in the
mysteries of mesmerism (and she wrote to me the other day that in
Birmingham, where she is, she has present cognisance of _three cases
of clairvoyance_), but she is a believer in the personal integrity
of her witnesses. She has what she has well called an 'incommunicable
confidence.' And this, however incommunicable, is sufficiently
comprehensible to all persons who know what personal faith is, to
place her 'honour,' I do maintain, high above any suspicion, any
charge with the breath of man's lips. I am sure you agree with me,
dear Mr. Chorley--ah! it will be a comfort and joy together. Dear Miss
Mitford and I often quarrel softly about literary life and its toils
and sorrows, she against and I in favour of; but we never could differ
about the worth and comfort of domestic affection.

Ever sincerely yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.

I am delighted to hear of the novel. And the comedy?

[Footnote 135: One of the visions of Miss Martineau's 'apocalyptic
housemaid' related to the wreck of a vessel in which the Tynemouth
people were much interested. Unfortunately it appeared that news of
the wreck had reached the town shortly before her vision, and that she
had been out of doors immediately before submitting to the mesmeric
trance.]


_To Mr. Chorley_
50 Wimpole Street: April 28, 1845.

Dear Mr. Chorley,--... For Miss Martineau, is it not true that she
_has_ admitted her wreck story to have no proof? Surely she has.
Surely she said that the evidence was incapable, at this point of
time, of justification to the _exoteric_, and that the question had
sunk now to one of character, to which her opponent answered that it
had always _been_ one of character. And you must admit that the direct
and unmitigated manner of depreciating the reputation, not merely
of Jane Arrowsmith, but of Mrs. Wynyard, a personal friend of Miss
Martineau's to whom she professes great obligations, could not be
otherwise than exasperating to a woman of her generous temper, and
this just in the crisis of her gratitude for her restoration to life
and enjoyment by the means (as she considers it) of this friend. Not
that I feel at all convinced of her having been cured by mesmerism;
I have told her openly that I doubt it a little, and she is not angry
with me for saying so. Also, the wreck story, and (as you suggest)
the three new cases of clairvoyance; why, one _cannot_, you know, give
one's specific convictions to general sweeping testimonies, with a
mist all round them. Still, I do lean to believing this _class_ of
mysteries, and I see nothing more incredible in the apocalypse of
the wreck and other marvels of clairvoyance, than in that singular
adaptation of another person's senses, which is a common phenomenon
of the simple forms of mesmerism. If it is credible that a person in
a mesmeric sleep can taste the sourness of the vinegar on
another person's palate, I am ready to go the whole length of the
transmigration of senses. But after all, except from hearing so much,
I am as ignorant as you are, in my own experience. One of my sisters
was thrown into a sort of swoon, and could not open her eyelids,
though she heard what passed, once or twice or thrice; and she might
have been a prophetess by this time, perhaps, if, partly from her own
feeling on the subject, and partly from mine, she had not determined
never to try the experiment again. It is hideous and detestable to my
imagination; as I confessed to you, it makes my blood run backwards;
and if I were _you_, I would not (with the nervous weakness you speak
of) throw myself into the way of it, I really would not. Think of a
female friend of mine begging me to give her a lock of my hair, or
rather begging my sister to 'get it for her,' that she might send
it to a celebrated prophet of mesmerism in Paris, to have an oracle
concerning me. Did you ever, since the days of the witches, hear a
more ghastly proposition? It shook me so with horror, I had scarcely
voice to say 'no,' hough I _did_ say it very emphatically at last, I
assure you. A lock of my hair for a Parisian prophet? Why, if I had
yielded, I should have felt the steps of pale spirits treading as
thick as snow all over my sofa and bed, by day and night, and pulling
a corresponding lock of hair on my head at awful intervals. _I_, who
was born with a double set of nerves, which are always out of
order; the most excitable person in the world, and nearly the most
superstitious. I should have been scarcely sane at the end of a
fortnight, I believe of myself! Do you remember the little spirit in
gold shoe-buckles, who was a familiar of Heinrich Stilling's? Well,
I should have had a French one to match the German, with Balzac's
superfine boot-polish in place of the buckles, as surely as I lie here
a mortal woman.

I congratulate you (amid all cares and anxieties) upon the view
of Naples in the distance, but chiefly on your own happy and just
estimate of your selected position in life. It does appear to me
wonderfully and mournfully wrong, when men of letters, as it is too
much the fashion for them to do, take to dishonoring their profession
by fruitless bewailings and gnashings of teeth; when, all the time,
it must be their own fault if it is not the noblest in the world. Miss
Mitford treats me as a blind witness in this case; because I have seen
nothing of the literary world, or any other sort of world, and yet cry
against her 'pen and ink' cry. It is the cry I least like to hear from
her lips, of all others; and it is unworthy of them altogether. On the
lips of a woman of letters, it sounds like jealousy (which it
cannot be with _her_), as on the lips of a woman of the world, like
ingratitude. Madame Girardin's 'Ecole des Journalistes' deserved Jules
Janin's reproof of it; and there is something noble and touching in
that feeling of brotherhood among men of letters, which he invokes.
I am so glad to hear you say that I am right, glad for your sake and
glad for mine. In fact, there is something which is attractive to
_me_, and which has been attractive ever since I was as high as this
table, even in the old worn type of Grub Street authors and garret
poets. Men and women of letters are the first in the whole world to
me, and I would rather be the least among them, than 'dwell in the
courts of princes.'

Forgive me for writing so fast and far. Just as if you had nothing to
do but to read me. Oh, for patience for the novel.

I am, faithfully yours,
ELIZABETH B. BARRETT.


_To Miss Thomson_[136]
50 Wimpole Street: Friday, May 16, 1845 [postmark].

I write one line to thank you, dear Miss Thomson, for _your_
translation (so far too liberal, though true to the spirit of my
intention) of my work for your album. How could it _not_ be a pleasure
to me to work for you?

As to my using those manuscripts otherwise than in your service, I
do not at all think of it, and I wish to say this. Perhaps I do not
(also) partake quite your 'divine fury' for converting our sex into
Greek scholarship, and I do not, I confess, think it as desirable as
you do. Where there is a love for poetry, and thirst for beauty strong
enough to justify labour, let these impulses, which are noble, be
obeyed; but in the case of the multitude it is different; and the
mere _fashion of scholarship_ among women would be a disagreeable vain
thing, and worse than vain. You, who are a Greek yourself, know that
the Greek language is not to be learnt in a flash of lightning and
by Hamiltonian systems, but that it swallows up year after year of
studious life. Now I have a 'doxy' (as Warburton called it), that
there is no exercise of the mind so little profitable to the mind
as the study of languages. It is the nearest thing to a passive
recipiency--is it not?--as a mental action, though it leaves one as
weary as ennui itself. Women want to be made to _think actively_:
their apprehension is quicker than that of men, but their defect lies
for the most part in the logical faculty and in the higher mental
activities. Well, and then, to remember how our own English poets
are neglected and scorned; our poets of the Elizabethan age! I would
rather that my countrywomen began by loving _these_.

Not that I would blaspheme against Greek poetry, or depreciate the
knowledge of the language as an attainment. I congratulate _you_ on
it, though I never should think of trying to convert other women into
a desire for it. Forgive me.

To think of Mr. Burges's comparing my Nonnus to the right Nonnus makes
my hair stand on end, and the truth is I had flattered myself that
nobody would take such trouble. I have not much reverence for Nonnus,
and have pulled him and pushed him and made him stand as I chose,
never fearing that my naughty impertinences would be brought to light.
For the rest, I thank you gratefully (and may I respectfully and
gratefully thank Miss Bayley?) for the kind words of both of you, both
in this letter and as my sister heard them. It is delightful to me
to find such grace in the eyes of dearest Mr. Kenyon's friends, and I
remain, dear Miss Thomson,


Truly yours, and gladly,
E.B.B.

If there should be anything more at any time for me to do, I trust to
your trustfulness.

[Footnote 136: Afterwards Mdme. Emil Braun; see the letter of
January 9, 1850. At this time she was engaged in editing an album
or anthology, to which she had asked Miss Barrett to contribute some
classical translations.]


_To Miss Thomson_
50 Wimpole Street: Monday [1845].

My dear Miss Thomson,--Believe of me that it can only give me pleasure
when you are affectionate enough to treat me as a friend; and for
the rest, nobody need apologise for taking another into the
vineyards--least Miss Bayley and yourself to _me_. At the first
thought I felt sure that there must be a great deal about vines in
these Greeks of ours, and am surprised, I confess, in turning from one
to another, to find how few passages of length are quotable, and how
the images drop down into a line or two. Do you know the passage in
the seventh 'Odyssey' where there is a vineyard in different stages of
ripeness?--of which Pope has made the most, so I tore up what I
began to write, and leave you to him. It is in Alcinous' gardens, and
between the first and second hundred lines of the book. The one from
the 'Iliad,' open to Miss Bayley's objection, is yet too beautiful
and appropriate, I fancy, for you to throw over. Curious it is that
my first recollection went from that shield of Achilles to Hesiod's
'Shield of Hercules,' from which I send you a version--leaving out
of it what dear Miss Bayley would object to on a like ground with the
other:

  Some gathered grapes, with reap-hooks in their hands,
  While others bore off from the gathering hands
  Whole baskets-full of bunches, black and white,
  From those great ridges heaped up into fight,
  With vine-leaves and their curling tendrils. So
  They bore the baskets ...

  ... Yes! and all were saying
  Their jests, while each went staggering in a row
  Beneath his grape-load to the piper's playing.
  The grapes were purple-ripe. And here, in fine,
  Men trod them out, and there they drained the wine.

In the 'Works and Days' Hesiod says again, what is not worth your
listening to, perhaps:

  And when that Sinus and Orion come
  To middle heaven, and when Aurora--she
  O' the rosy fingers--looks inquiringly
  Full on Arcturus, straightway gather home
  The general vintage. And, I charge you, see
  All, in the sun and open air, outlaid
  Ten days and nights, and five days in the shade.
  The sixth day, pour in vases the fine juice--
  The gift of Bacchus, who gives joys for use.

Anacreon talks to the point so well that you must forgive him, I
think, for being Anacreontic, and take from his hands what is not
defiled. The translation you send me does not 'smell of Anacreon,' nor
please me. Where did you get it? Would this be at all fresher?

  Grapes that wear a purple skin,
  Men and maidens carry in,
  Brimming baskets on their shoulders,
  Which they topple one by one
  Down the winepress. Men are holders
  Of the place there, and alone
  Tread the grapes out, crush them down,
  Letting loose the soul of wine--
  Praising Bacchus as divine,
  With the loud songs called his own!

You are aware of the dresser of the vine in Homer's 'Hymn to Mercury'
translated so exquisitely by Shelley, and of a very beautiful single
figure in Theocritus besides. Neither probably would suit your
purpose. In the 'Pax' of Aristophanes there is an idle 'Chorus' who
talks of looking at the vines and watching the grapes ripen, and
eating them at last, but there is nothing of vineyard work in it, so I
dismiss the whole.

For 'Hector and Andromache,' would you like me to try to do it for
you? It would amuse me, and you should not be bound to do more with
what I send you than to throw it into the fire if it did not meet
your wishes precisely. The same observation applies, remember, to this
little sheet, which I have _kept_--delayed sending--just because I
wanted to let you have a trial of my strength on 'Andromache' in the
same envelope; but the truth is that it is not _begun_ yet, partly
through other occupation, and partly through the lassitude which the
cold wind of the last few days always brings down on me. Yesterday I
made an effort, and felt like a broken stick--not even a bent one!
So wait for a warm day (and what a season we have had! I have been
walking up and down stairs and pretending to be quite well), and I
will promise to do my best, and certainly an inferior hand may get
nearer to touch the great Greek lion's mane than Pope's did.

Will you give my love to dear Miss Bayley? She shall hear from me--and
_you_ shall, in a day or two. And do not mind Mr. Kenyon. He 'roars as
softly as a sucking dove;' nevertheless he is an intolerant monster,
as I half told him the other day.

Believe me, dear Miss Thomson,
Affectionately yours,
E.B.B.


_To Mr. Westwood_
50 Wimpole Street: May 22, 1845.

Did you persevere with 'Sordello'? I hope so. Be sure that we may all
learn (as poets) much and deeply from it, for the writer speaks true
oracles. When you have read it through, then read for relaxation
and recompense the last 'Bell and Pomegranate' by the same poet, his
'Colombo's Birthday,' which is exquisite. Only 'Pippa Passes' I lean
to, or kneel to, with the deepest reverence. Wordsworth has been in
town, and is gone. Tennyson is still here. He likes London, I hear,
and hates Cheltenham, where he resides with his family, and he smokes
pipe after pipe, and does not mean to write any more poems. Are we to
sing a requiem?

Believe me, faithfully yours,
ELIZABETH BARRETT BARRETT.


_To H.S. Boyd_
Saturday, July 21, 1845 [postmark].

My very dear Friend,--You are kind to exceeding kindness, and I am as
grateful as any of your long-ago kind invitations ever found me. It is
something pleasant, indeed, and like a return to life, to be asked by
you to spend two or three days in your house, and I thank you for this
pleasantness, and for the goodness, on your own part, which induced
it. You may be perfectly sure that no Claypon, though he should live
in Arcadia, would be preferred by me to _you_ as a host, and I wonder
how you could entertain the imagination of such a thing. Mr. Kenyon,
indeed, has asked me repeatedly to spend a few hours on a sofa in his
house, and, the Regent's Park being so much nearer than you are, I
had promised to think of it. But I have not yet found it possible to
accomplish even that quarter of a mile's preferment, and my ambition
is forced to be patient when I begin to think of St. John's Wood. I am
considerably stronger, and increasing in strength, and in time, with
a further advance of the summer, I may do 'such things--what they are
yet, I know not.' Yes, I _know_ that they relate to _you_, and that I
have a hope, as well as an earnest, affectionate desire, to sit face
to face with you once more before this summer closes. Do, in the
meantime, believe that I am very grateful to you for your kind,
considerate proposal, and that it is not made in vain for my wishes,
and that I am not likely willingly 'to spend two or three days' with
anybody in the world before I do so with yourself.

Mr. Hunter has not paid us his usual Saturday's visit, and therefore
I have no means of answering the questions you put in relation to him.
We will ask him about 'times and seasons' when next we see him, and
you shall hear.

Did you ever hear much of Robert Montgomery, commonly called Satan
Montgomery because the author of 'Satan,' of the 'Omnipresence of the
Deity,' and of various poems which pass through edition after
edition, nobody knows how or _why_? I understand that his pew (he is
a clergyman) is sown over with red rosebuds from ladies of the
congregation, and that the same fair hands have made and presented to
him, in the course of a single season, one hundred pairs of slippers.
Whereupon somebody said to this Reverend Satan, 'I never knew before,
Mr. Montgomery, that you were a _centipede_'

Dearest Mr. Boyd's affectionate and grateful
ELIBET.


Through the summer of 1845, Miss Barrett, as usual, recovered
strength, but so slightly that her doctor urged that she should not
face the winter in England. Plans were accordingly made for her
going abroad, to which the following letters refer, but the scheme
ultimately broke down before the prohibition of Mr. Barrett--a
prohibition for which no valid reason was put forward, and which, to
say the least, bore the colour of unaccountable indifference to his
daughter's health and wishes. The matter is of some importance on
account of its bearing on the action taken by Miss Barrett in the
autumn of the following year.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Monday, July 29, 1845 [postmark].

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--I am ashamed not to have written before, and
yet have courage enough to ask you to write to me as soon as you
can. Day by day I have had good intentions enough (the fact is)
about writing, to seem to deserve some good deeds from you, which
is contrary to all wisdom and reason, I know, but is rather natural,
after all. What _my_ deeds have been, you will be apt to ask. Why, all
manner of idleness, which is the most interrupting, you know, of
all things. The Hedleys have been flitting backwards and forwards,
staying, some of them, for a month at a time in London, and then
going, and then coming again; and I have had other visitors, few but
engrossing 'after their kind.' And I have been _getting well_--which
is a process--going out into the carriage two or three times a week,
abdicating my sofa for my armchair, moving from one room to another
now and then, and walking about mine quite as well as, and with
considerably more complacency than, a child of two years old.
Altogether, I do think that if you were kind enough to be glad to see
me looking better when you were in London, you would be kind enough to
be still gladder if you saw me now. Everybody praises me, and I
look in the looking-glass with a better conscience. Also, it is an
improving improvement, and will be, until, you know, the last hem of
the garment of summer is lost sight of, and then--and then--I must
either follow to another climate, or be ill again--_that_ I know, and
am prepared for. It is but dreary work, this undoing of my Penelope
web in the winter, after the doing of it through the summer, and the
more progress one makes in one's web, the more dreary the prospect of
the undoing of all these fine silken stitches. But we shall see....

Ever your affectionate
BA.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Tuesday [October 1845].

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Do believe that I have not been, as I have
seemed, perhaps, forgetful of you through this silence. This last
proof of your interest and affection for me--in your letter to
Henrietta--quite rouses me to _speak out_ my remembrance of you, and
I have been remembering you all the time that I did not speak, only I
was so perplexed and tossed up and down by doubts and sadnesses as
to require some shock from without to force the speech from me. Your
verses, in their grace of kindness, and the ivy from Wordsworth's
cottage, just made me think to myself that I would write to you before
I left England, but when you talk really of coming to see me, why, I
must speak! You overcome me with the sense of your goodness to me.

Yet, after all, I will not have you come! The farewells are bad enough
which come to us, without our going to seek them, and I would rather
wait and meet you on the Continent, or in England again, than see you
now, just to part from you. And you cannot guess how shaken I am, and
how I cling to every plank of a little calm. Perhaps I am going on the
17th or 20th. Certainly I have made up my mind to do it, and shall do
it as a bare matter of duty; and it is one of the most painful acts
of duty which my whole life has set before me. The road is as rough as
possible, as far as I can see it. At the same time, being absolutely
convinced from my own experience and perceptions, and the unhesitating
advice of two able medical men (Dr. Chambers, one of them), that to
escape the English winter will be _everything for me_, and that it
involves the comfort and usefulness of the rest of my life, I have
resolved to do it, let the circumstances of the doing be as painful
as they may. If you were to see me you would be astonished to see the
work of the past summer; but all these improvements will ebb away with
the sun--while I am assured of permanent good if I leave England. The
struggle with me has been a very painful one; I cannot enter on the
how and wherefore at this moment. I had expected more help than I have
found, and am left to myself, and thrown so on my own sense of duty as
to feel it right, for the sake of future years, to make an effort to
stand by myself as I best can. At the same time, I will not tell you
that at the last hour something may not happen to keep me at home.
_That_ is neither impossible nor improbable. If, for instance, I find
that I cannot have one of my brothers with me, why, the going in that
case would be out of the question. Under ordinary circumstances I
shall go, and if the experiment of going fails, why, then I shall have
had the satisfaction of having tried it, and of knowing that it is
God's will which keeps me a prisoner, and makes me a burden. As it is,
I have been told that if I had gone years ago I _should be well
now_; that one lung is very slightly affected, but the nervous system
_absolutely shattered_, as the state of the pulse proves. I am in the
habit of taking forty drops of laudanum a day, and _cannot do with
less_, that is, the medical man _told me_ that I could not do with
less, saying so with his hand on the pulse. The cold weather, they
say, acts on the lungs, and produces the weakness indirectly, whereas
the necessary shutting up acts on the _nerves_ and prevents them from
having a chance of recovering their tone. And thus, without any mortal
disease, or any disease of equivalent seriousness, I am thrown out of
life, out of the ordinary sphere of its enjoyment and activity, and
made a burden to myself and to others. Whereas there is a means of
escape from these evils, and God has opened the door of escape, as
wide as I see it!

In all ways, for my own _happiness's sake_ I do need _a proof_ that
the evil is irremediable. And this proof (or the counter-proof) I am
about to seek in Italy.

Dr. Chambers has advised _Pisa_, and I go in the direct steamer from
the Thames to Leghorn. I have good courage, and as far as my own
strength goes, sufficient means.

Dearest Mrs. Martin, more than I thought at first of telling you, I
have told you. Much beside there is, painful to talk of, but I hope
I have determined to do what is right, and that the determination
has not been formed ungently, unscrupulously, nor unaffectionately in
respect to the feelings of others. I would die for some of those, but
there, has been affection opposed to affection.

This in confidence, of course. May God bless both of you! Pray for me,
dearest Mrs. Martin. Make up your mind to go somewhere soon--shall you
not?--before the winter shuts the last window from which you see the
sun.

Dr. Chambers said that he would 'answer for it' that the voyage would
rather do me good than harm. Let me suffer sea sickness or not, he
said, he would answer for its doing me no harm.

I hope to take Arabel with me, and either Storm or Henry. This is my
hope.

Gratefully and affectionately I think of all your kindness and
interest. May dear Mr. Martin lose nothing in this coming winter! I
shall think of you, and not cease to love you. Moreover, you shall
hear again from

Your ever affectionate
BA.


_To H.S. Boyd_
October 27, 1845 [postmark].

My very dear Friend,--It is so long since I wrote that I must write, I
must ruffle your thoughts with a little breath from my side. Listen
to me, my dear friend. That I have not written has scarcely been my
fault, but my misfortune rather, for I have been quite unstrung and
overcome by agitation and anxiety, and thought that I should be able
to tell you at last of being calmer and happier, but it was all in
vain. I do not leave England, my dear friend. It is decided that I
remain on in my prison. It was my full intention to go. I considered
it to be a clear duty, and I made up my mind to perform it, let the
circumstances be ever so painfully like obstacles; but when the
moment came it appeared impossible for me to set out alone, and also
impossible to take my brother and sister with me without involving
them in difficulties and displeasure. Now what I could risk for myself
I could not risk for others, and the very kindness with which they
desired me not to think of them only made me think of them more, as
was natural and just. So Italy is given up, and I fall back into the
hands of God, who is merciful, trusting Him with the time that shall
be.

Arabel would have gone to tell you all this a fortnight since, but one
of my brothers has been ill with fever which was not exactly typhus,
but of the typhoid character, and we knew that you would rather
not see her under the circumstances. He is very much better (it is
Octavius), and has been out of bed to-day and yesterday.

Do not reproach me either for not writing or for not going, my very
dear friend. I have been too heavy-hearted for words; and as to the
deeds, you would not have wished me to lead others into difficulties,
the extent and result of which no one could calculate. It would not
have been just of me.

And _you_, how are you, and what are you doing?

May God bless you, my dear dear friend!

Ever yours I am, affectionately and gratefully,
E.B.B.


_To Mr. Chorley_
50 Wimpole Street: November 1845.

I must trouble you with another letter of thanks, dear Mr. Chorley,
now that I have to thank you for the value of the work as well as
the kindness of the gift, for I have read your three volumes of
'Pomfret'[137] with interest and moral assent, and with great pleasure
in various ways: it is a pure, true book without effort, which, in
these days of gesture and rolling of the eyes, is an uncommon thing.
Also you make your 'private judgment' work itself out quietly as a
simple part of the love of truth, instead of being the loud heroic
virtue it is so apt in real life to profess itself, seldom moving
without drums and trumpets and the flying of party colours. All these
you have put down rightly, wisely, and boldly, and it was, in my mind,
no less wise than bold of you to let in that odour of Tyrrwhitism into
the folds of the purple, and so prevent the very possibility of any
'prestige.' If I complained it might be that your 'private judgment'
confines its reference to 'public opinion,' and shuns, too proudly
perhaps, the higher and deeper relations of human responsibility. But
there are difficulties, I see, and you choose your path advisedly, of
course. The best character in the book I take to be _Rose_; I
cannot hesitate in selecting him. He is so lifelike with the world's
conventional life that you hear his footsteps when he walks, and,
indeed, I think his boots were apt to creak just the _soupçon_ of
a creak, just as a gentleman's boots might, and he is excellently
consistent, even down to the choice of a wife whom he could patronise.
I hope you like your own Mr. Rose, and that you will forgive me for
jilting Grace for Helena, which I could not help any more than Walter
could. But now, may I venture to ask a question? Would it not have
been wise of you if, on the point of _reserve_, you had thrown a
deeper shade of opposition into the characters or rather manners of
these women? Helena sits like a statue (and could Grace have done
more?) when she wins Walter's heart in Italy. Afterwards, and by fits
at the time, indeed, the artist fire bursts from her, but there was a
great deal of smouldering when there should have been a clear heat to
justify Walter's change of feeling. And then, in respect to _that_,
do you really think that your Grace was generous, heroic (with the
evidence she had of the change) in giving up her engagement? For her
own sake, could she have done otherwise? I fancy not; the position
seems surrounded by its own necessities, and no room for a doubt.
I write on my own doubts, you see, and you will smile at them, or
understand all through them that if the book had not interested me
like a piece of real life, I should not find myself _backbiting_ as if
all these were 'my neighbours.' The pure tender feeling of the closing
scenes touched me to better purpose, believe me, and I applaud from
my heart and conscience your rejection of that low creed of 'poetical
justice' which is neither justice nor poetry which is as degrading
to virtue as false to experience, and which, thrown from your book,
raises it into a pure atmosphere at once.


I could go on talking, but remind myself (I do hope in time) that I
might show my gratitude better. With sincere wishes for the success
of the work (for just see how practically we come to trust to poetical
justices after all our theories--_I_, I mean, and _mine_!), and with
respect and esteem for the writer,

I remain very truly yours,
ELIZABETH BARRETT BARRETT.

[Footnote 137: A novel by Mr. Chorley, a copy of which he had
presented to Miss Barrett.]


_To Mrs. Jameson_
50 Wimpole Street: December 1, 1845.

My dear Mrs. Jameson,--I receive your letter, as I must do every sign
of your being near and inclined to think of me in kindness, gladly,
and assure you at once that whenever you can spend a half-hour on me
you will find me enough myself to have a true pleasure in welcoming
you, say any day except next Saturday or the Monday immediately
following.

As soon as I heard of your return to England I ventured to hope that
some good might come of it to me in my room here, besides the general
good, which I look for with the rest of the public, when the censer
swings back into the midst of us again. And how good of you, dear Mrs.
Jameson, to think of me there where the perfumes were set burning; it
makes me glad and grand that you should have been able to do so. Also
the kind wishes which came with the thoughts (you say) were not in
vain, for I have been very idle and very _well_; the angel of the
summer has done more for me even than usual, and till the last wave of
his wing I took myself to be quite well and at liberty, and even now
I am as well as anyone can be who has heard the prison door shut for a
whole winter at least, and knows it to be the only English alternative
of a grave. Which is a gloomy way of saying that I am well but forced
to shut myself up with disagreeable precautions all round, and I ought
to be gratified instead of gloomy. Believe me that I _shall_ be so
when you come to see me, remaining in the meanwhile

Most truly yours,
ELIZABETH BARRETT.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Friday [about December 1845].

I am the guilty person, dearest Mrs. Martin! You would have heard from
Henrietta at least yesterday, only I persisted in promising to write
instead of her; and so, if there are reproaches, let them fall. Not
that I am audacious and without shame! But I have grown familiar with
an evil conscience as to these matters of not writing when I ought;
and long ago I grew familiar with your mercy and power of pardoning;
and then--and then--if silence and sulkiness are proved crimes of mine
to ever such an extreme, why it would not be unnatural. Do you think I
was born to live the life of an oyster, such as I _do_ live here? And
so, the moaning and gnashing of teeth are best done alone and without
taking anyone into confidence. And so, this is all I have to say for
myself, which perhaps you will be glad of; for you will be ready
to agree with me that next to such faults of idleness, negligence,
silence (call them by what names you please!) as I have been guilty
of, is the repentance of them, if indeed the latter be not the most
unpardonable of the two.

And what are you doing so late in Herefordshire? Is dear Mr. Martin
too well, and tempting the demons? I do hope that the next news of you
will be of your being about to approach the sun and visit us on the
road. You do not give your wisdom away to your friends, all of it, I
hope and trust--not even to Reynolds.

Tell Mr. Martin that a new great daily newspaper, professing
'_ultraism_' at the right end (meaning his and mine), is making
'mighty preparation,' to be called the 'Daily News,'[138] to be
edited by Dickens and to combine with the most liberal politics such
literature as gives character to the French journals--the objects
being both to help the people and to give a _status_ to men of
letters, socially and politically--great objects which will not
be attained, I fear, by any such means. In the first place, I have
misgivings as to Dickens. He has not, I think, _breadth_ of mind
enough for such work, with all his gifts; but we shall see. An immense
capital has been offered and actually advanced. Be good patriots
and order the paper. And talking of papers, I hope you read in the
'Morning Chronicle' Landor's verses to my friend and England's poet,
Mr. Browning.[139] They have much beauty.

You know that Occy has been ill, and that he is well? I hope you are
not so behindhand in our news as not to know. For me, I am not yet
undone by the winter. I still sit in my chair and walk about the room.
But the prison doors are shut close, and I could dash myself
against them sometimes with a passionate impatience of the need-less
captivity. I feel so intimately and from evidence, how, with air and
warmth together in any fair proportion, I should be as well and happy
as the rest of the world, that it is intolerable--well, it is better
to sympathise quietly with Lady--and other energetic runaways, than
amuse you with being riotous to no end; and it is _best_ to write
one's own epitaph still more quietly, is it not?...

And oh how lightly I write, and then sigh to think of what different
colours my spirits and my paper are. Do you know what it is to
laugh, that you may not cry? Yet I hold a comfort fast.... Your very
affectionate

BA.

[Footnote 138: The first number of the _Daily News_ appeared on
January 2l, 1846, under the editorship of Charles Dickens.]

[Footnote 139: The well-known lines beginning, 'There is delight in
singing.' They appeared in the _Morning Chronicle_ for November 22,
1845.]



_To Mrs. Martin_
Saturday [February-March 1846].

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Indeed it has been tantalising and provoking
to have you close by without being able to gather a better advantage
from it than the knowledge that you were suffering. So passes the
world and the glory of it. I have been vexed into a high state of
morality, I assure you. Now that you are gone away I hear from you
again; and it does seem to me that almost always it happens so, and
that you come to London to be ill and leave it before you can be well
again. It is a comfort in every case to know of your being better, and
Hastings is warm and quiet, and the pretty country all round (mind you
go and see the 'Rocks' _par excellence_)! will entice you into very
gentle exercise. At the same time, don't wish me into the house you
speak of. I can lose nothing here, shut up in my prison, and the
nightingales come to my windows and sing through the sooty panes. If
I were at Hastings I should risk the chance of recovering liberty, and
the consolations of slavery would not reach me as they do here. Also,
if I were to set my heart upon Hastings, I might break it at leisure;
there would be exactly as much difficulty in turning my face that way
as towards Italy--ah, you do not understand! And _I do, at last_, I am
sorry to say; and it has been very long, tedious and reluctant work,
the learning of the lesson....

Did Henrietta tell you that I heard at last from Miss Martineau, who
thought me in Italy, she said, and therefore was silent? She has sent
me her new work (have you read it?) and speaks of her strength and of
being able to walk fifteen miles a day, which seems to me like a fairy
tale, or the 'Three-leagued Boots' at least.

What am I doing, to tell you of? Nothing! The winter is kind, and
this divine 'muggy' weather (is _that_ the technical word and spelling
thereof?), which gives all reasonable people colds in their heads,
leaves _me_ the hope of getting back to the summer without much
injury. A friend of mine--one of the greatest poets in England
too--brought me primroses and polyanthuses the other day, as they are
grown in Surrey![140] Surely it must be nearer spring than we think.

Dearest Mrs. Martin, write and say how you are. And say, God bless
you, both the yous, and mention Mr. Martin particularly, and what your
plans are.

Ever your affectionate
BA.

[Footnote 140:

  Beloved, them hast brought me many flowers
  Plucked in the garden, all the summer through,
  And winter, and it seemed as if they grew
  In this close room, nor missed the sun and showers.

_Sonnets from the Portuguese_, xliv.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
Tuesday [end of June 1846].

So, my dearest Mrs. Martin, you are quite angry with all of us and
with me chiefly. Oh, you need not say no! I see it, I understand it,
and shall therefore take up my own cause precisely as if I were an
injured person. In the first place, dearest Mrs. Martin, when you
wrote to me (at last!) to say that we were both guilty correspondents,
you should have spoken in the singular number; for I was not guilty
at all, I beg to say, while you were on the Continent. You were
uncertain, you said, on going, where you should go and how long
you should stay, and you promised to write and give me some sort of
address--a promise never kept--and where was I to write to you? I
heard for the first time, from the Peytons, of your being at Pau, and
then you were expected at home. So innocent I am, and because it is
a pleasure rather rare to make a sincere profession of innocence, I
meant to write to you at least ten days ago; and then (believe me you
will, without difficulty) the dreadful death of poor Mr. Haydon,[141]
the artist, quite upset me, and made me disinclined to write a word
beyond necessary ones. I thank God that I never saw him--poor gifted
Haydon--but, a year and a half ago, we had a correspondence which
lasted through several months and was very pleasant while it lasted.
Then it was dropped, and only a few days before the event he wrote
three or four notes to me to ask me to take charge of some papers
and pictures, which I acceded to as once I had done before. He was
constantly in pecuniary difficulty, and in apprehension of the seizure
of goods; and nothing of _fear_ suggested itself to my mind--nothing.
The shock was very great. Oh! I do not write to you to write of this.
Only I would have you understand the real case, and that it is not an
excuse, and that it was natural for me to be shaken a good deal. No
artist is left behind with equal largeness of poetical conception! If
the hand had always obeyed the soul, he would have been a genius of
the first order. As it is, he lived on the _slope_ of greatness
and could not be steadfast and calm. His life was one long agony of
self-assertion. Poor, poor Haydon! See how the world treats those who
try too openly for its gratitude! 'Tom Thumb for ever' over the heads
of the giants.

So you heard that I was quite well? Don't believe everything you hear.
But I am really in _a way_ to be well, if I could have such sunshine
as we have been burning in lately, and a fair field of peace besides.
Generally, I am able to go out every day, either walking or in
the carriage--'_walking_' means as far as Queen Anne's Street. The
wonderful winter did not cast me down, and the hot summer helps me up
higher. Now, to _keep in the sun_ is the problem to solve; and if
I can do it, I shall be 'as well as anybody.' If I can't, as ill as
ever. Which is the _résumé_ of me, without a word more....

Your ever affectionate
BA.

[Footnote 141: He committed suicide on June 22, under the influence
of the disappointment caused by the indifference of the public to his
pictures, the final instance of which was its flocking to see General
Tom Thumb and neglecting Haydon's large pictures of 'Aristides'
and 'Nero,' which were being exhibited in an adjoining room of the
Egyptian Hall.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
June 27, 1846 [postmark].

Dearest Mr. Boyd,--Let me be clear of your reproaches for not going
to you this week. The truth is that I have been so much shocked and
shaken by the dreadful suicide of poor Mr. Haydon, the artist, I had
not spirits for it. He was not personally my friend. I never saw him
face to face. But we had corresponded, and one of his last acts was an
act of _trust_ towards me. Also I admired his genius. And all to end
_so_! It has naturally affected me much.

So I could not come, but in a few days I _will_ come; and in the
meantime, I have had the sound of your voice to think of, more than
I could think of the deep melodious bells, though they made the right
and solemn impression. How I felt, to be under your roof again!

  May God bless you, my very dear friend.
  These words in the greatest haste.

From your ever affectionate
ELIBET



CHAPTER V

1846-1849


It is now time to tell the story of the romance which, during the last
eighteen months, had entered into Elizabeth Barrett's life, and was
destined to divert its course into new and happier channels. It is
a story which fills one of the brightest pages in English literary
history.

The foregoing letters have shown something of Miss Barrett's
admiration for the poetry of Robert Browning, and contain allusions
to the beginning of their personal acquaintance. Her knowledge of his
poetry dates back to the appearance of 'Paracelsus,' not to 'Pauline,'
of which there is no mention in her letters, and which had been
practically withdrawn from circulation by the author. Her personal
acquaintance with him was of much later date, and was directly due
to the publication of the 'Poems' in 1844. Chancing to express his
admiration of them to Mr. Kenyon, who had been his friend since 1839
and his father's school-fellow in years long distant, Mr. Browning
was urged by him to write to Miss Barrett himself, and tell her of
his pleasure in her work. Possibly the allusion to him in 'Lady
Geraldine's Courtship' may have been felt as furnishing an excuse for
addressing her; however that may be, he took Mr. Kenyon's advice,
and in January 1845 we find Miss Barrett in 'ecstasies' over a letter
(evidently the first) from 'Browning the poet, Browning the author of
"Paracelsus" and king of the mystics' (see p. 236, above).

The correspondence, once begun, continued to flourish, and in the
course of the same month Miss Barrett tells Mrs. Martin that she is
'getting deeper and deeper into correspondence with Robert Browning,
poet and mystic; and we are growing to be the truest of friends.' At
the end of May, when the return of summer brought her a renewal of
strength, they met face to face for the first time; and from that time
Robert Browning was included in the small list of privileged friends
who were admitted to visit her in person.

How this friendship ripened into love, and love into courtship, it is
not for us to inquire too closely. Something has been told already in
Mrs. Orr's 'Life of Robert Browning;' something more is told in the
long and most interesting letter which stands first in the present
chapter. More precious than either is the record of her fluctuating
feelings which Mrs. Browning has enshrined for ever in her 'Sonnets
from the Portuguese,' and in the handful of other poems--'Life
and Love,' 'A Denial,' 'Proof and Disproof,' 'Inclusions,'
'Insufficiency,'[142] which likewise belong to this period and
describe its hesitations, its sorrows and its overwhelming joys. In
the difficult circumstances under which they were placed, the conduct
of both was without reproach. Mr. Browning knew that he was asking to
be allowed to take charge of an invalid's life--believed indeed
that she was even worse than was really the case, and that she was
hopelessly incapacitated from ever standing on her feet--but was sure
enough of his love to regard that as no obstacle. Miss Barrett, for
her part, shrank from burdening the life of the man she loved with
a responsibility so trying and perhaps so painful, and refused his
unchanging devotion for his sake, not for her own.

[Footnote 142: _Poetical Works_, iv. 20-32.]

The situation was complicated by the character of Mr. Barrett, and by
the certainty--for such it was to his daughter--that he would refuse
to entertain the idea of her marriage, or, indeed, that of any of his
children. The truth of this view was absolutely vindicated not only in
the case of Elizabeth, but also in those of two others of the family
in later years. The reasons for his feeling it is probable he could
not have explained to himself. He was fond of his family after his own
fashion--proud, too, of his daughter's genius; but he could not,
it would seem, regard them in any other light than as belonging to
himself. The wish to leave his roof and to enter into new relations
was looked upon as unfilial treachery; and no argument or persuasion
could shake him from his fixed idea. So long as this disposition could
be regarded as the result of a devoted love of his children, it
could be accepted with respect, if not with full acquiescence; but
circumstances brought the proof that this was not the case, and
thereby ultimately paved the way to Elizabeth's marriage.

These circumstances are stated in several of her letters, and alluded
to in several others, but it may help to the understanding of them
if a brief summary be given here. In the autumn of 1845, as described
above, Miss Barrett's doctors advised her to winter abroad. The
advice was strongly pressed, as offering a good prospect of a real
improvement of health, and as the only way of avoiding the annual
relapse brought on by the English winter. One or more of her brothers
could have gone with her, and she was willing and able to try the
experiment; but in face of this express medical testimony, Mr. Barrett
interposed a refusal. This indifference to her health naturally
wounded Miss Barrett very deeply; but it also gave her the right of
taking her fate into her own hands. Convinced at last that no refusal
on her part could alter Mr. Browning's devotion to her, and that
marriage with him, so far from being an increase of risk to her
health, offered the only means by which she might hope for an
improvement in it, she gave him the conditional promise that if she
came safely through the then impending winter, she would consent to a
definite engagement.

The winter of 1845-6 was an exceptionally mild one, and she suffered
less than usual; and in the spring of 1846 her lover claimed her
promise. Throughout the summer she continued to gain strength, being
able, not only to drive out, but even to walk short distances, and to
visit a few of her special friends such as Mr. Kenyon and Mr. Boyd.
Accordingly it was agreed that at the end of the summer they should
be married, and leave England for Italy before the cold weather should
return. The uselessness of asking her father's consent was so evident,
and the certainty that it would only result in the exclusion of Mr.
Browning from the house so clear, that no attempt was made to obtain
it. Only her two sisters were aware of what was going on; but even
they were not informed of the final arrangements for the marriage, in
order that they might not be involved in their father's anger when it
should become known. For the same reason the secret was kept from so
close a friend of both parties as Mr. Kenyon; though both he and Mr.
Boyd, and possibly also Mrs. Jameson, had suspicions amounting to
different degrees of certainty as to the real state of affairs. It had
been intended that they should wait until the end of September, but
a project for a temporary removal of the family into the country
precipitated matters; and on September 12, accompanied only by her
maid, Wilson, Miss Barrett slipped from the house and was married to
Robert Browning in Marylebone Church.[143] The associations which that
ponderous edifice has gained from this act for all lovers of English
poetry tempt one to forgive its unromantic appearance, and to remember
rather the pilgrimages which Robert Browning on his subsequent visits
to England never failed to pay to its threshold.

[Footnote 143: Mrs. Sutherland Orr says that the marriage took place
in St. Pancras Church; but this is a mistake, as the parish register
of St. Marylebone proves.]

For a week after the marriage Mrs. Browning--by which more familiar
name we now have the right to call her--remained in her father's
house; her husband refraining from seeing her, since he could not now
ask for her by her proper name without betraying their secret.
Then, on September 19, accompanied once more by her maid and the
ever-beloved Flushie, she left her home, to which she was never
to return, crossed the Channel with her husband to Havre, and so
travelled on to Paris. Her father's anger, if not loud, was deep and
unforgiving. From that moment he cast her off and disowned her. He
would not read or open her letters; he would not see her when she
returned to England. Even the birth of her child brought no relenting;
he expressed no sympathy or anxiety, he would not look upon its face.
He died as he lived, unrelenting, cut off by his own unbending anger
from a daughter who could with difficulty bring herself to speak a
harsh word of him, even to her most intimate friends.

It was a more unexpected and consequently an even more bitter blow to
find that her brothers at first disapproved of her action; the
more so, since they had sympathised with her in the struggle of the
previous autumn. This disapprobation was, however, less deep-seated,
resting partly upon doubts as to the practical prudence of the match,
partly, no doubt, upon a natural annoyance at having been kept in the
dark. Such an estrangement could only be temporary, and as time went
on was replaced by a full renewal of the old affection towards herself
and a friendly acceptance of her husband. With her sisters, on the
other hand, there was never a shadow of difference or estrangement.
That love remained unaffected; and almost the only circumstance that
caused Mrs. Browning to regret her enforced absence from England was
the separation which it entailed from her two sisters.

In Paris the fugitives found a friend who proved a friend indeed. A
few weeks earlier Mrs. Jameson, knowing of the needs of Miss Barrett's
health, had offered to take her to Italy; but her offer had been
refused. Her astonishment may be imagined when, after this short
interval of time, she found her invalid friend in Paris as the wife of
Robert Browning. The prospect filled her with almost as much dismay as
pleasure. 'I have here,' she wrote to a friend from Paris, 'a poet
and a poetess--two celebrities who have run away and married under
circumstances peculiarly interesting, and such as to render imprudence
the height of prudence. Both excellent; but God help them! for I know
not how the two poet heads and poet hearts will get on through this
prosaic world.'[144] Mrs. Jameson, who was travelling with her young
niece, Miss Geraldine Bate,[145] lent her aid to smooth the path of
her poet friends, and it was in her company that, after a week's rest
in Paris, the Brownings proceeded on their journey to Italy. It is
easy to imagine what a comfort her presence must have been to the
invalid wife and her naturally anxious husband; and this journey
sealed a friendship of no ordinary depth and warmth. Mrs. Browning
bore the journey wonderfully, though suffering much from fatigue.
During a rest of two days at Avignon, a pilgrimage was made to
Vaucluse, in honour of Petrarch and his Laura; and there, as Mrs.
Macpherson has recorded in an often quoted passage of her biography of
her aunt, 'there, at the very source of the "chiare, fresche e dolci
acque," Mr. Browning took his wife up in his arms, and carrying her
across the shallow, curling water, seated her on a rock that rose
throne-like in the middle of the stream. Thus love and poetry took
a new possession of the spot immortalised by Petrarch's loving
fancy.'[146]

[Footnote 144: _Memoirs of Anna Jameson_, by G. Macpherson, p. 218.]

[Footnote 145: Afterwards Mrs. Macpherson, and Mrs. Jameson's
biographer.]

[Footnote 146: _Memoirs_, p. 231.]

So at the beginning of October the party reached Pisa; and there
the newly wedded pair settled for the winter. Here first since the
departure from London was there leisure to renew the intercourse with
friends at home, to answer congratulations and good wishes, to explain
what might seem strange and unaccountable. From this point Mrs.
Browning's correspondence contains nearly a full record of her life,
and can be left to tell its own story in better language than the
biographer's. The first letter to Mrs. Martin is an 'apologia pro
connubio suo' in fullest detail; the others carry on the story from
the point at which that leaves it.

With regard to this first letter, full as it is of the most intimate
personal and family revelations, it has seemed right to give it
entire. The marriage of Robert and Elizabeth Browning has passed into
literary history, and it is only fair that it should be set, once for
all, in its true light. Those who might be pained by any expressions
in it have passed away; and those in whose character and reputation
the lovers of English literature are interested have nothing to fear
from the fullest revelation. If anything were kept back, false and
injurious surmises might be formed; the truth leaves little room for
controversy, and none for slander.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Collegio Ferdinando, Pisa; October 20(?), 1846.[147]

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Will you believe that I began a letter to you
before I took this step, to give you the whole story of the impulses
towards it, feeling strongly that I owed what I considered my
justification to such dear friends as yourself and Mr. Martin, that
you might not hastily conclude that you had thrown away upon one
who was quite unworthy the regard of years? I had begun such a
letter--when, by the plan of going to Little Bookham, my plans were
all hurried forward--changed--driven prematurely into action, and the
last hours of agitation and deep anguish--for it was the deepest
of its kind, to leave Wimpole Street and those whom I tenderly
loved--_so_ would not admit of my writing or thinking: only I was able
to think that my beloved sisters would send you some account of me
when I was gone. And now I hear from them that your generosity has not
waited for a letter from me to do its best for me, and that instead
of being vexed, as you might well be, at my leaving England without
a word sent to you, you have used kind offices in my behalf, you
have been more than the generous and affectionate friend I always
considered you. So my first words must be that I am deeply grateful
to you, my very dear friend, and that to the last moment of my life I
shall remember the claim you have on my gratitude. Generous people are
inclined to acquit generously; but it has been very painful to me to
observe that with all my mere friends I have found more sympathy and
_trust_, than in those who are of my own household and who have
been daily witnesses of my life. I do not say this for papa, who is
peculiar and in a peculiar position; but it pained me that----, who
_knew_ all that passed last year--for instance, about Pisa--who knew
that the alternative of making a single effort to secure my health
during the winter was the severe displeasure I have incurred now, and
that the fruit of yielding myself a prisoner was the sense of being of
no use nor comfort to any soul; papa having given up coming to see
me except for five minutes, a day; ==--, who said to me with his own
lips, 'He does not love you--do not think it' (said and repeated it
two months ago)--that ---- should now turn round and reproach me for
want of affection towards my family, for not letting myself drop
like a dead weight into the abyss, a sacrifice without an object and
expiation--this did surprise me and pain me--pained me more than all
papa's dreadful words. But the personal feeling is nearer with most of
us than the tenderest feeling for another; and my family had been so
accustomed to the idea of my living on and on in that room, that while
my heart was eating itself, their love for me was consoled, and at
last the evil grew scarcely perceptible. It was no want of love in
them, and quite natural in itself: we all get used to the thought of a
tomb; and I was buried, that was the whole. It was a little thing even
for myself a short time ago, and really it would be a pneumatological
curiosity if I could describe and let you see how perfectly for years
together, after what broke my heart at Torquay, I lived on the outside
of my own life, blindly and darkly from day to day, as completely dead
to hope of any kind as if I had my face against a grave, never feeling
a personal instinct, taking trains of thought to carry out as an
occupation absolutely indifferent to the _me_ which is in every human
being. Nobody quite understood this of me, because I am not morally
a coward, and have a hatred of all the forms of audible groaning. But
God knows what is within, and how utterly I had abdicated myself and
thought it not worth while to put out my finger to touch my share of
life. Even my poetry, which suddenly grew an interest, was a thing on
the outside of me, a thing to be done, and then done! What people said
of it did not touch _me_. A thoroughly morbid and desolate state it
was, which I look back now to with the sort of horror with which one
would look to one's graveclothes, if one had been clothed in them by
mistake during a trance.

[Footnote 147: The date at the head of the letter is October 2,
but that is certainly a slip of the pen, since at that date, as the
following letter to Miss Mitford shows, they had not reached Pisa.
See also the reference to 'six weeks of marriage' on p. 295. The Pisa
postmark appears to be October 20 (or later), and the English postmark
is November 5.]

And now I will tell you. It is nearly two years ago since I have known
Mr. Browning. Mr. Kenyon wished to bring him to see me five years ago,
as one of the lions of London who roared the gentlest and was best
worth my knowing; but I refused then, in my blind dislike to seeing
strangers. Immediately, however, after the publication of my last
volumes, he wrote to me, and we had a correspondence which ended in my
agreeing to receive him as I never had received any other man. I
did not know why, but it was utterly impossible for me to refuse to
receive him, though I consented against my will. He writes the most
exquisite letters possible, and has a way of putting things which I
have not, a way of putting aside--so he came. He came, and with
our personal acquaintance began his attachment for me, a sort of
_infatuation_ call it, which resisted the various denials which were
my plain duty at the beginning, and has persisted past them all. I
began with--a grave assurance that I was in an exceptional position
and saw him just in consequence of it, and that if ever he recurred to
that subject again I never could see him again while I lived; and
he believed me and was silent. To my mind, indeed, it was a bare
impulse--a generous man of quick sympathies taking up a sudden
interest with both hands! So I thought; but in the meantime the
letters and the visits rained down more and more, and in every one
there was something which was too slight to analyse and notice, but
too decided not to be understood; so that at last, when the 'proposed
respect' of the silence gave way, it was rather less dangerous.
So then I showed him how he was throwing into the ashes his best
affections--how the common gifts of youth and cheerfulness were behind
me--how I had not strength, even of _heart_, for the ordinary duties
of life--everything I told him and showed him. 'Look at this--and
this,' throwing down all my disadvantages. To which he did not answer
by a single compliment, but simply that he had not then to choose,
and that I might be right or he might be right, he was not there to
decide; but that he loved me and should to his last hour. He said
that the freshness of youth had passed with him also, and that he
had studied the world out of books and seen many women, yet had never
loved one until he had seen me. That he knew himself, and knew that,
if ever so repulsed, he should love me to his last hour--it should be
first and last. At the same time, he would not tease me, he would wait
twenty years if I pleased, and then, if life lasted so long for both
of us, then when it was ending perhaps, I might understand him and
feel that I might have trusted him. For my health, he had believed
when he first spoke that I was suffering from an incurable injury of
the spine, and that he never could hope to see me stand up before his
face, and he appealed to my womanly sense of what a pure attachment
should be--whether such a circumstance, if it had been true, was
inconsistent with it. He preferred, he said, of free and deliberate
choice, to be allowed to sit only an hour a day by my side, to the
fulfilment of the brightest dream which should exclude me, in any
possible world.

I tell you so much, my ever dear friend, that you may see the manner
of man I have had to do with, and the sort of attachment which for
nearly two years has been drawing and winning me. I know better than
any in the world, indeed, what Mr. Kenyon once unconsciously said
before me--that 'Robert Browning is great in everything.' Then, when
you think how this element of an affection so pure and persistent,
cast into my dreary life, must have acted on it--how little by little
I was drawn into the persuasion that something was left, and that
still I could do something to the happiness of another--and he what he
was, for I have deprived myself of the privilege of praising him--then
it seemed worth while to take up with that unusual energy (for me!),
expended in vain last year, the advice of the physicians that I should
go to a warm climate for the winter. Then came the Pisa conflict
of last year. For years I had looked with a sort of indifferent
expectation towards Italy, knowing and feeling that I should escape
there the annual relapse, yet, with that _laisser aller_ manner which
had become a habit to me, unable to form a definite wish about it. But
last year, when all this happened to me, and I was better than
usual in the summer, I _wished_ to make the experiment--to live the
experiment out, and see whether there was hope for me or not hope.
Then came Dr. Chambers, with his encouraging opinion. 'I wanted simply
a warm climate and _air_,' he said; 'I might be well if I pleased.'
Followed what you know--or do not precisely know--the pain of it was
acutely felt by me; for I never had doubted but that papa would catch
at any human chance of restoring my health. I was under the delusion
always that the difficulty of making such trials lay in _me_, and not
in _him_. His manner of acting towards me last summer was one of the
most painful griefs of my life, because it involved a disappointment
in the affections. My dear father is a very peculiar person. He is
naturally stern, and has exaggerated notions of authority, but these
things go with high and noble qualities; and as for feeling, the water
is under the rock, and I had faith. Yes, and have it. I admire such
qualities as he has--fortitude, integrity. I loved him for his courage
in adverse circumstances which were yet felt by him more literally
than I could feel them. Always he has had the greatest power over my
heart, because I am of those weak women who reverence strong men. By a
word he might have bound me to him hand and foot. Never has he spoken
a gentle word to me or looked a kind look which has not made in me
large results of gratitude, and throughout my illness the sound of his
step on the stairs has had the power of quickening my pulse--I have
loved him so and love him. Now if he had said last summer that he was
reluctant for me to leave him--if he had even allowed me to think
_by mistake_ that his affection for me was the motive of such
reluctance--I was ready to give up Pisa in a moment, and I told him
as much. Whatever my new impulses towards life were, my love for him
(taken so) would have resisted all--I loved him so dearly. But his
course was otherwise, quite otherwise, and I was wounded to the
bottom of my heart--cast off when I was ready to cling to him. In the
meanwhile, at my side was another; I was driven and I was drawn. Then
at last I said, 'If you like to let this winter decide it, you may. I
will allow of no promises nor engagement. I cannot go to Italy, and I
know, as nearly as a human creature can know any fact, that I shall be
ill again through the influence of this English winter. If I am, you
will see plainer the foolishness of this persistence; if I am not, I
will do what you please.' And his answer was, 'If you are ill and keep
your resolution of not marrying me under those circumstances, I will
keep mine and love you till God shall take us both.' This was in last
autumn, and the winter came with its miraculous mildness, as you know,
and I was saved as I dared not hope; my word therefore was claimed
in the spring. Now do you understand, and will you feel for me? An
application to my father was certainly the obvious course, if it had
not been for his peculiar nature and my peculiar position. But there
is no speculation in the case; it is a matter of _knowledge_ that if
Robert had applied to him in the first instance he would have been
forbidden the house without a moment's scruple; and if in the last (as
my sisters thought best as a respectable _form_), I should have been
incapacitated from any after-exertion by the horrible scenes to which,
as a thing of course, I should have been exposed. Papa will not bear
some subjects, it is a thing _known_; his peculiarity takes that
ground to the largest. Not one of his children will ever marry without
a breach, which we all know, though he probably does not--deceiving
himself in a setting up of _obstacles_, whereas the real obstacle is
in his own mind. In my case there was, or would have been, a great
deal of apparent reason to hold by; my health would have been motive
enough--ostensible motive. I see that precisely as others may see
it. Indeed, if I were charged now with want of generosity for casting
myself so, a dead burden, on the man I love, nothing of the sort could
surprise me. It was what occurred to myself, that thought was, and
what occasioned a long struggle and months of agitation, and which
nothing could have overcome but the very uncommon affection of a very
uncommon person, reasoning out to me the great fact of love making its
own level. As to vanity and selfishness blinding me, certainly I
may have made a mistake, and the future may prove it, but still more
certainly I was not blinded _so_. On the contrary, never have I been
more humbled, and never less in danger of considering any personal
pitiful advantage, than throughout this affair. You, who are generous
and a woman, will believe this of me, even if you do not comprehend
the _habit_ I had fallen into of casting aside the consideration of
possible happiness of my own. But I was speaking of papa. Obvious it
was that the application to him was a mere form. I knew the result of
it. I had made up my mind to act upon my full right of taking my own
way. I had long believed such an act (the most strictly personal act
of one's life) to be within the rights of every person of mature age,
man or woman, and I had resolved to exercise that right in my own case
by a resolution which had slowly ripened. All the other doors of life
were shut to me, and shut me in as in a prison, and only before
this door stood one whom I loved best and who loved me best, and who
invited me out through it for the good's sake which he thought I
could do him. Now if for the sake of the mere form I had applied to
my father, and if, as he would have done directly, he had set up his
'curse' against the step I proposed to take, would it have been doing
otherwise than placing a knife in his hand? A few years ago, merely
through the reverberation of what he said to another on a subject like
this, I fell on the floor in a fainting fit, and was almost delirious
afterwards. I cannot bear some words. I would much rather have blows
without them. In my actual state of nerves and physical weakness, it
would have been the sacrifice of my whole life--of my convictions,
of my affections, and, above all, of what the person dearest to me
persisted in calling _his_ life, and the good of it--if I had observed
that 'form.' Therefore, wrong or right, I determined not to observe
it, and, wrong or right, I did and do consider that in not doing so I
sinned against no duty. That I was _constrained_ to act clandestinely,
and did not _choose_ to do so, God is witness, and will set it down as
my heavy misfortune and not my fault. Also, up to the very last act we
stood in the light of day for the whole world, if it pleased, to judge
us. I never saw him out of the Wimpole Street house; he came twice a
week to see me--or rather, three times in the fortnight, openly in
the sight of all, and this for nearly two years, and neither more
nor less. Some jests used to be passed upon us by my brothers, and I
allowed them without a word, but it would have been infamous in me to
have taken any into my confidence who would have suffered, as a direct
consequence, a blighting of his own prospects. My secrecy towards them
all was my simple duty towards them all, and what they call want of
affection was an affectionate consideration for them. My sisters did
indeed know the truth to a certain point. They knew of the attachment
and engagement--I could not help that--but the whole of the event I
kept from them with a strength and resolution which really I did not
know to be in me, and of which nothing but a sense of the injury to
be done to them by a fuller confidence, and my tender gratitude
and attachment to them for all their love and goodness, could have
rendered me capable. Their faith in me, and undeviating affection for
me, I shall be grateful for to the end of my existence, and to
the extent of my power of feeling gratitude. My dearest
sisters!--especially, let me say, my own beloved Arabel, who, with
no consolation except the exercise of a most generous tenderness, has
looked only to what she considered my good--never doubting me, never
swerving for one instant in her love for me. May God reward her as I
cannot. Dearest Henrietta loves me too, but loses less in me, and has
reasons for not misjudging me. But both my sisters have been faultless
in their bearing towards me, and never did I love them so tenderly as
I love them now.

The only time I met R.B. clandestinely was in the parish church, where
we were married before two witnesses--it was the first and only time.
I looked, he says, more dead than alive, and can well believe it, for
I all but fainted on the way, and had to stop for sal volatile at a
chemist's shop. The support through it all was _my trust in him_,
for no woman who ever committed a like act of trust has had stronger
motives to hold by. Now may I not tell you that his genius, and all
but miraculous attainments, are the least things in him, the moral
nature being of the very noblest, as all who ever knew him admit? Then
he has had that wide experience of men which ends by throwing the mind
back on itself and God; there is nothing incomplete in him, except
as all humanity is incompleteness. The only wonder is how such a man,
whom any woman could have loved, should have loved _me_; but men of
genius, you know, are apt to love with their imagination. Then there
is something in the sympathy, the strange, straight sympathy which
unites us on all subjects. If it were not that I look up to him, we
should be too alike to be together perhaps, but I know my place better
than he does, who is too humble. Oh, you cannot think how well we
get on after six weeks of marriage. If I suffer again it will not be
through _him_. Some day, dearest Mrs. Martin, I will show you and dear
Mr. Martin how his _prophecy was fulfilled_, saving some picturesque
particulars. I did not know before that Saul was among the prophets.

My poor husband suffered very much from the constraint imposed on him
by my position, and did, for the first time in his life, for my sake
do that in secret which he could not speak upon the housetops. _Mea
culpa_ all of it! If one of us two is to be blamed, it is I, at whose
representation of circumstances he submitted to do violence to his
own self-respect. I would not suffer him to tell even our dear common
friend Mr. Kenyon. I felt that it would be throwing on dear Mr. Kenyon
a painful responsibility, and involve him in the blame ready to fall.
And dear dear Mr. Kenyon, like the noble, generous friend I love so
deservedly, comprehends all at a word, sends us _not_ his forgiveness,
but his sympathy, his affection, the kindest words which can be
written! I cannot tell you all his inexpressible kindness to us both.
He justifies us to the uttermost, and, in that, all the grateful
attachment we had, each on our side, so long professed towards him.
Indeed, in a note I had from him yesterday, he uses this strong
expression after gladly speaking of our successful journey: 'I
considered that you had _perilled your life_ upon this undertaking,
and, reflecting upon your last position, I thought that _you had done
well_.' But my life was not perilled in the journey. The agitation and
fatigue were evils, to be sure, and Mrs. Jameson, who met us in Paris
by a happy accident, thought me 'looking horribly ill' at first, and
persuaded us to rest there for a week on the promise of accompanying
us herself to Pisa to help Robert to take care of me. He, who was in
a fit of terror about me, agreed at once, and so she came with us, she
and her young niece, and her kindness leaves us both very grateful. So
kind she was, and is--for still she is in Pisa--opening her arms to
us and calling us 'children of light' instead of ugly names, and
declaring that she should have been 'proud' to have had anything to
do with our marriage. Indeed, we hear every day kind speeches and
messages from people such as Mr. Chorley of the 'Athenaeum,' who 'has
tears in his eyes,' Monckton Milnes, Barry Cornwall, and other friends
of my husband's, but who only know _me_ by my books, and I want the
love and sympathy of those who love me and whom I love. I was talking
of the influence of the journey. The change of air has done me
wonderful good notwithstanding the fatigue, and I am renewed to the
point of being able to throw off most of my invalid habits; and of
walking quite like a woman. Mrs. Jameson said the other day, 'You are
not _improved_, you are _transformed_.' We have most comfortable rooms
here at Pisa and have taken them for six months, in the best situation
for health, and close to the Duomo and Leaning Tower. It is a
beautiful, solemn city, and we have made acquaintance with Professor
Ferucci, who is about to admit us to [a sight][148] of the [University
Lib]rary. We shall certainly [spend] next summer in Italy _somewhere_,
and [talk] of Rome for the next winter, but, of course, this is all in
air. Let me hear

from you, dearest Mrs. Martin, and direct, 'M. Browning, Poste
Restante, Pisa'--it is best. Just before we left Paris I wrote to my
aunt Jane, and from Marseilles to Bummy, but from neither have I heard
yet.

With best love to dearest Mr. Martin, ever both my dear kind friends,

Your affectionate and grateful
BA.

[Footnote 148: The original is torn here.]


_To Miss Mitford_[149]
Moulins: October 2, 1846.

I began to write to you, my beloved friend, earlier, that I might
follow your kindest wishes literally, and also to thank you at once
for your goodness to me, for which may God bless you. But the fatigue
and agitation have been very great, and I was forced to break off--as
now I dare not revert to what is behind. I will tell you more another
day. At Orleans, with your kindest letter, I had one from my dearest,
gracious friend Mr. Kenyon, who, in his goodness, does more than
exculpate--even _approves_--he wrote a joint letter to both of us.
But oh, the anguish I have gone through! You are good, you are kind. I
thank you from the bottom of my heart for saying to me that you would
have gone to the church with me. _Yes, I know you would_. And for
that very reason I forbore involving you in such a responsibility and
drawing you into such a net. I took Wilson with me. I had courage to
keep the secret to my sisters for their sakes, though I will tell you
in strict confidence that it was known to them _potentially_, that
is, the attachment and engagement were known, the necessity remaining
that, for stringent reasons affecting their own tranquillity, they
should be able to say at last, 'We were not instructed in this and
this.' The dearest, fondest, most affectionate of sisters they are to
me, and if the sacrifice of a life, or of all prospect of happiness,
would have worked any lasting good to them, it should have been made
even in the hour I left them. I knew _that_ by the anguish I suffered
in it. But a sacrifice, without good to anyone--I shrank from it. And
also, it was the sacrifice of _two_. And _he_, as you say, had done
everything for me, had loved me for reasons which had helped to weary
me of myself, loved me heart to heart persistently--in spite of my own
will--drawn me back to life and hope again when I had done with both.
My life seemed to belong to him and to none other at last, and I had
no power to speak a word. Have faith in me, my dearest friend, till
you can know him. The intellect is so little in comparison to all the
rest, to the womanly tenderness, the inexhaustible goodness, the high
and noble aspiration of every hour. Temper, spirits, manners: there is
not a flaw anywhere. I shut my eyes sometimes and fancy it all a dream
of my guardian angel. Only, if it had been a dream, the pain of some
parts of it would have awakened me before now; it is not a dream. I
have borne all the emotion of fatigue miraculously well, though, of
course, a good deal exhausted at times. We had intended to hurry on
to the South at once, but at Paris we met Mrs. Jameson, who opened her
arms to us with the most literal affectionateness, _kissed us both_,
and took us by surprise by calling us 'wise people, wild poets or
not.' Moreover, she fixed us in an apartment above her own in the
Hôtel de la Ville de Paris, that I might rest for a week, and crowned
the rest of her goodnesses by agreeing to accompany us to Pisa, where
she was about to travel with her young niece. Therefore we are five
travelling, Wilson being with me. Oh, yes, Wilson came; her attachment
to me never shrank for a moment. And Flush came and I assure you that
nearly as much attention has been paid to Flush as to me from the
beginning, so that he is perfectly reconciled, and would be happy
if the people at the railroads were not barbarians, and immovable in
their evil designs of shutting him up in a box when we travel that
way.

You understand now, ever dearest Miss Mitford, how the pause has
come about writing. The week at Paris! Such a strange week it was,
altogether like a vision. Whether in the body or out of the body I
cannot tell scarcely. Our Balzac should be flattered beyond measure
by my thinking of him at all. Which I did, but of _you_ more. I will
write and tell you more about Paris. You should go there indeed. And
to our hotel, if at all. Once we were at the Louvre, but we kept very
still of course, and were satisfied with the _idea_ of Paris. I
could have borne to live on there, it was all so strange and full of
contrast....

Now you will write--I feel my way on the paper to write this.
Nothing is changed between us, nothing can ever interfere with sacred
confidences, remember. I do not show letters, you need not fear my
turning traitress.... Pray for me, dearest friend, that the bitterness
of old affections may not be too bitter with me, and that God may turn
those salt waters sweet again.

Pray for your grateful and loving
E.B.B.

[Footnote 149: This letter is of earlier date than the last, having
been written _en route_ between Orleans and Lyons; but it has seemed
better to place the more detailed narrative first.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
[Pisa:] November 5, [1846].

It was pleasant to me, my dearest friend, to think while I was reading
your letter yesterday, that almost by that time you had received mine,
and could not even seem to doubt a moment longer whether I admitted
your claim of hearing and of speaking to the uttermost. I recognised
you too entirely as my friend. Because you had put faith in me, so
much the more reason there was that I should justify it as far as I
could, and with as much frankness (which was a part of my gratitude to
you) as was possible from a woman to a woman. Always I have felt that
you have believed in me and loved me; and, for the sake of the past
and of the present, your affection and your esteem are more to me than
I could afford to lose, even in these changed and happy circumstances.
So I thank you once more, my dear kind friends, I thank you both--I
never shall forget your goodness. I feel it, of course, the more
deeply, in proportion to the painful disappointment in other
quarters.... Am I, bitter? The feeling, however, passes while I write
it out, and my own affection for everybody will wait patiently to
be 'forgiven' in the proper form, when everybody shall be at leisure
properly. Assuredly, in the meanwhile, however, my case is not to be
classed with other cases--what happened to me could not have happened,
perhaps, with any other family in England.... I hate and loathe
everything too which is clandestine--we _both_ do, Robert and I; and
the manner the whole business was carried on in might have instructed
the least acute of the bystanders. The flowers standing perpetually
on my table for the last two years were brought there by one hand,
as everybody knew; and really it would have argued an excess of
benevolence in an unmarried man with quite enough resources in London,
to pay the continued visits he paid to me without some strong motive
indeed. Was it his fault that he did not associate with everybody in
the house as well as with me? He desired it; but no--that was not to
be. The endurance of the pain of the position was not the least proof
of his attachment to me. How I thank you for believing in him--how
grateful it makes me! He will justify to the uttermost that faith. We
have been married two months, and every hour has bound me to him more
and more; if the beginning was well, still better it is now--that is
what he says to me, and I say back again day by day. Then it is an
'advantage,' to have an inexhaustible companion who talks wisdom of
all things in heaven and earth, and shows besides as perpetual a
good humour and gaiety as if he were--a fool, shall I say? or a
considerable quantity more, perhaps. As to our domestic affairs, it is
not to _my_ honour and glory that the 'bills' are made up every week
and paid more regularly 'than hard beseems,' while dear Mrs. Jameson
laughs outright at our miraculous prudence and economy, and declares
that it is past belief and precedent that we should not burn the
candles at both ends, and the next moment will have it that we remind
her of the children in a poem of Heine's who set up housekeeping in
a tub, and inquired gravely the price of coffee. Ah, but she has
left Pisa at last--left it yesterday. It was a painful parting to
everybody. Seven weeks spent in such close neighbourhood--a month of
it under the same roof and in the same carriages--will fasten
people together, and then travelling _shakes_ them together. A more
affectionate, generous woman never lived than Mrs. Jameson, and it
is pleasant to be sure that she loves us both from her heart, and not
only _du bout des lèvres_. Think of her making Robert promise (as he
has told me since) that in the case of my being unwell he would write
to her instantly, and she would come at once if anywhere in Italy. So
kind, so like her. She spends the winter in Rome, but an intermediate
month at Florence, and we are to keep tryst with her somewhere in the
spring, perhaps at Venice. If not, she says that she will come back
here, for that certainly she will see us. She would have stayed
altogether perhaps, if it had not been for her book upon art which she
is engaged to bring out next year, and the materials for which are to
be _sought_. As to Pisa, she liked it just as we like it. Oh, it is so
beautiful and so full of repose, yet not _desolate_: it is rather the
repose of sleep than of death. Then after the first ten days of rain,
which seemed to refer us fatally to Alfieri's 'piove e ripiove,' came
as perpetual a divine sunshine, such cloudless, exquisite weather that
we ask whether it may not be June instead of November. Every day I am
out walking while the golden oranges look at me over the walls, and
when I am tired Robert and I sit down on a stone to watch the lizards.
We have been to your seashore, too, and seen your island, only he
insists on it (Robert does) that it is not Corsica but Gorgona, and
that Corsica is not in sight. _Beautiful_ and blue the island was,
however, in any case. It might have been Romero's instead of either.
Also we have driven up to the foot of mountains, and seen them
reflected down in the little pure lake of Ascuno, and we have seen the
pine woods, and met the camels laden with faggots all in a line. So
now ask me again if I enjoy my liberty as you expect. My head goes
round sometimes, that is all. I never was happy before in my life. Ah,
but, of course, the painful thoughts recur!

There are some whom I love too tenderly to be easy under their
displeasure, or even under their injustice. Only it, seems to me
that with time and patience my poor dearest papa will be melted into
opening his arms to us--will be melted into a clearer understanding of
motives and intentions; I cannot believe that he will forget me, as he
says he will, and go on thinking me to be dead rather than alive and
happy. So I manage to hope for the best, and all that remains, all
my life here, _is_ best already, could not be better or happier. And
willingly tell dear Mr. Martin I would take him and you for witnesses
of it, and in the meanwhile he is not to send me tantalising messages;
no, indeed, unless you really, really, should let yourselves be wafted
our way, and could you do so much better at Pau? particularly if Fanny
Hanford should come here. Will she really? The climate is described by
the inhabitants as a 'pleasant spring throughout the winter,' and if
you were to see Robert and me threading our path along the shady side
everywhere to avoid the 'excessive heat of the sun' in this November
(!) it would appear a good beginning. We are not in the warm orthodox
position by the Arno because we heard with our ears one of the best
physicians of the place advise against it. 'Better,' he said, 'to have
cool rooms to live in and warm walks to go out along.' The rooms we
have are rather over-cool perhaps; we are obliged to have a little
fire in the sitting-room, in the mornings and evenings that is; but
I do not fear for the winter, there is too much difference to my
feelings between this November and any English November I ever knew.
We have our dinner from the Trattoria at two o'clock, and can dine our
favorite way on thrushes and chianti with a miraculous cheapness, and
no trouble, no cook, no kitchen; the prophet Elijah or the lilies of
the field took as little thought for their dining, which exactly suits
us. It is a continental fashion which we never cease commending. Then
at six we have coffee, and rolls of milk, made of milk, I mean, and at
nine our supper (call it supper, if you please) of roast chestnuts and
grapes. So you see how primitive we are, and how I forget to praise
the eggs at breakfast. The worst of Pisa is, or would be to some
persons, that, socially speaking, it has its dullnesses; it is not
lively like Florence, not in that way. But we do not want society, we
shun it rather. We like the Duomo and the Campo Santo instead. Then
we know a little of Professor Ferucci, who gives us access to the
University library, and we subscribe to a modern one, and we have
plenty of writing to do of our own. If we can do anything for Fanny
Hanford, let us know. It would be too happy, I suppose, to have to do
it for yourselves. Think, however, I am quite well, quite well. I can
thank God, too, for being alive and well. Make dear Mr. Martin keep
well, and not forget himself in the Herefordshire cold--draw him into
the sun somewhere. Now write and tell me everything of your plans and
of you both, dearest friends. My husband bids me say that he desires
to have my friends for his own friends, and that he is grateful to you
for not crossing that feeling. Let him send his regards to you. And
let me be throughout all changes,

Your ever faithful and most affectionate
BA.

I am expecting every day to hear from my dearest sisters. Write to
them and love them for me.

This letter has been kept for several days from different causes. Will
you inclose the little note to Miss Mitford? I do not hear from home,
and am uneasy.

May God bless you!


November 9.

I am so vexed about those poems appearing just now in
'Blackwood.'[150] Papa must think it _impudent_ of me. It is
unfortunate.

[Footnote 150: _Blackwood's Magazine_ for October 1846 contained
the following poems by Mrs. Browning, some phrases in which might
certainly be open to comment if they were supposed to have been
deliberately chosen for publication at this particular time: 'A
Woman's Shortcomings,' 'A Man's Requirements,' 'Maude's Spinning,' 'A
Dead Rose,' 'Change on Change,' 'A Reed,' and 'Hector in the Garden.']


_To Miss Mitford_
[Pisa]: November 5, 1846.

I have your letter, ever dearest Miss Mitford, and it is welcome even
more than your letters have been used to be to me--the last charm
was to come, you see, by this distance. For all your affection and
solicitude, may you trust my gratitude; and if you love me a little,
I love you indeed, and never shall cease. The only difference shall be
that two may love you where one did, and for my part I will answer for
it that if you could love the poor one you will not refuse any love
to the other when you come to know him. I never could bear to speak to
you of _him_ since quite the beginning, or rather I never could dare.
But when you know him and understand how the mental gifts are scarcely
half of him, you will not wonder at your friend, and, indeed, two
years of steadfast affection from such a man would have, overcome any
woman's heart. I have been neither much wiser nor much foolisher than
all the shes in the world, only much happier--the difference is in the
happiness. Certainly I am not likely to repent of having given myself
to him. I cannot, for all the pain received from another quarter, the
comfort for which is that my conscience is pure of the sense of having
broken the least known duty, and that the same consequence would
follow any marriage of any member of my family with any possible man
or woman. I look to time, and reason, and natural love and pity, and
to the justification of the events acting through all; I look on so
and hope, and in the meanwhile it has been a great comfort to have had
not merely the indulgence but the approbation and sympathy of most
of my old personal friends--oh, such kind letters; for instance,
yesterday one came from dear Mrs. Martin, who has known me, she and
her husband, since the very beginning of my womanhood, and both of
them are acute, thinking people, with heads as strong as their hearts.
I in my haste left England without a word to them, for which they
might naturally have reproached me; instead of which they write to say
that never _for a moment_ have they doubted my having acted for the
best and happiest, and to assure me that, having sympathised with me
in every sorrow and trial, they delightedly feel with me in the new
joy; nothing could be more cordially kind. See how I write to you as
if I could speak--all these little things which are great things when
seen in the light. Also R, and I are not in the least tired of one
another notwithstanding the very perpetual _tête-à-tête_ into which
we have fallen, and which (past the first fortnight) would be rather a
trial in many cases. Then our housekeeping may end perhaps in being a
proverb among the nations, for at the beginning it makes Mrs. Jameson
laugh heartily. It disappoints her theories, she admits--finding that,
albeit poets, we abstain from burning candles at both ends at once,
just as if we did statistics and historical abstracts by nature
instead. And do not think that the trouble falls on me. Even the
pouring out of the coffee is a divided labour, and the ordering of the
dinner is quite out of my hands. As for me, when I am so good as to
let myself be carried upstairs, and so angelical as to sit still on
the sofa, and so considerate, moreover, as _not_ to put my foot into
a puddle, why _my_ duty is considered done to a perfection which is
worthy of all adoration; it really is not very hard work to please
this taskmaster. For Pisa, we both like it extremely. The city is
full of beauty and repose, and the purple mountains gloriously seem
to beckon us on deeper into the vineland. We have rooms close to the
Duomo and Leaning Tower, in the great Collegio built by Vasari, three
excellent bedrooms and a sitting-room, matted and carpeted, looking
comfortable even for England. For the last fortnight, except the very
last few sunny days, we have had rain; but the climate is as mild as
possible, no cold, with all the damp. Delightful weather we had for
the travelling. Ah, you, with your terrors of travelling, how you
amuse me! Why, the constant change of air in the continued fine
weather made me better and better instead of worse. It did me
infinite good. Mrs. Jameson says she 'won't call me _improved_, but
_transformed_ rather.' I like the new sights and the movement; my
spirits rise; I live--I can adapt myself. If you really tried it and
got as far as Paris you would be drawn on, I fancy, and on--on to the
East perhaps with H. Martineau, or at least as near it as we are here.
By the way, or out of the way, it struck me as unfortunate that my
poems should have been printed _just now_ in 'Blackwood;' I wish it
had been otherwise. Then I had a letter from one of my Leeds readers
the other day to expostulate about the _inappropriateness_ of certain
of them! The fact is that I sent a heap of verses swept from my desk
and belonging to old feelings and impressions, and not imagining that
they were to be used in that quick way. There can't be very much to
like, I fear, apart from your goodness for what calls itself mine.
Love me, dearest dear Miss Mitford, my dear kind friend--love me, I
beg of you, still and ever, only ceasing when I cease to think of you;
I will allow of that clause. Mrs. Jameson and Gerardine are staying at
the hotel here in Pisa still, and we manage to see them every day; so
good and true and affectionate she is, and so much we shall miss
her when she goes, which will be in a day or two now. She goes to
Florence, to Siena, to Rome to complete her work upon art, which
is the object of her Italian journey. I read your vivid and glowing
description of the picture to her, or rather I showed your picture
to her, and she quite believes with you that it is most probably a
_Velasquez_. Much to be congratulated the owner must be. I mean to
know something about pictures some day. Robert does, and I shall get
him to open my eyes for me with a little instruction. You know that
in this place are to be seen the first steps of art, and it will be
interesting to trace them from it as we go farther ourselves. Our
present residence we have taken for six months; but we have dreams,
dreams, and we discuss them like soothsayers over the evening's
roasted chestnuts and grapes. Flush highly approves of Pisa (and the
roasted chestnuts), because here he goes out every day and speaks
Italian to the little dogs. Oh, Mr. Chorley, such a kind, feeling
note he wrote to Robert from Germany, when he read of our marriage
in 'Galignani;' we were both touched by it. And Monckton Milnes and
others--very kind all. But in a particular manner I remember the
kindness of my valued friend Mr. Horne, who never failed me nor could
fail. Will you explain to him, or rather ask him to understand, why I
did not answer his last note? I forget even Balzac here; tell me what
he writes, and help me to love that dear, generous Mr. Kenyon, whom I
can love without help. And let me love you, and you love me.

Your ever affectionate and grateful
E.B.B.


_To Mrs. Jameson_
Collegio Ferdinando [Pisa]:
Saturday, November 23, 1846 [postmark].

We were delighted to have your note, dearest Aunt Nina, and I answer
it with my feet on your stool, so that my feet are full of you even if
my head is not, always. Now, I shall not go a sentence farther without
thanking you for that comfort; you scarcely guessed perhaps what a
comfort it would be, that stool of yours. I am even apt to sit on it
for hours together, leaning against the sofa, till I get to be scolded
for putting myself so into the fire, and prophesied of in respect to
the probability of a 'general conflagration' of stools and Bas; on
which the prophet is to leap from the Leaning Tower, and Flush to
be left to make the funeral oration of the establishment. In the
meantime, it really is quite a comfort that our housekeeping should be
your 'example' at Florence; we have edifying countenances whenever we
think of it. And Robert will not by any means believe that you passed
us on our own ground, though the eleven pauls a week for breakfast,
and my humility, seemed to suggest something of the sort. I am so
glad, we are both so glad, that you are enjoying yourself at the
fullest and highest among the wonders of art, and cannot be chilled
in the soul by any of those fatal winds you speak of. For me, I am
certainly better here at Pisa, though the penalty is to see Frate
Angelico's picture with the remembrance of you rather than the
presence. Here, indeed, we have had a little too much cold for two
days; there was a feeling of frost in the air, and a most undeniable
east wind which prevented my going out, and made me feel less
comfortable than usual at home. But, after all, one felt ashamed to
call it _cold_, and Robert found the heat on the Arno insupportable;
which set us both mourning over our 'situation' at the Collegio, where
one of us could not get out on such days without a blow on the chest
from the 'wind at the corner.' Well, experience teaches, and we shall
be taught, and the cost of it is not so very much after all. We have
seen your professor once since you left us (oh, the leaving!), or
_spoken_ to him once, I should say, when he came in one evening and
caught us reading, sighing, yawning over 'Nicolò de' Lapi,' a romance
by the son-in law of Manzoni. Before we could speak, he called it
'excellent, très beau,' one of their very best romances, upon which,
of course, dear Robert could not bear to offend his literary and
national susceptibilities by a doubt even. _I_, not being so humane,
thought that any suffering reader would be justified (under the
rack-wheel) in crying out against such a book, as the dullest,
heaviest, stupidest, lengthiest. Did you ever read it? If not,
_don't_. When a father-in-law imitates Scott, and a son-in-law
imitates his father-in-law, think of the consequences! Robert, in his
zeal for Italy and against Eugène Sue, tried to persuade me at first
(this was before the scene with your professor) that 'really, Ba, it
wasn't so bad,' 'really you are too hard to be pleased,' and so on;
but after two or three chapters, the dullness grew too strong for even
his benevolence, and the yawning catastrophe (supposed to be peculiar
to the 'Guida') overthrew him as completely as it ever did me, though
we both resolved to hold on by the stirrup to the end of the two
volumes. The catalogue of the library (for observe that we subscribe
now--the object is attained!) offers a most melancholy insight
into the actual literature of Italy. Translations, translations,
translations from third and fourth and fifth rate French and English
writers, chiefly French; the roots of thought, here in Italy, seem
dead in the ground. It is well that they have great memories--nothing
else lives.

We have had the kindest of letters from dear noble Mr. Kenyon; who,
by the way, speaks of you as we like to hear him. Dickens is going to
Paris for the winter, and Mrs. Butler[151] (he adds) is expected
in London. Dear Mr. Kenyon calls me 'crotchety,' but Robert 'an
incarnation of the good and the true,' so that I have everything to
thank him for. There are noble people who take the world's side and
make it seem 'for the _nonce_' almost respectable; but he gives up all
the talk and fine schemes about money-making, and allows us to wait to
see whether we want it or not--the money, I mean.

It is Monday, and I am only finishing this note. In the midst came
letters from my sisters, making me feel so glad that I could not
write. Everybody is well and happy, and dear papa _in high spirits_
and _having people to dine with him every day_, so that I have not
really done anyone harm in doing myself all this good. It does not
indeed bring us a step nearer to the forgiveness, but to hear of his
being in good spirits makes me inclined to jump, with Gerardine.[152]
Dear Geddie! How pleased I am to hear of her being happy, particularly
(perhaps) as she is not too happy to forget _me_. Is all that glory of
art making her very ambitious to work and enter into the court of the
Temple?...

Robert's love to you both. We often talk of our prospect of meeting
you again. And for the _past_, dearest Aunt Nina, believe of me that
I feel to you more gratefully than ever I can say, and remain, while I
live,

Your faithful and affectionate
BA.

[Footnote 151: Better known as Fanny Kemble.]

[Footnote 152: Miss Gerardine Bate, Mrs. Jameson's niece.]


_To Miss Mitford_
Pisa: December 19, [1846].

Ever dearest Miss Mitford, your kindest letter is three times welcome
as usual. On the day you wrote it in the frost, I was sitting out of
doors, just in my summer mantilla, and complaining 'of the heat this
December!' But woe comes to the discontented. Within these three or
four days we too have had frost--yes, and a little snow, for the
first time, say the Pisans, during five years. Robert says that
the mountains are powdered toward Lucca, and I, who cannot see the
mountains, can see the cathedral--the Duomo--how it glitters whitely
at the summit, between the blue sky and its own walls of yellow
marble. Of course I do not stir an inch from the fire, yet have to
struggle a little against my old languor. Only, you see, this can't
last! it is exceptional weather, and, up to the last few days, has
been divine. And then, after all we talk of frost, my bedroom, which
has no fireplace, shows not an English sign on the window, and the
air is not _metallic_ as in England. The sun, too, is so hot that
the women are seen walking with fur capes and parasols, a curious
combination.

I hope you had your visit from Mr. Chorley, and that you both had the
usual pleasure from it. Indeed I _am_ touched by what you tell me, and
was touched by his note to my husband, written in the first surprise;
and because Robert has the greatest regard for him, besides my own
personal reasons, I do count him in the forward rank of our friends.
You will hear that he has obliged us by accepting a trusteeship to
a settlement, forced upon me in spite of certain professions or
indispositions of mine; but as my husband's gifts, I had no right, it
appeared, by refusing it to place him in a false position for the sake
of what dear Mr. Kenyon calls my 'crotchets.' Oh, dear Mr. Kenyon! His
kindness and goodness to us have been past thinking of, past thanking
for; we can only fall into silence. He has thrust his hand into the
fire for us by writing to papa himself, by taking up the management of
my small money-matters when nearer hands let them drop, by justifying
us with the whole weight of his personal influence; all this in the
very face of his own habits and susceptibilities. He has resolved
that I shall not miss the offices of father, brother, friend, nor the
tenderness and sympathy of them all. And this man is called a mere man
of the world, and would be called so rightly if the world were a place
for angels. I shall love him dearly and gratefully to my last breath;
we both shall....

Robert and I are deep in the fourth month of wedlock; there has not
been a shadow between us, nor a _word_ (and I have observed that all
married people confess to _words_), and that the only change I can lay
my finger on in him is simply and clearly an increase of affection.
Now I need not say it if I did not please, and I should not please,
you know, to tell a story. The truth is, that I who always did
certainly believe in love, yet was as great a sceptic as you about the
evidences thereof, and having held twenty times that Jacob's serving
fourteen years for Rachel was not too long by fourteen days, I was
not a likely person (with my loathing dread of marriage as a loveless
state, and absolute contentment with single life as the alternative
to the great majorities of marriages), I was not likely to accept a
feeling not genuine, though from the hand of Apollo himself, crowned
with his various godships. Especially too, in my position, I could
not, would not, should not have done it. Then, genuine feelings are
genuine feelings, and do not pass like a cloud. We are as happy as
people can be, I do believe, yet are living in a way to _try_ this
new relationship of ours--in the utmost seclusion and perpetual
_téte-à-téte_--no amusement nor distraction from without, except some
of the very dullest Italian romances which throw us back on the
memory of Balzac with reiterated groans. The Italians seem to hang on
translations from the French--as we find from the library--not merely
of Balzac, but Dumas, your Dumas, and reaching lower--long past De
Kock--to the third and fourth rate novelists. What is purely Italian
is, as far as we have read, purely dull and conventional. There is no
breath nor pulse in the Italian genius. Mrs. Jameson writes to us
from Florence that in politics and philosophy the people are getting
alive--which may be, for aught we know to the contrary, the poetry and
imagination leave them room enough by immense vacancies.

Yet we delight in Italy, and dream of 'pleasures new' for the
summer--_pastures_ new, I should have said--but it comes to the same
thing. The _padrone_ in this house sent us in as a gift (in gracious
recognition, perhaps, of our lawful paying of bills) an immense dish
of oranges--two hanging on a stalk with the green leaves still moist
with the morning's dew--every great orange of twelve or thirteen with
its own stalk and leaves. Such a pretty sight! And better oranges, I
beg to say, never were eaten, when we are barbarous enough to eat them
day by day after our two o'clock dinner, softening, with the vision
of them, the winter which has just shown itself. Almost I have been
as pleased with the oranges as I was at Avignon by the _pomegranate_
given to me much in the same way. Think of my being singled out of
all our caravan of travellers--Mrs. Jameson and Gerardine Jameson[153]
both there--for that significant gift of the pomegranates! I had never
seen one before, and, of course, proceeded instantly to cut one 'deep
down the middle'[154]--accepting the omen. Yet, in shame and confusion
of face, I confess to not being able to appreciate it properly. Olives
and pomegranates I set on the same shelf, to be just looked at and
called by their names, but by no means eaten bodily.

But you mistake me, dearest friend, about the 'Blackwood' verses. I
never thought of writing _applicative poems_--the heavens forfend!
Only that just _then_, [in] the midst of all the talk, _any_ verses
of mine should come into print--and some of them to that _particular
effect_--looked unlucky. I dare say poor papa (for instance) thought
me turned suddenly to brass itself. Well, it is perhaps more my
fancy than anything else, and was only an impression, even there. Mr.
Chorley will tell you of a play of his, which I hope will make its
way, though I do wonder how people can bear to write for the theatres
in the present state of things. Robert is busy preparing a new edition
of his collected poems which are to be so clear that everyone who has
understood them hitherto will lose all distinction. We both mean to
be as little idle as possible.... We shall meet one day in joy, I do
hope, and then you will love my husband for his own sake, as for mine
you do not hate him now.

Your ever affectionate
E.B.B.

[Footnote 153: This surname is a mistake on Mrs. Browning's part; see
her letter of October 1, 1849.]

[Footnote 154: See _Lady Geraldine's Courtship_, stanza xli.]


_To H.S. Boyd_
[Pisa:] December 21 [1846].

You must let me tell you, my dearest Mr. Boyd, that I dreamed of you
last night, and that you were looking very well in my dream, and that
you told me to break a crust from a loaf of bread which lay by you
on the table; which I accept on recollection as a sacramental sign
between us, of peace and affection. Wasn't it strange that I should
dream so of you? Yet no; thinking awake of you, the sleeping thoughts
come naturally. Believe of me this Christmas time, as indeed at every
time, that I do not forget you, and that all the distance and change
of country can make no difference. Understand, too (for _that_ will
give pleasure to your goodness), that I am very happy, and not unwell,
though it is almost Christmas....

Dearest friend, are you well and in good spirits? Think of me over
the Cyprus, between the cup and the lip, though bad things are said to
fall out so. We have, instead of Cyprus, _Montepulciano_, the famous
'King of Wine,' crowned king, you remember, by the grace of a poet!
Your Cyprus, however, keeps supremacy over me, and will not abdicate
the divine right of being associated with you. I speak of wine, but we
live here the most secluded, quiet life possible--reading and writing,
and talking of all things in heaven and earth, and a little besides;
and sometimes even laughing as if we had twenty people to laugh with
us, or rather _hadn't_. We know not a creature, I am happy to say,
except an Italian professor (of the university here) who called on us
the other evening and praised aloud the scholars of England. 'English
Latin was best,' he said, 'and English Greek foremost.' Do you clap
your hands?

The new pope is more liberal than popes in general, and people write
odes to him in consequence.

Robert is going to bring out a new edition of his collected poems,
and you are not to read any more, if you please, till this is done.
I heard of Carlyle's saying the other day 'that he hoped more from
Robert Browning, for the people of England, than from any living
English writer,' which pleased me, of course. I am just sending off
an anti-slavery poem for America,[155] too ferocious, perhaps, for the
Americans to publish: but they asked for a poem and shall have it.

If I ask for a letter, shall I have it, I wonder? Remember me and
love me a little, and pray for me, dearest friend, and believe how
gratefully and ever affectionately

I am your

ELIBET,

though Robert always calls me _Ba_, and thinks it the prettiest name
in the world! which is a proof, you will say, not only of blind love
but of deaf love.

[Footnote 155: 'The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point' _(Poetical
Works_, ii. 192). It was first printed in a collection called _The
Liberty Bell_, for sale at the Boston National Anti-slavery Bazaar
of 1848. It was separately printed in England in 1849 as a small
pamphlet, which is now a rare bibliographical curiosity.]


It was during the stay at Pisa, and early in the year 1847, that Mr.
Browning first became acquainted with his wife's 'Sonnets from
the Portuguese.' Written during the course of their courtship and
engagement, they were not shown even to him until some months after
their marriage. The story of it was told by Mr. Browning in later
life to Mr. Edmund Gosse, with leave to make it known to the world in
general; and from Mr. Gosse's publication it is here quoted in his own
words.[156]

[Footnote 156: '_Critical Kit-Kats_,' by E. Gosse, p. 2 (1896).]

'Their custom was, Mr. Browning said, to write alone, and not to show
each other what they had written. This was a rule which he sometimes
broke through, but she never. He had the habit of working in a
downstairs room, where their meals were spread, while Mrs. Browning
studied in a room on the floor above. One day, early in 1847, their
breakfast being over, Mrs. Browning went upstairs, while her husband
stood at the window watching the street till the table should be
cleared. He was presently aware of some one behind him, although the
servant was gone. It was Mrs. Browning, who held him by the shoulder
to prevent his turning to look at her, and at the same time pushed
a packet of papers into the pocket of his coat. She told him to read
that, and to tear it up if he did not like it; and then she fled again
to her own room.'

The sonnets were intended for her husband's eye alone; in the first
instance, not even for his. No poems can ever have been composed with
less thought of the public; perhaps for that very reason they are
unmatched for simplicity and sincerity in all Mrs. Browning's work.
Her genius in them has full mastery over its material, as it has in
few of her other poems. All impurities of style or rhythm are purged
away by the fire of love; and they stand, not only highest among the
writings of their authoress, but also in the very forefront of English
love-poems. With the single exception of Rossetti, no modern English
poet has written of love with such genius, such beauty, and such
sincerity, as the two who gave the most beautiful example of it in
their own lives.

Fortunately for all those who love true poetry, Mr. Browning judged
rightly of the obligation laid upon him by the possession of these
poems. 'I dared not,' he said, 'reserve to myself the finest sonnets
written in any language since Shakespeare's.' Accordingly he persuaded
his wife to commit the printing of them to her friend, Miss Mitford;
and in the course of the year they appeared in a slender volume,
entitled 'Sonnets, by E.B.B.,' with the imprint 'Reading, 1847,' and
marked 'Not for publication.' It was not until three years later that
they were offered to the general public, in the volumes of 1850.
Here first they appeared under the title of 'Sonnets from the
Portuguese'--a title suggested by Mr. Browning (in preference to his
wife's proposal, 'Sonnets translated from the Bosnian') for the sake
of its half-allusion to her other poem, 'Catarina to Camoens,' which
was one of his chief favourites among her works.

To these sonnets there is, however, no allusion in the letters here
published, which say little for some time of her own work.


_To Miss Mitford_
February 8, 1847.

But, my dearest Miss Mitford, your scheme about Leghorn is drawn out
in the clouds. Now just see how impossible. Leghorn is fifteen miles
off, and though there is a railroad there is no liberty for French
books to wander backwards and forwards without inspection and seizure.
Why, do remember that we are in Italy after all! Nevertheless, I will
tell you what we have done: transplanted our subscription from the
Italian library, which was wearing us away into a misanthropy, or at
least despair of the wits of all Southerns, into a library which has
a tolerable supply of French books, and gives us the privilege
besides of having a French newspaper, the 'Siècle,' left with us every
evening. Also, this library admits (is allowed to admit on certain
conditions) some books forbidden generally by the censureship, which
is of the strictest; and though Balzac appears very imperfectly, I
am delighted to find him at all, and shall dun the bookseller for the
'Instruction criminelle,' which I hope discharges your Lucien as a
'forçat'--neither man nor woman--and true poet, least of all....

The 'Siècle' has for a _feuilleton_ a new romance of Soulié's, called
'Saturnin Fichet,' which is really not good, and tiresome to boot.
Robert and I began by each of us reading it, but after a little while
he left me alone, being certain that no good could come of such a
work. So, of course, ever since, I have been exclaiming and exclaiming
as to the wonderful improvement and increasing beauty and glory of
it, just to justify myself, and to make him sorry for not having
persevered! The truth is, however, that but for obstinacy I should
give up too. Deplorably dull the story is, and there is a crowd of
people each more indifferent than each, to you; the pith of the plot
being (very characteristically) that the hero has somebody exactly
like him. To the reader, it's _all one_ in every sense--who's who, and
what's what. Robert is a warm admirer of Balzac and has read most of
his books, but certainly--oh certainly--he does not in a general way
appreciate our French people quite with our warmth; he takes too high
a standard, I tell him, and won't listen to a story for a story's
sake. I can bear to be amused, you know without a strong pull on my
admiration. So we have great wars sometimes, and I put up Dumas' flag,
or Soulié's, or Eugène Sue's (yet he was properly possessed by the
'Mystères de Paris') and carry it till my arms ache. The plays and
vaudevilles he knows far more of than I do, and always maintains
they are the happiest growth of the French school--setting aside the
_masters_, observe--for Balzac and George Sand hold all their honours;
and, before your letter came, he had told me about the 'Kean' and the
other dramas. Then we read together the other day the 'Rouge et Noir,'
that powerful book of Stendhal's (Beyle), and he thought it very
striking, and observed--what I had thought from the first and again
and again--that it was exactly like Balzac _in the raw_, in the
material and undeveloped conception. What a book it is really, and so
full of pain and bitterness, and the gall of iniquity! The new Dumas
I shall see in time, perhaps, and it is curious that Robert had just
been telling me the very story you speak of in your letter, from the
'Causes Célèbres.' I never read it--the more shame! Dearest friend,
all this talk of French books and no talk about _you_--the _most_
shame! You don't tell me enough of yourself, and I want to hear,
because (besides the usual course of reasons) Mr. Chorley spoke of you
as if you were not as cheerful as usual; do tell me. Ah! if you fancy
that I do not love you as near, through being so far, you are unjust
to me as you never were before. For myself, the brightness round me
has had a cloud on it lately by an illness of poor Wilson's.... She
would not go to Dr. Cook till I was terrified one night, while she was
undressing me, by her sinking down on the sofa in a shivering fit. Oh,
so frightened I was, and Robert ran out for a physician; and I could
have shivered too, with the fright. But she is convalescent now,
thank God! and in the meanwhile I have acquired a heap of practical
philosophy, and have learnt how it is possible (in certain conditions
of the human frame) to comb out and twist up one's own hair, and lace
one's very own stays, and cause hooks and eyes to meet behind one's
very own back, besides making toast and water for Wilson--which last
miracle, it is only just to say, was considerably assisted by Robert's
counsels 'not quite to set fire to the bread' while one was toasting
it. He was the best and kindest all that time, as even _he_ could be,
and carried the kettle when it was too heavy for me, and helped me
with heart and head. Mr. Chorley could not have praised him too much,
be very sure. I, who always rather appreciated him, do set down the
thoughts I had as merely unjust things; he exceeds them all, indeed.
Yes, Mr. Chorley has been very kind to us. I had a kind note myself
from him a few days since, and do you know that we have a sort of hope
of seeing him in Italy this year, with dearest Mr. Kenyon, who has the
goodness to crown his goodness by a 'dream' of coming to see us? We
leave Pisa in April (did I tell you that?) and pass through Florence
towards the north of Italy--to _Venice_, for instance. In the way of
writing, I have not done much yet--just finished my rough sketch of
an anti-slavery ballad and sent it off to America, where nobody will
print it, I am certain, because I could not help making it bitter. If
they _do_ print it, I shall thank them more boldly in earnest than
I fancy now. Tell me of Mary Howitt's new collection of ballads--are
they good? I warmly wish that Mr. Chorley may succeed with his play;
but how can Miss Cushman promise a hundred nights for an untried
work?... Perhaps you may find the two last numbers of the 'Bells and
Pomegranates' less obscure--it seems so to me. Flush has grown an
absolute monarch and barks one distracted when he wants a door opened.
Robert spoils him, I think. Do think of me as your ever affectionate
and grateful

BA.

Have you seen 'Agnes de Misanie,' the new play by the author of
'Lucretia'? A witty feuilletoniste says of it that, besides all the
unities of Aristotle, it comprises, from beginning to end, _unity of
situation_. Not bad, is it? Madame Ancelot has just succeeded with a
comedy, called 'Une Année à Paris.' By the way, _shall you go to Paris
this spring_?[157]

[Footnote 157: A list of the works composing Balzac's _Comédie
Humaine_ is attached to this letter for Miss Mitford's benefit.]


From Mr. Browning's family, though she had as yet had no opportunity
of making acquaintance with them face to face, Mrs. Browning from the
first met with an affectionate reception. The following is the first
now extant of a series of letters written by her to Miss Browning,
the poet's sister. The abrupt and private nature of the marriage
never seems to have caused the slightest coldness of feeling in this
quarter, though it must have caused anxiety; and the tone of the early
letters, in which so new and unfamiliar a relation had to be taken up,
does equal honour to the writer and to the recipient.


_To Miss Browning_
[Pisa: about February 1847.]

I must begin by thanking dearest Sarianna again for her note, and by
assuring her that the affectionate tone of it quite made me happy and
grateful together--that I am grateful to _all of you_: do _feel_ that
I am. For the rest, when I see (afar off) Robert's minute manuscripts,
a certain distrust steals over me of anything I can possibly tell you
of our way of living, lest it should be the vainest of repetitions,
and by no means worth repeating, both at once. Such a quiet silent
life it is--going to hear the Friar preach in the Duomo, a grand event
in it, and the wind laying flat all our schemes about Volterra and
Lucca! I have had to give up even the Friar for these three days past;
there is nothing for me when I have driven out Robert to take his
necessary walk but to sit and watch the pinewood blaze. He is grieved
about the illness of his cousin, only I do hope that your next letter
will confirm the happy change which stops the further anxiety, and
come soon for that purpose, besides others. Your letters never can
come too often, remember, even when they have not to speak of illness,
and I for my part must always have a thankful interest in your cousin
for the kind part he took in the happiest event of my life. You have
to tell us too of your dear mother--Robert is so anxious about her
always. How deeply and tenderly he loves her and all of you, never
could have been more manifest than now when he is away from you and
has to talk _of_ you instead of _to_ you. By the way (or rather out
of the way) I quite took your view of the purposed ingratitude to poor
Miss Haworth[158]--it would have been worse in him than the sins of
'Examiner' and 'Athenaeum.' If authors won't feel for one another,
there's an end of the world of writing! Oh, I think he proposed it in
a moment of hardheartedness--we all put on tortoiseshell now and then,
and presently come out into the sun as sensitively as ever. Besides
Miss Haworth has written to us very kindly; and kindness doesn't
spring up everywhere, like the violets in your gravel walks. See how I
understand Hatcham. Do try to love me a little, dearest Sarianna, and
(with my grateful love always to your father and mother) let me be
your affectionate sister,

ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING,
or rather BA.

[Footnote 158: Miss E.F. Haworth (several letters to whom are given
farther on) was an old friend of Robert Browning's, and published a
volume of verse in 1847, to which this passage seems to allude.]


The correspondence with Mr. Westwood, which had lapsed for a
considerable time, was resumed with the following letter:


_To Mr. Westwood_
Collegio Ferdinando, Pisa: March 10, 1847.

If really, my dear Mr. Westwood, it was an 'ill temper' in you,
causing the brief note, it was a most flattering ill temper, and I
thank you just as I have had reason to do for the good nature which
has caused you to bear with me so often and so long. You have been
misled on some points. I did not go to Italy last year, or rather the
year before last! I was disappointed and forced to stay in Wimpole
Street after all; but the winter being so mild, so miraculously mild
for England you may remember, I was spared my winter relapse and
left liberty for new plans such as I never used to think were in
my destiny! Such a change it is to me, such a strange happiness and
freedom, and you must not in your kindness wish me back again, but
rather be contented, like a friend as you are, to hear that I am very
happy and very well, and still doubtful whether all the brightness can
be meant for _me_! It is just as if the sun rose again at 7 o'clock
P.M. The strangeness seems so great....

I am now very well, and so happy as not to think much of it, except
for the sake of another. And do you fancy how I feel, carried; into
the visions of nature from my gloomy room. Even now I walk as in a
dream. We made a pilgrimage from Avignon to Vaucluse in right poetical
duty, and I and my husband sate upon two stones in the midst of the
fountain which in its dark prison of rocks flashes and roars and
testifies to the memory of Petrarch. It was louder and fuller than
usual when we were there, on account of the rains; and Flush, though
by no means born to be a hero, considered my position so outrageous
that he dashed through the water to me, splashing me all over, so he
is baptised in Petrarch's name. The scenery is full of grandeur, the
rocks sheathe themselves into the sky, and nothing grows there except
a little cypress here and there, and a straggling olive tree; and the
fountain works out its soul in its stony prison, and runs away in a
green rapid stream. Such a striking sight it is. I sate upon deck,
too, in our passage from Marseilles to Genoa, and had a vision of
mountains, six or seven deep, one behind another. As to Pisa, call it
a beautiful town, you cannot do less with Arno and its palaces, and
above all the wonderful Duomo and Campo Santo, and Leaning Tower and
Baptistery, all of which are a stone's throw from our windows. We
have rooms in a great college-house built by Vasari, and fallen into
desuetude from collegiate purposes; and here we live the quietest and
most _tête-à-tête_ of lives, knowing nobody, hearing nothing, and for
nearly three months together never catching a glimpse of a paper. Oh,
how wrong you were about the 'Times'! Now, however, we subscribe to a
French and Italian library, and have a French newspaper every evening,
the 'Siècle,' and so look through a loophole at the world. Yet, not
too proud are we, even now, for all the news you will please to send
us in charity: 'da obolum Belisario!'

What do you mean about poor Tennyson? I heard of him last on his
return from a visit to the Swiss mountains, which 'disappointed him,'
he was _said to say_. Very wrong, either of mountains or poet!

Tell me if you make acquaintance with Mrs. Hewitt's new ballads.

Mrs. Jameson is engaged in a work on art which will be very
interesting....

Flush's love to your Flopsy. Flush has grown very overbearing in this
Italy, I think because my husband spoils him (if not for the glory
at Vaucluse); Robert declares that the said Flush considers him, my
husband, to be created for the especial purpose of doing him service,
and really it looks rather like it.

Never do I see the 'Athenaeum' now, but before I left England some
pure gushes between the rocks reminded me of you. Tell me all you can;
it will all be like rain upon dry ground. My husband bids me offer his
regards to you--if you will accept them; and that you may do it ask
your heart. I will assure you (aside) that his poetry is as the prose
of his nature: he himself is so much better and higher than his own
works.


In the middle of April the Brownings left Pisa and journeyed to
Florence, arriving there on April 20. There, however, the programme
was arrested, and, save for an abortive excursion to Vallombrosa,
whence they were repulsed by the misogynist principles of the monks,
they continued to reside in Florence for the remainder of the year.
Their first abode was in the Via delle Belle Donne; but after the
return from Vallombrosa, in August, they moved across the river, and
took furnished rooms in the Palazzo Guidi, the building which, under
the name of 'Casa Guidi,' is for ever associated with their memory.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Florence: April 24, 1847.

I received your letter, my dearest friend, by this day's post, and
wrote a little note directly to the office as a trap for the feet
of your travellers. If they escape us after all, therefore, they may
praise their stars for it rather than my intentions--_our_ intentions,
I should say, for Robert will gladly do everything he can in the way
of expounding a text or two of the glories of Florence, and we both
shall be much pleased and cordially pleased to learn more of Fanny
and her brother than the glance at Pisa could teach us. As for me, she
will let me have a little talking for my share: I can't walk about or
see anything. I lie here flat on the sofa in order to be wise; I rest
and take port wine by wineglasses; and a few more days of it will
prepare me, I hope and trust, for an interview with the Venus de'
Medici. Think of my having been in Florence since Tuesday, this
being Saturday, and not a step taken into the galleries. It seems a
disgrace, a sort of involuntary disgraceful act, or rather no-act,
which to complain of relieves one to some degree. And how kind of you
to wish to hear from me of myself! There is nothing really much the
matter with me; I am just _weak_, sleeping and eating dreadfully well
considering that Florence isn't seen yet, and 'looking well,' too,
says Mrs. Jameson, who, with her niece, is our guest just now. It
would have been wise if I had rested longer at Pisa, but, you see,
there was a long engagement to meet Mrs. Jameson here, and she
expressed a very kind unwillingness to leave Italy without keeping it:
also she had resolved to come out of her way on purpose for this, and,
as I had the consent of my physician, we determined to perform our
part of the compact; and in order to prepare for the longer journey I
went out in the carriage a little too soon, perhaps, and a little too
long. At least, if I had kept quite still I should have been strong
by this time--not that I have done myself harm in the serious sense,
observe--and now the affair is accomplished, I shall be wonderfully
discreet and self-denying, and resist Venuses and Apollos like some
one wiser than the gods themselves. My chest is very well; there has
been no symptom of evil in that quarter.... We took the whole coupé
of the diligence--but regretted our first plan of the _vettura_
nevertheless--and now are settled in very comfortable rooms in the
'Via delle Belle Donne' just out of the Piazza Santa Maria Novella,
very superior rooms to our apartment in Pisa, in which we were cheated
to the uttermost with all the subtlety of Italy and to the full
extent of our ignorance; think what _that_ must have been! Our present
apartment, with the hire of a grand piano and music, does not cost us
so much within ever so many francisconi. Oh, and you don't frighten me
though we are on the north side of the Arno! We have taken our rooms
for two months, and may be here longer, and the fear of the heat was
stronger with me than the fear of the cold, or we might have been in
the Pitti and 'arrostiti' by this time. We expected dear Mrs.
Jameson on Saturday, but she came on Friday evening, having suddenly
remembered that it was Shakespeare's birthday, and bringing with her
from Arezzo a bottle of wine to 'drink to his memory with two other
poets,' so there was a great deal of merriment, as you may fancy, and
Robert played Shakespeare's favorite air, 'The Light of Love,' and
everybody was delighted to meet everybody, and Roman news and Pisan
dullness were properly discussed on every side. She saw a good deal
of Cobden in Rome, and went with him to the Sistine Chapel. He has no
feeling for art, and, being very true and earnest, could only do his
best to _try_ to admire Michael Angelo; but here and there, where he
understood, the pleasure was expressed with a blunt characteristic
simplicity. Standing before the statue of Demosthenes, he said:
'That man is persuaded himself of what he speaks, and will therefore
persuade others.' She liked him exceedingly. For my part, I should
join in more admiration if it were not for his having _accepted
money_, but paid patriots are no heroes of mine. 'Verily they have
their reward.' O'Connell had arrived in Rome, and it was considered
that he came only to die. Among the artists, Gibson and Wyatt were
doing great things; she wishes us to know Gibson particularly. As to
the Pope he lives in an atmosphere of love and admiration, and 'he is
doing _what he can_,' Mrs. Jameson believes. Robert says: 'A dreadful
situation, after all, for a man of understanding and honesty! I pity
him from my soul, for he can, at best, only temporise with truth.'
But human nature is doomed to pay a high price for its opportunities.
Delighted I am to have your good account of dear Mr. Martin, though
you are naughty people to persist in going to England so soon. Do
write to me and tell me all about both of you. I will do what I
can--like the Pope--but what can I do? Yes, indeed, I mean to enjoy
art and nature too; one shall not exclude the other. This Florence
seems divine as we pass the bridges, and my husband, who knows
everything, is to teach and show me all the great wonders, so that I
am reasonably impatient to try my advantages. His kind regards to you
both, and my best love, dearest friends....

Your very affectionate
BA.


_To Mrs. Jameson_
Florence: May 12, [1847].

I was afraid, we both were afraid for you, dearest friend, when we
saw the clouds gather and heard the rain fall as it did that day at
Florence. It seemed impossible that you should be beyond the evil
influence, should you have travelled ever so fast; but, after all,
a storm in the Apennines, like many a moral storm, will be better
perhaps than a calm to look back upon. We talked of you and thought of
you, and missed you at coffee time, and regretted that so pleasant a
week (for us) should have gone so fast, as fast as a dull week, or,
rather, a good deal faster. Dearest friend, do believe that we _felt_
your goodness in Coming to us--in making us an object--before you left
Italy; it fills up the measure of goodness and kindness for which we
shall thank and love you all our lives. Never fancy that we can forget
you or be less touched by the memory of what you have been to us in
affection and sympathy--never. And don't _you_ lose sight of _us_; do
write often, and do, _do_ make haste and come back to Italy, and
then make use of us in any and every possible way as house-takers
or house-mates, for we are ready to accept the lowest place or the
highest. The week you gave us would be altogether bright and glad if
it had not been for the depression and anxiety on your part. May God
turn it all to gain and satisfaction in some unlooked-for way. To be a
_road-maker_ is weary work, even across the Apennines of life. We
have not science enough for it if we have strength, which we haven't
either. Do you remember how Sindbad shut his eyes and let himself
be carried over the hills by an eagle? _That_ was better than to set
about breaking stones. Also what you could do you have done; you have
finished your part, and the sense of a fulfilled duty is in itself
satisfying--is and must be. My sympathies go with you entirely, while
I wish your dear Gerardine to be happy; I wish it from my heart....
Just after you left us arrived our box with the precious deeds, which
are thrown into the cabinet for want of witnesses. And then Robert
has had a letter from Mr. Forster with the date of _Shakespeare's
birthday_, and overflowing with kindness really both to himself and
me. It quite touched me, that letter. Also we have had a visitation
from an American, but on the point of leaving Florence and very tame
and inoffensive, and we bore it very well considering. He sent us
a new literary periodical of the old world, in which, among other
interesting matter, I had the pleasure of reading an account of my own
'blindness,' taken from a French paper (the 'Presse'), and mentioned
with humane regret. Well! and what more news is there to tell you?
I have been out once, only once, and only for an inglorious glorious
drive round the Piazza Gran Duca, past the Duomo, outside the walls,
and in again at the Cascine. It was like the trail of a vision in the
evening sun. I saw the Perseus in a sort of flash. The Duomo is more
after the likeness of a Duomo than Pisa can show; I like those masses
in ecclesiastical architecture. Now we are plotting how to, engage
a carriage for a month's service without ruining ourselves, for we
_must_ see, and I _can't_ walk and see, though much stronger than when
we parted, and looking much better, as Robert and the looking glass
both do testify. I have seemed at last 'to leap to a conclusion' of
convalescence. But the heat--oh, so hot it is. If it is half as hot
with you, you must be calling on the name of St. Lawrence by this
time, and require no 'turning.' I should not like to travel under
such a sun. It would be too like playing at snapdragon. Yes, 'brightly
happy.' Women generally _lose_ by marriage, but I have gained the
world by mine. If it were not for some griefs, which are and must be
griefs, I should be too happy perhaps, which is good for nobody. May
God bless you, my dear, dearest friend! Robert must be content with
sending his love to-day, and shall write another day. We both love you
every day. My love and a kiss to dearest Gerardine, who is to remember
to write to me.

Your ever affectionate
BA.


_To H.S. Boyd_
Florence: May 26, 1847.



I should have answered your letter, my dearest friend, more quickly,
but when it came I was ill, as you may have heard, and afterwards I
wished to wait until I could send you information about the Leaning
Tower and the bells[159]. The book you required, about the cathedral,
Robert has tried in vain to procure for you. Plenty of such books,
but _not in English_. In London such things are to be found, I
should think, without difficulty, for instance, 'Murray's Handbook
to Northern Italy,' though rather dear (12_s._), would give you
sufficiently full information upon the ecclesiastical glories both of
Pisa and of this beautiful Florence, from whence I write to you.... I
will answer for the harmony of the bells, as we lived within a stone's
throw of them, and they began at four o'clock every morning and
rang my dreams apart. The Pasquareccia (the fourth) especially has
a profound note in it, which may well have thrilled horror to the
criminal's heart.[160] It was ghastly in its effects; dropped into
the deep of night like a thought of death. Often have I said, 'Oh, how
ghastly!' and then turned on my pillow and dreamed a bad dream. But if
the bell founders at Pisa have a merited reputation, let no one say as
much for the bellringers. The manner in which all the bells of all
the churches in the city are shaken together sometimes would certainly
make you groan in despair of your ears. The discord is fortunately
indescribable. Well--but here we are at Florence, the most beautiful
of the cities devised by man....

In the meanwhile I have seen the Venus, I have seen the divine
Raphaels. I have stood by Michael Angelo's tomb in Santa Croce. I
have looked at the wonderful Duomo. This cathedral! After all, the
elaborate grace of the Pisan cathedral is one thing, and the massive
grandeur of this of Florence is another and better thing; it struck
me with a sense of the sublime in architecture. At Pisa we say, 'How
beautiful!' here we say nothing; it is enough if we can breathe. The
mountainous marble masses overcome as we look up--we feel the weight
of them on the soul. Tesselated marbles (the green treading its
elaborate pattern into the dim yellow, which seems the general hue of
the structure) climb against the sky, self-crowned with that prodigy
of marble domes. It struck me as a wonder in architecture. I had
neither seen nor imagined the like of it in any way. It seemed
to carry its theology out with it; it signified more than a mere
building. Tell me everything you want to know. I shall like to answer
a thousand questions. Florence is beautiful, as I have said before,
and must say again and again, most beautiful. The river rushes through
the midst of its palaces like a crystal arrow, and it is hard to tell,
when you see all by the clear sunset, whether those churches, and
houses, and windows, and bridges, and people walking, in the water or
out of the water, are the real walls, and windows, and bridges, and
people, and churches. The only difference is that, down below, there
is a double movement; the movement of the stream besides the movement
of life. For the rest, the distinctness of the eye is as great in one
as in the other.... Remember me to such of my friends as remember me
kindly when unreminded by me. I am very happy--happier and happier.

ELIBET.

Robert's best regards to you always.

[Footnote 159: It will be remembered that Mr. Boyd took a great
interest in bells and bell ringing. The passage omitted below contains
an extract from Murray's _Handbook_ with reference to the bells of
Pisa.]

[Footnote 160: This bell was tolled on the occasion of an execution.]


_To Mrs. Jameson_
Palazzo Guidi, Via Maggio, Florence:
August 7, 1847 [postmark].

You will be surprised perhaps, and perhaps not, dearest friend,
to find that we are still at Florence. Florence 'holds us with a
glittering eye;' there's a charm cast round us, and we can't get away.
In the first place, your news of Recoaro came so late that, as you
said yourself, we ought to have been there before your letter reached
us. Nobody would encourage us to go north on any grounds, indeed,
and if anybody speaks a word now in favour of Venice, straight comes
somebody else speaking the direct contrary. Altogether, we took to
making a plan of our own--a great, wild, delightful plan of plunging
into the mountains and spending two or three months at the monastery
of Vallombrosa, until the heat was passed, and dear Mr. Kenyon
decided, and we could either settle for the winter at Florence or pass
on to Rome. Could anything look more delightful than that? Well, we
got a letter of recommendation to the abbot, and left our apartment,
Via delle Belle Donne, a week before our three months were done,
thoroughly burned out by the sun; set out at four in the morning,
reached Pelago, and from thence travelled five miles along a 'via non
rotabile' through the most romantic scenery. Oh, such mountains!--as
if the whole world were alive with mountains--such ravines--black in
spite of flashing waters in them--such woods and rocks--travelled
in basket sledges drawn by four white oxen--Wilson and I and the
luggage--and Robert riding step by step. We were four hours doing the
five miles, so you may fancy what rough work it was. Whether I was
most tired or charmed was a _tug_ between body and soul. The worst was
that, there being a new abbot at the monastery--an austere man jealous
of his sanctity and the approach of women--our letter, and Robert's
eloquence to boot, did nothing for us, and we were ingloriously and
ignominiously expelled at the end of five days. For three days we were
welcome; for two more we kept our ground; but after _that_, out we
were thrust, with baggage and expectations. Nothing could be much more
provoking. And yet we came back very merrily for disappointed people
to Florence, getting up at three in the morning, and rolling or
sliding (as it might happen) down the precipitous path, and seeing
round us a morning glory of mountains, clouds, and rising sun, such
as we never can forget--back to Florence and our old lodgings, and an
eatable breakfast of coffee and bread, and a confession one to another
that if we had won the day instead of losing it, and spent our summer
with the monks, we should have grown considerably _thinner_ by the
victory. They make their bread, I rather imagine, with the sawdust of
their fir trees, and, except oil and wine--yes, and plenty of beef
(of _fleisch_, as your Germans say, of all kinds, indeed), which isn't
precisely the fare to suit us--we were thrown for nourishment on the
great sights around. Oh, but so beautiful were mountains and forests
and waterfalls that I could have kept my ground happily for the two
months--even though the only book I saw there was the chronicle of
their San Gualberto. Is he not among your saints? Being routed fairly,
and having breakfasted fully at our old apartment, Robert went out to
find cool rooms, if possible, and make the best of our position, and
now we are settled magnificently in this Palazzo Guidi on a first
floor in an apartment which _looks_ quite beyond our means, and _would
be_ except in the dead part of the season--a suite of spacious rooms
opening on a little terrace and furnished elegantly--rather to suit
our predecessor the Russian prince than ourselves--but cool and in a
delightful situation, six paces from the Piazza Pitti, and with right
of daily admission to the Boboli gardens. We pay what we paid in the
Via Belle Donne. Isn't this prosperous? You would be surprised to see
_me_, I think, I am so very well (and look so)--dispensed from being
carried upstairs, and inclined to take a run, for a walk, every now
and then. I scarcely recognise myself or my ways, or my own spirits,
all is so different....

We have made the acquaintance of Mr. Powers,[161] who is
delightful--of a most charming simplicity, with those great burning
eyes of his. Tell me what you think of his boy listening to the
shell. Oh, your Raphaels! how divine! And M. Angelo's sculptures! His
pictures I leap up to in vain, and fall back regularly. Write of your
book and yourself, and write soon; and let me be, as always, your
affectionate BA.

We are here for two months certain, and perhaps longer. Do write.

Dear Aunt Nina,--Ba has said something for me, I hope. In any case, my
love goes with hers, I trust you are well and happy, as we are, and as
we would make you if we could. Love to Geddie. Ever yours, [R.B.]

[Footnote 161: The American sculptor.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
Florence: August 7, 1847.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--How I have been longing to get this letter,
which comes at last, and justifies the longing by the pleasure it
gives!... How kind, how affectionate you are to me, and how strong
your claim is that I should thrust on you, in defiance of good taste
and conventions, every evidence and assurance of my happiness, so
as to justify your _faith_ to yourselves and others. Indeed, indeed,
dearest Mrs. Martin, you may 'exult' for me--and this though it should
all end here and now. The uncertainties of life and death seem nothing
to me. A year (nearly) is saved from the darkness, and if that
one year has compensated for those that preceded it--which it has,
abundantly--why, let it for those that shall follow, if it so please
God. Come what may, I feel as if I never could have a right to murmur.
I have been happy enough. Brought about too it was, indeed, by a sort
of miracle which to this moment, when I look back, bewilders me to
think of; and if you knew the details, counted the little steps,
and could; compare my moral position three years and a half ago with
_this_, you would come to despise San Gualberto's miraculous tree at
Vallombrosa, which, being dead, gave out green leaves in recognition
of his approach, as testified by the inscription--do you remember? But
you can't stop to-day to read mine, so rather I shall tell you of our
exploit in the mountains. Only one thing I must say first, one thing
which you must forgive me for the vanity of resolving to say at last,
having had it in my head very often. There's a detestable engraving,
which, if you have the ill luck to see (and you _may_, because,
horrible to relate, it is in the shop windows), will you have the
kindness, for my sake, not to fancy _like Robert_?--it being, as he
says himself, the very image of '_a young man at Waterloo House_, in
a moment of inspiration--"A lovely blue, ma'am."' It is as like Robert
as Flush. And now I am going to tell you of Vallombrosa. You heard how
we meant to stay two months there, and you are to imagine how we got
up at three in the morning to escape the heat (imagine me!)--and with
all our possessions and a 'dozen of port' (which my husband doses me
with twice a day because once it was necessary) proceeded to Pelago
by vettura, and from thence in two sledges, drawn each by two
white bullocks up to the top of the holy mountain. (Robert was on
horseback.) Precisely it must be as you left it. Who can make a road
up a house? We were four hours going five miles, and I with all my
goodwill was dreadfully tired, and scarcely in appetite for the beef
and oil with which we were entertained at the House of Strangers. We
are simple people about diet, and had said over and over that we would
live on eggs and milk and bread and butter during these two months. We
might as well have said that we would live on manna from heaven.
The things we had fixed on were just the impossible things. Oh, that
bread, with the fetid smell, which stuck in the throat like Macbeth's
amen! I am not surprised, you recollect it! The hens had 'got them to
a nunnery,' and objected to lay eggs, and the milk and the holy water
stood confounded. But of course we spread the tablecloth, just as you
did, over all drawbacks of the sort; and the beef and oil, as I
said, and the wine too, were liberal and excellent, and we made our
gratitude apparent in Robert's best Tuscan--in spite of which we
were turned out ignominiously at the end of five days, having been
permitted to overstay the usual three days by only two. No, nothing
could move the lord abbot. He is a new abbot, and; given to sanctity,
and has set his face against women. 'While he is abbot,' he said to
our mediating monk, 'he _will_ be abbot. So he is abbot, and we had to
come back to Florence.' As I read in the 'Life of San Gualberto,' laid
on the table for the edification of strangers, the brothers attain to
sanctification, among other means, by cleaning out pigsties with
their bare hands, without spade or shovel; but _that_ is uncleanliness
enough--they wouldn't touch the little finger of a woman. Angry I was,
I do assure you. I should have liked to stay there, in spite of the
bread. We should have been only a little thinner at the end. And
the scenery--oh, how magnificent! How we enjoyed that great, silent,
ink-black pine wood! And do you remember the sea of mountains to the
left? How grand it is! We were up at three in the morning again to
return to Florence, and the glory of that morning sun breaking the
clouds to pieces among the hills is something ineffaceable from my
remembrance. We came back ignominiously to our old rooms, but found it
impossible to stay on account of the suffocating heat, yet we scarcely
could go far from Florence, because of Mr. Kenyon and our hope of
seeing him here (since lost). A perplexity ended by Robert's discovery
of our present apartments, on the Pitti side of the river (indeed,
close to the Grand Duke's palace), consisting of a suite of spacious
and delightful rooms, which come within our means only from the
deadness of the summer season, comparatively quite cool, and with
a terrace which I enjoy to the uttermost through being able to walk
there without a bonnet, by just stepping out of the window. The church
of San Felice is opposite, so we haven't a neighbour to look through
the sunlight or moonlight and take observations. Isn't that pleasant
altogether? We ordered back the piano and the book subscription, and
settled for two months, and forgave the Vallombrosa monks for the
wrong they did us, like secular Christians. What is to come after, I
can't tell you. But probably we shall creep slowly along toward Rome,
and spend some hot time of it at Perugia, which is said to be cool
enough. I think more of other things, wishing that my dearest, kindest
sisters had a present as bright as mine--to think nothing at all of
the future. Dearest Henrietta's position has long made me uneasy, and,
since she frees me into confidence by her confidence to you, I will
tell you so. Most undesirable it is that this should be continued, and
yet where is there a door open to escape?[162] ... My dear brothers
have the illusion that nobody should marry on less than two thousand a
year. Good heavens! how preposterous it does seem to me! _We_ scarcely
spend three hundred, and I have every luxury, I ever had, and which
it would be so easy to give up, at need; and Robert wouldn't sleep,
I think, if an unpaid bill dragged itself by any chance into another
week. He says that when people get into 'pecuniary difficulties,' his
'sympathies always go with the butchers and bakers.' So we keep out of
scrapes yet, you see....

Your grateful and most affectionate
BA.

We have had the most delightful letter from Carlyle, who has the
goodness to say that not for years has a marriage occurred in his
private circle in which he so heartily rejoiced as in ours. He is a
personal friend of Robert's, so that I have reason to be very proud
and glad.

Robert's best regards to you both always, and he is no believer in
magnetism (only _I_ am). Do mention Mr. C. Hanford's health. How
strange that he should come to witness my marriage settlement! Did you
hear?

[Footnote 162: Miss Henrietta Barrett was engaged to Captain Surtees
Cook, an engagement of which her brothers, as well as her father,
disapproved, partly on the ground of insufficiency of income.
Ultimately the difficulty was solved in the same way as in the case of
Mrs. Browning.]


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: August 20, [1847],

I have received your letter at last, my ever dearest Miss Mitford, not
the missing letter, but the one which comes to make up for it and to
catch up my thoughts, which were grumbling at high tide, I do assure
you.... As you observed last year (not without reason), these are the
days of marrying and giving in marriage. Mr. Horne, you see[163] ...
With all my heart I hope he may be very happy. Men risk a good deal in
marriage, though not as much as women do; and on the other hand, the
singleness of a man when his youth is over is a sadder thing than the
saddest which an unmarried woman can suffer. Nearly all my friends
of both sexes have been draining off into marriage these two years,
scarcely one will be left in the sieve, and I may end by saying that
I have happiness enough for my own share to be divided among them all
and leave everyone, contented. For me, I take it for pure magic, this
life of mine. Surely nobody was ever so happy before. I shall wake
some morning with my hair all dripping out of the enchanted bucket,
or if not we shall both claim the 'Flitch' next September, if you can
find one for us in the land of Cockaigne, drying in expectancy of the
revolution in Tennyson's 'Commonwealth.' Well, I don't agree with Mr.
Harness in admiring the lady of 'Locksley Hall.' I _must_ either pity
or despise a woman who could have married Tennyson and chose a common
man. If happy in her choice, I despise her. That's matter of opinion,
of course. You may call it matter of foolishness when I add that I
personally would rather be teased a little and smoked over a good deal
by a man whom I could look up to and be proud of, than have my feet
kissed all day by a Mr. Smith in boots and a waistcoat, and thereby
chiefly distinguished. Neither I nor another, perhaps, had quite a
right to expect a combination of qualities, such as meet, though, in
my husband, who is as faultless and pure in his private life as any
Mr. Smith of them all, who would not owe five shillings, who lives
like a woman in abstemiousness on a pennyworth of wine a day, never
touches a cigar even.... Do you hear, as we do, from Mr. Forster, that
his[164] new poem is his best work? As soon as you read it, let me
have your opinion. The subject seems almost identical with one of
Chaucer's. Is it not so? We have spent here the most delightful of
summers, notwithstanding the heat, and I begin to comprehend the
possibility of St. Lawrence's ecstasies on the gridiron. Very hot it
certainly has been and is, yet there have been cool intermissions; and
as we have spacious and airy rooms, and as Robert lets me sit all day
in my white dressing gown without a single masculine criticism, and
as we can step out of the window on a sort of balcony terrace which is
quite private and swims over with moonlight in the evenings, and as
we live upon water melons and iced water and figs and all manner of
fruit, we bear the heat with an angelic patience and felicity which
really are edifying. We tried to make the monks of Vallombrosa let
us stay with them for two months, but their new abbot said or
implied that Wilson and I stank in his nostrils, being women, and San
Gualberto, the establishes of their order, had enjoined on them only
the mortification of cleaning out pigsties without fork or shovel.
So here a couple of women besides was (as Dickens's American said) 'a
piling it up rayther too mountainious.' So we were sent away at the
end of five days. So provoking! Such scenery, such hills, such a
sea of hills looking alive among the clouds. _Which_ rolled, it was
difficult to discern. Such pine woods, supernaturally silent, with the
ground black as ink, such chestnut and beech forests hanging from the
mountains, such rocks and torrents, such chasms and ravines. There
were eagles there, too, [and] there was _no road_. Robert went on
horseback, and Flush, Wilson, and I were drawn in a sledge (i.e.
an old hamper, a basket wine hamper without a wheel) by two white
bullocks up the precipitous mountains. Think of my travelling in that
fashion in those wild places at four o'clock in the morning, a little
frightened, dreadfully tired, but in an ecstasy of admiration above
all! It was a sight to see before one died and went away to another
world. Well, but being expelled ignominiously at the end of five days,
we had to come back to Florence, and find a new apartment cooler than
the old, and wait for dear Mr. Kenyon. And dear Mr. Kenyon does
not come (not this autumn, but he may perhaps at the first dawn of
spring), and on September 20 we take up our knapsacks and turn our
faces towards Rome, I think, creeping slowly along, with a pause at
Arezzo, and a longer pause at Perugia, and another perhaps at Terni.
Then we plan to take an apartment we have heard of, over the Tarpeian
Rock, and enjoy Rome as we have enjoyed Florence. More can scarcely
be. This Florence is unspeakably beautiful, by grace both of nature
and art, and the wheels of life slide on upon the grass (according
to continental ways) with little trouble and less expense. Dinner,
'unordered,' comes through the streets and spreads itself on our
table, as hot as if we had smelt cutlets hours before. The science
of material life is understood here and in France. Now tell me, what
right has England to be the dearest country in the world? But I love
dearly dear England, and we hope to spend many a green summer in her
yet. The winters you will excuse us, will you not? People who are,
like us, neither rich nor strong, claim such excuses. I am wonderfully
well, and far better and stronger than before what you call the Pisan
'crisis.' Robert declares that nobody would know me, I _look_ so much
better. And you heard from dearest Henrietta. Ah, both of my dearest
sisters have been perfect to me. No words can express my feelings
towards their goodness. Otherwise, I have good accounts from home of
my father's excellent health and spirits, which is better even than
to hear of his loving and missing me. I had a few kind lines yesterday
from Miss Martineau, who invites us from Florence to Westmoreland. She
wants to talk to me, she says, of 'her beloved Jordan.' She is
looking forward to a winter of work by the lakes, and to a summer of
gardening. The kindest of letters Robert has had from Carlyle, who
makes us very happy by what he says of our marriage. Shakespeare's
favorite air of the 'Light of Love,' with the full evidence of
its being Shakespeare's favorite air, is given in Charles Knight's
edition. Seek for it there. Now do write to me and at length, and tell
me everything of yourself. Flush hated Vallombrosa, and was frightened
out of his wits by the pine forests. Flush likes civilised life, and
the society of little dogs with turned-up tails, such as Florence
abounds with. Unhappily it abounds also with _fleas_, which afflict
poor Flush to the verge sometimes of despair. Fancy Robert and me
down on our knees combing him, with a basin of water on one side! He
suffers to such a degree from fleas that I cannot bear to witness it.
He tears off his pretty curls through the irritation. Do you know of a
remedy? Direct to me, Poste Restante, Florence. Put _via_ France. Let
me hear, do; and everything of yourself, mind. Is Mrs. Partridge in
better spirits? Do you read any new French books? Dearest friend, let
me offer you my husband's cordial regards, with the love of your own
affectionate

E.B.B., BA.

[Footnote 163: Mr. Horne was just engaged to be married.]

[Footnote 164: Tennyson's _Princess_ had just been published.]


_To Mr. Westwood_
Florence: September 1847.

Yes, indeed, my dear Mr. Westwood, I have seen 'friars.' We have been
on a pilgrimage to Vallombrosa, and while my husband rode up and down
the precipitous mountain paths, I and my maid and Flush were dragged
in a hamper by two white bullocks--and such scenery; such hilly peaks,
such black ravines and gurgling waters, and rocks and forests above
and below, and at last such a monastery and such friars, who wouldn't
let us stay with them beyond five days for fear of corrupting the
fraternity. The monks had a new abbot, a St. Sejanus of a holy
man, and a petticoat stank in his nostrils, said he, and all the I
beseeching which we could offer him with joined hands was classed with
the temptations of St. Anthony. So we had to come away as we went, and
get the better as we could of our disappointment, and really it was
a disappointment not to be able to stay our two months out in the
wilderness as we had planned it, to say nothing of the heat of
Florence, to which at the moment it was not pleasant to return. But
we got new lodgings in the shade and comforted ourselves as well as we
could. 'Comforted'--there's a word for Florence--that ingratitude was
a slip of the pen, believe me. Only we had set our hearts upon a two
months' seclusion in the deep of the pine forests (which have such
a strange dialect in the silence they speak with), and the mountains
were divine, and it was provoking to be crossed in our ambitions by
that little holy abbot with the red face, and to be driven out of
Eden, even to Florence. It is said, observe, that Milton took his
description of Paradise from Vallombrosa--so driven out of Eden we
were, literally. To Florence, though! and what Florence is, the tongue
of man or poet may easily fail to describe. The most beautiful of
cities, with the golden Arno shot through the breast of her like an
arrow, and 'non dolet' all the same. For what helps to charm here
is the innocent gaiety of the people, who, for ever at feast day and
holiday celebrations, come and go along the streets, the women in
elegant dresses and with glittering fans, shining away every thought
of Northern cares and taxes, such as make people grave in England.
No little orphan on a house step but seems to inherit, naturally
his slice of water-melon and bunch of purple grapes, and the rich
fraternise with the poor as we are unaccustomed to see them, listening
to the same music and walking in the same gardens, and looking at the
same Raphaels even! Also we were glad to be here just now, when there
is new animation and energy given to Italy by this new wonderful
Pope, who is a great man and doing greatly. I hope you give him your
sympathies. Think how seldom the liberation of a people begins from
the throne, _à fortiori_ from a papal throne, which is so high and
straight.[165] And the spark spreads! here is even our Grand
Duke conceding the civic guard,[166] and forgetting his Austrian
prejudices. The world learns, it is pleasant to observe....

So well I am, dear Mr. Westwood, and so happy after a year's trial of
the stuff of marriage, happier than ever, perhaps, and the revolution
is so complete that one has to learn to stand up straight and steadily
(like a landsman in a sailing ship) before one can do any work with
one's hand and brain.

We have had a delightful letter from Carlyle, who loves my husband, I
am proud to say.

  [Footnote 165:'This country saving is a glorious thing:
  And if a common man achieved it? well.
  Say, a rich man did? excellent. A king?
  That grows sublime. A priest? Improbable.
  A pope? Ah, there we stop, and cannot bring
  Our faith up to the leap, with history's bell

  So heavy round the neck of it--albeit
  We fain would grant the possibility
  For thy sake, Pio Nono!'

_Casa Guidi Windows_, part i.]

[Footnote 166: The grant of a National Guard was made by the Grand
Duke of Tuscany on September 4, 1847, in defiance of the threat of
Austria to occupy any Italian state in which such a concession was
made to popular aspirations.]


_To Miss Mitford_
[Florence:] October I, 1847 [postmark].

Ever dearest Miss Mitford,--I am delighted to have your letter, and
lose little time in replying to it. The lost letter meanwhile does not
appear. The moon has it, to make more shine on these summer nights; if
still one may say 'summer' now that September is deep and that we are
cool as people hoped to be when at hottest.... Do tell me your full
thought of the commonwealth of women.[168] I begin by agreeing with
you as to his implied under-estimate of women; his women are
too voluptuous; however, of the most refined voluptuousness. His
gardener's daughter, for instance, is just a rose: and 'a Rose,'
one might beg all poets to observe, is as precisely _sensual_ as
fricasseed chicken, or even boiled beef and carrots. Did you read Mrs.
Butler's 'Year of Consolation,' and how did you think of it in the
main? As to Mr. Home's illustrations of national music, I don't know;
I feel a little jealous of his doing well what many inferior men have
done well--men who couldn't write 'Orion' and the 'Death of Marlowe.'
Now, dearest dear Miss Mitford, you shall call him 'tiresome' if you
like, because I never heard him talk, and he may be tiresome for aught
I know, of course; but you _sha'n't_ say that he has not done some
fine things in poetry. Now, you _know_ what the first book of 'Orion'
is, and 'Marlowe,' and 'Cosmo;' and you _sha'n't_ say that you don't
know it, and that when you forgot it for a moment, I did not remind
you.... It was our plan to leave Florence on the 21st. We stay,
however, one month longer, half through temptation, half through
reason. Which is strongest, who knows? We quite love Florence, and
have delightful rooms; and then, though I am quite well now as to my
general health, it is thought better for me to travel a month hence.
So I suppose we shall stay. In the meanwhile our Florentines kept the
anniversary of our wedding day (and the establishment of the civic
guard) most gloriously a day or two or three ago, forty thousand
persons flocking out of the neighbourhood to help the expression of
public sympathy and overflowing the city. The procession passed under
our eyes into the Piazza Pitti, where the Grand Duke and all his
family stood at the palace window melting into tears, to receive the
thanks of his people. The joy and exultation on all sides were most
affecting to look upon. Grave men kissed one another, and grateful
young women lifted up their children to the level of their own smiles,
and the children themselves mixed their shrill little _vivas_ with
the shouts of the people. At once, a more frenetic gladness and a more
innocent manifestation of gladness were never witnessed. During three
hours and a half the procession wound on past our windows, and every
inch of every house seemed alive with gazers all that time, the white
handkerchiefs fluttering like doves, and clouds of flowers and laurel
leaves floating down on the heads of those who passed. Banners, too,
with inscriptions to suit the popular feeling--'Liberty'--the 'Union
of Italy'--the 'Memory of the Martyrs'--'Viva Pio Nono'--'Viva
Leopoldo Secondo'--were quite stirred with the breath of the shouters.
I am glad to have seen that sight, and to be in Italy at this moment,
when such sights are to be seen.[167] My wrist aches a little even now
with the waving I gave to my handkerchief, I assure you, for Robert
and I and Flush sate the whole sight out at the window, and would not
be reserved with the tribute of our sympathy. Flush had his two
front paws over the window sill, with his ears hanging down, but he
confessed at last that he thought they were rather long about it,
particularly as it had nothing to do with dinner and chicken bones
and subjects of consequence. He is less tormented and looks better;
in excellent spirits and appetite always--and _thinner_, like your
Flush--and very fond of Robert, as indeed he ought to be. On the
famous evening of that famous day I have been speaking of, we lost
him--he ran away and stayed away all night--which was too bad,
considering that it was our anniversary besides, and that he had no
right to spoil it. But I imagine he was bewildered with the crowd and
the illumination, only as he _did_ look so very guilty and conscious
of evil on his return, there's room for suspecting him of having been
very much amused, 'motu proprio,' as our Grand Duke says in the
edict. He was found at nine o'clock in the morning at the door of our
apartment, waiting to be let in--mind, I don't mean the Grand Duke.
Very few acquaintances have we made at Florence, and very quietly
lived out our days. Mr. Powers the sculptor is our chief friend and
favorite, a most charming, simple, straight-forward, genial American,
as simple as the man of genius he has proved himself needs be. He
sometimes comes to talk and take coffee with us, and we like him much.
His wife is an amiable woman, and they have heaps of children from
thirteen downwards, all, except the eldest boy, Florentines, and the
sculptor has eyes like a wild Indian's, so black and full of light.
You would scarcely wonder if they clave the marble without the help of
his hands. We have seen besides the Hoppners, Lord Byron's friends at
Venice, you will remember. And Miss Boyle, the niece of the Earl
of Cork, and authoress and poetess on her own account, having been
introduced once to Robert in London at Lady Morgan's, has hunted
us out and paid us a visit. A very vivacious little person, with
sparkling talk enough. Lord Holland has lent her mother and herself
the famous Careggi Villa, where Lorenzo the Magnificent died, and they
have been living there among the vines these four months. These and a
few American visitors are all we have seen at Florence. We live a
far more solitary life than you do, in your village and with
the 'prestige' of the country wrapping you round. Pray give your
sympathies to our Pope, and call him a great man. For liberty
to spring from a throne is wonderful, but from a papal throne is
miraculous. That's my doxy. I suppose dear Mr. Kenyon and Mr. Chorley
are still abroad. French books I get at, but at scarcely a new one,
which is very provoking. At Rome it may be better. I have not read
'Martin' even, since the first volume in England, nor G. Sand's
'Lucretia.'

May God bless you. Think sometimes of your ever affectionate

E.B.B.

[Footnote 167: In Tennyson's _Princess_.]

[Footnote 168: A picture of the same scene in verse will be found in
_Casa Guidi Windows_, part i.:

  'Shall I say
  What made my heart beat with exulting love
  A few weeks back,' &c.]

The 'month' lengthened itself out, and December found the Brownings
still in Florence, and definitely established there for the winter.
During this time, although there is no allusion to it in the letters,
Mrs. Browning must have been engaged in writing the first part of
'Casa Guidi Windows' with its hopeful aspirations for Italian liberty.
It was, indeed, a time when hope seemed justifiable. Pius IX. had
ascended the papal throne--then a temporal as well as a spiritual
sovereignty--in June 1846, with the reputation of being anxious to
introduce liberal reforms, and even to promote the formation of a
united Italy. The English Government was diplomatically advocating
reform, in spite of the opposition of Austria; and its representative,
Lord Minto, who was sent on a special mission to Italy to bring this
influence to bear on the rulers of the various Italian States, was
received with enthusiastic joy by the zealots for Italian liberty. The
Grand Duke of Tuscany, as was noticed above, had taken the first
step in the direction of popular government by the institution of a
National Guard; and Charles Albert of Piedmont was always supposed to
have the cause of Italy at heart in spite of the vacillations of his
policy. The catastrophe of 1848 was still in the distance; and for
the moment a friend of freedom and of Italy might be permitted to hope
much.

Yet a difference will be noticed between the tone of Mrs. Browning's
letters at this time and that which marks her language in 1859. In
1847 she was still comparatively new to the country. She is interested
in the experiment which she sees enacted before her; she feels, as any
poet must feel, the attraction of the idea of a free and united Italy.
But her heart is not thrown into the struggle as it was at a later
time. She can write, and does, for the most part, write, of other
matters. The disappointment of Milan and Novara could not break her
heart, as the disappointment of Villafranca went near to doing. They
are not, indeed, so much as mentioned in detail in the letters that
follow. It is in 'Casa Guidi Windows'--the first part written
in 1847-8, the second in 1851--that her reflections upon Italian
politics, alike in their hopes and in their failures, must be sought.


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: December 8, 1847.

Have you thought me long, my dearest Miss Mitford, in writing? When
your letter came we were distracted by various uncertainties, torn by
wild horses of sundry speculations, and then, when one begins by delay
in answering a letter, you are aware how a silence grows and grows.
Also I heard _of_ you through my sisters and Mrs. Duprey[?], and
_that_ made me lazier still. Now don't treat me according to the
Jewish law, an eye for an eye; no! but a heart for a heart, if you
please; and you never can have reason to reproach mine for not loving
you. Think what we have done since I wrote last to you. Taken two
houses, that is, two apartments, each for six months, presigning the
contract. You will set it down as excellent poet's work in the way of
domestic economy; but the fault was altogether mine as usual, and
my husband, to please me, took rooms which I could not be pleased
by three days, through the absence of sunshine and warmth. The
consequence was that we had to pay heaps of guineas away for leave
to go away ourselves, any alternative being preferable to a return of
illness, and I am sure I should have been ill if we had persisted in
staying there. You can scarcely fancy the wonderful difference which
the sun makes in Italy. Oh, he isn't a mere 'round O' in the air in
this Italy, I assure you! He makes us feel that he rules the day to
all intents and purposes. So away we came into the blaze of him here
in the Piazza Pitti, precisely opposite the Grand Duke's palace, I
with my remorse, and poor Robert without a single reproach. Any other
man, a little lower than the angels, would have stamped and sworn a
little for the mere relief of the thing, but as to _his_ being angry
with _me_ for any cause, except not eating enough dinner, the said
sun would turn the wrong way first. So here we are on the Pitti till
April, in small rooms yellow with sunshine from morning to evening;
and most days I am able to get out into the piazza, and walk up and
down for some twenty minutes without feeling a shadow of breath from
the actual winter. Also it is pleasant to be close to the Raffaels,
to say nothing of the immense advantage of the festa days, when,
day after day, the civic guard comes to show the whole population of
Florence, their Grand Duke inclusive, the new helmets and epaulettes
and the glory thereof. They have swords, too, I believe, somewhere.
The crowds come and come, like children to see rows of dolls, only the
children would tire sooner than the Tuscans. Robert said musingly the
other morning as we stood at the window, 'Surely, after all this, they
would _use_ those muskets.' It's a problem, a 'grand peut-être.' I
was rather amused by hearing lately that our civic heroes had the
gallantry to propose to the ancient military that these last should
do the night work, i.e. when nobody was looking on and there was no
credit, as they found it dull and fatiguing. Ah, one laughs, you see;
one can't help it now and then. But at the real and rising feeling of
the people by night and day one doesn't laugh indeed. I hear and
see with the deepest sympathy of soul, on the contrary. I love the
Italians, too, and none the less that something of the triviality and
innocent vanity of children abounds in them. A delightful and most
welcome letter was the last you sent me, my dearest friend. Your
bridal visit must have charmed you, and I am glad you had the gladness
of witnessing some of the happiness of your friend, Mrs. Acton Tyndal,
_you_ who have such quick sympathies, and to whom the happiness of a
friend is a gain counted in your own. The swan's shadow is something
in a clear water. For poor Mrs.----, if she is really, as you say Mrs.
Tyndal thinks, pining in an access of literary despondency, why _that_
only proves to me that she is not happy otherwise, that her life
and soul are not sufficiently filled for her woman's need. I cannot
believe of any woman that she can think of _fame first_. A woman of
genius may be absorbed, indeed, in the exercise of an active power,
engrossed in the charges of the course and the combat; but this is
altogether different to a vain and bitter longing for prizes, and what
prizes, oh, gracious heavens! The empty cup of cold metal! _so_ cold,
_so_ empty to a woman with a heart. So, if your friend's belief is
true, still more deeply do I pity that other friend, who is supposed
to be unhappy from such a cause. A few days ago I saw a bride of
my own family, Mrs. Reynolds, Arlette Butler, who married Captain
Reynolds some five months since.... Many were her exclamations at
seeing me. She declared that such a change was never seen, I was
so transfigured with my betterness: 'Oh, Ba, it is quite wonderful
indeed!' We had been calculated on, during her three months in Rome,
as a 'piece of resistance,' and it was a disappointment to find us
here in a corner with the salt. Just as I was praised was poor Flush
criticised. Flush has not recovered from the effects yet of the summer
plague of fleas, and his curls, though growing, are not grown. I never
saw him in such spirits nor so ugly; and though Robert and I flatter
ourselves upon 'the sensible improvement,' Arlette could only see him
with reference to the past, when in his Wimpole Street days he was
sleek and over fat, and she cried aloud at the loss of his beauty.
Then we have had [another] visitor, Mr. Hillard, an American critic,
who reviewed me in [the old] world, and so came to _view_ me in the
new, a very intelligent man, of a good, noble spirit. And Miss Boyle,
ever and anon, comes at night, at nine o'clock, to catch us at our
hot chestnuts and mulled wine, and warm her feet at our fire; and
a kinder, more cordial little creature, full of talent and
accomplishment, never had the world's polish on it. Very amusing, too,
she is, and original, and a good deal of laughing she and Robert make
between them. Did I tell you of her before, and how she is the niece
of Lord Cork, and poetess by grace of certain Irish Muses? Neither
of us know her writings in any way, but we like her, and for the best
reasons. And this is nearly all, I think, we see of the 'face divine,'
masculine and feminine, and I can't make Robert go out a single
evening, not even to a concert, nor to hear a play of Alfieri's, yet
we fill up our days with books and music (and a little writing has
its share), and wonder at the clock for galloping. It's twenty-four
o'clock with us almost as soon as we begin to count. Do tell me of
Tennyson's book, and of Miss Martineau's. I was grieved to hear a
distant murmur of a rumour of an apprehension of a return of her
complaint: somebody said that she could not bear the _pressure of
dress_, and that the exhaustion resulting from the fits of absorption
in work and enthusiasm on the new subject of Egypt was painfully
great, and that her friends feared for her. I should think that the
bodily excitement and fatigue of her late travels must have been
highly hazardous, and that indeed, throughout her convalescence, she
should have more spared herself in climbing hills and walking and
riding distances. A strain obviously might undo everything. Still, I
do hope that the bitter cup may not be filled for her again. What a
wonderful discovery this substitute for ether inhalations[169] seems
to be. Do you hear anything of its operation in your neighbourhood? We
have had a letter from Mr. Horne, who appears happy, and speaks of his
success in lecturing on Ireland, and of a new novel which he is about
to publish in a separate form after having printed it in a magazine.
We have not set up the types even of our _plans_ about a book, very
distinctly, but we shall do something some day, and you shall hear
of it the evening before. Being too happy doesn't agree with literary
activity quite as well as I should have thought; and then, dear Mr.
Kenyon can't persuade us that we are not rich enough, so as to bring
into force a lower order of motives. He talks of Rome still. Now
write, dear, dearest Miss Mitford, and tell me of yourself and your
health, and do, _do_ love me as you used to do. As to French books,
one may swear, but you can't get a new publication, except by
accident, at this excellent celebrated library of Vieusseux, and I
am reduced to read some of my favorites over again, I and Robert
together. You ought to hear how we go to single combat, ever and anon,
with shield and lance. The greatest quarrel we have had since our
marriage, by the way (always excepting my crying conjugal wrong of not
eating enough!), was brought up by Masson's pamphlet on the Iron Mask
and Fouquet. I wouldn't be persuaded that Fouquet was 'in it,' and
so 'the anger of my lord waxed hot.' To this day he says sometimes:
'Don't be cross, Ba! _Fouquet wasn't the Iron Mask after all_.'

God bless you, dearest Miss Mitford.
Your ever affectionate
E.B.B.

We are here till April.

[Footnote 169: Chloroform, then beginning to come into use.]


_To Mrs. Jameson_
Florence: December 1847.

Indeed, my dear friend, you have a right to complain of _me_, whether
or not _we_ had any in thinking ourselves deeply injured creatures
by your last silence. Yet when in your letter which came at last, you
said, 'Write directly,' I _meant_ to write directly; I did not take
out my vengeance in a foregone malice, be very sure. Just at the time
we were in a hard knot of uncertainties about Rome and Venice and
Florence, and a cold house and a warm house; for instance we managed
(that is _I_ did, for altogether it was my fault) to take two
apartments in the course of ten days, each for a term of six months,
getting out of one of them by leaving the skirts of our garments,
_rent_, literally, in the hand of the proprietor. You have heard most
of this, I dare say, from Mr. Kenyon or my sisters. Now, too, you are
aware of our being in Piazza Pitti, in a charmed circle of sun blaze.
Our rooms are small, but of course as cheerful as being under the very
eyelids of the sun must make everything; and we have a cook in the
house who takes the office of _traiteur_ on him and gives us English
mutton chops at Florentine prices, both of us quite well and in
spirits, and (though you never will believe this) happier than ever.
For my own part, you know I need not say a word if it were not true,
and I must say to you, who saw the beginning with us, that this end of
fifteen months is just fifteen times better and brighter; the mystical
'moon' growing larger and larger till scarcely room is left for any
stars at all: the only differences which have touched me being the
more and more happiness. It would have been worse than unreasonable if
in marrying I had expected one quarter of such happiness, and indeed I
did not, to do myself justice, and every now and then I look round
in astonishment and thankfulness together, yet with a sort of horror,
seeing that this is not heaven after all. We live just as we did when
you knew us, just as shut-up a life. Robert never goes anywhere except
to take a walk with Flush, which isn't my fault, as you may imagine:
he has not been out one evening of the fifteen months; but what with
music and books and writing and talking, we scarcely know how the days
go, it's such a gallop on the grass. We are going through some of
old Sacchetti's novelets now: characteristic work for Florence, if
somewhat dull elsewhere. Boccaccios can't be expected to spring up
with the vines in rows, even in this climate. We got a newly printed
addition to Savonarola's poems the other day, very flat and cold, they
did not catch fire when he was burnt. The most poetic thing in the
book is his face on the first page, with that eager, devouring soul in
the eyes of it. You may suppose that I am able sometimes to go over
to the gallery and adore the Raphaels, and Robert will tell you of the
divine Apollino which you missed seeing in Poggio Imperiale, and which
I shall be set face to face before, some day soon, I hope....

Father Prout was in Florence for some two hours in passing to Rome,
and of course, according to contract of spirits of the air, Robert met
him, and heard a great deal of you and Geddie (saw Geddie's picture,
by the way, and thought it very like), was told much to the advantage
of Mr. Macpherson,[170] and at the end of all, kissed in the open
street as the speaker was about to disappear in the diligence. When
you write, tell me of the _book_. Surely it will be out anon, and then
you will be free, shall you not? Have you seen Tennyson's new poem,
and what of it? Miss Martineau is to discourse about Egypt, I suppose;
but in the meanwhile do you hear that she forswears mesmerism, as Mr.
Spenser Hall does, according to the report Robert brings me home from
the newspaper reading. Now I shall leave him room to stand on and
speak a word to you. Give my love to Gerardine, and don't forget to
mention her letter. I hope you are happy about your friends, and that,
in particular, Lady Byron's health is strengthening and to strengthen.
Always my dear friend's

Most affectionate
E.B.B.

Dear Aunt Nina,--A corner is just the place for eating Christmas pies
in, but for venting Christmas wishes, hardly! What has Ba told you and
wished you in the way of love? I wish you the same and love you the
same, but Geddie, being part of you, gets her due part. We are as
happy as two owls in a hole, two toads under a tree stump; or any
other queer two poking creatures that we let live, after the fashion
of their black hearts, only Ba is fat and rosy; yes, indeed! Florence
is empty and pleasant. Goodbye, therefore, till next year--shall it
not be then we meet? God bless you. R.B.

[Footnote 170: Miss Bate's _fiancé_.]


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: February 22, [1848].

Your letter, my dearest friend, which was written, a part at least,
before Christmas, came lingering in long after the new year had seen
out its matins. Oh, I had wondered so, and wished so over the long
silence. My fault, perhaps in a measure, for I know how silent _I_ was
before. Yes, and you tell me of your having been unwell (bad news),
and of your dear Flush's death, which made me sorrowful for you, as
I might reasonably be. And now tell me more. Have you a successor to
him? Once you told me that one of the race was in training, but as you
say nothing now I am all in a doubt. Let me hear everything. If I had
been you, I think I should have preferred some quite other kind of
dog, as the unlikeness of a likeness would be apt to bring a pain to
me; but people can't reason about feelings, and feelings are like the
colour of eyes, not the same in different faces, however general may
be the proximity of noses.... The great subject with _everybody_ just
now is the new hope of Italy, and the liberal constitution, given
nobly by our good, excellent Grand Duke, whose praise is in all the
houses, streets, and piazzas. The other evening, the evening after the
gift, he went privately to the opera, was recognised, and in a burst
of triumph and a glory of waxen torches was brought back to the Pitti
by the people. I was undressing to go to bed, had my hair down over my
shoulders under Wilson's ministry, when Robert called me to look out
of the window and see. Through the dark night a great flock of stars
seemed sweeping up the piazza, but not in silence, nor with very
heavenly noises. The '_Evvivas_' were deafening. So glad I was. _I,
too_, stood at the window and clapped my hands. If ever Grand Duke
deserved benediction this Duke does. We hear that he was quite moved,
overpowered, and wept like a child. Nevertheless the most of Italy is
under the cloud, and God knows how all may end as the thunder ripens.
Now I mustn't, I suppose, write politics. Our plans about England are
afloat. Impossible to know what we shall do, but if not this summer,
the summer after _must_ help us to the sight of some beloved faces. It
will be a midsummer dream, and we shall return to winter in Italy. My
Flush is as well as ever, and perhaps gayer than ever I knew him. He
runs out in the piazza whenever he pleases, and plays with the dogs
when they are pretty enough, and wags his tail at the sentinels and
civic guard, and takes the Grand Duke as a sort of neighbour of his,
whom it is proper enough to patronise, but who has considerably less
inherent merit and dignity than the spotted spaniel in the alley
to the left. We have been reading over again 'André' and 'Leone
Leoni,'[171] and Robert is in an enthusiasm about the first. Happy
person, you are, to get so at new books. Blessed is the man who reads
Balzac, or even Dumas. I have got to admire Dumas doubly since that
fight and scramble for his brains in Paris. Now do think of me and
love me, and let me be as ever your affectionate

BA.

Robert's regards always. Say particularly how you are, and may God
bless you, dearest Miss Mitford, and make you happy.

[Footnote 171: Novels by George Sand.]


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: April 15, [1848].

... My Flush has recovered his beauty, and is in more vivacious
spirits than I remember to have seen him. Still, the days come when he
will have no pleasure and plenty of fleas, poor dog, for Savonarola's
martyrdom here in Florence is scarcely worse than Flush's in the
summer. Which doesn't prevent his enjoying the spring, though, and
just now, when, by medical command, I drive out two hours every day,
his delight is to occupy the seat in the carriage opposite to Robert
and me, and look disdainfully on all the little dogs who walk afoot.
We drive day by day through the lovely Cascine (where the trees have
finished and spread their webs of full greenery, undimmed by the sun
yet), first sweeping through the city, past such a window where Bianca
Capello looked out to see the Duke go by,[172] and past such a door
where Lapo stood, and past the famous stone where Dante drew his chair
out to sit.[173] Strange, to have all that old-world life about us,
and the blue sky so bright besides, and ever so much talk on our lips
about the new French revolution, and the King of Prussia's cunning,
and the fuss in Germany and elsewhere. Not to speak of our own
particular troubles and triumphs in Lombardy close by. The English are
flying from Florence, by the way, in a helter skelter, just as they
always do fly, except (to do them justice) on a field of battle. The
family Englishman is a dreadful coward, be it admitted frankly. See
how they run from France, even to my dear excellent Uncle Hedley, who
has too many little girls in his household to stay longer at Tours.
Oh, I don't _blame_ him exactly. I only wish that he had waited a
little longer, the time necessary for being quite reassured. He has
great stakes in the country--a house at Tours and in Paris, and twenty
thousand pounds in the Rouen railway. But Florence will fall upon her
feet we may all be certain, let the worst happen that can. Meanwhile,
republicans as I and my, husband are by profession, we very anxiously,
anxiously even to pain, look on the work being attempted and done just
now by the theorists in Paris; far from half approving of it we are,
and far from being absolutely confident of the durability of the other
half. Tell me what you think, and if you are not anxious too. As to
communism, surely the practical part of _that_, the only not dangerous
part, is attainable simply by the consent of individuals who may try
the experiment of associating their families in order to the cheaper
employment of the means of life, and successfully in many cases. But
make a government scheme of _even so much_, and you seem to trench on
the individual liberty. All such patriarchal planning in a government
issues naturally into absolutism, and is adapted to states of society
more or less barbaric. Liberty and civilisation when married together
lawfully rather evolve individuality than tend to generalisation.
Is this not true? I fear, I fear that mad theories promising the
impossible may, in turn, make the people mad. I Louis Blanc knows
not what he says. Have I not mentioned to you a very gifted woman, a
sculptress, Mademoiselle de Fauveau, who lives in Florence with her
mother practising her profession, an exile from France, in consequence
of their royalist opinions and participation in the Vendée struggle,
some sixteen or fifteen years? On that occasion she was mistaken for
and allowed herself to be arrested as Madame de la Roche Jacquelin;
therefore she has justified, by suffering in the cause, her passionate
attachment to it. A most interesting person she is; she called upon us
a short time ago and interested us much. And Mrs. Jameson would tell
you that her celebrity in her art is not comparative 'for a woman,'
but that, since Benvenuto Cellini, more beautiful works of the kind
have not been accomplished. An exquisite fountain she has lately
done for the Emperor of Russia. She has workmen under her, and is as
'professional' in every respect as if neither woman nor noble. At the
first throb of this revolution of course she dreamt the impossible
about that dear 'Henri Cinq,' who is as much out of the question
as Henri Quatre himself; and now it ends with the 'French Legation'
coming to settle in the house precisely opposite to hers, with a
hideous sign-painting appended O the Gallic cock on one leg and at
full crow inscribed, 'Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.' This, and the
death of her favorite dog, whom, after seventeen years' affection, she
was forced to have destroyed on account of a combination of diseases,
has quite saddened the sculptress. When she came to see us I observed
that after so long a residence at Florence she must regard it as a
second country. 'Ah non!' (the answer was) 'il n'y a pas de seconde
patrie.' What you tell me of 'Jane Eyre' makes me long to see the
book. I may long, I fancy. It is dismal to have to disappoint my
dearest sisters, who hoped for me in England this summer, but our
English visit _must_ be for next summer instead; there seems too
much against it just now. The drawback of Italy is the distance from
England. If it were but as near as Paris, for instance, why in that
case we should settle here at once, I do think, the conveniences and
luxuries of life are of such incredible cheapness, the climate so
divine, and the way of things altogether so serene and suited to our
tastes and instincts. But to give up England and the _English_, the
dear, dearest treasure of English love, is impossible, so we just
linger and linger. The Boyles go to England from the press of panic,
Lady Boyle being old and infirm. Ah, but your talking friend would
interest you, and you might accept the talk in infinitesimal
doses, you know. Lamartine has surely acted down the fallacy of the
impractical tendencies of imaginative men. I am full of France just
now. Are you all prepared for an outbreak in Ireland? I hope so. My
husband has the second edition of his collected poems[174] in the
press by this time, by grace of Chapman and Hall, who accept all
risks. You speak of Tennyson's vexation about the reception of
the 'Princess.' Why did Mr. Harness and others, who 'never could
understand' his former divine works, praise this in manuscript
till the poet's hope grew to the height of his ambition? Strangely
unfortunate. We have not read it yet. I hear that Tennyson had the
other day everything packed for Italy, then turned his face toward
Ireland, and went there. Oh, for a talk with you. But this is a sort
of talk, isn't it? Accept my husband's regards. As to my love, I throw
it to you over the [sea] with both hands. God bless you.

Your ever affectionate
BA.

[Footnote 172: See Browning's _The Statue and the Bust_.]

[Footnote 173: 'the stone Called Dante's--a plain flat stone scarce
discerned From others in the pavement--whereupon He used to bring his
quiet chair out, turned To Brunelleschi's church, and pour alone The
lava of his spirit when it burned.' _Casa Guidi Windows_, part i.]

[Footnote 174: This edition, published in 1849 in two volumes
contained only _Paracelsus_ and the plays and poems of the _Bells and
Pomegranates_ series.]


_To John Kenyan_
[Florence:] May I, [1848].

My dearest Mr. Kenyon,--Surely it is quite wrong that we three,
Robert, you, and I, should be satisfied with writing little dry notes,
as short as so many proclamations, and those of the order of your
anti-Chartist magistracy, 'Whereas certain evil disposed persons &c.
&c.,' instead of our anti-Austrian Grand duchy's 'O figli amati'
(how characteristic of the north and the south, to be sure, is this
contrast! Yet, after all, they might have managed it rather better
in England!)--little dry notes brief and business-like as an
anti-Chartist proclamation! And, indeed, two of us are by no means
satisfied, whatever the third may be. The other day we were looking
over some of the dear delightful letters you used to write to us.
Real letters those were, and not little dry notes at all. Robert said,
'When I write to dear Mr. Kenyon I really do feel overcome by the
sense of what I owe to him, and so, as it is beyond words to say, why
generally I say as little as possible of anything, keeping myself to
matters of business.' An alternative very objectionable, I told him;
for to have 'a dumb devil' from ever such grateful and sentimental
reasons, when the Alps stand betwixt friend, is damnatory in the
extreme. Then, as _you_ are not 'too grateful' to _us_, why don't
_you_ write? Pray do, my dear friend. Let us all write as we used to
do. And to make sure of it, I begin.

Since I ended last the world has turned over on its other side, in
order, one must hope, to some happy change in the dream. Our friend,
Miss Bayley, in that very kind letter which has just reached me and
shall be answered directly (will you tell her with my thankful love?),
asks if Robert and I are communists, and then half draws back her
question into a discreet reflection that _I_, at least, was never
much celebrated for acumen on political economy. Most true indeed! And
therefore, and on that very ground, is it not the more creditable to
me that I don't set up for a communist immediately? In proportion to
the ignorance might be the stringency of the embrace of 'la vérité
sociale:' so I claim a little credit that it isn't. For really we
are not communists, farther than to admit the wisdom of voluntary
association in matters of material life among the poorer classes. And
to legislate even on such points seems as objectionable as possible;
all intermeddlings of government with domesticities, from Lacedaemon
to Peru, were and must be objectionable; and of the growth of
absolutism, let us, theorise as we choose. I would have the government
educate the people absolutely, and _then_ give room for the individual
to develop himself into life freely. Nothing can be more hateful to me
than this communist idea of quenching individualities in the mass. As
if the hope of the world did not always consist in the eliciting
of the individual man from the background of the masses, in the
evolvement of individual genius, virtue, magnanimity. Do you know how
I love France and the French? Robert laughs at me for the mania of it,
or used to laugh long before this revolution. When I was a prisoner,
my other mania for imaginative literature used to be ministered to
through the prison bars by Balzac, George Sand, and the like immortal
improprieties. They kept the colour in my life to some degree and did
good service in their time to me, I can assure you, though in dear
discreet England women oughtn't to confess to such reading, I believe,
or you told me so yourself one day. Well, but through reading the
books I grew to love France, in a mania too; and the interest, which
all must feel in the late occurrences there, has been with me, and is,
quite painful. I read the newspapers as I never did in my life, and
hope and fear in paroxysms, yes, and am guilty of thinking far more
of Paris than of Lombardy itself, and try to understand financial
difficulties and social theories with the best will in the world;
much as Flush tries to understand me when I tell him that barking and
jumping may be unseasonable things. Both of us open our eyes a good
deal, but the comprehension is questionable after all. What, however,
I do seem least of all to comprehend, is your hymn of triumph in
England, just because you have a lower ideal of liberty than the
French people have. See if in Louis Philippe's time France was not
in many respects more advanced than England is now, property better
divided, hereditary privilege abolished! Are we to blow with the
trumpet because we respect the ruts while everywhere else they are
mending the roads? I do not comprehend. As to the Chartists, it is
only a pity in my mind that you have not more of them. That's their
fault. Mine, you will say, is being pert about politics when you would
rather have anything else in a letter from Italy. You have heard of
my illness, and will have been sorry for me, I am certain; but with
blessings edging me round, I need not catch at a thistle in the hedge
to make a 'sorrowful complaignte' of. Our plans have floated round and
round, in and out of all the bays and creeks of the Happy Islands....

Meanwhile here we are--and when do you mean to come to see us, pray?
Mind, I hold by the skirts of the vision for next winter. Why, surely
_you_ won't talk of 'disturbances' and 'revolutions,' and the like
disloyal reasons which send our brave countrymen flying on all sides,
as if every separate individual expected to be bombarded _per
se_. Now, mind you come; dear dear Mr. Kenyon, how delighted past
expression we should be to see you! Ah, do you fancy that I have no
regret for our delightful gossips? If I have the feeling I told you of
for Balzac and George Sand, what must I have for _you_? Now come,
and let us see you! And still sooner, if you please, write to us--and
write of yourself and in detail--and tell us particularly, first if
the winter has left no sign of a cough with you, and next, what you
mean by something which suggests to my fancy that you have a book in
the course of printing. Is that true? Tell me all about it--_all_! Who
can be interested, pray, if _I_ am not? For your and Mr. Chorley's
and Mr. Forster's kind dealings with Robert's poems I thank you
gratefully; and as a third volume can bring up the rear quickly in the
case of success, I make no wailing for my 'Luria,' however dear it may
be.[175]

[Illustration: _Casa Guidi From a Photograph_]

You are not to fancy that I am unwell now. On the contrary, I am
nearly as strong as ever, and go out in the carriage for two hours
every day, besides a little walk sometimes. Not a word more to-day.
Write--do--and you shall hear from us at length. Robert sends his own
love, I suppose. We both love you from our hearts.

Your ever affectionate and grateful
BA.
(who can't read over, and writes in such a hurry!)

It was about this time, as appears from the following letter, that
the Brownings finally anchored themselves in Florence by taking an
unfurnished suite of rooms in the Palazzo Guidi, and making there
a home for themselves, Here, in the Via Maggio, almost opposite the
Pitti Palace, and within easy distance of the Ponte Vecchio, is the
dwelling known to all lovers of English poetry as Casa Guidi, and
bearing now upon its walls the name of the English poetess whose life
and writings formed, in the graceful words of the Italian poet,
'a golden ring between Italy and England.' Whatever might be their
migrations--and they were many, especially in later years--Casa Guidi
was henceforth their home.[176]

[Footnote 175: Apparently it had been proposed to omit _Luria_ from
the new edition; but, if so, the intention was not carried out.]

[Footnote 176: It will interest many readers to know that Casa Guidi
is now the property of Mr. R. Barrett Browning.]


_To Miss Mitford_
May 28, 1848.

... And now I must tell you what we have done since I wrote last,
little thinking of doing so. You see our problem was to get to England
as much in our summers as possible, the expense of the intermediate
journeys making it difficult of solution. On examination of the whole
case, it appeared manifest that we were throwing money into the like
to hear you talk of poor France; how I hope that you are able to hope
for her. Oh, this absurdity of communism and mythological fête-ism!
where can it end? They had better have kept Louis Philippe after
all, if they are no more practical. Your Madame must be insufferable
indeed, seeing that her knowledge of these subjects and men did not
make her sufferable to you. My curiosity never is exhausted. What I
hold is that the French have a higher ideal than we, and that all
this clambering, leaping, struggling of indefinite awkwardness simply
proves it. But _success in the republic_ is different still. I fear
for them. My uncle and his family are safe at Tunbridge Wells, my aunt
longing to be able to get back again. For those who are still nearer
to me, I have no heart to speak of _them_, loving them as I do and
must to the end, whatever that end may be; but my dearest sisters
write often to me--never let me miss their affection. I am quite well
again, and strong, and Robert and I go out after tea in a wandering
walk to sit in the Loggia and look at the Perseus, or, better still,
at the divine sunsets on the Arno, turning it to pure gold under the
bridges. After more than twenty months of marriage, we are happier
than ever--I may say _we_. Italy will regenerate herself in all
senses, I hope and believe. In Florence we are very quiet, and the
English fly in proportion. N.B.--_Always_ first fly the majors and
gallant captains, unless there's a general. How I should like to see
dear Mr. Horne's poem! _He's_ bold, at least--yes, and has a great
heart to be bold with. A cloud has fallen on me some few weeks ago, in
the illness and death of my dear friend Mr. Boyd,[177] but he did not
suffer, and is not to be mourned by those without hope [_sic_]. Still,
it has been a cloud. May God bless you, my beloved friend. Write soon,
and of yourself, to your ever affectionate

BA.

My husband's regards go to you, of course.

[Footnote 177: Mr. Boyd died on May 10, 1848.]


_To Miss Browning_
[Florence: about June 1848.]

My dearest Sarianna,--At last, you see, I give sign of life. The
_love_, I hope you believed in without sign or symbol; and even
for the rest, Robert promised to answer for me like godfather or
godmother, and bear the consequence of my sins....

We are a little uneasy just now as to whether you will be overjoyed or
_under_ joyed by our new scheme of taking an unfurnished apartment.
It would spoil all, for instance, if your dear mother seemed
disappointed--vexed--in the least degree. And I can understand how,
to persons at a distance and of course unable to understand the
whole circumstances of the case, the fact of an apartment taken and
furnished may seem to involve some dreadful giving up for ever and
ever of country and family--which would be as dreadful to us as to
you! How could we give you up, do you think, when we love you more and
more? Oh no. If Robert has succeeded in making clear the subject to
you, you will all perceive, just as _we know_, that we have simply
thus solved the problem of making our small income carry us to
England, not only next summer, but many a summer after. We should like
to give every summer to dear England, and hide away from the cold only
when it comes. By our scheme we shall have saved money even at the end
of the present year; while for afterward, here's a residence--that is,
a_pied à terre_--in Italy, all but free when we wish to use it; and
when we care to let it, producing eight or ten pounds a month in help
of travelling expenses. It's the best investment for Mr. Moxon's money
we could have looked the world over for. So the learned tell us; and
after all, you know, we only pay in the proportion of your working
classes in the Pancras building contrived for them by the philanthropy
of your Southwood Smiths. I do wish you could see what rooms we have,
what ceilings, what height and breadth, what a double terrace for
orange trees; how cool, how likely to be warm, how perfect every way!
Robert leaned once to a ground floor in the Frescobaldi Palace, being
bewitched by a garden full of camellias, and a little pond of gold and
silver fish; but while he saw the fish I saw the mosquitos in clouds,
such an apocalypse of them as has not yet been visible to me in all
Florence, and I dread mosquitos more than Austrians; and he, in his
unspeakable goodness, deferred to my fear in a moment and gave up the
camellias without one look behind. A heavy conscience I should have if
it were not that the camellia garden was certainly less private than
our terrace here, where we can have camellias also if we please. How
pretty and pleasant your cottage at Windsor must be! We had a long
_muse_ over your father's sketch of it, and set faces at the windows.
That the dear invalid is better for the change must have brightened
it, too, to her companions, and the very sound of a 'forest' is
something peculiarly delightful and untried to me. I know hills well,
and of the sea too much; but now I want forests, or quite, quite
mountains, such as you have not in England.

Robert says that if 'Blackwood' likes to print a poem of mine and send
you the proofs, you will be so very good as to like to correct them.
To me it seems too much to ask, when you have work for him to do
beside. Will it be too much, or is nothing so to your kindness? I
would ask my _other_ sisters, who would gladly, dear things, do it for
me; but I have misgivings through their being so entirely unaccustomed
to occupations of the sort, or any critical reading of poetry of
any sort. Robert is quite well and in the best spirits, and has the
headache now only very occasionally. I am as well as he, having quite
recovered my strength and power of walking. So we wander to the bridge
of Trinità every evening after tea to see the sunset on the Arno. May
God bless you all! Give my true love to your father and mother, and my
loving thanks to yourself for that last stitch in the stool. How good
you are, Sarianna, to your ever affectionate sister

BA.

Always remind your dear mother that we are no more _bound_ here than
when in furnished lodgings. It is a mere name.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Palazzo Guidi: June 20, [1848].

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Now I am going to answer your letter, which I
all but lost, and got ever so many days beyond the right day, because
you directed it to Mrs. _William_ Browning. Pray remember
_Robert Browning_ for the future, in right descent from _Robert
Brunnyng_,[178] the first English poet. Mrs. Jameson says, 'It's
ominous of the actual Robert's being the _last_ English poet;' a
saying which I give you to remember us by, rejecting the omen....
We have grown to be Florentine citizens, as perhaps you have heard.
Health and means both forbade our settlement in England; and the
journey backwards and forwards being another sort of expense, and very
necessary with our ties and affections, we had to think how to live
here, when we were here, at the cheapest. The difference between
taking a furnished apartment and an unfurnished one is something
immense. For our furnished rooms we have had always to pay some four
guineas a month; and unfurnished rooms of equal pretension we could
have for twelve a year, and the furniture (out and out) for fifty
pounds. This calculation, together with the consideration that we
could let our apartment whenever we travelled and receive back the
whole cost, could not choose, of course, but determine us. On coming
to the point, however, we grew ambitious, and preferred giving
five-and-twenty guineas for a noble suite of rooms in the Palazzo
Guidi, a stone's throw from the Pitti, and furnishing them after
our own taste rather than after our economy, the economy having a
legitimate share of respect notwithstanding; and the satisfactory
thing being that the whole expense of this furnishing--rococo chairs,
spring sofas, carved bookcases, satin from cardinals' beds, and the
rest--is covered by the proceeds of our books during the last two
winters. This is satisfying, isn't it? We shall stand safe within the
borders of our narrow income even this year, and next year comes the
harvest! We shall go to England in the spring, and return _home_
to Italy. Do you understand? Mr. Kenyon, our friend and counsellor,
writes to applaud--such prudence was never known before among poets.
Then we have a plan, that when the summer (this summer) grows too hot,
we shall just take up our carpet-bag and Wilson and plunge into the
mountains in search of the monasteries beyond Vallombrosa, from
Arezzo go to St. Sepolchro in the Apennines, and thence to Fano on the
seashore, making a round back perhaps (after seeing the great fair at
Sinigaglia) to Ravenna and Bologna home. As to Rome, our plan is to
give up Rome next winter, seeing that we _must_ go to England in the
spring. I _must_ see my dearest sisters and whoever else dear will see
me, and Robert _must_ see his family beside; and going to Rome will
take us too far from the route and cost too much; and then we are not
inclined to give the first-fruits of our new apartment to strangers if
we could let it ever so easily this year. You can't think how well
the rooms look already; you must come and see them, you and dear Mr.
Martin. Three immense rooms we have, and a fourth small one for a
book room and winter room--windows opening on a little terrace,
eight windows to the south; two good bedrooms behind, with a smaller
terrace, and kitchen, &c., all on a first floor and Count Guidi's
favorite suite. The Guidi were connected by marriage with the Ugolino
of Pisa, Dante's Ugolino, only we shun all traditions of the Tower
of Famine, and promise to give you excellent coffee whenever you will
come to give us the opportunity. We shall have vines and myrtles
and orange trees on the terrace, and I shall have a watering-pot and
garden just as you do, though it must be on the bricks instead of the
ground. For temperature, the stoves are said to be very effective in
the winter, and in the summer we are cool and airy; the advantage
of these thick-walled palazzos is coolness in summer and warmth in
winter. I am very well and quite strong again, or rather, stronger
than ever, and able to walk as far as Cellini's Perseus in the
moonlight evenings, on the other side of the Arno. Oh, that Arno in
the sunset, with the moon and evening star standing by, how divine it
is!...

Think of me as ever your most affectionate
BA.

[Footnote 178: Otherwise known as Robert Mannyng, or Robert de Brunne,
author of the _Handlyng Synne_ and a _Chronicle of England_. He
flourished about 1288-1338.]


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: July 4, [1848].

It does grieve me, my ever dearest Miss Mitford, to hear of the
suffering which has fallen upon you! Oh, rheumatism or not, whatever
the name may be, do take care, do consider, and turn your dear face
toward the seaside; somewhere where you can have warm sea bathing
and sea air, and be able to associate the word 'a drive' not with mad
ponies, but the mildest of donkeys, on a flat sand. The good it would
do you is incalculable, I am certain; it is precisely a case for
change of air, with quiet....

As for when you come to Florence, we won't have 'a pony carriage
between us,' if you please, because we may have a carriage and a pair
of horses and a coachman, and pay as little as for the pony-chair in
England. For three hundred a year one may live much like the Grand
Duchess, and go to the opera in the evening at fivepence-halfpenny
inclusive. Indeed, poor people should have their patriotism tenderly
dealt with, when, after certain experiments, they decide on living
upon the whole on the Continent. The differences are past belief,
beyond expectation, and when the sunshine is thrown in, the head turns
at once, and you fall straight into absenteeism. Ah, for the 'long
chats' and the 'having England at one another's fireside!' You talk of
delightful things indeed. We are very quiet, politically speaking,
and though we hear now and then of melancholy mothers who have to part
with their sons for Lombardy,[179] and though there are processions
for the blessing of flags and an occasional firing of guns for a
victory, or a cry in the streets, 'Notizie della guerra--leggete,
signori;' this is all we know of Radetsky in Florence; while, for
civil politics, the meeting of the senate took place a few days since
to the satisfaction of everybody, and the Grand Duke's speech was
generally admired. The elections have returned moderate men, and many
land-proprietors, and Robert, who went out to see the procession of
members, was struck by the grave thoughtful faces and the dignity
of expression. We are going some day to hear the debates, but it has
pleased their signoria to fix upon twelve (noon) for meeting, and
really I do not dare to go out in the sun. The hour is sufficiently
conclusive against dangerous enthusiasm. Poor France, poor France!
News of the dreadful massacre at Paris just reaches us, and the
letters and newspapers not arriving to-day, everybody fears a
continuation of the crisis. How is it to end? Who 'despairs of the
republic?' Why, _I_ do! I fear, I fear, that it cannot stand in
France, and you seem to have not much more hope. My husband has a
little, with melancholy intermediate prospects; but my own belief
that the people have had enough of democratic institutions and will be
impatient for a kingship anew. Whom will they have? How did you feel
when the cry was raised, 'Vive l'Empereur'? Only Prince Napoleon is a
Napoleon cut out in paper after all. The Prince de Joinville is said
to be very popular. It makes me giddy to think of the awful precipices
which surround France--to think, too, that the great danger is on the
question of _property_, which is perhaps divided there more justly
than in any other country of Europe. Lamartine has comprehended
nothing, that is clear, even if his amount of energy had been
effectual.... Yes, do send me the list of Balzac, _after_ 'Les Misères
de la Vie Conjugale,' I mean. I left him in the midst of 'La Femme de
Soixante Ans,' who seemed on the point of turning the heads of all
'la jeunesse' around her; and, after all, she did not strike me as so
charming. But Balzac charms me, let him write what he will; he's an
inspired man. Tell me, too, exactly what Sue has done after 'Martin.'
I read only one volume of 'Martin.' And did poor Soulié finish his
'Dramas'? And after 'Lucretia' what did George Sand write? When Robert
and I are ambitious, we talk of buying Balzac in full some day, to put
him up in our bookcase from the convent, if the carved-wood angels,
infants and serpents, should not finish mouldering away in horror at
the touch of him. But I fear it will rather be an expensive purchase,
even here. Would that he gave up the drama, for which, as you observe,
he has no faculty whatever. In fact, the faculty he has is the very
reverse of the dramatic, ordinarily understood.... Dearest Mr. Kenyon
is called quite well and delightful by the whole world, though he
suffered from cough in the winter; and he is bringing out a new book
of poems, a 'Day at Tivoli,' and others; and he talks energetically of
coming to Florence this autumn. Also, we have hopes of Mr. Chorley. I
congratulate you on the going away of Madame. Coming and going bring
very various associations in this life of ours. Why, if _you_ were
to come we should appreciate our fortune, and you should have my
particular chair, which Robert calls mine because I like sitting in a
cloud; it's so sybaritically soft a chair. Now I love you for the kind
words you say of _him_, who deserves the best words of the best women
and men, wherever spoken! Yes, indeed, I am happy. Otherwise, I should
have a stone where the heart is, and sink by the weight of it.
You must have faith in me, for I never can make you thoroughly
to understand what he is, of himself, and to me--the noblest and
perfectest of human beings. After a year and ten months' absolute
soul-to-soul intercourse and union, I have to look higher still for my
first ideal. You won't blame me for bad taste that I say these things,
for can I help it, when I am writing my heart to you? It is a heart
which runs over very often with a grateful joy for a most peculiar
destiny, even in the midst of some bitter drawbacks which I need not
allude to farther....

May God bless you continually, even as I am

Your affectionate
BA.

[Footnote 179: The insurrection of Lombardy against Austrian rule
had taken place in March, and was immediately followed by war between
Sardinia and Austria, in which the Italians gained some initial
successes. Fighting continued through the summer, and was temporarily
closed by an armistice in August.]


_To Mrs. Jameson_
Palazzo Guidi: July 15, [1848].

Now at last, my very dear friend, I am writing to you, and the
reproach you sent to me in your letter shall not be driven inwardly
any more by my self-reproaches. Wasn't it your fault after all, a
little, that we did not hear one another's voice oftener? You are
_so long_ in writing. Then I have been putting off and putting off my
letter to you, just because I wanted to make a full letter of it; and
Robert always says that it's the bane of a correspondence to make a
full letter a condition of writing at all. But so much I had to tell
you! while the mere outline of facts you had from others, I knew.
Which is just said that you may forgive us both, and believe that we
think of you and love you, yes, and talk of you, even when we don't
write to you, and that we shall write to you for the future more
regularly, indeed. Your letter, notwithstanding its reproach, was
very welcome and very kind, only you must be fagged with the book, and
saddened by Lady Byron's state of health, and anxious about Gerardine
perhaps. The best of all was the prospect you hold out to us of coming
to Italy this year. Do, do come. Delighted we shall be to see you in
Florence, and wise it will be in you to cast behind your back both the
fear of Radetsky and as much English care as may be. Now, would it not
do infinite good to Lady Byron if you could carry her with you into
the sun? Surely it would do her great good; the change, the calm, the
atmosphere of beauty and brightness, which harmonises so wonderfully
with every shade of human feeling. Florence just now, and thanks to
the panic, is tolerably _clean_ of the English--you scarcely see an
English face anywhere--and perhaps this was a circumstance that helped
to give Robert courage to take our apartment here and 'settle down.'
You were surprised at so decided a step I dare say, and, I believe,
though too considerate to say it in your letter, you have wondered in
your thoughts at our fixing at Florence instead of Rome, and without
seeing more of Italy before the finality of making a choice. But
observe, Florence is wonderfully cheap, one lives here for just
nothing; and the convenience in respect to England, letters, and
the facility of letting our house in our absence, is incomparable
altogether. At Rome a house would be habitable only half the year, and
the distance and the expense are objections at the first sight of the
subject.... Altogether, if I could but get a supply of French books,
turning the cock easily, it would be perfect; but as to _anything_ new
in the book way, Vieusseux seems to have made a vow against it, and
poor Robert comes and goes in a state of desperation between me and
the bookseller ('But what _can_ I do, Ba?'), and only brings news
of some pitiful revolution or other which promises a full flush of
republican virtues and falls off into the fleur de lis as usual. Think
of our not having read 'Lucretia' yet--George Sand's. And Balzac is
six or seven works deep from us; but these are evils to be borne. We
live on just in the same way, having very few visitors, and receiving
them in the quietest of hospitalities. Mr. Ware, the American, who
wrote the 'Letters from Palmyra,' and is a delightful, earnest, simple
person, comes to have coffee with us once or twice a week, and very
much we like him. Mr. Hillard, another cultivated American friend of
ours, you have in London, and we should gladly have kept longer.
Mr. Powers does not spend himself much upon visiting, which is quite
right, but we do hope to see a good deal of Mademoiselle de Fauveau.
Robert exceedingly admires her. As to Italian society, one may as
well take to longing for the evening star, for it seems quite as
inaccessible; and indeed, of society of any sort, we have not much,
nor wish for it, nor miss it. Dearest friend, if I could open my heart
to you in all seriousness, you would see nothing there but a sort
of enduring wonder of happiness--yes, and some gratitude, I do hope,
besides. Could everything be well in England, I should only have to
melt out of the body at once in the joy and the glow of it. Happier
and happier I have been, month after month; and when I hear _him_ talk
of being happy too, my very soul seems to swim round with feelings
which cannot be spoken. But I tell you a little, because I owe the
telling to you, and also that you may set down in your philosophy the
possibility of book-making creatures living happily together. I admit,
though, to begin (or end), that my husband is an exceptional human
being, and that it wouldn't be just to measure another by him. We
are planning a great deal of enjoyment in this 'going to the fair' at
Sinigaglia, meaning to go by Arezzo and San Sepolchro, and Urbino, to
Fano, where we shall pitch our tent for the benefit, as Robert says,
of the sea air and the oysters. Fano is very habitable, and we may
get to Pesaro and the footsteps of Castiglione's 'courtier,' to say
nothing of Bernardo Tasso; and Ancona beckons from the other side
of Sinigaglia, and Loreto beside, only we shall have to restrain
our flights a little. The passage of the Apennine is said to be
magnificent, and, altogether, surely it must be delightful; and we
take only two carpet bags--not to be weighed down by 'impedimenta,'
and have our own home, left in charge of the porter, to return to at
last, I am very well and shall be better for the change, though Robert
is dreadfully afraid, as usual, that I shall fall to pieces at the
first motion....

May God bless you!
Ever I am your affectionate
BA.

Write to Florence as usual--Poste Restante. You will hear how we are
in great hopes of dear Mr. Kenyon.

Dear Aunt Nina,--Only a word in all the hurry of setting off. We love
you as you love us, and are pretty nearly as happy as you would have
us. All love and prosperity to dear Geddie, too; what do you say of
'Landor,' and my not sending it to Forster or somebody? _Che che_ (as
the Tuscans exclaim), _who_ was it promised to call at my people's,
who would have tendered it forthwith? I will see about it as it is.
Goodbye, dearest aunt, and let no revolution disturb your good will to
Ba and

R.B.


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: August 24, 1848.

Ever dearest Miss Mitford,--It's great comfort to have your letter;
for as it came more lingeringly than usual, I had time to be a little
anxious, and even my husband has confessed since that he thought what
he would not say aloud for fear of paining me, as to the probability
of your being less well than usual. Your letters come so regularly
to the hour, you see, that when it strikes without them, we ask why.
Thank God, you are better after all, and reviving in spirits, as I saw
at the first glance before the words said it clearly....

As for ourselves, we have scarcely done so well, yet well; having
enjoyed a great deal in spite of drawbacks. Murray, the traitor, sent
us to Fano as a 'delightful summer residence for an English family,'
and we found it uninhabitable from the heat, vegetation scorched with
paleness, the very air swooning in the sun, and the gloomy looks of
the inhabitants sufficiently corroborative of their words, that no
drop of rain or dew ever falls there during the summer. A 'circulating
library' 'which doesn't give out books,' and 'a refined and
intellectual Italian society' (I quote Murray for that phrase) which
'never reads a book through' (I quote Mrs. Wiseman, Dr. Wiseman's
mother, who has lived in Fano seven years), complete the advantages
of the place, yet the churches are beautiful, and a divine picture
of Guercino's is worth going all that way to see.[180] By a happy
accident we fell in with Mrs. Wiseman, who, having married her
daughter to Count Gabrielli with ancestral possessions in Fano, has
lived on there from year to year, in a state of permanent moaning
as far as I could apprehend. She is a very intelligent and vivacious
person, and having been used to the best French society, bears but ill
this exile from the common civilities of life. I wish Dr. Wiseman, of
whose childhood and manhood she spoke with touching pride, would
ask her to minister to the domestic rites of his bishop's palace in
Westminster; there would be no hesitation, I fancy, in her acceptance
of the invitation. Agreeable as she and her daughter were, however, we
fled from Fano after three days, and, finding ourselves cheated out of
our dream of summer coolness, resolved on substituting for it what
the Italians call 'un bel giro.' So we went to Ancona, a striking sea
city, holding up against the brown rocks and elbowing out the purple
tides, beautiful to look upon. An exfoliation of the rock itself, you
would call the houses that seem to grow there, so identical is the
colour and character. I should like to visit Ancona again when there
is a little air and shadow; we stayed a week as it was, living upon
fish and cold water. Water, water, was the cry all day long, and
really you should have seen me (or you should not have seen me) lying
on the sofa, and demoralised out of all sense of female vanity, not
to say decency, with dishevelled hair at full length, and 'sans gown,
sans stays, sans shoes, sans everything,' except a petticoat and white
dressing wrapper. I said something feebly once about the waiter; but
I don't think I meant it for earnest, for when Robert said, 'Oh, don't
mind, dear,' certainly I didn't mind in the least. People _don't_,
I suppose, when they are in ovens, or in exhausted receivers. Never
before did I guess what heat was--that's sure. We went to Loreto for a
day, back through Ancona, Sinigaglia (oh, I forgot to tell you, there
was no fair this year at Sinigaglia; Italy will be content, I suppose,
with selling her honour), Fano, Pesaro, Rimini to Ravenna, back again
over the Apennines from Forli. A 'bel giro,' wasn't it? Ravenna, where
Robert positively wanted to go to live once, has itself put an end to
those yearnings. The churches are wonderful: holding an atmosphere
of purple glory, and if one could live just in them, or in Dante's
tomb--well, otherwise keep me from Ravenna. The very antiquity of the
houses is whitewashed, and the marshes on all sides send up stenches
new and old, till the hot air is sick with them. To get to the pine
forest, which is exquisite, you have to go a mile along the canal, the
exhalations pursuing you step for step, and, what ruffled me more
than all beside, we were not admitted into the house of Dante's tomb
'without an especial permission from the authorities.' Quite furious I
was about this, and both of us too angry to think of applying: but
we stood at the grated window and read the pathetic inscription as
plainly as if we had touched the marble. We stood there between three
and four in the morning, and then went straight on to Florence from
that tomb of the exiled poet. Just what we should have done, had the
circumstances been arranged in a dramatic intention. From Forli, the
air grew pure and quick again; and the exquisite, almost visionary
scenery of the Apennines, the wonderful variety of shape and colour,
the sudden transitions and vital individuality of those mountains, the
chestnut forests dropping by their own weight into the deep ravines,
the rocks cloven and clawed by the living torrents, and the hills,
hill above hill, piling up their grand existences as if they did it
themselves, changing colour in the effort--of these things I cannot
give you any idea, and if words could not, painting could not either.
Indeed, the whole scenery of our journey, except when we approached
the coast, was full of beauty. The first time we crossed the Apennine
(near Borgo San Sepolcro) we did it by moonlight, and the flesh was
weak, and one fell asleep, and saw things between sleep and wake, only
the effects were grand and singular so, even though of course we lost
much in the distinctness. Well, but you will understand from all this
that we were delighted to get home--_I_ was, I assure you. Florence
seemed as cool as an oven after the fire; indeed, we called it quite
cool, and I took possession of my own chair and put up my feet on the
cushions and was charmed, both with having been so far and coming back
so soon. Three weeks brought us home. Flush was a fellow traveller of
course, and enjoyed it in the most obviously amusing manner. Never
was there so good a dog in a carriage before his time! Think of Flush,
too! He has a supreme contempt for trees and hills or anything of that
kind, and, in the intervals of natural scenery, he drew in his head
from the window and didn't consider it worth looking at; but when the
population thickened, and when a village or a town was to be passed
through, then his eyes were starting out of his head with eagerness;
he looked east, he looked west, you would conclude that he was taking
notes or preparing them. His eagerness to get into the carriage first
used to amuse the Italians. Ah, poor Italy! I am as mortified as
an Italian ought to be. They have only the rhetoric of patriots and
soldiers, I fear! Tuscany is to be spared forsooth, if she lies still,
and here she lies, eating ices and keeping the feast of the Madonna.
Perdoni! but she has a review in the Cascine besides, and a gallant
show of some 'ten thousand men' they are said to have made of it--only
don't think that I and Robert went out to see that sight. We should
have sickened at it too much. An amiable, refined people, too, these
Tuscans are, conciliating and affectionate. When you look out into
the streets on feast days, you would take it for one great 'rout,'
everybody appears dressed for a drawing room, and you can scarcely
discern the least difference between class and class, from the Grand
Duchess to the Donna di facenda; also there is no belying of the
costume in the manners, the most gracious and graceful courtesy
and gentleness being apparent in the thickest crowds. This is all
attractive and delightful; but the people wants _stamina_, wants
conscience, wants self-reverence. Dante's soul has died out of
the land. Enough of this. As for France, I have 'despaired of the
republic' for very long, but the nation is a great nation, and will
right itself under some flag, white or red. Don't you think so? Thank
you for the news of our authors, it is as 'the sound of a trumpet afar
off,' and I am like the war-horse. Neglectful that I am, I forgot to
tell you before that you heard quite rightly about Mr. Thackeray's
wife, who is ill _so_. Since your question, I had in gossip from
England that the book 'Jane Eyre' was written by a governess in his
house, and that the preface to the foreign edition refers to him
in some marked way. We have not seen the book at all. But the first
letter in which you mentioned your Oxford student caught us in the
midst of his work upon art.[181] Very vivid, very graphic, full of
sensibility, but inconsequent in some of the reasoning, it seemed to
me, and rather flashy than full in the metaphysics. Robert, who
knows a good deal about art, to which knowledge I of course have no
pretence, could agree with him only by snatches, and we, both of
us, standing before a very expressive picture of Domenichino's (the
'David'--at Fano) wondered how he could blaspheme so against a great
artist. Still, he is no ordinary man, and for a critic to be so much
a poet is a great thing. Also, we have by no means, I should imagine,
seen the utmost of his stature. How kindly you speak to me of my
dearest sisters. Yes, go to see them whenever you are in London, they
are worthy of the gladness of receiving you. And will you write soon
to me, and tell me everything of yourself, how you are, how home
agrees with you, and the little details which are such gold dust to
absent friends....

May God bless you, my beloved friend. Let me ever be (my husband
joining in all warm regards) your most affectionate

BA.

[Footnote 180:'Guercino drew this angel I saw teach
  (Alfred, dear friend!) that little child to pray
  Holding his little hands up, each to each
  Pressed gently, with his own head turned away,
  Over the earth where so much lay before him
  Of work to do, though heaven was opening o'er him,
  And he was left at Fano by the beach.

  'We were at Fano, and three times we went
  To sit and see him in his chapel there,
  And drink his beauty to our soul's content
  My angel with me too.']

[Footnote 181: The first two volumes of _Modern Painters_ bore no
author's name, but were described as being 'by a graduate of Oxford.'
At a later date Mrs. Browning made Mr. Ruskin's acquaintance, as some
subsequent letters testify.]


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: October 10, 1848.

My ever dearest Miss Mitford,--Have you not thought some hard thoughts
of me, for not instantly replying to a letter which necessarily must
have been, to one who loved you, of such painful interest? Do I not
love you truly? Yes, indeed. But while preparing to write to you
my deep regret at hearing that you had been so ill, illness came in
another form to prevent me from writing, my husband being laid up for
nearly a month with fever and ulcerated sore throat. I had not the
heart to write a line to anyone, much less to prepare a packet to
escort your letter free from foreign postage; and to make you pay for
a chapter of Lamentations' without the spirit of prophecy, would have
been too hard on you, wouldn't it? Quite unhappy I have been over
those burning hands and languid eyes, the only unhappiness I ever had
by _them_, and then he wouldn't see a physician; and if it hadn't been
that, just at the right moment, Mr. Mahony, the celebrated Jesuit, and
Father Prout of 'Fraser,' knowing everything as those Jesuits are apt
to do, came in to us on his way to Rome, pointed out that the fever
got ahead through weakness and mixed up with his own kind hand a
potion of eggs and port wine, to the horror of our Italian servant,
who lifted up his eyes at such a prescription for a fever, crying, 'O
Inglesi, Inglesi!' the case would have been far worse, I have no kind
of doubt. For the eccentric prescription gave the power of sleeping,
and the pulse grew quieter directly. I shall always be grateful to
Father Prout, always. The very sight of some one with a friend's name
and a cheerful face, his very jests at me for being a 'bambina' and
frightened without cause, were as comforting as the salutation of
angels. Also, he has been in Florence ever since, and we have seen
him every day; he came to doctor and remained to talk. A very singular
person, of whom the world tells a thousand and one tales, you know,
but of whom I shall speak as I find him, because the utmost kindness
and warmheartedness have characterised his whole bearing towards us.
Robert met him years ago at dinner at Emerson Tennent's, and since has
crossed paths with him on various points of Europe. The first time I
saw him was as he stood on a rock at Leghorn, at our disembarkation
in Italy. Not refined in a social sense by any manner of means, yet
a most accomplished scholar and vibrating all over with learned
associations and vivid combinations of fancy and experience--having
seen all the ends of the earth and the men thereof, and possessing the
art of talk and quotation to an amusing degree. In another week or
two he will be at Rome.... How graphically you give us your Oxford
student! Well! the picture is more distinct than Turner's, and if you
had called it, in the manner of the Master, 'A Rock Limpet,' we
should have recognised in it the corresponding type of the gifted and
eccentric writer in question. Very eloquent he is, I agree at once,
and true views he takes of Art in the abstract, true and elevating. It
is in the application of connective logic that he breaks away from one
so violently.... We are expecting our books by an early vessel, and
are about to be very busy, building up a rococo bookcase of carved
angels and demons. Also we shall get up curtains, and get down bedroom
carpets, and finish the remainder of our furnishing business, now
that the hot weather is at an end. I say 'at an end,' though the glass
stands at seventy. As to the 'war,' _that_ is rather different, it is
painful to feel ourselves growing gradually cooler and cooler on the
subject of Italian patriotism, valour, and good sense; but the process
is inevitable. The child's play between the Livornese and our Grand
Duke provokes a thousand pleasantries. Every now and then a day is
fixed for a revolution in Tuscany, but up to the present time a shower
has come and put it off. Two Sundays ago Florence was to have been
'sacked' by Leghorn, when a drizzle came and saved us. You think this
a bad joke of mine or an impotent sarcasm, perhaps; whereas I merely
speak historically. Brave men, good men, even sensible men there are
of course in the land, but they are not strong enough for the times
or for masterdom. For France, it is a great nation; but even in
France they want a man, and Cavaignacso[182] only a soldier. If Louis
Napoleon had the muscle of his uncle's little finger in his soul, he
would be president, and king; but he is flaccid altogether, you see,
and Joinville stands nearer to the royal probability after all.
'Henri Cinq' is said to be too closely espoused to the Church, and his
connections at Naples and Parma don't help his cause. Robert has more
hope of the _republic_ than I have: but call ye _this_ a republic? Do
you know that Miss Martineau takes up the 'History of England' under
Charles Knight, in the continuation of a popular book? I regret her
fine imagination being so wasted. So you saw Mr. Chorley? What a
pleasant flashing in the eyes! We hear of him in Holland and Norway.
Dear Mr. Kenyon won't stir from England, we see plainly. Ah! Frederic
Soulié! he is too dead, I fear. Perhaps he goes on, though, writing
romances, after the fashion of poor Miss Pickering, that prove
nothing. I long for my French fountains of living literature, which,
pure or impure, plashed in one's face so pleasantly. Some old French
'Mémoires' we have got at lately, 'Brienne' for instance. It is
curious how the leaders of the last revolution (under Louis XVIII.)
seem to have despised one another. Brienne is very dull and flat. For
Puseyism, it runs counter to the spirit of our times, after all, and
will never achieve a church. May God bless you! Robert's regards go
with the love of your ever affectionate

BA.

[Footnote 182: At this time President of the Council, after
suppressing the Communist rising of June 1848.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
Florence: December 3, 1848.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--It seemed long to me that you had not
written, and it seems long to me now that I have not answered the kind
letter which came at last. Then Henrietta told me of your being unwell
at the moment of her mad excursion into Herefordshire. Altogether
I want to speak to you and hear from you, and shall be easier and
gladder when both are done. Do forgive my sins and write directly, and
tell me everything about both of you, and how you are in spirits and
health, and whether you really make up your minds to see more danger
in the stormy influences of the Continent in the moral point of view
than in those of England in the physical. For my part I hold to my
original class of fear, and would rather face two or three revolutions
than an east wind of an English winter. If I were you I would go to
Pau as usual and take poor Abd-el-Kader's place (my husband is furious
about the treatment of Abd-el-Kader, so I hear a good deal about
him[183]), or I would go to Italy and try Florence, where really
democratic ministries roar as gently as sucking doves, particularly
when they are safe in place. We have listened to dreadful
rumours--Florence was to have been sacked several times by the
Livornese; the Grand Duke went so far as to send away his family
to Siena, and we had 'Morte a Fiorentini!' chalked up on the walls.
Still, somehow or other, the peace has been kept in Florentine
fashion; it has rained once or twice, which is always enough here to
moderate the most revolutionary when they wear their best surtouts,
and I look forward to an unbroken tranquillity just as I used to
do, even though the windows of the Ridolfi Palace (the ambassador in
London) were smashed the other evening a few yards from ours. Perhaps
a gentle and affectionate approach to contempt for our Florentines
mixes a little with this feeling of security, but what then? They
are an amiable, refined, graceful people, with much of the artistic
temperament as distinguished from that of men of genius--effeminate,
no, rather _feminine_ in a better sense--of a fancy easily turned into
impulse, but with no strenuous and determinate strength in them. What
they comprehend best in the 'Italian League' is probably a league to
wear silk velvet and each a feather in his hat, to carry flags and cry
_vivas_, and keep a grand festa day in the piazzas. Better and happier
in this than in stabbing prime ministers, or hanging up their dead
bodies to shoot at; and not much more childish than these French
patriots and republicans, who crown their great deeds by electing to
the presidency such a man as Prince Louis Napoleon, simply because
'C'est le neveu de son oncle!'[184] A curious precedent for a
president, certainly; but, oh heavens and earth, what curious things
abroad everywhere just now, inclusive of the sea serpent! I agree
with you that much of all is very melancholy and disheartening, though
holding fast by my hope and belief that good will be the end, as it
always _is_ God's end to man's frenzies, and that all we observe is
but the fermentation necessary to the new wine, which presently we
shall drink pure. Meanwhile, the saddest thing is the impossibility
(which I, for one, feel) to sympathise, to go along with, the _people_
to whom and to whose cause all my natural sympathies yearn. The
word 'Liberty' ceases to make me thrill, as at something great and
unmistakable, as, for instance, the other great words Truth, and
Justice; do. The salt has lost its savour, the meaning has escaped
from the term; we know nothing of what people will _do_ when they
aspire to Liberty. The holiness of liberty is desecrated by the sign
of the ass's hoof. Fixed principles, either of opinion or action, seem
clearly gone out of the world. The principle of Destruction is in the
place of the principle of Re-integration, or of Radical Reform, as we
called it in England. I look all round and can sympathise nowhere.
The rulers hold by rottenness, and the people leap into the abyss,
and nobody knows why this is, or why that is. As to France, my tears
(which I really couldn't help at the time of the expulsion of poor
Louis Philippe and his family, not being very strong just then) are
justified, it appears, though my husband thought them foolish (and so
did I), and though we both began by an adhesion to the Republic in
the cordial manner. But, just see, the Republic was a 'man in an iron
mask' or helmet, and turns out a military dictatorship, a throttling
of the press, a starving of the finances, and an election of Louis
Napoleon to be President. Louis Philippe was better than all this,
take him at worst, and at worst he did _not_ deserve the mud and
stones cast at him, which I have always maintained and maintain still.
England might have got up ('happy country') more crying grievances
than France at the moment of outbreak; but what makes outbreaks
now-a-days is not 'the cause, my soul,' but the stuff of the people.
You are huckaback on the other side of the Channel, and you wear out
the poor Irish linen, let the justice of the case be what it may.
Politics enough and too much, surely, especially now when they are
depressing to you, and more or less to everybody.... We are still
in the slow agonies of furnishing our apartment. You see, being
the poorest and most prudent of possible poets, we had to solve the
problem of taking our furniture out of our year's income (proceeds
of poems and the like), and of not getting into debt. Oh, I take no
credit to myself; I was always in debt in my little way ('small _im_
morals,' as Dr. Bowring might call it) before I married, but Robert,
though a poet and dramatist by profession, being descended from
the blood of all the Puritans, and educated by the strictest of
dissenters, has a sort of horror about the dreadful fact of owing
five shillings five days, which I call quite morbid in its degree and
extent, and which is altogether unpoetical according to the traditions
of the world. So we have been dragging in by inches our chairs and
tables throughout the summer, and by no means look finished and
furnished at this late moment, the slow Italians coming at the heels
of our slowest intentions with the putting up of our curtains, which
begin to be necessary in this November tramontana. Yet in a month or
three weeks we shall look quite comfortable--before Christmas; and
in the meantime we heap up the pine wood and feel perfectly warm
with these thick palace walls between us and the outside air. Also my
husband's new edition is on the _edge_ of coming out, and we have had
an application from Mr. Phelps, of Sadler's Wells, for leave to act
his 'Blot on the 'Scutcheon,' which, if it doesn't succeed, its
public can have neither hearts nor intellects (that being an impartial
opinion), and which, if it succeeds, will be of pecuniary advantage to
us. Look out in the papers.... My love and my husband's go to you, our
dear friends. Let me be always

Your affectionate and grateful
BA.


While Italy shows herself so politically demoralised, and the blood of
poor Russia smokes from the ground, the ground seems to care no more
for it than the newspapers, or anybody else.

Such a jar of flowers we have to keep December. White roses, as in
June.

[Footnote 183: Abd-el-Kader surrendered to the French in Algeria early
in 1848, under an express promise that he should be sent either to
Alexandria or to St. Jean d'Acre; in spite of which he was sent to
France and kept there as a prisoner for several years.]

[Footnote 184: Louis Napoleon was elected President of the French
Republic by a popular vote on December 10.]


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: December 16, [1848].

... You are wondering, perhaps, how we are so fool-hardy as to keep on
furnishing rooms in the midst of 'anarchy,' the Pope a fugitive, and
the crowned heads packing up. Ah, but we have faith in the _softness_
of our Florentines, who must be well spurred up to the leap before
they do any harm. These things look worse at a distance than they do
near, although, seen far and near, nothing _can_ be worse than the
evidence of demoralisation of people, governors, and journalists, in
the sympathy given everywhere to the assassination of poor Rossi.[185]
If Rossi was retrocessive, he was at least a constitutional minister,
and constitutional means of opposing him were open to all, but Italy
understands nothing constitutional; liberty is a fair word and a
watchword, nothing more; an idea it is not in the minds of any. The
poor Pope I deeply pity; he is a weak man with the noblest and most
disinterested intentions. His faithful flock have nearly broken his
heart by the murder of his two personal friends, Rossi and Palma, and
the threat, which they sent him by embassy, of murdering every man,
woman, and child in the Quirinal, with the exception of his Holiness,
unless he accepted their terms. He should have gone out to them and so
died, but having missed that opportunity, nothing remained but flight.
He was a mere Pope hostage as long as he stayed in Rome. Curious, the
'intervention of the French,' so long desired by the Italians,
and vouchsafed _so_.[186] The Florentines open their eyes in mute
astonishment, and some of them 'won't read the journals any more.' The
boldest say softly that the _Romans are sure not to bear it_. And what
is to happen in France? Why, what a world we have just now.... Father
Prout is gone to Rome for a fortnight, has stayed three weeks, and
day by day we expect him back again. I don't understand how the Prout
papers should have hurt him ecclesiastically, but that he should be
_known_ for their writer is not astonishing, as the secret was never,
I believe, attempted to be kept. We have been, at least _I_ have
been, a little anxious lately about the fate of the 'Blot on the
'Scutcheon,' which Mr. Phelps applied for my husband's permission to
revive at Sadler's. Of course, putting the request was a mere form,
as he had every right to act the play, and there was nothing to answer
but one thing. Only it made one anxious--made _me_ anxious--till we
heard the result, and we, both of us, are very grateful to dear Mr.
Chorley, who not only made it his business to be at the theatre the
first night, but, before he slept, sat down like a true friend to give
us the story of the result, and never, he says, was a more complete
and legitimate success. The play went straight to the heart of the
audience, it seems, and we hear of its continuance on the stage from
the papers. So far, so well. You may remember, or may not have heard,
how Macready brought it out and put his foot on it in the flash of
a quarrel between manager and author, and Phelps, knowing the whole
secret and feeling the power of the play, determined on making a
revival of it on his own theatre, which was wise, as the event proves.
Mr. Chorley called his acting really 'fine.' I see the second edition
of the 'Poetical Works' advertised at last in the 'Athenaeum,' and
conclude it to be coming out directly. Also my second edition is
called for, only nothing is yet arranged on that point. We have had a
most interesting letter from Mr. Home, giving terrible accounts, to be
sure, of the submersion of all literature in England and France since
the French Revolution, but noble and instructive proof of individual
wave-riding energy, such as I have always admired in him. He and his
wife, he says, live chiefly on the produce of their garden, and keep
a cheerful heart for the rest; even the 'Institutes' expect gratuitous
lectures, so that the sweat of the brain seems less productive than
the sweat of the brow. I am glad that Mr. Serjeant Talfourd and his
wife spoke affectionately of my husband, for he is attached to both
of them.... My Flush has grown to be passionately fond of grapes,
devouring bunch after bunch, and looking so fat and well that we
attribute some virtue to them. When he goes to England he will be as
much in a strait as an Italian who related to us his adventures in
London; he had had a long walk in the heat, and catching sight of
grapes hanging up in a grocer's shop, he stopped short to have a
pennyworth, as he said inwardly to himself. Down he sat and made out
a Tuscan luncheon in purple bunches. At last, taking out his purse to
look for the halfpence: 'Fifteen shillings, sir, if you please,' said
the shopman. Now do write soon, and speak particularly of your health,
and take care of it and don't be too complaisant to visitors. May God
bless you, my very dear friend! Think of me as

Ever your affectionate and grateful
E.B.B.
_My husband's regards always._

[Footnote 185: Count Pellegrino Rossi, chief minister to the Pope, was
assassinated in Rome, at the entrance of the Chamber of Deputies,
on November 15, 1848. Ten days later the Pope fled to Gaeta, and his
experiments in 'reform' came to a final end.]

[Footnote 186: The Pope, having declared war against Austria before
his flight, had invited French support, with the concurrence of his
people; being expelled from Rome, he invited (and obtained) French
help to restore him, in spite of the desperate opposition of his
people.]



CHAPTER VI

1849-1851

There is here a pause of two months in the correspondence of Mrs.
Browning, during which the happiness of her already happy life was
crowned by the birth, on March 9, 1849, of her son, Robert Wiedeman
Barrett Browning.[187] How great a part this child henceforward played
in her life will be shown abundantly by the letters that follow. Some
passages referring to the child's growth, progress, and performances
have been omitted, partly in the necessary reduction of the bulk of
the correspondence, and partly because too much of one subject may
weary the reader. But enough has been left to show that, in the case
of Mrs. Browning (and of her husband likewise), the parent was by no
means lost in the poet. There is little in what she says which might
not equally be said, and is in substance said, by hundreds of happy
mothers in every age; but it would be a suppression of one essential
part of her nature, and an injury to the pleasant picture which the
whole life of this poet pair presents, if her enthusiasms over her
child were omitted or seriously curtailed. Biographers are fond of
elaborating the details in which the lives of poets have not conformed
to the standard of the moral virtues; let us at least recognise
that, in the case of Robert and Elizabeth Browning, the moral and the
intellectual virtues flourished side by side, each contributing its
share to the completeness of the whole character.

[Footnote 187: Wiedeman was the maiden name of Mr. Browning's mother,
her father having been a German who settled in Scotland and married a
Scotch wife.]

The joy of this firstborn's birth was, however, very quickly dimmed
by the news of the death, only a few days later, of Mr. Browning's
mother, to whom he was devotedly attached. Her death was very sudden,
and the shock of the reaction completely prostrated him for a long
time. The following letters from Mrs. Browning tell how he felt this
loss.


_To Miss Browning_
April i, 1849 [postmark].

I do indeed from the bottom of my heart pity you and grieve with you,
my dearest Sarianna. I may grieve with you as well as for you; for I
too have lost. Believe that, though I never saw her face; I loved that
pure and tender spirit (tender to me even at this distance), and that
she will be dear and sacred to me to the end of my own life.

Dearest Sarianna, I thank you for your consideration and admirable
self-control in writing those letters. I do thank and bless you.
If the news had come unbroken by such precaution to my poor darling
Robert, it would have nearly killed him, I think. As it is, he has
been able to cry from the first, and I am able to tell you that though
dreadfully affected, of course, for you know his passionate love for
her, he is better and calmer now--much better. He and I dwell on
the hope that you and your dear father will come to us at once.
Come--dear, dear Sarianna--I will at least love you as you
deserve--you and him--if I can do no more. If you would comfort
Robert, come.

No day has passed since our marriage that he has not fondly talked of
her. I know how deep in his dear heart her memory lies. God comfort
you, my dearest Sarianna. The blessing of blessed duties heroically
fulfilled _must_ be With you. May the blessing of the Blessed in
heaven be added to the rest!

Robert stops me. My dear love to your father.

Your ever attached sister, BA.


_To Miss Browning_
[April 1849.]

You will have comfort in hearing, my dearest Sarianna, that Robert
is better on the whole than when I wrote last, though still very much
depressed. I wish I could get him to go somewhere or do something--at
any rate God's comforts are falling like dew on all this affliction,
and must in time make it look a green memory to you both. Continually
he thinks of you and of his father--believe how continually and
tenderly he thinks of you. Dearest Sarianna, I feel so in the quick
of my heart how you must feel, that I scarcely have courage to entreat
you to go out and take the necessary air and exercise, and yet that
is a duty, clear as other duties, and to be discharged like others
by you, as fully, and with as little shrinking of the will. If your
health should suffer, what grief upon grief to those who grieve
already! And besides, we who have to live are not to lie down under
the burden. There will be time enough for lying down presently, very
soon; and in the meanwhile there is plenty of God's work to do with
the body and with the soul, and we have to do it as cheerfully as
we can. Dearest Sarianna, you can look behind and before, on blessed
memories and holy hopes--love is as full for you as ever in the old
relation, even though her life in the world is cut off. There is no
drop of bitterness in all this flood of sorrow. In the midst of the
great anguish which God has given, you have to thank Him for some
blessing with every pang as it comes. Never was a more beautiful,
serene, assuring death than this we are all in tears for--for, believe
me, my very dear sister, I have mourned with you, knowing what we all
have lost, I who never saw her nor shall see her until a few years
shall bring us all together to the place where none mourn nor are
parted. Sarianna, will it not be possible, do you think, for you and
your father to come here, if only for a few months? Then you might
decide on the future upon more knowledge than you have now. It
would be comfort and joy to Robert and me if we could all of us live
together henceforward. Think what you would like, and how you would
best like it. Your living on _even through this summer at that house_,
I, who have well known the agony of such bindings to the rack, do
protest against. Dearest Sarianna, it is not good or right either
for you or for your dear father. For Robert to go back to that house
unless it were to do one of you some good, think how it would be with
_him_! Tell us now (for he yearns towards you--we both do), what is
the best way of bringing us all together, so as to do every one of us
some good? If Florence is too far off, is there any other place where
we could meet and arrange for the future? Could not your dear father's
leave of absence be extended this summer, out of consideration of what
has happened, and would he not be so enabled to travel with you and
meet us _somewhere_? We will do anything. For my part, I am full of
anxiety; and for Robert, you may guess what his is, you who know him.
Very bitter has it been to me to have interposed unconsciously as
I have done and deprived him of her last words and kisses--very
bitter--and nothing could be so consolatory to me as to give him back
to _you_ at least. So think for me, dearest Sarianna--think for your
father and yourself, think for Robert--and remember that Robert and
I will do anything which shall appear possible to you. May God bless
you, both of you! Give my true love to your father. Feeling for you
and with you always and most tenderly, I am your affectionate sister,
BA.


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: April 30, 1849.

I am writing to you, _at last_, you will say, ever dearest Miss
Mitford; but, except once to Wimpole Street, this is the first packet
of letters which goes from me since my confinement. You will have
heard how our joy turned suddenly into deep sorrow by the death of my
husband's mother. An unsuspected disease (ossification of the heart)
terminated in a fatal way, and she lay in the insensibility precursive
of the grave's, when the letter, written in such gladness by my poor
husband, and announcing the birth of his child, reached her address.
'It would have made her heart bound,' said her daughter to us. Poor,
tender heart, the last throb was too near. The medical men would not
allow the news to be communicated. The next joy she felt was to be in
heaven itself. My husband has been in the deepest anguish, and indeed,
except for the courageous consideration of his sister, who wrote two
letters of preparation saying that 'she was not well,' and she 'was
very ill,' when in fact all was over, I am frightened to think what
the result would have been to him. He has loved his mother as such
passionate natures only can love, and I never saw a man so bowed down
in an extremity of sorrow--never. Even now the depression is great,
and sometimes when I leave him alone a little and return to the room,
I find him in tears. I do earnestly wish to change the scene and air;
but where to go? England looks terrible now. He says it would break
his heart to see his mother's roses over the wall, and the place
where she used to lay her scissors and gloves. Which I understand so
thoroughly that I can't say, 'Let us go to England.' We must wait and
see what his father and sister will choose to do or choose us to
do, for of course a duty plainly seen would draw us anywhere. My own
dearest sisters will be painfully disappointed by any change of plan,
only they are too good and kind not to understand the difficulty, not
to see the motive. So do _you_, I am certain. It has been very very
painful altogether, this drawing together of life and death. Robert
was too enraptured at my safety, and with his little son, and the
sudden reaction was terrible. You see how natural that was. How kind
of you to write that note to him full of affectionate expressions
towards me! Thank you, dearest friend. He had begged my sisters to let
you know of my welfare, and I hope they did; and now it is my turn
to know of _you_, and so I do entreat you not to delay, but to let me
hear exactly how you are and what your plans are for the summer. Do
you think of Paris seriously? Am I not a sceptic about your voyages
round the world? It's about the only thing that I don't thoroughly
believe you _can_ do. But (not to be impertinent) I want to hear so
much! I want first and chiefly to hear of your health; and occupations
next, and next your plans for the summer. Louis Napoleon is
astonishing the world, you see, by his firmness and courage;
and though really I don't make out the aim and end of his French
republicans in going to Rome to extinguish the republic there, I wait
before I swear at him for it till my information becomes fuller. If
they have at Rome such a republic as we have had in Florence, without
a public, imposed by a few bawlers and brawlers on many mutes and
cowards, why, the sooner it goes to pieces the better, of course.
Probably the French Government acts upon information. In any case, if
the Romans are in earnest they may resist eight thousand men.[1] We
shall see. My _faith_ in every species of Italian is, however, nearly
tired out. I don't believe they are men at all, much less heroes
and patriots. Since I wrote last to you, I think we have had two
revolutions here at Florence, Grand Duke out, Grand Duke in.[188] The
bells in the church opposite rang for both. They first planted a tree
of liberty close to our door, and, then they pulled it down. The same
tune, sung under the windows, did for 'Viva la republica!' and 'Viva
Leopoldo!' The genuine popular feeling is certainly for the Grand Duke
('O, santissima madre di Dio!' said our nurse, clasping her hands,
'how the people do love him!'); only nobody would run the risk of a
pin's prick to save the ducal throne. If the Leghornese, who put up
Guerazzi on its ruins, had not refused to pay at certain Florentine
cafés, we shouldn't have had revolution the second, and all this
shooting in the street! Dr. Harding, who was coming to see me, had
time to get behind a stable door, just before there was a fall against
it of four shot corpses; and Robert barely managed to get home
across the bridges. He had been out walking in the city, apprehending
nothing, when the storm gathered and broke. Sad and humiliating it all
has been, and the author of 'Vanity Fair' might turn it to better uses
for a chapter. By the way, we have just been reading 'Vanity Fair.'
Very clever, very effective, but cruel to human nature. A painful
book, and not the pain that purifies and exalts. Partial truths after
all, and those not wholesome. But I certainly had no idea that
Mr. Thackeray had intellectual force for such a book; the power is
considerable. For Balzac, Balzac may have gone out of the world as
far as we are concerned. Isn't it hard on us? exiles from Balzac! The
bookseller here, having despaired of the republic and the Grand Duchy
both, I suppose, and taking for granted on the whole that the world
must be coming shortly to an end, doesn't give us the sign of a new
book. We ought to, be done with such vanities. There! and almost I
have done my paper without a single word to you of the _baby_! Ah, you
won't believe that I forgot him even if I pretend, so I won't. He is
a lovely, fat, strong child, with double chins and rosy cheeks, and
a great wide chest, undeniable lungs, I can assure you. Dr. Harding
called him 'a robust child' the other day, and 'a more beautiful child
he never saw.' I never saw a child half as beautiful, for my part....
Dear Mr. Chorley has written the kindest letter to my husband. I much
regard him indeed. May God bless you. Let me ever be (with Robert's
thanks and warm remembrance),

Your most affectionate
BA.

Flush's jealousy of the baby would amuse you. For a whole fortnight
he fell into deep melancholy and was proof against all attentions
lavished on him. Now he begins to be consoled a little and even
condescends to patronise the cradle.

Footnote 1: As they did until the 8,000 had been increased to 35,000.]

[Footnote 188: A revolution, fomented chiefly by the Leghornese,
expelled the Grand Duke in March 1849; about seven weeks later a
counter-revolution, chiefly by the peasantry, recalled him.]


_To Miss Browning_
[Florence:] May 2, 1849.

Robert gives me this blank, and three minutes to write across it.
Thank you, my very dear Sarianna, for all your kindness and affection.
I understand what I have lost. I know the worth of a tenderness such
as you speak of, and I feel that for the sake of my love for Robert
she was ready out of the fullness of her heart to love _me_ also. It
has been bitter to me that I have unconsciously deprived him of the
personal face-to-face shining out of her angelic nature for more than
two years, but she has forgiven me, and we shall all meet, when it
pleases God, before His throne. In the meanwhile, my dearest Sarianna,
we are thinking much of you, and neither of us can bear the thought of
your living on where you are. If you could imagine the relief it would
be to us--to me as well as to Robert--to be told frankly what we ought
to do, where we ought to go, to please you best--you and your dearest
father--you would think the whole matter over and use plain words in
the speaking of it. Robert naturally shrinks from the idea of going to
New Cross under the circumstances of dreary change, and for his sake
England has grown suddenly to me a land of clouds. Still, to see you
and his father, and to be some little comfort to you both, would be
the best consolation to him, I am very sure; and so, dearest Sarianna,
think of us and speak to us. Could not your father get a long
vacation? Could we not meet somewhere? Think how we best may comfort
ourselves by comforting you. Never think of us, Sarianna, as apart
from you--as if our interest or our pleasure _could_ be apart from
yours. The child is so like Robert that I can believe in the other
likeness, and may the inner nature indeed, as you say, be after
that pure image! He is so fat and rosy and strong that almost I am
sceptical of his being my child. I suppose he is, after all. May God
bless you, both of you. I am ashamed to send all these letters, but
Robert makes me. He is better, but still much depressed sometimes, and
over your letters he drops heavy tears. Then he treasures them up
and reads them again and again. Better, however, on the whole, he
is certainly. Poor little babe, who was too much rejoiced over at
_first_, fell away by a most natural recoil (even _I_ felt it to be
_most natural_) from all that triumph, but Robert is still very fond
of him, and goes to see him bathed every morning, and walks up and
down on the terrace with him in his arms. If your dear father can toss
and rock babies as Robert can, he will be a nurse in great favour.

Dearest Sarianna, take care of yourself, and do walk out. No grief in
the world was ever freer from the corroding drop of bitterness--was
ever sweeter, holier, and more hopeful than this of yours must be.
Love is for you on both sides of the grave, and the blossoms of love
meet over it. May God's love, too, bless you!

Your ever affectionate sister,
BA.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Florence: May 14, [1849].

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--At last I come to thank you for all your
kindness, all your goodness, all your sympathy for both of us. Robert
would have written to you in the first instance (for we _both_ thought
of you) if we had not agreed that you would hear as quickly from
Henrietta, we not knowing your direct address. Also your welcome
little note should have had an immediate acknowledgment from him if he
had not been so depressed at that time that I was glad to ask him to
wait till I should be ready to write myself. In fact, he has suffered
most acutely from the affliction you have since of course heard of;
and just because he was _too happy_ when the child was born, the pain
was overwhelming afterwards. That is easy to understand, I think.
While he was full of joy for the child, his mother was dying at a
distance, and the very thought of accepting that new affection for
the old became a thing to recoil from--do you not see? So far from
suffering less through the particular combination of circumstances,
as some people seemed to fancy he would, he suffered much more, I
am certain, and very naturally. Even now he is looking very
unwell--thinner and paler than usual, and his spirits, which used to
be so good, have not rallied. I long to get him away from Florence
somewhere--_where_, I can't fix my wishes; our English plans seem flat
on the ground for the present, _that_ is one sad certainty. My dearest
sisters will be very grieved if we don't go to England, and yet how
can I even try to persuade my husband back into the scene of old
associations where he would feel so much pain? Do I not know what I
myself should suffer in some places? And he loved his mother with all
his power of loving, which is deeper and more passionate than love is
with common men. She hearts of men are generally strong in proportion
to their heads. Well, I am not to send you such a dull letter though,
after waiting so long, and after receiving so much to speak thankfully
of. My child you never would believe to be _my child_, from the
evidence of his immense cheeks and chins--for pray don't suppose that
he has only one chin. People call him a lovely child, and if _I_ were
to call him the same it wouldn't be very extraordinary, only I assure
you 'a robust child' I may tell you that he is with a sufficient
modesty, and also that Wilson says he is universally admired in
various tongues when she and the nurse go out with him to the
Cascine--'What a beautiful baby!' and 'Che bel bambino!' He has had
a very stormy entrance upon life, poor little fellow; and when he was
just three days old, a grand festa round the liberty tree planted at
our door, attended with military music, civic dancing and singing, and
the firing of cannons and guns from morning to night, made him start
in his cradle, and threw my careful nurse into paroxysms of devotion
before the 'Vergine Santissima' that I mightn't have a fever in
consequence. Since then the tree of liberty has come down with a crash
and we have had another festa as noisy on that occasion. Revolution
and counter-revolution, Guerazzi[189] and Leopold, sacking of Florence
and entrance of the Austrian army--we live through everything, you
see, and baby grows fat indiscriminately. For my part, I am altogether
_blasée_ about revolutions and invasions. Don't think it want of
feeling in me, or want of sympathy with 'the people,' but really I
can't help a certain political latitudinarianism from creeping over me
in relation to this Tuscany. You ought to be here to understand what I
mean and how I think. Oh heavens! how ignoble it all has been and
is! A revolution made by boys and _vivas_, and unmade by boys and
_vivas_--no, there was blood shed in the unmaking--some horror and
terror, but not as much patriotism and truth as could lift up the
blood from the kennel. The counter-revolution was strictly _counter_,
observe. I mean, that if the Leghornese troops here bad paid their
debts at the Florentine coffee houses, the Florentines would have let
their beloved Grand Duke stay on at Gaeta to the end of the world. The
Grand Duke, too, whose part I have been taking hitherto (because he
did seem to me a good man, more sinned against than sinning)--the
Grand Duke I give up from henceforth, seeing that he has done this
base thing of taking again his Austrian titles in his proclamations
coincidently with the approach of the Austrians. Of Rome, knowing
nothing, I don't like to speak. If a republic _in earnest_ is
established there, Louis Napoleon should not try to set his foot on
it. Dearest Mrs. Martin, how you mistake me about France, and how too
lightly I must have spoken. If you knew how I admire the French as
a nation! Robert always calls them '_my beloved French_.' Their
very faults appear to me to arise from an excess of ideality land
aspiration; but I was vexed rather at their selection of Louis
Napoleon--a selection since justified by the firmness and apparent
integrity of the man. His reputation in England, you will admit, did
not promise the conclusion. Will he be emperor, do you imagine? And
shall I ever have done talking politics? I would far rather talk of
_you_, after all. Henrietta tells me of your looking well, but of your
not being strong yet. Now do, _for once_, have a fit of egotism and
tell me a little about yourself.... Surely I ought especially to thank
you, dearest kind friend, for your goodness in writing to--, of which
Henrietta very properly told me. I never shall forget this and other
proofs of your affection for me, and shall remember them with warm
gratitude always. As to--, I have held out both [my] hands, and my
husband's hands in mine, again and again to him; he cannot possibly,
in the secret place of his heart, expect more from either of us. My
husband would have written to him in the first place, but for the
obstacles raised by himself and others, and now what _could_ Robert
write and say except the bare repetition of what I have said over and
over for him and myself? It is exactly an excuse--not more and not
less. Just before I was ill I sent my last messages, because, with
certain hazards before me, my heart turned to them naturally. I might
as well have turned to a rock.--has been by far the kindest, and has
written to me two or three little notes, and one since the birth of
our child. I love them all far too well to be proud, and my husband
loves me too well not to wish to be friends with every one of them; we
have neither of us any stupid feeling about 'keeping up our dignity.'
Yes, I had a letter from--some time ago, in which something was said
of Robert's being careless of reconciliation. I answered it most
explicitly and affectionately, with every possible assurance from
Robert, and offering them from himself the affection of a brother. Not
a word in answer! To my poor dearest papa I have written very lately,
and as my letter has not, after a week, been sent back, I catch at
the hope of his being moved a little. If he neither sends it back nor
replies severely, I shall take courage to write to him again after a
while. It will be an immense gain to get him only to read my letters.
My father and my brothers hold quite different positions, of
course, and though he has acted sternly towards me, I, knowing his
peculiarities, do not feel embittered and astonished and disappointed
as in the other cases. Absolutely happy my marriage has been--never
could there be a happier marriage (as there are no marriages in
heaven); but dear Henrietta is quite wrong in fancying, or seeming to
fancy, that this quarrel with my family has given or gives me slight
pain. Old affections are not so easily trodden out of me, indeed, and
while I live unreconciled to them, there must be a void and drawback.
Do write to me and tell me of both of you, my very dear friends. Don't
fancy that we are not anxious for brave Venice and Sicily, and that we
don't hate this Austrian invasion. But Tuscany has acted a vile part
altogether--_so_ vile, that I am sceptical about the Romans. We expect
daily the Austrians in Florence, and have made up our minds to be
very kind. May God bless you! Do write, and mention your health
particularly, as I am anxious about it. I am quite well myself, and,
as ever,

Your affectionate
BA.

Don't you both like Macaulay's History? We are delighted just now with
it.

[Footnote 189: Chief administrator of the Republic of Tuscany during
the short absence of the Grand Duke Leopold.]


_To Miss Browning_
[Florence: about June 1849.]

I must say to my dearest Sarianna how delighted we are at the thought
of seeing her in Florence. I wish it had been before the autumn, but
since autumn is decided for we must be content to reap our golden
harvest at the time for such things. Certainly the summer heat of
Florence is terrible enough--only we should have carried you with us
into the shade somewhere to the sea or to the mountains--and Robert
has, of course, told you of our Spezzia plan. The 'fatling of the
flock' has been sheared closely of his long petticoats. Did he tell
you that? And you can't think how funny the little creature looks
without his train, his wise baby face appearing to approve of the
whole arrangement. He talks to himself now and smiles at everybody,
and admired my roses so much the other day that he wanted to eat
them; having a sublime transcendental notion about the mouth being
the receptacle of all beauty and glory in this world. Tell your dear
father that certainly he _is_ a 'sweet baby,' there's no denying it.
We lay him down on the floor to let him kick at ease, and he makes
violent efforts to get up by himself, and Wilson declares that the
least encouragement would set him walking. Robert's nursing does
not mend his spirits much. I shall be very glad to get him away from
Florence; he has suffered too much here to rally as I long to see him
do, because, dearest Sarianna, we have to live after all; and to live
rightly we must turn our faces forward and press forward and not look
backward morbidly for the footsteps in the dust of those beloved ones
who travelled with us but yesterday. They themselves are not
behind but before, and we carry with us our tenderness living and
undiminished towards them, to be completed when the round of this life
is complete for us also. Dearest Sarianna, why do I say such things,
but because I have known what grief is? Oh, and how I could have
compounded with you, grief for grief, mine for yours, for _I_ had no
last words nor gestures, Sarianna. God keep you from such a helpless
bitter agony as mine then was. Dear Sarianna, you will think of us
and of Florence, my dear sister, and remember how you have made us
a promise and have to keep it. May God bless you and comfort you.
We think of you and love you continually, and I am always your most
affectionate

BA.


In July the move from Florence, of which Mrs. Browning speaks in the
above letter, was effected, the place ultimately chosen for escape
from the summer heat in the valley of the Arno being the Bagni
di Lucca. Here three months were spent, as the following letters
describe. By this time the struggle for Italian liberty had ended in
failure everywhere. The battle of Novara, on March 23, had prostrated
Piedmont, and caused the abdication of its king, Charles Albert. The
Tuscan Republic had come and gone, and the Grand Duke had re-entered
his capital under the protection of Austrian bayonets. Sicily had been
reduced to subjection to the Bourbons of Naples. On July 2 the French
entered Rome, bringing back the Pope cured of his leanings to reform
and constitutional government; on the 24th, Venice, after an heroic
resistance, capitulated to the Austrians. The struggle was over for
the time; the longing for liberty becomes, of necessity, silent; and
we hear little, for a space, of Italian politics. For the moment it
might seem justifiable to despair of the republic.


_To Miss Mitford_
Bagni di Lucca, Toscana: [about July 1849].

At last, you will say, dearest friend. The truth is, I have not been
forgetting you (how far from that!) but wandering in search of cool
air and a cool bough among all the olive trees to build our summer
nest on. My husband has been suffering beyond what one could shut
one's eyes to in consequence of the great mental shock of last
March--loss of appetite, loss of sleep, looks quite worn and altered.
His spirits never rallied except with an effort, and every letter from
New Cross threw him back into deep depressions. I was very anxious,
and feared much that the end of it all (the intense heat of Florence
assisting) would be a nervous fever or something similar. And I had
the greatest difficulty in persuading him to leave Florence for a
month or two--he who generally delights so in travelling, had no
mind for change or movement. I had to say and swear that baby and I
couldn't bear the heat, and that we must and would go away. _Ce
que femme veut_, if the latter is at all reasonable, or the former
persevering. At last I gained the victory. It was agreed that we two
should go on an exploring journey to find out where we could have
most shadow at least expense; and we left our child with his nurse and
Wilson while we were absent. We went along the coast to Spezzia, saw
Carrara with the white marble mountains, passed through the olive
forests and the vineyards, avenues of acacia trees, chestnut woods,
glorious surprises of most exquisite scenery. I say olive forests
advisedly; the olive grows like a forest tree in those regions,
shading the ground with tents of silvery network. The olive near
Florence is but a shrub in comparison, and I have learnt to despise
a little, too, the Florentine vine, which does not swing such
portcullises of massive dewy green from one tree to another as along
the whole road where we travelled. Beautiful, indeed, it was. Spezzia
wheels the blue sea into the arms of the wooded mountains, and we had
a glance at Shelley's house at Lerici. It was melancholy to me, of
course. I was not sorry that the lodgings we inquired about were
far above our means. We returned on our steps (after two days in the
dirtiest of possible inns), saw Seravezza, a village in the mountains,
where rock, river, and wood enticed us to stay, and the inhabitants
drove us off by their unreasonable prices. It is curious, but just in
proportion to the want of civilisation the prices rise in Italy. If
you haven't cups and saucers you are made to pay for plate. Well, so
finding no rest for the sole of our feet, I persuaded Robert to go to
the Baths of Lucca, only to see them. We were to proceed afterwards
to San Marcello or some safer wilderness. We had both of us, but he
chiefly, the strongest prejudice against these Baths of Lucca, taking
them for a sort of wasp's nest of scandal and gaming, and expecting to
find everything trodden flat by the Continental English; yet I wanted
to see the place, because it is a place to see after all. So we came,
and were so charmed by the exquisite beauty of the scenery, by the
coolness of the climate and the absence of our countrymen, political
troubles serving admirably our private requirements, that we made an
offer for rooms on the spot, and returned to Florence for baby and the
rest of our establishment without further delay. Here we are, then; we
have been here more than a fortnight. We have taken an apartment for
the season--four months--paying twelve pounds for the whole term,
and hoping to be able to stay till the end of October. The living is
cheaper than even at Florence, so that there has been no extravagance
in coming here. In fact, Florence is scarcely tenable during the
summer from the excessive heat by day and night, even if there were no
particular motive for leaving it. We have taken a sort of eagle's nest
in this place, the highest house of the highest of the three villages
which are called the Bagni di Lucca, and which lie at the heart of a
hundred mountains sung to continually by a rushing mountain stream.
The sound of the river and of the cicala is all the noise we hear.
Austrian drums and carriage wheels cannot vex us; God be thanked for
it; the silence is full of joy and consolation. I think my husband's
spirits are better already and his appetite improved. Certainly little
babe's great cheeks are growing rosier and rosier. He is out all day
when the sun is not too strong, and Wilson will have it that he is
prettier than the whole population of babies here. He fixes his
blue eyes on everybody and smiles universal benevolence, rather too
indiscriminately it might be if it were not for Flush. But certainly,
on the whole he prefers Flush. He pulls his ears and rides on him, and
Flush, though his dignity does not approve of being used as a pony,
only protests by turning his head round to kiss the little bare
dimpled feet. A merrier, sweeter-tempered child there can't be than
our baby, and people wonder at his being so forward at four months
old and think there must be a mistake in his age. He is so strong that
when I put out two fingers and he has seized them in his fists he can
draw himself up on his feet, but we discourage this forwardness, which
is not desirable, say the learned. Children of friends of mine at ten
months and a year can't do so much. Is it not curious that _my_ child
should be remarkable for strength and fatness? He has a beaming,
thinking little face, too; oh, I wish you could see it. Then my
own strength has wonderfully improved, just as my medical friends
prophesied; and it seems like a dream when I find myself able to climb
the hills with Robert and help him to lose himself in the forests.
I have been growing stronger and stronger, and where it is to stop I
can't tell, really; I can do as much, or more, now than at any point
of my life since I arrived at woman's estate. The air of this place
seems to penetrate the heart and not the lungs only; it draws you,
raises you, excites you. Mountain air without its keenness, sheathed
in Italian sunshine, think what _that_ must be! And the beauty and
the solitude--for with a few paces we get free of the habitations
of men--all is delightful to me. What is peculiarly beautiful and
wonderful is the variety of the shapes of the mountains. They are a
multitude, and yet there is no likeness. None, except where the golden
mist comes and transfigures them into one glory. For the rest, the
mountain there wrapt in the chestnut forest is not like that bare peak
which tilts against the sky, nor like that serpent twine of another
which seems to move and coil in the moving coiling shadow. Oh, I wish
you were here. You would enjoy the shade of the chestnut trees, and
the sound of the waterfalls, and at nights seem to be living among the
stars; the fireflies are so thick, you would like that too. We have
subscribed to a French library where there are scarcely any new books.
I have read Bernard's 'Gentilhomme Campagnard' (see how _arriérés_ we
are in French literature!), and thought it the dullest and worst of
his books. I wish I could see the 'Memoirs of Louis Napoleon,' but
there is no chance of such good fortune. All this egotism has been
written with a heart full of thoughts of you and anxieties for you.
Do write to me directly and say first how your precious health is, and
then that you have ceased to suffer pain for your friends.... But your
dear self chiefly--how are you, my dearest Miss Mitford? I do long so
for good news of you. On our arrival here Mr. Lever called on us. A
most cordial vivacious manner, a glowing countenance, with the animal
spirits somewhat predominant over the intellect, yet the intellect by
no means in default; you can't help being surprised into being pleased
with him, whatever your previous inclination may be. Natural too, and
a _gentleman_ past mistake. His eldest daughter is nearly grown up,
and his youngest six months old. He has children of every sort of
intermediate age almost, but he himself is young enough still. Not the
slightest Irish accent. He seems to have spent nearly his whole life
on the Continent and by no means to be tired of it. Ah, dearest Miss
Mitford, hearts feel differently, adjust themselves differently before
the prick of sorrow, and I confess I agree with Robert. There are
places stained with the blood of my heart for ever, and where I could
not bear to stand again. If duty called him to New Cross it would be
otherwise, but his sister is rather inclined to come to us, I think,
for a few weeks in the autumn perhaps. Only these are scarcely times
for plans concerning foreign travel. It is something to talk of. It
has been a great disappointment to me the not going to England this
year, but I could not run the risk of the bitter pain to him. May God
bless you from all pain! Love me and write to me, who am ever and ever
your affectionate E.B.B.


_To Mrs. Jameson_
Bagni di Lucca: August 11, 1849.

I thank you, dearest friend, for your most affectionate and welcome
letter would seem to come by instinct, and we have thanked you in our
thoughts long before this moment, when I begin at last to write some
of them. Do believe that to value your affection and to love you back
again are parts of our life, and that it must be always delightful to
us to read in your handwriting or to hear in your voice that we are
not exiled from your life. Give us such an assurance whenever you can.
Shall we not have it face to face at Florence, when the booksellers
let you go? And meantime there is the post; do write to us.... Did
you ever see this place, I wonder? The coolness, the charm of the
mountains, whose very heart you seem to hear beating in the rush of
the little river, the green silence of the chestnut forests, and the
seclusion which anyone may make for himself by keeping clear of
the valley-villages; all these things drew us. We took a delightful
apartment over the heads of the whole world in the highest house
of the Bagni Caldi, where only the donkeys and the _portantini_ can
penetrate, and where we sit at the open windows and hear nothing but
the cicale. Not a mosquito! think of that! The thermometer ranges
from sixty-eight to seventy-four, but the seventy-four has been a
rare excess: the nights, mornings, and evenings are exquisitely cool.
Robert and I go out and lose ourselves in the woods and mountains, and
sit by the waterfalls on the starry and moonlit nights, and neither
by night nor day have the fear of picnics before our eyes. We were
observing the other day that we never met anybody except a monk girt
with a rope, now and then, or a barefooted peasant. The sight of a
pink parasol never startles us into unpleasant theories of comparative
anatomy. One cause, perhaps, may be that on account of political
matters it is a delightfully 'bad season,' but, also, we are too
high for the ordinary walkers, who keep to the valley and the flatter
roads. Robert is better, looking better, and in more healthy spirits;
and we are both enjoying this great sea of mountains and our way of
life here altogether. Of course, we remembered to go back to Florence
for baby and the rest of our little establishment, and we mean to
stay as long as we can, perhaps to the end of October. Baby is in
the triumph of health and full-blown roses, and as he does not hide
himself in the woods like his ancestors, but smiles at everybody, he
is the most popular of possible babies.... We had him baptised
before we left Florence, without godfathers and godmothers, in the
simplicities of the French Lutheran Church. I gave him your kiss as a
precious promise that you would love him one day like a true dear
Aunt Nina; and I promise you on my part that he shall be taught
to understand both the happiness and the honour of it. Robert is
expecting a visit from his sister in the course of this autumn. She
has suffered much, and the change will be good for her, even if, as
she says, she can stay with us only a few weeks. With her we shall
have your book, to be disinherited of which so long has been hard on
us. Robert's own we have not seen yet. It must be satisfactory to you
to have had such a clear triumph after all the dust and toil of the
way. And now tell me, won't it be _necessary_ for you to come again to
Italy for what remains to be done? Poor Florence is quiet enough under
the heel of Austria, and Leopold 'l'intrepido,' as he was happily
called by a poet of Viareggio in a welcoming burst of inspiration,
sits undisturbed at the Pitti. I despair of the republic in Italy, or
rather of Italy altogether. The instructed are not patriotic, and the
patriots are not instructed. We want not only a _man_, but men, and we
must throw, I fear, the bones of their race behind us before the true
deliverers can spring up. Still, it is not all over; there will be
deliverance presently, but it will not be now. We are full of painful
sympathy for poor Venice. There! why write more about politics? It
makes us sick enough to think of Austrians in our Florence without
writing the thought out into greater expansion. Only don't let the
'Times' newspaper persuade you that there is no stepping with impunity
out of England. ... We have 'lectures on Shakespeare' just now by a
Mr. Stuart, who is enlightening the English barbarians at the
lower village, and quoting Mrs. Jameson to make his discourse more
brilliant. We like to hear 'Mrs. Jameson observes.' Give our love to
dear Gerardine. I am anxious for her happiness and yours involved in
it. Love and remember us, dearest friend.

Your E.B.B., or rather, BA.


The following note is added in Mr. Browning's handwriting:

Dear Aunt Nina,--Will there be three years before I see you again? And
Geddie; does she not come to Italy? When we passed through Pisa the
other day, we went to your old inn in love of you, and got your very
room to dine in (the landlord is dead and gone, as is Peveruda--of the
other house, you remember). There were the old vile prints, the old
look-out into the garden, with its orange trees and painted sentinel
watching them. Ba must have told you about our babe, and the little
else there is to tell--that is, for _her_ to tell, for she is not
likely to encroach upon _my_ story which I _could_ tell of her
entirely angel nature, as divine a heart as God ever made; I know more
of her every day; I, who thought I knew something of her five years
ago! I think I know you, too, so I love you and am

Ever yours and dear Geddie's
R.B.


_To Miss Mitford_
Bagni di Lucca: August 31, 1849.

I told Mr. Lever what you thought of him, dearest friend, and then
he said, all in a glow and animation, that you were not only his
own delight but the delight of his children, which is affection by
refraction, isn't it? Quite gratified he seemed by the hold of your
good opinion. Not only is he the notability _par excellence_ of these
Baths of Lucca, where he has lived a whole year, during the snows upon
the mountains, but he presides over the weekly balls at the casino
where the English 'do congregate' (all except Robert and me), and is
said to be the light of the flambeaux and the spring of the dancers.
There is a general desolation when he _will_ retire to play whist.
In addition to which he really seems to be loving and loveable in his
family. You always see him with his children and his wife; he drives
her and her baby up and down along the only carriageable road of
Lucca: so set down that piece of domestic life on the bright side in
the broad charge against married authors; now do. I believe he is to
return to Florence this winter with his family, having had enough of
the mountains. Have you read 'Roland Cashel,' isn't _that_ the name of
his last novel? The 'Athenaeum' said of it that it was '_new ground_,'
and praised it. I hear that he gets a hundred pounds for each monthly
number. Oh, how glad I was to have your letter, written in such pain,
read in such pleasure! It was only fair to tell me in the last lines
that the face-ache was better, to keep off a fit of remorse. I do
hope that Mr. May is not right about neuralgia, because that is more
difficult to cure than pain which arises from the teeth. Tell me how
you are in all ways. I look into your letters eagerly for news of your
health, then of your spirits, which are a part of health. The cholera
makes me very frightened for my dearest people in London, and silence,
the last longer than usual, ploughs up my days and nights into long
furrows. The disease rages in the neighbourhood of my husband's
family, and though Wimpole Street has been hitherto clear, who can
calculate on what may be? My head goes round to think of it. And papa,
who _will_ keep going into that horrible city! Even if my sisters and
brothers should go into the country as every year, he will be left, he
is no more movable than St. Paul's. My sister-in-law will probably not
come to us as soon as she intended, through a consideration for her
father, who ought not, Robert thinks, to stay alone in the midst of
such contingencies, so perhaps we may go to seek her ourselves in the
spring, if she does not seek us out before in Italy. God keep us all,
and near to one another. Love runs dreadful risks in the world. Yet
Love is, how much the best thing in the world? We have had a great
event in our house. Baby has cut a tooth.... His little happy laugh is
always ringing through the rooms. He is afraid of nobody or nothing
in the world, and was in fits of ecstasy at the tossing of the horse's
head, when he rode on Wilson's knee five or six miles the other day to
a village in the mountains--screaming for joy, she said. He is not six
months yet by a fortnight! His father loves him; passionately, and the
sentiment is reciprocated, I assure you. We have had the coolest
of Italian summers at these Baths of Lucca, the thermometer at the
hottest hour of the hottest day only at seventy-six, and generally at
sixty-eight or seventy. The nights invariably cool. Now the freshness
of the air is growing almost too fresh. I only hope we shall be able
(for the cold) to keep our intention of staying here till the end of
October, I have enjoyed it so entirely, and shall be so sorry to break
off this happy silence into the Austrian drums at poor Florence. And
then we want to see the vintage. Some grapes are ripe already, but
it is not vintage time. We have every kind of good fruit, great
water-melons, which with both arms I can scarcely carry, at twopence
halfpenny each, and figs and peaches cheap in proportion. And the
place agrees with Baby, and has done good to my husband's spirits,
though the only 'amusement' or distraction he has is looking at the
mountains and climbing among the woods with me. Yes, we have been
reading some French romances, 'Monte Cristo,' for instance, I for
the second time--but I have liked it, to read it with him. That Dumas
certainly has power; and to think of the scramble there was for his
brains a year or two ago in Paris! For a man to write so much and
so well together is a miracle. Do you mean that they have left off
writing--those French writers--or that they have tired you out with
writing that looks faint beside the rush of facts, as the range of
French politics show those? Has not Eugène Sue been illustrating
the passions? Somebody told me so. Do _you_ tell me how you like
the French President, and whether he will ever, in your mind, sit on
Napoleon's throne. It seems to me that he has given proof, as far
as the evidence goes, of prudence, integrity, and conscientious
patriotism; the situation is difficult, and he fills it honorably. The
Rome business has been miserably managed; this is the great blot on
the character of his government. But I, for my own part (my husband is
not so minded), do consider that the French motive has been good, the
intention pure, the occupation of Rome by the Austrians being imminent
and the French intervention the only means (with the exception of a
European war) of saving Rome from the hoof of the Absolutists. At the
same time if Pius IX. is the obstinate idiot he seems to be, good and
tenderhearted man as he surely is, and if the old abuses are to be
restored, why Austria might as well have done her own dirty work
and saved French hands from the disgrace of it. It makes us two very
angry. Robert especially is furious. We are not within reach of the
book you speak of, 'Portraits des Orateurs Français' oh, we might
nearly as well live on a desert island as far as modern books go. And
here, at Lucca, even Robert can't catch sight of even the 'Athenaeum.'
We have a two-day old 'Galignani,' and think ourselves royally off;
and then this little shop with French books in it, just a few, and the
'Gentilhomme Campagnard' the latest published. Yes, but somebody lent
us the first volume of 'Chateaubriand's Mémoires.' Have you seen it?
Curiously uninteresting, considering 'the man and the hour.' He writes
of his youth with a grey goose quill; the paper is all wrinkled.
And then he is not frank; he must have more to tell than he tells. I
looked for a more intense and sincere book _outre tombe_ certainly. I
am busy about my new edition, that is all at present, but some things
are written. Good of Mr. Chorley (he is _good_) to place you face
to face with Robert's books, and I am glad you like 'Colombe' and
'Luria.' Dear Mr. Kenyon's poems we have just received and are about
to read, and I am delighted at a glance to see that he has inserted
the 'Gipsy Carol,' which in MS. was such a favorite of mine. Really,
is he so rich? I am glad of it, if he is. Money could not be in more
generous and intelligent hands. Dearest Miss Mitford, you are only
just in being trustful of my affection for you. Never do I forget nor
cease to love you. Write and tell me of your dear self; how you are
_exactly_, and whether you have been at Three Mile Cross all the
summer. May God bless you. Robert's regards. Can you read? Love a
little your

  Ever affectionate
  E.B.B.

_To Mrs. Jameson_
Bagni di Lucca: October 1, [1849].

There seems to be a fatality about our letters, dearest friend, only
the worst fate comes to me! I lose, and you are _near_ losing! And I
should not have liked you to lose any least proof of my thinking of
you, lest a worst loss should happen to me as a consequence, even
worse than the loss of your letters; for then, perhaps, and by
degrees, you might leave off thinking of Robert and me, which, rich
as we are in this mortal world, I do assure you we could neither of
us afford.... We have had much quiet enjoyment here in spite of
everything, read some amusing books (Dumas and Sue--shake your head!),
and seen our child grow fuller of roses and understanding day by day.
Before he was six months old he would stretch out his hands and his
feet too, when bidden to do so, and his little mouth to kiss you. This
is said to be a miracle of forwardness among the learned. He knows
Robert and me quite well as 'Papa' and 'Mama,' and laughs for joy when
he meets us out of doors. Robert is very fond of him, and threw
me into a fit of hilarity the other day by springing away from his
newspaper in an indignation against me because he hit his head against
the floor rolling over and over. 'Oh, Ba, I really can't trust you!'
Down Robert was on the carpet in a moment, to protect the precious
head. He takes it to be made of Venetian glass, I am certain. We may
leave this place much sooner than the end of October, as everything
depends upon the coming in of the cold. It will be the end of October,
won't it, before Gerardine can reach Florence? I wish I knew. We have
made an excursion into the mountains, five miles deep, with all our
household, baby and all, on horseback and donkeyback, and people open
their eyes at our having performed such an exploit--I and the child.
Because it is five miles straight up the Duomo; you wonder how any
horse could keep its footing, the way is so precipitous, up the
exhausted torrent courses, and with a palm's breadth between you and
the headlong ravines. Such scenery. Such a congregation of mountains:
looking alive in the stormy light we saw them by. We dined with the
goats, and baby lay on my shawl rolling and laughing. He wasn't in the
least tired, not he! I won't say so much for myself. The Mr. Stuart
who lectured here on Shakespeare (I think I told you that) couldn't
get through a lecture without quoting you, and wound up by a
declaration that no English critic had done so much for the divine
poet as a woman--Mrs. Jameson. He appears to be a cultivated and
refined person, and especially versed in German criticism, and we mean
to _use_ his society a little when we return to Florence, where he
resides.... What am I to say about Robert's idleness and mine? I
scold him about it in a most anti-conjugal manner, but, you know, his
spirits and nerves have been shaken of late; we must have patience.
As for me, I am much better, and do something, really, now and then.
Wait, and you shall have us both on you; too soon, perhaps. May God
bless you. How are your friends? Lady Byron, Madame de Goethe. The
dreadful cholera has made us anxious about England.

Your ever affectionate
BA.

Mr. Browning adds the following note:

Dear Aunt Nina,--Ba will have told you everything, and how we wish
you and Geddie all manner of happiness. I hope we shall be in Florence
when she passes through it. The place is otherwise distasteful to me,
with the creeping curs and the floggers of the same. But the weather
is breaking up here, and I suppose we ought to go back soon. Shall
you indeed come to Italy next year? That will indeed be pleasant
to expect. We hope to go to England in the spring. What comes of
'hoping,' however, we [know] by this time.

Ever yours affectionately,
R.B.


_To Miss Mitford_
Bagni di Lucca: October 2, 1849.

Thank you, my dearest Miss Mitford: It is great comfort to know
that you are better, and that the cholera does not approach your
neighbourhood. My brothers and sisters have gone to Worthing for a
few weeks; and though my father (dearest Papa!) is not persuadeable, I
fear, into joining them, yet it is something to know that the horrible
pestilence is abating in London. Oh, it has made me so anxious: I
have caught with such a frightened haste at the newspaper to read
the 'returns,' leaving even such subjects as Rome and the President's
letter to quite the last, as if they were indifferent, or, at most,
bits of Mrs. Manning's murder. By the way and talking of murder, how
do you account for the crown of wickedness which England bears just
now over the heads of the nations, in murders of all kinds, by poison,
by pistol, by knife? In this poor Tuscany, which has not brains enough
to govern itself, as you observe, and as really I can't deny, there
have been two murders (properly so called) since we came, just three
years ago, one from jealousy and one from revenge (respectable motives
compared to the advantages of the burying societies!), and the horror
on all sides was great, as if the crime were some rare prodigy, which,
indeed, it is in this country. We have _no punishment of death_ here,
observe! The people are gentle, courteous, refined, and tenderhearted.
What Balzac would call 'femmelette.' All Tuscany is 'Lucien' himself.
The leaning to the artistic nature without the strength of genius
implies demoralisation in most cases, and it is this which makes
your 'good for nothing poets and poetesses,' about which I love so to
battle with you. Genius, I maintain always, you know, is a purifying
power and goes with high moral capacities. Well, and so you invite us
home to civilisation and 'the "Times" newspaper.' We _mean_ to go next
spring, and shall certainly do so unless something happen to catch us
and keep us in a net. But always something does happen: and I have so
often built upon seeing England, and been precipitated from the fourth
storey, that I have learnt to think warily now. I hunger and thirst
for the sight of some faces; must I not long, do you think, to see
your face? And then, I shall be properly proud to show my child
to those who loved me before him. He is beginning to understand
everything--chiefly in Italian, of course, as his nurse talks in her
sleep, I fancy, and can't be silent a second in the day--and when told
to 'dare un bacio a questo povero Flush,' he mixes his little face
with Flush's ears in a moment.... You would wonder to see Flush just
now. He suffered this summer from the climate somewhat as usual,
though not nearly as much as usual; and having been insulted oftener
than once by a supposition of 'mange,' Robert wouldn't bear it
any longer (he is as fond of Flush as I am), and, taking a pair of
scissors, clipped him all over into the likeness of a lion, much
to his advantage in both health and appearance. In the winter he is
always quite well; but the heat and the fleas together are too much
in the summer. The affection between baby and him is not equal, baby's
love being far the stronger. He, on the other hand, looks down upon
baby. What bad news you tell me of our French writers! What! Is it
possible that Dumas even is struck dumb by the revolution? His first
works are so incomparably the worst that I can't admit your theory of
the 'first runnings.' So of Balzac. So of Sue! George Sand is probably
writing 'banners' for the 'Reds,' which, considering the state of
parties in France, does not really give me a higher opinion of
her intelligence or virtue. Ledru Rollin's[190] _confidante_ and
councillor can't occupy an honorable position, and I am sorry, for
her sake and ours. When we go to Florence we must try to get the
'Portraits' and Lamartine's autobiography, which I still more long to
see. So, two women were in love with him, were they? That must be a
comfort to look back upon, now, when nobody will have him. I see by
extracts from his newspaper in Galignani that he can't be accused of
temporising with the Socialists any longer, whatever other charge may
be brought against him: and if, as he says, it was he who made the
French republic, he is by no means irreproachable, having made a bad
and false thing. The President's letter about Rome[191] has delighted
us. A letter worth writing and reading! We read it first in the
Italian papers (long before it was printed in Paris), and the amusing
thing was that where he speaks of the 'hostile influences' (of the
cardinals) they had misprinted it '_orribili_ influenze,' which must
have turned still colder the blood in the veins of Absolutist readers.
The misprint was not corrected until long after--more than a week, I
think. The Pope is just a pope; and, since you give George Sand
credit for having known it, I am the more vexed that Blackwood (under
'orribili influenze') did not publish the poem I wrote two years
ago,[192] in the full glare and burning of the Pope-enthusiasm, which
Robert and I never caught for a moment. Then, _I_ might have passed
a little for a prophetess as well as George Sand! Only, to confess a
truth, the same poem would have proved how fairly I was taken in by
our Tuscan Grand Duke. Oh, the traitor!

I saw the 'Ambarvalia'[193] reviewed somewhere--I fancy in the
'Spectator '--and was not much struck by the extracts. They may,
however, have been selected without much discrimination, and probably
were. I am very glad that you like the gipsy carol in dear Mr.
Kenyon's volume, because it is, and was in MS., a great favorite of
mine. There are excellent things otherwise, as must be when he says
them: one of the most radiant of benevolences with one of the most
refined of intellects! How the paper seems to dwindle as I would fain
talk on more. I have performed a great exploit, ridden on a donkey
five miles deep into the mountains to an almost inaccessible volcanic
ground not far from the stars. Robert on horseback, and Wilson and the
nurse (with baby) on other donkeys; guides, of course. We set off at
eight in the morning and returned at six P.M., after dining on the
mountain pinnacle, I dreadfully tired, but the child laughing as
usual, and burnt Brick-colour for all bad effect. No horse or ass,
untrained to the mountains, could have kept foot a moment where we
penetrated, and even as it was one could not help the natural thrill.
No road except the bed of exhausted torrents above and through the
chestnut forests, and precipitous beyond what you would think possible
for ascent or descent. Ravines tearing the ground to pieces under
your feet. The scenery, sublime and wonderful, satisfied us wholly,
however, as we looked round on the world of innumerable mountains
bound faintly with the grey sea, and not a human habitation. I hope
you will go to London this winter; it will be good for you, it seems
to me. Take care of yourself, my much and ever loved friend! I love
you and think of you indeed. Write of your health, remembering this,

And your affectionate,
E.B.B.

My husband's regards always. You had better, I think, direct to
_Florence_, as we shall be there in the course of October.

[Footnote 190: Minister of the Interior in the Republic of 1848, and
one of the most prominent f the advanced Republican leaders.]

[Footnote 191: A letter, addressed to a private friend but intended
to be made public, denouncing the reactionary and oppressive
administration of the restored Pope.]

[Footnote 192: Probably the first part of _Casa Guidi Windows_.]

[Footnote 193: By A.H. Clough and T. Burbidge.]


To Florence, accordingly, they returned in October, and settled down
once more in Casa Guidi for the winter. Mrs. Browning's principal
literary occupation at this time was the preparation of a new edition
of her poems, including nearly all the contents of the 'Seraphim'
volume of 1838, more or less revised, as well as the 'Poems' of
1844. This edition, published in 1850, has formed the basis of all
subsequent editions of her poems. Meanwhile her husband was engaged
in the preparation of 'Christmas Eve and Easter Day,' which was also
published in the course of 1850.


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: December I, 1849.

My ever loved friend, you will have wondered at this unusual silence;
and so will my sisters to whom I wrote just now, after a pause as
little in my custom. It was not the fault of my head and heart, but of
this unruly body, which has been laid up again in the way of all flesh
of mine....

I am well again now, only obliged to keep quiet and give up my grand
walking excursions, which poor Robert used to be so boastful of. If he
is vain about anything in the world, it is about my improved health,
and I used to say to him, 'But you needn't talk so much to people of
how your wife walked here with you and there with you, as if a wife
with a pair of feet was a miracle of nature.' Now the poor feet have
fallen into their old ways again. Ah, but if God pleases it won't be
for long....

The American authoress, Miss Fuller, with whom we had had some slight
intercourse by letter, and who has been at Rome during the siege, as
a devoted friend of the republicans and a meritorious attendant on
the hospitals, has taken us by surprise at Florence, retiring from the
Roman field with a husband and child above a year old. Nobody had even
suspected a word of this underplot, and her American friends stood in
mute astonishment before this apparition of them here. The husband is
a Roman marquis, appearing amiable and gentlemanly, and having fought
well, they say, at the siege, but with no pretension to cope with his
wife on any ground appertaining to the intellect. She talks, and he
listens. I always wonder at that species of marriage; but people are
so different in their matrimonial ideals that it may answer sometimes.
This Mdme. Ossoli saw George Sand in Paris--was at one of her
soirées--and called her 'a magnificent creature.' The soirée was 'full
of rubbish' in the way of its social composition, which George Sand
likes, _nota bene_. If Mdme. Ossoli called it '_rubbish_' it must have
been really rubbish--not expressing anything conventionally so--she
being one of the out and out _Reds_ and scorners of grades of society.
She said that she did not see Balzac. Balzac went into the world
scarcely at all, frequenting the lowest cafés, so that it was
difficult to track him out. Which information I receive doubtingly.
The rumours about Balzac with certain parties in Paris are not likely
to be too favorable nor at all reliable, I should fancy; besides,
I never entertain disparaging thoughts of my demi-gods unless they
should be forced upon me by evidence you must know. I have not made
a demi-god of Louis Napoleon, by the way--no, and I don't mean it. I
expect some better final result than he has just proved himself to be
of the French Revolution, with all its bitter and cruel consequences
hitherto, so I can't quite agree with you. Only so far, that he
has shown himself up to this point to be an upright man with noble
impulses, and that I give him much of my sympathy and respect in the
difficult position held by him. A man of genius he does not seem to
be--and what, after all, will he manage to do at Rome? I don't take
up the frantic Republican cry in Italy. I know too well the want of
knowledge and the consequent want of i effective faith and energy
among the Italians; but there is a stain upon France in the present
state of the Roman affair, and I don't shut my eyes to that either. To
cast Rome helpless and bound into the hands of the priests is dishonor
to the actors, however we consider the act; and for the sake of
France, even more than for the sake of Italy, I yearn to see the act
cancelled. Oh, we have had the sight of Clough and Burbidge, at last.
Clough has more thought, Burbidge more music; but I am disappointed
in the book on the whole. What I like infinitely better is Clough's
'Bothie of Toper-na-fuosich,' a 'long vacation pastoral,' written in
loose and more-than-need-be unmusical hexameters, but full of vigour
and freshness, and with passages and indeed whole scenes of great
beauty and eloquence. It seems to have been written before the other
poems. Try to get it, if you have not read it already. I feel certain
you will like it and think all the higher of the poet. Oh, it strikes
both Robert and me as being worth twenty of the other little book,
with its fragmentary, dislocated, unartistic character. Arnold's
volume has two good poems in it: 'The Sick King of Bokhara' and 'The
Deserted Merman.' I like them both. But none of these writers
are _artists_, whatever they may be in future days. Have you read
'Shirley,' and is it as good as 'Jane Eyre'? We heard not long since
that Mr. Chorley had discovered the author, _the_ 'Currer Bell.' A
woman, most certainly. We hear, too, that three large editions of the
'Princess' are sold. So much the happier for England and poetry.

Dearest dear Miss Mitford, mind you write to me, and don't pay me out
in my own silence! _You_ have not been ill, I hope and trust. Write
and tell me every little thing of yourself--how you are, and whether
there is still danger of your being uprooted from Three Mile Cross. I
love and think of you always. Fancy Flush being taken in the light
of a rival by baby! Oh, baby was quite jealous the other day, and
strugggled and kicked to get to me because he saw Flush leaning his
pretty head on my lap. There's a great strife for privileges between
those two. May God bless you! My husband's kind regards always, while
I am your most

Affectionate
E.B.B.


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: January 9, 1850.

Thank you, ever dearest Miss Mitford, for this welcome letter written
on your birthday! May the fear of small-pox have passed away long
before now, and every hope and satisfaction have strengthened and
remained!...

May God bless you and give you many happy years, you who can do so
much towards the happiness of others. May I not answer for my own?...

Little Wiedeman began to crawl on Christmas Day. Before, he used to
roll. We throw things across the floor and he crawls for them like a
little dog, on all fours....

He has just caught a cold, which I make more fuss about than I ought,
say the wise; but I can't get resigned to the association of any sort
of suffering with his laughing dimpled little body--it is the blowing
about in the wind of such a heap of roses. So you prefer 'Shirley' to
'Jane Eyre'! Yet I hear from nobody such an opinion; yet you are very
probably right, for 'Shirley' may suffer from the natural reaction
of the public mind. What you tell me of Tennyson interests me
as everything about him must. I like to think of him digging
gardens--room for cabbage and all. At the same time, what he says
about the public '_hating_ poetry' is certainly not a word for
Tennyson. Perhaps no true poet, having claims upon attention _solely_
through his poetry, has attained so certain a success with such short
delay. Instead of being pelted (as nearly every true poet has been),
he stands already on a pedestal, and is recognised as a master spirit
not by a coterie but by the great public. Three large editions of the
'Princess' have already been sold. If he isn't satisfied after all, I
think he is wrong. Divine poet as he is, and no laurel being too leafy
for him, yet he must be an unreasonable man, and not understanding
of the growth of the laurel trees and the nature of a reading public.
With regard to the other garden-digger, dear Mr. Home, I wish as you
do that I could hear something satisfactory of him. I wrote from Lucca
in the summer, and have no answer. The latest word concerning him is
the announcement in the 'Athenaeum' of a third edition of his 'Gregory
the Seventh,' which we were glad to see, but very, very glad we should
be to have news of his prosperity in the flesh as well as in the
_litterae scriptae_....

I have not been out of doors these two months, but people call me
'looking well,' and a newly married niece of Miss Bayley's, the
accomplished Miss Thomson, who has become the wife of Dr. Emil Braun
(the learned German secretary of the Archaeological Society), and just
passed through Florence on her way to Rome, where they are to reside,
declared that the change she saw in me was miraculous--'wonderful
indeed.' I took her to look at Wiedeman in his cradle, fast asleep,
and she won my heart (over again, for always she was a favorite of
mine) by exclaiming at his prettiness. Charmed, too, we both were
with Dr. Braun--I mean Robert and I were charmed. He has a mixture of
fervour and simplicity which is still more delightfully picturesque
in his foreign English. Oh, he speaks English perfectly, only with an
obvious accent enough. I am sure we should be cordial friends, if the
lines had fallen to us in the same pleasant places; but he is fixed
at Rome, and we are half afraid of the enervating effects of the Roman
climate on the constitutions of children. Tell me, do you hear often
from Mr. Chorley? It quite pains us to observe from his manner of
writing the great depression of his spirits. His mother was ill in
the summer, but plainly the sadness does not arise entirely or chiefly
from this cause. He seems to me over-worked, taxed in the spirit. I
advise nobody to give up work; but that 'Athenaeum' labour is a sort
of treadmill discipline in which there is no progress, nor triumph,
and I do wish he would give that up and come out to us with a new set
of anvils and hammers. Only, of course, he couldn't do it, even if he
would, while there is illness in his family. May there be a whole sun
of success shining on the new play! Robert is engaged on a poem,[194]
and I am busy with my edition. So much to correct, I find, and many
poems to add. Plainly 'Jane Eyre' was by a woman. It used to astound
me when sensible people said otherwise. Write to me, will you? I long
to hear again. Tell me everything of yourself; accept my husband's
true regards, and think of me as your

Ever affectionate
E.B.B.

[Footnote 194: _Christmas Eve and Easter Day_.]


_To Miss Browning_
Florence: January 29, 1850.

My dearest Sarianna,--I have waited to thank you for your great and
ready kindness about the new edition, until now when it is fairly on
its way to England. Thank you, thank you! I am only afraid, not that
you will find anything too 'learned,' as you suggest, but a good many
things too careless, I was going to say, only Robert, with various
deep sighs for 'his poor Sarianna,' devoted himself during several
days to rearranging my arrangements, and simplifying my complications.
It was the old story of Order and Disorder over again. He pulled out
the knotted silks with an indefatigable patience, so that really
you will owe to _him_ every moment of ease and facility which may be
enjoyable in the course of the work. I am afraid that at the easiest
you will find it a vexatious business, but I throw everything on
your kindness, and am not distrustful on such a point of weights and
measures.

Your letter was full of sad news. Robert was deeply affected at the
account of the illness of his cousin--was in tears before he could end
the letter. I do hope that in a day or two we may hear from you that
the happy change was confirmed as time passed on. I do hope so; it
will be joy, not merely to Robert, but to me, for indeed I never
forget the office which his kindness performed for both of us at a
crisis ripe with all the happiness of my life.

Then it was sad to hear of your dear father suffering from lumbago.
May the last of it have passed away long before you get what I am
writing! Tell him with my love that Wiedeman shall hear some day (if
we all live) the verses he wrote to him; and I have it in my head that
little Wiedeman will be very sensitive to verses and kindness too--he
likes to hear anything rhythmical and musical, and he likes to
be petted and kissed--the most affectionate little creature he
is--sitting on my knee, while I give him books to turn the leaves
over (a favorite amusement), every two minutes he puts up his little
rosebud of a mouth to have a kiss. His cold is quite gone, and he has
taken advantage of the opportunity to grow still fatter; as to his
activities, there's no end to them. His nurse and I agree that he
doesn't remain quiet a moment in the day....[195]

Now the love of nephews can't bear any more, Sarianna, can it? Only
your father will take my part and say that it isn't tedious--beyond
pardoning.

May God bless both of you, and enable you to send a brighter letter
next time. Robert will be very anxious.

Your ever affectionate sister
BA.
Mention yourself, _do_.

[Footnote 195: A long description of the baby's meals and daily
programme follows, the substance of which can probably be imagined by
connoisseurs in the subject.]


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: February 18, 1850.

Ever dearest Miss Mitford, you _always_ give me pleasure, so for
love's sake don't say that you 'seldom give it,' and such a magical
act as conjuring up for me the sight of a new poem by Alfred
Tennyson[196] is unnecessary to prove you a right beneficent
enchantress. Thank you, thank you. We are not so unworthy of your
redundant kindness as to abuse it by a word spoken or sign signified.
You may trust us indeed. But now you know how free and sincere I
am always! Now tell me. Apart from the fact of this lyric's being a
fragment of fringe from the great poet's 'singing clothes' (as Leigh
Hunt says somewhere), and apart from a certain sweetness and rise and
fall in the rhythm, do you really see much for admiration in the poem?
Is it _new_ in, any way? I admire Tennyson with the most worshipping
part of the multitude, as you are aware, but I do _not_ perceive much
in this lyric, which strikes me, and Robert also (who goes with me
throughout), as quite inferior to the other lyrical snatches in the
'Princess.' By the way, if he introduces it in the 'Princess,' it
will be the only _rhymed_ verse in the work. Robert thinks that he was
thinking of the Rhine echoes in writing it, and not of any heard in
his Irish travels. I hear that Tennyson has taken rooms above Mr.
Forster's in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and is going to try a London life.
So says Mr. Kenyon.... I am writing with an easier mind than when
I wrote last, for I was for a little time rendered very unhappy (so
unhappy that I couldn't touch on the subject, which is always the way
with me when pain passes a certain point), by hearing accidentally
that papa was unwell and looking altered. My sister persisted in
replying to my anxieties that they were unfounded, that I was quite
absurd, indeed, in being anxious at all; only people are not generally
reformed from their absurdities through being scolded for them. Now,
however, it really appears that the evil has passed. He left his
doctor who had given him lowering medicines, and, coincidently with
the leaving, he has recovered looks and health altogether. Arabel says
that I should think he was looking as well as ever, if I saw him, and
that appetite and spirits are even redundant. Thank God.... To
have this good news has made me very happy, and I overflow to you
accordingly. Oh, there is pain enough from that quarter, without
hearing of his being out of health. I write to him continually and
he does not now return my letters, which is a melancholy something
gained. Now enough of such a subject.

I certainly don't think that the qualities, half savage and half
freethinking, expressed in 'Jane Eyre' are likely to suit a model
governess or schoolmistress; and it amuses me to consider them in
that particular relation. Your account falls like dew upon the parched
curiosity of some of our friends here, to whom (as mere gossip, which
did not leave you responsible) I couldn't resist the temptation
of communicating it. People _are_ so curious--even here among the
Raffaels--about this particular authorship, yet nobody seems to have
read 'Shirley'; we are too slow in getting new books. First Galignani
has to pirate them himself, and then to hand us over the spoils.
By the way, there's to be an international copyright, isn't there?
Something is talked of it in the 'Athenaeum.' Meanwhile the Americans
have already reprinted my husband's new edition. 'Landthieves, I mean
pirates.' I used to take that for a slip of the pen in Shakespeare;
but it was a slip of the pen into prophecy. Sorry I am at Mrs. ----
falling short of your warm-hearted ideas about her! Can you understand
a woman's hating a girl because it is not a boy--her first child too?
I understand it so little that scarcely I can believe it. Some women
_have_, however, undeniably an indifference to children, just as many
men have, though it must be unnatural and morbid in both sexes.
Men often affect it--very foolishly, if they count upon the scenic
effects; affectation never succeeds well, and this sort of affectation
is peculiarly unbecoming, except in old bachelors, for there is a
pathetic side to the question so viewed. For my part and my husband's,
we may be frank and say that we have caught up our parental pleasures
with a sort of passion. But then, Wiedeman is such a darling little
creature; who _could_ help loving the child?... Little darling! So
much mischief was not often put before into so small a body. Fancy
the child's upsetting the water jugs till he is drenched (which charms
him), pulling the brooms to pieces, and having serious designs upon
cutting up his frocks with a pair of scissors. He laughs like an imp
when he can succeed in doing anything wrong. Now, see what you get, in
return for your kindness of 'liking to hear about' him! Almost I have
the grace to be ashamed a little. Just before I had your letter we
sent my new edition to England. I gave much time to the revision, and
did not omit reforming some of the rhymes, although you must consider
that the irregularity of these in a certain degree rather falls in
with my system than falls out through my carelessness. So much the
worse, you will say, when a person is _systematically_ bad. The work
will include the best poems of the 'Seraphim' volume, strengthened and
improved as far as the circumstances admitted of. I had not the heart
to leave out the wretched sonnet to yourself, for your dear sake; but
I rewrote the latter half of it (for really it wasn't a sonnet at all,
and 'Una and her lion' are rococo), and so placed it with my other
poems of the same class. There are some new, verses also.[197] The
Miss Hardings I have seen, and talked with them of _you_, a sure way
of finding them delightful. But, my dearest friend, I shall not see
any of the Trollope party--it is not likely. You can scarcely image to
yourself the retired life we live, or how we have retreated from
the kind advances of the English society here. Now people seem to
understand that we are to be left alone; that nothing is to be made of
us. The fact is, we are not like our child, who kisses everybody who
smiles at him! Neither my health nor our pecuniary circumstances, nor
our inclinations perhaps, would admit of our entering into English
society here, which is kept up much after the old English models, with
a proper disdain for Continental simplicities of expense. We have just
heard from Father Prout, who often, he says, sees Mr. Horne, 'who is
as dreamy as ever.' So glad I am, for I was beginning to be uneasy
about him. He has not answered my letter from Lucca. The verses in the
'Athenaeum'[198] are on Sophia Cottrell's child.

May God bless you, dearest friend. Speak of _yourself_ more
particularly to your ever affectionate

E.B.B.

Robert's kindest regards. Tell us of Mr. Chorley's play, do.

[Footnote 196: Apparently the _Echo-song_ which now precedes canto
iv. of the _Princess_, though one is surprised at the opinion here
expressed of it. It will be remembered that this and the other lyrical
interludes did not appear in the original edition of the _Princess_.]

[Footnote 197: Notably the _Sonnets from the Portuguese_.]

[Footnote 198: 'A Child's Death at Florence,' which appeared in the
_Athenaeum_ of December 22, 1849.]


_To Mrs. Martin_
Florence: February 22, 1850.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Have you wondered that I did not write
before? It was not that I did not thank you in my heart for your kind,
considerate letter, but I was unconquerably uncomfortable about papa;
and, what with the weather, which always has me in its power somehow,
and other things, I fell into a dislike of writing, which I hope you
didn't mistake for ingratitude, because it was not in the least like
the same fault. Now the severe weather (such weather for Italy!) has
broken up, and I am relieved in all ways, having received the most
happy satisfactory news from Wimpole Street, and the assurance from my
sisters that if I were to see papa I should think him looking as well
as ever. He grew impatient with Dr. Elliotson's medicines which, it
appears, were of a very lowering character--suddenly gave them up,
and as suddenly recovered his looks and all the rest, and everybody
at home considers him to be _quite well_. It has relieved me of a
mountain's weight, and I thank God with great joy. Oh, you must have
understood how natural it was for me to be unhappy under the other
circumstances. But if you thought, dearest friend, that _they_
were necessary to induce me to write to him the humblest and most
beseeching of letters, you do not know how I feel his alienation or my
own love for him. I With regard to my brothers, it is quite different,
though even towards _them_ I may faithfully say that my affection
has borne itself higher than my pride. But as to papa, I have never
contended about the right or the wrong, I have never irritated him by
seeming to suppose that his severity to me has been more than justice.
I have confined myself simply to a supplication for--his forgiveness
of what he called, in his own words, the only fault of my life towards
him, and an expression of the love which even I must feel I for him,
whether he forgives me or not. This has been done in letter after
letter, and they are not sent back--it is all. In my last letter, I
ventured to ask him to let it be an understood thing that he should
before the world, and to every practical purpose, act out his idea of
justice by excluding me formally, me and mine, from every advantage
he intended his other children--that, having so been just, he might
afford to be merciful by giving me his forgiveness and affection--all
I asked and desired. My husband and I had talked this over again and
again; only it was a difficult thing to say, you see. At last I took
courage and said it, because, doing it, papa might seem to himself to
reconcile his notion of strict justice, and whatever remains of pity
and tenderness might still be in his heart towards me, if there are
any such. I _know_ he has strong feelings at bottom--otherwise, should
I love him so?--but he has adopted a bad system, and he (as well as I)
is crushed by it.... If I were to write to you the political rumours
we hear every day, you would scarcely think our situation improved in
safety by the horrible Austrian army. Florence bristles with cannon on
all sides, and at the first movement we are promised to be bombarded.
On the other hand, if the red republicans get uppermost there will be
a universal massacre; not a priest, according to their own profession,
will be left alive in Italy. The constitutional party hope they are
gaining strength, but the progress which depends on intellectual
growth must necessarily be slow. That the Papacy has for ever lost its
prestige and power over souls is the only evident truth; bright and
strong enough to cling to. I hear even devout women say: 'This cursed
Pope! it's all his fault.' Protestant places of worship are thronged
with Italian faces, and the minister of the Scotch church at Leghorn
has been threatened with exclusion from the country if he admits
Tuscans to the church communion. Politically speaking, much will
depend upon France, and I have strong hope for France, though it is
so strictly the fashion to despair of her. Tell me dear Mr. Martin's
impression and your own--everything is good that comes from you. But
most _particularly_, tell me how you both are--tell me whether you are
strong again, dearest Mrs. Martin, for indeed I do not like to hear of
your being in the least like an invalid. Do speak of yourself a little
more. Do you know, you are very unsatisfactory as a letter-writer when
you write about yourself--the reason being that you never do write
about yourself except by the suddenest snatches, when you can't
possibly help the reference....

Robert sends his true regards with those of your
Gratefully affectionate
BA.


_To Mrs. Jameson_
April 2, [1850].

You have perhaps thought us ungrateful people, my ever dear friend,
for this long delay in thanking you for your beautiful and welcome
present.[199] Here is the truth. Though we had the books from Rome
last month, they were snatched from us by impatient hands before we
had finished the first volume. The books are hungered and thirsted
for in Florence, and, although the English reading club has them,
they can't go fast enough from one to another. Four of our friends
entreated us for the reversion, and although it really is only
just that we should be let read our own books first, yet Robert's
generosity can't resist the need of this person who is 'going away,'
and of that person who is 'so particularly anxious'--for particular
reasons perhaps--so we renounce the privilege you gave us (with the
pomps of this world) and are still waiting to finish even the first
volume. Our cultivated friends the Ogilvys, who had the work from us
earliest, because they were going to Naples, were charmed with it. Mr.
Kirkup the artist, who disputes with Mr. Bezzi the glory of finding
Dante's portrait--yes, and breathes fire in the dispute--has it now.
Madame Ossoli, Margaret Fuller, the American authoress, who brought
from the siege of Rome a noble marquis as her husband, asks for it.
And your adorer Mr. Stuart, who has lectured upon Shakespeare all
the winter, entreats for it. So when we shall be free to enjoy it
thoroughly for ourselves remains doubtful. Robert promises every day,
'You shall have it next, certainly,' and I only hope you will put
him and me in your next edition of the martyrs, for such a splendid
exercise of the gifts of self-renunciation. But don't fancy that
we have not been delighted with the sight of the books, with your
kindness, and besides with the impressions gathered from a rapid
examination of the qualities of the work. It seems to us in every
way a valuable and most interesting work; it must render itself
a _necessity_ for art students, and general readers and seers of
pictures like me, who carry rather sentiment than science into
the consideration of such subjects. We much admire your
introduction--excellent in all ways, besides the grace and eloquence.
Altogether, the work must set you higher with a high class of the
public, and I congratulate you on what is the gain of all of us.
Robert has begun a little pencil list of trifling criticisms he means
to finish. We both cry aloud at what you say of Guercino's angels,
and never would have said if you had been to Fano and seen his divine
picture of the 'Guardian Angel,' which affects me every time I think
of it. Our little Wiedeman had his part of pleasure in the book by
being let look at the engravings. He screamed for joy at the miracle
of so many bird-men, and kissed some of them very reverentially, which
is his usual way of expressing admiration....

Whether you will like Robert's new book I don't know, but I am sure
you will admit the originality and power in it. I wish we had the
option of giving it to you, but Chapman & Hall never seem to think
of our giving copies away, nor leave them at our disposal. There is
nothing _Italian_ in the book; poets are apt to be most present with
the distant. A remark of Wilson's[200] used to strike me as eminently
true--that the perfectest descriptive poem (descriptive of rural
scenery) would _be_ naturally produced in a London cellar. I have read
'Shirley' lately; it is not equal to 'Jane Eyre' in spontaneousness
and earnestness. I found it heavy, I confess, though in the mechanical
part of the writing--the compositional _savoir faire_--there is an
advance. Robert has exhumed some French books, just now, from a little
circulating library which he had not tried, and we have been making
ourselves uncomfortable over Balzac's 'Cousin Pons.' But what a
wonderful writer he is! Who else could have taken such a subject, out
of the lowest mud of humanity, and glorified and consecrated it? He is
wonderful--there is not another word for him--profound, as Nature is.
S I complain of Florence for the want of books. We have to dig and dig
before we can get anything new, and _I_ can read the newspapers only
through Robert's eyes, who only can read them at Vieusseux's in a room
sacred from the foot of woman. And this isn't always satisfactory to
me, as whenever he falls into a state of disgust with any political
_régime_, he throws the whole subject over and won't read a word
more about it. Every now and then, for instance, he ignores France
altogether, and I, who am more tolerant and more curious, find myself
suspended over an hiatus _(valde deflendus_), and what's to be said
and done? M. Thiers' speech--'Thiers is a rascal; I make a point of
not reading one word said by M. Thiers.' M. Prudhon--'Prudhon is a
madman; who cares for Prudhon?' The President--'The President's an
ass; _he_ is not worth thinking of.' And so we treat of politics.

I wish you would write to us a little oftener (or rather, a good deal)
and tell us much of yourself. It made me very sorry that you should
be suffering in the grief of your sister--you whose sympathies are so
tender and quick! May it be better with you now! Mention Lady Byron. I
shall be glad to hear that she is stronger notwithstanding this cruel
winter. We have lovely weather here now, and I am quite well and able
to walk out, and little Wiedeman rolls with Flush on the grass of
the Cascine. Dear kind Wilson is doatingly fond of the child, and
sometimes gives it as her serious opinion that 'there never _was_ such
a child before.' Of course I don't argue the point much. Now, will
you write to us? Speak of your plans particularly when you do. We have
taken this apartment on for another year from May. May God bless you!
Robert unites in affectionate thanks and thoughts of all kinds, with
your

E.B.B.--rather, BA.

This letter has waited some days to be sent away, as you will see by
the date.

[Footnote 199: Mrs. Jameson's _Legends of the Monastic Orders_, which
had just been published.]

[Footnote 200: Presumably _not_ Mrs. Browning's maid, but 'Christopher
North.']


At the end of March 1850, the long-deferred marriage of Mrs.
Browning's sister, Henrietta, to Captain Surtees Cook took place. It
is of interest here mainly as illustrating Mr. Barrett's behaviour
to his daughters. An application for his consent only elicited the
pronouncement, 'If Henrietta marries you, she turns her back on this
house for ever,' and a letter to Henrietta herself reproaching her
with the 'insult' she had offered him in asking his consent when she
had evidently made up her mind to the conclusion, and declaring
that, if she married, her name should never again be mentioned in his
presence. The marriage having thereupon taken place, his decision was
forthwith put into practice, and a second child was thenceforward an
exile from her father's house.


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: [end of] April 1850.

You will have seen in the papers, dearest friend, the marriage of my
sister Henrietta, and will have understood why I was longer silent
than usual. Indeed, the event has much moved me, and so much of the
emotion was painful--painfulness being inseparable from events of the
sort in our family--that I had to make an effort to realise to myself
the reasonable degree of gladness and satisfaction in her release from
a long, anxious, transitional state, and her prospect of happiness
with a man who has loved her constantly and who is of an upright,
honest, reliable, and religious mind. Our father's objections were to
his Tractarian opinions and insufficient income. I have no sympathy
myself with Tractarian opinions, but I cannot under the circumstances
think an objection of the kind tenable by a third person, and in truth
we all know that if it had not been this objection, it would have been
another--there was no escape any way. An engagement of five years
and an attachment still longer were to have some results; and I can't
regret, or indeed do otherwise than approve from my heart, what she
has done from hers. Most of her friends and relatives have considered
that there was no choice, and that her step is abundantly justified.
At the same time, I thank God that a letter sent to me to ask my
advice never reached me (the _second_ letter of my sisters' lost,
since I left them), because no advice _ought_ to be given on any
subject of the kind, and because I, especially, should have shrunk
from accepting such a responsibility. So I only heard of the marriage
three days before it took place--no, four days before--and was upset,
as you may suppose, by the sudden news. Captain Surtees Cook's sister
was one of the bridesmaids, and his brother performed the ceremony.
The _means_ are very small of course--he has not much, and my sister
has nothing--still it seems to me that they will have enough to live
prudently on, and he looks out for a further appointment. Papa 'will
never again let her name be mentioned in his hearing,' he _says_, but
we must hope. The dreadful business passed off better on the whole
than poor Arabel expected, and things are going on as quietly as
usual in Wimpole Street now. I feel deeply for _her_, who in her
pure disinterestedness just pays the price and suffers the loss.
She represents herself, however, to be relieved at the crisis being
passed. I earnestly hope for her sake that we may be able to get to
England this year--a sight of us will be some comfort. Henrietta is to
live at Taunton for the present, as he has a military situation there,
and they are preparing for a round of visits among their many friends
who are anxious to have them previous to their settling. All this, you
see, will throw me back with papa, even if I can be supposed to have
gained half a step, and I doubt it. Oh yes, dearest Miss Mitford. I
have indeed again and again thought of your 'Emily,' stripping the
situation of 'the favour and prettiness' associated with that heroine.
Wiedeman might compete, though, in darlingness with the child, as the
poem shows him. Still, I can accept no omen. My heart sinks when I
dwell upon peculiarities difficult to analyse. I love him very deeply.
When I write to him, I lay myself at his feet. Even if I had gained
half a step (and I doubt it, as I said), see how I must be thrown back
by the indisposition to receive others. But I cannot write of this
subject. Let us change it....

Madame Ossoli sails for America in a few days, with the hope of
returning to Italy, and indeed I cannot believe that her Roman husband
will be easily naturalised among the Yankees. A very interesting
person she is, far better than her writings--thoughtful, spiritual
in her habitual mode of mind; not only exalted, but _exaltée_ in her
opinions, and yet calm in manner. We shall be sorry to lose her. We
have lost, besides, our friends Mr. and Mrs. Ogilvy, cultivated and
refined people: they occupied the floor above us the last winter, and
at the Baths of Lucca and Florence we have seen much of them for
a year past. She published some time since a volume of 'Scottish
Minstrelsy,' graceful and flowing, and aspires strenuously towards
poetry; a pretty woman with three pretty children, of quick
perceptions and active intelligence and sensibility. They are upright,
excellent people in various ways, and it is a loss to us that they
should have gone to Naples now. Dearest friend, how your letter
delighted me with its happy account of your improved strength. Take
care of yourself, do, to lose no ground. The power of walking must
refresh your spirits as well as widen your daily pleasures. I am so
glad. Thank God. We have heard from Mr. Chorley, who seems to have
received very partial gratification in respect to his play and yet
prepares for more plays, more wrestlings in the same dust. Well, I
can't make it out. A man of his sensitiveness to choose to appeal to
the coarsest side of the public--which, whatever you dramatists may
say, you all certainly do--is incomprehensible to me. Then I cannot
help thinking that he might achieve other sorts of successes more
easily and surely. Your criticism is very just. But _I_ like his
'Music and Manners in Germany' better than anything he has done. I
believe I always _did_ like it best, and since coming to Florence I
have heard cultivated Americans speak of it with enthusiasm, yes, with
enthusiasm. 'Pomfret' they would scarcely believe to be by the same
author. I agree with you, but it is a pity indeed for him to tie
himself to the wheels of the 'Athenaeum,' to _approfondir_ the ruts;
what other end? And, by the way, the 'Athenaeum,' since Mr. Dilke
left it, has grown duller and duller, colder and colder, flatter
and flatter. Mr. Dilke was not brilliant, but he was a Brutus in
criticism; and though it was his speciality to condemn his most
particular friends to the hangman, the survivors thought there was
something grand about it on the whole, and nobody could hold him in
contempt. Now it is all different. We have not even 'public virtue' to
fasten our admiration to. You will be sure to think I am vexed at the
article on my husband's new poem.[201] Why, certainly I am vexed! Who
would _not_ be vexed with such misunderstanding and mistaking. Dear
Mr. Chorley writes a letter to appreciate most generously: so you see
how little power he has in the paper to insert an opinion, or stop an
injustice. On the same day came out a burning panegyric of six columns
in the 'Examiner,' a curious cross-fire. If you read the little book
(I wish I could send you a copy, but Chapman & Hall have not offered
us copies, and you will catch sight of it somewhere), I hope you will
like things in it at least. It seems to me full of power. Two hundred
copies went off in the first fortnight, which is a good beginning
in these days. So I am to confess to a satisfaction in the American
piracies. Well, I confess, then. Only it is rather a complex smile
with which one hears: 'Sir or Madam, we are selling your book at half
price, as well printed as in England.' 'Those apples we stole from
your garden, we sell at a halfpenny, instead of a penny as you do;
they are much appreciated.' Very gratifying indeed. It's worth
while to rob us, that's plain, and there's something magnificent in
supplying a distant market with apples out of one's garden. Still the
smile is complex in its character, and the morality--simple, that's
all I meant to say. A letter from Henrietta and her husband, glowing
with happiness; it makes _me_ happy. She says, 'I wonder if I shall be
as happy as you, Ba.' God grant it. It was signified to her that she
should at once give up her engagement of five years, or leave the
house. She married directly. I do not understand how it could be
otherwise, indeed. My brothers have been kind and affectionate, I am
glad to say; in her case, poor dearest papa does injustice chiefly to
his own nature, by these severities, hard as they seem. Write soon and
talk of yourself to

Ever affectionate
BA.

I am rejoicing in the People's Edition of your work. 'Viva!' (Robert's
best regards.)

[Footnote 201: The _Athenaeum_ review of _Christmas Eve and Easter
Day_, while recognising the beauty of many passages in the two poems,
criticised strongly the discussion of theological subjects in 'doggrel
verse;' and its analysis of the theology would hardly be satisfactory
to the author.]


_To Mrs. Jameson_
Florence: May 4, [1850],

Dearest Friend,--This little note will be given to you by the Mr.
Stuart of whom I once told you that he was holding you up to the
admiration of all Florence and the Baths of Lucca as the best English
critic of Shakespeare, in his lectures on the great poet....

Robert bids me say that he wrote you a constrained half-dozen lines
by Mr. Henry Greenough, who asked for a letter of introduction to you,
while the asker was sitting in the room, and the form of 'dear Mrs.
Jameson' couldn't well be escaped from. He loves you as well as ever,
you are to understand, through every complication of forms, and you
are to love him, and _me_, for I come in as a part of him, if you
please. Did you get my thanks for the dear Petrarch pen (so steeped in
double-distilled memories that it seems scarcely fit to be steeped in
ink), and our appreciation as well as gratitude for the books--which,
indeed, charm us more and more? Robert has been picking up pictures at
a few pauls each, 'hole and corner' pictures which the 'dealers' had
not found out; and the other day he covered himself with glory by
discovering and seizing on (in a corn shop a mile from Florence) five
pictures among heaps of trash; and one of the best judges in Florence
(Mr. Kirkup) throws out such names for them as Cimabue, Ghirlandaio,
Giottino, a crucifixion painted on a banner, Giottesque, if not
Giotto, but _unique_, or nearly so, on account of the linen material,
and a little Virgin by a Byzantine master. The curious thing is that
two angel pictures, for which he had given a scudo last year, prove
to have been each sawn off the sides of the Ghirlandaio, so called,
representing the 'Eterno Padre' clothed in a mystical garment and
encircled by a rainbow, the various tints of which, together with the
scarlet tips of the flying seraphs' wings, are darted down into the
smaller pictures and complete the evidence, line for line. It has been
a grand altar-piece, cut to bits. Now come and see for yourself. We
can't say decidedly yet whether it will be possible or impossible for
us to go to England this year, but in any case you must come to see
Gerardine and Italy, and we shall manage to catch you by the skirts
then--so do come. Never mind the rumbling of political thunders,
because, even if a storm breaks, you will slip under cover in these
days easily, whether in France or Italy. I can't make out, for my
part, how anybody can be afraid of such things.

Will you be among the likers or dislikers, I wonder sometimes, of
Robert's new book? The _faculty_, you will recognise, in all cases; he
can do anything he chooses. I have complained of the _asceticism_ in
the second part, but he said it was 'one side of the question.' Don't
think that he has taken to the cilix--indeed he has not--but it is his
way to _see_ things as passionately as other people _feel_ them....

Chapman & Hall offer us no copies, or you should have had one, of
course. So Wordsworth is gone--a great light out of heaven.

May God bless you, my dear friend!

Love your affectionate and grateful, for so many
reasons,
BA.


The death of Wordsworth on April 23 left the Laureateship vacant,
and though there was probably never any likelihood of Mrs. Browning's
being invited to succeed him, it is worth noticing that her claims
were advocated by so prominent a paper as the 'Athenaeum,' which not
only urged that the appointment would be eminently suitable under a
female sovereign, but even expressed its opinion that 'there is no
living poet of either sex who can prefer a higher claim than Mrs.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning.' No doubt there would have been a certain
appropriateness in the post of Laureate to a Queen being held by a
poetess, but the claims of Tennyson to the primacy of English poetry
were rightly regarded as paramount. The fact that in Robert Browning
there was a poet of equal calibre with Tennyson, though of so
different a type, seems to have occurred to no one.


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: June 15, 1850.

My ever dear Friend,--How it grieves me that you should have been
so unwell again! From what you say about the state of the house, I
conclude that your health suffers from that cause precisely; and that
when you are warmly and dryly walled in, you will be less liable to
these attacks, grievous to your friends as to you. Oh, I don't praise
anybody, I assure you, for wishing to entice you to live near them.
We come over the Alps for a sunny climate; what should we not do for
a moral atmosphere like yours? I dare say you have chosen excellently
your new residence, and I hope you will get over the fuss of it with
great courage, remembering the advantages which it is likely to secure
to you. Tell me as much as you can about it all, that I may shift the
scene in the right grooves, and be able to imagine you to myself out
of Three Mile Cross. You have the local feeling so eminently that I
have long been resolved on never asking you to migrate. Doves
won't travel with swallows; who should persuade them? This is no
migration--only a shifting from one branch to another. With Reading
on one side of you still, you will lose nothing, neither sight nor
friend. Oh, do write to me as soon as you can, and say that the
deepening summer has done you good and given you strength; say it,
if possible. I shall be very anxious for the next letter.... My only
objection to Florence is the distance from London, and the expense of
the journey. One's heart is pulled at through different English
ties and can't get the right rest, and I think we shall move
northwards--try France a little, after a time. The present year has
been full of petty vexation to us about the difficulty of going to
England, and it becomes more and more doubtful whether we can attain
to the means of doing it. There are four of us and the child, you
see, and precisely this year we are restricted in means, as far as our
present knowledge goes; but I can't say yet, only I do very much
fear. Nobody will believe our promises, I think, any more, and my
poor Arabel will be in despair, and I shall lose the opportunity of
_authenticating_ Wiedeman; for, as Robert says, all our fine stories
about him will go for nothing, and he will be set down as a sham
child. If not sham, how could human vanity resist the showing him off
bodily? That sounds reasonable....

Certainly you are disinterested about America, and, of course, all
of us who have hearts and heads must feel the sympathy of a greater
nation to be more precious than a thick purse. Still, it is not just
and dignified, this vantage ground of American pirates. Liking the
ends and motives, one disapproves the means. Yes, even _you_ do; and
if I were an American I should dissent with still more emphasis. It
should be made a point of honour with the nation, if there is no
point of law against the re publishers. For my own part, I have every
possible reason to thank and love America; she has been very kind to
me, and the visits we receive here from delightful and cordial persons
of that country have been most gratifying to us. The American minister
at the court of Vienna, with his family, did not pass through Florence
the other day without coming to see us--General Watson Webbe-with
an air of moral as well as military command in his brow and eyes. He
looked, and talked too, like one of oar dignities of the Old World.
The go-ahead principle didn't seem the least over-strong in him, nor
likely to disturb his official balance. What is to happen next in
France? Do you trust still your President? He is in a hard position,
and, if he leaves the Pope where he is, in a dishonored one. As for
the change in the electoral law and the increase of income, I see
nothing in either to make an outcry against. There is great injustice
everywhere and a rankling party-spirit, and to speak the truth and act
it appears still more difficult than usual. I was sorry, do you know,
to hear of dear Mr. Horne's attempt at Shylock; he is fit for higher
things. Did I tell you how we received and admired his Judas Iscariot?
Yes, surely I did. He says that Louis Blanc is a friend of his and
much with him, speaking with enthusiasm. I should be more sorry at
his being involved with the Socialists than with Shylock--still more
sorry; for I love liberty so intensely that I hate Socialism. I hold
it to be the most desecrating and dishonouring to humanity of all
creeds. I would rather (for _me_) live under the absolutism of
Nicholas of Russia than in a Fourier machine, with my individuality
sucked out of me by a social air-pump. Oh, if you happen to write
again to Mrs. Deane, thank her much for her kind anxiety; but, indeed,
if I had lost my darling I should not write verses about it.[202] As
for the Laureateship, it won't be given to _me_, be sure, though the
suggestion has gone the round of the English newspapers--'Galignani'
and all--and notwithstanding that most kind and flattering
recommendation of the 'Athenaeum,' for which I am sure we should
be grateful to Mr. Chorley. I think Leigh Hunt should have the
Laureateship. He has condescended to wish for it, and has 'worn his
singing clothes' longer than most of his contemporaries, deserving
the price of long as well as noble service. Whoever has it will be, of
course, exempted from Court lays; and the distinction of the title and
pension should remain for Spenser's sake, if not for Wordsworth's. We
are very anxious to know about Tennyson's new work, 'In Memoriam.'
Do tell us about it. You are aware that it was written years ago, and
relates to a son of Mr. Hallam, who was Tennyson's intimate friend
and the betrothed of his sister. I have heard, through someone who had
seen the MS., that it is full of beauty and pathos.... Dearest, ever
dear Miss Mitford, speak particularly of your health. May God bless
you, prays

Your ever affectionate
E.B.B.
Robert's kindest regards.

[Footnote 202: Referring to the lines entitled _A Child's Grave at
Florence_, which had apparently been misunderstood as implying the
death of Mrs. Browning's own child.]


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: July 8, 1850.

My dearest Miss Mitford,--I this moment have your note; and as a
packet of ours is going to England, I snatch up a pen to do what I can
with it in the brief moments between this and post time. I don't wait
till it shall be possible to write at length, because I have something
immediate to say to you. Your letter is delightful, yet it is not
for _that_ that I rush so upon answering it. Nor even is it for the
excellent news of your consenting, for dear Mr. Chorley's sake, to
give us some more of your 'papers,'[203] though 'blessed be the hour,
and month, and year' when he set about editing the 'Ladies' Companion'
and persuading you to do such a thing. No, what I want to say is
strictly personal to me. You are the kindest, warmest-hearted, most
affectionate of critics, and precisely as such it is that you have
thrown me into a paroxysm of terror. My dearest friend, _for the
love of me_--I don't argue the point with you--but I beseech you
humbly,--kissing the hem of your garment, and by all sacred and tender
recollections of sympathy between you and me, _don't_ breathe a word
about any juvenile performance of mine--_don't_, if you have any love
left for me. Dear friend, 'disinter' anybody or anything you please,
but don't disinter _me_, unless you mean the ghost of my vexation to
vex you ever after. 'Blessed be she who spares these stones.' All the
saints know that I have enough to answer for since I came to my
mature mind, and that I had difficulty enough in making most of the
'Seraphim' volume presentable a little in my new edition, because it
was too ostensible before the public to be caught back; but if the
sins of my rawest juvenility are to be thrust upon me--and sins are
extant of even twelve or thirteen, or earlier, and I was in print once
when I was ten, I think--what is to become of me? I shall groan
as loud as Christian did. Dearest Miss Mitford, now forgive this
ingratitude which is gratitude all the time. I love you and thank you;
but, right or wrong, mind what I say, and let me love and thank you
still more. When you see my new edition you will see that everything
worth a straw I ever wrote is there, and if there were strength in
conjuration I would conjure you to pass an act of oblivion on the
stubble that remains--if anything does remain, indeed. Now, more than
enough of this. For the rest, I am delighted. I am even so generous as
not to be jealous of Mr. Chorley for prevailing with you when nobody
else could. I had given it up long ago; I never thought you would stir
a pen again. By what charm did he prevail? Your series of papers will
be delightful, I do not doubt; though I never could see anything in
some of your heroes, American or Irish. Longfellow is a poet; I don't
refer to _him_. Still, whatever you say will be worth hearing, and the
_guide_ through 'Pompeii' will be better than many of the ruins. 'The
Pleader's Guide' I never heard of before. Praed has written some
sweet and tender things. Then I shall like to hear you on Beaumont and
Fletcher, and Andrew Marvell.

I have seen nothing of Tennyson's new poem. Do you know if the
echo-song is the most popular of his verses? It is only another proof
to my mind of the no-worth of popularity. That song would be eminently
sweet for a common writer, but Tennyson has done better, surely; his
eminences are to be seen above. As for the laurel, in a sense he is
worthier of it than Leigh Hunt; only Tennyson can wait, that is the
single difference.

So anxious I am about your house. Your health seems to me mainly
to depend on your moving, and I do urge your moving; if not there,
elsewhere. May God bless you, ever dear friend!

I dare say you will think I have given too much importance to the
rococo verses you had the goodness to speak of; but I have a horror of
being disinterred, there's the truth! Leave the violets to grow
over me. Because that wretched school-exercise of a version of the
'Prometheus' had been named by two or three people, wasn't I at the
pains of making a new translation before I left England, so to erase a
sort of half-visible and half invisible 'Blot on the Scutcheon'? After
such an expenditure of lemon-juice, you will not wonder that I should
trouble you with all this talk about nothing....

I am so delighted that you are to lift up your voice again, and so
grateful to Mr. Chorley.

Ah yes, if we go to Paris we shall draw you. Mr. Chorley shan't have
all the triumphs to himself.

Not a word more, says Robert, or the post will be missed. God bless
you! Do take care of yourself, and _don't_ stay in that damp house.
And do make allowances for love.

Your ever affectionate
BA.

How glad I shall be if it is true that Tennyson is married! I believe
in the happiness of marriage, for men especially.

[Footnote 203: These are the papers subsequently published under the
title _Recollections of a Literary Life_. Among them was an article
on the Brownings, giving biographical detail with respect to Mrs.
Browning's early life, especially as to the loss of her brother,
which caused extreme pain to her sensitive nature, as a later letter
testifies.]


Through the greater part of the summer of 1850 the Brownings held fast
in Florence, and it was not until September, when Mrs. Browning was
recovering from a rather sharp attack of illness, that they took a
short holiday, going for a few weeks to Siena, a place which they were
again to visit some years later, during the last two summers of Mrs.
Browning's life. The letter announcing their arrival is the first in
the present collection addressed to Miss Isa Blagden. Miss Blagden was
a resident in Florence for many years, and was a prominent member of
English society there. Her friendship, not only with Mrs. Browning,
but with her husband, was of a very intimate character, and was
continued after Mrs. Browning's death until the end of her own life in
1872.


_To Miss I. Blagden_
Siena: September [1850].

Here I am keeping my promise, my dear Miss Blagden. We arrived quite
safely, and I was not too tired to sleep at night, though tired of
course, and the baby was a miracle of goodness all the way, only
inclining once to a _rabbia_ through not being able to get at the
electric telegraph, but in ecstasies otherwise at everything new. We
had to stay at the inn all night. We heard of a multitude of villas,
none of which could be caught in time for the daylight. On Sunday,
however, just as we were beginning to give it up, in Robert came with
good news, and we were settled in half an hour afterwards here, a
small house of some seven rooms, two miles from Siena, and situated
delightfully in its own grounds of vineyard and olive ground, not to
boast too much of a pretty little square flower-garden. The grapes
hang in garlands (too tantalising to Wiedeman) about the walls and
before them, and, through and over, we have magnificent views of a
noble sweep of country, undulating hills and various verdure, and,
on one side, the great Maremma extending to the foot of the Roman
mountains. Our villa is on a hill called 'poggio dei venti,' and the
winds give us a turn accordingly at every window. It is delightfully
cool, and I have not been able to bear my window open at night since
our arrival; also we get good milk and bread and eggs and wine, and
are not much at a loss for anything. Think of my forgetting to tell
you (Robert would not forgive me for that) how we have a _specola_ or
sort of belvedere at the top of the house, which he delights in, and
which I shall enjoy presently, when I have recovered my taste for
climbing staircases. He carried me up once, but the being carried
down was so much like being carried down the flue of a chimney, that I
waive the whole privilege for the future. What is better, to my mind,
is the expected fact of being able to get books at Siena--_nearly_ as
well as at Brecker's, really; though Dumas fils seems to fill up many
of the interstices where you think you have found something.
_Three_ pauls a month, the subscription is; and for seven, we get a
'Galignani,' or are promised to get it. We pay for our villa ten scudi
the month, so that altogether it is not ruinous. The air is as fresh
as English air, without English dampness and transition; yes, and
we have English lanes with bowery tops of trees, and brambles and
blackberries, and not a wall anywhere, except the walls of our villa.

For my part, I am recovering strength, I hope and believe. Certainly
I can move about from one room to another, without reeling much: but
I still look so ghastly, as to 'back recoil,' perfectly knowing 'Why,'
from everything in the shape of a looking glass. Robert has found an
armchair for me at Siena. To say the truth, my time for enjoying this
country life, except the enchanting silence and the look from the
window, has not come yet: I must wait for a little more strength.
Wiedeman's cheeks are beginning to redden already, and he delights
in the pigeons and the pig and the donkey and a great yellow dog and
everything else now; only he would change all your trees (except the
apple trees), he says, for the Austrian band at any moment. He is
rather a town baby....

Our drawback is, dear Miss Blagden, that we have not room to take you
in. So sorry we both are indeed. Write and tell me whether you have
decided about Vallombrosa. I hope we shall see much of you still at
Florence, if not here. We could give you everything here except a bed.

Robert's kindest regards with those of
Your ever affectionate
ELIZABETH B. BROWNING.

My love to Miss Agassiz, whenever you see her.


_To Miss Mitford_
Siena: September 24, 1850.

To think that it is more than two months since I wrote last to you, my
beloved friend, makes the said two months seem even longer to me than
otherwise they would necessarily be--a slow, heavy two months in every
case, 'with all the weights of care and death hung at them.' Your
letter reached me when I was confined to my bed, and could scarcely
read it, for all the strength at my heart.... As soon as I could be
moved, and before I could walk from one room to another, Dr. Harding
insisted on the necessity of change of air (for my part, I seemed to
myself more fit to change the world than the air), and Robert carried
me into the railroad like a baby, and off we came here to Siena. We
took a villa a mile and _a_ half from the town, a villa situated on a
windy hill (called 'poggio al vento'), with magnificent views from
all the windows, and set in the midst of its own vineyard and olive
ground, apple trees and peach trees, not to speak of a little square
flower-garden, for which we pay _eleven shillings one penny
farthing the week_; and at the end of these three weeks, our medical
comforter's prophecy, to which I listened so incredulously, is
fulfilled, and I am able to walk a mile, and am really as well as ever
in all essential respects.... Our poor little darling, too (see
what disasters!), was ill four-and-twenty hours from a species of
sunstroke, and frightened us with a heavy hot head and glassy staring
eyes, lying in a half-stupor. Terrible, the silence that fell suddenly
upon the house, without the small pattering feet and the singing
voice. But God spared us; he grew quite well directly and sang louder
than ever. Since we came here his cheeks have turned into roses....

What still further depressed me during our latter days at Florence
was the dreadful event in America--the loss of our poor friend Madame
Ossoli,[204] affecting in itself, and also through association with
that past, when the arrowhead of anguish was broken too deeply into my
life ever to be quite drawn out. Robert wanted to keep the news
from me till I was stronger, but we live too _close_ for him to keep
anything from me, and then I should have known it from the first
letter or visitor, so there was no use trying. The poor Ossolis spent
part of their last evening in Italy with us, he and she and their
child, and we had a note from her off Gibraltar, speaking of the
captain's death from smallpox. Afterwards it appears that her
child caught the disease and lay for days between life and death;
_recovered_, and then came the final agony. 'Deep called unto deep,'
indeed. Now she is where there is no more grief and 'no more sea;' and
none of the restless in this world, none of the ship-wrecked in heart
ever seemed to me to want peace more than she did. We saw much of her
last winter; and over a great gulf of differing opinion we both felt
drawn strongly to her. High and pure aspiration she had--yes, and a
tender woman's heart--and we honoured the truth and courage in her,
rare in woman or man. The work she was preparing upon Italy would
probably have been more equal to her faculty than anything previously
produced by her pen (her other writings being curiously inferior to
the impressions her conversation gave you); indeed, she told me it was
the only production to which she had given time and labour. But,
if rescued, the manuscript would be nothing but the raw material. I
believe nothing was finished; nor, if finished, could the work
have been otherwise than deeply coloured by those blood colours of
Socialistic views, which would have drawn the wolves on her, with a
still more howling enmity, both in England and America. Therefore it
was better for her to go. Only God and a few friends can be expected
to distinguish between the pure personality of a woman and her
professed opinions. She was chiefly known in America, I believe, by
oral lectures and a connection with the newspaper press, neither of
them happy means of publicity. Was she happy in anything, I wonder?
She told me that she never was. May God have made her happy in her
death!

Such gloom she had in leaving Italy! So full she was of sad
presentiment! Do you know she gave a _Bible_ as a parting gift
from her child to ours, writing in it '_In memory of_ Angelo Eugene
Ossoli'--a strange, prophetical expression? That last evening a
prophecy was talked of jestingly--an old prophecy made to poor Marquis
Ossoli, 'that he should shun the sea, for that it would be fatal to
him.' I remember how she turned to me smiling and said, 'Our ship is
called the "Elizabeth," and I accept the omen.'

Now I am making you almost dull perhaps, and myself certainly duller.
Rather let me tell you, dearest Miss Mitford, how delightedly I look
forward to reading whatever you have written or shall write. You write
'as well as twenty years ago'! Why, I should think so, indeed. Don't I
know what your letters are? Haven't I had faith in you always? Haven't
I, in fact, teased you half to death in proof of it? I, who was a sort
of Brutus, and oughtn't to have done it, you hinted. Moreover, Robert
is a great admirer of yours, as I must have told you before, and has
the pretension (unjustly though, as I tell _him_) to place you still
higher among writers than I do, so that we are two in expectancy here.
May Mr. Chorley's periodical live a thousand years!

As my 'Seagull' won't, but you will find it in my new edition, and the
'Doves' and everything else worth a straw of my writing. Here's a
fact which you must try to settle with your theories of simplicity and
popularity: _None of these simple poems of mine have been favorites
with general readers_. The unintelligible ones are always preferred, I
observe, by extracters, compilers, and ladies and gentlemen who write
to tell me that I'm a muse. The very Corn Law Leaguers in the North
used to leave your 'Seagulls' to fly where they could, and clap hands
over mysteries of iniquity. Dearest Miss Mitford--for the rest, don't
mistake what I write to you sometimes--don't fancy that I undervalue
simplicity and think nothing of legitimate fame--I only mean to say
that the vogue which begins with the masses generally comes to nought
(Béranger is an exceptional case, from the _form_ of his poems,
obviously), while the appreciation beginning with the few always ends
with the masses. Wasn't Wordsworth, for instance, both simple and
unpopular, when he was most divine? To go to the great from the small,
when I complain of the lamentable weakness of much in my 'Seraphim'
volume, I don't complain of the 'Seagull' and 'Doves' and the simple
verses, but exactly of the more ambitious ones. I have had to rewrite
pages upon pages of that volume. Oh, such feeble rhymes, and turns of
thought--such a dingy mistiness! Even Robert couldn't say a word for
much of it. I took great pains with the whole, and made considerable
portions new, only your favourites were not touched--not a word
touched, I think, in the 'Seagull,' and scarcely a word in the
'Doves.' You won't complain of me a great deal, I do hope and trust.
Also I put back your 'little words' into the 'House of Clouds.' The
two volumes are to come out, it appears, at the end of October; not
before, because Mr. Chapman wished to inaugurate them for his new
house in Piccadilly. There are some new poems, and one rather long
ballad written at request of anti-slavery friends in America.[205]
I arranged that it should come next to the 'Cry of the Children,' to
appear impartial as to national grievances....

Oh--Balzac--what a loss! One of the greatest and (most) original
writers of the age gone from us! To hear this news made Robert and me
very melancholy. Indeed, there seems to be fatality just now with the
writers of France. Soulié, Bernard, gone too; George Sand translating
Mazzini; Sue in a socialistical state of decadence--what he means
by writing such trash as the 'Péchés' I really can't make out; only
Alexandre Dumas keeping his head up gallantly, and he seems to me to
write better than ever. Here is a new book, just published, by
Jules Sandeau, called 'Sacs et Parchemins'! Have you seen it? It
miraculously comes to us from the little Siena library.

We stay in this villa till our month is out, and then we go for a week
into Siena that I may be nearer the churches and pictures, and see
something of the cathedral and Sodomas. We calculated that it was
cheaper to move our quarters than to have a carriage to and fro, and
then Dr. Harding recommended repeated change of air for me, and he has
proved his ability so much (so kindly too!) that we are bound to
act on his opinions as closely as we can. Perhaps we may even go to
Volterra afterwards, if the _finances_ will allow of it. If we do, it
may be for another week at farthest, and then we return to Florence.
You had better direct there as usual. And do write and tell me much of
yourself, and set _me_ down in your thoughts as quite well, and ever
yours in warm and grateful affection.

E.B.B.


[Footnote 204: Drowned with her husband on their way to America.]

[Footnote 205: _The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point_.]


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: November 13, 1850 [postmark].

I _meant_ to cross your second letter, and so, my very dear friend,
you are a second time a prophetess as to my intentions, while I
am still more grateful than I could have been with the literal
fulfilment. Delightful it is to hear from you--do always write when
you can. And though this second letter speaks of your having been
unwell, still I shall continue to flatter myself that upon the whole
'the better part prevails,' and that if the rains don't wash you away
this winter, I may have leave to think of you as strengthening and to
strengthen still. Meanwhile you certainly, as you say, have roots to
your feet. Never was anyone so pure as you from the drop of gypsey
blood which tingles in my veins and my husband's, and gives us every
now and then a fever for roaming, strong enough to carry us to Mount
Caucasus if it were not for the healthy state of depletion observable
in the purse. I get fond of places, so does he. We both of us grew
rather pathetical on leaving our Sienese villa, and shrank from
parting with the pig. But setting out on one's travels has a great
charm; oh, I should like to be able to pay our way down the Nile, and
into Greece, and into Germany, and into Spain! Every now and then
we take out the road-books, calculate the expenses, and groan in the
spirit when it's proved for the hundredth time that we can't do
it. One must have a home, you see, to keep one's books in and one's
spring-sofas in; but the charm of a home is a home _to come back to_.
Do you understand? No, not you! You have as much comprehension of the
pleasure of 'that sort of thing' as in the peculiar taste of the
three ladies who hung themselves in a French balloon the other
day, operatically _nude_, in order, I conjecture, to the ultimate
perfection of French delicacy in morals and manners....

I long to see your papers, and dare say they are charming. At the same
time, just because they are sure to be charming (and notwithstanding
their kindness to me, notwithstanding that I live in a glass house
myself, warmed by such rare stoves!) I am a little in fear that your
generosity and excess of kindness may run the risk of lowering the
ideal of poetry in England by lifting above the mark the names of some
poetasters. Do you know, you take up your heart sometimes by mistake,
to admire with, when you ought to use it only to love with? and this
is apt to be dangerous, with your reputation and authority in matters
of literature. See how impertinent I am! But we should all take care
to teach the world that poetry is a divine thing, should we not? that
is, not mere verse-making, though the verses be pretty in their way.
Rather perish every verse _I_ ever wrote, for one, than help to drag
down an inch that standard of poetry which, for the sake of humanity
as well as literature, should be kept high. As for simplicity and
clearness, did I ever deny that they were excellent qualities? Never,
surely. Only, they will not _make_ poetry; and absolutely vain they
are, and indeed all other qualities, without the essential thing,
the genius, the inspiration, the insight--let us call it what we
please--without which the most accomplished verse-writers had far
better write prose, for their own sakes as for the world's--don't you
think so? Which I say, because I sighed aloud over many names in your
list, and now have taken pertly to write out the sigh at length. Too
charmingly you are sure to have written--and see the danger! But Miss
Fanshawe is well worth your writing of (let me say that I am sensible
warmly of that) as one of the most witty of our wits in verse, men or
women. I have only seen manuscript copies of some of her verses, and
that years ago, but they struck me very much; and really I do not
remember another female wit worthy to sit beside her, even in French
literature. Motherwell is a true poet. But oh, I don't believe in your
John Clares, Thomas Davises, Whittiers, Hallocks--and still less in
other names which it would be invidious to name again. How pert I am!
But you give me leave to be pert, and you know the meaning of it all,
after all. Your editor quarrelled a little with me once, and I with
him, about the 'poetesses of the united empire,' in whom I couldn't or
wouldn't find a poet, though there are extant two volumes of them, and
Lady Winchilsea at the head. I hold that the writer of the ballad of
'Robin Gray' was our first poetess rightly so called, before Joanna
Baillie.

Mr. Lever is in Florence, I believe, now, and was at the Baths of
Lucca in the summer. We never see him; it is curious. He made his way
to us with the sunniest of faces and cordialest of manners at Lucca;
and I, who am much taken by manner, was quite pleased with him, and
wondered how it was that I didn't like his books. Well, he only
wanted to see that we had the right number of eyes and no odd fingers.
Robert, in return for his visit, called on him three times, I think,
and I left my card on Mrs. Lever. But he never came again--he had
seen enough of us, he could put down in his private diary that we had
neither claw nor tail; and there an end, properly enough. In fact,
he lives a different life from ours: he in the ballroom and we in the
cave, nothing could be more different; and perhaps there are not many
subjects of common interest between us. I have seen extracts in
the 'Examiner' from Tennyson's 'In Memoriam' which seemed to me
exquisitely beautiful and pathetical. Oh, there's a poet, talking of
poets. Have you read Wordsworth's last work--the legacy? With regard
to the elder Miss Jewsbury, do you know, I take Mr. Chorley's part
against you, because, although I know her only by her writings, the
writings seem to me to imply a certain vigour and originality of mind,
by no means ordinary. For instance, the fragments of her letters in
his 'Memorials of Mrs. Hemans' are much superior to any other letters
almost in the volume--certainly to Mrs. Hemans's own. Isn't this so?
And so you talk, you in England, of Prince Albert's 'folly,' do you
really? Well, among the odd things we lean to in Italy is to an actual
belief in the greatness and importance of the future exhibition.
We have actually imagined it to be a noble idea, and you take me by
surprise in speaking of the general distaste to it in England. Is
it really possible? For the agriculturists, I am less surprised at
coldness on their part; but do you fancy that the manufacturers and
free-traders are cold too? Is Mr. Chorley against it equally? Yes, I
am glad to hear of Mrs. Butler's success--or Fanny Kemble's, ought I
to say? Our little Wiedeman, who can't speak a word yet, waxes hotter
in his ecclesiastical and musical passion. Think of that baby (just
cutting his eyeteeth) screaming in the streets till he is taken into
the churches, kneeling on his knees to the first sound of music, and
folding his hands and turning up his eyes in a sort of ecstatical
state. One scarcely knows how to deal with the sort of thing: it is
too soon for religious controversy. He crosses himself, I assure you.
Robert says it is as well to have the eyeteeth and the Puseyistical
crisis over together. The child is a very curious imaginative child,
but too excitable for his age, that's all I complain of ... God bless
you, my much loved friend. Write to

Your ever affectionate
E.B.B.


What books by Soulié have appeared since his death? Do you remember?
I have just got 'Les Enfants de l'Amour,' by Sue. I suppose he will
prove in it the illegitimacy of legitimacy, and _vice versâ_. Sue is
in decided decadence, for the rest, since he has taken to illustrating
Socialism!


_To Miss I. Blagden_
[Florence:] Sunday morning [about 1850].

My dear Miss Blagden,--In spite of all your _drawing_ kindness, we
find it impossible to go to you on Monday. We are expecting friends
from Rome who will remain only a few days, perhaps, in Florence. Now
it seems to me that you very often pass our door. Do you not too often
leave the trace of your goodness with me? And would it not be better
of you still, if you would at once make use of us and give us pleasure
by pausing here, you and Miss Agassiz, to rest and refresh yourselves
with tea, coffee, or whatever else you may choose? We shall be
delighted to see you always, and don't fancy that I say so out of form
or 'tinkling cymbalism.'

Thank you for your intention about the 'Leader.' Robert and I shall
like much to see anything of John Mill's on the subject of Socialism
or any other. By the 'British Review,' do you mean the _North
British_? I read a clever article in that review some months ago on
the German Socialists, ably embracing in its analysis the fraternity
in France, and attributed, I have since heard, to Dr. Hanna, the
son-in-law and biographer of Chalmers. Christian Socialists are by no
means a new sect, the Moravians representing the theory with as
little offence and absurdity as may be. What is it, after all, but an
out-of-door extension of the monastic system? The religious principle,
more or less apprehended, may bind men together so, absorbing their
individualities, and presenting an aim _beyond the world_; but upon
merely human and earthly principles no such system can stand, I feel
persuaded, and I thank God for it. If Fourierism could be realised
(which it surely cannot) out of a dream, the destinies of our race
would shrivel up under the unnatural heat, and human nature would,
in my mind, be desecrated and dishonored--because I do not believe
in purification without suffering, in progress without struggle, in
virtue without temptation. Least of all do I consider happiness the
end of man's life. We look to higher things, have nobler ambitions.

Also, in every advancement of the world hitherto, the individual has
led the masses. Thus, to elicit individuality has been the object of
the best political institutions and governments. Now, in these new
theories, the individual is ground down into the multitude, and
society must be 'moving all together if it moves at all'--restricting
the very possibility of progress by the use of the lights of genius.
Genius is _always individual_.

Here's a scribble upon grave matters! I ought to be acknowledging
instead your scrupulous honesty, as illustrated by five-franc pieces
and Tuscan florins. Make us as useful as you can do, for the future;
and please us by coming often. I am afraid your German Baroness could
not make an arrangement with you, as you do not mention her. Give
our best regards to Miss Agassiz, and accept them yourself, dear Miss
Blagden, from

Your affectionate
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.


_To Mr. Westwood_
Florence: Thursday, December 12, 1850.

My dear Mr. Westwood,--Your book has not reached us yet, and so if I
waited for that, to write, I might wait longer still. But I don't wait
for that, because you bade me not to do so, and besides we have only
this moment finished reading 'In Memoriam,' and it was a sort of
miracle with us that we got it so soon....

_December_ 13.--The above sentences were written yesterday, and hardly
had they been written when your third letter came with its enclosure.
How very kind you are to me, and how am I to thank you enough! If you
had not sent me the 'Athenaeum' article I never should have seen it
probably, for my husband only saw it in the reading room, where women
don't penetrate (because in Italy we can't read, you see), and where
the periodicals are kept so strictly, like Hesperian apples, by the
dragons of the place, that none can be stolen away even for half an
hour. So he could only wish me to catch sight of that article--and you
are good enough to send it and oblige us both exceedingly. For which
kindness thank you, thank you! The favor shown to me in it is extreme,
and I am as grateful as I ought to be. Shall I ask the 'Note and
Query' magazine why the 'Athenaeum' does show me so much favor, while,
as in a late instance, so little justice is shown to my husband? It's
a problem, like another. As for poetry, I hope to do better things
in it yet, though I _have_ a child to 'stand in my sunshine,' as you
suppose he must; but he only makes the sunbeams brighter with his
glistening curls, little darling--and who can complain of that? You
can't think what a good, sweet, curious, imagining child he is. Half
the day I do nothing but admire him--there's the truth. He doesn't
talk yet much, but he gesticulates with extraordinary force of
symbol, and makes surprising revelations to us every half-hour or so.
Meanwhile Flush loses nothing, I assure you. On the contrary, he is
hugged and kissed (rather too hard sometimes), and never is permitted
to be found fault with by anybody under the new _régime_. If Flush is
scolded, Baby cries as matter of course, and he would do admirably for
a 'whipping-boy' if that excellent institution were to be revived by
Young England and the Tractarians for the benefit of our deteriorated
generations. I was ill towards the end of last summer, and we had to
go to Siena for the sake of getting strength again, and there we lived
in a villa among a sea of little hills, and wrapt up in vineyards
and olive yards, enjoying everything. Much the worst of Italy is, the
drawback about books. Somebody said the other day that we 'sate here
like posterity'--reading books with the gloss off them. But our case
in reality is far more dreary, seeing that Prince Posterity will have
glossy books of his own. How exquisite 'In Memoriam' is, how earnest
and true; after all, the gloss never can wear off books like that.

And as to your book, it will come, it will come, and meantime I may
assure you that posterity is very impatient for it. The Italian poem
will be read with the interest which is natural. You know it's a
more than doubtful point whether Shakespeare ever saw Italy out of
a vision, yet he and a crowd of inferior writers have written about
Venice and vineyards as if born to the manner of them. We hear of
Carlyle travelling in France and Germany--but I must leave room for
the words you ask for from a certain hand below.

Ever dear Mr. Westwood's obliged and faithful

E.B.B.

And the 'certain hand' will write its best (and far better than any
poor 'Pippa Passes') in recording a feeling which does not pass at
all, that of gratitude for all such generous sympathy as dear Mr.
Westwood's for E.B.B. and (in his proper degree) R. BROWNING.


_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: December 13, 1850.

_Did_ I write a scolding letter, dearest Miss Mitford? So much the
better, when people deserve to be scolded. The worst is, however,
that it sometimes does them no sort of good, and that they will sit
on among the ruins of Carthage, let ever so many messages come from
Italy. My only hope now is, that you will have a mild winter in
England, as we seem likely to have it here; and that in the spring,
by the help of some divine interposition of friends supernaturally
endowed (after the manner of Mr. Chorley), you may be made to go away
into a house with fast walls and chimneys. Certainly, if you could be
made to _write_, anything else is possible. That's my comfort. And
the other's my hope, as I said; and so between hope and consolation
I needn't scold any more. Let me tell you what I have heard of Mrs.
Gaskell, for fear I should forget it later. She is connected by
marriage with Mrs. A.T. Thompson, and from a friend of Mrs. Thompson's
it came to me, and really seems to exonerate Chapman & Hall from the
charge advanced against them. 'Mary Barton' was shown in manuscript
to Mrs. Thompson, and failed to please her; and, in deference to her
judgment, certain alterations were made. Subsequently it was offered
to all or nearly all the publishers in London and rejected. Chapman
& Hall accepted and gave a hundred pounds, as you heard, for the
copyright of the work; and though the success did not, perhaps (that
is quite possible), induce any liberality with regard to copies, they
gave _another hundred pounds_ upon printing the second edition, and
it was not in the bond to do so. I am told that the liberality of
the proceeding was appreciated by the author and her friends
accordingly--and there's the end of my story. Two hundred pounds is a
good price--isn't it?--for a novel, as times go. Miss Lynn had only
a hundred and fifty for her Egyptian novel, or perhaps for the Greek
one. Taking the long run of poetry (if it runs at all), I am half
given to think that it pays better than the novel does, in spite of
everything. Not that we speak out of golden experience; alas, no! We
have had not a sou from our books for a year past, the booksellers
being bound of course to cover their own expenses first. Then this
Christmas account has not yet reached us. But the former editions paid
us regularly so much a year, and so will the present ones, I hope.
Only I was not thinking of _them_, in preferring what may strike you
as an extravagant paradox, but of Tennyson's returns from Moxon last
year, which I understand amounted to five hundred pounds. To be
sure, 'In Memoriam' was a new success, which should not prevent our
considering the fact of a regular income proceeding from the previous
books. A novel flashes up for a season and does not often outlast it.
For 'Mary Barton' I am a little, little disappointed, do you know. I
have just done reading it. There is power and truth--she can shake and
she can pierce--but I wish half the book away, it is so tedious
every now and then; and besides I want more beauty, more air from the
universal world--these classbooks must always be defective as works
of art. How could I help being disappointed a little when Mrs. Jameson
told me that 'since the "Bride of Lammermoor," nothing had appeared
equal to "Mary Barton"?' Then the style of the book is slovenly,
and given to a kind of phraseology which would be vulgar even as
colloquial English. Oh, it is a powerful book in many ways. You are
not to set me down as hypercritical. Probably the author will, write
herself clear of many of her faults: she has strength enough. As to
'In Memoriam,' I have seen it, I have read it--dear Mr. Kenyon had the
goodness to send it to me by an American traveller--and now I really
do disagree with you, for the book has gone to my heart and soul;
I think it full of deep pathos and beauty. All I wish away is
the marriage hymn at the end, and _that_ for every reason I wish
away--it's a discord in the music. The monotony is a part of the
position--(the sea is monotonous, and so is lasting grief.) Your
complaint is against fate and humanity rather than against the poet
Tennyson. Who that has suffered has not felt wave after wave
break dully against one rock, till brain and heart, with all their
radiances, seemed lost in a single shadow? So the effect of the book
is artistic, I think, and indeed I do not wonder at the opinion which
has reached us from various quarters that Tennyson stands higher
through having written it. You see, what he appeared to want,
according to the view of many, was an earnest personality and direct
purpose. In this last book, though of course there is not room in it
for that exercise of creative faculty which elsewhere established
his fame, he appeals heart to heart, directly as from his own to the
universal heart, and we all feel him nearer to us--_I_ do--and so
do others. Have you read a poem called 'the Roman' which was praised
highly in the 'Athenaeum,' but did not seem to Robert to justify the
praise in the passages extracted? written by somebody with certainly
a _nom de guerre_--Sidney Yendys. Observe, _Yendys_ is _Sidney_
reversed. Have you heard anything about it, or seen? The 'Athenaeum'
has been gracious to me beyond gratitude almost; nothing could by
possibility be kinder. A friend of mine sent me the article from
Brussels--a Mr. Westwood, who writes poems himself; yes, and poetical
poems too, written with an odorous, fresh sense of poetry about them.
He has not original power, more's the pity: but he has stayed near the
rose in the 'sweet breath and buddings of the spring,' and although
that won't make anyone live beyond spring-weather, it is the
expression of a sensitive and aspirant nature; and the man is
interesting and amiable--an old correspondent of mine, and kind to me
always. From the little I know of Mr. Bennett, I should say that Mr.
Westwood stood much higher in the matter of gifts, though I fear
that neither of them will make way in that particular department of
literature selected by them for action. Oh, my dearest friend, you may
talk about coteries, but the English society at Florence (from what I
hear of the hum of it at a distance) is worse than any coterie-society
in the world. A coterie, if I understand the thing, is informed by a
unity of sentiment, or faith, or prejudice; but this society here is
not informed at all. People come together to gamble or dance, and if
there's an end, why so much the better; but there's _not_ an end
in most cases, by any manner of means, and against every sort
of innocence. Mind, I imply nothing about Mr. Lever, who lives
irreproachably with his wife and family, rides out with his children
in a troop of horses to the Cascine, and yet is as social a person
as his joyous temperament leads him to be. But we live in a cave, and
peradventure he is afraid of the damp of us--who knows? We know very
few residents in Florence, and these, with chance visitors, chiefly
Americans, are all that keep us from solitude; every now and then in
the evening somebody drops in to tea. Would, indeed, you were near!
but should I be satisfied with you 'once a week,' do you fancy. Ah,
you would soon love Robert. You couldn't help it, I am sure. I should
be soon turned down to an underplace, and, under the circumstances,
would not struggle. Do you remember once telling me that 'all men are
tyrants'?--as sweeping an opinion as the Apostle's, that 'all men
are liars.' Well, if you knew Robert you would make an exception
certainly. Talking of the artistical English here, somebody told me
the other day of a young Cambridge or Oxford man who deducted from
his researches in Rome and Florence that 'Michael Angelo was a wag.'
Another, after walking through the Florentine galleries, exclaimed to
a friend of mine, 'I have seen nothing here equal to those magnificent
pictures in Paris by Paul de Kock.' My friend humbly suggested that he
might mean Paul de la Roche. But see what English you send us for
the most part. We have had one very interesting visitor lately, the
grandson of Goethe. He did us the honour, he said, of spending two
days in Florence on our account, he especially wishing to see Robert
on account of some sympathy of view about 'Paracelsus.' There can
scarcely be a more interesting young man--quite young he seems, and
full of aspiration of the purest kind towards the good and true and
beautiful, and not towards the poor laurel crowns attainable from
any possible public. I don't know when I have been so charmed by a
visitor, and indeed Robert and I paid him the highest compliment we
could, by wishing, one to another, that our little Wiedeman might be
like him some day. I quite agree with you about the church of your
Henry. It surprises me that a child of seven years should find
pleasure even once a day in the long English service--too long,
according to my doxy, for matured years. As to fanaticism, it depends
on a defect of intellect rather than on an excess of the adoring
faculty. The latter cannot, I think, be too fully developed. How I
shall like you to see our Wiedeman! He is a radiant little creature,
really, yet he won't talk; he does nothing but gesticulate, only
making his will and pleasure wonderfully clear and supreme, I assure
you. He's a tyrant, ready made for your theory. If your book is
'better than I expect,' what will it be? God bless you! Be well, and
love me, and write to me, for I am your ever affectionate

BA.


_To Mrs. Martin_
Florence: January 30, 1851.

Here I am at last, dearest friend. But you forget how you told me,
when you wrote your 'long letter,' that you were going away into chaos
somewhere, and that your address couldn't be known yet. It was this
which made me delay the answer to that welcome letter--and to begin
to 'put off' is fatal, as perhaps you know. Now forgive me, and I will
behave better in future, indeed....

I am quite well, and looking well, they say; but the frightful
illness of the autumn left me paler and thinner long after the perfect
recovery. The physician told Robert afterwards that few women would
have recovered at all; and when I left Siena I was as able to
walk, and as well in every respect as ever, notwithstanding
everything--think, for instance, of my walking to St. Miniato, here
in Florence! You remember, perhaps, what that pull is. I dare say you
heard from Henrietta how we enjoyed our rustication at Siena. It is
pleasant even to look back on it. We were obliged to look narrowly
at the economies, more narrowly than usual; but the cheapness of the
place suited the occasion, and the little villa, like a mere tent
among the vines, charmed us, though the doors didn't shut, and though
(on account of the smallness) Robert and I had to whisper all our talk
whenever Wiedeman was asleep. Oh, I wish you were in Italy. I wish
you had come here this winter which has been so mild, and which, with
ordinary prudence, would certainly have suited dear Mr. Martin.... I
tried to dissuade the Peytons from making the experiment, through the
fear of its not answering.... We can't get them into society, you
see, because we are out of it, having struggled to keep out of it
with hands and feet, and partially having succeeded, knowing scarcely
anybody except bringers of letters of introduction, and those chiefly
Americans and not residents in Florence. The other day, however, Mrs.
Trollope and her daughter-in-law called on us, and it is settled that
we are to know them; though Robert had made a sort of vow never to
sit in the same room with the author of certain books directed against
liberal institutions and Victor Hugo's poetry. I had a longer battle
to fight, on the matter of this vow, than any since my marriage, and
had some scruples at last of taking advantage of the pure goodness
which induced him to yield to my wishes; but I _did_, because I hate
to seem ungracious and unkind to people; and human beings, besides,
are better than their books, than their principles, and even than
their everyday actions, sometimes. I am always crying out: 'Blessed be
the inconsistency of men.' Then I thought it probable that, the first
shock of the cold water being over, he would like the proposed new
acquaintances very much--and so it turns out. She was very agreeable,
and kind, and good-natured, and talked much about _you_, which was
a charm of itself; and we mean to be quite friends, and to lend
each other books, and to forget one another's offences, in print or
otherwise. Also, she admits us on her private days; for she has public
days (dreadful to relate!), and is in the full flood and flow of
Florentine society. Do write to me, will you? or else I shall set
you down as vexed with me. The state of politics here is dismal.
Newspapers put down; Protestant places of worship shut up. It is so
bad that it must soon be better. What are you both thinking of the
'Papal aggression'?[206] 'Are you frightened? Are you frenzied? For my
part I can't get up much steam about it. The 'Great Insult' was simply
a great mistake, the consequence (natural enough) of the Tractarian
idiocies as enacted in Italy.

God bless both of you, dearest and always remembered friends! Robert's
best regards, he says.

Your affectionate
BA.

Tell me your thoughts about France. I am so anxious about the crisis
there.[207] We have had a very interesting visit lately from the
grandson of Goethe.

[Footnote 206: The Papal Bull appointing Roman Catholic bishops
throughout England was issued on September 24, 1850, and England was
now in the throes of the anti-papal excitement produced by it.]

[Footnote 207: "Where Louis Napoleon was engaged in his series of
encroachments on the power of the Assembly and intrigues for the
imperial throne."]


_To Miss Browning_
Florence: April 23, 1851 [postmark].

My dearest Sarianna,--I do hope that Robert takes his share of the
blame in using and abusing you as we have done. It was altogether too
bad--shameful--to send that last MS. for you to copy out; and I did,
indeed, make a little outcry about it, only he insisted on having it
so. Was it very wrong, I wonder? Your kindness and affectionateness I
never doubt of; but if you are not quite strong just now, you might be
teased, in spite of your heart, by all that copying work--not pleasant
at any time. Well, believe that I thank you, at least gratefully, for
what you have done. So quickly too! The advertisement at the end
of the week proves how you must have worked for me. Thank you, dear
Sarianna.

Robert will have told you our schemes, and how we are going to work,
and are to love you _near_ for the future, I hope. You, who are wise,
will approve of us, I think, for keeping on our Florentine apartment,
so as to run no more risk than is necessary in making the Paris
experiment. We shall let the old dear rooms, and make money by them,
and keep them to fall back upon, in case we fail at Paris. 'But
we'll not fail.' Well, I hope not, though I am very brittle still and
susceptible to climate. Dearest Sarianna, it will do you infinite
good to come over to us every now and then--you want change, absolute
change of scene and air and climate, I am confident; and you never
will be right till you have had it. We talk, Robert and I, of carrying
you back with us to Rome next year as an English trophy. Meanwhile you
will see Wiedeman, you and dear Mr. Browning. Don't expect to see a
baby of Anak, that's all. Robert is always measuring him on the door,
and reporting such wonderful growth (some inch a week, I think), that
if you receive his reports you will cry out on beholding the child. At
least, you'll say: 'How little he must have been to be no larger now.'
You'll fancy he must have begun from a mustard-seed! The fact is, he
is small, only full of life and joy to the brim. I am not afraid of
your not loving him, nor of his not loving you. He has a loving little
heart, I assure you. If anyone pricks a finger with a needle he begins
to cry--he can't bear to see the least living thing hurt. And when
he loves, it is well. Robert says I must finish, so here ends dearest
Sarianna's

Ever affectionate sister
BA.



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