The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning
by Frederic G. Kenyon
Title | Preface | Contents | Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Footnotes |
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. 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.
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 1, 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
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. 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. 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
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.
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,
To Mrs. Martin
Florence: May 14, .
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 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,
Don't you both like Macaulay's History? We are delighted just now with it.
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
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
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
To Mrs. Jameson
Bagni di Lucca: October 1, .
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
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,
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 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 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, 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' 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,
My husband's regards always. You had better, I think, direct to Florence, as we shall be there in the course of October.
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
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, 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
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....
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
Mention yourself, do.
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 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. 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' are on Sophia Cottrell's child.
May God bless you, dearest friend. Speak of yourself more particularly to your ever affectionate
Robert's kindest regards. Tell us of Mr. Chorley's play, do.
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
To Mrs. Jameson
April 2, .
You have perhaps thought us ungrateful people, my ever dear friend, for this long delay in thanking you for your beautiful and welcome present. 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 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
This letter has waited some days to be sent away, as you will see by the date.
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. 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
I am rejoicing in the People's Edition of your work. 'Viva!' (Robert's best regards.)
To Mrs. Jameson
Florence: May 4, ,
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
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. 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
Robert's kindest regards.
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,' 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
How glad I shall be if it is true that Tennyson is married! I believe in the happiness of marriage, for men especially.
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 .
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, 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. 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.
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
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
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
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
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'? '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.
Tell me your thoughts about France. I am so anxious about the crisis there. We have had a very interesting visit lately from the grandson of Goethe.
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
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