The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Volume II
296 Pages
English
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The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Volume II

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296 Pages
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Volume II, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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Title: The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Volume II
Author: Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Editor: Frederic G. Kenyon
Release Date: September 4, 2005 [EBook #16646]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE LETTERS OF ELIZABETH ***
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Lisa Reigel and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net
[Transcriber's Note: The letter "o" with a macron is indicated as [=o] in this text.]
THE LETTERS
OF
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING
EDITED WITH BIOGRAPHICAL ADDITIONS
BY
FREDERIC G. KENYON
WITH PORTRAITS
IN TWO VOLUMES
VOLUME II.
THIRD EDITION
LONDON
SMITH, ELDER, & CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE
1898
CONTENTS
OF
THE SECOND VOLUME
CHAPTER VII
1851-1852
'Casa Guidi Windows'—Venice—Milan—Paris—London—Winter in Paris —The Coup d'Etat—Louis Napoleon—Miss Mitford's 'Recollections'—George Sand—Miss Mulock—Summer in England
CHAPTER VIII
1852-1855
Return to Florence—Spiritualism—Robert Lytton—Bagni di Lucca—Florence —Rome—Florence—The Crimean War—Death of Miss Mitford
CHAPTER IX
1855-1859
1
91
Visit to England—Tennyson's 'Maud'—Winter in Paris—Mr. Ruskin—Last Visit to England—'Aurora Leigh'—Death of Mr. Kenyon—Return to Florence —Carnival—Death of Mr. Barrett—Bagni di Lucca—Illness of Lytton—Paris —Havre—Paris—Florence—Rome205
CHAPTER X
1859-1860
The Franco-Austrian War—Napoleon and Italy—Villafranca—Florence—Siena —Italian Politics and England—Landor—Florence—Rome305
CHAPTER XI
1860-1861
'Poems before Congress'—Napoleon and Savoy—France, Italy, and England
—Florence—Death of Mrs. Surtees Cook—Garibaldi—Rome—The 'Cornhill Magazine' and Thackeray—Increasing Weakness—Death of Mrs. Browning363
INDEX455
PO RTRAITOFRO BERTBRO WNING, RO ME1854Frontispiece
FACSIMILEOFLETTERTOTHEEMPERO RNAPO LEO Nto face p. 262
THE LETTERS
OF
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING
CHAPTER VII
1851-1852
Since they first settled in Florence the Brownings had made no long or distant expeditions from their new home. Their summer excursions to Vallombrosa, Lucca, or Siena had been of the nature of short hol idays, and had not taken them beyond the limits of Tuscany. Now they had planned a far wider series of travels, which, beginning with Rome, Naples, Venice, and Milan, should then be extended across the Alps, and comprehend Brussels, Paris, and ultimately London. This ambitious programme had to be curtailed by the omission of the southern tour to Rome and Naples, as well as the di gression to Brussels, but the rest of the scheme was carried out, and about the beginning of June they left Casa Guidi for an absence which extended over seventeen months.
The holiday had been well earned, especially by Mrs. Browning, who, since the preparation of the new edition of her poems in the previous year, had been writing the second part of 'Casa Guidi Windows.' It is probably to this poem that she refers in the letter to Miss Browning printed at the end of the last chapter, Miss Browning having on more than one occasion helped both her brother and her sister-in-law in the task of passing their poems through the press. The book appeared in June, just as they were starting on their travels, and probably for this reason we hear less in the letters of its rece ption. It was hardly to be expected that the English public would take a very keen interest in a poem dealing almost entirely with Italian politics, and half of it with the politics of three years ago. Either in 1849 or in 1859 the interest w ould have been livelier; but Italy was passing now through the valley of the sha dow, and, save for the horrors of the Neapolitan prisons, was not much before the public for the moment. The intrigues of Louis Napoleon and the ostentatious aggression of the Pope in England were the matters of most interest in foreign politics, and
both were overshadowed by the absorbing topic of the Great Exhibition.
Another reason why 'Casa Guidi Windows' has received less appreciation than it deserves, both at the time of its publication and since, is that it stands rather apart from all the recognised species of poetry, and is hard to classify and criticise. Its political and contemporary character cut it off from the imaginative and historical subjects which form in general the matter of poetry, while its genuinely poetic emotion and language separate it from the political pamphlet or the occasional verse. It is a poetic treatment of a political subject raised to a high level by the genuine enthusiasm and fire with which it is inspired, and these give it a value which lasts far beyond the moment of the events which gave it birth. The execution, too, shows an advance on most of Mrs. Browning's previous work. The dangerous experiments in rhyming which characterised many of the poems in the volumes of 1844 are abando ned; the licences of language are less frequent; the verse runs smoothly and is more uniformly under command. It would appear as if the heat of inspiration which produced th e 'Sonnets from the Portuguese' had left a permanent and purifying effect upon her style. The poem has been neglected by those who take little interest in Italy and its history, and adversely criticised by those who do not sympathise with its political and religious opinions; but with those who look only to its poetry and to its warm-hearted championship of a great cause, it will always hold a high place of its own among Mrs. Browning's writings.
To Miss I. Blagden
Florence: May 1, [1851].
I am writing to you, dearest Miss Blagden, at last, you see; though you must have excommunicated me before now as the most ungrateful of correspondents and friends. Do forgive what you can—and your kindn ess is so great that I believe you can, and shall go on to write as if you did. We have been in the extremity of confusion and indecision. Remember how the fairy princes used to do when they arrived at the meeting of three roads, and had to consider what choice to make. How they used to shake their heads and ponder, and end sometimes by drawing lots! Much in the like perplex ity have we been. Everything was ready for Rome—the day fixed, the packing begun, the vettura bargained for. Suddenly, visions of obstacles rose up. We were late in the season. We should be late for the festas. May would be hot in Rome for Wiedeman. Then two journeys, north and south, to Rome and Naples, besides Paris and England, pulled fearfully at the purse-strings. Plainly we couldn't afford it. So everything was stopped and changed. We gave up Rome and you, and are now actually on the point of setting out for Venice; Venice is to console us for Rome. We go to-morrow, indeed. The plan is to stay a fortnight at Venice (or more or less, as the charm works), and then to strike across to Milan; across the Splügen into Switzerland, and to linger there among the hills and lakes for a part of the summer, so working out an intention of economy; then down the Rhine; then by railroad to Brussels; so to Paris, settling there; after which we pay our visit to England for a few weeks. Early next spring we mean to go to Rome and return here, eitherfor goodis very possible) or for the (which purpose of arranging our house affairs and packing up books and furniture. As
it is, we have our apartment for another year, and shall let it if we can. It has been painted, cleaned, and improved in all ways, till my head and Robert's ring again with the confusion of it all. Oh that we were gone, since we are to go! When out of sight of Florence, we shall begin to enjoy, I hope, the sight of other things, but as it is the impression is only painful and dizzying. Our friends Mr. and Mrs. Ogilvy go with us as far as Venice, and th en leave us on a direct course for England, having committed their children and nurses to the care of her sister at the Baths of Lucca meantime. We take with us only Wilson.
Do write to me at Venice, Poste Restante, that I may know you are thinking of me and excusing me kindly. If you knew how uncertain and tormented we have been. I won't even ask Robert to add a line to this, he is so overwhelmed with a flood of businesses; but he bids me speak to you of him as affectionately and faithfully (because affectionately) as I have reason to do. So kind it was in you to think of taking the trouble of finding us an apartment! So really sensible we are to all your warm-hearted goodness, with fullness of heart on our side too. And, after all, we are not parting! Either we shall find you in Italy again, or you will find us in Paris. I have a presentimental assurance of finding one another again before long. Remember us and love us meantime.
As to your spiritual visitor—why, it would be hard to make out a system of [1] Romish doctrine from the most Romish version of the S.S. The differences between the Protestant version and the Papistical are not certainly justifiable by the Greek original, on the side of the latter. In fact, the Papistical version does not pretend to follow the Greek text, but a Latin translation of the same—it's a translation from a translation. Granting it, however, to be faithful, I must repeat that to make out the Romish system from evensucha Romish version could not be achieved. So little does Scripture (however represented) seem to me to justify that system of ecclesiastical doctrine and discipline. I answer your question because you bid me, but I am not a bit frightened at the idea of your becoming a R.C., however you may try to frighten me . You have too much intelligence and uprightness of intellect. We do hope you have enjoyed Rome, and that dearest Miss Agassiz (give our kind love to her) is better and looks better than we all thought her a little while ago. I have a book coming out in England called 'Casa Guidi Windows,' which will pre vent everybody else (except you) from speaking to me again. Do love me always, as I shall you. Forgive me, anddon'tme. I shall try, after a space of calm, to  forget behave better to you, and more after myheart—for I am ever (as Robert is)
Your faithfully affectionate friend,
To Miss Mitford
ELIZABETHB. BRO WNING.
Venice: June 4, [1851].
My ever dearest Miss Mitford,—I must write to you from Venice, though it can only be a few lines. So much I have to say andfeel in writing to you, and thinking that you were not well when you wrote last to me, I long to hear from you—andyet I can't tellyou to-daywill find me. We area letter  where
wanderers on the face of the world just now, and wi th every desire of going straight from Venice to Milan to-morrow (Friday) week, we shall more probably, at the Baths of Recoaro, be lingering and lingering. Therefore will you write to the care of Miss Browning, New Cross, Hatcham, near London? for so I shall not lose your letter. I have been between heaven and earth since our arrival at Venice. The heaven of it is ineffable. Never had I touched the skirts of so celestial a place. The beauty of the architecture, the silver trails of water up between all that gorgeous colour and carving, the e nchanting silence, the moonlight, the music, the gondolas—I mix it all up together, and maintain that nothing is like it, nothing equal to it, not a second Venice in the world. Do you know, when I came first I felt as if I never could go away. But now comes the earth side. Robert, after sharing the ecstasy, grow s uncomfortable, and nervous, and unable to eat or sleep; and poor Wilson, still worse, in a miserable condition of continual sickness and headache. Alas for these mortal Venices —so exquisite and so bilious! Therefore I am constrained away from my joys by sympathy, and am forced to be glad that we are going off on Friday. For myself, it does not affect me at all. I like these moist, soft, relaxing climates; even the scirocco doesn't touch me much. And the baby grows gloriously fatter in spite of everything.
No, indeed and indeed, we are not going to England for the sake of the Exposition. How could you fancy such a thing, even once. In any case we shall not reach London till late, and if by any arrangeme nt I could see my sister Arabel in France or on the coast of England, we wou ld persuade Robert's family to meet us there, and not see London at all. Ah, if you knew how abhorrent the thought of England is tome! Well, we must not talk of it. My eyes shut suddenly when my thoughts go that way.
Tell me exactly how you are. I heartily rejoice that you have decided at last about the other house, so as to avoid the danger of another autumn and winter in the damp. Do you write still for Mr. Chorley's periodical, and how does it go on? Here in Italy the fame of it does not penetrate. As for Venice, you can't get even a 'Times,' much less an 'Athenæum.' We comfort ourselves by taking a box at the opera (the whole box on the ground tier, mind) for two shillings and eightpence English. Also, every evening at half-past eight, Robert and I are sitting under the moon in the great piazza of St. Mark, taking excellent coffee and reading the French papers. Can you fancy me so?
You will receive a copy of my new poem, 'Casa Guidi Windows,' soon after this note. I have asked Sarianna Browning to see that you receive it safely. I don't give away copies (having none to give away, according to booksellers' terms), but I can't let you receive my little book from another hand than the writer's. Tell me how you like the poem—honestly, truly—which numbers of people will be sure to dislike profoundly and angrily, perhaps. We think of going to Recoaro because Mr. Chorley praised it to us years ago. Tell him so if you write.
Here are a heap of words tossed down upon paper. I can't put the stops even. Do writeabout yourself, not waiting for the book.
Your ever attached
E.B.B.
At Paris how near we shall be! How sure to meet. Ha ve you been to the Exposition yourself? Tell me. And what is the general feelingnow?
To John Kenyon
Paris: July 7, [1851].
My dearest Mr. Kenyon,—I have waited day after day during this week that we have been here, to be able to tell you that we have decided this or that—but the indecision lasts, and I can't let you hear from others of our being in Paris when you have a right more than anybody almost to hear all about us. I wanted to write to you, indeed, from Venice, where we stayed a month, and much the same reason made me leave it undone, as we were making and unmaking plans the whole time, and we didn't know till the l ast few hours, for instance, whether or not we should go to Milan. Venice is qui te exquisite; it wrapt me round with a spell at first sight, and I longed to live and die there—never to go away. The gondolas, and the glory they swim through, and the silence of the population, drifted over one's head across the brid ges, and the fantastic architecture and the coffee-drinking and music in the Piazza San Marco, everything fitted into my lazy, idle nature and weakness of body, as if I had been born to the manner of it and to no other. Do y ou know I expected in Venice a dreary sort of desolation? Whereas there w as nothing melancholy at all, only a soothing, lulling, rocking atmosphere w hich if Armida had lived in a city rather than in a garden would have suited her purpose. Indeed Taglioni seems to be resting her feet from dancing, there, with a peculiar zest, inasmuch as she has bought three or four of the most beautiful palaces. How could she do better? And one or two ex-kings and queens (of the more vulgar royalties) have wrapt themselves round with those shining waters to forget the purple—or dream of it, as the case may be. Robert and I led a true Venetian life, I assure you; we 'swam in gondolas' to the Lido and everywhere else, we went to a festa at Chioggia in the steamer (frightening Wilson by being kept out by the wind till two o'clock in the morning), we went to the opera and the play (at a shilling each, or not as much!), and we took coffee every evening on St. Mark's Piazza, to music and the stars. Altogether it would have be en perfect, only what's perfect in the world? While I grew fat, Wilson grew thin, and Robert could not sleep at nights. The air was too relaxing or soft or something for them both, and poor Wilson declares that another month of Venice w ould have killed her outright. Certainly she looked dreadfully ill and could eat nothing. So I was forced to be glad to go away, out of pure humanity and sympathy, though I keep saying softly to myself ever since, 'What is there on earth like Venice?'
Then, we slept at Padua on St. Anthony's night (more's the pity for us: they made us pay sixteen zwanzigers for it!), and Robert and I, leaving Wiedeman at the inn, took a calèche and drove over to Arqua, which I had set my heart on seeing for Petrarch's sake. Did you ever see it,you? And didn't it move you, the sight of that little room where the great soul exhaled itself? Even Robert's man's eyes had tears in them as we stood there, and looked through the window at the green-peaked hills. And, do you know, I believe in 'the cat.'
Through Brescia we passed by moonlight (such a flood of white moonlight) and
got into Milan in the morning. There we stayed two days, and I climbed to the topmost pinnacle of the cathedral; wonder at me! Indeed I was rather overtired, it must be confessed—three hundred and fifty steps—but the sight was worth everything, enough to light up one's memory for eve r. How glorious that cathedral is! worthy almost of standing face to face with the snow Alps; and itself a sort of snow dream by an artist architect, taken asleep in a glacier! Then the Da Vinci Christ did not disappoint us, which is saying much. It is divine. And the Lombard school generally was delightful after Bologna and those soulless Caracci! I have even given up Guido, and Guercino too, since knowing more of them. Correggio, on the other hand, is sublime at P arma; he is wonderful! besides having the sense to make his little Christs and angels after the very likeness of my baby.
From Milan we moved to Como, steamed down to Menagg io (opposite to Bellaggio), took a calèche to Porlezza, and a boat to Lugano, another calèche to Bellinzona, left Wiedeman there, and, returning on our steps, steamed down and up again the Lago Maggiore, went from Bellinzona to Faido and slept, and crossed the Mount St. Gothard the next day, catching the Lucerne steamer at Fluellen. The scenery everywhere was most exquisite, but of the greatpass I shall say nothing—it was like standing in the prese nce of God when He is terrible. The tears overflowed my eyes. I think I neversawthe sublime before. Do you know I sate out in the coupé a part of the w ay with Robert so as to apprehend the whole sight better, with a thick shawl over my head, only letting out the eyes to see. They told us there was more snow than is customary at this time of year, and it well might be so, for the passage through it, cut for the carriage, left the snow-walls nodding over us at a great height on each side, and the cold was intense.
Do you know we might yield the palm, and that Lucerne is far finer than any of our Italian lakes? Even Robert had to confess it at once. I wanted to stay in Switzerland, but we found it wiser to hasten our steps and come to Paris; so we came. Yes, and we travelled from Strasburg to Paris in four-and-twenty hours, night and day, never stopping except for a quarter of an hour's breakfast and half an hour's dinner. So afraid I was of the fatigue for Wiedeman! But between the unfinished railroad and the diligence, there's a complication of risks of losing places just now, and we were forced to go the whole way in a breath or to hazard being three or four days on the road. So we took the coupé and resigned ourselves, and poor little babe slept at night and laughed in the day, and came into Paris as fresh in spirit as if just alighted from the morning star, screaming out with delight at the shops! Think of that child! Upon the whole he has enjoyed our journey as much as any one of us, observing and admiring; though Robert and Wilson will have it that some of his admiration of the sceneryaffectation and acted out to copy ours.passed through was pure  we He cried out, clasping his hands, that the mountains were 'due'—meaning a great number. His love of beautiful buildings, of churches especially, no one can doubt about. When first he saw St. Mark's, he threw up his arms in wonder, and then, clasping them round Wilson's neck (she was carrying him), he kissed her in an ecstasy of joy. And that was after a long day's journey, when most other children would have been tired and fretful. But the sense of the beautiful is certainly very strong in him, little darling. He can't say the word 'church' yet, but when he sees one he begins to chant. Oh, he's a true Florentine in some
things.
Well, now we are in Paris and have to forget the 'b elle chiese;' we have beautiful shops instead, false teeth grinning at the corners of the streets, and disreputable prints, and fascinating hats and caps, and brilliant restaurants, and M. le Président in a cocked hat and with a train of cavalry, passing like a rocket along the boulevards to an occasional yell from the Red. Oh yes, and don't mistake me! for I like it all extremely, it's a splendid city—a city in the country, as Venice is a city in the sea. And I'm as much amused as Wiedeman, who stands in the street before the printshops (to Wilson's great discomfort) and roars at the lions. And I admire the bright green trees and gardens everywhere in the heart of the town. Surely it is a most beautiful city! And I like the restaurants more than is reasonable; diningà la carte, and mixing up one's dinner with heaps of newspapers, and the 'solution' by Emile de Girardin, who suggests that the next President should be a tailor. Moreover, we find apa rtments very cheap in comparison to what we feared, and we are in a comfortable quiet hotel, where it is possible, and not ruinous, to wait and look about one.
As to England—oh England—how I dread to think of it. We talk of going over for a short time, but have not decided when; yet it will be soon perhaps—it may. If it were not for my precious Arabel, I would not go; because Robert's family would come to him here, they say. But to give up Arabel is impossible. Henrietta is in Somersetshire; it is uncertain whether I shall see her, even in going, and she too might come to Paris this winter. And you will come—you promised, I think? ...
I feel herenear enoughto England, that's the truth. I recoil from the bitterness of being nearer. Still, it must be thought of.
Dearest cousin, dearest friend, in all this pleasant journey we have borne you in mind, and gratefully! You must feelthat without being told. I won't quite do like my Wiedeman, who every time he fires his gun (if it's twenty times in five minutes) says, 'Papa, papa,' because Robert gave hi m the gun, and the gratitude is as re-iterantly and loudly explosive. But one's thoughts may say what they please and as often as they please.
Arabel tells me that you are kind to the manner of my poem, though to the matter obdurate. Miss Mitford, too, says that it wo n't receive the sympathy proper to a home subject, because the English people don't care anything for the Italians now; despising them for their want of originality inArt! That's very good of the English people, really! I fear much tha t dear Miss Mitford has suffered seriously from the effects of the damp house last winter. What she says of herself makes me anxious about her.
Give my true love to dear Miss Bayley, and say how I repent in ashes for not having written to her. But she is large-hearted and will forgive me, and I shall make amends and send her sheet upon sheet. Barry Cornwall's letter to Robert, of course, delighted as well as honoured me. Does it appear in the new edition of his 'songs' &c.?
Mind, if ever I go to England I shall have no heart to go out of a very dark corner. I shall just see you and that's all. It's only Robert who is a patriot now, of us two. England, what with the past and the present, is a place of bitterness to
me, bitter enough to turn all her seas round to wormwood! Airs and hearts, all are against me in England; yet don't let me be ungrateful. No love is forgotten or less prized, certainly not yours. Only I'm a citizeness of the world now, you see, and float loose.
God bless you, dearest Mr. Kenyon, prays
Your ever affectionate
BA.
Robert's best love as always. He writes by this pos t to Mr. Procter. How beautifully Sarianna has corrected for the press my new poem! Wonderfully well, really. There is only one error of consequence, which I will ask you to correct in any copy you can—of 'rail'in the last line, to 'vail;' the allusion being of course to the Jewish temple—but as it is printed nobody can catch any meaning, I fear. They tell me that the Puseyite organ, the 'Guardian,' has been strong in attack. So best.
After a few weeks in Paris the travellers crossed over to England, which they had not seen for nearly five years. Their visit to London lasted about two months, from the end of July to the end of September, during which time they stayed in lodgings at 26 Devonshire Street.
To Mrs. Martin
26 Devonshire Street: Wednesday, [about August 1851].
My ever dearest Mrs. Martin,—I am not ungrateful after all, but I wanted to write a long letter to you (having much to say), and even now it is hard in this confusion to write a short one. We have been overwhelmed with kindnesses, crushed with gifts, like the Roman lady; and literally to drink through a cup of tea from beginning to end without an interruption from the door-bell, we have scarcely attained to since we came. For my part I refuse all dinner invitations except when our dear friend Mr. Kenyon 'imposes himself as an exception,' in his own words. But even in keeping the resolution there are necessary fatigues; and, do you know, I have not been well since our arrival in England. My first step ashore was into a puddle and a fog, and I bega n to cough before we reached London. The quality of the air doesnotagree with me, that's evident. For nearly five years I have had no such cough nor difficulty of breathing, and my friends, who at first sight thought me looking w ell, must forbear all compliments for the future, I think, I get so much paler every day. Next week we send Wilson to see her mother near Sheffield andthe baby with her, which is a great stroke of fortitude in me; only what I can't bear is to see him crying because she is gone away. So we resolve on letting them both go together. When she returns, ten days or a fortnight after, we shall have to think of going to Paris again; indeed Robert begins to be nervous abo ut me—which is nonsense, but natural enough perhaps.