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The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1 of 2) by Frederic G. Kenyon

Part 7 out of 9

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My dearest Mrs. Martin,--How I have been longing to get this letter,
which comes at last, and justifies the longing by the pleasure it
gives!... How kind, how affectionate you are to me, and how strong
your claim is that I should thrust on you, in defiance of good taste
and conventions, every evidence and assurance of my happiness, so
as to justify your _faith_ to yourselves and others. Indeed, indeed,
dearest Mrs. Martin, you may 'exult' for me--and this though it should
all end here and now. The uncertainties of life and death seem nothing
to me. A year (nearly) is saved from the darkness, and if that
one year has compensated for those that preceded it--which it has,
abundantly--why, let it for those that shall follow, if it so please
God. Come what may, I feel as if I never could have a right to murmur.
I have been happy enough. Brought about too it was, indeed, by a sort
of miracle which to this moment, when I look back, bewilders me to
think of; and if you knew the details, counted the little steps,
and could; compare my moral position three years and a half ago with
_this_, you would come to despise San Gualberto's miraculous tree at
Vallombrosa, which, being dead, gave out green leaves in recognition
of his approach, as testified by the inscription--do you remember? But
you can't stop to-day to read mine, so rather I shall tell you of our
exploit in the mountains. Only one thing I must say first, one thing
which you must forgive me for the vanity of resolving to say at last,
having had it in my head very often. There's a detestable engraving,
which, if you have the ill luck to see (and you _may_, because,
horrible to relate, it is in the shop windows), will you have the
kindness, for my sake, not to fancy _like Robert_?--it being, as he
says himself, the very image of '_a young man at Waterloo House_, in
a moment of inspiration--"A lovely blue, ma'am."' It is as like Robert
as Flush. And now I am going to tell you of Vallombrosa. You heard how
we meant to stay two months there, and you are to imagine how we got
up at three in the morning to escape the heat (imagine me!)--and with
all our possessions and a 'dozen of port' (which my husband doses me
with twice a day because once it was necessary) proceeded to Pelago
by vettura, and from thence in two sledges, drawn each by two
white bullocks up to the top of the holy mountain. (Robert was on
horseback.) Precisely it must be as you left it. Who can make a road
up a house? We were four hours going five miles, and I with all my
goodwill was dreadfully tired, and scarcely in appetite for the beef
and oil with which we were entertained at the House of Strangers. We
are simple people about diet, and had said over and over that we would
live on eggs and milk and bread and butter during these two months. We
might as well have said that we would live on manna from heaven.
The things we had fixed on were just the impossible things. Oh, that
bread, with the fetid smell, which stuck in the throat like Macbeth's
amen! I am not surprised, you recollect it! The hens had 'got them to
a nunnery,' and objected to lay eggs, and the milk and the holy water
stood confounded. But of course we spread the tablecloth, just as you
did, over all drawbacks of the sort; and the beef and oil, as I
said, and the wine too, were liberal and excellent, and we made our
gratitude apparent in Robert's best Tuscan--in spite of which we
were turned out ignominiously at the end of five days, having been
permitted to overstay the usual three days by only two. No, nothing
could move the lord abbot. He is a new abbot, and; given to sanctity,
and has set his face against women. 'While he is abbot,' he said to
our mediating monk, 'he _will_ be abbot. So he is abbot, and we had to
come back to Florence.' As I read in the 'Life of San Gualberto,' laid
on the table for the edification of strangers, the brothers attain to
sanctification, among other means, by cleaning out pigsties with
their bare hands, without spade or shovel; but _that_ is uncleanliness
enough--they wouldn't touch the little finger of a woman. Angry I was,
I do assure you. I should have liked to stay there, in spite of the
bread. We should have been only a little thinner at the end. And
the scenery--oh, how magnificent! How we enjoyed that great, silent,
ink-black pine wood! And do you remember the sea of mountains to the
left? How grand it is! We were up at three in the morning again to
return to Florence, and the glory of that morning sun breaking the
clouds to pieces among the hills is something ineffaceable from my
remembrance. We came back ignominiously to our old rooms, but found it
impossible to stay on account of the suffocating heat, yet we scarcely
could go far from Florence, because of Mr. Kenyon and our hope of
seeing him here (since lost). A perplexity ended by Robert's discovery
of our present apartments, on the Pitti side of the river (indeed,
close to the Grand Duke's palace), consisting of a suite of spacious
and delightful rooms, which come within our means only from the
deadness of the summer season, comparatively quite cool, and with
a terrace which I enjoy to the uttermost through being able to walk
there without a bonnet, by just stepping out of the window. The church
of San Felice is opposite, so we haven't a neighbour to look through
the sunlight or moonlight and take observations. Isn't that pleasant
altogether? We ordered back the piano and the book subscription, and
settled for two months, and forgave the Vallombrosa monks for the
wrong they did us, like secular Christians. What is to come after, I
can't tell you. But probably we shall creep slowly along toward Rome,
and spend some hot time of it at Perugia, which is said to be cool
enough. I think more of other things, wishing that my dearest, kindest
sisters had a present as bright as mine--to think nothing at all of
the future. Dearest Henrietta's position has long made me uneasy, and,
since she frees me into confidence by her confidence to you, I will
tell you so. Most undesirable it is that this should be continued, and
yet where is there a door open to escape?[162] ... My dear brothers
have the illusion that nobody should marry on less than two thousand a
year. Good heavens! how preposterous it does seem to me! _We_ scarcely
spend three hundred, and I have every luxury, I ever had, and which
it would be so easy to give up, at need; and Robert wouldn't sleep,
I think, if an unpaid bill dragged itself by any chance into another
week. He says that when people get into 'pecuniary difficulties,' his
'sympathies always go with the butchers and bakers.' So we keep out of
scrapes yet, you see....

Your grateful and most affectionate
BA.

We have had the most delightful letter from Carlyle, who has the
goodness to say that not for years has a marriage occurred in his
private circle in which he so heartily rejoiced as in ours. He is a
personal friend of Robert's, so that I have reason to be very proud
and glad.

Robert's best regards to you both always, and he is no believer in
magnetism (only _I_ am). Do mention Mr. C. Hanford's health. How
strange that he should come to witness my marriage settlement! Did you
hear?

[Footnote 162: Miss Henrietta Barrett was engaged to Captain Surtees
Cook, an engagement of which her brothers, as well as her father,
disapproved, partly on the ground of insufficiency of income.
Ultimately the difficulty was solved in the same way as in the case of
Mrs. Browning.]

_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: August 20, [1847],

I have received your letter at last, my ever dearest Miss Mitford, not
the missing letter, but the one which comes to make up for it and to
catch up my thoughts, which were grumbling at high tide, I do assure
you.... As you observed last year (not without reason), these are the
days of marrying and giving in marriage. Mr. Horne, you see[163] ...
With all my heart I hope he may be very happy. Men risk a good deal in
marriage, though not as much as women do; and on the other hand, the
singleness of a man when his youth is over is a sadder thing than the
saddest which an unmarried woman can suffer. Nearly all my friends
of both sexes have been draining off into marriage these two years,
scarcely one will be left in the sieve, and I may end by saying that
I have happiness enough for my own share to be divided among them all
and leave everyone, contented. For me, I take it for pure magic, this
life of mine. Surely nobody was ever so happy before. I shall wake
some morning with my hair all dripping out of the enchanted bucket,
or if not we shall both claim the 'Flitch' next September, if you can
find one for us in the land of Cockaigne, drying in expectancy of the
revolution in Tennyson's 'Commonwealth.' Well, I don't agree with Mr.
Harness in admiring the lady of 'Locksley Hall.' I _must_ either pity
or despise a woman who could have married Tennyson and chose a common
man. If happy in her choice, I despise her. That's matter of opinion,
of course. You may call it matter of foolishness when I add that I
personally would rather be teased a little and smoked over a good deal
by a man whom I could look up to and be proud of, than have my feet
kissed all day by a Mr. Smith in boots and a waistcoat, and thereby
chiefly distinguished. Neither I nor another, perhaps, had quite a
right to expect a combination of qualities, such as meet, though, in
my husband, who is as faultless and pure in his private life as any
Mr. Smith of them all, who would not owe five shillings, who lives
like a woman in abstemiousness on a pennyworth of wine a day, never
touches a cigar even.... Do you hear, as we do, from Mr. Forster, that
his[164] new poem is his best work? As soon as you read it, let me
have your opinion. The subject seems almost identical with one of
Chaucer's. Is it not so? We have spent here the most delightful of
summers, notwithstanding the heat, and I begin to comprehend the
possibility of St. Lawrence's ecstasies on the gridiron. Very hot it
certainly has been and is, yet there have been cool intermissions; and
as we have spacious and airy rooms, and as Robert lets me sit all day
in my white dressing gown without a single masculine criticism, and
as we can step out of the window on a sort of balcony terrace which is
quite private and swims over with moonlight in the evenings, and as
we live upon water melons and iced water and figs and all manner of
fruit, we bear the heat with an angelic patience and felicity which
really are edifying. We tried to make the monks of Vallombrosa let
us stay with them for two months, but their new abbot said or
implied that Wilson and I stank in his nostrils, being women, and San
Gualberto, the establishes of their order, had enjoined on them only
the mortification of cleaning out pigsties without fork or shovel.
So here a couple of women besides was (as Dickens's American said) 'a
piling it up rayther too mountainious.' So we were sent away at the
end of five days. So provoking! Such scenery, such hills, such a
sea of hills looking alive among the clouds. _Which_ rolled, it was
difficult to discern. Such pine woods, supernaturally silent, with the
ground black as ink, such chestnut and beech forests hanging from the
mountains, such rocks and torrents, such chasms and ravines. There
were eagles there, too, [and] there was _no road_. Robert went on
horseback, and Flush, Wilson, and I were drawn in a sledge (i.e.
an old hamper, a basket wine hamper without a wheel) by two white
bullocks up the precipitous mountains. Think of my travelling in that
fashion in those wild places at four o'clock in the morning, a little
frightened, dreadfully tired, but in an ecstasy of admiration above
all! It was a sight to see before one died and went away to another
world. Well, but being expelled ignominiously at the end of five days,
we had to come back to Florence, and find a new apartment cooler than
the old, and wait for dear Mr. Kenyon. And dear Mr. Kenyon does
not come (not this autumn, but he may perhaps at the first dawn of
spring), and on September 20 we take up our knapsacks and turn our
faces towards Rome, I think, creeping slowly along, with a pause at
Arezzo, and a longer pause at Perugia, and another perhaps at Terni.
Then we plan to take an apartment we have heard of, over the Tarpeian
Rock, and enjoy Rome as we have enjoyed Florence. More can scarcely
be. This Florence is unspeakably beautiful, by grace both of nature
and art, and the wheels of life slide on upon the grass (according
to continental ways) with little trouble and less expense. Dinner,
'unordered,' comes through the streets and spreads itself on our
table, as hot as if we had smelt cutlets hours before. The science
of material life is understood here and in France. Now tell me, what
right has England to be the dearest country in the world? But I love
dearly dear England, and we hope to spend many a green summer in her
yet. The winters you will excuse us, will you not? People who are,
like us, neither rich nor strong, claim such excuses. I am wonderfully
well, and far better and stronger than before what you call the Pisan
'crisis.' Robert declares that nobody would know me, I _look_ so much
better. And you heard from dearest Henrietta. Ah, both of my dearest
sisters have been perfect to me. No words can express my feelings
towards their goodness. Otherwise, I have good accounts from home of
my father's excellent health and spirits, which is better even than
to hear of his loving and missing me. I had a few kind lines yesterday
from Miss Martineau, who invites us from Florence to Westmoreland. She
wants to talk to me, she says, of 'her beloved Jordan.' She is
looking forward to a winter of work by the lakes, and to a summer of
gardening. The kindest of letters Robert has had from Carlyle, who
makes us very happy by what he says of our marriage. Shakespeare's
favorite air of the 'Light of Love,' with the full evidence of
its being Shakespeare's favorite air, is given in Charles Knight's
edition. Seek for it there. Now do write to me and at length, and tell
me everything of yourself. Flush hated Vallombrosa, and was frightened
out of his wits by the pine forests. Flush likes civilised life, and
the society of little dogs with turned-up tails, such as Florence
abounds with. Unhappily it abounds also with _fleas_, which afflict
poor Flush to the verge sometimes of despair. Fancy Robert and me
down on our knees combing him, with a basin of water on one side! He
suffers to such a degree from fleas that I cannot bear to witness it.
He tears off his pretty curls through the irritation. Do you know of a
remedy? Direct to me, Poste Restante, Florence. Put _via_ France. Let
me hear, do; and everything of yourself, mind. Is Mrs. Partridge in
better spirits? Do you read any new French books? Dearest friend, let
me offer you my husband's cordial regards, with the love of your own
affectionate

E.B.B., BA.

[Footnote 163: Mr. Horne was just engaged to be married.]

[Footnote 164: Tennyson's _Princess_ had just been published.]

_To Mr. Westwood_
Florence: September 1847.

Yes, indeed, my dear Mr. Westwood, I have seen 'friars.' We have been
on a pilgrimage to Vallombrosa, and while my husband rode up and down
the precipitous mountain paths, I and my maid and Flush were dragged
in a hamper by two white bullocks--and such scenery; such hilly peaks,
such black ravines and gurgling waters, and rocks and forests above
and below, and at last such a monastery and such friars, who wouldn't
let us stay with them beyond five days for fear of corrupting the
fraternity. The monks had a new abbot, a St. Sejanus of a holy
man, and a petticoat stank in his nostrils, said he, and all the I
beseeching which we could offer him with joined hands was classed with
the temptations of St. Anthony. So we had to come away as we went, and
get the better as we could of our disappointment, and really it was
a disappointment not to be able to stay our two months out in the
wilderness as we had planned it, to say nothing of the heat of
Florence, to which at the moment it was not pleasant to return. But
we got new lodgings in the shade and comforted ourselves as well as we
could. 'Comforted'--there's a word for Florence--that ingratitude was
a slip of the pen, believe me. Only we had set our hearts upon a two
months' seclusion in the deep of the pine forests (which have such
a strange dialect in the silence they speak with), and the mountains
were divine, and it was provoking to be crossed in our ambitions by
that little holy abbot with the red face, and to be driven out of
Eden, even to Florence. It is said, observe, that Milton took his
description of Paradise from Vallombrosa--so driven out of Eden we
were, literally. To Florence, though! and what Florence is, the tongue
of man or poet may easily fail to describe. The most beautiful of
cities, with the golden Arno shot through the breast of her like an
arrow, and 'non dolet' all the same. For what helps to charm here
is the innocent gaiety of the people, who, for ever at feast day and
holiday celebrations, come and go along the streets, the women in
elegant dresses and with glittering fans, shining away every thought
of Northern cares and taxes, such as make people grave in England.
No little orphan on a house step but seems to inherit, naturally
his slice of water-melon and bunch of purple grapes, and the rich
fraternise with the poor as we are unaccustomed to see them, listening
to the same music and walking in the same gardens, and looking at the
same Raphaels even! Also we were glad to be here just now, when there
is new animation and energy given to Italy by this new wonderful
Pope, who is a great man and doing greatly. I hope you give him your
sympathies. Think how seldom the liberation of a people begins from
the throne, _a fortiori_ from a papal throne, which is so high and
straight.[165] And the spark spreads! here is even our Grand
Duke conceding the civic guard,[166] and forgetting his Austrian
prejudices. The world learns, it is pleasant to observe....

So well I am, dear Mr. Westwood, and so happy after a year's trial of
the stuff of marriage, happier than ever, perhaps, and the revolution
is so complete that one has to learn to stand up straight and steadily
(like a landsman in a sailing ship) before one can do any work with
one's hand and brain.

We have had a delightful letter from Carlyle, who loves my husband, I
am proud to say.

[Footnote 165:'This country saving is a glorious thing:
And if a common man achieved it? well.
Say, a rich man did? excellent. A king?
That grows sublime. A priest? Improbable.
A pope? Ah, there we stop, and cannot bring
Our faith up to the leap, with history's bell

So heavy round the neck of it--albeit
We fain would grant the possibility
For thy sake, Pio Nono!'

_Casa Guidi Windows_, part i.]

[Footnote 166: The grant of a National Guard was made by the Grand
Duke of Tuscany on September 4, 1847, in defiance of the threat of
Austria to occupy any Italian state in which such a concession was
made to popular aspirations.]

_To Miss Mitford_
[Florence:] October I, 1847 [postmark].

Ever dearest Miss Mitford,--I am delighted to have your letter, and
lose little time in replying to it. The lost letter meanwhile does not
appear. The moon has it, to make more shine on these summer nights; if
still one may say 'summer' now that September is deep and that we are
cool as people hoped to be when at hottest.... Do tell me your full
thought of the commonwealth of women.[168] I begin by agreeing with
you as to his implied under-estimate of women; his women are
too voluptuous; however, of the most refined voluptuousness. His
gardener's daughter, for instance, is just a rose: and 'a Rose,'
one might beg all poets to observe, is as precisely _sensual_ as
fricasseed chicken, or even boiled beef and carrots. Did you read Mrs.
Butler's 'Year of Consolation,' and how did you think of it in the
main? As to Mr. Home's illustrations of national music, I don't know;
I feel a little jealous of his doing well what many inferior men have
done well--men who couldn't write 'Orion' and the 'Death of Marlowe.'
Now, dearest dear Miss Mitford, you shall call him 'tiresome' if you
like, because I never heard him talk, and he may be tiresome for aught
I know, of course; but you _sha'n't_ say that he has not done some
fine things in poetry. Now, you _know_ what the first book of 'Orion'
is, and 'Marlowe,' and 'Cosmo;' and you _sha'n't_ say that you don't
know it, and that when you forgot it for a moment, I did not remind
you.... It was our plan to leave Florence on the 21st. We stay,
however, one month longer, half through temptation, half through
reason. Which is strongest, who knows? We quite love Florence, and
have delightful rooms; and then, though I am quite well now as to my
general health, it is thought better for me to travel a month hence.
So I suppose we shall stay. In the meanwhile our Florentines kept the
anniversary of our wedding day (and the establishment of the civic
guard) most gloriously a day or two or three ago, forty thousand
persons flocking out of the neighbourhood to help the expression of
public sympathy and overflowing the city. The procession passed under
our eyes into the Piazza Pitti, where the Grand Duke and all his
family stood at the palace window melting into tears, to receive the
thanks of his people. The joy and exultation on all sides were most
affecting to look upon. Grave men kissed one another, and grateful
young women lifted up their children to the level of their own smiles,
and the children themselves mixed their shrill little _vivas_ with
the shouts of the people. At once, a more frenetic gladness and a more
innocent manifestation of gladness were never witnessed. During three
hours and a half the procession wound on past our windows, and every
inch of every house seemed alive with gazers all that time, the white
handkerchiefs fluttering like doves, and clouds of flowers and laurel
leaves floating down on the heads of those who passed. Banners, too,
with inscriptions to suit the popular feeling--'Liberty'--the 'Union
of Italy'--the 'Memory of the Martyrs'--'Viva Pio Nono'--'Viva
Leopoldo Secondo'--were quite stirred with the breath of the shouters.
I am glad to have seen that sight, and to be in Italy at this moment,
when such sights are to be seen.[167] My wrist aches a little even now
with the waving I gave to my handkerchief, I assure you, for Robert
and I and Flush sate the whole sight out at the window, and would not
be reserved with the tribute of our sympathy. Flush had his two
front paws over the window sill, with his ears hanging down, but he
confessed at last that he thought they were rather long about it,
particularly as it had nothing to do with dinner and chicken bones
and subjects of consequence. He is less tormented and looks better;
in excellent spirits and appetite always--and _thinner_, like your
Flush--and very fond of Robert, as indeed he ought to be. On the
famous evening of that famous day I have been speaking of, we lost
him--he ran away and stayed away all night--which was too bad,
considering that it was our anniversary besides, and that he had no
right to spoil it. But I imagine he was bewildered with the crowd and
the illumination, only as he _did_ look so very guilty and conscious
of evil on his return, there's room for suspecting him of having been
very much amused, 'motu proprio,' as our Grand Duke says in the
edict. He was found at nine o'clock in the morning at the door of our
apartment, waiting to be let in--mind, I don't mean the Grand Duke.
Very few acquaintances have we made at Florence, and very quietly
lived out our days. Mr. Powers the sculptor is our chief friend and
favorite, a most charming, simple, straight-forward, genial American,
as simple as the man of genius he has proved himself needs be. He
sometimes comes to talk and take coffee with us, and we like him much.
His wife is an amiable woman, and they have heaps of children from
thirteen downwards, all, except the eldest boy, Florentines, and the
sculptor has eyes like a wild Indian's, so black and full of light.
You would scarcely wonder if they clave the marble without the help of
his hands. We have seen besides the Hoppners, Lord Byron's friends at
Venice, you will remember. And Miss Boyle, the niece of the Earl
of Cork, and authoress and poetess on her own account, having been
introduced once to Robert in London at Lady Morgan's, has hunted
us out and paid us a visit. A very vivacious little person, with
sparkling talk enough. Lord Holland has lent her mother and herself
the famous Careggi Villa, where Lorenzo the Magnificent died, and they
have been living there among the vines these four months. These and a
few American visitors are all we have seen at Florence. We live a
far more solitary life than you do, in your village and with
the 'prestige' of the country wrapping you round. Pray give your
sympathies to our Pope, and call him a great man. For liberty
to spring from a throne is wonderful, but from a papal throne is
miraculous. That's my doxy. I suppose dear Mr. Kenyon and Mr. Chorley
are still abroad. French books I get at, but at scarcely a new one,
which is very provoking. At Rome it may be better. I have not read
'Martin' even, since the first volume in England, nor G. Sand's
'Lucretia.'

May God bless you. Think sometimes of your ever affectionate

E.B.B.

[Footnote 167: In Tennyson's _Princess_.]

[Footnote 168: A picture of the same scene in verse will be found in
_Casa Guidi Windows_, part i.:

'Shall I say
What made my heart beat with exulting love
A few weeks back,' &c.]

The 'month' lengthened itself out, and December found the Brownings
still in Florence, and definitely established there for the winter.
During this time, although there is no allusion to it in the letters,
Mrs. Browning must have been engaged in writing the first part of
'Casa Guidi Windows' with its hopeful aspirations for Italian liberty.
It was, indeed, a time when hope seemed justifiable. Pius IX. had
ascended the papal throne--then a temporal as well as a spiritual
sovereignty--in June 1846, with the reputation of being anxious to
introduce liberal reforms, and even to promote the formation of a
united Italy. The English Government was diplomatically advocating
reform, in spite of the opposition of Austria; and its representative,
Lord Minto, who was sent on a special mission to Italy to bring this
influence to bear on the rulers of the various Italian States, was
received with enthusiastic joy by the zealots for Italian liberty. The
Grand Duke of Tuscany, as was noticed above, had taken the first
step in the direction of popular government by the institution of a
National Guard; and Charles Albert of Piedmont was always supposed to
have the cause of Italy at heart in spite of the vacillations of his
policy. The catastrophe of 1848 was still in the distance; and for
the moment a friend of freedom and of Italy might be permitted to hope
much.

Yet a difference will be noticed between the tone of Mrs. Browning's
letters at this time and that which marks her language in 1859. In
1847 she was still comparatively new to the country. She is interested
in the experiment which she sees enacted before her; she feels, as any
poet must feel, the attraction of the idea of a free and united Italy.
But her heart is not thrown into the struggle as it was at a later
time. She can write, and does, for the most part, write, of other
matters. The disappointment of Milan and Novara could not break her
heart, as the disappointment of Villafranca went near to doing. They
are not, indeed, so much as mentioned in detail in the letters that
follow. It is in 'Casa Guidi Windows'--the first part written
in 1847-8, the second in 1851--that her reflections upon Italian
politics, alike in their hopes and in their failures, must be sought.

_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: December 8, 1847.

Have you thought me long, my dearest Miss Mitford, in writing? When
your letter came we were distracted by various uncertainties, torn by
wild horses of sundry speculations, and then, when one begins by delay
in answering a letter, you are aware how a silence grows and grows.
Also I heard _of_ you through my sisters and Mrs. Duprey[?], and
_that_ made me lazier still. Now don't treat me according to the
Jewish law, an eye for an eye; no! but a heart for a heart, if you
please; and you never can have reason to reproach mine for not loving
you. Think what we have done since I wrote last to you. Taken two
houses, that is, two apartments, each for six months, presigning the
contract. You will set it down as excellent poet's work in the way of
domestic economy; but the fault was altogether mine as usual, and
my husband, to please me, took rooms which I could not be pleased
by three days, through the absence of sunshine and warmth. The
consequence was that we had to pay heaps of guineas away for leave
to go away ourselves, any alternative being preferable to a return of
illness, and I am sure I should have been ill if we had persisted in
staying there. You can scarcely fancy the wonderful difference which
the sun makes in Italy. Oh, he isn't a mere 'round O' in the air in
this Italy, I assure you! He makes us feel that he rules the day to
all intents and purposes. So away we came into the blaze of him here
in the Piazza Pitti, precisely opposite the Grand Duke's palace, I
with my remorse, and poor Robert without a single reproach. Any other
man, a little lower than the angels, would have stamped and sworn a
little for the mere relief of the thing, but as to _his_ being angry
with _me_ for any cause, except not eating enough dinner, the said
sun would turn the wrong way first. So here we are on the Pitti till
April, in small rooms yellow with sunshine from morning to evening;
and most days I am able to get out into the piazza, and walk up and
down for some twenty minutes without feeling a shadow of breath from
the actual winter. Also it is pleasant to be close to the Raffaels,
to say nothing of the immense advantage of the festa days, when,
day after day, the civic guard comes to show the whole population of
Florence, their Grand Duke inclusive, the new helmets and epaulettes
and the glory thereof. They have swords, too, I believe, somewhere.
The crowds come and come, like children to see rows of dolls, only the
children would tire sooner than the Tuscans. Robert said musingly the
other morning as we stood at the window, 'Surely, after all this, they
would _use_ those muskets.' It's a problem, a 'grand peut-etre.' I
was rather amused by hearing lately that our civic heroes had the
gallantry to propose to the ancient military that these last should
do the night work, i.e. when nobody was looking on and there was no
credit, as they found it dull and fatiguing. Ah, one laughs, you see;
one can't help it now and then. But at the real and rising feeling of
the people by night and day one doesn't laugh indeed. I hear and
see with the deepest sympathy of soul, on the contrary. I love the
Italians, too, and none the less that something of the triviality and
innocent vanity of children abounds in them. A delightful and most
welcome letter was the last you sent me, my dearest friend. Your
bridal visit must have charmed you, and I am glad you had the gladness
of witnessing some of the happiness of your friend, Mrs. Acton Tyndal,
_you_ who have such quick sympathies, and to whom the happiness of a
friend is a gain counted in your own. The swan's shadow is something
in a clear water. For poor Mrs.----, if she is really, as you say Mrs.
Tyndal thinks, pining in an access of literary despondency, why _that_
only proves to me that she is not happy otherwise, that her life
and soul are not sufficiently filled for her woman's need. I cannot
believe of any woman that she can think of _fame first_. A woman of
genius may be absorbed, indeed, in the exercise of an active power,
engrossed in the charges of the course and the combat; but this is
altogether different to a vain and bitter longing for prizes, and what
prizes, oh, gracious heavens! The empty cup of cold metal! _so_ cold,
_so_ empty to a woman with a heart. So, if your friend's belief is
true, still more deeply do I pity that other friend, who is supposed
to be unhappy from such a cause. A few days ago I saw a bride of
my own family, Mrs. Reynolds, Arlette Butler, who married Captain
Reynolds some five months since.... Many were her exclamations at
seeing me. She declared that such a change was never seen, I was
so transfigured with my betterness: 'Oh, Ba, it is quite wonderful
indeed!' We had been calculated on, during her three months in Rome,
as a 'piece of resistance,' and it was a disappointment to find us
here in a corner with the salt. Just as I was praised was poor Flush
criticised. Flush has not recovered from the effects yet of the summer
plague of fleas, and his curls, though growing, are not grown. I never
saw him in such spirits nor so ugly; and though Robert and I flatter
ourselves upon 'the sensible improvement,' Arlette could only see him
with reference to the past, when in his Wimpole Street days he was
sleek and over fat, and she cried aloud at the loss of his beauty.
Then we have had [another] visitor, Mr. Hillard, an American critic,
who reviewed me in [the old] world, and so came to _view_ me in the
new, a very intelligent man, of a good, noble spirit. And Miss Boyle,
ever and anon, comes at night, at nine o'clock, to catch us at our
hot chestnuts and mulled wine, and warm her feet at our fire; and
a kinder, more cordial little creature, full of talent and
accomplishment, never had the world's polish on it. Very amusing, too,
she is, and original, and a good deal of laughing she and Robert make
between them. Did I tell you of her before, and how she is the niece
of Lord Cork, and poetess by grace of certain Irish Muses? Neither
of us know her writings in any way, but we like her, and for the best
reasons. And this is nearly all, I think, we see of the 'face divine,'
masculine and feminine, and I can't make Robert go out a single
evening, not even to a concert, nor to hear a play of Alfieri's, yet
we fill up our days with books and music (and a little writing has
its share), and wonder at the clock for galloping. It's twenty-four
o'clock with us almost as soon as we begin to count. Do tell me of
Tennyson's book, and of Miss Martineau's. I was grieved to hear a
distant murmur of a rumour of an apprehension of a return of her
complaint: somebody said that she could not bear the _pressure of
dress_, and that the exhaustion resulting from the fits of absorption
in work and enthusiasm on the new subject of Egypt was painfully
great, and that her friends feared for her. I should think that the
bodily excitement and fatigue of her late travels must have been
highly hazardous, and that indeed, throughout her convalescence, she
should have more spared herself in climbing hills and walking and
riding distances. A strain obviously might undo everything. Still, I
do hope that the bitter cup may not be filled for her again. What a
wonderful discovery this substitute for ether inhalations[169] seems
to be. Do you hear anything of its operation in your neighbourhood? We
have had a letter from Mr. Horne, who appears happy, and speaks of his
success in lecturing on Ireland, and of a new novel which he is about
to publish in a separate form after having printed it in a magazine.
We have not set up the types even of our _plans_ about a book, very
distinctly, but we shall do something some day, and you shall hear
of it the evening before. Being too happy doesn't agree with literary
activity quite as well as I should have thought; and then, dear Mr.
Kenyon can't persuade us that we are not rich enough, so as to bring
into force a lower order of motives. He talks of Rome still. Now
write, dear, dearest Miss Mitford, and tell me of yourself and your
health, and do, _do_ love me as you used to do. As to French books,
one may swear, but you can't get a new publication, except by
accident, at this excellent celebrated library of Vieusseux, and I
am reduced to read some of my favorites over again, I and Robert
together. You ought to hear how we go to single combat, ever and anon,
with shield and lance. The greatest quarrel we have had since our
marriage, by the way (always excepting my crying conjugal wrong of not
eating enough!), was brought up by Masson's pamphlet on the Iron Mask
and Fouquet. I wouldn't be persuaded that Fouquet was 'in it,' and
so 'the anger of my lord waxed hot.' To this day he says sometimes:
'Don't be cross, Ba! _Fouquet wasn't the Iron Mask after all_.'

God bless you, dearest Miss Mitford.
Your ever affectionate
E.B.B.

We are here till April.

[Footnote 169: Chloroform, then beginning to come into use.]

_To Mrs. Jameson_
Florence: December 1847.

Indeed, my dear friend, you have a right to complain of _me_, whether
or not _we_ had any in thinking ourselves deeply injured creatures
by your last silence. Yet when in your letter which came at last, you
said, 'Write directly,' I _meant_ to write directly; I did not take
out my vengeance in a foregone malice, be very sure. Just at the time
we were in a hard knot of uncertainties about Rome and Venice and
Florence, and a cold house and a warm house; for instance we managed
(that is _I_ did, for altogether it was my fault) to take two
apartments in the course of ten days, each for a term of six months,
getting out of one of them by leaving the skirts of our garments,
_rent_, literally, in the hand of the proprietor. You have heard most
of this, I dare say, from Mr. Kenyon or my sisters. Now, too, you are
aware of our being in Piazza Pitti, in a charmed circle of sun blaze.
Our rooms are small, but of course as cheerful as being under the very
eyelids of the sun must make everything; and we have a cook in the
house who takes the office of _traiteur_ on him and gives us English
mutton chops at Florentine prices, both of us quite well and in
spirits, and (though you never will believe this) happier than ever.
For my own part, you know I need not say a word if it were not true,
and I must say to you, who saw the beginning with us, that this end of
fifteen months is just fifteen times better and brighter; the mystical
'moon' growing larger and larger till scarcely room is left for any
stars at all: the only differences which have touched me being the
more and more happiness. It would have been worse than unreasonable if
in marrying I had expected one quarter of such happiness, and indeed I
did not, to do myself justice, and every now and then I look round
in astonishment and thankfulness together, yet with a sort of horror,
seeing that this is not heaven after all. We live just as we did when
you knew us, just as shut-up a life. Robert never goes anywhere except
to take a walk with Flush, which isn't my fault, as you may imagine:
he has not been out one evening of the fifteen months; but what with
music and books and writing and talking, we scarcely know how the days
go, it's such a gallop on the grass. We are going through some of
old Sacchetti's novelets now: characteristic work for Florence, if
somewhat dull elsewhere. Boccaccios can't be expected to spring up
with the vines in rows, even in this climate. We got a newly printed
addition to Savonarola's poems the other day, very flat and cold, they
did not catch fire when he was burnt. The most poetic thing in the
book is his face on the first page, with that eager, devouring soul in
the eyes of it. You may suppose that I am able sometimes to go over
to the gallery and adore the Raphaels, and Robert will tell you of the
divine Apollino which you missed seeing in Poggio Imperiale, and which
I shall be set face to face before, some day soon, I hope....

Father Prout was in Florence for some two hours in passing to Rome,
and of course, according to contract of spirits of the air, Robert met
him, and heard a great deal of you and Geddie (saw Geddie's picture,
by the way, and thought it very like), was told much to the advantage
of Mr. Macpherson,[170] and at the end of all, kissed in the open
street as the speaker was about to disappear in the diligence. When
you write, tell me of the _book_. Surely it will be out anon, and then
you will be free, shall you not? Have you seen Tennyson's new poem,
and what of it? Miss Martineau is to discourse about Egypt, I suppose;
but in the meanwhile do you hear that she forswears mesmerism, as Mr.
Spenser Hall does, according to the report Robert brings me home from
the newspaper reading. Now I shall leave him room to stand on and
speak a word to you. Give my love to Gerardine, and don't forget to
mention her letter. I hope you are happy about your friends, and that,
in particular, Lady Byron's health is strengthening and to strengthen.
Always my dear friend's

Most affectionate
E.B.B.

Dear Aunt Nina,--A corner is just the place for eating Christmas pies
in, but for venting Christmas wishes, hardly! What has Ba told you and
wished you in the way of love? I wish you the same and love you the
same, but Geddie, being part of you, gets her due part. We are as
happy as two owls in a hole, two toads under a tree stump; or any
other queer two poking creatures that we let live, after the fashion
of their black hearts, only Ba is fat and rosy; yes, indeed! Florence
is empty and pleasant. Goodbye, therefore, till next year--shall it
not be then we meet? God bless you. R.B.

[Footnote 170: Miss Bate's _fiance_.]

_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: February 22, [1848].

Your letter, my dearest friend, which was written, a part at least,
before Christmas, came lingering in long after the new year had seen
out its matins. Oh, I had wondered so, and wished so over the long
silence. My fault, perhaps in a measure, for I know how silent _I_ was
before. Yes, and you tell me of your having been unwell (bad news),
and of your dear Flush's death, which made me sorrowful for you, as
I might reasonably be. And now tell me more. Have you a successor to
him? Once you told me that one of the race was in training, but as you
say nothing now I am all in a doubt. Let me hear everything. If I had
been you, I think I should have preferred some quite other kind of
dog, as the unlikeness of a likeness would be apt to bring a pain to
me; but people can't reason about feelings, and feelings are like the
colour of eyes, not the same in different faces, however general may
be the proximity of noses.... The great subject with _everybody_ just
now is the new hope of Italy, and the liberal constitution, given
nobly by our good, excellent Grand Duke, whose praise is in all the
houses, streets, and piazzas. The other evening, the evening after the
gift, he went privately to the opera, was recognised, and in a burst
of triumph and a glory of waxen torches was brought back to the Pitti
by the people. I was undressing to go to bed, had my hair down over my
shoulders under Wilson's ministry, when Robert called me to look out
of the window and see. Through the dark night a great flock of stars
seemed sweeping up the piazza, but not in silence, nor with very
heavenly noises. The '_Evvivas_' were deafening. So glad I was. _I,
too_, stood at the window and clapped my hands. If ever Grand Duke
deserved benediction this Duke does. We hear that he was quite moved,
overpowered, and wept like a child. Nevertheless the most of Italy is
under the cloud, and God knows how all may end as the thunder ripens.
Now I mustn't, I suppose, write politics. Our plans about England are
afloat. Impossible to know what we shall do, but if not this summer,
the summer after _must_ help us to the sight of some beloved faces. It
will be a midsummer dream, and we shall return to winter in Italy. My
Flush is as well as ever, and perhaps gayer than ever I knew him. He
runs out in the piazza whenever he pleases, and plays with the dogs
when they are pretty enough, and wags his tail at the sentinels and
civic guard, and takes the Grand Duke as a sort of neighbour of his,
whom it is proper enough to patronise, but who has considerably less
inherent merit and dignity than the spotted spaniel in the alley
to the left. We have been reading over again 'Andre' and 'Leone
Leoni,'[171] and Robert is in an enthusiasm about the first. Happy
person, you are, to get so at new books. Blessed is the man who reads
Balzac, or even Dumas. I have got to admire Dumas doubly since that
fight and scramble for his brains in Paris. Now do think of me and
love me, and let me be as ever your affectionate

BA.

Robert's regards always. Say particularly how you are, and may God
bless you, dearest Miss Mitford, and make you happy.

[Footnote 171: Novels by George Sand.]

_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: April 15, [1848].

... My Flush has recovered his beauty, and is in more vivacious
spirits than I remember to have seen him. Still, the days come when he
will have no pleasure and plenty of fleas, poor dog, for Savonarola's
martyrdom here in Florence is scarcely worse than Flush's in the
summer. Which doesn't prevent his enjoying the spring, though, and
just now, when, by medical command, I drive out two hours every day,
his delight is to occupy the seat in the carriage opposite to Robert
and me, and look disdainfully on all the little dogs who walk afoot.
We drive day by day through the lovely Cascine (where the trees have
finished and spread their webs of full greenery, undimmed by the sun
yet), first sweeping through the city, past such a window where Bianca
Capello looked out to see the Duke go by,[172] and past such a door
where Lapo stood, and past the famous stone where Dante drew his chair
out to sit.[173] Strange, to have all that old-world life about us,
and the blue sky so bright besides, and ever so much talk on our lips
about the new French revolution, and the King of Prussia's cunning,
and the fuss in Germany and elsewhere. Not to speak of our own
particular troubles and triumphs in Lombardy close by. The English are
flying from Florence, by the way, in a helter skelter, just as they
always do fly, except (to do them justice) on a field of battle. The
family Englishman is a dreadful coward, be it admitted frankly. See
how they run from France, even to my dear excellent Uncle Hedley, who
has too many little girls in his household to stay longer at Tours.
Oh, I don't _blame_ him exactly. I only wish that he had waited a
little longer, the time necessary for being quite reassured. He has
great stakes in the country--a house at Tours and in Paris, and twenty
thousand pounds in the Rouen railway. But Florence will fall upon her
feet we may all be certain, let the worst happen that can. Meanwhile,
republicans as I and my, husband are by profession, we very anxiously,
anxiously even to pain, look on the work being attempted and done just
now by the theorists in Paris; far from half approving of it we are,
and far from being absolutely confident of the durability of the other
half. Tell me what you think, and if you are not anxious too. As to
communism, surely the practical part of _that_, the only not dangerous
part, is attainable simply by the consent of individuals who may try
the experiment of associating their families in order to the cheaper
employment of the means of life, and successfully in many cases. But
make a government scheme of _even so much_, and you seem to trench on
the individual liberty. All such patriarchal planning in a government
issues naturally into absolutism, and is adapted to states of society
more or less barbaric. Liberty and civilisation when married together
lawfully rather evolve individuality than tend to generalisation.
Is this not true? I fear, I fear that mad theories promising the
impossible may, in turn, make the people mad. I Louis Blanc knows
not what he says. Have I not mentioned to you a very gifted woman, a
sculptress, Mademoiselle de Fauveau, who lives in Florence with her
mother practising her profession, an exile from France, in consequence
of their royalist opinions and participation in the Vendee struggle,
some sixteen or fifteen years? On that occasion she was mistaken for
and allowed herself to be arrested as Madame de la Roche Jacquelin;
therefore she has justified, by suffering in the cause, her passionate
attachment to it. A most interesting person she is; she called upon us
a short time ago and interested us much. And Mrs. Jameson would tell
you that her celebrity in her art is not comparative 'for a woman,'
but that, since Benvenuto Cellini, more beautiful works of the kind
have not been accomplished. An exquisite fountain she has lately
done for the Emperor of Russia. She has workmen under her, and is as
'professional' in every respect as if neither woman nor noble. At the
first throb of this revolution of course she dreamt the impossible
about that dear 'Henri Cinq,' who is as much out of the question
as Henri Quatre himself; and now it ends with the 'French Legation'
coming to settle in the house precisely opposite to hers, with a
hideous sign-painting appended O the Gallic cock on one leg and at
full crow inscribed, 'Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.' This, and the
death of her favorite dog, whom, after seventeen years' affection, she
was forced to have destroyed on account of a combination of diseases,
has quite saddened the sculptress. When she came to see us I observed
that after so long a residence at Florence she must regard it as a
second country. 'Ah non!' (the answer was) 'il n'y a pas de seconde
patrie.' What you tell me of 'Jane Eyre' makes me long to see the
book. I may long, I fancy. It is dismal to have to disappoint my
dearest sisters, who hoped for me in England this summer, but our
English visit _must_ be for next summer instead; there seems too
much against it just now. The drawback of Italy is the distance from
England. If it were but as near as Paris, for instance, why in that
case we should settle here at once, I do think, the conveniences and
luxuries of life are of such incredible cheapness, the climate so
divine, and the way of things altogether so serene and suited to our
tastes and instincts. But to give up England and the _English_, the
dear, dearest treasure of English love, is impossible, so we just
linger and linger. The Boyles go to England from the press of panic,
Lady Boyle being old and infirm. Ah, but your talking friend would
interest you, and you might accept the talk in infinitesimal
doses, you know. Lamartine has surely acted down the fallacy of the
impractical tendencies of imaginative men. I am full of France just
now. Are you all prepared for an outbreak in Ireland? I hope so. My
husband has the second edition of his collected poems[174] in the
press by this time, by grace of Chapman and Hall, who accept all
risks. You speak of Tennyson's vexation about the reception of
the 'Princess.' Why did Mr. Harness and others, who 'never could
understand' his former divine works, praise this in manuscript
till the poet's hope grew to the height of his ambition? Strangely
unfortunate. We have not read it yet. I hear that Tennyson had the
other day everything packed for Italy, then turned his face toward
Ireland, and went there. Oh, for a talk with you. But this is a sort
of talk, isn't it? Accept my husband's regards. As to my love, I throw
it to you over the [sea] with both hands. God bless you.

Your ever affectionate
BA.

[Footnote 172: See Browning's _The Statue and the Bust_.]

[Footnote 173: 'the stone Called Dante's--a plain flat stone scarce
discerned From others in the pavement--whereupon He used to bring his
quiet chair out, turned To Brunelleschi's church, and pour alone The
lava of his spirit when it burned.' _Casa Guidi Windows_, part i.]

[Footnote 174: This edition, published in 1849 in two volumes
contained only _Paracelsus_ and the plays and poems of the _Bells and
Pomegranates_ series.]

_To John Kenyan_
[Florence:] May I, [1848].

My dearest Mr. Kenyon,--Surely it is quite wrong that we three,
Robert, you, and I, should be satisfied with writing little dry notes,
as short as so many proclamations, and those of the order of your
anti-Chartist magistracy, 'Whereas certain evil disposed persons &c.
&c.,' instead of our anti-Austrian Grand duchy's 'O figli amati'
(how characteristic of the north and the south, to be sure, is this
contrast! Yet, after all, they might have managed it rather better
in England!)--little dry notes brief and business-like as an
anti-Chartist proclamation! And, indeed, two of us are by no means
satisfied, whatever the third may be. The other day we were looking
over some of the dear delightful letters you used to write to us.
Real letters those were, and not little dry notes at all. Robert said,
'When I write to dear Mr. Kenyon I really do feel overcome by the
sense of what I owe to him, and so, as it is beyond words to say, why
generally I say as little as possible of anything, keeping myself to
matters of business.' An alternative very objectionable, I told him;
for to have 'a dumb devil' from ever such grateful and sentimental
reasons, when the Alps stand betwixt friend, is damnatory in the
extreme. Then, as _you_ are not 'too grateful' to _us_, why don't
_you_ write? Pray do, my dear friend. Let us all write as we used to
do. And to make sure of it, I begin.

Since I ended last the world has turned over on its other side, in
order, one must hope, to some happy change in the dream. Our friend,
Miss Bayley, in that very kind letter which has just reached me and
shall be answered directly (will you tell her with my thankful love?),
asks if Robert and I are communists, and then half draws back her
question into a discreet reflection that _I_, at least, was never
much celebrated for acumen on political economy. Most true indeed! And
therefore, and on that very ground, is it not the more creditable to
me that I don't set up for a communist immediately? In proportion to
the ignorance might be the stringency of the embrace of 'la verite
sociale:' so I claim a little credit that it isn't. For really we
are not communists, farther than to admit the wisdom of voluntary
association in matters of material life among the poorer classes. And
to legislate even on such points seems as objectionable as possible;
all intermeddlings of government with domesticities, from Lacedaemon
to Peru, were and must be objectionable; and of the growth of
absolutism, let us, theorise as we choose. I would have the government
educate the people absolutely, and _then_ give room for the individual
to develop himself into life freely. Nothing can be more hateful to me
than this communist idea of quenching individualities in the mass. As
if the hope of the world did not always consist in the eliciting
of the individual man from the background of the masses, in the
evolvement of individual genius, virtue, magnanimity. Do you know how
I love France and the French? Robert laughs at me for the mania of it,
or used to laugh long before this revolution. When I was a prisoner,
my other mania for imaginative literature used to be ministered to
through the prison bars by Balzac, George Sand, and the like immortal
improprieties. They kept the colour in my life to some degree and did
good service in their time to me, I can assure you, though in dear
discreet England women oughtn't to confess to such reading, I believe,
or you told me so yourself one day. Well, but through reading the
books I grew to love France, in a mania too; and the interest, which
all must feel in the late occurrences there, has been with me, and is,
quite painful. I read the newspapers as I never did in my life, and
hope and fear in paroxysms, yes, and am guilty of thinking far more
of Paris than of Lombardy itself, and try to understand financial
difficulties and social theories with the best will in the world;
much as Flush tries to understand me when I tell him that barking and
jumping may be unseasonable things. Both of us open our eyes a good
deal, but the comprehension is questionable after all. What, however,
I do seem least of all to comprehend, is your hymn of triumph in
England, just because you have a lower ideal of liberty than the
French people have. See if in Louis Philippe's time France was not
in many respects more advanced than England is now, property better
divided, hereditary privilege abolished! Are we to blow with the
trumpet because we respect the ruts while everywhere else they are
mending the roads? I do not comprehend. As to the Chartists, it is
only a pity in my mind that you have not more of them. That's their
fault. Mine, you will say, is being pert about politics when you would
rather have anything else in a letter from Italy. You have heard of
my illness, and will have been sorry for me, I am certain; but with
blessings edging me round, I need not catch at a thistle in the hedge
to make a 'sorrowful complaignte' of. Our plans have floated round and
round, in and out of all the bays and creeks of the Happy Islands....

Meanwhile here we are--and when do you mean to come to see us, pray?
Mind, I hold by the skirts of the vision for next winter. Why, surely
_you_ won't talk of 'disturbances' and 'revolutions,' and the like
disloyal reasons which send our brave countrymen flying on all sides,
as if every separate individual expected to be bombarded _per
se_. Now, mind you come; dear dear Mr. Kenyon, how delighted past
expression we should be to see you! Ah, do you fancy that I have no
regret for our delightful gossips? If I have the feeling I told you of
for Balzac and George Sand, what must I have for _you_? Now come,
and let us see you! And still sooner, if you please, write to us--and
write of yourself and in detail--and tell us particularly, first if
the winter has left no sign of a cough with you, and next, what you
mean by something which suggests to my fancy that you have a book in
the course of printing. Is that true? Tell me all about it--_all_! Who
can be interested, pray, if _I_ am not? For your and Mr. Chorley's
and Mr. Forster's kind dealings with Robert's poems I thank you
gratefully; and as a third volume can bring up the rear quickly in the
case of success, I make no wailing for my 'Luria,' however dear it may
be.[175]

[Illustration: _Casa Guidi From a Photograph_]

You are not to fancy that I am unwell now. On the contrary, I am
nearly as strong as ever, and go out in the carriage for two hours
every day, besides a little walk sometimes. Not a word more to-day.
Write--do--and you shall hear from us at length. Robert sends his own
love, I suppose. We both love you from our hearts.

Your ever affectionate and grateful
BA.
(who can't read over, and writes in such a hurry!)

It was about this time, as appears from the following letter, that
the Brownings finally anchored themselves in Florence by taking an
unfurnished suite of rooms in the Palazzo Guidi, and making there
a home for themselves, Here, in the Via Maggio, almost opposite the
Pitti Palace, and within easy distance of the Ponte Vecchio, is the
dwelling known to all lovers of English poetry as Casa Guidi, and
bearing now upon its walls the name of the English poetess whose life
and writings formed, in the graceful words of the Italian poet,
'a golden ring between Italy and England.' Whatever might be their
migrations--and they were many, especially in later years--Casa Guidi
was henceforth their home.[176]

[Footnote 175: Apparently it had been proposed to omit _Luria_ from
the new edition; but, if so, the intention was not carried out.]

[Footnote 176: It will interest many readers to know that Casa Guidi
is now the property of Mr. R. Barrett Browning.]

_To Miss Mitford_
May 28, 1848.

... And now I must tell you what we have done since I wrote last,
little thinking of doing so. You see our problem was to get to England
as much in our summers as possible, the expense of the intermediate
journeys making it difficult of solution. On examination of the whole
case, it appeared manifest that we were throwing money into the like
to hear you talk of poor France; how I hope that you are able to hope
for her. Oh, this absurdity of communism and mythological fete-ism!
where can it end? They had better have kept Louis Philippe after
all, if they are no more practical. Your Madame must be insufferable
indeed, seeing that her knowledge of these subjects and men did not
make her sufferable to you. My curiosity never is exhausted. What I
hold is that the French have a higher ideal than we, and that all
this clambering, leaping, struggling of indefinite awkwardness simply
proves it. But _success in the republic_ is different still. I fear
for them. My uncle and his family are safe at Tunbridge Wells, my aunt
longing to be able to get back again. For those who are still nearer
to me, I have no heart to speak of _them_, loving them as I do and
must to the end, whatever that end may be; but my dearest sisters
write often to me--never let me miss their affection. I am quite well
again, and strong, and Robert and I go out after tea in a wandering
walk to sit in the Loggia and look at the Perseus, or, better still,
at the divine sunsets on the Arno, turning it to pure gold under the
bridges. After more than twenty months of marriage, we are happier
than ever--I may say _we_. Italy will regenerate herself in all
senses, I hope and believe. In Florence we are very quiet, and the
English fly in proportion. N.B.--_Always_ first fly the majors and
gallant captains, unless there's a general. How I should like to see
dear Mr. Horne's poem! _He's_ bold, at least--yes, and has a great
heart to be bold with. A cloud has fallen on me some few weeks ago, in
the illness and death of my dear friend Mr. Boyd,[177] but he did not
suffer, and is not to be mourned by those without hope [_sic_]. Still,
it has been a cloud. May God bless you, my beloved friend. Write soon,
and of yourself, to your ever affectionate

BA.

My husband's regards go to you, of course.

[Footnote 177: Mr. Boyd died on May 10, 1848.]

_To Miss Browning_
[Florence: about June 1848.]

My dearest Sarianna,--At last, you see, I give sign of life. The
_love_, I hope you believed in without sign or symbol; and even
for the rest, Robert promised to answer for me like godfather or
godmother, and bear the consequence of my sins....

We are a little uneasy just now as to whether you will be overjoyed or
_under_ joyed by our new scheme of taking an unfurnished apartment.
It would spoil all, for instance, if your dear mother seemed
disappointed--vexed--in the least degree. And I can understand how,
to persons at a distance and of course unable to understand the
whole circumstances of the case, the fact of an apartment taken and
furnished may seem to involve some dreadful giving up for ever and
ever of country and family--which would be as dreadful to us as to
you! How could we give you up, do you think, when we love you more and
more? Oh no. If Robert has succeeded in making clear the subject to
you, you will all perceive, just as _we know_, that we have simply
thus solved the problem of making our small income carry us to
England, not only next summer, but many a summer after. We should like
to give every summer to dear England, and hide away from the cold only
when it comes. By our scheme we shall have saved money even at the end
of the present year; while for afterward, here's a residence--that is,
a_pied a terre_--in Italy, all but free when we wish to use it; and
when we care to let it, producing eight or ten pounds a month in help
of travelling expenses. It's the best investment for Mr. Moxon's money
we could have looked the world over for. So the learned tell us; and
after all, you know, we only pay in the proportion of your working
classes in the Pancras building contrived for them by the philanthropy
of your Southwood Smiths. I do wish you could see what rooms we have,
what ceilings, what height and breadth, what a double terrace for
orange trees; how cool, how likely to be warm, how perfect every way!
Robert leaned once to a ground floor in the Frescobaldi Palace, being
bewitched by a garden full of camellias, and a little pond of gold and
silver fish; but while he saw the fish I saw the mosquitos in clouds,
such an apocalypse of them as has not yet been visible to me in all
Florence, and I dread mosquitos more than Austrians; and he, in his
unspeakable goodness, deferred to my fear in a moment and gave up the
camellias without one look behind. A heavy conscience I should have if
it were not that the camellia garden was certainly less private than
our terrace here, where we can have camellias also if we please. How
pretty and pleasant your cottage at Windsor must be! We had a long
_muse_ over your father's sketch of it, and set faces at the windows.
That the dear invalid is better for the change must have brightened
it, too, to her companions, and the very sound of a 'forest' is
something peculiarly delightful and untried to me. I know hills well,
and of the sea too much; but now I want forests, or quite, quite
mountains, such as you have not in England.

Robert says that if 'Blackwood' likes to print a poem of mine and send
you the proofs, you will be so very good as to like to correct them.
To me it seems too much to ask, when you have work for him to do
beside. Will it be too much, or is nothing so to your kindness? I
would ask my _other_ sisters, who would gladly, dear things, do it for
me; but I have misgivings through their being so entirely unaccustomed
to occupations of the sort, or any critical reading of poetry of
any sort. Robert is quite well and in the best spirits, and has the
headache now only very occasionally. I am as well as he, having quite
recovered my strength and power of walking. So we wander to the bridge
of Trinita every evening after tea to see the sunset on the Arno. May
God bless you all! Give my true love to your father and mother, and my
loving thanks to yourself for that last stitch in the stool. How good
you are, Sarianna, to your ever affectionate sister

BA.

Always remind your dear mother that we are no more _bound_ here than
when in furnished lodgings. It is a mere name.

_To Mrs. Martin_
Palazzo Guidi: June 20, [1848].

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--Now I am going to answer your letter, which I
all but lost, and got ever so many days beyond the right day, because
you directed it to Mrs. _William_ Browning. Pray remember
_Robert Browning_ for the future, in right descent from _Robert
Brunnyng_,[178] the first English poet. Mrs. Jameson says, 'It's
ominous of the actual Robert's being the _last_ English poet;' a
saying which I give you to remember us by, rejecting the omen....
We have grown to be Florentine citizens, as perhaps you have heard.
Health and means both forbade our settlement in England; and the
journey backwards and forwards being another sort of expense, and very
necessary with our ties and affections, we had to think how to live
here, when we were here, at the cheapest. The difference between
taking a furnished apartment and an unfurnished one is something
immense. For our furnished rooms we have had always to pay some four
guineas a month; and unfurnished rooms of equal pretension we could
have for twelve a year, and the furniture (out and out) for fifty
pounds. This calculation, together with the consideration that we
could let our apartment whenever we travelled and receive back the
whole cost, could not choose, of course, but determine us. On coming
to the point, however, we grew ambitious, and preferred giving
five-and-twenty guineas for a noble suite of rooms in the Palazzo
Guidi, a stone's throw from the Pitti, and furnishing them after
our own taste rather than after our economy, the economy having a
legitimate share of respect notwithstanding; and the satisfactory
thing being that the whole expense of this furnishing--rococo chairs,
spring sofas, carved bookcases, satin from cardinals' beds, and the
rest--is covered by the proceeds of our books during the last two
winters. This is satisfying, isn't it? We shall stand safe within the
borders of our narrow income even this year, and next year comes the
harvest! We shall go to England in the spring, and return _home_
to Italy. Do you understand? Mr. Kenyon, our friend and counsellor,
writes to applaud--such prudence was never known before among poets.
Then we have a plan, that when the summer (this summer) grows too hot,
we shall just take up our carpet-bag and Wilson and plunge into the
mountains in search of the monasteries beyond Vallombrosa, from
Arezzo go to St. Sepolchro in the Apennines, and thence to Fano on the
seashore, making a round back perhaps (after seeing the great fair at
Sinigaglia) to Ravenna and Bologna home. As to Rome, our plan is to
give up Rome next winter, seeing that we _must_ go to England in the
spring. I _must_ see my dearest sisters and whoever else dear will see
me, and Robert _must_ see his family beside; and going to Rome will
take us too far from the route and cost too much; and then we are not
inclined to give the first-fruits of our new apartment to strangers if
we could let it ever so easily this year. You can't think how well
the rooms look already; you must come and see them, you and dear Mr.
Martin. Three immense rooms we have, and a fourth small one for a
book room and winter room--windows opening on a little terrace,
eight windows to the south; two good bedrooms behind, with a smaller
terrace, and kitchen, &c., all on a first floor and Count Guidi's
favorite suite. The Guidi were connected by marriage with the Ugolino
of Pisa, Dante's Ugolino, only we shun all traditions of the Tower
of Famine, and promise to give you excellent coffee whenever you will
come to give us the opportunity. We shall have vines and myrtles
and orange trees on the terrace, and I shall have a watering-pot and
garden just as you do, though it must be on the bricks instead of the
ground. For temperature, the stoves are said to be very effective in
the winter, and in the summer we are cool and airy; the advantage
of these thick-walled palazzos is coolness in summer and warmth in
winter. I am very well and quite strong again, or rather, stronger
than ever, and able to walk as far as Cellini's Perseus in the
moonlight evenings, on the other side of the Arno. Oh, that Arno in
the sunset, with the moon and evening star standing by, how divine it
is!...

Think of me as ever your most affectionate
BA.

[Footnote 178: Otherwise known as Robert Mannyng, or Robert de Brunne,
author of the _Handlyng Synne_ and a _Chronicle of England_. He
flourished about 1288-1338.]

_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: July 4, [1848].

It does grieve me, my ever dearest Miss Mitford, to hear of the
suffering which has fallen upon you! Oh, rheumatism or not, whatever
the name may be, do take care, do consider, and turn your dear face
toward the seaside; somewhere where you can have warm sea bathing
and sea air, and be able to associate the word 'a drive' not with mad
ponies, but the mildest of donkeys, on a flat sand. The good it would
do you is incalculable, I am certain; it is precisely a case for
change of air, with quiet....

As for when you come to Florence, we won't have 'a pony carriage
between us,' if you please, because we may have a carriage and a pair
of horses and a coachman, and pay as little as for the pony-chair in
England. For three hundred a year one may live much like the Grand
Duchess, and go to the opera in the evening at fivepence-halfpenny
inclusive. Indeed, poor people should have their patriotism tenderly
dealt with, when, after certain experiments, they decide on living
upon the whole on the Continent. The differences are past belief,
beyond expectation, and when the sunshine is thrown in, the head turns
at once, and you fall straight into absenteeism. Ah, for the 'long
chats' and the 'having England at one another's fireside!' You talk of
delightful things indeed. We are very quiet, politically speaking,
and though we hear now and then of melancholy mothers who have to part
with their sons for Lombardy,[179] and though there are processions
for the blessing of flags and an occasional firing of guns for a
victory, or a cry in the streets, 'Notizie della guerra--leggete,
signori;' this is all we know of Radetsky in Florence; while, for
civil politics, the meeting of the senate took place a few days since
to the satisfaction of everybody, and the Grand Duke's speech was
generally admired. The elections have returned moderate men, and many
land-proprietors, and Robert, who went out to see the procession of
members, was struck by the grave thoughtful faces and the dignity
of expression. We are going some day to hear the debates, but it has
pleased their signoria to fix upon twelve (noon) for meeting, and
really I do not dare to go out in the sun. The hour is sufficiently
conclusive against dangerous enthusiasm. Poor France, poor France!
News of the dreadful massacre at Paris just reaches us, and the
letters and newspapers not arriving to-day, everybody fears a
continuation of the crisis. How is it to end? Who 'despairs of the
republic?' Why, _I_ do! I fear, I fear, that it cannot stand in
France, and you seem to have not much more hope. My husband has a
little, with melancholy intermediate prospects; but my own belief
that the people have had enough of democratic institutions and will be
impatient for a kingship anew. Whom will they have? How did you feel
when the cry was raised, 'Vive l'Empereur'? Only Prince Napoleon is a
Napoleon cut out in paper after all. The Prince de Joinville is said
to be very popular. It makes me giddy to think of the awful precipices
which surround France--to think, too, that the great danger is on the
question of _property_, which is perhaps divided there more justly
than in any other country of Europe. Lamartine has comprehended
nothing, that is clear, even if his amount of energy had been
effectual.... Yes, do send me the list of Balzac, _after_ 'Les Miseres
de la Vie Conjugale,' I mean. I left him in the midst of 'La Femme de
Soixante Ans,' who seemed on the point of turning the heads of all
'la jeunesse' around her; and, after all, she did not strike me as so
charming. But Balzac charms me, let him write what he will; he's an
inspired man. Tell me, too, exactly what Sue has done after 'Martin.'
I read only one volume of 'Martin.' And did poor Soulie finish his
'Dramas'? And after 'Lucretia' what did George Sand write? When Robert
and I are ambitious, we talk of buying Balzac in full some day, to put
him up in our bookcase from the convent, if the carved-wood angels,
infants and serpents, should not finish mouldering away in horror at
the touch of him. But I fear it will rather be an expensive purchase,
even here. Would that he gave up the drama, for which, as you observe,
he has no faculty whatever. In fact, the faculty he has is the very
reverse of the dramatic, ordinarily understood.... Dearest Mr. Kenyon
is called quite well and delightful by the whole world, though he
suffered from cough in the winter; and he is bringing out a new book
of poems, a 'Day at Tivoli,' and others; and he talks energetically of
coming to Florence this autumn. Also, we have hopes of Mr. Chorley. I
congratulate you on the going away of Madame. Coming and going bring
very various associations in this life of ours. Why, if _you_ were
to come we should appreciate our fortune, and you should have my
particular chair, which Robert calls mine because I like sitting in a
cloud; it's so sybaritically soft a chair. Now I love you for the kind
words you say of _him_, who deserves the best words of the best women
and men, wherever spoken! Yes, indeed, I am happy. Otherwise, I should
have a stone where the heart is, and sink by the weight of it.
You must have faith in me, for I never can make you thoroughly
to understand what he is, of himself, and to me--the noblest and
perfectest of human beings. After a year and ten months' absolute
soul-to-soul intercourse and union, I have to look higher still for my
first ideal. You won't blame me for bad taste that I say these things,
for can I help it, when I am writing my heart to you? It is a heart
which runs over very often with a grateful joy for a most peculiar
destiny, even in the midst of some bitter drawbacks which I need not
allude to farther....

May God bless you continually, even as I am

Your affectionate
BA.

[Footnote 179: The insurrection of Lombardy against Austrian rule
had taken place in March, and was immediately followed by war between
Sardinia and Austria, in which the Italians gained some initial
successes. Fighting continued through the summer, and was temporarily
closed by an armistice in August.]

_To Mrs. Jameson_
Palazzo Guidi: July 15, [1848].

Now at last, my very dear friend, I am writing to you, and the
reproach you sent to me in your letter shall not be driven inwardly
any more by my self-reproaches. Wasn't it your fault after all, a
little, that we did not hear one another's voice oftener? You are
_so long_ in writing. Then I have been putting off and putting off my
letter to you, just because I wanted to make a full letter of it; and
Robert always says that it's the bane of a correspondence to make a
full letter a condition of writing at all. But so much I had to tell
you! while the mere outline of facts you had from others, I knew.
Which is just said that you may forgive us both, and believe that we
think of you and love you, yes, and talk of you, even when we don't
write to you, and that we shall write to you for the future more
regularly, indeed. Your letter, notwithstanding its reproach, was
very welcome and very kind, only you must be fagged with the book, and
saddened by Lady Byron's state of health, and anxious about Gerardine
perhaps. The best of all was the prospect you hold out to us of coming
to Italy this year. Do, do come. Delighted we shall be to see you in
Florence, and wise it will be in you to cast behind your back both the
fear of Radetsky and as much English care as may be. Now, would it not
do infinite good to Lady Byron if you could carry her with you into
the sun? Surely it would do her great good; the change, the calm, the
atmosphere of beauty and brightness, which harmonises so wonderfully
with every shade of human feeling. Florence just now, and thanks to
the panic, is tolerably _clean_ of the English--you scarcely see an
English face anywhere--and perhaps this was a circumstance that helped
to give Robert courage to take our apartment here and 'settle down.'
You were surprised at so decided a step I dare say, and, I believe,
though too considerate to say it in your letter, you have wondered in
your thoughts at our fixing at Florence instead of Rome, and without
seeing more of Italy before the finality of making a choice. But
observe, Florence is wonderfully cheap, one lives here for just
nothing; and the convenience in respect to England, letters, and
the facility of letting our house in our absence, is incomparable
altogether. At Rome a house would be habitable only half the year, and
the distance and the expense are objections at the first sight of the
subject.... Altogether, if I could but get a supply of French books,
turning the cock easily, it would be perfect; but as to _anything_ new
in the book way, Vieusseux seems to have made a vow against it, and
poor Robert comes and goes in a state of desperation between me and
the bookseller ('But what _can_ I do, Ba?'), and only brings news
of some pitiful revolution or other which promises a full flush of
republican virtues and falls off into the fleur de lis as usual. Think
of our not having read 'Lucretia' yet--George Sand's. And Balzac is
six or seven works deep from us; but these are evils to be borne. We
live on just in the same way, having very few visitors, and receiving
them in the quietest of hospitalities. Mr. Ware, the American, who
wrote the 'Letters from Palmyra,' and is a delightful, earnest, simple
person, comes to have coffee with us once or twice a week, and very
much we like him. Mr. Hillard, another cultivated American friend of
ours, you have in London, and we should gladly have kept longer.
Mr. Powers does not spend himself much upon visiting, which is quite
right, but we do hope to see a good deal of Mademoiselle de Fauveau.
Robert exceedingly admires her. As to Italian society, one may as
well take to longing for the evening star, for it seems quite as
inaccessible; and indeed, of society of any sort, we have not much,
nor wish for it, nor miss it. Dearest friend, if I could open my heart
to you in all seriousness, you would see nothing there but a sort
of enduring wonder of happiness--yes, and some gratitude, I do hope,
besides. Could everything be well in England, I should only have to
melt out of the body at once in the joy and the glow of it. Happier
and happier I have been, month after month; and when I hear _him_ talk
of being happy too, my very soul seems to swim round with feelings
which cannot be spoken. But I tell you a little, because I owe the
telling to you, and also that you may set down in your philosophy the
possibility of book-making creatures living happily together. I admit,
though, to begin (or end), that my husband is an exceptional human
being, and that it wouldn't be just to measure another by him. We
are planning a great deal of enjoyment in this 'going to the fair' at
Sinigaglia, meaning to go by Arezzo and San Sepolchro, and Urbino, to
Fano, where we shall pitch our tent for the benefit, as Robert says,
of the sea air and the oysters. Fano is very habitable, and we may
get to Pesaro and the footsteps of Castiglione's 'courtier,' to say
nothing of Bernardo Tasso; and Ancona beckons from the other side
of Sinigaglia, and Loreto beside, only we shall have to restrain
our flights a little. The passage of the Apennine is said to be
magnificent, and, altogether, surely it must be delightful; and we
take only two carpet bags--not to be weighed down by 'impedimenta,'
and have our own home, left in charge of the porter, to return to at
last, I am very well and shall be better for the change, though Robert
is dreadfully afraid, as usual, that I shall fall to pieces at the
first motion....

May God bless you!
Ever I am your affectionate
BA.

Write to Florence as usual--Poste Restante. You will hear how we are
in great hopes of dear Mr. Kenyon.

Dear Aunt Nina,--Only a word in all the hurry of setting off. We love
you as you love us, and are pretty nearly as happy as you would have
us. All love and prosperity to dear Geddie, too; what do you say of
'Landor,' and my not sending it to Forster or somebody? _Che che_ (as
the Tuscans exclaim), _who_ was it promised to call at my people's,
who would have tendered it forthwith? I will see about it as it is.
Goodbye, dearest aunt, and let no revolution disturb your good will to
Ba and

R.B.

_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: August 24, 1848.

Ever dearest Miss Mitford,--It's great comfort to have your letter;
for as it came more lingeringly than usual, I had time to be a little
anxious, and even my husband has confessed since that he thought what
he would not say aloud for fear of paining me, as to the probability
of your being less well than usual. Your letters come so regularly
to the hour, you see, that when it strikes without them, we ask why.
Thank God, you are better after all, and reviving in spirits, as I saw
at the first glance before the words said it clearly....

As for ourselves, we have scarcely done so well, yet well; having
enjoyed a great deal in spite of drawbacks. Murray, the traitor, sent
us to Fano as a 'delightful summer residence for an English family,'
and we found it uninhabitable from the heat, vegetation scorched with
paleness, the very air swooning in the sun, and the gloomy looks of
the inhabitants sufficiently corroborative of their words, that no
drop of rain or dew ever falls there during the summer. A 'circulating
library' 'which doesn't give out books,' and 'a refined and
intellectual Italian society' (I quote Murray for that phrase) which
'never reads a book through' (I quote Mrs. Wiseman, Dr. Wiseman's
mother, who has lived in Fano seven years), complete the advantages
of the place, yet the churches are beautiful, and a divine picture
of Guercino's is worth going all that way to see.[180] By a happy
accident we fell in with Mrs. Wiseman, who, having married her
daughter to Count Gabrielli with ancestral possessions in Fano, has
lived on there from year to year, in a state of permanent moaning
as far as I could apprehend. She is a very intelligent and vivacious
person, and having been used to the best French society, bears but ill
this exile from the common civilities of life. I wish Dr. Wiseman, of
whose childhood and manhood she spoke with touching pride, would
ask her to minister to the domestic rites of his bishop's palace in
Westminster; there would be no hesitation, I fancy, in her acceptance
of the invitation. Agreeable as she and her daughter were, however, we
fled from Fano after three days, and, finding ourselves cheated out of
our dream of summer coolness, resolved on substituting for it what
the Italians call 'un bel giro.' So we went to Ancona, a striking sea
city, holding up against the brown rocks and elbowing out the purple
tides, beautiful to look upon. An exfoliation of the rock itself, you
would call the houses that seem to grow there, so identical is the
colour and character. I should like to visit Ancona again when there
is a little air and shadow; we stayed a week as it was, living upon
fish and cold water. Water, water, was the cry all day long, and
really you should have seen me (or you should not have seen me) lying
on the sofa, and demoralised out of all sense of female vanity, not
to say decency, with dishevelled hair at full length, and 'sans gown,
sans stays, sans shoes, sans everything,' except a petticoat and white
dressing wrapper. I said something feebly once about the waiter; but
I don't think I meant it for earnest, for when Robert said, 'Oh, don't
mind, dear,' certainly I didn't mind in the least. People _don't_,
I suppose, when they are in ovens, or in exhausted receivers. Never
before did I guess what heat was--that's sure. We went to Loreto for a
day, back through Ancona, Sinigaglia (oh, I forgot to tell you, there
was no fair this year at Sinigaglia; Italy will be content, I suppose,
with selling her honour), Fano, Pesaro, Rimini to Ravenna, back again
over the Apennines from Forli. A 'bel giro,' wasn't it? Ravenna, where
Robert positively wanted to go to live once, has itself put an end to
those yearnings. The churches are wonderful: holding an atmosphere
of purple glory, and if one could live just in them, or in Dante's
tomb--well, otherwise keep me from Ravenna. The very antiquity of the
houses is whitewashed, and the marshes on all sides send up stenches
new and old, till the hot air is sick with them. To get to the pine
forest, which is exquisite, you have to go a mile along the canal, the
exhalations pursuing you step for step, and, what ruffled me more
than all beside, we were not admitted into the house of Dante's tomb
'without an especial permission from the authorities.' Quite furious I
was about this, and both of us too angry to think of applying: but
we stood at the grated window and read the pathetic inscription as
plainly as if we had touched the marble. We stood there between three
and four in the morning, and then went straight on to Florence from
that tomb of the exiled poet. Just what we should have done, had the
circumstances been arranged in a dramatic intention. From Forli, the
air grew pure and quick again; and the exquisite, almost visionary
scenery of the Apennines, the wonderful variety of shape and colour,
the sudden transitions and vital individuality of those mountains, the
chestnut forests dropping by their own weight into the deep ravines,
the rocks cloven and clawed by the living torrents, and the hills,
hill above hill, piling up their grand existences as if they did it
themselves, changing colour in the effort--of these things I cannot
give you any idea, and if words could not, painting could not either.
Indeed, the whole scenery of our journey, except when we approached
the coast, was full of beauty. The first time we crossed the Apennine
(near Borgo San Sepolcro) we did it by moonlight, and the flesh was
weak, and one fell asleep, and saw things between sleep and wake, only
the effects were grand and singular so, even though of course we lost
much in the distinctness. Well, but you will understand from all this
that we were delighted to get home--_I_ was, I assure you. Florence
seemed as cool as an oven after the fire; indeed, we called it quite
cool, and I took possession of my own chair and put up my feet on the
cushions and was charmed, both with having been so far and coming back
so soon. Three weeks brought us home. Flush was a fellow traveller of
course, and enjoyed it in the most obviously amusing manner. Never
was there so good a dog in a carriage before his time! Think of Flush,
too! He has a supreme contempt for trees and hills or anything of that
kind, and, in the intervals of natural scenery, he drew in his head
from the window and didn't consider it worth looking at; but when the
population thickened, and when a village or a town was to be passed
through, then his eyes were starting out of his head with eagerness;
he looked east, he looked west, you would conclude that he was taking
notes or preparing them. His eagerness to get into the carriage first
used to amuse the Italians. Ah, poor Italy! I am as mortified as
an Italian ought to be. They have only the rhetoric of patriots and
soldiers, I fear! Tuscany is to be spared forsooth, if she lies still,
and here she lies, eating ices and keeping the feast of the Madonna.
Perdoni! but she has a review in the Cascine besides, and a gallant
show of some 'ten thousand men' they are said to have made of it--only
don't think that I and Robert went out to see that sight. We should
have sickened at it too much. An amiable, refined people, too, these
Tuscans are, conciliating and affectionate. When you look out into
the streets on feast days, you would take it for one great 'rout,'
everybody appears dressed for a drawing room, and you can scarcely
discern the least difference between class and class, from the Grand
Duchess to the Donna di facenda; also there is no belying of the
costume in the manners, the most gracious and graceful courtesy
and gentleness being apparent in the thickest crowds. This is all
attractive and delightful; but the people wants _stamina_, wants
conscience, wants self-reverence. Dante's soul has died out of
the land. Enough of this. As for France, I have 'despaired of the
republic' for very long, but the nation is a great nation, and will
right itself under some flag, white or red. Don't you think so? Thank
you for the news of our authors, it is as 'the sound of a trumpet afar
off,' and I am like the war-horse. Neglectful that I am, I forgot to
tell you before that you heard quite rightly about Mr. Thackeray's
wife, who is ill _so_. Since your question, I had in gossip from
England that the book 'Jane Eyre' was written by a governess in his
house, and that the preface to the foreign edition refers to him
in some marked way. We have not seen the book at all. But the first
letter in which you mentioned your Oxford student caught us in the
midst of his work upon art.[181] Very vivid, very graphic, full of
sensibility, but inconsequent in some of the reasoning, it seemed to
me, and rather flashy than full in the metaphysics. Robert, who
knows a good deal about art, to which knowledge I of course have no
pretence, could agree with him only by snatches, and we, both of
us, standing before a very expressive picture of Domenichino's (the
'David'--at Fano) wondered how he could blaspheme so against a great
artist. Still, he is no ordinary man, and for a critic to be so much
a poet is a great thing. Also, we have by no means, I should imagine,
seen the utmost of his stature. How kindly you speak to me of my
dearest sisters. Yes, go to see them whenever you are in London, they
are worthy of the gladness of receiving you. And will you write soon
to me, and tell me everything of yourself, how you are, how home
agrees with you, and the little details which are such gold dust to
absent friends....

May God bless you, my beloved friend. Let me ever be (my husband
joining in all warm regards) your most affectionate

BA.

[Footnote 180:'Guercino drew this angel I saw teach
(Alfred, dear friend!) that little child to pray
Holding his little hands up, each to each
Pressed gently, with his own head turned away,
Over the earth where so much lay before him
Of work to do, though heaven was opening o'er him,
And he was left at Fano by the beach.

'We were at Fano, and three times we went
To sit and see him in his chapel there,
And drink his beauty to our soul's content
My angel with me too.']

[Footnote 181: The first two volumes of _Modern Painters_ bore no
author's name, but were described as being 'by a graduate of Oxford.'
At a later date Mrs. Browning made Mr. Ruskin's acquaintance, as some
subsequent letters testify.]

_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: October 10, 1848.

My ever dearest Miss Mitford,--Have you not thought some hard thoughts
of me, for not instantly replying to a letter which necessarily must
have been, to one who loved you, of such painful interest? Do I not
love you truly? Yes, indeed. But while preparing to write to you
my deep regret at hearing that you had been so ill, illness came in
another form to prevent me from writing, my husband being laid up for
nearly a month with fever and ulcerated sore throat. I had not the
heart to write a line to anyone, much less to prepare a packet to
escort your letter free from foreign postage; and to make you pay for
a chapter of Lamentations' without the spirit of prophecy, would have
been too hard on you, wouldn't it? Quite unhappy I have been over
those burning hands and languid eyes, the only unhappiness I ever had
by _them_, and then he wouldn't see a physician; and if it hadn't been
that, just at the right moment, Mr. Mahony, the celebrated Jesuit, and
Father Prout of 'Fraser,' knowing everything as those Jesuits are apt
to do, came in to us on his way to Rome, pointed out that the fever
got ahead through weakness and mixed up with his own kind hand a
potion of eggs and port wine, to the horror of our Italian servant,
who lifted up his eyes at such a prescription for a fever, crying, 'O
Inglesi, Inglesi!' the case would have been far worse, I have no kind
of doubt. For the eccentric prescription gave the power of sleeping,
and the pulse grew quieter directly. I shall always be grateful to
Father Prout, always. The very sight of some one with a friend's name
and a cheerful face, his very jests at me for being a 'bambina' and
frightened without cause, were as comforting as the salutation of
angels. Also, he has been in Florence ever since, and we have seen
him every day; he came to doctor and remained to talk. A very singular
person, of whom the world tells a thousand and one tales, you know,
but of whom I shall speak as I find him, because the utmost kindness
and warmheartedness have characterised his whole bearing towards us.
Robert met him years ago at dinner at Emerson Tennent's, and since has
crossed paths with him on various points of Europe. The first time I
saw him was as he stood on a rock at Leghorn, at our disembarkation
in Italy. Not refined in a social sense by any manner of means, yet
a most accomplished scholar and vibrating all over with learned
associations and vivid combinations of fancy and experience--having
seen all the ends of the earth and the men thereof, and possessing the
art of talk and quotation to an amusing degree. In another week or
two he will be at Rome.... How graphically you give us your Oxford
student! Well! the picture is more distinct than Turner's, and if you
had called it, in the manner of the Master, 'A Rock Limpet,' we
should have recognised in it the corresponding type of the gifted and
eccentric writer in question. Very eloquent he is, I agree at once,
and true views he takes of Art in the abstract, true and elevating. It
is in the application of connective logic that he breaks away from one
so violently.... We are expecting our books by an early vessel, and
are about to be very busy, building up a rococo bookcase of carved
angels and demons. Also we shall get up curtains, and get down bedroom
carpets, and finish the remainder of our furnishing business, now
that the hot weather is at an end. I say 'at an end,' though the glass
stands at seventy. As to the 'war,' _that_ is rather different, it is
painful to feel ourselves growing gradually cooler and cooler on the
subject of Italian patriotism, valour, and good sense; but the process
is inevitable. The child's play between the Livornese and our Grand
Duke provokes a thousand pleasantries. Every now and then a day is
fixed for a revolution in Tuscany, but up to the present time a shower
has come and put it off. Two Sundays ago Florence was to have been
'sacked' by Leghorn, when a drizzle came and saved us. You think this
a bad joke of mine or an impotent sarcasm, perhaps; whereas I merely
speak historically. Brave men, good men, even sensible men there are
of course in the land, but they are not strong enough for the times
or for masterdom. For France, it is a great nation; but even in
France they want a man, and Cavaignacso[182] only a soldier. If Louis
Napoleon had the muscle of his uncle's little finger in his soul, he
would be president, and king; but he is flaccid altogether, you see,
and Joinville stands nearer to the royal probability after all.
'Henri Cinq' is said to be too closely espoused to the Church, and his
connections at Naples and Parma don't help his cause. Robert has more
hope of the _republic_ than I have: but call ye _this_ a republic? Do
you know that Miss Martineau takes up the 'History of England' under
Charles Knight, in the continuation of a popular book? I regret her
fine imagination being so wasted. So you saw Mr. Chorley? What a
pleasant flashing in the eyes! We hear of him in Holland and Norway.
Dear Mr. Kenyon won't stir from England, we see plainly. Ah! Frederic
Soulie! he is too dead, I fear. Perhaps he goes on, though, writing
romances, after the fashion of poor Miss Pickering, that prove
nothing. I long for my French fountains of living literature, which,
pure or impure, plashed in one's face so pleasantly. Some old French
'Memoires' we have got at lately, 'Brienne' for instance. It is
curious how the leaders of the last revolution (under Louis XVIII.)
seem to have despised one another. Brienne is very dull and flat. For
Puseyism, it runs counter to the spirit of our times, after all, and
will never achieve a church. May God bless you! Robert's regards go
with the love of your ever affectionate

BA.

[Footnote 182: At this time President of the Council, after
suppressing the Communist rising of June 1848.]

_To Mrs. Martin_
Florence: December 3, 1848.

My dearest Mrs. Martin,--It seemed long to me that you had not
written, and it seems long to me now that I have not answered the kind
letter which came at last. Then Henrietta told me of your being unwell
at the moment of her mad excursion into Herefordshire. Altogether
I want to speak to you and hear from you, and shall be easier and
gladder when both are done. Do forgive my sins and write directly, and
tell me everything about both of you, and how you are in spirits and
health, and whether you really make up your minds to see more danger
in the stormy influences of the Continent in the moral point of view
than in those of England in the physical. For my part I hold to my
original class of fear, and would rather face two or three revolutions
than an east wind of an English winter. If I were you I would go to
Pau as usual and take poor Abd-el-Kader's place (my husband is furious
about the treatment of Abd-el-Kader, so I hear a good deal about
him[183]), or I would go to Italy and try Florence, where really
democratic ministries roar as gently as sucking doves, particularly
when they are safe in place. We have listened to dreadful
rumours--Florence was to have been sacked several times by the
Livornese; the Grand Duke went so far as to send away his family
to Siena, and we had 'Morte a Fiorentini!' chalked up on the walls.
Still, somehow or other, the peace has been kept in Florentine
fashion; it has rained once or twice, which is always enough here to
moderate the most revolutionary when they wear their best surtouts,
and I look forward to an unbroken tranquillity just as I used to
do, even though the windows of the Ridolfi Palace (the ambassador in
London) were smashed the other evening a few yards from ours. Perhaps
a gentle and affectionate approach to contempt for our Florentines
mixes a little with this feeling of security, but what then? They
are an amiable, refined, graceful people, with much of the artistic
temperament as distinguished from that of men of genius--effeminate,
no, rather _feminine_ in a better sense--of a fancy easily turned into
impulse, but with no strenuous and determinate strength in them. What
they comprehend best in the 'Italian League' is probably a league to
wear silk velvet and each a feather in his hat, to carry flags and cry
_vivas_, and keep a grand festa day in the piazzas. Better and happier
in this than in stabbing prime ministers, or hanging up their dead
bodies to shoot at; and not much more childish than these French
patriots and republicans, who crown their great deeds by electing to
the presidency such a man as Prince Louis Napoleon, simply because
'C'est le neveu de son oncle!'[184] A curious precedent for a
president, certainly; but, oh heavens and earth, what curious things
abroad everywhere just now, inclusive of the sea serpent! I agree
with you that much of all is very melancholy and disheartening, though
holding fast by my hope and belief that good will be the end, as it
always _is_ God's end to man's frenzies, and that all we observe is
but the fermentation necessary to the new wine, which presently we
shall drink pure. Meanwhile, the saddest thing is the impossibility
(which I, for one, feel) to sympathise, to go along with, the _people_
to whom and to whose cause all my natural sympathies yearn. The
word 'Liberty' ceases to make me thrill, as at something great and
unmistakable, as, for instance, the other great words Truth, and
Justice; do. The salt has lost its savour, the meaning has escaped
from the term; we know nothing of what people will _do_ when they
aspire to Liberty. The holiness of liberty is desecrated by the sign
of the ass's hoof. Fixed principles, either of opinion or action, seem
clearly gone out of the world. The principle of Destruction is in the
place of the principle of Re-integration, or of Radical Reform, as we
called it in England. I look all round and can sympathise nowhere.
The rulers hold by rottenness, and the people leap into the abyss,
and nobody knows why this is, or why that is. As to France, my tears
(which I really couldn't help at the time of the expulsion of poor
Louis Philippe and his family, not being very strong just then) are
justified, it appears, though my husband thought them foolish (and so
did I), and though we both began by an adhesion to the Republic in
the cordial manner. But, just see, the Republic was a 'man in an iron
mask' or helmet, and turns out a military dictatorship, a throttling
of the press, a starving of the finances, and an election of Louis
Napoleon to be President. Louis Philippe was better than all this,
take him at worst, and at worst he did _not_ deserve the mud and
stones cast at him, which I have always maintained and maintain still.
England might have got up ('happy country') more crying grievances
than France at the moment of outbreak; but what makes outbreaks
now-a-days is not 'the cause, my soul,' but the stuff of the people.
You are huckaback on the other side of the Channel, and you wear out
the poor Irish linen, let the justice of the case be what it may.
Politics enough and too much, surely, especially now when they are
depressing to you, and more or less to everybody.... We are still
in the slow agonies of furnishing our apartment. You see, being
the poorest and most prudent of possible poets, we had to solve the
problem of taking our furniture out of our year's income (proceeds
of poems and the like), and of not getting into debt. Oh, I take no
credit to myself; I was always in debt in my little way ('small _im_
morals,' as Dr. Bowring might call it) before I married, but Robert,
though a poet and dramatist by profession, being descended from
the blood of all the Puritans, and educated by the strictest of
dissenters, has a sort of horror about the dreadful fact of owing
five shillings five days, which I call quite morbid in its degree and
extent, and which is altogether unpoetical according to the traditions
of the world. So we have been dragging in by inches our chairs and
tables throughout the summer, and by no means look finished and
furnished at this late moment, the slow Italians coming at the heels
of our slowest intentions with the putting up of our curtains, which
begin to be necessary in this November tramontana. Yet in a month or
three weeks we shall look quite comfortable--before Christmas; and
in the meantime we heap up the pine wood and feel perfectly warm
with these thick palace walls between us and the outside air. Also my
husband's new edition is on the _edge_ of coming out, and we have had
an application from Mr. Phelps, of Sadler's Wells, for leave to act
his 'Blot on the 'Scutcheon,' which, if it doesn't succeed, its
public can have neither hearts nor intellects (that being an impartial
opinion), and which, if it succeeds, will be of pecuniary advantage to
us. Look out in the papers.... My love and my husband's go to you, our
dear friends. Let me be always

Your affectionate and grateful
BA.

While Italy shows herself so politically demoralised, and the blood of
poor Russia smokes from the ground, the ground seems to care no more
for it than the newspapers, or anybody else.

Such a jar of flowers we have to keep December. White roses, as in
June.

[Footnote 183: Abd-el-Kader surrendered to the French in Algeria early
in 1848, under an express promise that he should be sent either to
Alexandria or to St. Jean d'Acre; in spite of which he was sent to
France and kept there as a prisoner for several years.]

[Footnote 184: Louis Napoleon was elected President of the French
Republic by a popular vote on December 10.]

_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: December 16, [1848].

... You are wondering, perhaps, how we are so fool-hardy as to keep on
furnishing rooms in the midst of 'anarchy,' the Pope a fugitive, and
the crowned heads packing up. Ah, but we have faith in the _softness_
of our Florentines, who must be well spurred up to the leap before
they do any harm. These things look worse at a distance than they do
near, although, seen far and near, nothing _can_ be worse than the
evidence of demoralisation of people, governors, and journalists, in
the sympathy given everywhere to the assassination of poor Rossi.[185]
If Rossi was retrocessive, he was at least a constitutional minister,
and constitutional means of opposing him were open to all, but Italy
understands nothing constitutional; liberty is a fair word and a
watchword, nothing more; an idea it is not in the minds of any. The
poor Pope I deeply pity; he is a weak man with the noblest and most
disinterested intentions. His faithful flock have nearly broken his
heart by the murder of his two personal friends, Rossi and Palma, and
the threat, which they sent him by embassy, of murdering every man,
woman, and child in the Quirinal, with the exception of his Holiness,
unless he accepted their terms. He should have gone out to them and so
died, but having missed that opportunity, nothing remained but flight.
He was a mere Pope hostage as long as he stayed in Rome. Curious, the
'intervention of the French,' so long desired by the Italians,
and vouchsafed _so_.[186] The Florentines open their eyes in mute
astonishment, and some of them 'won't read the journals any more.' The
boldest say softly that the _Romans are sure not to bear it_. And what
is to happen in France? Why, what a world we have just now.... Father
Prout is gone to Rome for a fortnight, has stayed three weeks, and
day by day we expect him back again. I don't understand how the Prout
papers should have hurt him ecclesiastically, but that he should be
_known_ for their writer is not astonishing, as the secret was never,
I believe, attempted to be kept. We have been, at least _I_ have
been, a little anxious lately about the fate of the 'Blot on the
'Scutcheon,' which Mr. Phelps applied for my husband's permission to
revive at Sadler's. Of course, putting the request was a mere form,
as he had every right to act the play, and there was nothing to answer
but one thing. Only it made one anxious--made _me_ anxious--till we
heard the result, and we, both of us, are very grateful to dear Mr.
Chorley, who not only made it his business to be at the theatre the
first night, but, before he slept, sat down like a true friend to give
us the story of the result, and never, he says, was a more complete
and legitimate success. The play went straight to the heart of the
audience, it seems, and we hear of its continuance on the stage from
the papers. So far, so well. You may remember, or may not have heard,
how Macready brought it out and put his foot on it in the flash of
a quarrel between manager and author, and Phelps, knowing the whole
secret and feeling the power of the play, determined on making a
revival of it on his own theatre, which was wise, as the event proves.
Mr. Chorley called his acting really 'fine.' I see the second edition
of the 'Poetical Works' advertised at last in the 'Athenaeum,' and
conclude it to be coming out directly. Also my second edition is
called for, only nothing is yet arranged on that point. We have had a
most interesting letter from Mr. Home, giving terrible accounts, to be
sure, of the submersion of all literature in England and France since
the French Revolution, but noble and instructive proof of individual
wave-riding energy, such as I have always admired in him. He and his
wife, he says, live chiefly on the produce of their garden, and keep
a cheerful heart for the rest; even the 'Institutes' expect gratuitous
lectures, so that the sweat of the brain seems less productive than
the sweat of the brow. I am glad that Mr. Serjeant Talfourd and his
wife spoke affectionately of my husband, for he is attached to both
of them.... My Flush has grown to be passionately fond of grapes,
devouring bunch after bunch, and looking so fat and well that we
attribute some virtue to them. When he goes to England he will be as
much in a strait as an Italian who related to us his adventures in
London; he had had a long walk in the heat, and catching sight of
grapes hanging up in a grocer's shop, he stopped short to have a
pennyworth, as he said inwardly to himself. Down he sat and made out
a Tuscan luncheon in purple bunches. At last, taking out his purse to
look for the halfpence: 'Fifteen shillings, sir, if you please,' said
the shopman. Now do write soon, and speak particularly of your health,
and take care of it and don't be too complaisant to visitors. May God
bless you, my very dear friend! Think of me as

Ever your affectionate and grateful
E.B.B.
_My husband's regards always._

[Footnote 185: Count Pellegrino Rossi, chief minister to the Pope, was
assassinated in Rome, at the entrance of the Chamber of Deputies,
on November 15, 1848. Ten days later the Pope fled to Gaeta, and his
experiments in 'reform' came to a final end.]

[Footnote 186: The Pope, having declared war against Austria before
his flight, had invited French support, with the concurrence of his
people; being expelled from Rome, he invited (and obtained) French
help to restore him, in spite of the desperate opposition of his
people.]

CHAPTER VI

1849-1851

There is here a pause of two months in the correspondence of Mrs.
Browning, during which the happiness of her already happy life was
crowned by the birth, on March 9, 1849, of her son, Robert Wiedeman
Barrett Browning.[187] How great a part this child henceforward played
in her life will be shown abundantly by the letters that follow. Some
passages referring to the child's growth, progress, and performances
have been omitted, partly in the necessary reduction of the bulk of
the correspondence, and partly because too much of one subject may
weary the reader. But enough has been left to show that, in the case
of Mrs. Browning (and of her husband likewise), the parent was by no
means lost in the poet. There is little in what she says which might
not equally be said, and is in substance said, by hundreds of happy
mothers in every age; but it would be a suppression of one essential
part of her nature, and an injury to the pleasant picture which the
whole life of this poet pair presents, if her enthusiasms over her
child were omitted or seriously curtailed. Biographers are fond of
elaborating the details in which the lives of poets have not conformed
to the standard of the moral virtues; let us at least recognise
that, in the case of Robert and Elizabeth Browning, the moral and the
intellectual virtues flourished side by side, each contributing its
share to the completeness of the whole character.

[Footnote 187: Wiedeman was the maiden name of Mr. Browning's mother,
her father having been a German who settled in Scotland and married a
Scotch wife.]

The joy of this firstborn's birth was, however, very quickly dimmed
by the news of the death, only a few days later, of Mr. Browning's
mother, to whom he was devotedly attached. Her death was very sudden,
and the shock of the reaction completely prostrated him for a long
time. The following letters from Mrs. Browning tell how he felt this
loss.

_To Miss Browning_
April i, 1849 [postmark].

I do indeed from the bottom of my heart pity you and grieve with you,
my dearest Sarianna. I may grieve with you as well as for you; for I
too have lost. Believe that, though I never saw her face; I loved that
pure and tender spirit (tender to me even at this distance), and that
she will be dear and sacred to me to the end of my own life.

Dearest Sarianna, I thank you for your consideration and admirable
self-control in writing those letters. I do thank and bless you.
If the news had come unbroken by such precaution to my poor darling
Robert, it would have nearly killed him, I think. As it is, he has
been able to cry from the first, and I am able to tell you that though
dreadfully affected, of course, for you know his passionate love for
her, he is better and calmer now--much better. He and I dwell on
the hope that you and your dear father will come to us at once.
Come--dear, dear Sarianna--I will at least love you as you
deserve--you and him--if I can do no more. If you would comfort
Robert, come.

No day has passed since our marriage that he has not fondly talked of
her. I know how deep in his dear heart her memory lies. God comfort
you, my dearest Sarianna. The blessing of blessed duties heroically
fulfilled _must_ be With you. May the blessing of the Blessed in
heaven be added to the rest!

Robert stops me. My dear love to your father.

Your ever attached sister, BA.

_To Miss Browning_
[April 1849.]

You will have comfort in hearing, my dearest Sarianna, that Robert
is better on the whole than when I wrote last, though still very much
depressed. I wish I could get him to go somewhere or do something--at
any rate God's comforts are falling like dew on all this affliction,
and must in time make it look a green memory to you both. Continually
he thinks of you and of his father--believe how continually and
tenderly he thinks of you. Dearest Sarianna, I feel so in the quick
of my heart how you must feel, that I scarcely have courage to entreat
you to go out and take the necessary air and exercise, and yet that
is a duty, clear as other duties, and to be discharged like others
by you, as fully, and with as little shrinking of the will. If your
health should suffer, what grief upon grief to those who grieve
already! And besides, we who have to live are not to lie down under
the burden. There will be time enough for lying down presently, very
soon; and in the meanwhile there is plenty of God's work to do with
the body and with the soul, and we have to do it as cheerfully as
we can. Dearest Sarianna, you can look behind and before, on blessed
memories and holy hopes--love is as full for you as ever in the old
relation, even though her life in the world is cut off. There is no
drop of bitterness in all this flood of sorrow. In the midst of the
great anguish which God has given, you have to thank Him for some
blessing with every pang as it comes. Never was a more beautiful,
serene, assuring death than this we are all in tears for--for, believe
me, my very dear sister, I have mourned with you, knowing what we all
have lost, I who never saw her nor shall see her until a few years
shall bring us all together to the place where none mourn nor are
parted. Sarianna, will it not be possible, do you think, for you and
your father to come here, if only for a few months? Then you might
decide on the future upon more knowledge than you have now. It
would be comfort and joy to Robert and me if we could all of us live
together henceforward. Think what you would like, and how you would
best like it. Your living on _even through this summer at that house_,
I, who have well known the agony of such bindings to the rack, do
protest against. Dearest Sarianna, it is not good or right either
for you or for your dear father. For Robert to go back to that house
unless it were to do one of you some good, think how it would be with
_him_! Tell us now (for he yearns towards you--we both do), what is
the best way of bringing us all together, so as to do every one of us
some good? If Florence is too far off, is there any other place where
we could meet and arrange for the future? Could not your dear father's
leave of absence be extended this summer, out of consideration of what
has happened, and would he not be so enabled to travel with you and
meet us _somewhere_? We will do anything. For my part, I am full of
anxiety; and for Robert, you may guess what his is, you who know him.
Very bitter has it been to me to have interposed unconsciously as
I have done and deprived him of her last words and kisses--very
bitter--and nothing could be so consolatory to me as to give him back
to _you_ at least. So think for me, dearest Sarianna--think for your
father and yourself, think for Robert--and remember that Robert and
I will do anything which shall appear possible to you. May God bless
you, both of you! Give my true love to your father. Feeling for you
and with you always and most tenderly, I am your affectionate sister,
BA.

_To Miss Mitford_
Florence: April 30, 1849.

I am writing to you, _at last_, you will say, ever dearest Miss

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