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try and find fault and do you some little good hereafter —but nothing comes of it all—so into me has it gone, and part of me has it become, this great living poetry of yours, not a flower of which but took root and grew.
In this strain of praise he continues and then goes on to say how near he once was to seeing her and becoming acquainted.
She replied in a letter of gratitude for this pleasing praise, and says:
“Sympathy is dear, very dear to me; but the sympathy of a poet, and such a poet, is the quintessence of sympathy to me! Will you take back my gratitude for it 2 Agreeing, too, that of all the commerce done in the world, from Tyre
to Carthage, the exchange of sympathy for gratitude is the most princely thing !
And thus the love match began. From gratitude and sympathy they passed to friendship, and from friendship to love. It was not until the following May that they met. Soon came Browning's declaration of love, and this at first Miss Barrett would not hear—first out of filial piety, and second on the score of her own health, which she thought would only be a burden to a husband. Miss Barrett had a most extraordinary father, who was a self-willed, intolerant and narrow-minded man. He had a large family, eleven
sons and daughters, and he would not consent to
the marriage of any of them. On pain of his displeasure he forbade them to marry. That being the Barrettian decree, Miss Barrett refused to hear Mr. Browning at first because she knew she could not obtain her father's consent, and to marry without it seemed little less than the unpardonable sin. But the wooing of a lover becomes sometimes stronger than parental authority, and by September Browning had so far won her consent that if her health improved she would agree to an engagement. Her health did improve, and by and by they were betrothed. Still there remained the obdurate father in the way. Finally his consent being impossible to obtain—it was not even asked, so well was his nature known— the lovers agreed to an elopement, which was successfully carried out in September, 1846, and they fled to Italy. The father never forgave them. It is a most delightful love story, and the letters relate it, but they contain much else. The writers do not confine themselves to their own feelings, but write about and criticise each other's poems, in which Miss Barrett wonderfully improves some of the blinder passages in what Browning is writing. He was then writing “Bells and Pomegranates” “Why bells and pomegranates ?” said she. “Symbolical,” he replied, “ of pleasure and profit, the gay and the grave, the poetry and the prose, singing and sermonizing.” We have also glimpses of Carlyle, brief criticisms of Tennyson and Dickens and appreciations of Thackeray, as well as some references to Edgar A. Poe, one of the first of critics to recognize Miss Barrett's genius. In one of her letters Miss Barrett gives an exquisite autobiographical sketch of her childhood and early reading. After describing her studies and her disposition to versify, she goes on :
As to the gods and goddesses, I believed in them all quite seriously and reconciled them to Christianity, which I believed in, too, after a fashion, as some greater philosophers have done—and went out one day with my pinafore full of little sticks (and a match from the housemaid's cupboard) to sacrifice to blue-eyed Minerva, who was my favorite goddess, on the whole, because she cared for Athens. As soon as I began to doubt about my goddesses I fell into a vague sort of general skepticism, and, though I went on saying the Lord's prayer at nights and mornings, and the “Bless all my kind friends" afterward by the childish custom, yet I ended this liturgy with a supplication which I found in “King's Memoirs' and which took my fancy and met my general views exactly: “O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul.” Perhaps the theology of many thoughtful children is scarcely more orthodox than this ; but indeed it is wonderful to myself sometimes how I came to escape, on the whole, as well as I have done. . . . Papa used to say: “Don’t read Gibbon's History—it's not a proper book. Don't read “Tom Jones' and none of the books on this side, mind.” So I was very obedient and never touched the books on that side, and only read instead Tom Paine's “Age of Reason" and Voltaire's “Philosophical Dictionary" and Hume's “Essays” and “Werther" and Rousseau and Mary Wollstonecraft, books which I was never suspected of looking toward and which were not on “that side” certainly, but which did as well.
One could quote from these delightful letters without end. They form an authentic part of the lives of the Brownings that every lover of their poetry should read.
RICHARD HENGIST HORN E. (18o3–1884.)
In reading the published letters of the Brownings one frequently comes across the name of Richard Henry Horne, who was their friend and correspondent and most highly esteemed by both. He was also a poet, and, if one chooses to inquire, he was among the greatest of the Victorian poets. Yet he is now quite obscure, unknown possibly to thousands with whom the names of the Brownings and Tennyson are household words. He was not only a poet, but remarkable in other ways, having led an adventurous life in many parts of the world, being notable for his feats of strength. He was a daring swimmer. Could bend a poker by striking it against his forearm, and danced and played and sung up to his eightieth year. He fought for Mexican independence in 1820 as a midshipman in the Mexican Navy, and took part
in the capture of Vera Cruz. After the war