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her to himself as you would lift a sleeping child from a dark, uneasy bed into your arms and the light." "So ended on earth," says Frederick G. Kenyon, "the most perfect example of wedded happiness in the history of literature, perfect in the inner life and in poetical expression."

Our most intimate and complete knowledge of their life together is recently received from the publication of her letters written to various friends. One value of the volumes is that in them we have a new, we will not say a different, presentment of Robert Browning, who is silhouetted in many attitudes. In her unstudied references, as in a mirror, we see the reflection of him as he comes and goes in the privacy of home and in his intercourse with the outside world, at times when he had no thought of sitting for his picture and she no intention of sketching him for the public eye. To read these letters is almost like looking into her eyes and seeing that image of him which her retina carried. That Mrs. Browning's letters to her friends should ever disparage her husband would not be expected, and doubtless all her words about him are "truth told lovingly;" yet also probably they are the truth, though written by so fond a hand. That she saw deeper into him than anybody else did and knew him absolutely gives to her occasional and incidental testimonies an exceptional and final significance. Nowhere will these letters be more valued than in America, where both her genius and his first found appreciative recognition and received due appraisement long before England could perceive the greatness of her own children.

The attachment of these two poet souls had its beginning by telepathy. They contracted mutual admiration from one another's early published writings. Without knowledge to make intention possible they interchanged intellectual samples of themselves as one royal palm tree sends off its vital dust upon the wayward wind to find an unknown other of its kind. Meeting after a while, they discovered that they had been born intimate friends. It is interesting to note his first arrival within her mind's horizon. In 1842 she prints in the Athenæum a series of papers on the Greek Christian poets, and is told by somebody that they are read and approved by "Mr. Browning, the poet," who, she hears, "is learned in Greek, especially in the dramatists." In 1843 she is vexed and indignant at the harsh comments of literary critics on Browning's "Blot on the 'Scutcheon," the

Athenæum charging him with taking pleasure in being enigmatical, which it declared to be a sign of weakness; and she writes to a friend: "I do assure you I never saw him in my life do not know him even by correspondence-and yet, whether through fellow-feeling for Eleusinian mysteries, or through appreciation of his powers, I am very sensitive to the thousand and one stripes with which the assembly of critics doth expound its vocation over him: the Athenæum, for instance, made me quite cross and misanthropical last week." And then follows a most discerning statement, as correct now as it was fifty years ago: "The truth is-and the world should know the truth-it is easier to find a more faultless writer than a poet of equal genius." In January, 1845, she closes a note to a friend with this important intelligence: "I had a letter from Browning, the poet, last night-Browning, the author of 'Paracelsus' and King of the Mystics;" and a few weeks later there is this: "I am getting deeper and deeper into correspondence with Robert Browning, and we are growing to be the truest of friends." In May of that year she writes Mr. Westwood: "Did you persevere with 'Sordello'? I hope so. We may all learn (as poets) much and deeply from it. When you have read it through, then read for relaxation and recompense 'Colombe's Birthday,' which is exquisite. Only 'Pippa Passes' I lean to, or kneel to, with deepest reverence."

In that same May Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett met for the first time, and before many months he offered himself and his life to an apparently hopeless invalid, and asked her to be his wife. Of the debate which ensued she herself writes: "I showed him how he was throwing into the ashes his best affections-how the common gifts of youth and cheerfulness were behind me -how I had not strength, even of heart, for the ordinary duties of life everything I told him and showed him. Look at this -and this-and this,' throwing down all my disadvantages before him. To which he did not answer by a single compliment, but simply that he had not then to choose, and that I might be right or he might be right-he was not there to decide, but that he loved me and should to his last hour. He said that the freshness of youth had passed with him also, and that he had studied the world out of books and seen many women, yet had never loved one until he had seen me; that he knew himself and knew that, if ever so repulsed, he should love me to

his last hour-it should be first and last." No wonder she felt that of her own knowledge she could affirm the truth of Mr. Kenyon's words, "Robert Browning is great in everything." No wonder she wrote, after marriage, to a friend: "His genius and almost miraculous attainments are the least things in him, the moral nature being of the very noblest, as all who ever knew him admit. He has had that wide experience of men which ends by throwing the mind back on itself and God. There is nothing incomplete in him, except as all humanity is incomplete. . . . If it were not that I look up to him we should be too alike to be together, perhaps, but I know my place better than he does, who is too humble." In 1850, four years after marriage, she writes Miss Mitford: "Ah, you would soon love Robert. You couldn't help it, I'm sure. Do you remember once telling me that all men are tyrants?'-as sweeping an opinion as that 'all men are liars.' Well, if you knew Robert you would make an exception surely." Similarly, years later, to Miss Blagden: "I am glad Robert was good last night. He tells me he defended Swedenborg, which suggested to me some notion of superhuman virtue on his part. Yes, love him. He is my right glory,' and the 'lute and harp' would go for nothing beside him." Also, later, to Mrs. Jameson: "Ah, yes. You appreciate Robert; you know what is in his poetry. Certainly there is no pretension in me toward his profound suggestiveness, and I thank you for knowing and saying it."

Gifted as she was herself she yet knew that her poetry did not match his in originality, vitality, intensity, sublimity, profundity, or force; and her sense of justice as well as her affection caused her to rejoice with joy unspeakable at every valuable recognition of his extraordinary genius. Within a year after marriage she tells a friend: "I heard of Carlyle's saying the other day that he hoped more from Robert Browning for the people of England than from any other living writer. . . . He loves my husband, I am proud to say." In 1855, from Paris, she answers Mr. Ruskin: "You please me-O, so much— by the words about my husband. When you wrote to praise my poems of course I had to bear it. I couldn't turn round and say, Well, and why don't you praise him, who is worth twenty of me? Praise my second Me as well as my Me proper, if you please.' One's forced to be rather decent and modest for one's husband as well as for one's self, even if it's

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harder. I couldn't pull at your coat to read 'Pippa Passes,' for instance. I can't now. But you have put him on your shelf, so we have taken courage to send you his new volume, Men and Women.' . . . I consider them on the whole an adhis former poems, and am ready to die at the stake for my faith in them." Commensurate with this proud faith was her indignation at every failure of the British press and public to do him justice. To her sister-in-law, Miss Browning, she writes from Rome as late as 1860, when Robert Browning had been nearly thirty years in print: "Dear Sarianna, I don't complain for myself of an unappreciative public-I have no reason. But, just for that cause, I complain more for Robert, only he does not hear me complain. The blindness, deafness, and stupidity of the English public to Robert are amazing. Of course Milsand had heard his name!' Well, the contrary would have been strange. Robert is. All England can't prevent his existence, I suppose. But nobody there, except a small knot of pre-Raffaelite men, pretends to do him justice; while in America he's a power, a writer, a poet-he is read-he lives in the hearts of the people." And again from Rome to the same relative: "His treatment in England I set down as an infamy-no other word. . . . An English lady of rank here, an acquaintance of ours (observe that!) asked the other day the American Minister to Italy whether Robert was not an American. The Minister answered, 'Is it possible that you ask me this? Why, there is not so poor a village in the United States where they would not tell you that Robert Browning is an Englishman, and that they are very sorry he is not an American.' Very pretty of the American Minister-was it not?and literally true besides."

These letters show us some of the reasons why she honors and reveres him. In one of her letters to Miss Mitford we see that this happy wife, sheltering safe under the shadow of his strong fidelity, is proud of him because he "is faultless and pure in his life," "lives like a woman in abstemiousness," "never touches a cigar even." His uprightness stands tall and erect. His moral integrity is flawless. His honesty uses a microscope and deals scrupulously with life's least items and atoms. Though a poet of lofty level and sublime vision, he walked flat-footed on common, everyday ground, maintaining the alert business habits and careful economies which were nec

essary to protect their slender means from waste and avoid debt. In the early years of their married life they had so little to live upon that debt would have been easy to fall into, and might, in the eyes of some, have been excusable in poets. But of debt he had an intense abhorrence. In various Florentine letters written by her to familiar friends we catch glimpses of his watchful honesty in practical operation. "We are still," she writes, "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. O, I take no credit to myself; I was always in debt in my little way ('small immorals', 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 furnished at this late moment. . . . 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 who are waiting for their pay. So we keep out of scrapes, you see. It seems the Tuscan publishers of a paper called the Monitore sent Browning the second time a bill which he had promptly paid when they first rendered it. "Now join me," she breaks out, "in admiration of the husband Browning. Isn't he a miracle, whoever else may be? The wife Browning, not to name most other human beings, would certainly have put the Monitore receipt into the fire, or, at best, lost it. But up rises the husband Browning and with eyes all fire holds up the receipt like an heroic English rifleman looking ahead to a possible French invasion at the end of a hundred years. Blessed be they who keep receipts. It is a beatitude beyond my reach."

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Simple and frugal as their Florentine life for the most part was, it was favorable to her health, had much pleasure and some fruitful work, and was measurably ideal. One of her

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