So I could not come, but in a few days I will come; and in the meantime, I have had the sound of your voice to think of, more than I could think of the deep melodious bells, though they made the right and solemn impression. How I felt, to be under your roof again!
May God bless you, my very dear friend.
These words in the greatest haste.
From your ever affectionate
It is now time to tell the story of the romance which, during the last eighteen months, had entered into Elizabeth Barrett’s life, and was destined to divert its course into new and happier channels. It is a story which fills one of the brightest pages in English literary history.
The foregoing letters have shown something of Miss Barrett’s admiration for the poetry of Robert Browning, and contain allusions to the beginning of their personal acquaintance. Her knowledge of his poetry dates back to the appearance of ‘Paracelsus,’ not to ‘Pauline,’ of which there is no mention in her letters, and which had been practically withdrawn from circulation by the author. Her personal acquaintance with him was of much later date, and was directly due to the publication of the ‘Poems’ in 1844. Chancing to express his admiration of them to Mr. Kenyon, who had been his friend since 1839 and his father’s school-fellow in years long distant, Mr. Browning was urged by him to write to Miss Barrett himself, and tell her of his pleasure in her work. Possibly the allusion to him in ’Lady Geraldine’s Courtship’ may have been felt as furnishing an excuse for addressing her; however that may be, he took Mr. Kenyon’s advice, and in January 1845 we find Miss Barrett in ‘ecstasies’ over a letter (evidently the first) from ’Browning the poet, Browning the author of “Paracelsus” and king of the mystics’ (see p. 236, above).
The correspondence, once begun, continued to flourish, and in the course of the same month Miss Barrett tells Mrs. Martin that she is ’getting deeper and deeper into correspondence with Robert Browning, poet and mystic; and we are growing to be the truest of friends.’ At the end of May, when the return of summer brought her a renewal of strength, they met face to face for the first time; and from that time Robert Browning was included in the small list of privileged friends who were admitted to visit her in person.
How this friendship ripened into love, and love into courtship, it is not for us to inquire too closely. Something has been told already in Mrs. Orr’s ‘Life of Robert Browning;’ something more is told in the long and most interesting letter which stands first in the present chapter. More precious than either is the record of her fluctuating feelings which Mrs. Browning has enshrined for ever in her ’Sonnets from the Portuguese,’ and in the handful of other poems—’Life and Love,’ ‘A Denial,’ ‘Proof and Disproof,’ ‘Inclusions,’