Letters of Robert Browning: Collected by Thomas J. Wise

Letters of Robert Browning: Collected by Thomas J. Wise

Letters of Robert Browning: Collected by Thomas J. Wise

Letters of Robert Browning: Collected by Thomas J. Wise

Excerpt

What Browning would have said to the publication of this volume is a matter of speculative interest to all who esteem his genius and respect his memory. He feared the triviality, goose-gossip, and pawing of vitals in unsanctioned treatments of his private life. Even his poetic history he wished to limit to the finished aspects of his art. He destroyed all his boyish poems that he could recover. Pauline he tried for a long time to suppress; and, finally, in self-protection, made a revision of it and included it in his collected works. His son, in a note prefixed to the published love letters, wrote that his father "destroyed all the rest of his correspondence," though he had preserved the love letters in a special box and "not long before his death said . . . 'There they are, do with them as you please when I am dead and gone!'"

In one of his letters to Isabella Blagden he reminded her of their agreement to burn each other's letters--hers written on the twelfth of each month, in memory of Browning's wedding date, and his replies of seven days thereafter--and he did burn hers. But what is the sequel? She saved most of his, or all. After her death they were returned to him--and he did not destroy them. Mrs. Sutherland Orr had access to these letters, and made much use of them in dealing with the poet's life between 1862 and 1872. After the Browning sale of 1913, the more representative of the letters to Miss Blagden were selected by Mr. Thomas J. Wise for the collection here presented. The rest of them Mr. Wise declined, though he might have had the entire lot for but little more than the price he offered for those he thought worth keeping. Probably, Browning would have favored tossing the remainder into the fire--to keep them from Autolycus.

But the publication of the best of these letters to Miss Blagden as part of a large collection of his more representative letters is a very different matter. No lover of his poetry ever found him churlish; no sensible admiration of him ever met rebuke. No doubt, therefore, he would only have laughed good-naturedly and incredulously at the . . .

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