Letter from Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning to Anna Brownell Jameson, Feb 4, 1847

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Letter from Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning to Anna Brownell Jameson, Feb 4, 1847


Actors and Actresses--US American
Cushman, Charlotte Saunders, 1816-1876


The Brownings inform Jameson that "Miss Cushman means to be imperious about Mr Chorley’s tragedy .. the ‘Duchess Eleanor’"


Armstrong Browning Library - The Browning Letters


Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, 1806-1861
Browning, Robert, 1812-1889


Armstrong Browning Library, The Browning Letters, Digital Collection





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[page 1] [In EBB’s hand] We were very glad to have news of you at last, my very dear friend, & that it should be better news, at least more cheerful, than any which came to us from Florence. You seemed done for by your hospitable acquaintances there, & you cant think how we painted a mural over that last letter which sounded like a last gasp of exhaustion, .. to the effect that when ourselves went to Florence we should keep out of the mud of the English by all possible means. The sort of thing is bad anywhere, .. but here in Italy, just when one’s personality is tuned up to the highest, to have it meet the confusion of ever so many rough fists, is enough to break the instrument– So I am glad you are away in Rome & the mediæval ages, & with friends round you to help the charm with their sympathy. Had Madme de Goëthe [?] too much pleasure in seeing dear Gerardine? You do not tell us,—& what you told me before, interested me into wishing to hear the end. You did not find Mrs Butler, we learnt by the papers, .. for observe, we see the papers now,—or did I tell you that before? Also, Mr Hemans’s Roman journal had apprized us of the safe arrival in Rome of a "celebrated authoress" & our dear friend, who put off writing to tell us of herself, a great deal too long. Otherwise, you might have been supposed to be ‘lost in admiration’ before the productions of that eminent artist of Sienna, who makes such a point of being known by the whole world, 

[page 2] as Signor Ferucci laboriously impressed upon me. I was innocent enough to take into my head at the moment, by the way, that you would not get much out of such a man, & the fact proves so– Three days at Sienna! Would, that we might have met you there! But it was out of the question. I have been out of the house just once since Christmas, though not in the least inclined to be otherwise than contented with Pisa & the climate & the weather, on that account: precaution explains everything. Indeed if we had been on the Arno, I should have had much more liberty– But you know how the wind waits to devour one just at our door; & even with a very sufficient mildness of temperature, it seemed unwise to run the risk of meeting it, particularly when I was so well in this room. I have been & am very well, & we burn the Grand Duke’s pinewood & talk & get on delightfully, & I wont have Pisa abused, let Robert come in from his dreary hour’s walk on Lung’Arno (when it is wet he can go no where else) in ever such an imprecative humour on the soul-less faces he meets there. After all, he is in excellent spirits, & we make amends for being shut up a little for the present, by various sublime schemes of going to Jerusalem, & Moscow, besides Volterra & Sienna. And then, by the grace of M. Ferucci, we have Vasari from the library, & are ploughing 

[page 3] through it .... will you let me say ploughing? Really I do venture to think it a dull book. Perhaps when we reach his contemporaries, we may find more flesh & blood. And Robert is very busy with his new edition, & has been throwing so much golden light into "Pippa," that everybody shall see her "pass" properly .. yes, & surpass. Now, let me tell you of our adversity– A fortnight ago poor Wilson was taken ill, & for several days was confined to her bed, & indeed is only at present beginning to be able to resume her occupations. We had Dr Cook here constantly—and at first I was frightened out of my wits, .. sending Robert out to fetch him at ten oclock at night. It was inflammation of the mucus membrane of the stomach, arising (said Dr C.) from the sea sickness, which had produced swelling & irritation increased by improper remedies. A little longer, & a dangerous gastric fever wd have been the result. We like Dr Cook, who has shown a great deal of prompt intelligence .. & she is recovering her strength in a satisfactory manner .. poor Wilson!– And think how I missed her, & had to learn (besides) what a quantity of things I could really manage to do for myself when I tried!! It has been a lesson in moral & practical philosophy, & finished reversing the world for me. Robert in the meanwhile, carried the teakettle; saw to the fire .. I bade him observe what he had come to at last—but the goodness & affectionateness were strong enough for all things. I wonder at the strength & depth of them more & more.— Do write—& thank Gerardine for me for her letter, & tell me how 

[page 4] long she & dearest Aunt Nina are likely to stay at Rome. Shall we not hear without such a long pause? Letters from England bring me the best accounts of my father’s spirits & the most affectionate words from my sisters. I heard yesterday from Miss Mitford, .. but no news, I think, except that Miss Cushman means to be imperious about Mr Chorley’s tragedy .. the ‘Duchess Eleanor’ .. & to insist on its being acted. Are you well now, dear friend? Give my love to Gerardine, & tell her I am delighted that she is an enchanted ‘philosopher’ now she is in Rome! Do believe me, your ever affecte Ba. -------------- [Continued by RB] Ba evidently thinks me the "minute Philosopher"! See what a little space she allows me to say so much in—but next time .. I will write, and leave her the precincts of the sealing wax. Dear Aunt Nina, kind, dearest friend, keep on making us happy by such letters, with good news of yourself. We are quite well—but Ba will have told you—all things go well with us—but will go still better when we see you—don’t forget that! We think .. with all the rational hesitation, and refusals to determine .. that we shall spend next winter at Florence,—next to that, at Rome—there is only one thing quite settled,—what you may term, settled—that is, that we return to England viâ Moscow—(we have been reading Custine’s not very wise book)[.] Good, best, bye, dear Aunt, and dear Geddie– RB. -------------- Mrs Jameson, / Dama Inglese, / Uffizio delle Poste, / Roma.


Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, 1806-1861
Browning, Robert, 1812-1889


Collegio Ferdinando, Pisa, Italy

Geocode (Latitude)


Geocode (Longitude)


Location (Recipient)

Dama Inglese, / Uffizio delle Poste, / Roma, Italy

Geocode Recipient (Latitude)


Geocode Recipient (Longitude)


Secondary Texts: Comments

"Presumably his tragedy Duchess Eleanour, which he had been working on during his autumn holiday abroad. The play was somewhat inspired by Chorley’s impressions of Charlotte Cushman’s performances in London in 1846, and “the part of his heroine was designed with express accommodation to her rôle” (Henry Fothergill Chorley: Autobiography, Memoir, and Letters, comp. H.G. Hewlett, 1873, II, 129). Nevertheless, Duchess Eleanour was not produced until 1854, when Charlotte Cushman was again performing in England." (The Brownings Correspondence: 2642.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford)

Also of interest: 2654.  EBB to Mary Russell Mitford

2715.  Joseph Arnould to RB

"Henry Chorley’s play, Duchess Eleanour, was presented at the Haymarket on 13 March 1854 with Charlotte Cushman in the title role. On 16 March he was informed that the play was being withdrawn “in consequence of the disapprobation manifested at the fall of the curtain and the scanty receipts at the box-office” (Henry Fothergill Chorley: Autobiography, Memoir, and Letters, comp. Henry G. Hewlett, 1873, II, 141)." (3369.  RB to William Wetmore Story)

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Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, 1806-1861 and Browning, Robert, 1812-1889, “Letter from Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning to Anna Brownell Jameson, Feb 4, 1847,” Archival Gossip Collection, accessed December 6, 2023, https://archivalgossip.com/collection/items/show/607.

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