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have informed herself of the exact figure. Browning was socially eligible, and had a sufficient allowance from his father. It seems to us a case, if ever there was one, not for 'asking papa,' but for telling him; but Miss Barrett was equally afraid of telling and of asking. She had all Amelia Sedley's sense of subjection to her father, and more than Amelia Sedley's fear of him. She had to deceive because she dared not defy. Her lover had to give her the courage even to deceive; and, as for defiance-her dread of that course, and her grounds for it, are graphically put in one of the letters, in which she reports a confidential talk with her sister :
'If a Prince of Eldorado should come, with a pedigree of lineal descent from signory in one hand and a ticket of good behaviour from the nearest Independent chapel in the other
Why, even then,' said my sister Arabella, “it would not do.'
understatement-a euphemism. Miss Barrett's position was, in fact, like that of a servant in a house which has for its guiding maxim : No followers allowed.' If Mr. Barrett should find out that his daughter had a 'follower,' and that that man,' as he called Browning, was something more than a mere literary adviser, who passed the time between the headaches in talking about the Agamemnon choruses, why then :
We would be able to meet never again in this room, nor to have intercourse by letter through the ordinary channel. I mean that letters of yours addressed to me here would infallibly be stopped and destroyedif not opened.
So that there was nothing for it but for the lovers to do the thing which, having attained years of discretion, they had a perfect right to do, as stealthily as if they had been partners in some nefarious conspiracy. Miss Barrett had to fortify herself with sal volatile before doing it, and to collapse on to a sofa afterwards. That is one of the Early Victorian touches; and the other is the carpet bag, which Miss Barrett did not dare to carry out of the house with her, but had to dispatch as “luggage in advance.' Most Early Victorian of all, however, is Miss Barrett's fluttering way of suggesting that, as her father had laid a plan for transporting the family to the country, in order that the Wimpole Street house may be redecorated and repaired, her lover might perhaps like to expedite his enterprise :
If we are taken away on Monday ... what then? ... It seems quite too soon and too sudden for us to set out on our Italian adventure nowand perhaps even we could not compass- Well-but you must think for both of us.
I will do what you wish-understand. And so to Paris, and thence to Italy; Browning being so excited that he read the railway time-table wrongly, but Miss
Barrett retaining sufficient presence of mind to point out his mistake to him-a proof, perhaps, that there is one occasion in life on which a woman, even though she be a poet, may be depended upon for more composed practical sagacity than a man. 'I know not,' wrote their friend Mrs. Jameson from Paris, ‘how the two poet heads and poet hearts will get on through this prosaic world.' But the prosaic world had, in fact, no terrorsfor them. They did not find it prosaic, and were hardly conscious of the need for any special courage in facing it; and the story is one which the lover of contrasts may find it piquant to place side by side with that other story, already referred to, of George Sand's Italian honeymoon with Alfred de Musset.
Assuredly there was nothing Early Victorian about George Sand. She flashes upon us, at the first glance, as a far more romantic figure than Miss Barrett : one who had the courage of her convictions, and did far more daring things, with a far more exalted moral tone. She took the initiative; she generalised; she appealed to the Higher Law-having first defined it to her satisfaction. Her sojourn at Venice with Musset seemed to her not so much an individual as a symbolic act-a great and luminous example—a manifesto of the Feminism of the Romantic Movement. The step she took was taken in the light of day, with the proud air of one who had achieved a triumph for her sex. She extorted permission from Musset's mother; and Musset's brother saw her off at the office of the diligence.
The adventure of the Brownings seems infinitely trivial—the merest child's play-by comparison.
And yet the laugh (if it had been a laughing matter) would, in the end, have been on the Brownings' side. In the case of George Sand, very few months had passed before the romance had ended in a wrangle, the repercussions of which have hardly yet died away; and love was succeeded by disenchantment; and the Dead Sea fruit had turned to ashes; and the boy who had been the brightest hope of the Romantic Movement succumbed to pessimism as to some corroding and incurable disease, and lost all faith in women because one woman had covered her infidelities by the profane use of sacred words. For Browning and his wife, on the contrary, there was neither disenchantment nor disillusion. Their hold on the passion which they had approached by steering such a devious and respectful course among the rocks and shoals of Early Victorian convention and etiquette was far stronger than that of the lovers who, in the pride of their strength, laughed all the codes to scorn, and made a religion of emotional anarchism because it suited them to be emotional anarchists.
The contrast between the two experiences would have been
an instructive subject for Mrs. Browning and George Sand to discuss when, some years later, they made each other's acquaintance; but we may be as certain as it is ever possible to be of anything that they did not discuss it. Possibly George Sand's consciousness of that contrast was one of the reasons why she and Mrs. Browning did not get on very well together in spite of their regard for each other's talents; but even for that conjecture there is no evidential warrant, and it would be easy to find other explanations. Mrs. Browning's chief feeling about George Sand would seem, after all, to have been that curiosity about women who toss their bonnets over the windmills, which is the last infirmity of women who would not dream of doing anything of the kind. George Sand was, for her, 'a noble woman—under the mud'; but she was very conscious of the mud, and Browning himself was, if possible, even more conscious of it, with the result that 'we always felt that we couldn't penetrate-couldn't really touch her-it was all vain.'
As, indeed, it was bound to be in view of the great gulf fixed between Wimpole Street and Camberwell and the Latin Quarter; between the cautious timidity of the Early Victorians, making a great ado about a very little unconventionality, terribly afraid that they were kicking over traces when they were only legitimately and decorously stepping over them, and the sublime assurance of the great Romantics who called God to witness, boasting that they ‘felt good' while plucking forbidden fruit, and whose poems and novels have been described as an Imitatio Magdalena or Samaritana-'a marriage service for use when eloping with a neighbour's wife.'
It would be tempting to generalise ; but it is always unsafe to do so when speaking of the experiences of men and women of genius. 'Exceptional people, it has been written, 'may do exceptional things with impunity'; and the Early Victorianism of the Brownings was quite as exceptional in persons of their intellectual calibre and artistic temperaments as George Sand's appeal to Pantheism as the sanction of free love. Their great and sustained emotional triumph may, therefore, have been due to their personal genius, and have been attained, not because they kept so close to the conventional high-road of sentiment, but in spite of their constitutional reluctance to diverge from it.
None the less it was a very remarkable triumph; and it is a remarkable fact that, though passion is usually associated with lawlessness rather than with the domestic affections, the most conventional love affair in modern literary annals has not only inspired some of the most passionately convincing modern love poems, but has also coloured the poet's entire outlook on life. Browning's love did not, indeed, give him his optimism-for he
was an optimist by nature; but it gave his optimism the motive and justification to which it owes its world-wide appeal. And he acknowledged the debt-we may read the acknowledgment in the line :
Where my heart lies let my brain lie also. That is why it seemed worth while, on this centenary occasion, to dwell on a love story which, shown to us, as Browning let it be shown, under the microscope, seemed so trivial, and yet was fruitful of so much.
THE NEXT ATTACK UPON THE LAND
The campaign against Capital that was inaugurated with the Budget of 1909 appears now to have got beyond the control of its inceptors. But although the disastrous consequences of the great coal strike are insistent upon us, it is not well to forget that a fresh attack is preparing by those battalions which succeeded two years ago in obtaining legislative sanction for a first instalment of their ideas with regard to the land.
That Budget and its sequelæ, Form IV. and the New Domesday,' or National Valuation, are among the relics of a recent past which most men would willingly leave to moulder with wrecks of forgotten deliriums. And even the author of the measure which brought those monstrous births to the world's light seems to have tired of them, and to have made up his mind that their day-or at any rate the day of their use as political rather than as administrative instruments-is over. As far as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is concerned, the Insurance Act seems to have blotted out the Finance Act. Like some magnificent Maharajah, he plans and builds a succession of gorgeous legislative palaces, each one vaster than the last; as soon as the roof is on one such edifice, his brisk brain is busy with the next; but he never deigns to repair what was built before and has already crumbled, or to carry out later what was left undone at first. The staring gaps in the last structure, the ruinous breaches, will escape (he thinks) the sight of that expectant public which is supposed to be watching with a beating heart the rise of the new building. The Indian potentate is credited with the superstition that if he ceases for an instant to have a new and costly treasurehouse in course of erection his reign is at an end. Surely this cannot be the fear that impels our British autocrat ever to build afresh, without completing and without maintaining?
But the National Valuation, with all its expenditure of work and money, is only a beginning; even the taxes levied by its means are only a gentle introduction to the more serious taxation which it is desired to impose upon those who are interested in the land. As yet the dart has only been shaken; now they are