BROWNING (ELIZABETH BARRETT) Autograph letter signed, [1845]
Lot 19
BROWNING (ELIZABETH BARRETT) Autograph letter signed, [1845]
Sold for £6,000 (US$ 10,084) inc. premium
Lot Details
Autograph letter signed ("EBBarrett"), the name of the recipient deleted, beginning: "With very great pleasure I am surprised by this accompanying enclosure from Mr Colburn – While there is life there is hope. It was not necessary even to bring Mahommed Ali to 'bear' on the great publisher – He has answered at last like an angel./ I send you his note, – your MS. & the proof altogether"; subscribing herself "Yr's sincerely, in a triumph", one page, possibly the last page of a longer letter (but seeming to us complete in itself), light dust-staining and creasing but remaining in attractive condition, 16mo, "Wednesday, 6 oclock/ post m" [c.14 May 1845]


  • A LETTER WRITTEN BY ELIZABETH BARRETT DURING THE BROWNING COURTSHIP, in an episode of literary subterfuge which she explains in one of their famous love-letters. In the summer of 1845 she submitted an article on behalf of the writer Richard Hengist Horne (who had greatly helped her at the start of her career) to Colburn's Magazine, as she wrote to Browning: 'I go on fast to say that I heard from Mr. Horne a few days since and that he said – "your envelope reminds me of" – you, he said ... and so, asked if you were in England still, and meant to write to you. To which I have answered that I believe you to be in England – thinking it strange about the envelope; which, as far as I remember, was one of those long ones, used, the more conveniently to enclose to him back again a MS. of his own I had offered with another of his, by his desire, to Colburn's Magazine, as the productions of a friend of mine, when he was in Germany and afraid of his proper fatal onymousness, yet in difficulty how to approach the magazines as a nameless writer (you will not mention this of course)' (Tuesday, 8 July 1845). Our letter's abrupt opening suggests that it was originally written on a blank leaf of the letter or manuscript being forwarded, as part of the transaction described above. EBB's joking reference to "Mahommed Ali" is to the forceful Viceroy and founder of modern Egypt.

    Michael Meredith has kindly pointed out that the recipient of this letter is not Horn himself, but rather Mary Gillies. She was an aspiring author and sister to Margaret Gillies, who painted the famous portrait of William and Mary Wordsworth, now at Dove Cottage. Although unmarried, Mary was at this time living with Horne and so acted on his behalf while he was away in Germany: her identification as recipient is confirmed by a letter EBB sent Horn on 14 May 1845, explaining that she was sending Colburn's note with the proof and manuscript to Mary (for further information on the Gillies sisters see the article by Charlotte Yeldham, ODNB). The article in question was Horn's 'Carnival at Cologne', published in Colburn's New Monthly Magazine that June.
  1. Luke Batterham
    Specialist - Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs
    Montpelier Street
    London, SW7 1HH
    United Kingdom
    Work +44 20 7393 3828
    FaxFax: +44 20 7393 3879
Similar items