This week, we’ve got dueling female poets…well, a letter from one and a short, yet piercing, poem from the other…but let the Barrett-Tsvetaeva Throw-down BEGIN, refereed by Henry Fielding!
Ahem. I obviously need to get out more…
Letter from Elizabeth Barrett
Read by Diane Havens
The Brownings fell in love before they even met, through their writing, first poetry and then in personal correspondence. (Not unlike how some even today are drawn to each other over the internet, through common interest sites, social media, and the like. )
This is the response to the first letter sent to her by Robert Browning who greatly admired her work and subsequently her. In this response, she is moved emotionally but also professionally, to seek out his criticism of her poems in the hopes of making them even better. All artists and writers can relate to that. To want the opinion of someone whose judgment is valued and trusted.
Robert Browning’s letter, superbly narrated by Robert Jadah, which I had posted last year, I have included in a mini-set.
A Kiss on the Forehead, by Marina Tsvetaeva
Read by Xe Sands
There is something so raw and piercing and tender and fragile about Tsvetaeva’s work. and with good reason…the “Hit Parade” of tragedies this woman, this wife, this mother had to endure (and finally not endure) leaves me speechless and chagrined at my ridiculous notions of unfairness and exhaustion and difficulty.
So to this particular piece. I’ve been trying to decide where I think she was going with it, even what it says to me. And I find I can’t, really. It’s that last line that makes all the difference, isn’t it. Is she speaking to a lover? To her husband? Perhaps to her child? Is there a foreshadowing here of the anguish she would suffer during the famine – is that the erasure so desperately sought? I don’t know.
But I know that I’ve bestowed those first three kisses..yet would I have the courage to give the fourth
Tom Jones – Book 1, Chapter 3, by Henry Fielding
Read by Mark Turetsky
This is part of an ongoing project in which I will record and post one chapter per week of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones over the course of four years.
Here we get a description of Mr. Allworthy’s estate, filled with some quite evocative language, culminating in a little joke about literary transport, the idea that by reading, one can be transported away to another place. The joke here is that the Narrator is describing the top of a high waterfall, and can’t think of a safe way to get the reader down in one piece.
We then go in to Mr Allworthy and Bridget’s breakfast, the morning after Mr Allworthy has found the infant in his bed. Pay attention to the amazing string of profanities the normally reserved Bridget lets forth in this scene. One other thing to note is that they’ve had this infant overnight, and it’s still referred to as “it” and “the infant.” They haven’t even thought to identify which sex it is! Evidently, they didn’t much care about the genders of babies in the Eighteenth Century. The whole idea of decorating a room in certain colors for boys or for girls is a relatively recent thing.