BROWNING, Elizabeth Barrett. Autograph manuscript, entitled "Sonnet -- VIII Love" ("We cannot live except this mutually..."), N.p., n.d. [ca.1847].
1 page, 8o (185 x 112mm.)
The last of a series of eight sonnets, first published in Blackwood's Magazine (May, 1847) and collected in Poems (1850).
"We cannot live, except thus mutually
We alternate, aware or unaware,
The reflex act of life -- and when we bear
Our virtue outward more impulsively,
More full of invocation, and to be
More instantly compellant,...certes, there
We live most life, whoever breathes most air
And counts his dying years by sun and sea.
But when a soul, by choice and conscience, doth
Throw out his full force on another soul, --
The conscience and the concentration both
Make mere life, love. For Life in perfect whole
And aim consummated, is Love in sooth."
With several variant readings of interest, and without an additional line added later, reading "As natures magnet -- heat rounds pole with pole." Coley and Kelley, The Browning Collections D494 (with detailed publication history).
Provenance: Arthur A. Houghton (sale Christie's London, 13 June 1979, lot 68).