BROWNING, Elizabeth Barrett (1806-1861). Autograph letter signed ('E.B. Barrett'), a retained draft, to the Reverend H[enry] Cotes, Hope End, 8 March 1828, 5 pages, 4to, blank leaf endorsed 'Correspondence with the Revd. H.Cotes', tipped on guards into an album with: Reverend Henry COTES (1759?-1835). Two autograph letters signed to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, n.p., 17 March 1828, 3½ pages, 4to, and Bedlington Vicarage, Morpeth, 15 September 1828, 3 pages, folio, the second letter including a short letter written on the 2nd leaf by Jane Hedley (Elizabeth Barrett's aunt), address panels, (seal tears with loss of 4 words in first letter); and autograph notes by Cotes commenting on 'An Essay on Mind', 18 pages, 8vo;
tipped on guards in an album, purple morocco, by Sangorski and Sutcliffe (light staining). Provenance: purchased from James F. Drake, New York, 1 April 1939, $100.
AN IMPORTANT AND LARGELY UNPUBLISHED EXCHANGE BETWEEN THE TWENTY-TWO-YEAR-OLD AUTHOR AND A SCHOLARLY CLERIC. Elizabeth Barrett gives a robust and literary defence of An Essay on Mind (first published in 1826).
'I sincerely thank you for a good opinion rendered so valuable to me by the openness & unreserve with which you have mentioned what you have departed from & condemned. May I venture to speak to you with equal freedom & to explain exactly where I at once submit to "kiss the rod" & where I sh[oul]d like to escape doing so ... I do think "the preface is abstruse and laboured". A little additional experience has made me sensible of that fault, tho' not of having adopted "uncouth words". I can find no word apparently deserving such an epithet. In page 3, the punctuation, not the grammar is in fault ... At page 9 & 10, you have written with reference to the eulogy on L[or]d Byron, "all trash" which I propose reading "half trash", inasmuch as half the eulogy ... is applied to Campbell ... In page 11, you propose the omission of 6 lines. The lines may be bad, but I consult the meaning and think them better than nothing.'
The rest of the letter continues this vigorous refutation, modified by occasional concessions, of Cotes's criticisms, concluding with a polite reference to his 'useful & flattering remarks'. His two letters to Elizabeth show his appreciation of her exchanges ('Never can I think you either obtrusive or intrusive by sending me your thoughts ... There is so much of spirit & depth in them that I am amaz'd & say to myself, whence has this young woman all these sentiments').
Mrs [Jane] Hedley 'who was unwilling that I sh[oul]d lose such an oportunity of being interested & instructed' and forwarded Cotes's comments, was one of Elizabeth's mother's sisters, and on familiar and affectionate terms with her nieces. She was later to beg Edward Barrett to be reconciled with Elizabeth after her marriage. Although it is clear that Elizabeth must have written to Cotes several times during 1828, there appears to be no record of their correspondence apart from the present letters which are listed, with only brief quotations from a Parke-Bernet sale catalogue of 1939, in The Browning Correspondence, ed. P. Kelley and R. Hudson (1988-98).