NOTES FROM TEXT THAT INTERESTED ME ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF ROBERT BROWNING
Edited excerpts from G.K. Chesterton's (out-of-copyright) book on Robert Browning,
both the author and his subject belonging to the category of "real writers" referred
to my in my small essay
"Be Bold - Make a Shape of Your Dream" on the next page.
Browning had certain definite opinions about the spiritual function of love. This
opinion was striking and solid, as was everything which came out of Browning's mind.
One of his great theories of the universe was what may be called the hope which lies
in the imperfection of man. Browning expresses the idea that some hope may always
be based on deficiency itself; in other words, that in so far as man is a one-legged
or a one-eyed creature, there is something about his appearance which indicates that
he should have another leg and another eye. He suggest that a sense of incompleteness
may easily be a great advance upon a sense of completeness, that the part may easily
and obviously be greater than the whole. And from this Browning draws a definite
hope for immortality and the larger scale of life. For nothing is more certain than
that though this world is the only world that we have known, the fact does remain
that we have certainly felt that this world did not explain itself, that something
in its complete and patent picture has been omitted. He was saying that in a cosmos
where incompleteness implies completeness, life implies immortality.
Browning was an optimist. His theory, that man's sense of his own imperfection implies
a design of perfection, is a very good argument for optimism. But any one will make
a mistake about Browning who imagines that his optimism was founded on any arguments
for optimism. Because he had a strong intellect, because he had a strong power of
conviction, he conceived and developed and asserted this doctrine of the incompleteness
of Man. But this doctrine was the symptom of his optimism, it was not its origin.
It is surely obvious that no one can be argued into optimism just as no one can be
argued into happiness. Browning's optimism was not founded on opinions which were
the work of Browning, but on life which was the work of God.
Beyond all his conclusions, and deeper than all his arguments, he was passionately
interested in, and in love with existence. He was a happy man.
These further notes from an Essay on Browning by Marion Little, which embrace his
philosophy, speak eloquently to me:
“He sings of God and of the soul, of immortality, of the relationship between this
life and the next, of the value of the flesh, of the significance of pleasure, pain,
difficulties, hindrances and failures.”