Anne Thomson (afterwards Braun, 1810–63)
As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 10, 327–328.
Anne Thomson was the daughter of Cecilia and James Thomson (1779–1850), calico printer of Primrose, near Clitheroe, Lancashire. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, Vice-President of the Manchester School of Design, and Member of Council of the Government School at Somerset House. In a letter to Henrietta Moulton-Barrett, 16[–21] May , EBB described him as “a great manufacturer &learned in the art of money-making.” EBB became acquainted with Miss Thomson through Sarah Bayley (q.v.) who referred to her as “my late friend” in her will; no evidence has been found to substantiate EBB’s understanding that she was Miss Bayley’s niece. She and EBB began corresponding in 1845, and EBB’s last known letter to her which can be definitely dated was written on 25 July 1860. In the spring of 1845, Miss Thomson was involved with a proposed “Classical Album.” It was intended to accompany and explain certain engravings after ancient gems from the Poniatowski collection. Miss Thomson solicited EBB’s help on brief translations from a number of classical authors. However, the album was never published. Some of EBB’s intended contributions later appeared in her own Poems (1850), others in Last Poems (1862). In the midst of her efforts, on 16 May 1845, EBB wrote to Miss Thomson: “How could it not be a pleasure to me to work for you?” Responding to compliments from Miss Thomson and Miss Bayley, she said: “It is delightful to me to find such grace in the eyes of dearest Mr. Kenyon’s friends” (letter 1918). Assistance with translations continued in 1846, while the RB-EBB courtship progressed.
After her marriage EBB received Miss Thomson’s congratulations, and acknowledged them on 26 December 1846. In the following year, writing to her sister Henrietta (16 [–21] May ), EBB said: “I have had the kindest letters from Miss Bayley & Miss Thomson, both mentioning you & Arabel & that you were going to have tea with them—Arabel wd like them from the head & the heart if she knew them, I know, notwithstanding the notion of dyspathy which also I know.”
Anne Thomson was married at Clitheroe Parish Church on 20 October 1849 to August Emil Braun (1809–1856), Doctor of Philosophy and archaeologist. On their marriage certificate he is listed as a widower residing in Hanover Square, London. Soon afterwards the couple passed through Florence on their way to Rome where he had taken the position of German secretary of the Archaeological Society. EBB wrote to Miss Mitford, 9 January 1850, “Charmed too, we both were, with Dr. Braun.... He has a mixture of fervour—& simplicity which is still more delightfully picturesque in his foreign English.” To her sister Arabella (in a letter dated 23 January ) EBB reported: “Dr. Braun & his new wife were so kind as to come & take coffee with us, the only evening they spent in Florence.... Dr. Braun charmed us both .. it is long since I have been so much pleased by any one. Fervid & simple, he is .. with an apparent goodness radiating through his intellect– I liked him very much.... He seemed to me delightful– I said to Robert, ‘I should like to see him as Arabel’s husband’, … and a greater compliment could scarcely be paid.” After an apparent comment on this from Arabel, EBB wrote again (on 12 [March 1850]): “As to Dr. Braun, perhaps I decided on him in a hurry.... he is a sort of man, I like– I seemed to see a brain & a heart in the man.” A little later, on 2 April , she wrote to Anna Jameson: “We have seen Dr. & Mdme. Braun .. I had the advantage of knowing her in England .. of knowing & appreciating her to the fullest—and we were both delighted with Dr. Braun during the single hour of our passing acquaintance. There is a mixture of fervor & simplicity in him which took my fancy the first five minutes—and she seemed to me as happy as a woman could well be who had made a choice & felt it justified.” In the following month on [?3] [May 1850], EBB reported to Arabella that Dr. Braun had complimented the Brownings’ drawingroom at Casa Guidi as a “most poetical room.”
In 1854 Dr. Braun published The Ruins and Museums of Rome, a copy of which was inscribed to EBB by Mme. Braun in January 1855 (Reconstruction, A300). He also wrote Introduction to the Study of Art-Mythology (1856).
Correspondence indicates social contacts between the Brownings and the Brauns during times when RB and EBB were in Rome. In particular, EBB wrote to her sister Arabella on 28 February 1854 about having attended a musical performance at the Braun home. Aside from “the prince of Prussia,” the Brownings were the only guests.
Dr. Braun died in 1856. By 1858, Mme. Braun herself was undergoing a serious illness, almost certainly a malignancy, and EBB wrote to her on 10 August : “I had the idea that so many must be thinking of you, and saying to you with sad faces ‘they were sorry,’ that I kept away, not to be the one too many.” The letter contains veiled references to spiritualism, in which EBB had become deeply interested. Indications are that Mme. Braun was in England at that time. On 25–26 December of that year, EBB wrote to her sister Arabella: “The desease has grown again, & there is to be another cauterization after Christmas, which produces great suffering for four & twenty hours. I do pity her so very much. But she seems contented to be in Rome— ‘At any rate’ said she, laughing, ‘I shall have the satisfaction of dying here.’” In the following year, EBB gave Anna Jameson (in a letter dated 22 February ) a long description of the illness. “Nothing to help,” EBB said, “& so much to endure!… [but] she keeps up, still.” Specifically mentioned was the holding of “musical matinees at her own house.” EBB’s last known letter to Mme. Braun was sent in July 1860. In it she said: “You are an ‘example[’] to the world of heroic cheerful patience, and for my own part, I do look humbly up & try to learn … you carry the augury in you of a strong vitality & capacity of triumph.” Mme. Braun died on 13 October 1863 at Marseilles.