4612.  EBB to Isa Blagden

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 27, 199–204.

28– Via Tritone–

Feb. 24. [1860] [1]

Ever dearest Isa, Impossible to say anything about Mr Wilberforce– We know nothing more than you do—how should we? He seemed amicable—was so to Penini: writes verses, has a name of distinction, belongs to bishops & archbishops– [2] What strikes me is, .. in this intended marriage, [3] as you speak of it––“what a pity for him”!– I suppose this is the Flash in the pan which he has been staring after at Florence– Is she very pretty, besides being stationary?–

Dear, with regard to the “saving clause”, so called by Dall’Ongaro, I dont agree with him. If it guarantees at all, it certainly does’nt guarantee to Italy, but to Austria. And in fact English defenders of it simply say, “We must give something, you see, to Austria, to persuade her to yield on the annexation point.” The clause not merely recognizes Venetia as an Austrian possession, but recognizes Austria’s right to govern there as she pleases [4] —so that if that clause passed into law with the Western Powers, she might burn, kill, torture & do her affairs selon son cœur, [5] & neither England nor France have the power of saying, Dont.

I quite see that the Anglo-French alliance secures English & German neutrality, in the case of France intending to complete the great work—but that clause about Venetia, if accepted by France, would tie her hands so fast from intervention in Venetia, that she would not need either alliances or neutralities– You will observe that the Emperor saw this, & made certain exceptions to the clause– And even with those, Austria does not accept– Pray Heaven she may not!–

As to the Savoy business, I wish it were out of the world. That’s my opinion. For the rest, I disbelieve the Dall’Ongaro news from Paris, chiefly because it is impossible. There cant be “simultaneous annexations” of Savoy to France, & of Central Italy to Piedmont, and then “war in the spring,” because there’s no time for these events– Men’s minds, whether in England or in Europe generally, are not prepared for the annexation of Savoy– Even the French government has presented no intention of the kind officially—and if it shd decide on doing so, and if England & other nations cried out instantly, [‘]‘Excellent! do it”—even then, nothing could be done decently without consulting the populations by the suffrage—so that much time would necessarily be swallowed up– Meanwhile, here is the spring at hand! And the fighting!– No, no—no, I say–

But we shall have fighting, in every probability– These clouds wont break without thunder. We want the rest of the Pontifical states, the Neapolitan, .. & Venetia, above all– Mr Cartwright seems to think it will begin in Hungary. He moans about it in British fashion, & thinks if there’s war again, it will be fatal to Italy– So he thought last year!– From the ‘Blue Book’ [6] comes out that even last november Napoleon signified to Metternich [7] that if Austria crossed the Po, France would attack–– [8] By the way, if Amari feels “gratitude” to the Emperor, should he call him a ‘brigand’?. The pope called him a “sicario” [9] the other day .. but then, His Holiness was not professing to be “grateful” while he said so. Not in the same breath.


“Alas, the gratitude of men

Has often left me mourning–” [10]

“Mourning” is a very mild term– The poet ought to have said, .. stoned, pelted with mud, stuck through the breast with his delivered friend’s pocket-knife–

We had the most affectionate letter from Mr Forster yesterday– He is evidently much hurt by Mr Landor’s bearing to him—& no wonder.– Forster speaks in the warmest way of the Italians,—of his admiration for them—(that pleased me so!) & admits, (speaking of the Emperor) that his dislike of him had been diminished by late events– (It used to be hatred.) But he adds … “if the blot about Savoy can be got over–” [11]

Oh– Savoy!—how it vexes me– It turns up everywhere, as if a blot indeed– And on this brilliant page!– On any other, it would have been righteous ink–

As to the “bargain”, .. Cavour either lies, or speaks the truth when he says expressly that none such was made. There are men who swear that he lies. Not that I believe it, observe.

Yes, all is too true about Garibaldi– What I tell you is private, remember, but Mdme de Swartz came here in great pain and anger. Evidently the hero has acted ill with her, & when she went to Sicily &c, it was’nt for the Cause but the man. Few women “fight for an idea” whatever France may do– Or else, they step, in the act, above the ordinary level of the sex. It is plain she expected to be Madame Garibaldi [12] —in fact stated it so—though there was in Sardinia a certain entanglement of a lower kind [13] (& a child at the end of it) which presented some obstacle to his marrying at all. She has however the most devoted & compromising letters from the great man—who seems to be vain & cold (so she said) & easily led away by attentions. (O our heroes!) He was boasting in the summer of a rich banner embroidered by fairest hands, & how the lady they belonged to was one of the prettiest women in Italy. This was the new wife– [14] Still, at the last, he was persuaded, drawn into the meshes, by her whole family, & for cogent family reasons,—for immediately after the ceremony, he discovered that she was in instant need of a husband, & prepared to return the accommodation by presenting that benevolent individual straightway with a posterity– You heard how she confessed it—& how the bridegroom after challenging & fighting his father in law the next day, retired from the matrimonial field on a shooting excursion. His own aid-de camp, they say, was involved besides sundry others– Is it your story?

I was really sorry for poor Mdme de Swartz who did’nt conceal her disappointment– Then Garibaldi has behaved infamously to her about his memoirs– She was to write them, & he had provided her with all documents– First volume finished, & engagement made with a Dutch publisher– Suddenly he sends for papers on some pretence– He wanted to look over them—would return them at once &c &c! He gets them into his hands thus, & instantly makes them over to Alexandre Dumas, who means to bring out a Life–!!! [15]

Now that’s bad. That Garibaldi should prefer Dumas to Mdme de Swartz as a writer of popular memoirs, is natural—but to use a friend in this scurvey way, cheat her out of an advantage .. which chiefly she valued through her regard for him .. this I could not have believed a Garibaldi capable of.

I am interrupted by Robert who has just had a visitor in the next room– No less a person than Mr Flash–! He tells Robert that Mr Kinney wrote a letter to us three weeks ago, making enquiries on the Wilberforce head. Not a word have we received. Everything however now goes on smoothly, & the marriage takes place in May. Robert was rather pleasantly impressed by this elder Flash–

‘Old Brown’ has really excellent points– There’s a rough power in the ballad which strikes us both– Robert had’nt, he bids me say, seen anything so good for a long time. But Mr Stedman must make a path for himself with this faculty. Congratulate Mrs Kinney from both of us. The diamond-marriage too is good in certain ways, but the order is inferior. [16] We want to show the poems to one or two people, & then you shall have them back–

I am very sorry about Miss Cobbe’s ill health, [17] but “really sorry” that you should be going to Villa Bricchieri to catch cold instead of coming to Rome– Perhaps Miss Cobbe & you may turn your steps here together,—who knows?– Miss Cushman meant no harm, my Isa—for certainly she was in earnest in wishing you to come– She meant to jog your elbow, & did it too roughly–

You are good to poor Mr Landor, & we thank you, thank you. I told Robert he had been longer than usual in writing. He will write to you, I dare say—but I wont wait for him—not I. His dear love always.

Think of Peni’s impertinence in an Italian letter which he prepared for his abbé .. ending in this way, (after some talk about battaglione[)]–– “Speriamo che il santo Padre riprenderà la Romagna, ma sarà un poco difficile– E pure si dice che gli stati Pontifici finiscono perora a Ponte Molle”– [18] Think how goodnatured the Abbè must be not to be angry—which he was not! He only says “Mon Dieu, mon Dieu”–

Thank Mr Jarves for the newspaper extract on Owen’s book, [19] with my cordial regards– I have not seen Mr Hazard since– I should like much to see that book of Owen’s–

Mine may be out any day, & I look for advertisements to say so– Copies of it & also of Aurora Leigh for you, my Isa, are to be sent to us through Odo Russell– Oh—you may send through him anything occult, without committing offence–

Mrs Stowe came here at eight oclock, & I was gone to bed– I am beginning with codsliver oil– I have been annoyed with ear ache lately, which when one is weak & nervous all over, helps to upset one—but now I am better again– There was gathering in the ear. Never had I such a thing in my life before. Robert feels as if he had another cold coming on– But I do hope not.

I am so glad Mr Field[s] arranged with you about the novel– [20]  <…> make haste with it. Also write <to> me– I am afraid that even mediumship is a surer way of distinction to a certain person than literature will be– [21] Love to dear Florence–

Your’s in heart’s love–


P.S. Robert sent a letter to Mr Landor which should have reached him on sunday or monday. [22] Sent to Wilson’s care, & containing a letter to Phillipson– Will you share this?

But is Hume living in London? Does he give séances? Will he go to America? [23] Tell me–

Address: Toscana– / Mademoiselle Blagden– / Casa Guidi / Via Maggio– / Firenze.

Publication: B-IB, pp. 293–298.

Manuscript: Fitzwilliam Museum.

1. Year provided by reference to the return address; 1860 was the only year that the Brownings resided at 28 Via del Tritone in February.

2. Wilberforce’s uncle Samuel Wilberforce (1805–73), his father’s younger brother, had been Bishop of Oxford since 1845. A more distant relation, John Bird Sumner (1780–1862), second cousin twice removed, was nominated Archbishop of Canterbury in 1848.

3. Edward Wilberforce (1834–1914) married on 3 May 1860 at Leghorn, Fannie Flash (1832–95), whose father, mentioned below, was Alexander Flash (1805?–60), slave owner and merchant with holdings in Europe.

4. See letter 4607, note 7.

5. “As she pleases”; literally, “according to her heart.”

6. British Parliamentary Papers, called Blue Books because each volume bore a blue cover, included a wide range of materials, such as reports from commissions, records of proceedings, and diplomatic correspondence.

7. Richard von Metternich (1829–95); see letter 4484, note 3.

8. In a dispatch to Lord John Russell, dated 18 November 1859, Lord Cowley, the British ambassador to France, wrote: “I understand that His Majesty [Napoleon III] gave Prince Metternich distinctly to understand, that the passage of the Po, under any pretext, by Austrian troops, would be met with a declaration of war on the part of France” (Correspondence Respecting the Affairs of Italy, from the Signature of the Preliminaries of Villafranca to the Postponement of the Congress, 1860, p. 200).

9. “Assassin,” or “cutthroat.”

10. Cf. Wordsworth, “Simon Lee” (1798), lines 95–96.

11. Cf. the penultimate paragraph in letter 4609.

12. Writing of her reaction to Garibaldi’s marriage, Mme. von Schwartz (pseudonym Elpis Melena), called it “a blow I shall never forget” (Garibaldi: Recollections of His Public and Private Life, 1887, p. 132). She states plainly that during her visit to Caprera in August 1858, “Garibaldi asked me whether or not I could determine to join my fate to his, and take the place of his Anita, by being a second mother to his children. A thunderbolt could not have startled me more than this overture, and I could only elicit from myself an expression of the profoundest gratitude for the honour he did me, with, at the same time, an assurance that I would give serious thought to his important proposal” (p. 25).

13. A reference to Battistina Ravello, a peasant woman from Nice who cooked and kept house for Garibaldi on Caprera. In May 1859 she gave birth to a daughter, whom they named Anita, after Garibaldi’s Brazilian first wife, Ana Maria (“Anita”) de Jesus Ribeiro (1821–49).

14. Giuseppina Raimondi (1841–1918), eldest daughter of the Marquis Raimondi of Fino, was married to Garibaldi on 24 January 1860. Just after the ceremony her cousin and former lover revealed to Garibaldi that she was pregnant and had had an affair with one of his officers, a Lieutenant Luigi Caroli. When Garibaldi confronted her and she confessed, he “led her to her father” and said “Giuseppina must never use his name, and that though she was the Marquis’s daughter, she was not Garibaldi’s wife” (Jasper Ridley, Garibaldi, 1974, pp. 426–427). Giuseppina’s child, of uncertain paternity, was born dead seven months later.

15. Mémoires de Garibaldi, trans. Alexandre Dumas (2 vols., 1860). Mme. von Schwartz’s Garibaldi’s Denkwürdigkeiten was published in 1861 at Hamburg.

16. “The Diamond Wedding” and “John Brown’s Invasion. How Old Brown took Harper’s Ferry” by Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908), son of EBB’s friend Mrs. Kinney and her first husband, Edmund Burke Stedman, were first published in the New-York Daily Tribune on 18 October and 12 November 1859, respectively. They appeared in Stedman’s Poems, Lyrical and Idyllic (1860), a copy of which was presented by the author to the Brownings (see Reconstruction, A2203). In a letter from Mrs. Kinney to her son, she tells him of the Brownings’ praise of “John Brown’s Invasion” (see SD2351).

17. Frances Power Cobbe records that at this time she was “sharing the apartment of my clever and charming friend, Isa Blagden, in Villa Brichieri on Bellosguardo” (Life of Frances Power Cobbe, by Herself, 1894, II, 13).

18. “We hope that the Holy Father will take back the Romagna, but it will be a little difficult and also it is said that the Papal States end for now at the Ponte Molle.” The Ponte Molle is just north of the Piazza del Popolo and Villa Borghese on the north side of Rome.

19. Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World (Philadelphia, 1860).

20. There is no evidence that any of Isa’s works were ever published in America by Fields. Commenting on the “shabby conduct of Mr James T. Fields,” William Wetmore Story later wrote: “He has I understand on all sides here, been equally shabby to several other English authors— Among whom may be mentioned Miss Blagden & Mrs Gaskell” (letter to C.E. Norton, 10 November 1862, ms at Harvard).

21. A reference to Sophia Eckley.

22. This letter has not surfaced.

23. Daniel Dunglas Home was in London and holding séances, often at the Milner-Gibsons. He did not visit America until the fall of 1864.


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