[Venice—Sunday, 30 October 1881]
Mr Browning and Mr James Russell Lowell talked of the Queen Victoria’s invariable kind feeling and delicacy. Her immediate and repeated inquiries as to Mr & Mrs Garfield, made either in person or in her own name & not formally through officials, &c.
Mr Browning said he was present with other literary people at Dean Stanley’s when the Queen came to lunch. She asked Lady Augusta whether it would affect Mr Browning too much if she were to speak to him of Mrs Browning. Lady A. said no, that Mr B. was much accustomed to talk of his wife &c. The Queen then said she could have wished to know her. Mr B. replied “Your Majesty would have found that her poetry was one of the least of her attractions.” Carlyle was there and “talked to the Queen exactly as he did to all others.” The Queen, when Carlyle said that formerly beggars were unknown in Scotland, said “but now there are many beggars.” “Ah ye brought them there yourselves![”] replied Carlyle. He said many other original things and in passing out the Queen said sotto voce to Mr B. “What a singular person Mr Carlyle is!”
To old Ld Wharncliffe who said to some remark of Carlyles—“Ah, thats theoretic talk Mr Carlyle– We don’t here care much for theoretic talk or for theoretic people.” Carlyle replied. Well there were folk in another town and another nation, who didnt care for theoretic talk. And a man named Rousseau wrote a book called Contract Social, and they didn’t care for that either. But all their heads were cut off and their skins made into leather breeches.” Mr & Miss Browning came to dine for the last time, this year, as they leave Venice Nov. 1. Mr J.R. Lowell & Mr J. Field came also. Of intelligence of animals, Mr B. remembers the beasts at Exeter Change, and an elephant wh. they had to kill, and not knowing the vulnerable parts, fired many shots into him. When thus wounded, his keeper ordered him to kneel, that they might aim behind his ear—and the poor animal obeyed. Mr B. saw him land yet on his knees.