[Venice—Monday, 15 October 1883]

Called for Mr Browning at 10.30, a warm, bright morning. He said that though he had lived so long in Italy, he was afraid of the sun. At the Dogana we hoisted the sail of my gondola, and with a light breeze we passed slowly down the Canal of Giudecca, towards the islet of San Giorgio in Alga, where stand the remains of an ancient convent, of which the tall tower had been taken down within a few years. An effective statue of the Madonna & Child, protected by an iron parasol, still remains. He spoke of the tendency, in Modern French Art, to extravagant and painful subjects—as the Prise de Troie, Astyanax thrown over the walls, women half-burned &c. Another of a Paysanne who recognizes her sister as a ‘Cocotte’ in a carriage—all life size. Of Critics, he said that where opinions are sustained or proved by extracts fairly made, there can be no objection. But the critic must read the book or see the picture, which are not to be condemned merely by Critic’s dictum. He added that ‘one Austin[’] persistently printed extracts of his (B’s) verse, which by alterations and omissions of words and punctuation, were made to seem to establish Austin’s criticisms. B had sent them to Lord Carnarvon, one of the promoters of the National Review of which Austin is the Editor. (He again repeated this Nov. ’89.) Mrs. Story told us that when Austin was introduced to her, she asked him if he was the son of Miss Jane Austen, the Novelist?

Of French books on England, he said very few Frenchmen could get access to the upper classes in England, or see enough of them to enable them to describe them correctly—[‘]‘as they carefully keep to themselves. I seem to know a good many—for some reason or other. Perhaps because I never had any occupation. My father wished me to do what I liked. I should not so bring up a son. My father and grandfather lived to great age.– Not long ago, one fee’d the servants where one dined. Hogarth broke up those vails. A lord who left a Country-house without feeing the servants, received a letter from the butler with an old pair of breeches ‘which they supposed must belong to him[’]”–

He said Gladstone’s Italian Version of Cowper’s Hymn, printed in XIX Century Review, was ‘very bad, very bad.’ Asked about Payne Collier—Rascal.– Asked if the Poem of the Man and the Stag was founded on fact? ‘Exactly, the man told me his story forty years ago.’ He described the death of the Elephant at Exeter ’Change which his father took him to see when a child.

Shelley—deserted his children, and Eldon rightly refused to restore them to him. Shelley—the biggest liar (if lying is saying what is not true.) He cursed his father to his school-fellows. Nowadays, the boys would punch his head! He was coming out of it when he died. And had he lived, might have been—anything!

“Joaquin Miller, an American poet—called on R.B. at Warwick Crescent, and supposed the whole Crescent to be Mr B’s house, and the Canal his ornamental pièce d’eau.[1] He said that in America a great writer was rich, and lived in a large house.” B. said he was tempted to say that if his countrymen paid what they owed him, he could live in a large house.

1. “Piece of water.”


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