[Venice—Saturday, 6 October 1883]

At an evening reception at Palo Barbaro, Mr Browning was present. He talked much of Carlyle. Someone expressed sympathy with Mrs. Carlyle as a suffering wife. R.B. said [‘]‘Not a bit of it! Carlyle spoke of her as if she had stepped down from the stars to marry him. What was she, after all? The daughter of a small Scotch doctor in an obscure country village. She did no more work than was good for her. I have known plenty of Curates, gentlemen’s sons, with wives and families living on as little as the Carlyles, and working as hard, and saying nothing about it! She would get servants from that barbarous place who knew nothing of their work—which in fact they came to learn. And the vermin she said so much about, it seems after all came from Scotland in her own mother’s old bed. She encouraged all Carlyle’s whims and fancies, adopted all his ideas and opinions and exaggerated them; but ridiculed them to other people. She showed her private journal to Miss Williams Wynn, who advised her to burn it; and she thought she had burned the whole of it, except ten pages. She would say, ‘Carlyle talks of getting no sleep! that is, if he lies awake from a quarter past one to two o’clock—he has had no sleep!—’ One day, Dr Quain called. Mrs. Carlyle came down en toilette—for her—. Carlyle said, ‘I thocht ye were ill.[’] (as she had been two days in bed.) Whereupon she threw a cup of coffee at him.[”]

Browning said that she had no beauty, except good eyes and hair—but her nose! and here he drew a line in the air to give its upward turn—‘And her complexion! like nothing but pickled walnuts.[’]

Carlyle had known Browning’s father, and had always been kind to Browning when a young man– On B’s return from Italy, he dined at Mr Kenyon’s where was Carlyle—and after dinner many more people, and among them Mrs. Carlyle. Those at table sat for some time before joining the others, at which Mrs. Carlyle was piqued, and when Browning spoke to her, affected to disbelieve it could be he, ‘No! Ye’re so changed!’ However, she asked him to tea for the next evening. He had not seen a tea-table and service for so many years, that when she said, “Now, Mr Browning, be useful, and hand the tea-kettle from the hob,” he obeyed, not knowing what to do with it. She chose to think he was putting on airs, and cried, ‘Fill the tea-pot![’] which he did, left with the kettle in his hand. ‘What am I to do with it now?’—‘Put it down.’ So down he put it, on the carpet at her feet. She was quite vexed, at what she believed his affectation of a fine travelled gentleman.

Browning always went to see Carlyle on his birthday. “They had no real sorrows and cares. Now, if they had children, one ill or dead of scarlet fever, another of croup, they would have had something else to think about than of their own sweet selves. His arrogance excessive—his contempt for all which he did not know or think. As for Michel Angelo when Grimm’s book came out—his scorn! He accepted all attentions as simply due to his genius. Allingham (d. 1889) used to devote two hours daily to walking with him—the cream of the day, though a literary man writing for bread. Carlyle regarded him as a sort of faithful dog, who might be kicked. (with a gesture.) Carlyle’s power of description! You might be sure he had well looked up his subject. His account of Waterloo—the ground—the scenes—the Prussians coming up! You’d think you were there yourself!—Perhaps Froude came across some things, in Mrs. Carlyle’s Diary, not pleasing to himself, and did not care to ménager her.[”] (Mr. B. repeated this in 1889.) At all events, he printed all, and got a good bit of money by it. R.B. saw Carlyle a week before his death. He was lying comatose and took no notice of anything.— If you listened, without contradicting him, he talked wonderfully well,—better than he wrote– R.B. “never argued with him, but once, and then quite put him down.” It was about Louis Napoleon, whom Carlyle was abusing roundly.– RB said, [‘]‘You have, all your life, been preaching up Force—crying for a Man. Well, now you have him, and you call him upstart, usurper, &c. &c. Carlyle had nothing to answer”—


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