[Venice—Friday, 2 November 1883]

2 Nov. ’83

Asked Mr Browning if there were any sous-entendu[1] in his poem of Childe Roland?– ‘Not the least. I wrote it on the 2d of January [1853], having begun the year with the intention of writing a lyric poem every day that year.’ [“]The first I wrote was ‘Women and Roses,’ about a rose-tree which some American ladies sent to my wife as a New Year’s gift. I wrote half of Childe Roland, and finished it the next day. Then somebody or something put it out of my head, and I relapsed into my old desultory way.’[’]–

Speaking of Milton, Tennyson said to me, lately, ‘It stands about thus,—Byron ranks higher than he did; Milton hardly as high,—Shakespeare immense, and unappoachable.’

Mallock I know very well. His uncle,[2] Mr Spedding, showed to me some of his writings, when he was quite a lad, and then brought him to see me. He then went to Balliol. Later, he said he owed his career to my encouragement, and to my advice to try to describe social scenes and character– As he says so I suppose it was so– His last books very objectionable—bad.

Miss Browning told this incident.

Mrs. Browning’s Aunt[3] had a tame monkey, with a very long prehensile tail, which one day he curled around Mrs. Browning’s slender throat. She, almost lifeless, had the presence of mind to hold out her watch at arm’s length, at which the monkey darted, uncoiling his tail, and she escaped suffocation.

1. “Insinutations.”

2. Sic, for cousin.

3. Sic, for uncle.

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