[Venice—Tuesday, 27 November 1883]

A dull damp day had not prevented Mr & Miss Browning’s daily walk to the Public Garden, and he added, four turns around its circuit. Five! said Miss Browning. We all think her strength hardly equal to keeping up with his. For instance, she was seven hours on foot descending a road, impossible for carriages, or even for donkeys, from a mountain village where they stayed some time, and where there was no other food than eggs and milk with dry bread. She is, however, full of energy, mental and physical, at her brother’s service, sitting erect in her chair, disdaining the support of its back. A great reader and a good rememberer of what she reads, and capable of excellent criticisms, though usually keeping subordinate to her brother’s more emphasized personality, who likes to talk loud and long, full length in a low chair or sofa-corner, with legs thrust straight out and his hands either clasped behind his head, or plunged into his trousers’ pockets. If anyone offer remark or rejoinder, he is apt to listen for a moment, and then raises his voice and over-talks the interruption. Yesterday afternoon he had in hand a Sonnet to Goldoni, composed in haste on the last day before the printing of an Album by the Committee for Goldoni’s Statue. This sonnet he read aloud with his hearty manner and emphasis which are habitual and genuine—although quite in contravention of that undemonstrative nonchalance and affected indifference which is now bien vu.[1] He read to us the note from Professor Molmenti, of the Goldoni Committee, on receiving which, he at once sat down and wrote his Sonnet. The lines are in keeping with the subject—genial, affectionate and simple. I said ‘there are no big words in it.’ Browning said—[‘]I should think not!’–

Of Critics—he said he had never noticed them. That he was told that Editors always set their youngest hands to review Poetry, as on any other topic they would expose their insufficiency, while anyone could write of Poetry, ‘this is wretched stuff!’ or, ‘this is truly poetical.’ He had never thanked anyone for favourable notice, but Roden Noel, who had before thought himself rudely treated by Browning, and had asked “if he were a kind man?” Proposed to pass Saturday evening with us, quietly.

1. “Popular."


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