[Venice—Wednesday, 28 November 1883]

A superbly bright warm day. At ten o’clock we took gondola for the Lido. The post brought a letter for Browning, to my care. Passing the Public Garden, we saw his white felt hat and heard his voice, as he and his Sister were doing their four circuits. We rowed up to give him the letter, and proposed to them to go with us to Lido, which they did—and we asked them to dine on Saturday– Oh, said he, you’ll make too much of us! If you will give us only your family dinner, we will come. At dinner he talked of Charles and Mary Lamb. Charles he never saw. But Mary, who was her brothers senior, he saw once, being taken to visit her by Lady Talfourd, who with some other ladies kindly took charge of her–

Lamb introduced Talfourd to Proctor ‘my one admirer!’ On one occasion Browning asked Proctor, ‘who, on the whole, was the best man he had ever known?’—‘Oh, Lamb, of course.’– Lamb was admirably regular in all money matters, though so erratic in everything else. Browning said that Carlyle’s remarks on Charles Lamb are most harsh; and agreed that Lamb’s writings would survive Carlyle’s.

Brownings earliest and best friends were Talfourd, Proctor and Kenyon. When he was but twenty-two years of age, and was quite unknown to the literary circles, Talfourd invited him to a dinner, at which were present Wordsworth, Landor, and many other men of letters– After dinner, Talfourd (who liked after-dinner speeches and kept them up, to the last) spoke in praise of the Elders, but added, ‘We have here a younger poet, come among us, &c. &c.’—‘an immense pride and encouragement to me at that time,’ and added—‘for it is the April shower which developes the flower, not the later drenching rains.’

Talfourd married Miss Rutt, one of the numerous daughters of a lawyer who lived freely and left nothing. A bar subscription was proposed, but Talfourd declined any aid, and himself supported his wife’s family. He drank wine in old style, two or more bottles—after which, wet towels and his briefs—and next day early in his place. After one such effort he died in his robes in Court, and was carried home through the streets in his red gown. He was mostly broken by his son’s conduct, who got into debt and raised money on Post Obits, and became a mere scribbler of jokes and punning pieces. Another son, called Charles Lamb, died. Another was a clergyman.

Wordsworth did not strike me as vain. A vain man is smirking, and seeking your approbation. He was much indebted to his sister. Though none ever wrote fuller tribute than he did to her.

Dickens—in dress and manners was rather like a shop-keeper. His grandmother was house-keeper to Lord Crewe, and told excellent tales to the children. The family got some place for her son, and tried to raise his condition. But he sponged on his son, drew bills &c. I saw him often and knew him well. Micawber was easily recognizable. Once at Lord Crewe’s, Charles Dickens was reminded, by Lord Houghton, of his grandmother. ‘Yes, I know very well, she was house-keeper here.’

Crabbe Robinson resolved to retire when he should have got £400 a year by the Law, and did so, with great content.

Mrs Browning’s father had eight children, and never would hear of their marrying, nor would listen to her going to a milder climate as advised by the doctors. Browning, who had corresponded with her before they met, proposed at their first interview that they should be married, ‘and I’ll take you to a mild climate.’ Mr Kenyon told Mr Barrett that he knew of no man to whom he would more readily give a daughter. Mr Barrett answered, ‘I have no objection to him, but object to her marrying at all.’ In later years though far from rich, the Brownings resolved to accept nothing of her father’s property, but when he died he left her nothing. Another daughter was attached to a young officer. Her father said, ‘give it up, or leave my house.’ She left the house, and was married. When going to India with her husband, she wrote entreating him to allow her to take leave of him, which he refused, and ordered that his door should be shut in her face. Her emotion caused a miscarriage. He never saw her again, and left her nothing. One of his sons fell in love with an adopted daughter, very lovely, married her and they also were disinherited.

My first travel I made alone, from London to Trieste and Venice, whence to Asolo &c—on foot. My next journey was to Russia. My second visit to Venice was made with my wife. None of her brothers and sisters had any especial talent. She was always quite devoid of self-esteem.


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