[Venice—Wednesday, 11 November 1885]

Mr & Miss Browning dined with us. He in great spirits at probable purchase of Palazzo Montecuculi, & much discussion as to how to restore it. It is now his intention to retreat—ultimately—to Venice—but for some years yet to hold on to London. After dinner came Richard M. Hunt, the Architect—who told us of the great Statue of Liberty which he is engaged to set up and to elevate the pedestal– Also of the houses of rich persons he was building—& of Willy Somebody’s Louis XV salon, “which belonged to Louis XV too, sir.” The bathos did not strike him.

Mr Browning cited some of Hudibras’s rhymes—“wh. we of the Metier, think unequalled. As in Medecines, & dead since.” It is rarely that Mr B. does not only know, but know well, any matter, or point, or person, worth knowing, past or present. He has been a great student with most accurate & retentive memory, a close observer of men & things, however minute. He has studied music & its science & specially likes the great early masters. He has a great knowledge of painting & sculpture—from practice. It has been said that he is of Jewish origin. And at times his features & expressions are decidedly Hebrew. While his cleverness, tenacity, courage, moral or physical are Jewish. Both he and his sister always praise & defend Jews, & he has made a study of their tongue & history. It may, someday, be proved, that he is of that descent. He has few personal wants or indulgences—tho’ an appreciator of beauty & luxury, his daily life is simple & frugal. For months they are content to live on peasants’ fare—eggs & milk & no meat—at Gressonay. He is wise, shrewd, politic, also impulsive, suddenly vehement, arbitrary, overbearing. Far from insensible to praise of any sort—tho’ always deprecating it—& treating notices, however, & the assiduities of the Browning Socty with careful indifference. He calls himself a Liberal, while knowing & talkg of the great & titled with whom he is intimate & dines daily in London. I know that at table he says very little—tho’ here he talks much, & well—& prefers to do it all & is scant of attention to others. He has never used glasses, but his eyes are of different focus.

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