[Venice—Tuesday, 30 October 1888]
With us went to Lido Mr Browning, and he & Miss B. dined with us to meet Mr & Mrs John Addington Symonds. R.B. said more interestg things than I fear I can recall. Previous eveg they sent to borrow ‘Beppo,’ for him to read aloud to the Mocenigos in whose house it was written. Sd many bad rimes as to correct—‘charge ye & clergy—becca-fica &c.’ ‘Botherby’ was Sotheby.
Spoke of being elected of the Honoy of Oxford—as well as Doctor—that he might be Prof. of Poetry (as the Duke to be Chancellor.) That they didn’t get—I would’nt do it! No one else since Johnson elected. He wrote a Latin letter of thanks. So R.B. went to the Athenæum, where they have large tall sheets of paper fit for this occasion. There wrote his letter, & seeg Venables, consulted him. He made a few suggestions. The next time they met V. sd ‘You have no idea how you have risen in my estimation! as being able to write that letter.’ This RB thinks quite over estimation of Latin Composition, & that V. might rather esteem other qualities. Jowett old friend introdd RB to a Chinese Ambassador ‘also a Poet.’ R.B. asked what the subjects of his poems? “Oh—my poems are all enigmatical.” RB ‘Then there are two of us!’ Much talk by RB & JAS on metres & emphasis. RB quoted Homer’s Plays to show 4 beats in all measures. Said he read Homer once yearly! RB is evidently pleased to show that to be a Greek, Latin & Hebrew scholar, it is not indispensible to be educated at the Public School and University. And Mr Symonds said that Browning & Ruskin were interesting examples of a special Education. Though (& a singular thing it was) Symonds asked (after RB had gone) if he were an American! Lady Bagot asked the same question. And added ‘At all events, his wife was American! This marks how a man, bred up out of the regulation course, as “out of it” in England. RB said he gets £2000 for his last Edition. Symonds remembd, years ago, that Conington, esteemed great authority, could not endure Browning’s poetry & tho’ recognising certain qualities, thought him coarse. Last eveg he read aloud ‘The Grammarian’s Funeral.’ To Symonds’ inquiry, sd the scene he had in his mind was Ancona. Read also ‘Donald,’ and ‘A. Del Sarto.’ Another thing R.B. remarked to J.A.S. was the frequency of not only rhymes, but of double rhymes in Homer, and sometimes 4 & 6 together.
He spoke of his wife’s letters. His own letters, to his father & others, extendg over many years, & in fact a biography, he burned, all. His wife’s he can not burn.
Zola. Most severe on his books—‘but a genius.’
Miss A. Rives ‘Quick or Dead.’ Genius in it. Had she sent me the Mss. in 2 hours I cd have made corrections and especially instances of very bad English!
Had a German teacher for his son, who sd ‘I teach him to reason.’ No. I want you to teach him German. A Miss Peabody asked RB to give a note of recommendn to this man to show in America. So B. wrote that he had taught his son, German &c. With wh. he went to the U.S. and was on the strength of R.B’s note at once elected President of a Western College!
1. “Works of love.”