[Venice—Thursday, 22 November 1888]

We to Lido again with Mr R. Browning at 10.30—till 1.30. Superb day & air, snow Alps. He talked of John Bright’s bad manners—of Ld Aberdare—couplet of Pope’s—no one knew author but R.B. Asked if this pen wd be frequent—or if the Co wd be expected to know Pope. He sd No—but at Ld A’s—& that he (RB) did not go everywhere—but chose places where wd get someg to reward going. Of Mallock—whom he invented. As Spedding (his uncle)[1] brought him & his verses to RB while M. at Balliol. Verses not printed—but some inserted in his books. R.B. advised pursuing his other talents– M. satirised Jowett, ‘who cant bear to hear his name! Of the Murray Publishers—(the only ‘Mr’ advertised) their place at Wimbledon. Sunk £70M in the paper wh. Disraeli was to edit with Opera box. Showed their volume with ‘Shares £70M.’

He had asked me verbally & in writing to call him ‘Browning.’ I said I should’nt mind him, but shd not like to have others hear me. That I call him Mr B. from respect, not to age, but to the vates sacer.[2]

Told how at dinner he was reciting a new continuation to the Northern Farmer wh. he got from Venables—& quoted “the Quakers’ advice to go where property was.’ Bright angrily called out ‘Mr B. I am a Quaker|’] &c &c.

Another time, Bright was full of Shakespeare being Bacons. Was quite convinced. Shakes. could not write his name &c– Appealed to RB—who sd ‘I hardly know where to begin to ansr you.[’]

Of Homer—much learned since Wolf & Bentley.

Of marriage & choice of wife.

Browning asked Benzon the rich Jew (whose son lost £250M this year) to employ Shakespeare Williams, who was to send an example of his handwriting to Benzon. He sent engrossed—‘The quality of mercy is not strained’ &c. Benzon perfectly furious, wd hear no more of him.

1. Sic, for cousin.

2. “Divine poet.”

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