[Venice—Monday, 5 November 1888]
Arranged with Mr Browning to go to Lido at 11.30, lunch at 4 Fontane and walk to Malamocco. A mild, ‘dove coloured day’ he called it. We ate in a hollow of the dune over the sea, & set out, sending gondola to await us at Malamocco. R.B. talked all the way 4 hours. Of Shelley at Lerici, of his death—Leigh Hunt, Trelawney, Goldoni, Fuseli, Mrs Shelley. Quoted ‘I rise from dreams of thee’—its rhythm & accent usually mistaken. Of Sir W. Harcourt & his marriage, of J. L. Motley at an election at Athenæum Club. Sharp answer of Ld Houghton—Of Kirkup’s discovery of Dante in Bargello. Its treatment. Bezzi. Of Kirkup’s rare possessions—a Dante by Botticelli—Tasso’s Fencing illustd by M. Angelo. Desk of Macchaivelli with his arms (chiodi)[.] K’s credulity as to Spiritualism—Medium—Greek coin stolen & prints[.]
RB gave £1 each for his tapestries in Florence—& Natorp offd £1000 for them. Said he “particularly recommended Ruskin to observe our late restoration of the Gothic arcade,” wh. he praises in Stones of Venice (Appendix).
R.B. has a peculiarly emphatic tone of voice & sd yesty ‘I got my habit of talkg loud from being so much with Kirkup who became suddenly quite deaf, from an open window at an evg party in Florence.’ The contrast between delicate, low voiced, gentle Symonds, & sturdy emphatic R.B. is marked.
Sd he was born in or near London (without sayg exactly where) & had always lived in town. ‘Too much, indeed—too little of the country.’ Never had Dickens’s fancy for exploration of London. Went once to Tower, many years ago. “Ought to have gone when Shaw Lefevre made a party to go from H. of Commons to Tower & showed things not often visible.” Never saw the Charter House. Once Newgate with Dickens– Shelleys copy of Keats in his breast. Trelawny burned. Asked why did not keep it. Sd ‘No, I returned it to him,—in the other world.[’] B sd ‘Why, do you think there be ghosts of books too, there?[’]
As we walked thru the little town of Malamocco, the doors stood open & we saw the people busy inside or dryg corn on the pavement. A few saluted us. He sd they are probably unchanged thru centuries; & wd rather the people endured than the buildings.
R.B. present at an Election at Athenæum Club. Members pass the candidates’ boxes & put in white or black or no balls. J. L. Motley voted, after wh. a man asked if he had voted for ____? He said he had not, for or against, but would vote for him if the others desired. On returning to the polls, a servant objected that having already voted the rules forbid his further voting. Motley, impatient as usual, turned to discuss the rule, insisting, “Can you not trust here, in England, the honour of an American gentleman?” (It being just after the Election in U.S. when Tilden lost and Hayes—won by juggling the votes). Lord Houghton answered, ‘Yes, of a Southern gentleman.’
This lovely day “London was in thick black fog.”