[Venice—Friday, 14 December 1888]

From Septr 19 to Dec. 11. ’88 we have seen Mr Browning almost daily—sometimes twice a day—& often for three & four hours alone. He talks much & well, often & fully of his own life from boyhood—of his father, his gdfather, his school-days, his engagement & marriage to Miss Barrett—of her father & brothers & sisters—of his life at Florence & Rome, of their friends in Italy, of his return to Engd—of his poetry & its slow acceptance—of literary friends Foster, Landor, Kirkup,—of London society & country life—of the host of great people he meets & knows—of Lady Ashburton, Marchs of Lothian & many more (Lady Cowper, “his lady,” he told her) of the Arts and artists old & new—curious details & stories of Byron, Shelley, Keats & other poets, all whose poetry he can cite—as also Greek & Latin authors at command—points of manners, customs &c. I have formerly often heard him speak of Tennyson—of his pension[,] peerage &c—never of his poetry.* I read in a B. Soc. paper of his conversation as B. Poet. B Metaphysician, &c. but after so many years knowledge of his talk among few or many. I should say that he rarely, if ever, talks as Poet or Metaphysician & one wd hardly suspect he was either. If questioned about his poetry, he answers; but we preferred not to question.

Mrs. H. sd sudden death was desirable. Browning sd not too sudden; (In ‘Prospice’ he wd not avoid the passage) & told of a lady friend, unmarried, who travelled with them. Near Genoa they were going for a long walk, & after seeg to B’s breakfast she went to her room & not returng was found dead. She was rich & had told B. she shd. leave her property to him—but had not had time to do so. “La Saisiaz” is of this.

He has a large acquaintance in England—& hosts of people who are what he always terms ‘so very good-natured to me,’ & is an object of interest & curiosity in society. His friends are Leighton & his sister Mrs Orr—with whom he is really intimate. He is said (Hy James) that he never asks anyone to dine or lunch. His present house is much larger “better situated” than Warwick Crescent house was, & it is furnished with Italian tapestries & carved furne—brass lamps, a fine old clock, & objets wh. are good & in keeping, (as far as a modern English house admits.)

Browning sd that Tennyson’s grandson being named Alfred Browning Tennyson, he sent him a present with a note sayg You have two names, one famous, the other of an ever affectionate friend & godfather. The child (5 years old) replied with a note in wh. he said, “But you too are rather famous.” Until 18th Dec. we have been able to go to Lido daily, & roses have lasted at the garden. Today fog and roses done.

*Speaking of something hors de propos,[1] he sd “It is as absured as if anyone shd. ask me what I think of Tennyson’s poetry.”

[1] ”Out of content.”


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