[Venice—Sunday, 2 December 1888]
Fine, & to Lido with Mr B. Talked of Sir F. Leighton & Mrs Orr, his sister, his most intimate friend (whom we met with the Bs’ years ago at the ‘Universo’)[.] Their grandfather physician to the Czar & present at birth of the Czar who was killed, who was godfather to Mrs Orr. She widow of Indian officer during Mutiny, after few months marriage. RB had no direct part in her book, wh. results from years of intimacy– ‘But her opinions are her own.’ At 1.30 he & Miss B. came to lunch. Castelnuovo & Horatio Brown, we & R.W.C. The B’s to go to London on Saty– But he will come on Wedy at 3, & read some poems to a few friends. He is up at 6 AM daily—& at work on proofs. Had nothg to eat or drink till 9. Can go 10 hours without food & feel no inconvenience. But he often is lulled into a nap, at noon, by the motion of the gondola. He is vigorous & active—but grown visibly older. Thinks cold bathing dangerous to the heart. Never smoked, & takes little wine. Of small stature, but large presence. Of gentle manner—but one sees he can be terrible! He said that after his return to England in 1862, he went no where and saw very few—but in 1864 he began to go into the world and has ever since continued it. He showed me, on one of the occasions when we dined in Warwick Crescent, his list of invitations, kept on a letter sheet in a small hand for every day in the month & week in advance—& from all the greatest names in Engd with his signs of acceptance. He goes & returns on foot or by omnibus, & I remember could not say what the cab-fare was from his quarter. From what he drops from time to time, of himself, of his son, of his studies, of his habits and tastes, it is not difficult to perceive that his domestic life has been laborious & self-denying—to absorb affliction in deep study—& to provide means for a very ambitious hope of his son’s distinction who shd. have every possible advantage & accomplishment. He told me of his disappointment at his son’s non-success at the University, & how by Leighton’s advice & aid he took to Art. Sent him to Ch. ch. Talked bitterly of temptation to idle time.
1. Sic, for Alexandra, Empress of Russia, Mrs. Orr’s godmother.