[Venice—Wednesday, 5 December 1888]
Finest snow effect on Friuli Alps– Like views from Pau or Berne. Browning very gay. Hoped he shd. never survive power of occupying himself—as Greville, whom he saw knitting to pass the time. Much debate as to what he shd. read aloud this P.M. He wished ‘The Inn Album’ but agreed it was too long– (It took him 47 minutes to read the [‘]Flight of the Duchess.’) Sd he would like ‘Caliban’ (one of my best). Did not mind how long he read—& is used to read twice a week to Mrs Orr 2 to 3 hours without fatigue. Spoke of the value of quiet. Nothg cd exceed the retirement in wh. he had passed most of his life. Of late years much in the London world at night—but his days his own. And in future should try to go out less. — Exactly at 3 P.M. he came to Palo Barbaro in to wh. the full splendor of the sun poured. He had dressed himself carefully (He sd the other day ‘for I do not look like a Rothschild’) and one saw his interest & pleasure. About 20 people were asked (known to appreciate the Poet & the Man) since to very many it wd be Caosàre (Sir H. Layard e.g.) Mrs & Miss Bronson, Mrs Howe, Baroness Paphius & brother, Mrs Brown, Ho Brown, Darvell, Mrs Eden, Misses Du Cane, Hultons, Pr Montenegro & dr, Louis Dyer, Ch. Dyer, Miss Brophy (niece of Sir Jas. Hannen).
Browning began with ‘Love Among the Ruins,’ then ‘Saul,’ which was very grand indeed. Abt Vogler—‘Forgiveness’—‘My Last Duchess’—‘Christina’ [sic] & ‘Up in a Villa.’ Each of these he read in its manner & inflections distinct from the others. Saul in low key and solemn measure—often very grand or pathetic from his simplicity & the absence of apparent search for effect. ‘In a Villa’ he read with a buffo imitation of the querulous Italians, very humourous. He said, yesty, ‘The Inn Album’ is the true story of Lord de Ros.