[Venice—Sunday, 10 November 1889]

Mr Browning & his sister dined with us. There was also Mrs. Bronson just returnd from Asolo. Miss Leigh-Smith & Miss Blythe old friends of the Brownings and three of us. We dined in the long room hung with silk damask and ceiling painted with exploit of the Barbaro cutting off the Turk’s arm, and Olympus & the B.V. applauding. Browning very gay, till later, some others whom he called ‘strangers’ came, and he would not read any poetry, but told a long history of some very rich and odd Morrisons, of Carlton Terrace, who have collected wonderful and costly things. A letter of Mary Stuart’s writ six hours before her death about herself &c– M. wouldn’t buy an extraordinary & extravagant Cup wh. an Italian had spent years in carving, & whom Mr Gladstone backed. ‘I heard Gladstone talk Italian to him. And he did not talk it well.[’] Mrs Morrison—very handsome and full of spirits—fell ill. I came to London in 1861, and for twenty years I always enquired after her when I met Morrison. One night at a rout, he answered ‘She’s in the next room.’ And there she was, handsome and excited as ever! She took ether; you could smell it. Morrison would often take £100000, and go down to the city, to buy or sell. Friends said, you will be watched and robbed– Your cab will drive off with you beyond rescue. You should have a brougham. So he went to a great builder and ordered a brougham. When done, they wrote. He took no notice, nor of repeated requests– Finally, that it wd be sold for his account. Then that he owed a balance £150, wh. he paid, delighted to escape his Brougham. Not the Pill Morrisons. Now Cockle I did know. I took singing lessons over his chemists’ shop.– Florence, when I knew it, inhabited by English who sought cheapness—& during our thirteen years there we had no acquaintance—knew no one, and went nowhere.– Talked of muffins, crumpets and Sally Lun[n]s. Again noticed the exact resemblance of Angelo our old servant to Leigh Hunt. ‘It’s as if Hunt came to life again!’ Once my sister said ‘it was late and time to break up a pleasant Séance.’ Hunt turned to me, & said, ‘How convenient to have a second conscience![’]– Quoted an absurd verse, ascribed incorrectly to him, of the King of Prussia (from Konig Wilhelm) to the Queen.

 

From Konig’s Wilhelm to Augusta—

My love we’ve had another buster!

10000 Frenchmen are laid low,

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

 

Again inveighed vs. C. Gozzi—a hypocrite and liar, and interminable bore. Moved by sight of the two large & handsome Volumes just sent to my wife by the Author, J. Addington Symonds. Browning knew the (very rare) autobiogy thoroughly—as he usually knows what few others know.

Helen Zimmern’s Life of Schopenhauer, he read, and re-read a second time, and wished to know the writer—Mrs (I think Benzon) sd you have been 20 times in this room with her. She was a poor relation & Mrs B. has refused to introduce her to Browning. He at once sat down & wrote a letter of praise to her, and has since (10 years) known her well. She has just estabd in Florence.

Miss Browning told a story of her brother’s, how a strait-laced old Engh lady met the Emperor L. Napoléon, in Engd—[“]Ah! you lost the battle of Sédan because you fought it on Sunday!” But, Madame, the Germans fought it on Sunday, and they won!—Do animals think? RB—I am convinced that all animals think. If I put out my finger towards a fly, off he goes. That is thinking.


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