[Venice—Friday, 15 November 1889]

At 3 PM Mr Browning waiting on steps of Rezo, ready for Lido. To S. Elisabetta on foot to Quattro Fontane, by the beach. Asked him what he did when ideas occurred to him in the night. They never occur to me but at my desk at my appointed hours to write, rather like A. Trollope’s plan. The rest of the time my brain reposes.– The other day at Asolo (where I felt particy disposed to write,) an idea came to me, while washing my hands, & I went immedily & wrote them down. It was about Sixtus V. There is one against ladies wearg birds in bonnets—swallows too!—(and then hastily looked to see if my wife wore one)[.] Said much of dedicatg his new Vol. to Mrs. Bronson. Of his houses, rented or bought, in London. Risk of repairs– Lord Lytton, who bought expirg leases on speculation, said—‘Never deal with a literary man in houses– They’ll always cheat you,’ not dishonesty—but wishg to be clever out of their line.

Much of Pope,—who was a poet—Mr Elwyn undertook to edit life & works– He found such trickery malice &c—that his book frightened the Publisher. So he handed over ‘the job’ to Mr Courthope. I knew Elwyn well– He had estate in Norfolk. I gave him a pony wh. I bought in Siena for my son and led over Mt Cenis in my hand, (as did Alfieri) & got him up to Paris. Saw Tennyson in spectacles wh. I never saw him wear with his wife and sons, but feeling in no spirits (1861) to speak to him. Difficulties about the horse going in Tidal train with me. It not being Saty, delay over Sunday, to recover tax paid on enterg France. They tried to force me to go by the earlier train, in rain. At Boulogne saw Tennyson (“who can be sufficiently impressive”) in a great rage—spoke to him—“Did you hear what a row I raised–The rascals prevented my coming by the earlier train, to oblige us to lunch.” In London heard that that earlier train had met with a bad accident & people killed. Then both Tennyson & I escaped narrowly being killed together!

Then Browning told all about his school life—at Mr Ready’s (same school in which Goldsmith was a tutor.) Excellent care & food, but stupid boys. One agreed to give another a sovereign when two Sundays come together. Well, Saturday is Jews’ Sunday. So the other wrote Dear Father. I am sorry to say I have got into debt—& burst into tears.– “Master Green—his box—Preserved Pares”– Speech day. [“]Introductory address by Master Browning. Composed by himself.” In verse, aet 8. My hair curled for the occasion. Could recite it now, if I pleased. Did recite parts—& compliment to the Master– “Our ranks, Tis our Commander who deserves your thanks.”—Got Shakespeare from the Master’s library—read it at meals—called on to say grace– John Ready glaring at him till grace said– Had laid book down on mutton fat.

Hair combed, by Dame Ready, who sang hymns the while, & combed in time with the tune. Sang a hymn, to show us how she sang—[‘]‘Like brutes we live, Like brutes we die!” I remember walking round Regents’ Park with poor Laman Blanchard, old Maclise, John Forster & Dickens talking of School-days—‘so happy.’ I said ‘I’ll recite to you a Canto of mine. They politely wished to hear it.

 

[‘]‘Within these walls my youth did pass,

Here sat our elder, here our Junior Class.

D___d undiluted misery it was!”

 

That was my Canto. Maclise said, Scotchly, ‘I thowt ye’d be half an hour, o more.’

Of young men gambling. Lord Esher sd he wd never pay a penny to pay gambg debts of any son of his. Matthew Arnold—to raise £3000 going to America to lecture. RB told him you never will succeed at that. You talk up in the air & I could not hear one word you said!


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