[Venice—Sunday, 17 November 1889]

Went at 10.30 to Lido with Mr Browning– A perfect day of genial beauty. Long walk on sands. Never meet any of our many acquaintance in Venice. Mr B. talked of Mrs Kemble & Butler—of Mrs S. G. Howe, of A. Scheffer, of the Barrets & Kenyon—of the Chryselephantine statue of Duc de Luynes. ‘Pallas’—of the Orleans & Thiers, of Oscar Browning.

“While my wife was alive, she could take care of herself, but I will allow no one to muddle with her, now she is gone[.]” His first & only allusion hitherto to the Fitzgerald lines.– “She was only too kind in good-natured praises of quantities of books & poems inflicted—and the recordg Angel will say– More, you must suffer a pin-prick on the end of your little finger for them.”

Mrs Fanny Kemble lives near me, I go often to see her. You can’t say a person of 80 is pretty—but she is– At home daily except Saty when she returns calls in their order—no matter how far or indifferent the person. She is full of wit and anecdote. She was divorced from comg to England & overstayg, unaware it wd entitle her husband to get a divorce for desertion. She complained of circumstances existing when she married– Butler’s statement fully justified him. Mrs “Julia Ward Howe” sent a vol. of poems to “R. Browning, London” where he then had no address & did not get it. She pubd another with an abusive address to Mr & Mrs B. about their contempt for others—& accusing Mrs B. of using opium &c. Later in London, Lady Stanley of Alderly introduced Mrs Howe to Mr Browning—who set her right, and she, confused, excused herself, & said ‘I’ll send you another poem which will make all right.’ Which 2d poem was worse than the first, describg the meanness of their house, furniture, & entertt in Florence (havg never been in their house.) Again they met, & this time B. reproved her severely for impertinence & untruth. She very angry sd ‘if my husband were here, you wd not dare to speak to me thus!’ He ansd [‘]‘I wish he were here, to keep you in better order!” Houghton to whom I expld these facts, said her conduct was monstrous.

Oscar Browning, of King’s Camb. Mr Pender had invited R.B. who declined (to Scotland). But O.B. went or wrote he was coming—& arrd late. Next AM the Penders who supposed it was RB were surprised at breakfast—& more when O.B. produced a letter addressed to R.B. by Lady Ashburton, wh. he had opened, and handed about the table!

Another time O.B. opened a letter at the Athenæum, askg R.B. to second a nomination of a clergyman made by Bishop of ________. O.B. seconded & the man was furious—as they did not know each other, and utterly refused to have O.B. Finally the Secy erased, and substituted R.B.

At Ary Scheffers studio my wife first heard Beethoven’s Quatuors, wh. made great impression on her– “She enjoyed them highly. Wh. surprised me, as I thought we always have to go up stairs.” Scheffer not as religious as his pictures.

Of Paul Louis Courier on the subscription to offer Chambord to Duc de Berri– Assassinated by his servants–

Tennyson being at Pontresina, and object of general interest, Oscar Browning went up and spoke to him. Tennyson—Who are you? O.B. I’m Browning.– T. Oh no. That won’t do. I know Browning.–

What RB said, exactly, to Mrs Howe, or rather to Lady Stanley, who said, “You know Mrs Howe?[”] was, as he related yesty– “Yes, I know Mrs Howe. My libeller, and my wife’s traducer.”

The letter wh. O Browning opened and handed about was given by Mrs Pender to her house-keeper and never reached R.B. at all. “It was from an impulsive lady, who had urged me to visit her, and I had told her that I should never come again to her house. It was Lady Ashburton—our names had been coupled together– (They were in fact, engaged, for a day or two, and he was quite miserable till he got out of it—(said Mrs Story—to whom he confided the matter–) He said ‘I might have married, money & all that—several times—if I would.’[)]

Basil Montague—unjustly ridiculed by Carlyle & others– One morning his servant called him—‘Anything new today?’– [‘]No, sir—but eleven men to be hanged today at Newgate.’ From that moment Montague devoted himself to doing away with capital executions for petty crimes.

References made to report of a creation of Peers to be made—and the names of Sir H. Layard & Browning mentioned– R.B. said, I don’t know what may or may not be proposed—but I should most certainly refuse any offer of the kind.


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