[Venice—Monday, 18 November 1889]

To Lido at 10.30. Mr Browning began with Cumberland—whose autobiog. I lent to him—who was born in the room at Trin. Coll. Master’s House in wh. RB lately slept. Mrs Butler (Miss Ramsay) 1st Senior Classic—all others in 2d & 3d class. Younger than her husband’s son– Editing Herodotus (or ‘New Ed. of Butler’s Analogy.’) Of Mrs Browning’s learning. If I met difficult passages in Parsons Æschylus, without notes, she always at once construed it easily. So also Hebrew, German, Italian, French. Jowett said of her classical attaints ‘It makes us scholars feel ashamed.’ Had no vanity as to what she held a natural gift.

RB asked if we ever heard of Muckle-mouthed Meg? We said we met her in Tales of a Grandfather & in Scott’s Life. He said Jowett told him the story, and he had made a poem about it, wh. he wd read to us tomorrow. Went on to say how he had treated it—made the husband an Englishman– Lady Aberdeen & Lady Helen Stuart had given him the story accordg to history, ‘but my poem was made.’ Saw remains of her house. Saw also Belted Will Howard’s cabinet, and at Chirk Castle the block on wh. hands were cut off. (I fancy the ‘preceese’ Scots will object to the Metamorphosis of Meg.) I print now some light poems, too light, some may say; as I mean to write a serious work if I live.– Portuguese very like Latin. A hymn of wh. every word Port & also Latin– Camoens with one eye at Macao– Inez de Castro’s poetical sorrow—successive rivers of tears. Mr Horne’s reply to the Author of ‘Scepticism & Repentance’—‘From You, as much scepticism as you like, but keep your repentance for yourself & yr Publisher.’

Some of the Parnell Letters probably genuine– Pigott led on to make others for the reward– Of the forgeries of Ireland, wh. killed his father—of Chatterton’s wh. ought to have deceived no one.—Of the Fr. Academy the obligatory visits by Candidates.

Derivation of Harpoon—said to be a Basque word when whales abounded on that coast—but RB suggested ῾αφπάχω—ἅφπη—Latin harpago—Engh harp—῍Αφπνιαἱ—all implying snatching—chutching– Doric Z=δς—ςδ–

In reading & speaking Greek, Mr Browning used what Dr Schliemann calls ‘the abominable pronunciation of Greek used in England,’ and ‘the arbitrary and atrocious pronunciation practised in Engd” (autobiography of Dr S.). The ον sound so barbarous, spoiled his recitations of Homer & Æschylus. I once cited Λιὸς καί Λητοῦς υἱός (Iliad 1.9.) wh. I pronounced as modern Greek. He made me repeat it a second time with visible disapproval, and did not recognise it at all. But I would not say Le-towse.


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