[Venice—Tuesday, 19 November 1889]

To Lido at 10.30—with Mr & Miss Browning who has been kept at home by sittg for her portrait to her nephew[.] Mr B. occupied by question of what poems, and how many he should read this P.M. Left cards for Mr & Mrs Joseph Chamberlain, just arrd en route for Egypt.– Wondered people cared to be Knights & I should not accept it. Charles 2d told he ought to knight some man—said, [‘]Oh! will he be satisfied with that? I was going to give him half-a-crown!’ Layard was present. Another common man he knighted when in tipsy frolic. Next day told the man he must not take it seriously but give it up– Oh! but Lady Muggins your Majesty! Noticing the sand by the sea, quoted Ancient Mariner ‘brown as the ribbed sea-sand’ which line was Wordsworths– Also cited lines by Donne—of ‘the feather & the straw that lay, here yesterday & here today’ (or nearly so) all being so wonderfully calm & still—& ships as if hung between sky & water.

At 4 P.M. a company met at our house to hear Mr Browning read from his yet unpubd Poems. We asked those to come only who would care for and appreciate this opportunity. These were present Mrs Eden, Mrs Bronson (to whom is dedicated this new volume), Sir H & Lady Layard, and 3 nieces, Prof. Castelnuovo (novelist), Mr Allen (Q’s Coll. Oxon) Maj. Giles, Dr Bird, Princess of Montenegro & Pss Olga, Mr & Mrs Hulton, Mr & Mrs Barrett, Miss Barclay, Mrs Skinner, Mr Barrett Browning, Miss Browning, Mrs Montalba & 3 Misses Montalba. Chamberlains asked—but did not get the note till too late.

Mr Browning read standing from the proof pages, poems of various character. Several light and passionate (he said) one of Augustus, begging,—son of Homer, an Allegory, & asked Mr A. if he could divine his meaning which was to show how authority could be disputed. No Homer– No Troy– No Priam &c. accordg to Wolf. Asked us again today at Qo Fontane if we knew what he meant– Ansd that a child should have Right and Wrong impressed—the Why & Wherefore may come, or not, laterAristotles Ethics if you like–

He was greatly interested in this readg of his last poems, and observant of the effect, and whether they pleased and were understood.


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