[Venice—Wednesday, 6 November 1889]

Called at Pal. Rezzonico at 3. as arranged for Mr Browning who had been all day correcting the final proofs of his new book of Poems, and asked me to take him to the Post Office to send them to London. As we went down past Rialto he pointed to an apartment in Palace next P. Grimani & said “There is where I first lived in Venice with Mrs Browning. We stayed a month. The Post Office was then next door to us. We thought the charm of our first impression could never be removed. But it is, always. One either likes Venice, or not. For me I delight in these side-canals where strangers rarely go. Every house must have its history, if one could find it out. I will show you one[1] which I made the subject of a Poem in my new Volume.[2] The Legend is well known. Fat Luigi gasped and rowed—“Diavolo—buco in muro—Angelo—una sainonia &c”[3] Knew all about it, and no doubt your Téta knows it. There is the Angel over the two shields (next the Gas office, passing under Bridge of Sighs–) Havg sent his packet, we rowed off towards Lido till rain drove us back. [‘]‘An Edition of 2500. And once they would have thought 800 a venture!” Talked again of the Benzons of London, & the son who ran thru £250000 in two years. The youth said to his uncle Schlesinger he’s going to make a lot of money. I shall print a book. But you can’t write a book.– [‘]Oh I’ll get Browning to do it for me.’ R.B. went to the dinner when he came of age—would sell his fathers house, pictures, books, all– B. warned his father (who was not his father) that he would spoil the boy by indulgence. When I think of what can be done with £250.000 when I think of Wordsworth’s poverty, glad to be offered a glass of beer. Mr Basil Montague went up there to Ambleside, and climbed to the top of the inn with the landlord to see the view with a spy-glass. Saw a man with a bag on his back in the distant woods. Who’s that? [‘]Oh, that’s Mr Wordsworth, gathering nuts. He finds them useful.’ He said the vast Cowper property would all go to Auberon Herbert’s son. Lady C. said she asked an old farmer if Mr Herbert lost a great deal of money, farming? Well, my lady, you know it’s a bit of land and can’t lose much. But whatsoever e can lose he does, my lady.– I shall leave all his Mother’s papers to my son, now being bound– But my own Manuscripts I leave to Balliol Coll. They are now being bound. They always treat me so well, and always send for me on every ‘Gaudy-Day.’ Have hung up my portrait. I remember a man coming to a ‘Gaudy’, who had never been there since he graduated. It was Card. Manning.” I told him an American said to an Englishman “Your best is the best there is. But you have no second-best. Our second-best is the best 2d there is—but we have no best.” R.B. asked who said that? Francis Parker. Also 40 yrs ago that the mission of America was to vulgarise the world. Voltaire sd ‘English are like their own beer– The top is froth; the bottom dregs—the middle, wholesome.[’] Said, when first in Venice, he was up there (pointg to Ducal Pal. Library, reading Fritches or Ricci’s Hist. of Ferrara,[4] and a card fell out of the book. It was John Cam Hobhouse’s card [.] This, apropos of ‘Italy by Ld Broughton,’ wh. he never had heard of, & destruction of 80 Palaces in two years. Told of the Irishman asked to name a day for repayment of a loan. Well, we’ll say the day o’ Judgment—or as that will be a busy day, the day after!– Said Lady Cowper expected him to stay 19th this month and others. But I shan’t go. I shall never go any more. It is curious, to see the scale of living & variety of people. But I don’t shoot or play games, and they ask what I am going to do this morning? Oh I shall take a walk. And a lot of ladies say ‘That will be so nice! we’ll all go!’ Once, I was at a great house with Royalty and after a couple of days, came down early, and found a man eatg his breakfast, going to London. I said, How do you do it? I have a fly sent for.—Will you let me have half of it? And I wrote a line of excuse, and was off.– Of his commentators, and what he called—‘the Browning——business—’ said the amount of thought and pains given, seemed to him (the word may surprise you) pathetic. I think he meant as compared with the long indifference he had lived through.———‘Shall I need my umbrella? It’s 72 stairs up to my bed-room. I counted them.’—(at Rezzonico)

Of the Jubilee Plunger Benzon, he also said that he held him in his arms before he was 12 hours old.—That he once lost £2000, wh. sd he wd pay in a week– The winner sd [‘]No, you shall not leave the room before satisfying me.’ Then I’ll go on, sd Benzon—did so, won back all he had lost, and a good deal more. Then the looser sd he must have time. No sd B. you refused me before all these people, and now I compel you. —As soon as he got the money for his book, he gave a dinner to a lot of actors and actresses!— As we left the Post-Office, Mr Browning said that whenever Mrs Curtis wished it, he would come to our house and read some poems from his forth-coming Volume. He inquired for Sig. Castelnuovo, the novelist, whom we had to meet him at lunch last year, and if we had a Hebrew Bible to verify a text. (RB said he should ask Lord Bute, the first time he meets with him, to complete the unfinished facade of the church on Riva dei’ Schiavoni.[)]

1. Palazzo Soranzo dell’Angelo.

2. “Ponte dell’ Angelo, Venice.”

3. “Devil–hole in wall–Angel—a monkey.”

4.  Memoire per la Storia di Ferrara Raccolte da Antonio Frizzi, 5 vols. (Ferrara, 1791–1809).


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