[Venice—Friday, 13 December 1889]

I got a line early from Mrs. R.B.B. askg me to come to them this morning, and went at 10 o’clock & found Mr. & Mrs. B. in breakfast room on 2d piano, én suite with Mrs. B’s bedroom in which Mr R. Browning was ill, and where he died at 10 o’clock last night. Both were exhausted with want of sleep and many cares. A mass of Telegrams received. I had written, provisionally, last night to Prof. Villari (Senatore del Regno) at Florence, to ask, in behalf of the family, as to the probability of obtaining permission of the Authorities to bury Mr Browning beside his wife. His son said that his father had rather conveyed a wish to be buried wherever he might chance to die. If in England, beside his mother; if in France, by his father. There is also the possibility of a public wish to lay him in Westminster Abbey. If so, they will convey his remains to England within 5 or 6 days– Meantime, they will be allowed to retain them in Palo Rezzo– RBB said he was perfectly conscious and intelligent yesty P.M. and understood the favourable reports by telegram of the success of his new volume, and said “I am very grateful.” And then, in his quick way, “Are not You?” I said we had read ‘Prospice’ last evening, in the hour which the poem anticipated. R.B. said his father knew and expected the end, and said—‘Now tell me, without reserve, what the doctors say of me.’–

Mrs. Browning led me into the room where he laid—a Sister of Charity sitting at the bedside with her prayer book. The nurse[1] uncovered his head, and I saw the “peace out of pain,” in the absolute calm serenity of his features. I have often watched them as he slept in the gondola on the return from long walks on the sands of Lido (after rising always at day-light) but there was today great beauty, and total absence of any tinge of pain, or of care which sometimes annoyances and disappointments occasioned. Later, came an official to constater, whom RBB asked me to receive and conduct, and with him I again visited the Chamber. At noon, my son came, and RBB asked him to get a photographer which he did, and they are now engaged in an attempt. Which succeeded in several large profile & ¾ likenesses. The cast less good, but useful. On the day Mr Browning died, came also from London a copy of the new volume intended for his daughter-in-law. He took it and examining it said, “the cover is pretty. I give this to you.”

1. The nurse that the Brownings engaged was a member of an English nursing order, the Blue Nuns, in Florence. “We afterward heard an interesting incident of one of them, who, many years before, in response to a call from Venice, had been sent to nurse ‘an English gentleman, a poet, who lived in a palace on the Grand Canal’, the invalid proving to be Robert Browning in his last illness. The sister said that every night before he went to sleep, by his desire his wedding ring was brought to him to be kissed. She spoke of his great gentleness and of his chivalrous appreciation of her services, in recognition of which he gave her a watch” (Robert Underwood Johnson, Remembered Yesterdays, Boston, 1923, pp. 476–477).


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