88912193.  Diary Entry of Daniel Sargent Curtis

[Venice—Thursday, 19 December 1889]

19 Dec. ’89

Miss Browning left for London yesty with Mrs Orr—in the morning, to sleep on the way & be overtaken by Mr. & Mrs. RBB who started at 11 P.M. We went to Pal. Rezzo to say good bye at 5 P.M. Some mad Englishman sent an anonymous letter abusing Browning’s poetry, ‘which ought to descend into oblivion’ &c. R.B.B. sent for Ferdinando, and gave him clothes and money, with wh. he was much pleased[.] Ferdinando, who bought the lot in Florence and attended to all the arrangets when Mrs. B. died, says that Mr B. then meant to be buried not only in the same tomb (wh was built large one) but in the same coffin with his wife.[1] As all sorts of statets was made and printed as to what Mr B’s wishes were, I will repeat that, here and now, when the question was foremost, his sister and his son both said to us repeatedly that Mr B’s wish expressed was to be buried wherever he might chance to die. Since he cd not be with his wife, and left no other order or wish about this point– No explanation was given, but those who knew Mr B. well, would find one in the relative unimportance of the body, and also in the great difficulty and cost of its transport from a distance. Any sort of unnecessary expense he was most averse from, for others as well as for himself. Witness the incident he told, of his blowing out all the dressg room candles in some great house, but two. He often said that he never bought books– When I saw his library in his new house a considerable number of books were lying about the floor not yet arranged on their shelves. He said they were old books of his father, or presentation copies from authors. As Mrs Hawthorne notes, Mrs Browning was, more or less, a believer in Spiritualism, while Mr Browning was not. He told us this also, and how Miss Howitt, an ardent believer in Spirits was at their house when the subject was discussed, and on R.B. expressing his dissent, cried out to him “I see a cloud of devils around your head!”

The Times correspt quotes a physician (who must be Dr Bird) as sayg that Browning had had lately angina pectoris (of wh. he was discussing the pronunciation only the other day at Lido) and other learned affections. Now this may be—but if so, it is most unaccountable that while apparently in unusual health, and going daily to Lido, as foregoing notes show, up to the end of Novr (when he treated himself for a bilious tendency, & took a double dose and dieted for a week losing strength wh. he never recovd) he certainly showed no sign and said no word of any complaint whatever—but walked 1½ & 2 hours daily. He was, now & then, short of breath– But he assuredly would not have taken long walks of miles across country or along the beach had he been suffering from Angina pectoris—nor could we not have failed to observe any change in his health.

Mr Browning certainly meant to be in London when his new volume should appear– And he showed a good deal of solicitude as to its reception expecg as he repeatedly said to us, he had in this collection returned to his earlier vein and manner to show that he could if he would, and that he had not lost or outlived his lyric power—‘I have memories enough!’ But he would not care to indulge this vein too often—and said “we want strong wine”; and, himself, valued his philosophical, religious poems—and declared that he hoped, before he died, to write a serious work.

Mr Browning’s remains reached London without delay, and was taken to his own house to await the Ceremony at the Abbey fixed for the 31. Decr–

Publication: None traced.

Manuscript: Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.

1. “The grave was prepared for two, at Mr Browning’s request, or rather by his orders” (see Ann Scott Brown to Frances Davenport Perkins, 12 July 1861, ms at Pierpont Morgan Library).

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