[Florence—Tuesday, 7 February 1860]

Tuesday 7th Dined at 3 with Mr Landor. We entered the room as the clock was striking whereupon he found occasion to compliment us upon possessing the virtue of punctuality. Ah! said he I gave a dinner party once and the dinner being ordered to the table at the hour precisely I was obliged to sit down quite alone; but when my guests arrived half an hour later and one of them remarked that he hoped I should not apologize I told him “far from it indeed I expected an apology from them.” When Jamie told him that his favorite hero Washington once found occasion to do the same thing he said Well well! I’m not a great man but it’s a thing any man of sense should do. He showed us with great pride a Van Eycke [sic] of remarkable beauty. It was painted upon the hardest kind of black oak so hard indeed that the workmen ruined their planes in working upon it. Until I heard this story, he continued, I had thought ten pounds a large sum for the cedar lining I had had put in but the work-man said he would not repeat the operation at any price.

Mr Landor would not permit me to leave with him a little nosegay I brought for that purpose. Ah so! said he, I never keep flowers myself, I should give them to some lady and therefore find myself giving away your gift. No they are very sweet, I will smell of them but you must keep them.

At dinner the good Wilson who was formerly a servant of Mrs Browning waited upon us with wonderful tact. A missing spoon would have been quite sufficient to cause to descend the thunderbolts of wrath which seem ever to stand at the smallest bidding of this lonely great old man. Fortunately the regiment of spoons and forks was unbroken and all went smoothly as a marriage-bell. Wilson had reserved a little surprise for him, in a dish of Cingali [sic, for Cinghiale] which he said was certainly the best thing in the world. The deep rich purple of Montepulciano gleamed at us from the chrystal and reminded him of Redi and his delicious songs. It was not only wine but women of which he sang most musically he said and quoted the merry singing Italian of one of his little poems. Then he told us how Italian wines had degenerated and how he met a man once travelling who when he asked him to dine at a way station said “Sir I fear if you know my trade you would not ask me.” Pray what may that be Landor asked “A wine-taster Sir.” Oh! then come in by all means I follow that trade myself sometimes and so in the after dinner talk I learned something continued the old man which is, that powdered Orris-root put into good claret will make fine Burgundy, 2 tea-spoonfuls dissolved in brandy will work the wondrous charm. But I have seen some famous people too in my time and not the least among them was Kosciusko. A young girl who had heard him say he would like to see me brought me to his door. She knocked and said “General Kosciusko I have brought a friend to see you.” I am sorry my dear he answered but I can see no one. “I knew you wished to meet Mr Landor”. “What! Landor!”—“and in one instant he started from his couch and came forward to embrace me. He had been severely wounded on the head and his pale face was bound about with broad black bands giving him a look of deathly whiteness. He was reading, as he lay, a volume of my poems and called my attention to the coincidence.” Garibaldi is the greatest man of modern times he went on to say “he it is who has saved Italy, he has done all that is done, he is the regenerator and savior of this distracted land. I hope to see him in Florence before long, he writes me to that effect.” As he was chatting in this pleasant way with us his grandchild came in bringing him a trifling gift. At once he was like a child with her and seemed perfectly happy to keep her on his knee and watch her playful ways. I asked him if he ever met Byron in Italy. No, he said, he never met him because something which he had said of Byron having reached his ears he was in a great rage and wished to challenge him but on receiving the information that Mr Landor was quite ready and a much better shot than himself, nothing ever came of the proposed rencontre. Remembering the advice of Miss Blagden we retired early but not before the generous old man, true to his youthful nature in such things, took an original Guido from his walls and presented it to me.


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