[London—Friday, 18 May 1860]

Friday 18th At ½ past ten we went to Macmillan’s rooms where we had the pleasure of seeing dear Mrs Macmillan once more, the nice boys and Mulock. Miss Mulock has a dread of the ocean or I fancy we might possibly see her in America. She is a very genuine true womanly nature with clear far-looking eyes and simple manners. I could grow to love her. She expressed herself so happy that she had at last made the discovery that my husband did not write a description of herself, which has lately made the round of the journals. How the moments flew, how few they seemed but there was no help for it and in a short time we had taken our adieux to find ourselves before we knew where we were landed at the door of Severn—the artist and the friend of Keats.

We, Mr Flower who had kindly offered to go with us to introduce us, Jamie and myself were ushered into a little room which no one could help recognising as the artist’s drawing-room. The shape of the basket of flowers on the table and the many sketches about the walls at once betrayed the artistic tendencies of its owners. The old man soon made his appearance, greeted us most cordially and seemed truly pleased with our appreciation of his work. We soon adjourned to the studio where his new picture of Ophelia was awaiting us as it seemed for it was finished & he had no other visitors. We found him a sweet natured-man with true devotion to his Art. “How strange it is,” he said, “that we never tire of our labor! I have enjoyed doing this picture more I think than any other I ever did, and last summer I used to get up at 6 o’clk and steal the flowers from the park to paint from.” He has succeeded in throwing lovely imaginings upon his easel. His beautiful nature too, reflects upon his sitters and I felt his portraits had wonderful charms for me. His Ariel was vastly above anything else of the kind I know. He has just finished a picture of Keats’ tomb by moonlight. It is a true portrait of the scene beside being filled with all the tender feeling for the spot which haunts his heart. He showed us a letter, the last Keats ever wrote, in which he says his pain at parting from Miss Brawne, whom he was about to marry, would cause death to hasten upon him, but he never wrote a line nor did Severn ever hear him speak a word to intimate that newspaper criticism had caused him mortal grief. Severn told us several incidents showing the exquisite kindliness of Keats’ nature and while he told them the unbidden tears would overflow his eyes at the sweet memory of this early self-denying friend-ship. One day when Keats was dining with one of the Royal Academicians whose picture had been refused while Severn’s had been admitted, the conversation turned upon this very subject and some person declared in a loud voice that Severn was an old man whose pictures had been sent and refused every year and were only accepted now out of charity. Hearing which, Keats rose, declared Severn to be a young man who had never sent a picture before to the Academy and a friend of his, I can no longer sit he said to hear his name calumniated in this manner without one person to join me in defence of the truth. Saying this he seized his hat and abruptly retreated from the room.

On another occasion Keats was most anxious to obtain a pension for his friend from the Academy since it belonged justly to him and there were no other applicants. He actually dictated certain letters to Severn without allowing him to guess their import nor did he discover the kind exertions his friend had been making in his behalf until he actually received the pension.

Short visit from poor Dr Mackay. He wants us to dine with Lord Dufferin.

Magnificent dinner made for us by John Murray. The guests were Mr and Mrs Atkinson (travellers in Siberia), Mr and Mrs Hogg, Capn Allan Young who was Capn McClintock’s right hand associate, Hepworth Dixon, the two Mr Cookes and ourselves. The house is full of valuable pictures. Two of Lord Byron (the two best), Hallam, Campbell, the Duke of Wellington, Goldsmith, Hogarth (a picture by him I mean), Walter Scott and all these with plenty of others the best of their kind. The news of Lady Byron’s death had just reached Mr Murray. He told me she was undoubtedly a woman of high intellectual powers but most uncomfortable disposition verging at times he believed upon insanity as also with her daughter Lady Lovelace whom he knew well. The present Lord Byron who now comes into possession of the titles & estates is a ship-wright and far worse than that a most ordinary person in every way. Enjoyed a pleasant chat with Mr Dixon who by a strange fate sat next me again today. I suppose to show me how much good there may be in the least prepossessing of our “specie.”

We sat down to dinner at 8, the usual hour in London now, although the fashionable extreme is half an hour later.

National Endowment for the Humanities - Logo

Editorial work on The Brownings’ Correspondence is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This website was last updated on 7-23-2024.

Copyright © 2024 Wedgestone Press. All rights reserved.

Back To Top