[En route to Boston—Sunday, 24 October 1869]
Sunday October 24. Bowling along most wonderfully. Mr. Parker has a philosophic turn of mind, pretends even to like sea-life and what with his really agreeable Society and a perfect day yesterday and the sight of land like a gleam of the future before us we have been really thankful and happy.
Today is pleasant too. I am going to hear the old Captain read the service.
Mr. P. gave me a queer picture of a picnic Mrs Kemble described to him with her sister Mrs Sartoris, Lockhart and Browning. It was at Frascati—and she herself in but a poor mood; they had the week before also had a pic-nic when Lockhart ate and drank too much so she determined to have only enough this day. It was the year she wrote “A Year of Consolation” and after they arrived at Cicero’s villa and had walked in the avenue of olive trees “I was in such a poor mood myself that I sat down apart from myself [sic] and cried, then I got up and dried my eyes and we had lunch but at lunch Lockhart was out of temper because there was not enough of the sherry which he had especially said he liked so much the week before. Then we became tired of sitting there and I proposed we should go on to Albano (?) but when we came where we were to find horses there were none but I espied a party of persons whom I knew from their voices to be Americans at a short distance with their horses grazing beside them; so I said to Lockhart if you would only go to them and make yourself known as the author of Valerius you would be sure to have a loan of the horses with the greatest pleasure but he would not go; therefore we were obliged to walk thoughtfully back toward the spot where he had left our carriages when I said to Lockhart “you have still another week—let us try again next Sunday” but he made the excuse that he had many calls to make and he must take that day to leave cards. I said, Mr Lockhart if you regard these pasteboard conventionatics of society as more than the claims of friendship I have nothing more to say. His reply was, When you have lived as long as I you will come to a different conclusion. We were also silent a few moments when Browning said Damned fools! Then we got into our carriages and returned to Rome!!!
Mr. Parker called this the story of the picnic with the four poets and the triviality of the whole thing is so prodigious that we could not help a world of laughter over it. He made us promise not to tell so I have made a note of it instead!!! that when there is no one to be hurt by it if this should not be rubbed out somebody may have as good a laugh as we out of all the poets nonsense of that day.