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Chapter 13

1858-1861

Mrs. Browning's Illness--Siena--Letter from Mr. Browning to Mr. Leighton
--Mrs. Browning's Letters continued--Walter Savage Landor--Winter
in Rome--Mr. Val Prinsep--Friends in Rome: Mr. and Mrs.
Cartwright--Multiplying Social Relations--Massimo d'Azeglio--Siena
again--Illness and Death of Mrs. Browning's Sister--Mr. Browning's
Occupations--Madame du Quaire--Mrs. Browning's last Illness and Death.

I cannot quite ascertain, though it might seem easy to do so, whether
Mr. and Mrs. Browning remained in Florence again till the summer of
1859, or whether the intervening months were divided between Florence
and Rome; but some words in their letters favour the latter supposition.
We hear of them in September from Mr. Val Prinsep, in Siena or its
neighbourhood; with Mr. and Mrs. Story in an adjacent villa, and Walter
Savage Landor in a 'cottage' close by. How Mr. Landor found himself
of the party belongs to a little chapter in Mr. Browning's history for
which I quote Mr. Colvin's words.* He was then living at Fiesole with
his family, very unhappily, as we all know; and Mr. Colvin relates
how he had thrice left his villa there, determined to live in Florence
alone; and each time been brought back to the nominal home where so
little kindness awaited him.

* 'Life of Landor', p. 209.


'. . . The fourth time he presented himself in the house of Mr. Browning
with only a few pauls in his pocket, declaring that nothing should ever
induce him to return.

'Mr. Browning, an interview with the family at the villa having
satisfied him that reconciliation or return was indeed past question,
put himself at once in communication with Mr. Forster and with Landor's
brothers in England. The latter instantly undertook to supply the needs
of their eldest brother during the remainder of his life. Thenceforth an
income sufficient for his frugal wants was forwarded regularly for his
use through the friend who had thus come forward at his need. To Mr.
Browning's respectful and judicious guidance Landor showed himself
docile from the first. Removed from the inflictions, real and imaginary,
of his life at Fiesole, he became another man, and at times still seemed
to those about him like the old Landor at his best. It was in July,
1859, that the new arrangements for his life were made. The remainder
of that summer he spent at Siena, first as the guest of Mr. Story, the
American sculptor and poet, next in a cottage rented for him by Mr.
Browning near his own. In the autumn of the same year Landor removed to
a set of apartments in the Via Nunziatina in Florence, close to the
Casa Guidi, in a house kept by a former servant of Mrs. Browning's, an
Englishwoman married to an Italian.* Here he continued to live during
the five years that yet remained to him.'

* Wilson, Mrs. Browning's devoted maid, and another most
faithful servant
of hers and her husband's, Ferdinando Romagnoli.

Mr. Landor's presence is also referred to, with the more important
circumstance of a recent illness of Mrs. Browning's, in two
characteristic and interesting letters of this period, one written
by Mr. Browning to Frederic Leighton, the other by his wife to her
sister-in-law. Mr.-- now Sir F.-- Leighton had been studying art during
the previous winter in Italy.


Kingdom of Piedmont, Siena: Oct. 9, '59.

'My dear Leighton--I hope--and think--you know what delight it gave
me to hear from you two months ago. I was in great trouble at the time
about my wife who was seriously ill. As soon as she could bear removal
we brought her to a villa here. She slowly recovered and is at last _well_
--I believe--but weak still and requiring more attention than usual. We
shall be obliged to return to Rome for the winter--not choosing to risk
losing what we have regained with some difficulty. Now you know why I
did not write at once--and may imagine why, having waited so long, I put
off telling you for a week or two till I could say certainly what we do
with ourselves. If any amount of endeavour could induce you to join us
there--Cartwright, Russell, the Vatican and all--and if such a step were
not inconsistent with your true interests--you should have it: but I
know very well that you love Italy too much not to have had weighty
reasons for renouncing her at present--and I want your own good and
not my own contentment in the matter. Wherever you are, be sure I shall
follow your proceedings with deep and true interest. I heard of your
successes--and am now anxious to know how you get on with the great
picture, the 'Ex voto'--if it does not prove full of beauty and power,
two of us will be shamed, that's all! But _I_ don't fear, mind! Do
keep me informed of your progress, from time to time--a few lines will
serve--and then I shall slip some day into your studio, and buffet the
piano, without having grown a stranger. Another thing--do take proper
care of your health, and exercise yourself; give those vile indigestions
no chance against you; keep up your spirits, and be as distinguished and
happy as God meant you should. Can I do anything for you at Rome--not to
say, Florence? We go thither (i.e. to Florence) to-morrow, stay there a
month, probably, and then take the Siena road again.'


The next paragraph refers to some orders for photographs, and is not
specially interesting.


Cartwright arrived here a fortnight ago--very pleasant it was to see
him: he left for Florence, stayed a day or two and returned to Mrs.
Cartwright (who remained at the Inn) and they all departed prosperously
yesterday for Rome. Odo Russell spent two days here on his way
thither--we liked him much. Prinsep and Jones--do you know them?--are in
the town. The Storys have passed the summer in the villa opposite,--and
no less a lion than dear old Landor is in a house a few steps off. I
take care of him--his amiable family having clawed him a little
too sharply: so strangely do things come about! I mean his Fiesole
'family'--a trifle of wife, sons and daughter--not his English
relatives, who are generous and good in every way.

Take any opportunity of telling dear Mrs. Sartoris (however
unnecessarily) that I and my wife remember her with the old feeling--I
trust she is well and happy to heart's content. Pen is quite well and
rejoicing just now in a Sardinian pony on which he gallops like Puck on
a dragon-fly's back. My wife's kind regard and best wishes go with those
of, Dear Leighton, yours affectionately ever, R. Browning.

October 1859.

Mrs. to Miss Browning.

'. . . After all, it is not a cruel punishment to have to go to Rome
again this winter, though it will be an undesirable expense, and we
did wish to keep quiet this winter,--the taste for constant wanderings
having passed away as much for me as for Robert. We begin to see that
by no possible means can one spend as much money to so small an end--and
then we don't work so well, don't live to as much use either for
ourselves or others. Isa Blagden bids us observe that we pretend to live
at Florence, and are not there much above two months in the year, what
with going away for the summer and going away for the winter. It's
too true. It's the drawback of Italy. To live in one place there is
impossible for us, almost just as to live out of Italy at all, is
impossible for us. It isn't caprice on our part. Siena pleases us very
much--the silence and repose have been heavenly things to me, and the
country is very pretty--though no more than pretty--nothing marked or
romantic--no mountains, except so far off as to be like a cloud only
on clear days--and no water. Pretty dimpled ground, covered with low
vineyards, purple hills, not high, with the sunsets clothing them. . . .
We shall not leave Florence till November--Robert must see Mr. Landor
(his adopted son, Sarianna) settled in his new apartments with Wilson
for a duenna. It's an excellent plan for him and not a bad one for
Wilson. . . . Forgive me if Robert has told you this already. Dear
darling Robert amuses me by talking of his "gentleness and sweetness".
A most courteous and refined gentleman he is, of course, and very
affectionate to Robert (as he ought to be), but of self-restraint, he
has not a grain, and of suspiciousness, many grains. Wilson will run
many risks, and I, for one, would rather not run them. What do you say
to dashing down a plate on the floor when you don't like what's on it?
And the contadini at whose house he is lodging now have been already
accused of opening desks. Still upon that occasion (though there
was talk of the probability of Mr. Landor's "throat being cut in his
sleep"--) as on other occasions, Robert succeeded in soothing him--and
the poor old lion is very quiet on the whole, roaring softly, to beguile
the time, in Latin alcaics against his wife and Louis Napoleon. He
laughs carnivorously when I tell him that one of these days he will have
to write an ode in honour of the Emperor, to please me.'


Mrs. Browning writes, somewhat later, from Rome:


'. . . We left Mr. Landor in great comfort. I went to see his apartment
before it was furnished. Rooms small, but with a look-out into a little
garden, quiet and cheerful, and he doesn't mind a situation rather out
of the way. He pays four pounds ten (English) the month. Wilson has
thirty pounds a year for taking care of him--which sounds a good deal,
but it is a difficult position. He has excellent, generous, affectionate
impulses--but the impulses of the tiger, every now and then. Nothing
coheres in him--either in his opinions, or, I fear, his affections. It
isn't age--he is precisely the man of his youth, I must believe. Still,
his genius gives him the right of gratitude on all artists at least, and
I must say that my Robert has generously paid the debt. Robert always
said that he owed more as a writer to Landor than to any contemporary.
At present Landor is very fond of him--but I am quite prepared for his
turning against us as he has turned against Forster, who has been so
devoted for years and years. Only one isn't kind for what one gets by
it, or there wouldn't be much kindness in this world. . . .'


Mr. Browning always declared that his wife could impute evil to no one,
that she was a living denial of that doctrine of original sin to which
her Christianity pledged her; and the great breadth and perfect charity
of her views habitually justified the assertion; but she evidently
possessed a keen insight into character, which made her complete
suspension of judgment on the subject of Spiritualism very difficult to
understand.

The spiritualistic coterie had found a satisfactory way of explaining
Mr. Browning's antagonistic attitude towards it. He was jealous, it was
said, because the Spirits on one occasion had dropped a crown on to his
wife's head and none on to his own. The first instalment of his
long answer to this grotesque accusation appears in a letter of Mrs.
Browning's, probably written in the course of the winter of 1859-60.


'. . . My brother George sent me a number of the "National Magazine"
with my face in it, after Marshall Wood's medallion. My comfort is that
my greatest enemy will not take it to be like me, only that does not go
far with the indifferent public: the portrait I suppose will have its
due weight in arresting the sale of "Aurora Leigh" from henceforth. You
never saw a more determined visage of a strong-minded woman with the
neck of a vicious bull. . . . Still, I am surprised, I own, at the
amount of success, and that golden-hearted Robert is in ecstasies about
it, far more than if it all related to a book of his own. The form of
the story, and also, something in the philosophy, seem to have caught
the crowd. As to the poetry by itself, anything good in that repels
rather. I am not so blind as Romney, not to perceive this . . . Give
Peni's and my love to the dearest 'nonno' (grandfather) whose sublime
unselfishness and want of common egotism presents such a contrast to
what is here. Tell him I often think of him, and always with touched
feeling. (When _he_ is eighty-six or ninety-six, nobody will be pained or
humbled by the spectacle of an insane self-love resulting from a long
life's ungoverned will.) May God bless him!--. . . Robert has made his
third bust copied from the antique. He breaks them all up as they are
finished--it's only matter of education. When the power of execution is
achieved, he will try at something original. Then reading hurts him; as
long as I have known him he has not been able to read long at a time--he
can do it now better than at the beginning. The consequence of which
is that an active occupation is salvation to him. . . . Nobody exactly
understands him except me, who am in the inside of him and hear him
breathe. For the peculiarity of our relation is, that he thinks aloud
with me and can't stop himself. . . . I wanted his poems done this
winter very much, and here was a bright room with three windows
consecrated to his use. But he had a room all last summer, and did
nothing. Then, he worked himself out by riding for three or four hours
together--there has been little poetry done since last winter, when
he did much. He was not inclined to write this winter. The modelling
combines body-work and soul-work, and the more tired he has been, and
the more his back ached, poor fellow, the more he has exulted and been
happy. So I couldn't be much in opposition against the sculpture--I
couldn't in fact at all. He has material for a volume, and will work at
it this summer, he says.

'His power is much in advance of "Strafford", which is his poorest work
of art. Ah, the brain stratifies and matures, even in the pauses of the
pen.

'At the same time, his treatment in England affects him, naturally, and
for my part I set it down as an infamy of that public--no other word.
He says he has told you some things you had not heard, and which I
acknowledge I always try to prevent him from repeating to anyone. I
wonder if he has told you besides (no, I fancy not) that an English lady
of rank, an acquaintance of ours, (observe that!) asked, the other
day, the American minister, whether "Robert was not an American." The
minister answered--"is it possible that _you_ ask me this? Why, there is
not so poor a village in the United States, where they would not tell
you that Robert Browning was an Englishman, and that they were sorry
he was not an American." Very pretty of the American minister, was it
not?--and literally true, besides. . . . Ah, dear Sarianna--I don't
complain for myself of an unappreciating public. I _have no reason_. But,
just for _that_ reason, I complain more about Robert--only he does not
hear me complain--to _you_ I may say, that the blindness, deafness and
stupidity of the English public to Robert are amazing. Of course Milsand
had heard his name--well the contrary would have been strange. Robert
_is_. All England can't prevent his existence, I suppose. But nobody
there, except a small knot of pre-Raffaellite men, pretend to do him
justice. Mr. Forster has done the best,--in the press. As a sort of
lion, Robert has his range in society--and--for the rest, you should
see Chapman's returns!--While, in America he is a power, a writer, a
poet--he is read--he lives in the hearts of the people.

'"Browning readings" here in Boston--"Browning evenings" there. For the
rest, the English hunt lions, too, Sarianna, but their lions are chiefly
chosen among lords and railway kings. . . .'


We cannot be surprised at Mrs. Browning's desire for a more sustained
literary activity on her husband's part. We learn from his own
subsequent correspondence that he too regarded the persevering exercise
of his poetic faculty as almost a religious obligation. But it becomes
the more apparent that the restlessness under which he was now labouring
was its own excuse; and that its causes can have been no mystery even
to those 'outside' him. The life and climate of Italy were beginning
to undermine his strength. We owe it perhaps to the great and sorrowful
change, which was then drawing near, that the full power of work
returned to him.

During the winter of 1859-60, Mr. Val Prinsep was in Rome. He had gone
to Siena with Mr. Burne Jones, bearing an introduction from Rossetti to
Mr. Browning and his wife; and the acquaintance with them was renewed
in the ensuing months. Mr. Prinsep had acquired much knowledge of the
popular, hence picturesque aspects of Roman life, through a French
artist long resident in the city; and by the help of the two young men
Mr. Browning was also introduced to them. The assertion that during his
married life he never dined away from home must be so far modified, that
he sometimes joined Mr. Prinsep and his friend in a Bohemian meal, at an
inn near the Porta Pinciana which they much frequented; and he gained in
this manner some distinctive experiences which he liked long afterwards
to recall. I am again indebted to Mr. Prinsep for a description of some
of these.


'The first time he honoured us was on an evening when the poet of
the quarter of the "Monte" had announced his intention of coming to
challenge a rival poet to a poetical contest. Such contests are, or
were, common in Rome. In old times the Monte and the Trastevere, the
two great quarters of the eternal city, held their meetings on the Ponte
Rotto. The contests were not confined to the effusions of the poetical
muse. Sometimes it was a strife between two lute-players, sometimes
guitarists would engage, and sometimes mere wrestlers. The rivalry was
so keen that the adverse parties finished up with a general fight. So
the Papal Government had forbidden the meetings on the old bridge.
But still each quarter had its pet champions, who were wont to meet in
private before an appreciative, but less excitable audience, than in
olden times.

'Gigi (the host) had furnished a first-rate dinner, and his usual tap
of excellent wine. ('Vino del Popolo' he called it.) The 'Osteria' had
filled; the combatants were placed opposite each other on either side
of a small table on which stood two 'mezzi'--long glass bottles holding
about a quart apiece. For a moment the two poets eyed each other like
two cocks seeking an opportunity to engage. Then through the crowd a
stalwart carpenter, a constant attendant of Gigi's, elbowed his way.
He leaned over the table with a hand on each shoulder, and in a neatly
turned couplet he then addressed the rival bards.

'"You two," he said, "for the honour of Rome, must do your best, for
there is now listening to you a great Poet from England."

'Having said this, he bowed to Browning, and swaggered back to his place
in the crowd, amid the applause of the on-lookers.

'It is not necessary to recount how the two Improvisatori poetized, even
if I remembered, which I do not.

'On another occasion, when Browning and Story were dining with us, we
had a little orchestra (mandolins, two guitars, and a lute,) to play to
us. The music consisted chiefly of well-known popular airs. While they
were playing with great fervour the Hymn to Garibaldi--an air strictly
forbidden by the Papal Government, three blows at the door resounded
through the 'Osteria'. The music stopped in a moment. I saw Gigi was
very pale as he walked down the room. There was a short parley at the
door. It opened, and a sergeant and two Papal gendarmes marched solemnly
up to the counter from which drink was supplied. There was a dead
silence while Gigi supplied them with large measures of wine, which the
gendarmes leisurely imbibed. Then as solemnly they marched out again,
with their heads well in the air, looking neither to the right nor the
left. Most discreet if not incorruptible guardians of the peace! When
the door was shut the music began again; but Gigi was so earnest in
his protestations, that my friend Browning suggested we should get into
carriages and drive to see the Coliseum by moonlight. And so we sallied
forth, to the great relief of poor Gigi, to whom it meant, if reported,
several months of imprisonment, and complete ruin.

'In after-years Browning frequently recounted with delight this night
march.

'"We drove down the Corso in two carriages," he would say. "In one were
our musicians, in the other we sat. Yes! and the people all asked, 'who
are these who make all this parade?' At last some one said, 'Without
doubt these are the fellows who won the lottery,' and everybody cried,
'Of course these are the lucky men who have won.'"'


The two persons whom Mr. Browning saw most, and most intimately, during
this and the ensuing winter, were probably Mr. and Mrs. Story. Allusion
has already been made to the opening of the acquaintance at the Baths
of Lucca in 1853, to its continuance in Rome in '53 and '54, and to the
artistic pursuits which then brought the two men into close and frequent
contact with each other. These friendly relations were cemented by their
children, who were of about the same age; and after Mrs. Browning's
death, Miss Browning took her place in the pleasant intercourse which
renewed itself whenever their respective visits to Italy and to England
again brought the two families together. A no less lasting and truly
affectionate intimacy was now also growing up with Mr. Cartwright and
his wife--the Cartwrights (of Aynhoe) of whom mention was made in the
Siena letter to F. Leighton; and this too was subsequently to include
their daughter, now Mrs. Guy Le Strange, and Mr. Browning's sister. I
cannot quite ascertain when the poet first knew Mr. Odo Russell, and his
mother, Lady William Russell, who was also during this, or at all
events the following winter, in Rome; and whom afterwards in London
he regularly visited until her death; but the acquaintance was already
entering on the stage in which it would spread as a matter of course
through every branch of the family. His first country visit, when he had
returned to England, was paid with his son to Woburn Abbey.

We are now indeed fully confronted with one of the great difficulties
of Mr. Browning's biography: that of giving a sufficient idea of the
growing extent and growing variety of his social relations. It is
evident from the fragments of his wife's correspondence that during, as
well as after, his married life, he always and everywhere knew everyone
whom it could interest him to know. These acquaintances constantly
ripened into friendliness, friendliness into friendship. They were
necessarily often marked by interesting circumstances or distinctive
character. To follow them one by one, would add not chapters, but
volumes, to our history. The time has not yet come at which this could
even be undertaken; and any attempt at systematic selection would create
a false impression of the whole. I must therefore be still content to
touch upon such passages of Mr. Browning's social experience as lie in
the course of a comparatively brief record; leaving all such as are not
directly included in it to speak indirectly for themselves.

Mrs. Browning writes again, in 1859:


'Massimo d'Azeglio came to see us, and talked nobly, with that noble
head of his. I was far prouder of his coming than of another personal
distinction you will guess at,* though I don't pretend to have been
insensible to that.'

* An invitation to Mr. Browning to dine in company
with the young Prince of Wales.

Dr.--afterwards Cardinal--Manning was also among the distinguished or
interesting persons whom they knew in Rome.

Another, undated extract might refer to the early summer of 1859 or
1860, when a meeting with the father and sister must have been once more
in contemplation.


Casa Guidi.

'My dearest Sarianna,--I am delighted to say that we have arrived, and
see our dear Florence--the Queen of Italy, after all . . . A comfort
is that Robert is considered here to be looking better than he ever was
known to look--and this, notwithstanding the greyness of his beard . . .
which indeed, is, in my own mind, very becoming to him, the argentine
touch giving a character of elevation and thought to the whole
physiognomy. This greyness was suddenly developed--let me tell you how.
He was in a state of bilious irritability on the morning of his arrival
in Rome, from exposure to the sun or some such cause, and in a fit of
suicidal impatience shaved away his whole beard . . . whiskers and all!!
I _cried_ when I saw him, I was so horror-struck. I might have gone into
hysterics and still been reasonable--for no human being was ever so
disfigured by so simple an act. Of course I said when I recovered heart
and voice, that everything was at an end between him and me if he didn't
let it all grow again directly, and (upon the further advice of his
looking-glass) he yielded the point,--and the beard grew--but it grew
white--which was the just punishment of the gods--our sins leave their
traces.

'Well, poor darling Robert won't shock you after all--you can't choose
but be satisfied with his looks. M. de Monclar swore to me that he was
not changed for the intermediate years. . . .'


The family returned, however, to Siena for the summer of 1860, and from
thence Mrs. Browning writes to her sister-in-law of her great anxiety
concerning her sister Henrietta, Mrs. Surtees Cook,* then attacked by a
fatal disease.

* The name was afterwards changed to Altham.


'. . . There is nothing or little to add to my last account of my
precious Henrietta. But, dear, you think the evil less than it
is--be sure that the fear is too reasonable. I am of a very hopeful
temperament, and I never could go on systematically making the worst of
any case. I bear up here for a few days, and then comes the expectation
of a letter, which is hard. I fight with it for Robert's sake, but all
the work I put myself to do does not hinder a certain effect. She is
confined to her bed almost wholly and suffers acutely. . . . In fact,
I am living from day to day, on the merest crumbs of hope--on the daily
bread which is very bitter. Of course it has shaken me a good deal, and
interfered with the advantages of the summer, but that's the least. Poor
Robert's scheme for me of perfect repose has scarcely been carried out.
. . .'


This anxiety was heightened during the ensuing winter in Rome, by just
the circumstance from which some comfort had been expected--the second
postal delivery which took place every day; for the hopes and fears
which might have found a moment's forgetfulness in the longer absence of
news, were, as it proved, kept at fever-heat. On one critical occasion
the suspense became unbearable, because Mr. Browning, by his wife's
desire, had telegraphed for news, begging for a telegraphic answer. No
answer had come, and she felt convinced that the worst had happened, and
that the brother to whom the message was addressed could not make up
his mind to convey the fact in so abrupt a form. The telegram had been
stopped by the authorities, because Mr. Odo Russell had undertaken
to forward it, and his position in Rome, besides the known Liberal
sympathies of Mr. and Mrs. Browning and himself, had laid it open to
political suspicion.

Mrs. Surtees Cook died in the course of the winter. Mr. Browning always
believed that the shock and sorrow of this event had shortened his
wife's life, though it is also possible that her already lowered
vitality increased the dejection into which it plunged her. Her own
casual allusions to the state of her health had long marked arrested
progress, if not steady decline. We are told, though this may have been
a mistake, that active signs of consumption were apparent in her even
before the illness of 1859, which was in a certain sense the beginning
of the end. She was completely an invalid, as well as entirely a
recluse, during the greater part if not the whole of this last stay in
Rome.

She rallied nevertheless sufficiently to write to Miss Browning in
April, in a tone fully suggestive of normal health and energy.


'. . . In my own opinion he is infinitely handsomer and more attractive
than when I saw him first, sixteen years ago. . . . I believe people in
general would think the same exactly. As to the modelling--well, I told
you that I grudged a little the time from his own particular art. But it
does not do to dishearten him about his modelling. He has given a great
deal of time to anatomy with reference to the expression of form, and
the clay is only the new medium which takes the place of drawing. Also,
Robert is peculiar in his ways of work as a poet. I have struggled a
little with him on this point, for I don't think him right; that is
to say, it would not be right for me . . . But Robert waits for an
inclination, works by fits and starts; he can't do otherwise he says,
and his head is full of ideas which are to come out in clay or marble. I
yearn for the poems, but he leaves that to me for the present. . . . You
will think Robert looking very well when you see him; indeed, you may
judge by the photographs meanwhile. You know, Sarianna, how I used to
forbid the moustache. I insisted as long as I could, but all artists
were against me, and I suppose that the bare upper lip does not
harmonise with the beard. He keeps the hair now closer, and the beard is
pointed. . . . As to the moony whiteness of the beard, it is beautiful,
_I_ think, but then I think him all beautiful, and always. . . .'


Mr. Browning's old friend, Madame du Quaire,* came to Rome in December.
She had visited Florence three years before, and I am indebted to her
for some details of the spiritualist controversy by which its English
colony was at that time divided. She was now a widow, travelling with
her brother; and Mr. Browning came whenever he could, to comfort her in
her sorrow, and, as she says, discourse of nature, art, the beautiful,
and all that 'conquers death'. He little knew how soon he would need the
same comfort for himself. He would also declaim passages from his wife's
poems; and when, on one of these occasions, Madame du Quaire had said,
as so many persons now say, that she much preferred his poetry to hers,
he made this characteristic answer, to be repeated in substance some
years afterwards to another friend: 'You are wrong--quite wrong--she has
genius; I am only a painstaking fellow. Can't you imagine a clever sort
of angel who plots and plans, and tries to build up something--he wants
to make you see it as he sees it--shows you one point of view, carries
you off to another, hammering into your head the thing he wants you to
understand; and whilst this bother is going on God Almighty turns you
off a little star--that's the difference between us. The true creative
power is hers, not mine.'

* Formerly Miss Blackett, and sister of the member for New
Castle.

Mrs. Browning died at Casa Guidi on June 29, 1861, soon after their
return to Florence. She had had a return of the bronchial affection to
which she was subject; and a new doctor who was called in discovered
grave mischief at the lungs, which she herself had long believed to
be existent or impending. But the attack was comparatively, indeed
actually, slight; and an extract from her last letter to Miss Browning,
dated June 7, confirms what her family and friends have since asserted,
that it was the death of Cavour which gave her the final blow.


'. . . We come home into a cloud here. I can scarcely command voice or
hand to name 'Cavour'. That great soul which meditated and made Italy
has gone to the diviner Country. If tears or blood could have saved
him to us, he should have had mine. I feel yet as if I could scarcely
comprehend the greatness of the vacancy. A hundred Garibaldis for such a
man!'


Her death was signalized by the appearance--this time, I am told,
unexpected--of another brilliant comet, which passed so near the earth
as to come into contact with it.


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