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Chapter 18

1878-1884

He revisits Italy; Asolo; Letters to Mrs. Fitz-Gerald--Venice--Favourite
Alpine Retreats--Mrs. Arthur Bronson--Life in Venice--A Tragedy at
Saint-Pierre--Mr. Cholmondeley--Mr. Browning's Patriotic
Feeling; Extract from Letter to Mrs. Charles Skirrow--'Dramatic
Idyls'--'Jocoseria'--'Ferishtah's Fancies'.

The catastrophe of La Saisiaz closed a comprehensive chapter in Mr.
Browning's habits and experience. It impelled him finally to break with
the associations of the last seventeen autumns, which he remembered
more in their tedious or painful circumstances than in the unexciting
pleasure and renewed physical health which he had derived from them. He
was weary of the ever-recurring effort to uproot himself from his home
life, only to become stationary in some more or less uninteresting
northern spot. The always latent desire for Italy sprang up in him,
and with it the often present thought and wish to give his sister the
opportunity of seeing it.

Florence and Rome were not included in his scheme; he knew them both
too well; but he hankered for Asolo and Venice. He determined, though as
usual reluctantly, and not till the last moment, that they should move
southwards in the August of 1878. Their route lay over the Spluegen; and
having heard of a comfortable hotel near the summit of the Pass, they
agreed to remain there till the heat had sufficiently abated to allow
of the descent into Lombardy. The advantages of this first arrangement
exceeded their expectations. It gave them solitude without the sense
of loneliness. A little stream of travellers passed constantly over the
mountain, and they could shake hands with acquaintances at night, and
know them gone in the morning. They dined at the table d'hote, but took
all other meals alone, and slept in a detached wing or 'dependance'
of the hotel. Their daily walks sometimes carried them down to the Via
Mala; often to the top of the ascent, where they could rest, looking
down into Italy; and would even be prolonged over a period of five
hours and an extent of seventeen miles. Now, as always, the mountain air
stimulated Mr. Browning's physical energy; and on this occasion it also
especially quickened his imaginative powers. He was preparing the first
series of 'Dramatic Idylls'; and several of these, including 'Ivan
Ivanovitch', were produced with such rapidity that Miss Browning refused
to countenance a prolonged stay on the mountain, unless he worked at a
more reasonable rate.

They did not linger on their way to Asolo and Venice, except for a
night's rest on the Lake of Como and two days at Verona. In their
successive journeys through Northern Italy they visited by degrees all
its notable cities, and it would be easy to recall, in order and detail,
most of these yearly expeditions. But the account of them would chiefly
resolve itself into a list of names and dates; for Mr. Browning had
seldom a new impression to receive, even from localities which he had
not seen before. I know that he and his sister were deeply struck by
the deserted grandeurs of Ravenna; and that it stirred in both of them
a memorable sensation to wander as they did for a whole day through the
pinewoods consecrated by Dante. I am nevertheless not sure that when
they performed the repeated round of picture-galleries and palaces, they
were not sometimes simply paying their debt to opportunity, and as much
for each other's sake as for their own. Where all was Italy, there
was little to gain or lose in one memorial of greatness, one object
of beauty, visited or left unseen. But in Asolo, even in Venice, Mr.
Browning was seeking something more: the remembrance of his own actual
and poetic youth. How far he found it in the former place we may infer
from a letter to Mrs. Fitz-Gerald.


Sept. 28, 1878.

And from 'Asolo', at last, dear friend! So can dreams come _false_.--S.,
who has been writing at the opposite side of the table, has told you
about our journey and adventures, such as they were: but she cannot
tell you the feelings with which I revisit this--to me--memorable place
after above forty years' absence,--such things have begun and ended with
me in the interval! It was _too_ strange when we reached the ruined tower
on the hill-top yesterday, and I said 'Let me try if the echo still
exists which I discovered here,' (you can produce it from only _one_
particular spot on a remainder of brickwork--) and thereupon it answered
me plainly as ever, after all the silence: for some children from the
adjoining 'podere', happening to be outside, heard my voice and its
result--and began trying to perform the feat--calling 'Yes, yes'--all in
vain: so, perhaps, the mighty secret will die with me! We shall probably
stay here a day or two longer,--the air is so pure, the country so
attractive: but we must go soon to Venice, stay our allotted time there,
and then go homeward: you will of course address letters to Venice, not
this place: it is a pleasure I promise myself that, on arriving I shall
certainly hear you speak in a letter which I count upon finding.

The old inn here, to which I would fain have betaken myself, is
gone--levelled to the ground: I remember it was much damaged by a recent
earthquake, and the cracks and chasms may have threatened a downfall.
This Stella d'Oro is, however, much such an unperverted 'locanda' as its
predecessor--primitive indeed are the arrangements and unsophisticate
the ways: but there is cleanliness, abundance of goodwill, and the sweet
Italian smile at every mistake: we get on excellently. To be sure never
was such a perfect fellow-traveller, for my purposes, as S., so that
I have no subject of concern--if things suit me they suit her--and
vice-versa. I daresay she will have told you how we trudged together,
this morning to Possagno--through a lovely country: how we saw all the
wonders--and a wonder of detestability is the paint-performance of the
great man!--and how, on our return, we found the little town enjoying
high market day, and its privilege of roaring and screaming over a
bargain. It confuses me altogether,--but at Venice I may write more
comfortably. You will till then, Dear Friend, remember me ever as yours
affectionately, Robert Browning.


If the tone of this does not express disappointment, it has none of the
rapture which his last visit was to inspire. The charm which forty years
of remembrance had cast around the little city on the hill was dispelled
for, at all events, the time being. The hot weather and dust-covered
landscape, with the more than primitive accommodation of which he spoke
in a letter to another friend, may have contributed something to this
result.

At Venice the travellers fared better in some essential respects.
A London acquaintance, who passed them on their way to Italy, had
recommended a cool and quiet hotel there, the Albergo dell' Universo.
The house, Palazzo Brandolin-Rota, was situated on the shady side of
the Grand Canal, just below the Accademia and the Suspension Bridge. The
open stretches of the Giudecca lay not far behind; and a scrap of garden
and a clean and open little street made pleasant the approach from back
and side. It accommodated few persons in proportion to its size, and
fewer still took up their abode there; for it was managed by a lady of
good birth and fallen fortunes whose home and patrimony it had been; and
her husband, a retired Austrian officer, and two grown-up daughters
did not lighten her task. Every year the fortunes sank lower; the upper
storey of the house was already falling into decay, and the fine old
furniture passing into the brokers' or private buyers' hands. It still,
however, afforded sufficiently comfortable, and, by reason of its very
drawbacks, desirable quarters to Mr. Browning. It perhaps turned the
scale in favour of his return to Venice; for the lady whose hospitality
he was to enjoy there was as yet unknown to him; and nothing would have
induced him to enter, with his eyes open, one of the English-haunted
hotels, in which acquaintance, old and new, would daily greet him in the
public rooms or jostle him in the corridors.

He and his sister remained at the Universo for a fortnight; their
programme did not this year include a longer stay; but it gave them time
to decide that no place could better suit them for an autumn holiday
than Venice, or better lend itself to a preparatory sojourn among the
Alps; and the plan of their next, and, though they did not know it, many
a following summer, was thus sketched out before the homeward journey
had begun.

Mr. Browning did not forget his work, even while resting from it; if
indeed he did rest entirely on this occasion. He consulted a Russian
lady whom he met at the hotel, on the names he was introducing in
'Ivan Ivanovitch'. It would be interesting to know what suggestions or
corrections she made, and how far they adapted themselves to the rhythm
already established, or compelled changes in it; but the one alternative
would as little have troubled him as the other. Mrs. Browning told Mr.
Prinsep that her husband could never alter the wording of a poem without
rewriting it, indeed, practically converting it into another; though he
more than once tried to do so at her instigation. But to the end of his
life he could at any moment recast a line or passage for the sake of
greater correctness, and leave all that was essential in it untouched.

Seven times more in the eleven years which remained to him, Mr. Browning
spent the autumn in Venice. Once also, in 1882, he had proceeded towards
it as far as Verona, when the floods which marked the autumn of that
year arrested his farther course. Each time he had halted first in some
more or less elevated spot, generally suggested by his French friend,
Monsieur Dourlans, himself an inveterate wanderer, whose inclinations
also tempted him off the beaten track. The places he most enjoyed were
Saint-Pierre la Chartreuse, and Gressoney Saint-Jean, where he stayed
respectively in 1881 and 1882, 1883 and 1885. Both of these had the
drawbacks, and what might easily have been the dangers, of remoteness
from the civilized world. But this weighed with him so little, that he
remained there in each case till the weather had broken, though there
was no sheltered conveyance in which he and his sister could travel
down; and on the later occasions at least, circumstances might easily
have combined to prevent their departure for an indefinite time. He
became, indeed, so attached to Gressoney, with its beautiful outlook
upon Monte Rosa, that nothing I believe would have hindered his
returning, or at least contemplating a return to it, but the great
fatigue to his sister of the mule ride up the mountain, by a path which
made walking, wherever possible, the easier course. They did walk _down_
it in the early October of 1885, and completed the hard seven hours'
trudge to San Martino d'Aosta, without an atom of refreshment or a
minute's rest.

One of the great attractions of Saint-Pierre was the vicinity of the
Grande Chartreuse, to which Mr. Browning made frequent expeditions,
staying there through the night in order to hear the midnight mass. Miss
Browning also once attempted the visit, but was not allowed to enter the
monastery. She slept in the adjoining convent.

The brother and sister were again at the Universo in 1879, 1880, and
1881; but the crash was rapidly approaching, and soon afterwards it
came. The old Palazzo passed into other hands, and after a short period
of private ownership was consigned to the purposes of an Art Gallery.

In 1880, however, they had been introduced by Mrs. Story to an American
resident, Mrs. Arthur Bronson, and entered into most friendly
relations with her; and when, after a year's interval, they were again
contemplating an autumn in Venice, she placed at their disposal a suite
of rooms in the Palazzo Giustiniani Recanati, which formed a supplement
to her own house--making the offer with a kindly urgency which forbade
all thought of declining it. They inhabited these for a second time in
1885, keeping house for themselves in the simple but comfortable foreign
manner they both so well enjoyed, only dining and spending the evening
with their friend. But when, in 1888, they were going, as they thought,
to repeat the arrangement, they found, to their surprise, a little
apartment prepared for them under Mrs. Bronson's own roof. This act
of hospitality involved a special kindness on her part, of which Mr.
Browning only became aware at the close of a prolonged stay; and a sense
of increased gratitude added itself to the affectionate regard with
which his hostess had already inspired both his sister and him. So
far as he is concerned, the fact need only be indicated. It is fully
expressed in the preface to 'Asolando'.

During the first and fresher period of Mr. Browning's visits to Venice,
he found a passing attraction in its society. It held an historical
element which harmonized well with the decayed magnificence of the city,
its old-world repose, and the comparatively simple modes of intercourse
still prevailing there. Mrs. Bronson's 'salon' was hospitably open
whenever her health allowed; but her natural refinement, and the
conservatism which so strongly marks the higher class of Americans,
preserved it from the heterogeneous character which Anglo-foreign
sociability so often assumes. Very interesting, even important names
lent their prestige to her circle; and those of Don Carlos and his
family, of Prince and Princess Iturbide, of Prince and Princess
Metternich, and of Princess Montenegro, were on the list of her
'habitues', and, in the case of the royal Spaniards, of her friends. It
need hardly be said that the great English poet, with his fast spreading
reputation and his infinite social charm, was kindly welcomed and warmly
appreciated amongst them.

English and American acquaintances also congregated in Venice, or passed
through it from London, Florence, and Rome. Those resident in Italy
could make their visits coincide with those of Mr. Browning and his
sister, or undertake the journey for the sake of seeing them; while the
outward conditions of life were such as to render friendly intercourse
more satisfactory, and common social civilities less irksome than they
could be at home. Mr. Browning was, however, already too advanced in
years, too familiar with everything which the world can give, to be long
affected by the novelty of these experiences. It was inevitable that
the need of rest, though often for the moment forgotten, should assert
itself more and more. He gradually declined on the society of a small
number of resident or semi-resident friends; and, due exception being
made for the hospitalities of his temporary home, became indebted to the
kindness of Sir Henry and Lady Layard, of Mr. and Mrs. Curtis of Palazzo
Barbaro, and of Mr. and Mrs. Frederic Eden, for most of the social
pleasure and comfort of his later residences in Venice.

Part of a letter to Mrs. Fitz-Gerald gives an insight into the character
of his life there: all the stronger that it was written under a
temporary depression which it partly serves to explain.


Albergo dell' Universo, Venezia, Italia: Sept. 24, '81.

'Dear Friend,--On arriving here I found your letter to my great
satisfaction--and yesterday brought the 'Saturday Review'--for which,
many thanks.

'We left our strange but lovely place on the 18th, reaching Chambery at
evening,--stayed the next day there,--walking, among other diversions
to "Les Charmettes", the famous abode of Rousseau--kept much as when he
left it: I visited it with my wife perhaps twenty-five years ago, and
played so much of "Rousseau's Dream" as could be effected on his antique
harpsichord: this time I attempted the same feat, but only two notes or
thereabouts out of the octave would answer the touch. Next morning we
proceeded to Turin, and on Wednesday got here, in the middle of the
last night of the Congress Carnival--rowing up the Canal to our Albergo
through a dazzling blaze of lights and throng of boats,--there being, if
we are told truly, 50,000 strangers in the city. Rooms had been
secured for us, however: and the festivities are at an end, to my great
joy,--for Venice is resuming its old quiet aspect--the only one I value
at all. Our American friends wanted to take us in their gondola to see
the principal illuminations _after_ the "Serenade", which was not
over before midnight--but I was contented with _that_--being tired and
indisposed for talking, and, having seen and heard quite enough from
our own balcony, went to bed: S. having betaken her to her own room long
before.

'Next day we took stock of our acquaintances,--found that the Storys,
on whom we had counted for company, were at Vallombrosa, though the
two sons have a studio here--other friends are in sufficient number
however--and last evening we began our visits by a very classical
one--to the Countess Mocenigo, in her palace which Byron occupied: she
is a charming widow since two years,--young, pretty and of the prettiest
manners: she showed us all the rooms Byron had lived in,--and I wrote
my name in her album _on_ the desk himself wrote the last canto of 'Ch.
Harold' and 'Beppo' upon. There was a small party: we were taken
and introduced by the Layards who are kind as ever, and I met old
friends--Lord Aberdare, Charles Bowen, and others. While I write comes
a deliciously fresh 'bouquet' from Mrs. Bronson, an American lady,--in
short we shall find a week or two amusing enough; though--where are the
pinewoods, mountains and torrents, and wonderful air? Venice is under
a cloud,--dull and threatening,--though we were apprehensive of heat,
arriving, as we did, ten days earlier than last year. . . .'


The evening's programme was occasionally varied by a visit to one of
the theatres. The plays given were chiefly in the Venetian dialect, and
needed previous study for their enjoyment; but Mr. Browning assisted at
one musical performance which strongly appealed to his historical and
artistic sensibilities: that of the 'Barbiere' of Paisiello in the
Rossini theatre and in the presence of Wagner, which took place in the
autumn of 1880.

Although the manner of his sojourn in the Italian city placed all the
resources of resident life at his command, Mr. Browning never abjured
the active habits of the English traveller. He daily walked with his
sister, as he did in the mountains, for walking's sake, as well as for
the delight of what his expeditions showed him; and the facilities which
they supplied for this healthful pleasurable exercise were to his mind
one of the great merits of his autumn residences in Italy. He explored
Venice in all directions, and learned to know its many points of beauty
and interest, as those cannot who believe it is only to be seen from
a gondola; and when he had visited its every corner, he fell back on
a favourite stroll along the Riva to the public garden and back again;
never failing to leave the house at about the same hour of the day.
Later still, when a friend's gondola was always at hand, and air and
sunshine were the one thing needful, he would be carried to the Lido,
and take a long stretch on its farther shore.

The letter to Mrs. Fitz-Gerald, from which I have already quoted,
concludes with the account of a tragic occurrence which took place at
Saint-Pierre just before his departure, and in which Mr. Browning's
intuitions had played a striking part.


'And what do you think befell us in this abode of peace and innocence?
Our journey was delayed for three hours in consequence of the one mule
of the village being requisitioned by the 'Juge d'Instruction' from
Grenoble, come to enquire into a murder committed two days before.
My sister and I used once a day to walk for a couple of hours up a
mountain-road of the most lovely description, and stop at the
summit whence we looked down upon the minute hamlet of St.-Pierre
d'Entremont,--even more secluded than our own: then we got back to our
own aforesaid. And in this Paradisial place, they found, yesterday week,
a murdered man--frightfully mutilated--who had been caught apparently in
the act of stealing potatoes in a field: such a crime had never occurred
in the memory of the oldest of our folk. Who was the murderer is the
mystery--whether the field's owner--in his irritation at discovering
the robber,--or one of a band of similar 'charbonniers' (for they
suppose the man to be a Piedmontese of that occupation) remains to
be proved: they began by imprisoning the owner, who denies his guilt
energetically. Now the odd thing is, that, either the day of, or after
the murder,--as I and S. were looking at the utter solitude, I had the
fancy "What should I do if I suddenly came upon a dead body in this
field? Go and proclaim it--and subject myself to all the vexations
inflicted by the French way of procedure (which begins by assuming
that you may be the criminal)--or neglect an obvious duty, and return
silently." I, of course, saw that the former was the only proper course,
whatever the annoyance involved. And, all the while, there was just
about to be the very same incident for the trouble of somebody.'


Here the account breaks off; but writing again from the same place,
August 16, 1882, he takes up the suspended narrative with this question:

'Did I tell you of what happened to me on the last day of my stay here
last year?' And after repeating the main facts continues as follows:


'This morning, in the course of my walk, I entered into conversation
with two persons of whom I made enquiry myself. They said the accused
man, a simple person, had been locked up in a high chamber,--protesting
his innocence strongly,--and troubled in his mind by the affair
altogether and the turn it was taking, had profited by the gendarme's
negligence, and thrown himself out of the window--and so died,
continuing to the last to protest as before. My presentiment of what
such a person might have to undergo was justified you see--though
I should not in any case have taken _that_ way of getting out of the
difficulty. The man added, "it was not he who committed the murder, but
the companions of the man, an Italian charcoal-burner, who owed him a
grudge, killed him, and dragged him to the field--filling his sack with
potatoes as if stolen, to give a likelihood that the field's owner had
caught him stealing and killed him,--so M. Perrier the greffier told
me." Enough of this grim story.

. . . . .

'My sister was anxious to know exactly where the body was found: "Vouz
savez la croix au sommet de la colline? A cette distance de cela!" That
is precisely where I was standing when the thought came over me.'


A passage in a subsequent letter of September 3 clearly refers to
some comment of Mrs. Fitz-Gerald's on the peculiar nature of this
presentiment:


'No--I attribute no sort of supernaturalism to my fancy about the thing
that was really about to take place. By a law of the association of
ideas--_contraries_ come into the mind as often as _similarities_--and the
peace and solitude readily called up the notion of what would most jar
with them. I have often thought of the trouble that might have befallen
me if poor Miss Smith's death had happened the night before, when we
were on the mountain alone together--or next morning when we were on the
proposed excursion--only _then_ we should have had companions.'


The letter then passes to other subjects.


'This is the fifth magnificent day--like magnificence, unfit for turning
to much account--for we cannot walk till sunset. I had two hours' walk,
or nearly, before breakfast, however: It is the loveliest country I ever
had experience of, and we shall prolong our stay perhaps--apart from
the concern for poor Cholmondeley and his friends, I should be glad
to apprehend no long journey--besides the annoyance of having to pass
Florence and Rome unvisited, for S.'s sake, I mean: even Naples would
have been with its wonderful environs a tantalizing impracticability.

'Your "Academy" came and was welcomed. The newspaper is like an electric
eel, as one touches it and expects a shock. I am very anxious about the
Archbishop who has always been strangely kind to me.'


He and his sister had accepted an invitation to spend the month of
October with Mr. Cholmondeley at his villa in Ischia; but the party
assembled there was broken up by the death of one of Mr. Cholmondeley's
guests, a young lady who had imprudently attempted the ascent of
a dangerous mountain without a guide, and who lost her life in the
experiment.

A short extract from a letter to Mrs. Charles Skirrow will show that
even in this complete seclusion Mr. Browning's patriotism did not go to
sleep. There had been already sufficient evidence that his friendship
did not; but it was not in the nature of his mental activities that they
should be largely absorbed by politics, though he followed the course of
his country's history as a necessary part of his own life. It needed
a crisis like that of our Egyptian campaign, or the subsequent Irish
struggle, to arouse him to a full emotional participation in current
events. How deeply he could be thus aroused remained yet to be seen.


'If the George Smiths are still with you, give them my love, and tell
them we shall expect to see them at Venice,--which was not so likely
to be the case when we were bound for Ischia. As for Lady Wolseley--one
dares not pretend to vie with her in anxiety just now; but my own pulses
beat pretty strongly when I open the day's newspaper--which, by some new
arrangement, reaches us, oftener than not, on the day after publication.
Where is your Bertie? I had an impassioned letter, a fortnight ago,
from a nephew of mine, who is in the second division [battalion?] of
the Black Watch; he was ordered to Edinburgh, and the regiment not
dispatched, after all,--it having just returned from India; the poor
fellow wrote in his despair "to know if I could do anything!" He may be
wanted yet: though nothing seems wanted in Egypt, so capital appears to
be the management.'


In 1879 Mr. Browning published the first series of his 'Dramatic Idyls';
and their appearance sent a thrill of surprised admiration through
the public mind. In 'La Saisiaz' and the accompanying poems he had
accomplished what was virtually a life's work. For he was approaching
the appointed limit of man's existence; and the poetic, which had been
nourished in him by the natural life--which had once outstripped its
developments, but on the whole remained subject to them--had therefore,
also, passed through the successive phases of individual growth. He had
been inspired as dramatic poet by the one avowed conviction that little
else is worth study but the history of a soul; and outward act or
circumstance had only entered into his creations as condition or
incident of the given psychological state. His dramatic imagination
had first, however unconsciously, sought its materials in himself; then
gradually been projected into the world of men and women, which his
widening knowledge laid open to him; it is scarcely necessary to say
that its power was only fully revealed when it left the remote regions
of poetical and metaphysical self-consciousness, to invoke the not less
mysterious and far more searching utterance of the general human heart.
It was a matter of course that in this expression of his dramatic
genius, the intellectual and emotional should exhibit the varying
relations which are developed by the natural life: that feeling should
begin by doing the work of thought, as in 'Saul', and thought end by
doing the work of feeling, as in 'Fifine at the Fair'; and that the two
should alternate or combine in proportioned intensity in such works of
an intermediate period as 'Cleon', 'A Death in the Desert', the 'Epistle
of Karshish', and 'James Lee's Wife'; the sophistical ingenuities of
'Bishop Blougram', and 'Sludge'; and the sad, appealing tenderness of
'Andrea del Sarto' and 'The Worst of It'.

It was also almost inevitable that so vigorous a genius should sometimes
falsify calculations based on the normal life. The long-continued
force and freshness of Mr. Browning's general faculties was in itself
a protest against them. We saw without surprise that during the decade
which produced 'Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau', 'Fifine at the Fair', and
'Red Cotton Nightcap Country', he could give us 'The Inn Album', with
its expression of the higher sexual love unsurpassed, rarely equalled,
in the whole range of his work: or those two unique creations of airy
fancy and passionate symbolic romance, 'Saint Martin's Summer', and
'Numpholeptos'. It was no ground for astonishment that the creative
power in him should even ignore the usual period of decline, and defy,
so far as is humanly possible, its natural laws of modification. But in
the 'Dramatic Idyls' he did more than proceed with unflagging powers on
a long-trodden, distinctive course; he took a new departure.

Mr. Browning did not forsake the drama of motive when he imagined and
worked out his new group of poems; he presented it in a no less
subtle and complex form. But he gave it the added force of picturesque
realization; and this by means of incidents both powerful in themselves,
and especially suited for its development. It was only in proportion to
this higher suggestiveness that a startling situation ever seemed to
him fit subject for poetry. Where its interest and excitement exhausted
themselves in the external facts, it became, he thought, the property
of the chronicler, but supplied no material for the poet; and he often
declined matter which had been offered him for dramatic treatment
because it belonged to the more sensational category.

It is part of the vital quality of the 'Dramatic Idyls' that, in them,
the act and the motive are not yet finally identified with each other.
We see the act still palpitating with the motive; the motive dimly
striving to recognize or disclaim itself in the act. It is in this that
the psychological poet stands more than ever strongly revealed. Such at
least is the case in 'Martin Relph', and the idealized Russian legend,
'Ivan Ivanovitch'. The grotesque tragedy of 'Ned Bratts' has also its
marked psychological aspects, but they are of a simpler and broader
kind.

The new inspiration slowly subsided through the second series of
'Idyls', 1880, and 'Jocoseria', 1883. In 'Ferishtah's Fancies', 1884,
Mr. Browning returned to his original manner, though carrying into it
something of the renewed vigour which had marked the intervening change.
The lyrics which alternate with its parables include some of the most
tender, most impassioned, and most musical of his love-poems.

The moral and religious opinions conveyed in this later volume may be
accepted without reserve as Mr. Browning's own, if we subtract from them
the exaggerations of the figurative and dramatic form. It is indeed
easy to recognize in them the under currents of his whole real and
imaginative life. They have also on one or two points an intrinsic value
which will justify a later allusion.

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