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Chapter 9

1844-1849

Introduction to Miss Barrett--Engagement--Motives for
Secrecy--Marriage--Journey to Italy--Extract of Letter from
Mr. Fox--Mrs. Browning's Letters to Miss Mitford--Life at
Pisa--Vallombrosa--Florence; Mr. Powers; Miss Boyle--Proposed British
Mission to the Vatican--Father Prout--Palazzo Guidi--Fano; Ancona--'A
Blot in the 'Scutcheon' at Sadler's Wells.

During his recent intercourse with the Browning family Mr. Kenyon had
often spoken of his invalid cousin, Elizabeth Barrett,* and had given
them copies of her works; and when the poet returned to England, late in
1844, he saw the volume containing 'Lady Geraldine's Courtship', which
had appeared during his absence. On hearing him express his admiration
of it, Mr. Kenyon begged him to write to Miss Barrett, and himself tell
her how the poems had impressed him; 'for,' he added, 'my cousin is a
great invalid, and sees no one, but great souls jump at sympathy.'
Mr. Browning did write, and, a few months, probably, after the
correspondence had been established, begged to be allowed to visit
her. She at first refused this, on the score of her delicate health and
habitual seclusion, emphasizing the refusal by words of such touching
humility and resignation that I cannot refrain from quoting them. 'There
is nothing to see in me, nothing to hear in me. I am a weed fit for the
ground and darkness.' But her objections were overcome, and their first
interview sealed Mr. Browning's fate.

* Properly E. Barrett Moulton-Barrett. The first of these
surnames was that originally borne by the family, but
dropped on the annexation of the second. It has now for
some years been resumed.

There is no cause for surprize in the passionate admiration with
which Miss Barrett so instantly inspired him. To begin with, he was
heart-whole. It would be too much to affirm that, in the course of his
thirty-two years, he had never met with a woman whom he could entirely
love; but if he had, it was not under circumstances which favoured the
growth of such a feeling. She whom he now saw for the first time had
long been to him one of the greatest of living poets; she was learned as
women seldom were in those days. It must have been apparent, in the most
fugitive contact, that her moral nature was as exquisite as her mind
was exceptional. She looked much younger than her age, which he only
recently knew to have been six years beyond his own; and her face was
filled with beauty by the large, expressive eyes. The imprisoned love
within her must unconsciously have leapt to meet his own. It would have
been only natural that he should grow into the determination to devote
his life to hers, or be swept into an offer of marriage by a sudden
impulse which his after-judgment would condemn. Neither of these things
occurred. The offer was indeed made under a sudden and overmastering
impulse. But it was persistently repeated, till it had obtained a
conditional assent. No sane man in Mr. Browning's position could have
been ignorant of the responsibilities he was incurring. He had, it
is true, no experience of illness. Of its nature, its treatment, its
symptoms direct and indirect, he remained pathetically ignorant to his
dying day. He did not know what disqualifications for active existence
might reside in the fragile, recumbent form, nor in the long years
lived without change of air or scene beyond the passage, not always even
allowed, from bed-room to sitting-room, from sofa to bed again. But he
did know that Miss Barrett received him lying down, and that his very
ignorance of her condition left him without security for her ever being
able to stand. A strong sense of sympathy and pity could alone entirely
justify or explain his act--a strong desire to bring sunshine into that
darkened life. We might be sure that these motives had been present with
him if we had no direct authority for believing it; and we have this
authority in his own comparatively recent words: 'She had so much need
of care and protection. There was so much pity in what I felt for her!'
The pity was, it need hardly be said, at no time a substitute for love,
though the love in its full force only developed itself later; but it
supplied an additional incentive.

Miss Barrett had made her acceptance of Mr. Browning's proposal
contingent on her improving in health. The outlook was therefore vague.
But under the influence of this great new happiness she did gain
some degree of strength. They saw each other three times a week; they
exchanged letters constantly, and a very deep and perfect understanding
established itself between them. Mr. Browning never mentioned his visits
except to his own family, because it was naturally feared that if
Miss Barrett were known to receive one person, other friends, or even
acquaintances, would claim admittance to her; and Mr. Kenyon, who was
greatly pleased by the result of his introduction, kept silence for the
same reason.

In this way the months slipped by till the summer of 1846 was drawing to
its close, and Miss Barrett's doctor then announced that her only chance
of even comparative recovery lay in spending the coming winter in the
South. There was no rational obstacle to her acting on this advice,
since more than one of her brothers was willing to escort her; but Mr.
Barrett, while surrounding his daughter with every possible comfort,
had resigned himself to her invalid condition and expected her also to
acquiesce in it. He probably did not believe that she would benefit by
the proposed change. At any rate he refused his consent to it. There
remained to her only one alternative--to break with the old home and
travel southwards as Mr. Browning's wife.

When she had finally assented to this course, she took a preparatory
step which, in so far as it was known, must itself have been
sufficiently startling to those about her: she drove to Regent's Park,
and when there, stepped out of the carriage and on to the grass. I do
not know how long she stood--probably only for a moment; but I well
remember hearing that when, after so long an interval, she felt earth
under her feet and air about her, the sensation was almost bewilderingly
strange.

They were married, with strict privacy, on September 12, 1846, at St.
Pancras Church.

The engaged pair had not only not obtained Mr. Barrett's sanction to
their marriage; they had not even invoked it; and the doubly clandestine
character thus forced upon the union could not be otherwise than
repugnant to Mr. Browning's pride; but it was dictated by the deepest
filial affection on the part of his intended wife. There could be no
question in so enlightened a mind of sacrificing her own happiness with
that of the man she loved; she was determined to give herself to him.
But she knew that her father would never consent to her doing so; and
she preferred marrying without his knowledge to acting in defiance of a
prohibition which, once issued, he would never have revoked, and which
would have weighed like a portent of evil upon her. She even kept the
secret of her engagement from her intimate friend Miss Mitford, and
her second father, Mr. Kenyon, that they might not be involved in its
responsibility. And Mr. Kenyon, who, probably of all her circle, best
understood the case, was grateful to her for this consideration.

Mr. Barrett was one of those men who will not part with their children;
who will do anything for them except allow them to leave the parental
home. We have all known fathers of this type. He had nothing to urge
against Robert Browning. When Mr. Kenyon, later, said to him that he
could not understand his hostility to the marriage, since there was no
man in the world to whom he would more gladly have given his daughter
if he had been so fortunate as to possess one,* he replied: 'I have no
objection to the young man, but my daughter should have been thinking of
another world;' and, given his conviction that Miss Barrett's state was
hopeless, some allowance must be made for the angered sense of fitness
which her elopement was calculated to arouse in him. But his attitude
was the same, under the varying circumstances, with all his daughters
and sons alike. There was no possible husband or wife whom he would
cordially have accepted for one of them.

* Mr. Kenyon had been twice married, but he had no children.

Mr. Browning had been willing, even at that somewhat late age, to study
for the Bar, or accept, if he could obtain it, any other employment
which might render him less ineligible from a pecuniary point of view.
But Miss Barrett refused to hear of such a course; and the subsequent
necessity for her leaving England would have rendered it useless.

For some days after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Browning returned to
their old life. He justly thought that the agitation of the ceremony
had been, for the moment, as much as she could endure, and had therefore
fixed for it a day prior by one week to that of their intended departure
from England. The only difference in their habits was that he did not
see her; he recoiled from the hypocrisy of asking for her under her
maiden name; and during this passive interval, fortunately short, he
carried a weight of anxiety and of depression which placed it among the
most painful periods of his existence.

In the late afternoon or evening of September 19, Mrs. Browning,
attended by her maid and her dog, stole away from her father's house.
The family were at dinner, at which meal she was not in the habit of
joining them; her sisters Henrietta and Arabel had been throughout in
the secret of her attachment and in full sympathy with it; in the case
of the servants, she was also sure of friendly connivance. There was no
difficulty in her escape, but that created by the dog, which might be
expected to bark its consciousness of the unusual situation. She took
him into her confidence. She said: 'O Flush, if you make a sound, I
am lost.' And Flush understood, as what good dog would not?--and crept
after his mistress in silence. I do not remember where her husband
joined her; we may be sure it was as near her home as possible. That
night they took the boat to Havre, on their way to Paris.

Only a short time elapsed before Mr. Barrett became aware of what had
happened. It is not necessary to dwell on his indignation, which at that
moment, I believe, was shared by all his sons. Nor were they the only
persons to be agitated by the occurrence. If there was wrath in the
Barrett family, there was consternation in that of Mr. Browning. He
had committed a crime in the eyes of his wife's father; but he had been
guilty, in the judgment of his own parents, of one of those errors which
are worse. A hundred times the possible advantages of marrying a Miss
Barrett could never have balanced for them the risks and dangers he
had incurred in wresting to himself the guardianship of that frail life
which might perish in his hands, leaving him to be accused of having
destroyed it; and they must have awaited the event with feelings never
to be forgotten.

It was soon to be apparent that in breaking the chains which bound her
to a sick room, Mr. Browning had not killed his wife, but was giving her
a new lease of existence. His parents and sister soon loved her dearly,
for her own sake as well as her husband's; and those who, if in a
mistaken manner, had hitherto cherished her, gradually learned, with one
exception, to value him for hers. It would, however, be useless to
deny that the marriage was a hazardous experiment, involving risks of
suffering quite other than those connected with Mrs. Browning's safety:
the latent practical disparities of an essentially vigorous and an
essentially fragile existence; and the time came when these were to make
themselves felt. Mrs. Browning had been a delicate infant. She had also
outgrown this delicacy and developed into a merry, and, in the harmless
sense, mischief-loving child. The accident which subsequently undermined
her life could only have befallen a very active and healthy girl.*
Her condition justified hope and, to a great extent, fulfilled it. She
rallied surprisingly and almost suddenly in the sunshine of her new
life, and remained for several years at the higher physical level: her
natural and now revived spirits sometimes, I imagine, lifting her beyond
it. But her ailments were too radical for permanent cure, as the weak
voice and shrunken form never ceased to attest. They renewed themselves,
though in slightly different conditions; and she gradually relapsed,
during the winters at least, into something like the home-bound
condition of her earlier days. It became impossible that she should
share the more active side of her husband's existence. It had to be
alternately suppressed and carried on without her. The deep heart-love,
the many-sided intellectual sympathy, preserved their union in rare
beauty to the end. But to say that it thus maintained itself as if by
magic, without effort of self-sacrifice on his part or of resignation on
hers, would be as unjust to the noble qualities of both, as it would be
false to assert that its compensating happiness had ever failed them.

* Her family at that time lived in the country. She was a
constant rider, and fond of saddling her pony; and one day,
when she was about fourteen, she overbalanced herself in
lifting the saddle, and fell backward, inflicting injuries
on her head, or rather spine, which caused her great
suffering, but of which the nature remained for some time
undiscovered.

Mr. Browning's troubles did not, even for the present, exhaust
themselves in that week of apprehension. They assumed a deeper reality
when his delicate wife first gave herself into his keeping, and the long
hours on steamboat and in diligence were before them. What she suffered
in body, and he in mind, during the first days of that wedding-journey
is better imagined than told. In Paris they either met, or were joined
by, a friend, Mrs. Anna Jameson (then also en route for Italy), and Mrs.
Browning was doubly cared for till she and her husband could once more
put themselves on their way. At Genoa came the long-needed rest in
southern land. From thence, in a few days, they went on to Pisa, and
settled there for the winter.

Even so great a friend as John Forster was not in the secret of Mr.
Browning's marriage; we learn this through an amusing paragraph in a
letter from Mr. Fox, written soon after it had taken place:


'Forster never heard of the Browning marriage till the proof of the
newspaper ('Examiner') notice was sent; when he went into one of his
great passions at the supposed hoax, ordered up the compositor to have a
swear at him, and demanded to see the MS. from which it was taken: so it
was brought, and he instantly recognised the hand of Browning's sister.
Next day came a letter from R. B., saying he had often meant to tell him
or write of it, but hesitated between the two, and neglected both.

'She was better, and a winter in Italy had been recommended some months
ago.

'It seems as if made up by their poetry rather than themselves.'


Many interesting external details of Mr. Browning's married life must
have been lost to us through the wholesale destruction of his letters to
his family, of which mention has been already made, and which he carried
out before leaving Warwick Crescent about four years ago; and Mrs.
Browning's part in the correspondence, though still preserved, cannot
fill the gap, since for a long time it chiefly consisted of
little personal outpourings, inclosed in her husband's letters and
supplementary to them. But she also wrote constantly to Miss Mitford;
and, from the letters addressed to her, now fortunately in Mr. Barrett
Browning's hands, it has been possible to extract many passages of a
sufficiently great, and not too private, interest for our purpose.
These extracts--in some cases almost entire letters--indeed constitute
a fairly complete record of Mr. and Mrs. Browning's joint life till
the summer of 1854, when Miss Mitford's death was drawing near, and the
correspondence ceased. Their chronological order is not always certain,
because Mrs. Browning never gave the year in which her letters were
written, and in some cases the postmark is obliterated; but the missing
date can almost always be gathered from their contents. The first letter
is probably written from Paris.


Oct. 2 ('46).

'. . . and he, as you say, had done everything for me--he loved me for
reasons which had helped to weary me of myself--loved me heart to heart
persistently--in spite of my own will . . . drawn me back to life and
hope again when I had done with both. My life seemed to belong to him
and to none other, at last, and I had no power to speak a word. Have
faith in me, my dearest friend, till you know him. The intellect is so
little in comparison to all the rest--to the womanly tenderness, the
inexhaustible goodness, the high and noble aspiration of every hour.
Temper, spirits, manners--there is not a flaw anywhere. I shut my eyes
sometimes and fancy it all a dream of my guardian angel. Only, if it had
been a dream, the pain of some parts of it would have wakened me before
now--it is not a dream. . . .'


The three next speak for themselves.


Pisa: ('46).

'. . . For Pisa, we both like it extremely. The city is full of beauty
and repose,--and the purple mountains gloriously seem to beckon us on
deeper into the vine land. We have rooms close to the Duomo, and leaning
down on the great Collegio built by Facini. Three excellent bed-rooms
and a sitting-room matted and carpeted, looking comfortable even for
England. For the last fortnight, except the last few sunny days, we have
had rain; but the climate is as mild as possible, no cold with all the
damp. Delightful weather we had for the travelling. Mrs. Jameson says
she won't call me improved but transformed rather. . . . I mean to know
something about pictures some day. Robert does, and I shall get him to
open my eyes for me with a little instruction--in this place are to be
seen the first steps of Art. . . .'

Pisa: Dec. 19 ('46).

'. . . Within these three or four days we have had frost--yes, and a
little snow--for the first time, say the Pisans, within five years.
Robert says the mountains are powdered towards Lucca. . . .'

Feb. 3 ('47).

'. . . Robert is a warm admirer of Balzac and has read most of his
books, but certainly he does not in a general way appreciate our French
people quite with my warmth. He takes too high a standard, I tell him,
and won't listen to a story for a story's sake--I can bear, you know, to
be amused without a strong pull on my admiration. So we have great wars
sometimes--I put up Dumas' flag or Soulie's or Eugene Sue's (yet he was
properly impressed by the 'Mysteres de Paris'), and carry it till my
arms ache. The plays and vaudevilles he knows far more of than I do,
and always maintains they are the happiest growth of the French school.
Setting aside the 'masters', observe; for Balzac and George Sand hold
all their honours. Then we read together the other day 'Rouge et Noir',
that powerful work of Stendhal's, and he observed that it was exactly
like Balzac 'in the raw'--in the material and undeveloped conception . . .
We leave Pisa in April, and pass through Florence towards the north of
Italy . . .'

(She writes out a long list of the 'Comedie Humaine' for Miss Mitford.)


Mr. and Mrs. Browning must have remained in Florence, instead of merely
passing through it; this is proved by the contents of the two following
letters:


Aug. 20 ('47).

'. . . We have spent one of the most delightful of summers
notwithstanding the heat, and I begin to comprehend the possibility of
St. Lawrence's ecstasies on the gridiron. Very hot certainly it has been
and is, yet there have been cool intermissions, and as we have spacious
and airy rooms, as Robert lets me sit all day in my white dressing-gown
without a single masculine criticism, and as we can step out of the
window on a sort of balcony terrace which is quite private, and swims
over with moonlight in the evenings, and as we live upon water-melons
and iced water and figs and all manner of fruit, we bear the heat with
an angelic patience.

We tried to make the monks of Vallombrosa let us stay with them for two
months, but the new abbot said or implied that Wilson and I stank in his
nostrils, being women. So we were sent away at the end of five days. So
provoking! Such scenery, such hills, such a sea of hills looking alive
among the clouds--which rolled, it was difficult to discern. Such fine
woods, supernaturally silent, with the ground black as ink. There were
eagles there too, and there was no road. Robert went on horseback,
and Wilson and I were drawn on a sledge--(i.e. an old hamper, a basket
wine-hamper--without a wheel) by two white bullocks, up the precipitous
mountains. Think of my travelling in those wild places at four o'clock
in the morning! a little frightened, dreadfully tired, but in an ecstasy
of admiration. It was a sight to see before one died and went away into
another world. But being expelled ignominiously at the end of five days,
we had to come back to Florence to find a new apartment cooler than the
old, and wait for dear Mr. Kenyon, and dear Mr. Kenyon does not come
after all. And on the 20th of September we take up our knapsacks and
turn our faces towards Rome, creeping slowly along, with a pause at
Arezzo, and a longer pause at Perugia, and another perhaps at Terni.
Then we plan to take an apartment we have heard of, over the Tarpeian
rock, and enjoy Rome as we have enjoyed Florence. More can scarcely be.
This Florence is unspeakably beautiful . . .'

Oct. ('47).

'. . . Very few acquaintances have we made in Florence, and very quietly
lived out our days. Mr. Powers, the sculptor, is our chief friend and
favourite. A most charming, simple, straightforward, genial American--as
simple as the man of genius he has proved himself to be. He sometimes
comes to talk and take coffee with us, and we like him much. The
sculptor has eyes like a wild Indian's, so black and full of light--you
would scarcely marvel if they clove the marble without the help of his
hands. We have seen, besides, the Hoppners, Lord Byron's friends at
Venice; and Miss Boyle, a niece of the Earl of Cork, an authoress and
poetess on her own account, having been introduced to Robert in London
at Lady Morgan's, has hunted us out, and paid us a visit. A very
vivacious little person, with sparkling talk enough . . .'


In this year, 1847, the question arose of a British mission to the
Vatican; and Mr. Browning wrote to Mr. Monckton Milnes begging him to
signify to the Foreign Office his more than willingness to take part
in it. He would be glad and proud, he said, to be secretary to such an
embassy, and to work like a horse in his vocation. The letter is given
in the lately published biography of Lord Houghton, and I am obliged to
confess that it has been my first intimation of the fact recorded there.
When once his 'Paracelsus' had appeared, and Mr. Browning had taken rank
as a poet, he renounced all idea of more active work; and the tone and
habits of his early married life would have seemed scarcely consistent
with a renewed impulse towards it. But the fact was in some sense due
to the very circumstances of that life: among them, his wife's probable
incitement to, and certain sympathy with, the proceeding.

The projected winter in Rome had been given up, I believe against the
doctor's advice, on the strength of the greater attractions of Florence.
Our next extract is dated from thence, Dec. 8, 1847.


'. . . Think what we have done since I last wrote to you. Taken two
houses, that is, two apartments, each for six months, presigning the
contract. You will set it down to excellent poet's work in the way
of domestic economy, but the fault was altogether mine, as usual. My
husband, to please me, took rooms which I could not be pleased with
three days through the absence of sunshine and warmth. The consequence
was that we had to pay heaps of guineas away, for leave to go away
ourselves--any alternative being preferable to a return of illness--and
I am sure I should have been ill if we had persisted in staying there.
You can scarcely fancy the wonderful difference which the sun makes
in Italy. So away we came into the blaze of him in the Piazza Pitti;
precisely opposite the Grand Duke's palace; I with my remorse, and poor
Robert without a single reproach. Any other man, a little lower than the
angels, would have stamped and sworn a little for the mere relief of the
thing--but as to _his_ being angry with _me_ for any cause except not
eating enough dinner, the said sun would turn the wrong way first. So
here we are in the Pitti till April, in small rooms yellow with sunshine
from morning till evening, and most days I am able to get out into the
piazza and walk up and down for twenty minutes without feeling a breath
of the actual winter . . . and Miss Boyle, ever and anon, comes at
night, at nine o'clock, to catch us at hot chestnuts and mulled wine,
and warm her feet at our fire--and a kinder, more cordial little
creature, full of talent and accomplishment never had the world's polish
on it. Very amusing she is too, and original; and a good deal of
laughing she and Robert make between them. And this is nearly all we see
of the Face Divine--I can't make Robert go out a single evening. . . .'


We have five extracts for 1848. One of these, not otherwise dated,
describes an attack of sore-throat which was fortunately Mr. Browning's
last; and the letter containing it must have been written in the course
of the summer.


'. . . My husband was laid up for nearly a month with fever and relaxed
sore-throat. Quite unhappy I have been over those burning hands and
languid eyes--the only unhappiness I ever had by him. And then he
wouldn't see a physician, and if it had not been that just at the right
moment Mr. Mahoney, the celebrated Jesuit, and "Father Prout" of Fraser,
knowing everything as those Jesuits are apt to do, came in to us on
his way to Rome, pointed out to us that the fever got ahead through
weakness, and mixed up with his own kind hand a potion of eggs and port
wine; to the horror of our Italian servant, who lifted up his eyes at
such a prescription for fever, crying, "O Inglesi! Inglesi!" the case
would have been far worse, I have no kind of doubt, for the eccentric
prescription gave the power of sleeping, and the pulse grew quieter
directly. I shall always be grateful to Father Prout--always.'*

* It had not been merely a case of relaxed sore-throat.
There was an abscess, which burst during this first night of
sleep.


May 28.

'. . . And now I must tell you what we have done since I wrote last,
little thinking of doing so. You see our problem was, to get to England
as much in summer as possible, the expense of the intermediate journeys
making it difficult of solution. On examination of the whole case, it
appeared manifest that we were throwing money into the Arno, by our way
of taking furnished rooms, while to take an apartment and furnish it
would leave us a clear return of the furniture at the end of the
first year in exchange for our outlay, and all but a free residence
afterwards, the cheapness of furniture being quite fabulous at the
present crisis. . . . In fact we have really done it magnificently, and
planted ourselves in the Guidi Palace in the favourite suite of the last
Count (his arms are in scagliola on the floor of my bedroom). Though we
have six beautiful rooms and a kitchen, three of them quite palace rooms
and opening on a terrace, and though such furniture as comes by slow
degrees into them is antique and worthy of the place, we yet shall have
saved money by the end of this year. . . . Now I tell you all this lest
you should hear dreadful rumours of our having forsaken our native land,
venerable institutions and all, whereas we remember it so well (it's a
dear land in many senses), that we have done this thing chiefly in order
to make sure of getting back comfortably, . . . a stone's throw, too, it
is from the Pitti, and really in my present mind I would hardly exchange
with the Grand Duke himself. By the bye, as to street, we have no
spectators in windows in just the grey wall of a church called San
Felice for good omen.

'Now, have you heard enough of us? What I claimed first, in way of
privilege, was a spring-sofa to loll upon, and a supply of rain water to
wash in, and you shall see what a picturesque oil-jar they have given
us for the latter purpose; it would just hold the Captain of the
Forty Thieves. As for the chairs and tables, I yield the more especial
interest in them to Robert; only you would laugh to hear us correct
one another sometimes. "Dear, you get too many drawers, and not enough
washing-stands. Pray don't let us have any more drawers when we've
nothing more to put in them." There was no division on the necessity of
having six spoons--some questions passed themselves. . . .'

July.

'. . . I am quite well again and strong. Robert and I go out often after
tea in a wandering walk to sit in the Loggia and look at the Perseus,
or, better still, at the divine sunsets on the Arno, turning it to pure
gold under the bridges. After more than twenty months of marriage, we
are happier than ever. . . .'

Aug.

'. . . As for ourselves we have hardly done so well--yet well--having
enjoyed a great deal in spite of drawbacks. Murray, the traitor, sent us
to Fano as "a delightful summer residence for an English family," and we
found it uninhabitable from the heat, vegetation scorched into
paleness, the very air swooning in the sun, and the gloomy looks of the
inhabitants sufficiently corroborative of their words that no drop of
rain or dew ever falls there during the summer. A "circulating library"
which "does not give out books," and "a refined and intellectual Italian
society" (I quote Murray for that phrase) which "never reads a book
through" (I quote Mrs. Wiseman, Dr. Wiseman's mother, who has lived in
Fano seven years) complete the advantages of the place. Yet the churches
are very beautiful, and a divine picture of Guercino's is worth going
all that way to see. . . . We fled from Fano after three days, and
finding ourselves cheated out of our dream of summer coolness, resolved
on substituting for it what the Italians call "un bel giro". So we went
to Ancona--a striking sea city, holding up against the brown rocks, and
elbowing out the purple tides--beautiful to look upon. An exfoliation
of the rock itself you would call the houses that seem to grow there--so
identical is the colour and character. I should like to visit Ancona
again when there is a little air and shadow. We stayed a week, as it
was, living upon fish and cold water. . . .'


The one dated Florence, December 16, is interesting with reference to
Mr. Browning's attitude when he wrote the letters to Mr. Frank Hill
which I have recently quoted.


'We have been, at least I have been, a little anxious lately about the
fate of the 'Blot in the 'Scutcheon' which Mr. Phelps applied for
my husband's permission to revive at Sadler's. Of course putting the
request was mere form, as he had every right to act the play--only it
made ME anxious till we heard the result--and we both of us are very
grateful to dear Mr. Chorley, who not only made it his business to be at
the theatre the first night, but, before he slept, sat down like a true
friend to give us the story of the result, and never, he says, was a
more legitimate success. The play went straight to the hearts of the
audience, it seems, and we hear of its continuance on the stage, from
the papers. You may remember, or may not have heard, how Macready
brought it out and put his foot on it, in the flush of a quarrel between
manager and author; and Phelps, knowing the whole secret and feeling
the power of the play, determined on making a revival of it in his own
theatre. Mr. Chorley called his acting "fine". . . .'

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