Monday, April 23, 2012

April 24

April 24, 1847 Mrs. Browning has just arrived in Florence and writes to her old neighbor Mrs. Martin:

"I can't walk about or see anything. I lie here flat on the sofa in order to be wise; I rest and take port wine by wineglasses; and a few more days of it will prepare me, I hope and trust, for an interview with the Venus de' Medici. Think of my having been in Florence since Tuesday, this being Saturday, and not a step taken into the galleries. It seems a disgrace, a sort of involuntary disgraceful act, or rather no-act, which to complain of relieves one to some degree...There is nothing really much the matter with me; I am just weak, sleeping and eating dreadfully well considering that Florence isn't seen yet, and 'looking well,' too, says Mrs. Jameson, who, with her niece, is our guest just now. It would have been wise if I had rested longer at Pisa, but, you see, there was a long engagement to meet Mrs. Jameson here, and she expressed a very kind unwillingness to leave Italy without keeping it: also she had resolved to come out of her way on purpose for this, and, as I had the consent of my physician, we determined to perform our part of the compact; and in order to prepare for the longer journey I went out in the carriage a little too soon, perhaps, and a little too long. At least, if I had kept quite still I should have been strong by this time—not that I have done myself harm in the serious sense, observe—and now the affair is accomplished, I shall be wonderfully discreet and self-denying, and resist Venuses and Apollos like some one wiser than the gods themselves. My chest is very well; there has been no symptom of evil in that quarter.... We took the whole coupĂ© of the diligence—but regretted our first plan of the vettura nevertheless—and now are settled in very comfortable rooms in the 'Via delle Belle Donne' just out of the Piazza Santa Maria Novella, very superior rooms to our apartment in Pisa, in which we were cheated to the uttermost with all the subtlety of Italy and to the full extent of our ignorance; think what that must have been! Our present apartment, with the hire of a grand piano and music, does not cost us so much within ever so many francisconi. Oh, and you don't frighten me though we are on the north side of the Arno! We have taken our rooms for two months, and may be here longer, and the fear of the heat was stronger with me than the fear of the cold, or we might have been in the Pitti and 'arrostiti' by this time. We expected dear Mrs. Jameson on Saturday, but she came on Friday evening, having suddenly remembered that it was Shakespeare's birthday, and bringing with her from Arezzo a bottle of wine to 'drink to his memory with two other poets,' so there was a great deal of merriment, as you may fancy, and Robert played Shakespeare's favorite air, 'The Light of Love,' and everybody was delighted to meet everybody, and Roman news and Pisan dullness were properly discussed on every side. She saw a good deal of Cobden* in Rome, and went with him to the Sistine Chapel. He has no feeling for art, and, being very true and earnest, could only do his best to try to admire Michael Angelo; but here and there, where he understood, the pleasure was expressed with a blunt characteristic simplicity. Standing before the statue of Demosthenes, he said: 'That man is persuaded himself of what he speaks, and will therefore persuade others.' She liked him exceedingly. For my part, I should join in more admiration if it were not for his having accepted money, but paid patriots are no heroes of mine. 'Verily they have their reward.'...Yes, indeed, I mean to enjoy art and nature too; one shall not exclude the other. This Florence seems divine as we pass the bridges, and my husband, who knows everything, is to teach and show me all the great wonders, so that I am reasonably impatient to try my advantages. His kind regards to you both, and my best love, dearest friends...."

This letter does not mention the reason Mrs. Browning is lying on her sofa when her 'chest is very well'. She had her first miscarriage on March 21, 1847 while in Pisa. It has slowed her down physically but she is champing at the bit to be out in the world of art. She is getting her first taste of the world and it is to her liking.

*From Wiki: "Richard Cobden (3 June 1804 – 2 April 1865) was a British manufacturer and  Radical and Liberal statesman, associated with John Bright in the formation of the Anti-Corn Law League. He has been called "[t]he greatest classical liberal thinker on international affairs". EBB wrote "The Cry of the Children" in support of the Anti-Corn Law movement.

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