Thursday, May 10, 2012

May 10

May 10, 1854 brings a letter from Mrs. Browning to Miss Mitford. Writing from Rome, Mrs. Browning spends a good part of the letter commiserating with Miss Mitford for her poor health and the health of the ever tender Pen, but the letter takes a turn of interest as she discusses the interesting people she meets in the Eternal City:

"The pleasantest days in Rome we have spent with the Kembles—the two sisters—who are charming and excellent, both of them, in different ways; and certainly they have given us some exquisite hours on the Campagna, upon picnic excursions, they and certain of their friends—for instance, M. Ampère, the member of the French Institute, who is witty and agreeable; M. Gorze, the Austrian Minister, also an agreeable man; and Mr. Lyons, the son of Sir Edmund, &c. The talk was almost too brilliant for the sentiment of the scenery, but it harmonised entirely with the mayonnaise and champagne. I should mention, too, Miss Hosmer (but she is better than a talker), the young American sculptress, who is a great pet of mine and of Robert's, and who emancipates the eccentric life of a perfectly 'emancipated female' from all shadow of blame by the purity of hers. She lives here all alone (at twenty-two); dines and breakfasts at the cafés precisely as a young man would; works from six o'clock in the morning till night, as a great artist must, and this with an absence of pretension and simplicity of manners which accord rather with the childish dimples in her rosy cheeks than with her broad forehead and high aims. The Archer Clives have been to Naples, but have returned for a time. Mr. Lockhart, who went to England with the Duke of Wellington (the same prepared to bury him on the road), writes to Mrs. Sartoris that he has grown much better under the influence of the native beef and beer. To do him justice he looked, when here, innocent of the recollection even of either. I wonder if you have seen Mrs. Howe's poems, lately out, called 'Passion Flowers.' They were sent to me by an American friend but were intercepted en route, so that I have not set eyes on them yet, but one or two persons, not particularly reliable as critics, have praised them to me. She is the wife of Dr. Howe, the deaf and dumb philanthropist, and herself neither deaf nor dumb (very much the contrary) I understand—a handsome woman and brilliant in society. I gossip on to you, dearest dear Miss Mitford, as if you were in gossiping humour. Believe that my tender thoughts, deeper than any said, are with you always."

Mrs. Browning is no longer in Wimpole Street. She is seeing the world and the people in it. With the social influence of her gregarious husband she is meeting the artists and politicians of Europe. What fun. Just listening in on the conversations must have given her more material for poetry than she could ever have imagined. This certainly must have justified, in her mind, marrying Browning and leaving her father's home. And yet, she doesn't seem overwhelmed by the experience and keeps her sense of the absurdity of it all.

No comments:

Post a Comment