Browning and the Anglo-Florentines
It may be readily imagined that the ‘tag-rag and bob-tail’ of the men who mainly constituted that very pleasant but not very intellectual society, were not likely to be such as Mr Browning would readily make intimates of. And I think I see in memory’s magic glass that the men used to be rather afraid of him. Not that I ever saw him rough or uncourteous with the most exasperating fool that ever rubbed a man’s nervous system the wrong way; but there was a quiet, lurking smile which, supported by very few words, used to have the singular property of making the utterers of platitudes and the mistakers of non-sequiturs for sequiturs, uncomfortably aware of the nature of their words within a very few minutes after they had uttered them. I may say, however, that I believe that in any dispute on any sort of subject between any two men in the place, if it had been proposed to submit the matter in dispute for adjudication by Mr Browning, the proposal would have been jumped at with a greater readiness of consensus than in the case of any other man there.