Recollections of Mrs Browning
On reaching Florence from Rome, June 1848, we at once called at Casa Guidi. Robert Browning was playing with all his heart and soul on a grand piano. He sprang up, striding forward with outstretched hand. His wife was curled up in a corner of a sofa in the middle of the large dim sala, hung with old brown tapestry and ancient pictures. With her profuse feathery curls half hiding her small face, and her large, soft, pleading eyes, she always reminded me of a King Charles spaniel. Something unutterably pathetic looked out of those soft dog like eyes, and I could fancy that when her beloved dog ‘Flush’ was young and handsome there might have been a likeness. But by the time I knew Flush he was an old mangy creature, an uncomfortable fellow-passenger in a vettura. Light was not in favour with Mrs. Browning. She habitually sat in dark rooms, and was so little out of doors that her accuracy of observation was all the more remarkable. Her son was born on March 9, 1849, and as my son was born not long before, we were much drawn together by motherhood as by intellectual sympathy. We were four eager enthusiasts, and quite in accord about painting and sculpture. But in poetry we had different canons, and the Brownings were too original-minded themselves to wish for servile assent in our opinions.1 Mrs. Browning read largely of French novels. I once saw a huge pile beside her; ‘They will soon melt down!’ she remarked. She greatly admired George Sand’s writings, and, on meeting her in Paris in 1852, wrote to me, elated that George Sand had kissed her.2 She was scandalized by my reply, that such a kiss reminded me of Becky kissing Amelia when they met in later life.3 In truth, Mrs. Browning with all her genius had the simple purity of Thackeray’s heroine.
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