‘I’ll fling you down the stairs’: Browning and Mr Sludge

  • William Allingham


Thursday, June 30 [1864]. We spoke of Tennyson. T. told B. he thought ‘Sludge’1 too long. B. answered, ‘I hope he thought it too long!’ — that is, Sludge, when the confession was forced from him. Sludge is Home, the Medium,2 of whom Browning told me to-day a great deal that was very amusing. Having witnessed a séance of Home’s, at the house of a friend of B.’s,3 Browning was openly called upon to give his frank opinion on what had passed, in presence of Home and the company, upon which he declared with emphasis that so impudent a piece of imposture he never saw before in all his life, and so took his leave. Next day Browning’s servant came into his room with a visitor’s card, and close behind followed the visitor himself — no other than Mr Home, who advanced with a cordial smile and right hand outstretched in amity. He bore no ill-will — not he! Browning looked sternly at him (as he is very capable of doing) and pointing to the open door, not far from which is rather a steep staircase, said—‘If you are not out of that door in half a minute I’ll fling you down the stairs.’ Home attempted some expostulation, but B. moved towards him, and the Medium disappeared with as much grace as he could manage. ‘And now comes the best of it all,’ said B.—‘What do you suppose he says of me?—You’d never guess. He says to everybody, “How Browning hates me! — and how I love him!”’ He further explains B.’s animosity as arising out of a séance at Florence, where a ‘spirit-wreath’ was placed on Mrs Browning’s head, and none on her husband’s.4


  1. 2.
    Daniel Dunglas Home (1833–86). For his version of events see Incidents in My Life, Second Series (London, 1872), pp. 106–8.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

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  • William Allingham

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