‘The pretty nothings, the subtle flatteries of the poet’s talk’
Nothing in his appearance, excepting the white hair, proclaimed the poet. He was faultlessly dressed; the white waistcoat, the galloon1 on his trousers, all were of the dernier cri. The diamond studs at his breast sparkled and twinkled with mischievous irony, seeming to say: ‘Ah, simple one, where is your lost Leader now? “Just for a handful of silver he left us, just for a ribbon to stick in his coat”.’2 But more disquieting even than the diamond studs was a crush hat, which Mr Browning carried under his arm, and sat upon through the dinner. The words I had longed to say — all the things I had ached to say — vanished; tears of disappointment were in very slight ambush at the pretty nothings, the subtle flatteries of the poet’s talk.