‘I’ve forgotten my own verses’: Browning’s ‘marvellous memory’ and its ‘funny failure’
Browning had the most marvellous memory I ever knew and could quote Milton, Shakespeare, Spenser, and a host of other poets by the page together. If one wanted a quotation for a picture, one had only to go to him, and he would be able to give the necessary lines without a reference to any book, and he’d reel them off letter-perfect. I remember once, though, a funny failure of his memory — the funnier because it was in one of his own poems. When the phonograph was first brought over to London, it was being shown at the house of an artist, and we were all asked to speak something into the receiver. Browning modestly declined for a time, but we egged him on, and at last someone said, ‘Quote some lines from one of your own poems.’
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