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New Letters from Charles Brown to Joseph Severn, Edited by Grant Scott and Sue Brown
Letter 39

TO JOSEPH SEVERN1

22 June 1834

Florence. 22 June 1834.

My dear Severn,

Mr Darley has left this about a month ago for Venice, where he was to stay a month, so I know not how to make a letter reach him, in order to make him explain his unreadable word. So, you have changed your house!2 I am glad of it, for I thought the other a wild uncomfortable place, but that is, I observe, quite a usual thing with a house in Rome; let me meekly hope your present one is a little better. You have been within an ace of receiving the following news: — "Died of an apoplectic fit, on 6th inst, Charles Brown, at Florence." I thank God it happened where it did; for ten minutes without bleeding would have made me irrecoverable. It took place in Vieusseux’s Reading room,3 where there was not only a gentleman ready to catch me as I fell in my chair, but a surgeon with a lancet and bandage in his pocket! You will be glad to hear it has left no evil consequences. As it was unattended by even partial paralysis, my memory and brain are not in the least injured. You see my cold water system was not sufficient. From the time I left off wine, my appetite increased, and I indulged too much in animal food. Now I am ordered to take very little, which I more than obey, for I take none at all. I must be composed of strong stuff; for in spite of losing 44 ounces of blood in 44 hours, of the many scavengers that have been sent down my throat, and of my vegetable diet and water, I have never felt weakness. All that I have endured has been an unpleasant lightness in my head, as if I carried much sail with little ballast, when I attempted to write; and now that is past. I have been venturing on a couple of eggs for breakfast; but, lord love you! they are too nutritive, too stren{gth}ening, too apt to create inflammatory blood. Moreover, I will not e{a}t an atom of any thing merely because it pleases my palette; but I will study my inside with all the ability in my power, finding out what best agrees with me, and decreasing the quantity. In this way, if Cornaro,4 who lived on 12 ounces a day, and died at 98, is correct in his premises, I ought to live, hale and sound, wind and limb, to 120. Be sure you come to see me in the autumn. I have a studio for you, where you can paint a picture 30 feet by 18, — four times the size of your’s, and to the north east. I have a world to say to you about my own affairs. Expecting to see you I do not write about them. Besides, I hate writing about losses. Suffice it to say I shall never have so much as I expected, and that, at present, I have not enough to part with for a journey to you and Rome. Talking of friends, I ought to mention that mine in Florence have shown themselves most anxious and kind, the moment they knew of my serious attack. Carlino is very well, and growing very tall; he sends his love to you and your’s. I saw Kirkup yesterday, and shall see him again tomorrow; he is looking pretty well, perhaps very well, but thin. The Landors are hearty as ever.5 A friend of mine, whom you never knew, died at Pisa nearly three months ago, and left his widow with no more than to keep her out of want, — no fault of his. "What," you ask, "is that to me?" Yes, it is; because it is probable she may live in my house, and take charge of it. Let me not hear a word of scandal, for I am now at the age of perfect discretion; and so ought she to be, for, though I never inquire into a lady’s years, I know she was Mrs Webster for twenty three years, — so any body may make his minimum of calculation, and make the worst of it. Of course I think she will prove a pleasant companion, or I would not have her in my house; if she should prove otherwise, or if our tempers should clash, there being no earthly or heavenly tie between us, we can, at the option of either, part. It will be of advantage to her, and to me, both in pecuniary and other respects. I have not received her answer, she being at Pisa. She is not, in the world’s opinion, a lady, but is more conversable, being better taught than most ladies; who, between you and me, delightful as their company may be, are, for the most part, sad oafs. My garden is an everlasting delight; I have had some very fine large flowering geraniums, among whom I have, (shame on me!) been playing the pimp. This I did by depriving the flowers of their natural husbands, and fecundating them by others, — a very delicate operation, you will say. In this manner I have obtained many bastard seeds, which are just now carefully sown, and I am looking forward to strange varieties. I am not doing this with an idea of profitting by it; though, when in England, I heard of a nurseyman who cleared £700 by one beautiful variety obtained in this way; — pimping was always a good trade. Though not a poet, I can "glance my eye from earth to heaven";6 that is, when night comes, I turn star gazer, and make myself busy with books on astronomy. I am amused with the up and down scribble of this half sheet, and hope you won’t curse it. I have done it partly because you once complained my letters were too legible.7 Give my love to Mrs Severn and the children.

Your’s most truly,
           Chas Brown.

Notes

1 Mentioned in Sharp 175-176. Next to the date Sharp has penciled, "833." On the first sheet, Brown has interlined, upside down, the third page of his letter. Address: Al Pittore Inglese, / Il Sig. Guiseppe Severn, / Via Rasella, / Roma. Postmarks: FIRENZE; ROMA 26 GIU 1834. [Return to the letter]

2 The Severns moved from 152 to 155 Via Rasella. [Return to the letter]

3 Vieusseux’s Library, Palazzo Ferroni, Via Tornabuoni. For Brown’s account of its amenities see his letter to Thomas Richards of 10 Jan. 1825 (Stillinger 203). [Return to the letter]

4 Luigi Cornaro (1475-1566), artist and author of Discorsi della vita sobria. [Return to the letter]

5 They separated a year later (Stillinger 334). [Return to the letter]

6 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, V.i.13. [Return to the letter]

7 Brown’s handwriting is indeed easy to read, unlike Severn’s. [Return to the letter]

Published @ RC

December 2007