TO JOSEPH SEVERN1
Florence. 23 October 1827.
My dear Severn,
According to a reasonable calculation, you will have returned, just about this time, from Naples;2 so I scrawl off a letter to meet and congratulate you on the admirable studies you have made, for the "Fountain" picture,3 at Mola di Gaeta, and Lord knows where. Among the studies I scarcely know which please me the most, seeing them all, as I do, in my mind's eye; you have really surpassed yourself in them, outdoing all your late outdoings. I shall report you accordingly.
But there is another reason for this said scrawl. I suppose you will find, on your return, the copy for Dilke quite finished,4 and you will be preparing to despatch it to him. Let me know, as soon as you can, how much you have paid, — how much for the copy itself, and how much for packing, &c. Then, as Dilke and I have an open account together, I shall be enabled to enter this picture-item, and settle it all together.
As bad news travels quickly, I suppose you will have heard of Louisa's death.5 Since you never saw Mr Hayter, I suppose you never saw her; — so much the better. I once had an indistinct view of her in the street at night, — that was nothing; but only six days before her death, I met her at Ri's6 house, — which I am sorry for now. She died just seven days ago. She took arsenic. Though she was known, owing to her peculiar situation, to few persons, the shock seems to have reached every body. This may be partly ascribed to the necessary publicity given to it, by the examinations of the Police, the attendance of the "Misericordia" company to remove her body to the hospital, and there, the opening of the body amidst a crowd of surgeons. There never was so general and decided an opinion expressed against an individual, as that of the Florentines against Mr Hayter. The affair is talked of violently among them. It remains to see how the English will act towards him.7 The women, I prophesied from the first, young and old, married and single, will make common cause against him. A man, whose mistress has poisoned herself, will find it difficult to uphold himself in society, (at least in the scene where it occurred, and in so small a place as Florence,) unless he can find four or five friends, of respectability, who will come forward and vouch for his being not to blame. Unless Mr Hayter has good grounds for believing that he can uphold himself here, he had better not make the attempt, as that would only make matters worse; he ought rather to change the scene immediately. Another circumstance, very unfortunate for him at this moment, is that, yesterday morning, his black servant-boy ran away to the Police, showing his horsewhipped back, and offering to turn Catholic if they would protect him. It is true this particular horsewhipping was given by Mr Hamilton, the friend and joint housekeeper with Mr Hayter; yet the boy, as I know he can with truth, complains of the blows he has been accustomed to receive from Mr Hayter, his master. This is altogether a bad business. I am told that not one individual among the English has sent to inquire how Mr Hayter is. It is four months since I was in his house, when I resolved never to go again, and I am sure I shall not go now. Louisa had lived with him eleven years; she has left two children. Eastlake knew her well in Rome. Gibson dined with her here (at Mr H's) and spoke highly in her praise, — so did every one.
After my return from Volterra, we all went for a week to Pisa. I have been jostling my Carlino about in Tuscany this summer for 200 miles. It has done him good in health, behaviour and school industry. Kirkup and his are well. He has, I hope, at last pleased himself in Jessica. Never was a painter more fastidious about his works than Kirkup. It will be a "chef d'oeuvre", — a master-piece, I should say, for I abominate an interlarding of French phrases, — I can't think what made me guilty of writing it.
Remember me to Gibson, Eastlake, and all friends, — and forget me to Mr S. P. Ewing.8
Your's most truly,
Kirkup wrote to you about ten days ago addressed to Naples; — he now sends his remembrances.
2 Severn spent the late summer of 1827 in Naples pursuing his courtship of Elizabeth Montgomerie, who was there with her guardian Lady Westmorland (Scott 278), and spending time with his great friend, Thomas Uwins, who had moved there from Rome in 1825 (Uwins 2: 215). [Return to the letter]
3 "The Fountain" was commissioned by Prince Leopold of Belgium and shown at the RA Exhibition in 1830. It is now in the Royal Palace, Brussels. Though it was primarily inspired by a grotto and grove of trees in the Giugi Park at L'Ariccia (Scott 655), Severn also sketched a well-known fountain at Mola di Gaeta, taking a far happier view of it than had Lady Morgan six years before: "Though the women exhibited fine features, and rolled their long tresses, mingled with soiled silken bands round their fine heads, and though the vessels they have at the fountain, or the spring were of Etruscan form, and were carried with an antique grace, still their ragged slovenliness, and disfiguring impurity, left more to pity than to admire" (Lady Morgan, Italy, 3 vols. [London, 1821] 3: 145). [Return to the letter]
5 Louisa Cauty (b. 1794), George Hayter's mistress, who had lived with him since 1816. She committed suicide on 16 October 1827. Hayter had married Sarah Milton (1779/80-1844) in 1809 when he was sixteen years old; they separated but he never obtained a divorce. For a detailed account of Louisa's suicide, see Barbara Bryant, "Sir George Hayter's Drawings at Duncombe Park" Apollo 135 (1992): 240-250. [Return to the letter]
7 The scandal was widely known. See, for example, The Journal of the Hon. Henry Edward Fox 1818-1830, ed. Giles Ilchester (London, 1923) 234-35. Hayter was forced to move to Rome and eventually to Paris to escape rumors. For Brown's follow-up account of the suicide, see 17 Nov. 1827. See also his letter to Leigh Hunt of 28 Nov. 1829 (Stillinger 290). For the consequences of the scandal on Hayter's professional life, see 26 Oct. 1826, n6. [Return to the letter]
8 But compare 2 Jan. 1827. Ewing had fallen out with Brown, Severn and West when he shared a house with them at Rome in 1823-24. The quarrel was provoked by John Hunt, Leigh Hunt's troublesome second son (Stillinger 149-50). [Return to the letter]