Letter 45

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New Letters from Charles Brown to Joseph Severn, Edited by Grant Scott and Sue Brown
Letter 45


25 August 1840

Chichester. 25 August 1840.

My dear Severn,

I am in this part of the world paying a few visits to old friends, without your letter2 in my portfolio. As it was my intention to answer it while away from home, my remissness was wrong. I must explain why I did not answer it immediately. You left England without a word in reply to what I wrote,3 and, after a monstrous silence of about a year and a half, you wrote to me wondering which of the two owed the other a letter. Your long silence might have made any one but myself believe you had chosen to give the cut direct. But I, knowing your quondam indiscretions of this sort, was quite contented to put your tardy letter by for a month before I should acknowledge its receipt; — in order to give you a lesson for future punctuality. Such was my intention, but I have sadly overstaid the month; so I, like yourself, have become a delinquent; and we have nothing to do but to forgive one another.

Carlino is working hard, as a common workman, with a millwright at Midhurst, that he may, in due time, be an accomplished engineer. He is very well, very tall, and very strenuous in his purpose; and friends say his abilities assure him success in his profession. My visiting was chiefly to be with him. My brother4 resides at Midhurst; and Carlino has been with me at Bedhampton, and is now with me at Mr & Mrs Snook’s house.5 But both his holidays and mine are nearly expired; in two or three days, he will return to work, and I to Laira Green. Mr and Mrs M. Snook desire to be kindly remembered to you and to your wife.

The little news you gave me of your wife and children was only partly satisfactory; more particulars were wanted. I was told you were all coming to settle in London — at least in England; which, indeed, made me somewhat account for your silence, till you had finally settled it; but lo! you do not say a syllable about such a subject.6 Folks ask me questions touching and concerning you and yours, and I am really ashamed of not being able to say more than most indefinite stuff. When you shall be graciously pleased to give me a home history, have the goodness, also, to give me an account of Kirkup — how is he? A little uneasiness at times crosses my mind; for he, an unusual thing with him, has been long silent, not having answered my last; and, what increases my uneasiness is, he has given no answer to a letter from a friend of mine, and a correspondent of his, Col. Smith7 of Plymouth. Apropos, — not he, but another in Plymouth — a great admirer of your painting,8 when he returned from this year’s Exhibition (which I did not see) told me he regretted that you succeeded in arriving at the tone of the old pictures. He thought you in error, and argued against it in so friendly a spirit of criticism, that I am tempted to hint his objection for you to consider of it; rather than to state the grounds on which he argued, which must be, however you may differ from them, well known to yourself.

But you will wish to know how I myself am going on. Much the same — contentedly — averse from all great exertion, yet ever employed on something — with health as good as I wish, if I could entirely be free from epilepsy. However, I had not a fit for more than a year and a half till this summer; and then it did not take me unadvisedly. In a Plymouth Liberal Paper I have a pleasant duty to perform in writing the political article every week; which has lasted from the beginning of last year. Some other matters in the writing way I do as the maggot bites; and what with my garden and green-house I am happy enough. Carlino’s studies for his profession taking him away, I was left too solitary, — that is, quite by myself; but for the last six months, or nearly so, my niece Fanny has lived with me, and so she is likely to continue.

Wanting your letter by my side for a theme, and nothing else appearing to me at present of moment to say to you, the above must serve till I receive some more news from you. So, with love to your wife and children — including those on the easel.

Your’s most sincerely,
           Chas Brown.


1 Mentioned in Sharp 191. Above the salutation Sharp has penciled, "902-4." Above the address, Brown has written "Rome, Italy " and below it to the left, on the diagonal, "Rome Italie." Address: Al Signor Giuseppe Severn, / Pittore Inglese, / Via Rasella, / Roma. Postmarks: CHICHESTER AU 25 1840; G PAID 26 H 26 1840; Pd; VIA DI PT BEAUVOISIN; ROMA 3 SET 1840 [two others illegible]. [Return to the letter]

2 Untraced. [Return to the letter]

3 See Brown to Severn, 23 Aug. 1838 (Stillinger 348-50). Although Severn was in England from 17 June to September 1838, to Brown’s annoyance he made no attempt to see him, concentrating instead on furthering his artistic career. [Return to the letter]

4 William Brown, Jr (b. 1779), formerly a stock broker. In 1839-40 he was retired when Carlino lived with him and his wife Mary at Sandrock Cottage, Midhurst, Sussex. Carlino also visited them in the late 1840s (Iles 156; McCormick 215). [Return to the letter]

5 See 17 Mar. 1835, n5. [Return to the letter]

6 Severn and his family returned to England on 15 March 1841. Elizabeth Severn was in England from May 1840 to January 1841 trying to find suitable schools for her two sons, Walter and Henry. [Return to the letter]

7 Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hamilton Smith (1776-1859), soldier, author, artist and natural historian, who lectured at the Plymouth Institution and produced many sketchbooks of watercolors on various subjects (DNB). [Return to the letter]

8 Severn showed four pictures at the RA Exhibition in 1840: "Isabella on the Pot of Basil," "Portia with the casket," "The Witches’ Cavern," and "The Roman Ave Maria." [Return to the letter]

Published @ RC

December 2007