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New Letters from Charles Brown to Joseph Severn, Edited by Grant Scott and Sue Brown
Letter 20

TO JOSEPH SEVERN1

26 October 1826

Florence. 26 Octr 1826.

My dear Severn,

Don’t let the season slip out of your fingers, — don’t forget the tree at Shelley’s grave, and the new stakes to the other trees. And mind you keep your word about planting something at Keats’ grave.2 I can’t send you Trelawney’s letter3 yet, — you must wait till I’ve answered it.

According to promise, here’s the mem[?] for you, — from 500 deduct 52, and there remain Pauls Roman 448, — which I stick up to your debit.

Dilke [...]4 set off last Sunday morning. The young one, Wentworth,5 seems rather dull yet awhile, but not much so, and he and I chime in very well. He is made of good stuff.

I found Carlino wondrously well in health, and my Maddalena had conducted herself with great prudence all the time of my absence.

Hayter6 and Kirkup (between you and me) are preparing for Naples. This so horrified me, that, not to leave a stone unturned, I have taken it into my head to lift the only and heaviest one remaining. Hitherto all looks were better than I expected, and I have good hopes of removing every difficulty, and luring them here at last. Mum!

A thought has struck me for a Tuscan picture; — the peasantry dressing their lambs, for St John’s day, with bows of ribbands and flowers, and placing a child on a pony decorated in the same way, — the child dressed like a young St John the Baptist. What think you of this? Nothing can be more Tuscan, and a very pretty picture might be made of it. Now you can come here and study from 14th April (don’t forget the day) to 24th June, — I mean make studies of our pretty girls, and then on that day you can see the ceremony, and have it all put in costume. If you turn up your nose at this subject, let me know, and I’ll think of some other.

Give my remembrances to all friends, and let me be kindly remembered by Le Signore Garofanini.7 I went to our Pergola Opera last night, — it was bad in every way, — the music by Persiani,8 — who the Devil is he?

I found a letter from Leigh Hunt at the Post Office, — remembrances to you of course. He is well, and doing well, if I can judge from his writing. Another letter informed me of the death of my sister-in-law’s father, — he shot himself; I don’t recollect whether I ever talked to you about him, — his name was Mavor.9 Neither his death nor the manner of it affected me a jot, except as it would affect Mrs J. Brown, to whom I have written as I best could, but it was a mournful task for me, for I like her as much as I disliked her father.

I’ve written to Mr Wakefield, and told him you promised to be a better boy, and to write.

My Italian greyhound has broken one of my China plates! — how can I punish the wretch? — so now my number of plates is reduced from 85 to 84. Aye, but call me cut, if I don’t have it mended.

My dear Carlino — oh! Lord! I told you about him before!!!

I’m very much pleased with my golden pen with ruby nib, — it writes so glibly and well, — does it not?

Something is teasingly on my mind that I have to tell you; yet I can’t think what it is for the soul of me. What can it be? — no matter, it won’t get cold, I suppose, by waiting.

Your’s most sincerely,
           Chas Brown.

Notes

1 Above the salutation Sharp has penciled, "copied." Address: Al Pittore Inglese / Il Sig. Guiseppe Severn, / No 22 Vicolo de’ Marroniti, / Roma. Postmarks: FIRENZE; 30 OTTOBRE. [Return to the letter]

2 "I shall put some Evergreens round it" (Severn to Brown, 21 Jan. 1823 [Scott 228]). [Return to the letter]

3 Untraced. [Return to the letter]

4 Illegible abbreviation with superscript. [Return to the letter]

5 Charley remained with Brown in Florence when his father returned to London at the end of their autumn tour of Italy in 1826. [Return to the letter]

6 (Sir) George Hayter (1792-1871), portrait and historical painter, who received many official commissions, including one for the coronation of Queen Victoria. In 1841 he succeeded David Wilkie as Principal Painter in Ordinary to the Queen. Although he was knighted on 1 June 1842 and received many marks of Royal favor, the Royal Academy resolutely refused to elect him to its membership because of his scandalous conduct in Florence in 1827 (see 23 Oct. 1827). See Luke Herrmann, Nineteenth Century British Painting (London: Giles de la Mare, 2000) 210-14. [Return to the letter]

7 Unidentified. [Return to the letter]

8 Giuseppe Persiani (1804 -1869), composer and husband of the leading Italian soprano, Fanny Persiani, who created the title role in Donizettis’ "Lucia di Lammermoor." [Return to the letter]

9 John Mavor (1757-1826), the father of Jane Elizabeth Brown (1783-1846), who had lost her husband, Brown’s older brother, John Armitage Brown, three years earlier (Iles 149-50). [Return to the letter]

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December 2007

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