Letter 22

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New Letters from Charles Brown to Joseph Severn, Edited by Grant Scott and Sue Brown
Letter 22

TO JOSEPH SEVERN1

2 January 1827

Florence. 2nd Jany 1827.

My dear Severn,

Just one post after I sent you my dream, pop came your letter,2 with Trelawney’s enclosed; — it ought to have been delivered earlier, according to your date.

Kirkup is arrived at last. He came the day before yesterday. He looks very well in health. You may now send him Lady W’s3 message, whenever you choose. He asked me for a scrap of this letter, in order to say a few words to you himself, — and he shall have it, if he returns, (for he is now somewhere about the town,) in time for the post.

Let me whisper a secret in your ear. I don’t like Mr G. Hayter, so much as I expected I should. In fact I am a good deal disappointed in him, as a man. As a painter, an historical one, I think, from what I have seen, he is quite in a mistake; I have seen one painting finished, and a sketch for another, — they are both subjects of pain. His Mary Magdalen,4 instead of being in a calm resigned state, or in contemplation, — which are the common and best notions of her, — is wringing her hands in disastrous agony, with a cord round her waist, and a crucifix and skull for her companions. The sketch, a rape of Circassian women, is full of murders, daggers, blood, screaming women, and gleaming sabres. T{o} my mind, the better such subjects are painted, the w{orse} they are. I’ve not formed an opinion of his paintin{g or} colouring, having seen these things only by candle ligh{t}. I’ve a notion they will not be to my taste in an{y way.}

Don’t trouble yourself to remit those {crowns to} me. As you say, the trees are to be paid for, and the {Madonna} landscape for Dilke.5 Pay every thing out of those c{rowns}.

Dilke arrived in London after his four months tour, well and hearty, — and will of course be the lion among his friends for this winter. I like young Dilke very much.

Yes, I am pleased you have sold your "Girl at her prayers",6 but abominably vexed you don’t get paid by any body. You have no idea how this worries me. It is too bad. I can’t understand it. For the future, keep a tighter hand over these gentry. Make them fix the mode of payment before you begin.

What a rogue you are to forget the number of my house! Write to Miss Garofanini7 that I live at No 6244 Piazza del Duomo, when I shall jump for joy to see her. Will her father be in her company? — I hope not.

I’m glad your Lear is just finished,8 and trust you will, for the future, fix on subjects more to your genius, and where you have no rival. Always suspect that that which you do with the greatest difficulty is least adapted to your genius. Be content with succeeding to the utmost, as I think you do, or will, in one branch of painting, — and that a branch that includes so much beauty.

Young Dilke would send his Compts if he were in the house. We had Mr G. Hayter and his friend, Mr Hamilton9 on Xmas day, and we also had an excellent plum pudding. Two days after, I had a Mr & Mrs Sulivan10 to dinner, — they were introduced to me by a letter from West, — think of that! They are pleasant, sensible, clever, young, — and altogether {such} a couple as I like to be acquainted with. They have {. . .} a letter to you from West, — but they will not go {to Rome} for some time.

When you answered that gentleman about Florence, {that man}y artists did not fix here instead of Rome, — permit {me to sa}y, I think you did not answer rightly. Fact is, {you sa}w but little of Florence. I hope you’ll know it better in a short time, and that you will then prefer it to Rome, which I am convinced is an unhealthy place, and will show its banefulness, some day or another, on every one who constantly resides there, as it has on half a dozen I could name already.

How are Captn and Mrs Baynes, and Bewick,11 and Gibson, and Eastlake, and Ewing, and all the rest of my friends. Give them my best "capo d’anno"12 wishes.

When is your little boy coming? Mine is quite hearty, but I don’t like the proof he gave me the other night of his filial affection. He got out of his little bed and came into mine, (they stand close together,) lay snug by my side for a few minutes, pissed on me! and then returned to his own little bed. This was unbearable! — though I could not be angry, as he must have been asleep all the while, and dreaming (perhaps) that he had got up and achieved a chamber-pot. This is a sample of what a papa is to expect from his little boy! I give you warning!

Kirkup does not return, — perhaps he will in time, — so I’ll leave a bit of white for him.

Your’s most truly,
           Chas Brown.

Notes

1 A small portion of the letter has been torn out. Address: Al Pittore Inglese / Il Sig. Guiseppe Severn, / No 22 Vicolo de’ Marroniti, / Roma. Postmarks: FIRENZE; 4 GENNAIO. [Return to the letter]

2 Untraced. [Return to the letter]

3 Lady Westmorland. It was Kirkup who first introduced Severn to her. [Return to the letter]

4 Hayter made two studies of Mary Magdalene, an engraving after Annibale Carracci titled, "Magdalen kneeling" (Woburn Abbey, 1825), and an etching titled, "Magdalen," from the "picture in possession of the Earl of Bradford, painted from Honble Sophia Fitzgerald." Both prints were included in an edition of forty-six etchings published by James Rimmell & Son in 1879 (Barbara Coffey, An Exhibition of Drawings by Sir George Hayter 1792-1871 & John Hayter 1800-1895 [London: M. Morris, 1982] 44, 45). [Return to the letter]

5 See 2 Nov. 1826, n2. [Return to the letter]

6 Now in the Royal Palace, Brussels awaiting restoration. Prince Leopold of the Belgians initially saw the painting at the house of Lady Westmorland who helped to arrange the sale (Scott 655; Severn to Charles Severn, 1 Jan. 1827 [SFL 35]). The picture was exhibited at the RA Exhibition in 1828 when Eastlake got a commission for Severn from Lord Lansdowne to produce a copy (Eastlake to Severn, 5 May 1828, Harvard MS ENG 1434 [49]). [Return to the letter]

7 For the conclusion of the story, see 29 Mar. 1828. [Return to the letter]

8 "Cordelia Watching by the Bed of Lear," shown at the RA Exhibition of 1828. Severn had been working on it since the winter of 1823-24. See also 29 Mar. 1828, n1. [Return to the letter]

9 Charles Hamilton. [Return to the letter]

10 Robert Sulivan (b. 1789, Paul, Cornwall), and Mrs. Sulivan, with whom Carlino Brown was to lodge in 1838 (IGI; Stillinger 355, 363). [Return to the letter]

11 William Bewick (1795-1866), portrait and history painter. He was one of Benjamin Haydon’s pupils and through him got to know Hazlitt and Keats. In 1826 he traveled to Italy with a commission from Sir Thomas Lawrence to make copies of some of the Michel Angelo sybils in the Sistine Chapel. He was in Florence in August and September 1827 before setting off for Rome, where he remained until the summer of 1828, returning in the spring of 1829. In Rome he became and remained a warm admirer of Severn. "He is as honourable and dear a fellow as ever breathed with a noble and generous spirit, and the feeling of a true gentleman" (Life and Letters of William Bewick (Artist), ed. Thomas Landseer, 2 vols. [London, 1871] 2: 150). [Return to the letter]

12 "Happy New Year." [Return to the letter]

Published @ RC

December 2007

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