TO JOSEPH SEVERN1
Pisa. 7th Novr 1822.
My dear Severn,
I got your letter yesterday.2 If not too late, pray reflect a little more on the inscription for our Keats. Remember it was his dying request that his name should not be on his tomb-stone, and that the words "Here lies one whose name was writ in water" should be there. I thought you liked my inscription, for you said so.3 All his friends, Hunt, Richards, Dilke,4 and every one I showed it to, were greatly pleased with it. You seem to imagine it does not honour him enough, but, to our minds, it says more in his praise than if his name were mentioned. You have done right in not accepting of any assistance from strangers to his worth, in erecting this grave-stone; but I insist on bearing my share, and I will pay it you when we meet in Florence, — you shall not have all the pleasure, — a mournful one, — but still a pleasure.5 I told you all I could, all that Hunt could tell me, about Shelley’s ashes,6 — Mrs Shelley had then set off to Genoa. As for Mr Taylor, I have no correspondence with him whatever. When we meet, if it live in my remembrance so long, and it is hardly worth it, I will tell you the whole story. Even my friends allow, and that I have found a rare thing, that he has behaved badly towards me, and, to my mind, unfeelingly towards the memory of Keats. Hunt wrote to me the other day asking me for your direction; I gave it, except that I said No 43 instead of No 18. If Hunt has written to Mr Murray, under your care, please to forward it as under — to Lord Charles Murray,7 Poste restante, Naples, — for he is a Lord, and I may now say so, as he has reassumed his title at Naples, — he is the youngest son of the Duke of Athol. He has given me a long account of the erruption of Vesuvius, — did you see it? You will be distressed to hear that Miss Brawne has been dreadfully bitten on the hand by a large dog.8 Dilke has sent me the most minute particulars of this accident, which I need not copy, as I can assure you they satisfy me tolerably well that the dog was not mad, — as well as if you read them yourself, perhaps better. In the mean time, the chance of his having been mad disturbs me not a little. Good God! the worst that may happen is frightful to think of. I am glad you are at last wise enough to take care of your health.9 It is death, or lingering illness, for a sedentary man, as you & I are, not to watch your bowels. I have now no fear of you, — you are stout & impudent, as a Gentleman should be. I can find no fault with your description of the Greeks & the Eagle,10 nor can I propose any addition, — it seems to me a very beautiful idea, and well filled up. I cannot give you any account of Lord Byron’s & Leigh Hunt’s work, except that it is called "the Liberal", and that the 1st number came out on 14th of Octr. To write in such good company I feel a great honour.11 What I shall be paid I know not; but it can’t be less than what the New Monthly paid me, 12 Gus per sheet. I hear they are much pleased with my article on "Les Charmettes & Rousseau";12 and they have another, called "William Lentile & Thomas Walt",13 which Hunt saw in Pisa, and said it was very good indeed. Oh! I’ll work ’em out of the dubs, — they shan’t compliment me for nothing. I’m now about, and it’s nearly finished, an article on "Shakespear’s Fools",14 which I have written very joyously, & with the sensation of a Cap and bells on my head, — though now I have got to Lear’s Fool, I am obliged to put it on one side. Next I think of giving them one on "Letter writers",15 and afterwards a Critique on an Italian Poet,16 who is little known even in Italy, — or at least little talked of, for certain State reasons, — and he’s a dirty dog into the bargain; but all Pisa jumps up to assist me with facts &c, (for he was a Pisan poet,) through the good offices of an Italian, a friend of Hunt’s when he was here. I think I have now said enough of my works, to encourage you to write about your’s. No, — I must tell you the Genoese authorities, Lords & Commons, have nick-named me Carluccio , so that will designate my papers in the Liberal. You have not mentioned whether we are to meet at Florence on 1st April or 1st May.17 I fancy it is dearer to live there than at Pisa or Rome, but our keeping house together will make it up again. God bless you, my old painting boy!
Your sincere friend
I grew a little uneasy at your delay in writing; so mind you behave better for the future. I know not one English booby, — so I talk nothing but Italian.
1 Printed: Sharp 131-132 with errors and omissions, and reproduced in Stillinger 106-107. The intervening correspondence between Severn and Brown is printed in Stillinger 94-99 and 102-106. Severn wrote to Brown on 1 Jan. 1822 telling him he had won the RA traveling scholarship and commenting on Shelley’s Adonais. In a letter of 5 Sept. 1822, Brown announced his arrival in Italy and wrote again on 23 Sept. 1822 thanking Severn for offering to manage the burial of Shelley’s ashes in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. Address: Al Signore / Il Signor Giuseppe Severn / No 18 Via di S. Isidoro / 2do piano / Roma. Postmarks: PISA; NOVEMB[RE]. [Return to the letter]
2 Severn’s letter of 26 Oct. 1822 (Scott 214-17) in which he seeks Brown’s agreement for carving a Greek lyre on Keats’ tombstone with oak and myrtle above and underneath Keats’ name, age and date of death. [Return to the letter]
4 Charles Wentworth Dilke (1789-1864), civil servant, editor and critic. A schoolboy friend of Brown, he invested with him in the construction of Wentworth Place. He and his wife Maria were good friends of Keats. [Return to the letter]
5 Severn always maintained that he alone paid for Keats’ tombstone and Dilke, relying on what Severn had told him, wrote that he "never would allow Brown to pay part of the expense" (Papers of a Critic 1: 17). There are no further references to this in the Brown-Severn letters. Severn did, however, regularly borrow money from Brown in the 1820s. See, among others, 9 Aug. 1825, 27 June 1826, 26 Oct. 1826. [Return to the letter]
7 Lord Charles Murray (1799-1824), sixth son of the fourth Duke of Atholl, who traveled with Brown to Italy and was thought to be mad. He later moved to Greece where he died. Despite his avowed dislike of aristocratic company, Brown shared a traveling coach with Murray from Lerici to Pisa on his journey to Italy. He may have been misled by the fact that Lord Charles was traveling incognito as "Mr Tupper" but kept up the friendship once his companion’s true identity had emerged. For more on Brown and Murray, see KC, i. lvii-lviii and Stillinger 103. [Return to the letter]
8 In her letter to Fanny Keats of 15 Oct. 1822, Fanny Brawne offers a slightly different account: "I should have written to you some time ago but I have had a bad hand from a gentle bite given me by my dog, even now I am not sure you will be able to read what I have written for my hand is so tied up that I can scarcely make use of the pen" (Letters of Fanny Brawne to Fanny Keats 1820-1824, ed. Fred Edgcumbe [New York: Oxford UP, 1937] 77). [Return to the letter]
9 On 28 April 1822 Severn had collapsed in the street after a hearty meal where he "had eaten rather plentifully of a New Cheese" (Severn to Maria Severn, 29 May 1822 [SFL 13]). James Clark, Keats’ doctor, took him in hand. Severn described his intestinal discomfort to Brown in a letter of 26 Oct. 1822, but assured him that he was now much better (Scott 215). [Return to the letter]
10 "Greek Shepherds rescuing a Lamb from a Vulture," exhibited at the British Institution in 1825 and now at LMA. It was, in part, inspired by lines 266-7 in Book I of Endymion. [Return to the letter]
11 "The Liberal," which first appeared on 15 October 1822, had been planned by Shelley, Byron and Leigh Hunt. Byron retained some interest in the publication after Shelley’s death though the main burden of producing it fell on Hunt. [Return to the letter]