New Letters from Charles Brown to Joseph Severn, Edited by Grant Scott and Sue Brown
Letter 16

TO JOSEPH SEVERN1

30 March 1826

Florence. 30 March 1826.

My dear Severn,

I’ve been to Parma, saw Correggio2 and all that, — what do you think of me? Then I went on to Milan, where I saw Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin, two splendid Paul Veronese and fifty other fine things,3 — what, I say again, do you think of me? By the by, when folks talk of Milan Cathedral, you may tell them the inside is heavy and ugly, and that the grand front, on the outside, has been ruined by Nap’s architects, who dared to intrude their grecian doors and windows in the midst of the old gothic, — I should like to intrude a horsewhip on the midst of their gothic outsides. Well, then I saw the "Teatro della Scala"; and I saw Maria Louisa4 at the Parmasan Theatre,— and I came home again, — and what d’ye think of that?

Your success delights me. Every one that writes from Rome, every one that comes from Rome, all join in your praises, and in <your> flourishing accounts of your<s> goings on, and in admiration of your high spirits and happy face. Why, they tell me there’s not such another jovial countenance in Rome, not even excepting the Pope’s! Now this is almost too much. It may chance to make me try to pull you down a peg or two. I must send you a twinge of a tooth-ache, or of an ear-ache, something to make you descend, in a decent manner, to the ordinary feelings of mortality; or I must go myself, and hammer one of your toes, if only to prevent your becoming too extravagantly happy.

Never mind the prigs, — by all means let us have the girl with the broken pitcher; and to put an end to any scandal against your virtue, you may say it was I that broke it. However you must be tolerably modest, — so don’t rumple her petticoats, or tumble her neck handkerchief too much. A little languor about the eyes is permitted.5

You have not let me know if the stoves arrived safely, and if you liked them. After they went, I began to imagine you would like larger ones. Thanks for the money, but I hope you paid it to Modetti in Kirkup’s name, not in mine, as he will draw on Modetti for it.

Dilke’s father died about three weeks ago.6 The old gentleman was not expected to live many months, before the death of his wife in November. He was above eighty. I had always a great affection for him, and was a favourite of his. His loss, though so long expected, almost desired indeed, on account of his sufferings, — still it gave me the heart-ache when I heard of it. Dilke will send his boy,7 — his son I should say, — to me; he will set out for Florence next October, at least such is the talk at present. I’m setting my wits to work in order to get Dilke himself here, aye, and his little wife. I have hopes. Then we’ll all go to Rome together, and kick up your quarters.8

Carlino sends you a million and odd kisses. He coughed three times last night, and once this morning, so he has a dose of magnesia in his body, and stays at home. I’m the most motherly father you ever knew.

Kirkup is gone to Venice. He went by Genoa. I hope he’ll soon come back, — I want him.

You talk of your beautiful peasants, — I should like to have one. I turned off my pretty servant. It was a bargain between us that her husband, a vile scamp, was not to come into my house; and would you believe it? — I caught him in bed with her! — yes, and at a time when she ought to have been thinking of something else. I could not endure so flagrant a piece of immorality. What! — a fellow to cuckhold his wife’s lover, and in so sneaking a manner, — oh! it was infamous!

I believe this letter will arrive just in time, on the very day when you can perform a little commission for me. Have the kindness to call at Ruffoni’s shop, in Via de’ Matti, and tell him to send me, as soon as possible, a fillagree pair of breeches of the first quality. Ah! you April fool!

Your’s most seriously,
           Chas Brown.

Notes

1Above the salutation Sharp has penciled, "602-3." Address: Al Ornatino Signore / Giuseppe Severn, / Pittore Inglese, / No 22 Collegio de’ Marroniti, / Roma. Postmarks: FIRENZE; 3 APRILE. [Return to the letter]

2 Most probably Correggio’s "Assumption" in the cupola of the Cathedral and "The Vision of St John at Patmos" in the dome of San Giovanni Evangelista. [Return to the letter]

3 In the Pinacoteca di Brera at the Palazzo di Brera where the Accademia di Belle Arti was housed. [Return to the letter]

4 Grand Duchess Marie Louise of Parma (1791-1847), daughter of Francis I of Austria and second wife of Napoleon. She returned to Austria on Napoleon’s abdication and was awarded the Duchy of Parma in the post-war settlement. [Return to the letter]

5 A possible reference to a preparatory study for one of the figures in "The Fountain," though there is no sign in the painting that the pitchers the girls carry are broken. [Return to the letter]

6 Charles W. Dilke, Sr, who lived in Chichester (see 28 Apr. 1825, n13). Keats visited him in January 1819 (KC, i. lxxxiii). [Return to the letter]

7 Charles Wentworth Dilke (1810-1869), later first Bt. [Return to the letter]

8 Charles Dilke and his son Charley visited Rome with Brown in October and went with Severn to Keats’ grave. See Dilke to Maria Dilke, n.d. (Papers of a Critic 1: 17), and Brown to Leigh Hunt 29 May and 29 Oct. 1826 (Stillinger 254, 265). [Return to the letter]

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December 2007

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