6 June 1824

Letter 8


6, 7 June [1824]

My dear Severn,

I have hope and faith in thy coming, and do thou have the charity to come, — leaving all earthly love out of the question.2 How is this? These consecrated walls surely begin to affect my mode of speech, lugging in faith, hope, and charity before I was aware. I mean to say, that ever blessed be the "Madonna della sedia" for being the cause of thy journey hither, and thrice blessed be that excellent tasteful gentleman who sets thee on so good and holy a work.3 Your letter gives a doubt, but I believe in no doubts, — I have settled it you have the commission, — fast, — half in hand, — and that we are to spend the summer together. When you choose to daub at home, you will find admirable rooms on the ground floor with windows to the north at some distance from the floor, — just the thing, — and you may have three such rooms to yourself, each as large as your Studio in Rome. Then when you daub at the Pitti, I shall (after a famous breakfast) pack you off at eight o’ Clock, with an umbrella for sun and rain (which you can always leave at the gate), and such a walk! — through an ever winding beautiful lane of a mile and a half long. Think what service this daily exercise will be to your health. You’ll leave the Pitti at 3, and come to dine at the Nunnery at 4. Hunt lives only ¾ mile off. I intend to persuade Kirkup4 to take the other half of the Nunnery for the summer, to hire furniture for a bedroom only, and a horse and covered gig, — and to prog with me. Every thing is finally settled. If Kirkup puts a dubious face on this when he comes, I’ll leather his jacket. What a nice dinner party we shall have every day! Kirkup, and Madama, and you, and I, and Charley, and (ever and anon) Hunt peeping in to wonder at our jollity. My man Francesco (for I keep a man-cook) appears to understand table cheer admirably, tho’ I curb his abilities, and insist on wondrous plain food. By the by, my table holds six to perfection, so when Mr Occident5 pays me a visit, our party will be complete, — he’ll not be in a hurry to go on to Venice I promise you. ~~~~ The above I scrawled off last night, and now to-night (<May> June 7th) I set down to say as much more as I choose. Hunt and two of his children dined with me to-day, and after dinner in came Mr Anderson & Mr Ambrose,6 — for I called on them since I wrote to West, — tell West this. After a confab all left me, and I strolled a little way with Hunt; when, on my return, not ten minutes ago, I found Mr Craufurd had called, — I must return his call tomorrow, and shall be happy if I can be of any service to him. What! said my daddy Burton to Rome? — but after writing that impudent call on my friendship and generosity, you learnt you would come yourself to Burton, which is a million times better. Mind you send or bring Hunt’s music, — they have hopes of Novello’s7 coming. As for the Finches,8 do just what you please, — I can’t be lugged in again, for by the time I shall revisit Rome, the Finches will have flitted somewhere else. I honour and respect Mr Craufurd for his kindness to you; this conduct of his is indeed glorious. Go on and prosper. I wrote to West a week ago. I am seeking for lodgings for Kirkup in the City, but with no very good will. To-morrow or next day I shall expect to see him. As for getting lodgings for him so suddenly, and leaving a letter at the Roman gate (not knowing either whether he will come by Perugia or Sienna), is utterly imposs; — why, I had your letter only the day before yesterday. I say I go about this unwillingly, for I want him here, and I know it will be better for his health to live out of the town,9 — besides, the two places he has pitched upon are the most broiling parts of Florence. How is Gott going on, and whither is he going? But I shall hear about all these matters from Kirkup, and how Mr Eastlake’s eyes are,10 and every thing else about every one of you in filthy Rome. I’ve read Hazlitt’s "Liber Amoris",11 and contrary to Hunt’s opinion, think it a pitiable work. Talk of love indeed, why it was nothing more than a bad (I won’t say venereal) disease; and the Girl, one would imagine, would have been smoked in five minutes by such a man as Hazlitt, for the first five pages of his account of her made me smoke her — tongue, hams, and all. Mem: I had some tender beef steaks to-day, stewed artichokes, a rice pudding, and cherries, — surely you’ll come as quick as possible!

Your’s most sincerely,
           Chas Brown.

This morning I was reading a great book on horses, where the writer inculcates the utmost humanity towards such noble and valuable animals. However when he comes to treat of geldings, his humanity is evidently puzzled, yet as geldings (he says) must be, he adds <says>, "and after all, it is even more humane to make geldings of them, as it saves them a great deal of trouble."12 Lay this to thy heart, and fare thee well. Think, had Romeo been a gelding, what trouble would have been saved him, — nay, he might have lived to a good old age, & been an excellent singer.13


1 Above the salutation Sharp has penciled: “On his coming to Florence 1822?” Address: Al Signore / Il Sig: Giuseppe Severn, / Pittore Inglese, / No 18 Via di S. Isidoro, / Roma. Postmarks: FIRENZE; [illegible]. This letter is in part a reply to Severn’s of 20 May 1824 to Leigh Hunt (Scott 250-52), which Brown had clearly read. See, for example, “I find strange longings after the kindred souls in the Vale of Tuscany – I feel as tho’ I should pack up and come” (Scott 251). In the event, Severn did not go to Florence in the summer of 1824.[Return to the letter]

2 1 Cor. xiii.13. [Return to the letter]

3 John Crauford of Auchinames and Crosbie, Ayrshire, one of Severn’s patrons in Rome, commissioned him to copy Raphael’s “Madonna della Sedia” in the Pitti Palace at Florence (Sharp 137), though Sharp wrongly dated the commission to 1823. There is also no evidence that Severn ever acted on Crauford’s commission. [Return to the letter]

4 Seymour Kirkup (1788-1880), artist, scholar and spiritualist, with whom Severn was friendly in Rome, moved to Florence in the summer of 1824 with his then mistress, Maria (Brown 189). [Return to the letter]

5 William Edward West (1788-1857), American painter and nephew of Sir Benjamin West. He shared a house in Rome with Severn, Brown and William Ewing in the winter of 1823. [Return to the letter]

6 Identities unknown. [Return to the letter]

7 Vincent Novello (1781-1861), organist and music publisher. Leigh Hunt, Shelley, Keats, Mendelssohn, Charles Lamb and, probably, Severn all attended his musical evenings in London. In his letter of 20 May 1824 to Leigh Hunt, Severn had said that he would hang on to the parcel of music which Vincent Novello had sent for Hunt because Hunt did not have a piano and Severn was enjoying the music too much to let it go (Scott 250-52). [Return to the letter]

8 The Reverend “Colonel” Robert Finch (1873-1830), who married Maria Thomson on 18 November 1820. A man of independent means, Finch traveled extensively in Italy cultivating a reputation as a connoisseur. Severn knew them in Rome and went on a walking tour in Umbria with the Finches and Mrs. Finch’s sister, Eliza Thomson, en route to Florence in June 1823, writing an amusing but fragmentary journal of the trip (Harvard MS Keats 4.16.5). [Return to the letter]

9 Though he lived to a great age, Kirkup had weak lungs and traveled to Italy in 1816 for his health, originally settling in Rome. In 1823 he moved to the more salubrious climate of Florence. [Return to the letter]

10 (Sir) Charles Eastlake (1793-1865), painter and arts administrator. A close friend of Severn, he was in Rome from 1816 to 1830. Nicknamed “the Salamander” because of his fondness for painting out of doors in bright sunlight, he damaged his eyesight. See David A. Robertson, Sir Charles Eastlake and the Victorian Art World (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1978): 12, 18. [Return to the letter]

11 William Hazlitt’s Liber Amoris (1823), was an account of his obsessive passion for his landlord’s daughter in Holborn, Sarah Walker. Before its publication Brown had commented to Thomas Richards, “Hazlitt’s ‘Lodging House Romance’ pleases me in idea extremely; I would rather read that than any of his other works” (Stillinger 114). He changed his opinion on seeing the book. [Return to the letter]

12 The word “trouble” is triply underlined. [Return to the letter]

13 As were the castrati in the Vatican choir. [Return to the letter]