13 April 1826

Letter 17


13 April 1826

Florence. 13th April 1826.

My dear Severn,

Your low spirits, and lethargy, and so on, arise from something in the constitution, and something more in the mind. It is a disease, which, if left alone, will increase and bring along with it all the teasings and tormentings of hypochondria, by no means dangerous to your life, but to the employments and pleasures of life. The cure is easy and certain for those who have it in their power, (and every one has not,) to adopt it; — you have it completely in your power. Whenever you feel it coming on, set out, — on foot will be better, — to Albano, Frascati, Tivoli,2 or any other place you choose, and after sleeping one night in the change of air, you will return a man new made. Do not persuade yourself that my receipt will make you lose time, — quite the contrary, — you will lose a couple of days, and gain twenty in being made capable of work and exertion, — besides taking health into account. The exercise, the change of scene, the drinking fresh air, the excitement of a journey, and the sleeping out of your accustomed atmosphere, — these are your sure remedies. There is my friend Mancur suffering awfully from your complaint, and pinned as he is to a desk, it is seldom he can follow this remedy, but when he can, he is invariably cured, <of> and for some space of time. I am afraid you will object to so long a journey as Florence, staying here only a week, but if you can spare the time, so much the better for you, — and for me too. One word more of advice: just at the time you ought to take this remedy, you will be apt to feel a disinclination, a repugnance to it; you will persuade yourself the weather is bad, or will be bad, or may be better after a day or two, or that you have an engagement which cannot be broken, or that you can never paint something to your mind unless you stick to it at that moment, — as if the Devil was whispering lies in your ear. I mention this to put you on your guard, to defy the Devil and all his works, and to make you, in spite of all seeming hindrances, put your night-cap (if you wear one) in your pocket, your hat on your head, and off!

You have Mr Reader in Rome. A word in your ear, — and don’t let it be whispered in any other person’s. I thought him a good fellow, and think so no more. Kirkup and I have made up our minds about him. His mind has a squint in it as well as his face. He is boasting and selfish. He will give a sugar plum in the hope of receiving a sirloin of beef. He catches salmon with gudgeons.3 If you dine at his house, he has an intention on you. He will talk of buying your pictures, of giving you commissions, — all blarney; he will buy nothing of you, unless he hopes to sell it again for a profit. He is a money-saver and would be a money-scraper. I tell you all this, that you may not, (owing to his former acquaintanceship with us, and as he pretends to much, and talks much,) put yourself in the slightest degree out of the way to do him service, — for he is one who treats men as we do an orange, — squeezes the juice out, and throws it away without ceremony.

Mr Waller4 is going presently to Rome, and then to Naples. He is not the character you, Etty, and Evans described him to be in Venice.5 I like him much. Was it not Mr Morgan that spoke ill of him among you?

I got up this morning with an oppressive, sick head-ach[e], as if I had gone to bed drunk last night. That however is scarcely possible, as I have drunk nothing stronger than water for these two days. I suppose it is the change of weather, for this morning we have rain, after a long time of clear blue skies. Be it as it may, the writing to you has well nigh taken it away.

See what pride comes to! You would not date your letters from a Vicolo, but from a Collegio, and thus it appears you lost the advantage of being made a regular April-fool.

Carlino can’t go to school on account of the rain; and so he is at all sorts of nasty messes with black and red chalk, flour and water, and raw potatoes.

Your’s most sincerely,
           Chas Brown.

Westmacott owes me a letter.


1 Above the salutation Sharp has penciled, "copied." Address: Al Signore Ornatino / Il Sig. Giuseppe Severn, / Pittore Inglese, / No 22 Vicolo de’ Marroniti, / Roma. Postmarks: FIRENZE; 15 APRILE. [Return to the letter]

2 Hilltop towns, respectively 18 1/2, 15 and 18 miles from Rome. [Return to the letter]

3 The Merchant of Venice, I.i.101. [Return to the letter]

4 Probably Brown’s mistake for George Augustus Wallis (1770-1847), landscape painter. See also 17 Mar. 1827. [Return to the letter]

5 In August-September 1823, Brown and Severn visited Venice together in the company of the two painters William Etty (1787-1849) and Richard Evans (1784-1871). [Return to the letter]