[Domett, a poet who emigrated to New Zealand and became the original of Waring in Browning's “What became of Waring?”, returned to England in the 1870s, mentioning his visits with Browning, Tennyson, and leading sculptors in his diary.]

January 9, 1873: Morris and Byron

Speaking of Morris's poem Love is enough Browning seems to think it rather 'unmanly' to be continually harping upon one subject, the love of woman. He mentioned a witticism of 'Lytton's' (Lord Lytton, after all best known as plain Lytton Bulwer) on Morris's rehabilitation of the old classical myths and fables, which the world has considerably given the go by to in these later days. He said it reminded him of an old blind and deaf drummer, one of a party of strolling musicians who persisted in going on with his dub-a-dubbing after a policeman had dispersed all the rest of the band. No doubt Bulwer appreciated all the

Browning did not much admire Rossetti's poetry; 'hated all affectation'. We laughed at the cant about the 'delicate harmony' of his rhymes about the 'Haymarket' which Swinburne affects to think beautiful. Browning quoted Buchanan's parody or imitation of them, adding a line or two of his own similarly rhymed — such as 'But grog would be sweeter. And stronger and warmer &c'.beauty of Morrises poetry notwithstanding, especially as he dub- a-dubbed himself too, to the best of his ability, to the same tunes.

Browning quoted from memory Milton's two sonnets on his Tetrachordon — I forget apropos of what.

In Fifine he falls foul of Byron's famous address to the Ocean [in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, canto 4, 189ff.] calls him 'Childishest Childe' and says, among other things, Common Sense 'bade him who egged on hounds to bay, Go curse i'the poultry yard his kind: there let him lay' (quizzing rather ferociously Byron's nautical solecism) 'there let him lay, The swan's one addled egg, which yet shall put to use, Rub breastbone warm against, so many a sterile goose!' The Times took up the cudgels for Byron. Browning says much as he admires Byron's poetry, 'as a Christian'(!) he protests against the assertion of the Soul's nothingness as compared with the Ocean. I never heard him, I think, avow his 'Christianity' distinctly in his own person except on this occasion. It is done in his poetry, (Easter Day &c.) but every part of his poetry may be said to be written dramatically, and as expressing the opinions of some imaginary person or type and representative of a class. At least, I fancy he would like it to be so considered. [69-70]

December 9, 1875: W. B. Scott, Rossetti, Swinburne, Buchanan, and Carlyle

He had W. B. Scott's poems on the table, asked me to read his Witches [Ballad]; thought it very weird and in the true witch style; shewing a compound of rage and impotence; devilish malignity with fickle levity. I was mentioning the absurdity of the praise Swinburne) had bestowed on the idea in Rossetti's Blessed Damozel [text], of the Damozel's arm resting on the Bar of Heaven and 'making it warm!' — a fancy after all originally and infinitely better given in Sordello where Palma throws her scarf upon Sordello 'her neck's warmth and all.' Browning said he was afraid I was going to quiz the notion with a similar case a lady had told him of the other day — how, she having a bad cough in church, an old gentleman sitting next her pulled a lozenge out of his waistcoat pocket and offered it her 'quite warm and redolent of old churchwarden. Buchanan he knew well enough; thought him a clever fellow but unscrupulous &c. . . .

We were interrupted by a great screeching at the back of the house. 'All! there are my pets' said Browning. They were 4 geese. "They are such affectionate creatures — and I am sure it is not for what one gives them.'

Browning spoke even affectionately of Carlyle. Said he had rather kept away from him latterly, not on his (C's) account but of some one who visited him. Did not say who, nor did I care to ask [164-65]


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Last modified 6 December 2010