- 7 Mar 1896
Hôtel Floresta, Taormina [headed notepaper]:- Will return to England at the end of the month: would like to join some friends - Marsh, Barran, and Childers - and possibly Charlie, who are going for a few days’ walking tour in Yorkshire. May stop a day or two at Rome, but does not mean to stay anywhere long. Was ‘very glad to learn that C[harlie] had been coopted’ - understands that he has not been elected ‘by a constituency. It shows that they must think a lot of him’. Met an ‘acquaintance’ of Charlie’s the other day, a Miss [Lena] Milman, who writes and translates Dostoevsky; she met Charlie at Lord Crewe’s, and ‘chiefly remembers him as an enthusiast for Jane Austen’. Supposes Georgie will be back [from Madeira] around the same time he returns, having been ‘further afield in this “grand terraqueous spectacle” [Wordsworth] than any of the family than Papa’, since he does not remember their mother having ‘ever ventured beyond Naples or Vienna’.
The Italians ‘have had a terrible disaster [the great defeat by the Ethiopians at Adwa] and there is some talk of the throne having received a dangerous jar’: it is too soon to tell, but certainly many Italians ‘especially in the North are republicans at heart’; Crispi [the Prime Minister] has resigned. Hopes ‘Uncle Sam will stick to his guns about Cuba. That will be so much better than having a senseless shindy with us’. Is ‘anxious’ to hear how the news sounds to her in England: ‘out here they are mere shadows of events, for it is only when history can be talked about and over hauled in conversation that it becomes real’.
The weather has not always been brilliant, though they ‘have not been siroccoed for a week on end again’; is finding it ‘very easy to catch a chill’, as nights can be cold and ‘there are no such things as fires’; still, it is easy to get rid of chills, and he is ‘keeping quite well’. Has discovered something ‘about Papist priests. They dispense with fasting when at an hotel, because table d’hôte does not provide them with a sufficiency of good fish and vegetables’. Also, they are ‘passing fond of Madeira’. Is ‘quite priest-ridden’, though the two in his hotel are ‘the only two of any intelligence and conversation’, and he is ‘deadly sick of watching “The fat and greasy citizens sweep in / To sate their sordid souls at table-d’hôte”’. This is a quotation from ‘a sonnet built out of quotations’ which he and Bertram ‘architected for the Westminster two years ago on the Wengen (?) Alp’.