Item 10 - Letter from Seymour Stocker Kirkup to Robert Browning

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Letter from Seymour Stocker Kirkup to Robert Browning


  • 30 Jan. 1873 (Creation)

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1 folded sheet and envelope.

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Florence. 6 Lungarno Torrigiani. 1ᵒ pᵒ [primo piano]. Envelope addressed to Browning at 19 Warwick Crescent, Upper Westbourne Terrace, London. - Death of Miss Isabella Blagden; attended her funeral yesterday; she had been slightly unwell since her return from England this winter. She 'has not ceased to live, as Bibi [his daughter Imogen] and I know, for we have had tidings of her through Regina, whom you remember' [Kirkup was a spiritualist and believed that he remained in communication with his first wife Regina, who died in 1856].

Isabella Blagden is buried near Browning's wife, south of her monument, 'the most magnificent in the place'. Remembers that Browning was dissatisfied in some way with 'Mr Leighton's part in the erection' but not 'in what way it was imperfect'; assures Browning that 'its general effect is imposing'.

Further discussion of spirits: they are 'alive & kicking - that is, flying with their legs, as I have often dreamed - none of our spirits have wings. They are like my master Fuseli's angels, who float by Will, not by wings'. Has 'obtained four photographs of spirits, real ones, not artificial imitations, which wd have been perfectly impossible with my precautions'.

Has much to tell Browning but cannot write or read for long; has parted with his books, 'besides, thieves had begun to steal the most valuable'. Has had to leave his old house as his landlord wanted to live there and has 'altered it and spoiled it'; his new house is 'prettier' with a 'much finer prospect. I see the Cupola as I lie in bed'. Invites Browning to visit him before he moves in May to Leghorn [Livorno], on the instructions of Isacco [a spirit]. Bibi is as tall as Regina was; has had her legitimised 'at Regina's pressing request' and she is now a 'courtesy Baroness... all vanity!'

Asks how [Browning's son] 'Penino' is; also enquires after Robert Lytton, Henry Layard, 'the poet Wilberforce' and Frederick Locker. Asks who 'Mr Addington Symonds' is: he has sent Kirkup his book on Dante. Asks whether Miss [Fanny?] Haworth is married. Never sees the Landors: gives news of 'Carlino' [Charles], Walter, and Julia. [Thomas] Trollope has 'been obliged to sell his villa, books & every thing - he had married his daughter's governess'; believes they are all in England [in fact they had moved to Rome]. Florence is 'much changed & immensely increased - millions on millions spent in building when it was the capital'; now 'no English' there.

Signs off, but adds a long postscript: spiritualism ('Spirits are almost my only friends here'); does Browning see the Rossettis or Trelawny? Discusses Lady Westmorland and her family, and Lady William [Russell?]. Has received two copies of Forster's life of Landor; wonders if he can send one back. Hates the Florentines 'for their treatment of Dante's monuments'; asks if Browning has a copy of the Arundel Society reproduction of Kirkup's sketch.

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