2 Feb. 1826

Letter 15


2 February 1826

Florence. 2nd Feby 1826.

My dear Severn,

Kirkup has not received any letter from Mr Wilmot since he left Italy, and does not know his address. His father is Sir Robert Wilmot,2 — but mind there are two of that name, and perhaps both of Derbyshire. You had better inquire at his banker’s in Rome; and if you can learn who his father’s banker is in London, it will be at any rate enough for the direction of a letter.

I have called on Mr Irving,3 who sendeth his best compliments unto you. His Rubens’ head he values at 150 Guineas, and is willing to part with it for that sum.

If I have in any way done wrong in a late arrangement of my household, or if any body accuses me of impropriety, you must answer for it. If I get mobbed or robbed, ill treated or cheated, no one but yourself is in fault. It is all owing to you. Heark’ee, and I’ll explain. About six months ago I saw a passage in one of your letters to Kirkup to the following effect: — "I hate to have a great he-fellow piddling about me, so I have a woman servant!"4 Now this preyed upon my mind exceedingly. What! thought I, then my dear friend Severn does not think it respectable for me to have a man servant! And then again it struck me that it was owing to this circumstance that you would not promise to come and see me in Florence. Thereupon I became greatly troubled in my conscience. In the midst of these, my sad reflections, Guiseppe (not you, but my man-servant,) grew lazy and inattentive to every thing except his own diversions abroad, till at last I gave him warning. About a month before that time, I ought to tell you, that Kirkup came home one evening, advising me to go to a certain Coffee house, where he had seen a most beautiful young creature, the wife of the waiter. Though I had a great opinion of his taste in beauty, I was either too modest or too idle to take his advice. In the mean time I was inquiring about the town for an honest and clever female servant. Many frights made their appearance. At last I had well nigh fixed on one of about five and forty, five feet ten inches high, and two feet from shoulder to shoulder, — such a "donnone!"5 Well, just in that nick of time who should come after the place but that very waiter’s wife! I listened to her gentle inquiries about one thing and another, and could not find it in my heart to contradict her, so that when she asked if she might come, I gave as kind an assent as I could. Kirkup sat by all the time, smiling and putting his finger by the side of his nose. The rogue, it must be confessed, cannot well be mistaken in his opinion of a pretty woman. She is about nineteen, and her husband is two and twenty. There is no harm in that, you will say; and he is going to Bologna, and there’s no harm in that either. This is the third day she has been in the house, and you can’t imagine how happy I am. Now don’t you put any evil constructions on this, especially as it is all your own doing, you sly, pimping, wicked fellow! And don’t suppose, because I say I’m happy, that I can possibly allude to any happiness but that of seeing a charming, delightful, lovely woman about me, — dressing Carlino or the dinner, or making the beds, or any thing else in her peculiar, winning way. All that I am concerned in is, and you alone are answerable for it, that the world, the vile world may pass censures on the purity of my conduct; which will be a grievous matter to a man of my kidney, for I am that sort of man that would not forfeit his reputation for virtue, chastity, and so forth, not for the best petticoat in the world. This assertion I trust I may be believed in, because what can my manhood do with a mere petticoat? Can I wear it? — No. Can I turn it up? — Yes, — but to what purpose? — what is an empty petticoat to me? By this time, I trust I have sufficiently explained myself to warrant you, as in duty bound, to contradict all calumnious reports against my moral character. I would add something about her shape, her air, her smile, her neat ancle, and very little foot, if it were not that I might create suspicion, and I can’t endure to be suspected. So now, you "great he-fellow", you may go — "piddle!"

Kirkup begs me to remind you of the thermometer.6 He has had a bad cold, and sleeps in the parlour. We were afraid it was attacking his lungs, but, thank God! there’s no danger of that now. Carlino has also been ill, and is so yet, with a cold and cough, but as I have driven every thing that might tend to inflamation out of his little body, I’m in hopes he’ll soon be well. How is your boy? and how often have I asked that question without an answer?7

Ever since the middle of last month to the last day of it, we have had the weather very cold, but very clear, — scarcely a cloud to be seen. This is something better than your account of dirty Rome. To-day it is raining for the first time, and all the cold is washed away. Remember me to all friends, and believe me

Your’s most truly,
           Chas Brown.

P. S. How is Teresa?

N. B. I’ve provided a model for you, when you come here painting, — better than any you can find in Rome, so you must come.


1 Above the salutation Sharp has penciled, "not used." Address: Al Ornatino Signore / Al Signor Giuseppe Severn, / Pittore Inglese, / No 22 Vicolo de’ Marroniti, / Roma. Postmarks: FIRENZE; 6 FEBRA{?}. [Return to the letter]

2 Sir Robert Wilmot (1765-1842), 3rd Bt., and his son, Henry Sacheverel Wilmot (1801-1872), 4th Bt., of Derbyshire. [Return to the letter]

3 Unidentified. [Return to the letter]

4 See 20 May 1824, n8. [Return to the letter]

5 Donnone: a big or strapping woman [Return to the letter]

6 See 22 Jan. 1826. [Return to the letter]

7 See 5 Nov. 1824, n17. [Return to the letter]

8 Severn’s servant, Teresa Bartolomei. [Return to the letter]