This for long was the home of Robert Browning, and here, as a tablet on the side wall states, he died. “Browning, Browning,” exclaim the gondoliers as they point to it; but what the word means to them I cannot say.
THE GRAND CANAL. II: BROWNING AND WAGNER
The Palazzo Rezzonico—Mr. and Mrs. Browning—Browning’s Venetian routine—In praise of Goldoni—Browning’s death—A funeral service—Love of Italy—The Giustiniani family—A last resource—Wagner in Venice—Tristan und Isolde—Plays and Music—The Austrians in power—The gondoliers’ chorus—The Foscari Palace.
The Rezzonico palace and one of the Giustiniani palaces which are its neighbours have such interesting artistic associations that they demand a chapter to themselves.
Browning is more intimately associated with Florence and Asolo than with Venice; but he enjoyed his later Venetian days to the full. His first visit here in 1851, with his wife, was however marred by illness. Mrs. Browning loved the city, as her letters tell. “I have been,” she wrote, “between heaven and earth since our arrival at Venice. The heaven of it is ineffable. Never had I touched the skirts of so celestial a place. The beauty of the architecture, the silver trails of water up between all that gorgeous colour and carving, the enchanting silence, the moonlight, the music, the gondolas—I mix it all up together, and maintain that nothing is like it, nothing equal to it, not a second Venice in the world.”
Browning left Florence for ever after his wife’s death, and to Venice he came again in 1878, with his sister, and thereafter for some years they returned regularly. Until 1881 their home was at the Brandolin Rota. After that they stayed with Mrs. Arthur Bronson, to whom he dedicated Asolando, his last book, and who has written a record of his habits in the city of the sea. She tells us that he delighted in walking and was a great frequenter of old curiosity shops. His especial triumph was to discover a calle so narrow that he could not put up an umbrella in it. Every morning he visited the Giardini Pubblici to feed certain of the animals; and on every disengaged afternoon he went over to the Lido, to walk there, or, as Byron had done, to ride. On being asked by his gondolier where he would like to be rowed, he always said, “Towards the Lido,” and after his failure to acquire the Palazzo Manzoni he thought seriously for a while of buying an unfinished Lido villa which had been begun for Victor Emmanuel. Browning’s desire was to see sunsets from it.