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International Florence in 1864 17/04/2011

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c. 1910 from the writings of Alfred Austin

There may have been fewer English residents in Florence in 1864 than there are now, but they were more noteworthy, more distinct personalities, and exercised more social influence among a people that, like the Florentines, are not prone to be lavishly hospitable. I had brought four or five letters of introduction with me, and, as a newly-arrived young bachelor, I was accorded a welcome much in excess of my merits. Charles Lever and his family; Thomas Adolphus Trollope, his delicate, gifted, and charming wife, and their little girl Bice; Charles Fuller, the sculptor, and Mrs. Fuller, a delightful musician with a fine and highly-trained voice; Mde. Laussot, who afterwards married Karl Hillebrand, an accomplished master of three languages; Isa Blagden; George Maquay and his charming American bride; Messrs. French, the bankers; ‘Old Kirkup’, as he was invariably called; Lady Orford and her two young daughters; Pulszki, the Hungarian patriot and exile, himself one of the most accomplished of men, with a singularly interesting family and social circle; Bakounin, the Russian Nihilist, and his fair young Polish wife; Sir George and Lady Otway – these and others of less note more than satisfied my readiness to avail myself of friendly intercourse.

Alfred Austin from A Letter from Italy 04/04/2011

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Verse six of Alfred Austin’s A Letter from Italy, published in Lyrical Poems 1891

How looked Florence? Fair as when

Beatrice was only ten:

Nowise altered, just the same

Marble city, mountain frame,

Turbid river, cloudless sky,

As in days when you and I

Roamed its sunny streets, apart.

Ignorant of each other’s heart.

Little knowing that our feet

Slow were moving on to meet,

And that we should find, at last

Kindship in a common past.

But a shadow falls athwart

All her beauty, all her art

For alas! I vainly seek

Outstretched hand and kindling cheek.

Such as, in the bygone days.

Sweetened, sanctified her ways.

When, as evening belfries chime,

I to Bellosguardo climb.

Vaguely thinking there to find

Faces that still haunt my mind,

Though the doors stand open wide,

No one waits for me inside;

Not a voice comes forth to greet,

As of old, my nearing feet.

So I stand without, and stare.

Wishing you were here to share

Void too vast alone to bear.

To Ricorboli I wend:

But where now the dear old friend,

Heart as open as his gate.

Song, and jest, and simple state?

They who loved me all are fled;

Some are gone, and some are dead.

So, though young and lovely be

Florence still, it feels to me,

Thinking of the days that were.

Like a marble sepulchre.