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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.

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‘Ring of Gold’ 13/02/2011

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c. 1905

To the men and women of the Anglo-Saxon race Florence is rich in reminiscences, for so many English and American men of art and letters have made it their second home. At San Domenico there stands the fine villa in which Walter Savage Landor wrote and died. The great Medici villa at Careggi will remind them not only of Lorenzo the Magnificent, but also of G. F. Watts and the brilliant band that surrounded him in his youthful days when he worked in Florence. The heights of Bellosguardo speak of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and a prosaic house in the town was once the home of Anthony Trollope, while in some one of these streets, down which the people pass with hurrying feet, Charles Lever wrote his cheery tales. But of all the famous men and women who of late years knew and loved Florence, there are two whose names will be for ever linked with hers – Robert and Elizabeth Browning, whose home was the Casa Guidi, from the windows of which Mrs. Browning watched the stir and stress of the early days of Italian liberty. Above the dark doorway, through which her slight form must so often have flitted, the passer-by may read the graceful tribute that the Italian poet, Tommaseo, has offered to the genius of his English sister. ‘QUI SCRISSE E MORI E. B. BROWNING Che . . . fece del suo verso aureo anello fra Italia e Inghilterra.’ Thy rare gold ring of verse (the Poet praised), Linking our England to his Italy.