BROWNING, Robert (1812-89). Series of thirteen autograph letters signed (two with initials) and one note, to Mrs Louis Jay, 19 Warwick Crescent, London; Lans, près Grenoble; Albergo dell'Universo, Venice, 1872-83 and n.d., approximately 30 pages, 8vo with six autograph envelopes, and one autograph letter signed by Robert Barrett Browning ('Pen')
Mrs Jay was referred to by Browning as the 'American Friend' and his letters to her are lively and affectionate. In a letter of 30 April 1872, he tells her, 'I am in the throes of writing the very last of my poem [Fifine at the Fair, a defence of inconstancy in love, published in 1872], which is two thirds & a bit in print'. He assures her that 'If I were not pulled conflicting ways... I would assuredly cast all my cares over one shoulder, a knapsack over the other, and go fairly off & walk my legs away in attendance of the pleasantest kind on the "American Friend" - nay, but the cosmopolitan friend & better, - that I am in no fear of "forgetting", I assure her.'
Browning gives her advice on translations of Virgil and recommends that of Professor Conington ('I never did read a translation of Virgil, but... would prefer a stark-naked word-for-word prose translation'). He thanks her for a letter received when he was staying at Lans, ('this out-of-the-way hamlet where I and my sister have spent nearly five weeks absolutely alone with the peasants and their flocks and herds') and describes the portrait of himself painted by Pen [his son] and suggests that if her friend Mrs Moore 'likes to confer an inestimable benefit on the U.S.A. she may buy it'.
Browning describes the musical scene in London (Richter and Rubinstein) but refuses the offer of a box at the opera ('don't... tempt me to attitudes unbecoming to the "likes of me", as our house-maids say'). He also sends stories likely to amuse her including an incident which occurred in London on a very hot day, 'a young lady stripped herself stark and jumped into the Serpentine among the three hundred male bathers.'
Mrs Jay appears to have led a peripatetic existence in Europe, her addresses including Blendon Hall at Bexley, London, Paris and Frankfurt-am-Main. In Paris she sat to Pen Browning for a portrait bust. Not recorded in Kelley & Hudson, The Brownings' Correspondence: A Checklist, 1978.