Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Horatio F. Brown

Mentioned below, Horatio F. Brown was at the very centre of literary life in Venice in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In many ways he seems a peripheral figure but once begins to dig around one finds him making connections between all kinds much better remembered people today. He was a boy at Clifton College when John Addington Symonds gave his lectures on Greek literature and culture and was one of the group of boys who became intimate with Symonds and the friendship continued until Symond's death, after which HFB became Symonds' biographer and literary executor.

He was an long time friend of such diverse figures as Lord Roseberry (Prime Minister), Henry Scott Tuke, and Robert Louis Stevenson. In fact Stevenson wrote (at least one) poem for Brown. In Venice Brown held regular 'at homes' in Venice and entertained all the visiting English. He aso appears regularly in the diary of Lady Layard - one of the most complete records of ex-patriate life in Venice of that period.

Brown was also a discreet (closeted might be a little unfair) homosexual who wrote a volume of poetry on the beauty of youth and who installed his gondolier and the gondolier's family in his Venice home along with Brown's own mother.

I've been looking for a medium-long term project for some time which would enable me to bring together my interested in Victorian queers in a way which would contribute something new to the available knowledge and I think I may have found it in Brown. My aim is to write at least a monograph (if not a biography depending on how much material I can find) and in the hunt for such I came across the most unlikely item the other day. A menu for the 60th Anniversary run of "The Great Western" in 1964 with, on the back, a poem by HFB.

So! I chall never see you more,
You mighty lord of railway-roar;
The splendid stroke of driving-wheel,
The burnished brass, the shining steel,
Triumphant pride of him who drives
From Paddington to far St Ives.
Another year, and then your place
Knows you no more; a pigmy-race
Usurps the glroy of the road,
And trails along a lesser load.
Drive on then, engine, drive amain,
Weap me, like love, yet once again
A follower in your fiery train.

Drive on! and driving, let me know
The golden West, its warmth, its glow.
Pass Thames with all his winding maze;
Sweet Clifton dreaming in a haze;
And, father yet, pass Taunton Vale,
and Dawlish rocks, and Teignmouth sail,
And Totnes, where the dancing Dart
Comes seaward with a gladsome heart;
Then let me feel the wind blow free
From levels of the Cornish sea.

Horatio F Brown. May 1901.

PS. Will, I would love to email you but I can't find your email address anywhere. Do drop me a line using the email link to the right hand side of this page. And Norah, thanks so much for being in touch about the cover of The Einstein Intersection, likewise I'd be delighted if you'd like to drop me a line via the email link.

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