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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Friday, 10 May 2013

Under the weather in Florence

Tuesday, May 10th., Pension White, Florence.

We ought all to have gone to Vallombrosa today but were prevented by the weather. Moreover Pauline is ill again, and under the doctor.

Sunday afternoon Marguerite and I went to Boboli Gardens. It was too chilly for elaborate sketching. We met Jowett in the Gardens, and with him savoured the sculptures and the vistas. Then we all three went to the Piazza V. Emanuele, and drank, and listened to 'Zampa' and such things. Heavy sky, but swifts flying high. The Square was a great party of families.

The Boboli Gardens, behind the Pitti Palace, the main seat of the Medici grand dukes of Tuscany at Florence, are some of the first and most familiar formal 16th century Italian gardens. The mid-16th century garden style, as it was developed here, incorporated longer axial developments, wide gravel avenues, a considerable "built" element of stone, the lavish employment of statuary and fountains, and a proliferation of detail, coordinated in semi-private and public spaces that were informed by classical accents. The openness of the gardens, with an expansive view of the city, was unconventional for its time. The gardens were very lavish, considering no access was allowed outside the immediate Medici family, and no entertainment or parties ever took place in the gardens.

Yesterday & this morning I wrote 3,600 words of "Clayhanger".

Most of the women are wearing half mourning in this hotel. This is because we received the news on Saturday of the death of the King. The moved silence in which it was received in the coffee-room was most remarkable. One middle-aged man had apparently some difficulty in not crying. Gaiety however is now unchecked, though many people are ill. I think that one of the things that have struck me in Florence & Brighton is the unpleasant expressions, & the ungainliness of the Anglo-Saxon women; their extraordinary unattractiveness. I saw three middle-aged American women meet & greet each other this morning, and the sight & sound were rather trying. (It is true I am slightly unwell.) What looks, what gestures, and what voices! But then I often feel that I myself, when alone, go about with a fixed unpleasing expression of disgust. I don't know why.

King Edward VII usually smoked twenty cigarettes and twelve cigars a day. Towards the end of his life he increasingly suffered from bronchitis. In March 1910, the King was staying at Biarritz when he collapsed. He remained there to convalesce, while in London Asquith tried to get the Finance Bill passed. The King's continued ill health was unreported and he attracted criticism for staying in France whilst political tensions were so high. On 27 April he returned to Buckingham Palace, still suffering from severe bronchitis. Alexandra returned from visiting her brother, King George I of Greece, in Corfu a week later on 5 May. The following day, the King suffered several heart attacks, but refused to go to bed saying, "No, I shall not give in; I shall go on; I shall work to the end." Between moments of faintness, the Prince of Wales (shortly to be King George V) told him that his horse, Witch of the Air, had won at Kempton Park that afternoon. The King replied, "I am very glad": his final words. At 11:30 pm he lost consciousness for the last time and was put to bed. He died 15 minutes later.

Yesterday morning Mr. Mock, Marguerite & I went up to S. Miniato again, and I finished my pastel.

In the evening we went to the Teatro Verdi, and saw two acts of Suppe's "Boccaccio". The house was not a sixth full. We have never seen this theatre even half full. It must be a sort of Chat Moss for burying money. The first act of "Boccaccio" was amusing (3 encores for a comic trio, & the audience would have the third one, stopping the performance & defeating the conductor in order to get it). But we got tired of not understanding in the second act. The music was really much better than I expected. It always had a certain vague distinction. Rain all the evening.

This morning, being desoriente, I went to the Pitti. In the main it left me cold. It is an unpleasant & difficult place in which to see pictures, & quite half the pictures are n.g. Crowds of people in the place.

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