Impromptus and a Reading

  • Felix Moscheles


How rapidly his mind worked I had occasional opportunities of witnessing. He would let us give him a number of rhymes, perhaps twenty or thirty, to be embodied in an impromptu poem. This he would read to us just once, and, as he spoke the last words, he would ruthlessly tear it up into small fragments and scatter them to the winds.1 Nothing would induce him to stay his iconoclastic hand, and on such occasions it only remained for me to regret that I was not some sensitive plate, some uncanny Edisonian Poetophone, to preserve the spontaneous creation of his mind.


  1. 3.
    Henry James recorded some very different impressions of Browning as a reader: he read his poems as if he didn’t himself understand them, ‘as if he hated them and would like to bite them to pieces’ (letter to Grace Norton, 26 July 1880, in Letters, ed. Leon Edel, vol. 2 1875–83 (London, 1975), p. 302. Other witnesses, however, do seem to have been as impressed and enlightened as Moscheles (see pp. 149, 157).Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

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  • Felix Moscheles

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