The head of Rembrandt in his youth, painted by himself, in the Pitti (not either of those in the Uffizi) is perhaps the most beautiful of his many self-painted portraits. None, certainly, in the Rembrandt Exhibition at Burlington House this winter came near to it for beauty, in my humble opinion.

There is also an unusual portrait of Charles I. and Henrietta Maria, painted together in one frame, divided only by the twisted column of an Italian window. I have never before seen a double portrait treated in quite the same way. It is Van Dyke at his best - so finished, so refined! Perhaps he took extra pains, knowing it was going to the young Queen's Medicean relations, in the then far-away beautiful Florence.

I find I am doing exactly what I meant not to do, and must stop noticing pictures, as any guidebook describes all the best pictures quite enough.

I found a treasure in one of the smaller rooms at the Pitti which Mr. Hare, at any rate, does not mention. It was the most remarkable piece of furniture from some points of view I think I ever saw in my life, though perhaps many would call it unartistic. Historically, it is interesting from the religious attitude it represents. It was a large cabinet on a raised stand. It belonged to Cardinal Leopoldo dei Medici, and was placed in his dressing-room. One side of it, when the doors were opened, acted as an altar, with a delicately-carved crucifix in a recess, before which the Cardinal could say Mass. On the other side the doors opened on to an elaborate toilet table of a most luxurious kind, with looking-glasses and every other appliance. The whole piece of furniture contained a number of small drawers, many of them secret. The black wood of which it was made was highly polished and a beautiful specimen of cabinet work. The whole was richly inlaid, outside and in, with various marbles, stones, and alabasters of different colours and sizes. The veinings and colourings of these were used and adapted as the landscape backgrounds of wonderfully delicate little oil paintings, representing almost the whole of the Bible stories, both Old and New Testament. It requires hours to see this cabinet properly, and among all the treasures in this wonder palace it is, perhaps, the object that gives one the greatest idea of the wealth and luxury of that God-and-Mammon period that can possibly be seen. It is supposed to have been made in Germany and painted by Breughel. Some paintings on wood, using the graining of the wood as suggestive of the landscapes, are the only attempts I have seen in modern art to carry out this idea of Breughel's paintings on stones. The natural markings of the wood give great variety to the composition of the landscape. This is very much increased by the varied materials used for the decoration of this marvellous cabinet.

Of course I re-read 'Romola'; everyone does and ought, as being in the atmosphere of Florence extraordinarily increases the enjoyment of what is in many ways a very wonderful book, full of fine things and passionately sympathetic with women's trials.

In a very old notebook of mine I find the following sentence. I have no idea by whom it was written; but it so exactly describes why certain books, and indeed certain people, appeal to me when others that are in many respects better leave me cold and indifferent, that I repeat it now in my old age, agreeing with it as I did at twenty:

'We readily overlook all that is tasteless and ignorant for the sake of that power which, in reminding us of the misery of the world, translates it into something softening, elevating, uniting. We should fully allow that some immortal work and a great deal of the most popular work is almost entirely without the feeling. There is scarcely a touch of it in Homer; there is not a touch of it in many a novel much sought for at the libraries. But to us it appears one of the greatest gifts of the writer of fiction. It is not that we desire to be always comtemplating the misery of the world; when we take up a novel we often desire to forget it. But an author who does not know it cannot make us forget it; and a writer who is to deliver us from its oppressive forms must be able to translate the manifold troubles of life, with all their bewildering entanglement, their distracting pettiness, into something that releases such tears as the foreign slaves shed on Hector's bier. "Their woes their own, a hero's death the plea."'

No modern novelist that I know does this better than George Eliot.

In Florence, with the sky and the sunshine and the whole mind in a receptive condition, no effort was necessary fully to appreciate 'Romola.' What a difference that does make! Beading some books at unfavourable times is as great an injustice towards the author as looking at pictures, no matter how beautiful, in the dark.