From 1849 to near the end, Bottesini's principle home, if any city could be called home by the peregrinacious virtuoso; In London he met the love of his life, Madame Fiorentini.

Bottesini was invited to London shortly after the death of Dragonetti, called away from his successful but wearying stint in Havana. He was clearly seen by the city's elite as Dragonetti's replacement. But Bottesini soon staked out his own place, easily eclipsing the earlier master. A telling exchange took place between Bottesini and a reviewer:

"We should have engaged you in the first place, not Signor Dragonetti," the reviewer opined.

Bottesini replied, "I was but four years old at the time. Would that have mattered?"

The remark was repeated for decades -- long after Bottesini's death -- often with other favored artisans taking his place in the anecdote.

Bottesini and Charles Dickens

Bottesini loved the work of Dickens, and made it his ambition to buy buildings mentioned in the novels. He squandered an enormous amount in speculative deals, and in the end briefly owned only two sites: A house on Smith Square where Jenny Wren, the crippled dolls' dressmaker in Our Mutual Friend, lodged; and Took's Court, where Mr. Snagsby in Bleak House practiced law.

It is not known whether Bottesini and Dickens ever met.

"We all must learn where to place our fingers."
© 1997, Jeff Brooks (