Composition and date The last words of the poem appear at the top of the MS leaf which contains the draft of A Woman’s Last Word (see Appendix C, p. 888), in the form ‘I feel chilly & grown old’, underneath which is the date ‘Florence, Jan 15, ’53.’ As Michael Meredith argues (BSN xxvi [May 2000] 51) the notebook from which this leaf was torn probably contained drafts of poems on which B. was working, and the composition of A Toccata may therefore be dated with reasonable confidence to Jan. 1853. Its genesis, however, as with many of B.’s poems, may be earlier: there is a suggestive passage in a letter of EBB.’s written during the Brownings’ stay in Venice in May-June 1851, when they rented rooms in a Palazzo on the Grand Canal. Although it was EBB.’s first visit to the city, B. had stayed there before in 1838 during the writing of Sordello. Writing to her sister Arabella EBB. describes her rapture at being in a city she had dreamt of visiting: ‘I could be content to live out my life here. I never saw a place which I could be so glad to live a life in. It fitted my desires in a moment . . . Robert & I were sitting outside the caffé in the piazza of St Mark last night at nearly ten, taking our coffee & listening to music, & watching the soundless crowd drift backwards & forwards through that grand square, as if swept by the airs they were listening to. I say “soundless”—for the absence of carriage or horse removed all ordinary noises. You heard nothing but the music. It was a phantom-sight altogether’ (16 May 1851, EBB to Arabella i 376).