Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Photo courtesy of Noel Collection
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
by Elizabeth Barret Browning
"Sonnets from the
English poet of the romantic movement.
Browning was born on March 6, 1806, at Coxhoe Hall, Durham.
the wife of Robert Browning. She was the first of twelve
children born to Edward and Mary Barrett.
Elizabeth was the first in her family born in England in over
two hundred years. For centuries, the Barrett family, who were
part Creole, had lived in Jamaica, where they owned sugar plantations
and relied on slave labor. Privately educated.
By her twelfth year she had written her first "epic" poem, which
consisted of four books of rhyming couplets. Two years later,
Elizabeth developed a lung ailment that plagued her for the rest
of her life. Doctors began treating her with morphine, which she
would take until her death. While saddling a pony when she was
fifteen, Elizabeth also suffered a spinal injury. Despite her
ailments, her education continued to flourish. Throughout her
teenage years, Elizabeth taught herself Hebrew so that she could
read the Old Testament; her interests later turned to Greek studies.
Accompanying her appetite for the classics was a passionate
enthusiasm for her Christian faith. She became active in the Bible
and Missionary Societies of her church.
In 1826 Elizabeth anonymously published her collection An Essay on
Mind and Other Poems. Two years later, her mother passed away.
Due to mismanagement and the abolishing of slavery, Elizabeth's father
sold his rural estate at public auction. He moved his family to a
coastal town before settling permanently in London.
Elizabeth continued to live in her father's London house under his
tyrannical rule. He began sending Elizabeth's younger siblings to
Jamaica to help with the family's estates. Elizabeth bitterly
opposed slavery and did not want her siblings sent away. During this
time, she wrote The Seraphim and Other Poems (1838), expressing
Christian sentiments in the form of classical Greek tragedy.
Her first poems were published at 19, and other volumes
appeared in 1838 and 1844. Her translation of Prometheus Bound,
by the Greek dramatist Aeschylus, appeared in 1833. In 1844 she
produced a volume
of poems including "The Cry of the Children" and "Lady Geraldine’s
After the drowning death of her brother in the early 1840s,
Browning became a virtual recluse. She did not want to meet anyone
who did not belong to her close circle of friends, and she conducted
most of her friendships through letters.
In 1845 the poet Robert Browning began to write to
Elizabeth to praise her poetry.
The two met several months later and fell in love. They wrote to each
other daily. They exchanged 574 letters over the next twenty months.
The marriage was bitterly opposed by her father and in 1846,
the couple eloped and later settled in Florence, Italy, where Elizabeth
regained her health and gave birth to her son, Robert "Pen" Barrett Browning.
Her Sonnets from the
Portuguese, dedicated to her husband and written in secret before her
marriage, was published in 1850, her best-known work. ‘Portuguese’ was
her husband, Robert Browning's,
pet name for her.
Photo courtesy ofWikipedia.org
Critics generally consider the Sonnets, one of
the most widely known collections of love lyrics in English. She
expressed her intense sympathy with the struggle for
the unification of Italy in the collections of poems Casa Guidi
Windows and Poems Before Congress. Her longest and
most ambitious work is the didactic, romantic poem in blank verse
Aurora Leigh (1856), speculates with wit and
force on social responsibilities and the position of women, it
portrays male domination of a woman. In her poetry she also
addressed the oppression of the Italians by the Austrians,
the child labor mines and mills of England, and slavery, among
other social injustices. Although this decreased her popularity,
Elizabeth was heard and recognized around Europe.
lifetime she was criticized for her progressive social ideas and her
audacious metrical experiments. In her later years she developed an
interest in spiritualism, and also in Italian politics.
"How do I love thee, let me count the ways."the most well known
line from any of her works
(Sonnets from the Portuguese 43).
Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in Florence on June 29, 1861.
My Heart and I
The Cry of the Children
Meeting at Night
To view more of Elizabeth Barrett Brownings's poems:
Famous Poets and Poems
Representative Poetry On-line
Some more of her poems includes:
A Child Asleep, A Curse For A Nation, A Dead Rose, A Man's Requirements, A Musical Instrument,
A Sea-Side Walk, A Thought For A Lonely Death-Bed, A Woman's Shortcomings,
A Year's Spinning, Adequacy, An Apprehension, Bianca Among The Nightingales,
Change Upon Change, Cheerfulness Taught By Reason, Chorus of Eden Spirits
Comfort, Consolation, Discontent, Exaggeration, Futurity, Grief,
Insufficiency, Irreparableness, Lord Walter's Wife,
Minstrelsy, Mother and Poet, Only a Curl, Pain In Pleasure, Past And Future, Patience
Taught By Nature, Perplexed Music, Rosalind's Scroll, Sonnet 1-44,
Substitution, Tears, The Autumn, The Best Thing In The World,
The Deserted Garden, The House Of Clouds, The
Lady's Yes, The Landing Of The Pilgrim Fathers, The Landing of the
Pilgrim Fathers, The Look, The Meaning Of The Look, The Poet And
The Bird, The Prisoner, The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point, The Seraph and Poet,
The Soul's Expression, The
Two Sayings, The Weakest Thing, To Flush,
My Dog, To George Sand: A Desire, To George Sand: A Recognition,
Work And Contemplation
[Poet's Corner Index]
Reference, Research and Source Information
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