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Summary Article: Browning, Elizabeth (Moulton) Barrett (1806–1861)
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English poet. In 1844 she published Poems (including ‘The Cry of the Children’), which led to her friendship with and secret marriage to Robert Browning in 1846. She wrote Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850), a collection of love lyrics, during their courtship. She wrote strong verse about social injustice and oppression in Victorian England, and she was a learned, fiery, and metrically experimental poet.

Elizabeth Barrett was born near Durham. Her early years were spent in Herefordshire, but later, after a financial setback, the family lived in London. She suffered illness as a child, led a sheltered and restricted life, and was from the age of 13 regarded by her father as an invalid. In this cramped atmosphere her chief interests were literary. A brief stay in Torquay, Devon, with her brother Edward ended with his death by drowning in 1840. With the appearance of Poems (1844), her reputation was established. She was freed from her father's oppressive influence by her marriage to Robert Browning and moved to Italy in 1846. The couple settled in Florence, where their son Robert was born in 1849. Her health improved and she produced her mature works, including a new and greatly enlarged edition of her Poems (1850), containing the Sonnets from the Portuguese. They are probably her best work, and their beauty of sentiment and musical phrasing is undeniable. She died in Florence, and a volume of Last Poems was issued in 1862.

Her The Battle of Marathon was privately printed in 1820. Her translation of Aeschylus' drama Prometheus Bound was published in 1833 and The Seraphim in 1838; she also contributed to the Athenaeum and other periodicals.

Casa Guidi Windows (1851) reflects her eager response to the qualities of Italian life, and her sympathy with the aims of Italian patriotism. Aurora Leigh (1857) is a sociological romance or verse novel, an interesting departure from the lyricism of nearly all her previous work, and today is regarded as a feminist work. Her husband's influence is discernible in this and in Poems before Congress (1860).

quotations

Browning, Elizabeth (Moulton) Barrett

documents

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett: ‘How Do I Love Thee?’

weblinks

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: An Overview

Selected Poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)

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Browning, Elizabeth Barrett

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Barrett Browning Sonnets from the Portuguese

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