Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1809 – 1861)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1809-1861)

Mrs Browning was born in London, England, in 1809, and she died at Casa Guidi, Florence, June 29, 1861.

Her father, Mr. Barrett, was an English country gentleman. Possessing some means, he helped his daughter to acquire an excellent classical education; and, possessing considerable ability, he became, as she says, her public and her critic.

“Her studies were early directed to the poets of antiquity, and, under the guidance of her blind tutor, Boyle, whose name she always warmly cherished, she mastered the rich treasures of AEschylus. The sublime Grecian possessed for her a charm which was only equaled by the fascination held over her wondering spirit by Shakespeare.” While she was profoundly versed in Greek literature, and intimately acquainted with all the Attic writers in tragedy and comedy, she was thoroughly versed in pure and undefiled English. In her extensive correspondence with contemporaries, she shows a thorough knowledge of English literature, from Chaucer to her own time.

Physically she was very delicate, but nature made up for her fragile frame by giving her a superior mental and spiritual organization. Miss Mitford, her intimate friend, describes her as a “slight, delicate figure, with a shower of dark curls falling on each side of a most expressive face, large tender eyes, richly fringed by dark eyelashes, and a smile like a sunbeam.” Such, in brief, is a description of the attainments and person of the lady who, according to E. C. Stedman, was not only “the greatest female poet that England has produced, but more than this, the most inspired woman so far as known, of all who have composed in ancient or modern tongues or flourished in any land or clime.”

Almost before her childhood had passed, she showed remarkable preferences for the arts, but especially for the poetic art. Some of her poems written before she was fifteen, show strong marks of genius, and are worthy of preservation. Her first publication was an “Essay on Mind, and other Poems.” This, it is said, was written in her seventeenth year. In 1833 appeared her excellent translation of “Prometheus;” 1838, her second volume of original poetry, “The Seraphim, and other poems;” and in 1839, “The Romance of the Page.”

While thus busily engaged in her work, she met with a personal calamity. A blood-vessel burst in her lungs, which forced her to remain at home close confinement for some time. At length her physician ordered that she be removed to a milder climate. In company with friends she went to reside at Torquay. At that place an accident occurred which saddened her life, and gave a deeper hue of thought and feeling to her poetry. Her favorite brother and two friends were taking a pleasure ride on a small vessel when the boat sank, and all on board were drowned. The shock caused a severe sickness, from which she never entirely recovered. It was a year before she was able to be removed to her father’s house in London. For many years she remained in a darkened chamber, and received no visitors except her own family and a few devoted friends. While thus secluded from the outward world, she read extensively the valuable books in almost every language.

In 1844 she came forth from her seclusion in two volumes of “Poems by Elizabeth Barrett.” The melancholy thought showed traces of the sadness of much of her former life.

In 1846, her thirty-seventh year, she was married to Robert Browning, noted English poet. In hopes of finding health, Mr. Browning removed to Italy. His wish was gratified, for under the sunny skies of Florence, his wife found the health which had forsaken her in her native land. In her adopted home she remained till her death.

The revolutionary outbreak in 1848, furnished the theme for her next work. “Casa Guidi Windows” is a poem relating to the impressions that were made upon her mind by the events which she saw from the windows of her house in Florence. It shows great warmth of feeling for the Italians. In 1856 “Aurora Leigh” was published. This is a novel in blank verse, which the poetess declared to be her most mature work. While the poem is full of splendid passages, yet as a whole it is not considered satisfactory. It contains a prodigality of genius, with discordant mixture of material. Notwithstanding the lack of unity, which is so essential for a poem of such magnitude, a large number of critics consider “Aurora Leigh” the chief source of Mrs. Browning’s fame. But perhaps an equal number look upon “Casa Guidi Windows” as “containing her ripest growth and greatest intellectual strength.” Indeed the circumstances under which this poem was written, were such as to call out her best efforts. She was looking from her window, and beholding the Italians struggling for freedom. Being in full sympathy with them, her utterances were in accordance with her heart–they were lavish and unrestrained. In 1860 appeared her last publication, “Poems Before Congress,” which evinced her deep interest in the people of Italy. She died in the following year, and a marble tablet in front of the villa of the Brownings records that in it wrote and died Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who, by he songs, created a golden link between Italy and England, and that in gratitude Florence had erected that memorial.
Last Poems,” published in 1862, contained the literary remains of the priestess of English poetry.

Some of her poems are especially admired. “Cowper’s Grave,” “The Cry of the Children,” “A Child Asleep,” and “He Giveth His Beloved Sleep,” are jewels that shine with the brilliancy of the sun.

Her genius was perhaps as great as that of any poet of her generation, but circumstances retarded its highest possible development. In certain intellectual qualities she was inferior to Tennyson, and the author of “Sordello”, but in others she was their superior. Be her exact niche, however, what it may, she occupies a favored place in English literature, and is undoubtedly one of the few leading poets of the nineteenth century. Her poetry is that which refines, chastens, and elevates.

Biography By: 19th Century Poets

Poems By Elizabeth Barrett Browning


A Child Asleep (No Comments »)
A Curse For A Nation (No Comments »)
A Dead Rose (No Comments »)
A Man’s Requirements (No Comments »)
A Musical Instrument (No Comments »)
A Sea-Side Walk (No Comments »)
A Thought For A Lonely Death-Bed (No Comments »)
A Woman’s Shortcomings (No Comments »)
A Year’s Spinning (No Comments »)
Adequacy (No Comments »)
An Apprehension (No Comments »)
Aurora Leigh (excerpts) (No Comments »)
Bianca Among The Nightingales (No Comments »)
Change Upon Change (No Comments »)
Cheerfulness Taught By Reason (No Comments »)
Chorus of Eden Spirits (No Comments »)
Comfort (No Comments »)
Consolation (No Comments »)
De Profundis (No Comments »)
Discontent (No Comments »)
Exaggeration (No Comments »)
From ‘The Soul’s Travelling’ (No Comments »)
Futurity (No Comments »)
Grief (No Comments »)
Human Life’s Mystery (No Comments »)
I (No Comments »)
II (No Comments »)
III (No Comments »)
Insufficiency (No Comments »)
Irreparableness (No Comments »)
IV (No Comments »)
IX (No Comments »)
Lord Walter’s Wife (No Comments »)
Minstrelsy (No Comments »)
Mother and Poet (No Comments »)
My Heart and I (No Comments »)
On A Portrait Of Wordsworth (No Comments »)
Only a Curl (No Comments »)
Pain In Pleasure (No Comments »)
Past And Future (No Comments »)
Patience Taught By Nature (No Comments »)
Perplexed Music (No Comments »)
Rosalind’s Scroll (No Comments »)
Substitution (No Comments »)
Tears (No Comments »)
The Autumn (No Comments »)
The Cry Of The Children (No Comments »)
The Deserted Garden (No Comments »)
The House Of Clouds (No Comments »)
The Lady’s Yes (No Comments »)
The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers (No Comments »)
The Look (No Comments »)
The Meaning Of The Look (No Comments »)
The Poet And The Bird (No Comments »)
The Prisoner (No Comments »)
The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point (No Comments »)
The Seraph and Poet (No Comments »)
The Seraph and the Poet (No Comments »)
The Soul’s Expression (No Comments »)
The Two Sayings (No Comments »)
The Weakest Thing (No Comments »)
To Flush, My Dog (No Comments »)
To George Sand: A Desire (No Comments »)
To George Sand: A Recognition (No Comments »)
Work And Contemplation (No Comments »)

Sonnets from the Portuguese

Sonnet 01 – I thought once how Theocritus had sung (No Comments »)
Sonnet 02 – But only three in all God’s universe (No Comments »)
Sonnet 03 – Unlike are we, unlike, O princely Heart! (No Comments »)
Sonnet 04 – Thou hast thy calling to some palace-floor (No Comments »)
Sonnet 05 – I lift my heavy heart up solemnly (No Comments »)
Sonnet 06 – Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand (No Comments »)
Sonnet 07 – The face of all the world is changed, I think (No Comments »)
Sonnet 08 – What can I give thee back, O liberal (No Comments »)
Sonnet 09 – Can it be right to give what I can give? (No Comments »)
Sonnet 10 – Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful indeed (No Comments »)
Sonnet 11 – And therefore if to love can be desert (No Comments »)
Sonnet 12 – Indeed this very love which is my boast (No Comments »)
Sonnet 13 – And wilt thou have me fashion into speech (No Comments »)
Sonnet 14 – If thou must love me, let it be for nought (No Comments »)
Sonnet 15 – Accuse me not, beseech thee, that I wear (No Comments »)
Sonnet 16 – And yet, because thou overcomest so (No Comments »)
Sonnet 17 – My poet, thou canst touch on all the notes (No Comments »)
Sonnet 18 – I never gave a lock of hair away (No Comments »)
Sonnet 19 – The soul’s Rialto hath its merchandise (No Comments »)
Sonnet 20 – Beloved, my Beloved, when I think (No Comments »)
Sonnet 21 – Say over again, and yet once over again (No Comments »)
Sonnet 22 – When our two souls stand up erect and strong (No Comments »)
Sonnet 23 – Is it indeed so? If I lay here dead (No Comments »)
Sonnet 24 – Let the world’s sharpness, like a clasping knife (No Comments »)
Sonnet 25 – A heavy heart, Beloved, have I borne (No Comments »)
Sonnet 26 – I lived with visions for my company (No Comments »)
Sonnet 27 – My own Beloved, who hast lifted me (No Comments »)
Sonnet 28 – My letters! all dead paper, mute and white! (No Comments »)
Sonnet 29 – I think of thee!—my thoughts do twine and bud (No Comments »)
Sonnet 30 – I see thine image through my tears to-night (No Comments »)
Sonnet 31 – Thou comest! all is said without a word (No Comments »)
Sonnet 32 – The first time that the sun rose on thine oath (No Comments »)
Sonnet 33 – Yes, call me by my pet-name! let me hear (No Comments »)
Sonnet 34 – With the same heart, I said, I’ll answer thee (No Comments »)
Sonnet 35 – If I leave all for thee, wilt thou exchange (No Comments »)
Sonnet 36 – When we met first and loved, I did not build (No Comments »)
Sonnet 37 – Pardon, oh, pardon, that my soul should make (No Comments »)
Sonnet 38 – First time he kissed me, he but only kissed (No Comments »)
Sonnet 39 – Because thou hast the power and own’st the grace (No Comments »)
Sonnet 40 – Oh, yes! they love through all this world of ours! (No Comments »)
Sonnet 41 – I thank all who have loved me in their hearts (No Comments »)
Sonnet 42 – ‘My future will not copy fair my past’ (No Comments »)
Sonnet 43 – How do I love thee? Let me count the ways (No Comments »)
Sonnet 44 – Beloved, thou hast brought me many flowers (No Comments »)

The Complete Poetical Works of Mrs. Browning

The Best Thing In The World (No Comments »)