Elizabeth Barrett Browning

woman and poet

Died aged 55

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (née Moulton-Barrett; 6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861) was an English poet of the Victorian era, popular in Britain and the United States during her lifetime. Born in County Durham, the eldest of 12 children, Elizabeth Barrett wrote poetry from the age of eleven. Her mother's collection of her poems forms one of the largest extant collections of juvenilia by any English writer. At 15, she became ill, suffering intense head and spinal pain for the rest of her life. Later in life, she also developed lung problems, possibly tuberculosis. She took laudanum for the pain from an early age, which is likely to have contributed to her frail health. In the 1840s, Elizabeth was introduced to literary society through her distant cousin and patron John Kenyon. Her first adult collection of poems was published in 1838, and she wrote prolifically between 1841 and 1844, producing poetry, translation, and prose. She campaigned for the abolition of slavery, and her work helped influence reform in the child labour legislation. Her prolific output made her a rival to Tennyson as a candidate for poet laureate on the death of Wordsworth. Elizabeth's volume Poems (1844) brought her great success, attracting the admiration of the writer Robert Browning. Their correspondence, courtship, and marriage were carried out in secret, for fear of her father's disapproval. Following the wedding, she was indeed disinherited by her father. In 1846, the couple moved to Italy, where she would live for the rest of her life. They had a son, known as "Pen" (Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning) (1849–1912). Pen devoted himself to painting until his eyesight began to fail later in life; he also built up a large collection of manuscripts and memorabilia of his parents; however, since he died intestate, it was sold by public auction to various bidders, and scattered upon his death. The Armstrong Browning Library has tried to recover some of his collection, and now houses the world's largest collection of Browning memorabilia. Elizabeth died in Florence in 1861. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband shortly after her death. Elizabeth's work had a major influence on prominent writers of the day, including the American poets Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson. She is remembered for such poems as "How Do I Love Thee?" (Sonnet 43, 1845) and Aurora Leigh (1856).

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Family tree

Commemorated on 8 plaques

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) poet lived here

99 Gloucester Place, London, United Kingdom where they lived

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806-1861 poet lived in a house on this site 1838-1846

50 Wimpole Street, Westminster, W1, London, United Kingdom where they lived (1838-1846)

Elizabeth Barrett Barrett Poetess, afterwards wife of Robert Browning, lived here 1838-1846

50 Wimpole Street, London, United Kingdom where they lived (1838-1846)

Fortfield Terrace Built 1790-94 on Manor Land by Polish architect and speculative builder, Michael Novosielski, who died before its completion. From 24th June to 24th August 1831 Grand Duchess Helena of Russia, Sister-in-Law of the Czar, rented No. 8 for herself and No. 7 for her entourage. Visit commemorated by double-headed eagle, symbol of Imperial Russia, on the central pediment. In 1831 the father of Elizabeth Barrett Browning with his family rented No. 8 for a year.

Fortfield Terrace, Sidmouth, United Kingdom where they lived (1831)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806-1861 poet lived here 1838-1841

Beacon Hill, Torquay, United Kingdom where they lived (1838-1841)

Qui scrissi e mori Elisabetta Barret Browning che in cuore di donna conciliava scienza di dotto e spirito di poeta e fece del suo verso aureo anello far Italia e Inghilterra pone questa memoria firenze grata 1861

Casa Guido, Piazza San Felice 8, Florence, Italy where they lived -1861) and died (1861)

Sedotta dal fascino di ouesta vallata nell estate del 1849 Elizabeth Barrett consegno la dichiarazione poetica del suo eterno amore allo sposo Robert Browning. 'Ma amami per amor dell amore, che sempre piu tu passa amarmi nell eternita dell amore' (Sonetti Dal Portoghese, XIV:13-14)

English translation: Seduced by the charm of this valley in the summer of 1849, Elizabeth Barrett composed the poetic statement of her eternal love for her husband Robert Browning. 'But love me for the sake of the love that passes more and more you love me in the eternity of love' (Sonnet of the Portuguese, XIV:13-14)

?, Bagni di Lucca, Italy where they visited

'Cedar Shade' formerly 'Belle Vue'. From 1833 to 1835 Elizabeth Barrett Browning lived here with her family. She formed a romantic attachment to George Hunter, the Congregational Minister. In 1835 the family removed to Wimpole St. and in 1846 she married the poet Robert Browning.

, Sidmouth, United Kingdom where they lived (1833-1835)