Biography of Elizabeth Browning


ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING, England's greatest poetess, was born in London, about the year 1809. Her maiden name was Barrett. The culture which she received in her youth was of a kind far transcending the ordinary education even of "ladies intellectual." Classics, philosophy, and science were studied with enthusiasm and success. At a comparatively early period, she became a contributor to periodicals, and a series of articles on the Greek Christian poets, indicated that she possessed both recondite learning and keen poetic insight. Her first important essay in authorship was a translation of the Prometheus of Eschylus, in 1833. In 1838, appeared the Seraphim, and other Poems, the external peculiarity of which was its endeavor to embody the ideas and sentiments of a Christian mystery in the artistic form of a Greek tragedy. Delicate health, arising from the rupture of a blood-vessel in the lungs, and the death by drowning of a favorite brother in the following year, compelled her to live in seclusion for a long time. At length her health was restored, and in 1846 she married Robert Browning, himself a great poet. After their marriage, they resided chiefly in Italy, until her death, which occurred at Florence, in 1861. In 1850, Mrs. Browning published her collected works, together with several new poems, among which was "Lady Geraldine's Courtship." In 1857, appeared the "Casa Guidi Windows," a poem whose theme was the struggle made by the Tuscans for freedom in 1849. Aurora Leigh, her longest production, was published in 1856. "Poems before Congress," appeared in 1860. Her poetry is distinguished by its depth Of feeling, by its true pathos, by its noble and generous sentiments. Apparently she pours forth her verse with dangerous facility; and there are few of her poems which would not be improved by the simple process of curtailment. But there is not a thought or a sentiment of the many she has so beautifully expressed which any one would wish expunged. No writer has exerted a better, gentler, happier influence.