Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.

Browning Robert

Browning, Robert (born 7th May, 1812, died 12th December, 1889), was born at Camberwell, his father being a clerk in the Bank of England, while his mother was the daughter of William Wiedemann, a Hamburg-German shipowner, who had settled in Dundee and married a Scotswoman. His mother, while of saintly character, was not remarkable for mental gifts, and save his love of music, which he may have inherited from her, and a nervous impressibility which in him was heightened into the poetic temperament, the gifts of the poet, so far as they were hereditary, are to be traced rather to his father, who was a man of wide and curious reading and much general culture. Till nearly fourteen Robert went to a private school at Peckham, kept by the Rev. Thomas Ready; he then studied under a French tutor at home, and for a term or two attended a Greek class at University College, afterwards taking a continental tour. In his twelfth year he wrote a number of poems, which he and his friends sought, without success, to publish, under the title Incondita. At the age of eighteen he decided to take to poetry as a profession, and, as a preparatory measure, read through the whole of Johnson's Dictionary. His first poem, Pauline, appeared when he was twenty-one, in 1833. Though little noticed, it was favourably reviewed in the Monthly Repository, by W. J. Fox, who was the first to "discover" the new poet. In 1835, having in the interval spent some time in Russia, he published his Paracelsus, a dramatic poem of nearly 4,000 lines, which attracted little more attention than Pauline. In 1837 he wrote his first tragedy, Strafford, for Macready, who produced it at Covent Garden on the 1st of May; it went through five performances, which was for those days a respectable run. His next poem, Sordello, was kept back till 1840; it is quite the most obscure of his works, and probably injured the reputation he was by this time beginning to acquire. Between 1841 and 1846 he brought out his Bells and Pomegranates, containing three plays, four tragedies, and a number of Dramatic Romances and Lyrics, including some of his most popular pieces. A Blot in the 'Scutcheon was produced by Macready at Drury Lane on the 11th of February, 1843, but it was not a success, and was the occasion of lasting estrangement between Browning and his actor-friend. In 1846 occurred his marriage with Elizabeth Barrett; thenceforward, for nearly fifteen years, Florence was his home, though he occasionally visited England. In 1850 two of his longest religious poems, Christmas Eve and Easter Day, saw the light; in 1852 he wrote a prose introduction to some Letters of Shelley, afterwards shown to be spurious; and in 1855 appeared the poems by which, with some of the Dramatic Romances and Lyrics, he will probably be best known to posterity, his Men and Women. Dramatis Personae followed in 1864. In 1868 his longest work, The Ring and the Book, in four vols. (21,116 lines), began to appear, being completed in 1869. In 1871 he produced Herve Riel, Balaustion's Adventure, and Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau; in 1872, Fifine at the Fair; in 1873, Red Cotton Night-cap Country; in 1875, Aristophanes' Apology, and The Inn Album,; in 1876, Pacchiarotto, and other poems; in 1877, another translation, The Agamemnon of AEschylus; in 1878, La Saisiaz, with The Two Poets of Croisic; and in 1879, the first set of Dramatic Idylls, a second series appearing in 1880. In 1883 was published Jocoseria; in 1884, Ferishtah's Fancies; in 1887, Parleyings; and in 1889, Asolando. The poet's death took place at Venice, on the day Asolando appeared, but not before the news of its realised success had been communicated to him. As he could not be buried with his wife at Florence, he was brought home to England and interred in Westminster Abbey on the last day of the year. The time is not yet ripe, nor nearly ripe, for determining Browning's precise place among English poets. It was not till more than a generation after the appearance of Pauline that he was accepted in England as a great writer of verse; but for some years before his death he had come to be regarded as one of the two greatest Victorian poets. His works written for the stage, though vivid and sinewy, are often marred by over-subtlety, and are not likely to gain a foothold there. His genius probably touched its high water mark in the Men and Women, for although The Ring and the Book abounds with passages and even whole sections of rare splendour and power, the scheme of the poem is metaphysical rather than poetic. His workmanship was undeniably defective, although on the other hand it must be said that to him poetry is indebted for a new sense of the capability of an important poetic form, the monologue; and that his command of rhymes, and particularly of grotesque rhymes, was quite exceptional. Whatever be the rank assigned him by posterity in the poetic hierarchy, it is difficult, when we think of the number and quality and variety of his gifts, and of his amazing fertility, not to feel that in endowment, as distinct from achievement, he was superior to any English poet since Milton.