Revolutionary Poet of the Week – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Revolutionary Poet of the Week is Elizabeth Barrett Browning and today PTWWW presents you with her life biography and her world of poems.

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.

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