Elizabeth Barrett Browning Essay, Research Paper
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born Elizabeth Barrett Moulton-Barrett at Coxhoe Hall, Durham County on March 6, 1806. She was one of twelve children. Her parents, Edward Moulton-Barrett and Mary Graham Clarke Moulton-Barrett had eight sons and four daughters. Between 1809 and 1814 Elizabeth began writing poetry. In 1818 she wrote “The Battle of Marathon” and in 1820 her father had it published. When Elizabeth was fifteen years of age, she developed an illness and was prescribed Opium, which began her lifelong Opium habit. Elizabeth’s first published work was “The Rose and Zephyr” in 1825 at the age of twenty-one. A year later, she published An Essay on Mind. Both publications were anonymous and were financially supported by her family. Her father assisted in getting them both published. Elizabeth had commented later in her career that these works were “Pope’s Homer done over again, or rather redone”. She obviously thought very little of the early part of her career. Her Mother passed away in 1828 and Elizabeth began studying classical literature under H.S. Boyd. Her next publication was Prometheus Bound, published in 1833 and once again, anonymously. This translation was from the Greek playwright, Aeschylus. Boyd re-ignited an interest of Elizabeth’s since childhood, in Greek literature and studies. During her youth, Elizabeth was self- taught in the area of literature. She read Paradise Lost, Dante’s Inferno and the Old Testament, in Hebrew, which was obviously the backdrop for Prometheus Bound. In 1837 Elizabeth’s health deteriorated when she burst a blood vessel affecting her lungs; Elizabeth became an invalid. One year later, Elizabeth published her first volume of poetry under her own name, The Seraphim and Other Poems. This work received favorable reviews, which in turn, brought about a correspondence with Wordsworth, Carlyle, and Poe. Poe even wrote an introduction in Elizabeth’s two-volume edition of poetry Poems in 1844. She truly began her literary career in 1838. Elizabeth moved to Torquay for her health and was often accompanied by different family members but her favorite was her brother, Edward. Elizabeth’s uncle passed away that same year leaving her financially secure. In 1840, Edward drowned in Babbacombe Bay off Torquay. She then wrote “De Profundis” expressing her grief. In 1840, Elizabeth wrote “The Cry of the Children”. In 1841 she returned to London, still an invalid, and began working on reviews, articles, and translations. In 1842 she published “The Cry of the Children” which helped to bring about some regulation of child labor, this is also one of her more known works. In 1844 she publishes a two-volume edition of Poems, after the publication of Poems, Robert Browning pledged his undying love for Elizabeth in a letter to her. Robert Browning visited her in London and their love grew. She began working on a series of love poems, Sonnets from the Portuguese, named from Robert’s pet name for her “The Portuguese”. Elizabeth’s father forbid any of his children to ever marry so Elizabeth and Robert secretly married in London on September 12, 1846. They traveled through Europe and settled in Florence. Elizabeth’s health improved, their marriage was happy, and a son was born. In 1849 Robert Barrett-Browning was born and they called him “Pen”. It was his birth that caused Elizabeth to publish a second volume of Poems including Sonnets from the Portuguese. In 1850 Elizabeth received mention in the literary journal, The Athenaeum as the leading candidate to succeed Wordsworth as poet laureate. One year later, she published Casa Guidi Windows, about Italy’s politics. Elizabeth published Aurora Leigh in 1857, the year her father died. Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth’s most controversial work, is filled with connotations of her own life and struggle as a woman in her day and age. It is a poem that many regard as semi-autobiographical. The similarities of a struggling young female poet and the limits that society bound to her, are endless with those in Elizabeth’s life. Aurora Leigh won critical acclaim and at the same time drew attacks for its sympathetic treatment of a woman as an independent artist and unmarried mother. Poems Before Congress published in 1860 marked the end of Elizabeth’s career. Poems Before Congress, was concerned with political reform in Italy. It was not received well and her health began to decline. Elizabeth died in Robert’s arms in Florence on June 29, 1861. She was buried in the Protestant cemetery. Last Poems, was published posthumous in 1862 by Robert, this included “De Profundis”.