The aim of this book, as the title is intended to explain, is not to combine studies, biographical and critical, of two poets into one volume, but to tell the story in which each took part, and to consider the writings of both mainly in so far as they contribute to it. There have been numerous lives of both poets, and numerous studies of their separate works, but I have not found a joint study of the pair, as a unity, and such a plan has involved certain modifications of procedure. To tell their story at all, we have to follow each life from its beginning; and to pursue his through the long years of widowerhood which succeeded her death. When we come to their writings, certain difficulties have to be met. The value of her poetry has diminished for us to that part of it which is accepted as her best, a verdict that I have no desire to challenge. On the other hand, her letters have a lively interest still, both as a revelation of personality and for the delightful prose in which they were written. His letters are much less fascinating than his poems, so that we linger over her prose but touch on his lightly. When we come to consider his poetry, another difficulty occurs. His noblest poem was written after her death, and the second half of his life was no less productive than the first. Consequently, the treatment of the later half of his work has had to be drastically foreshortened.
Two reasons may reconcile us to this. A renewed study of his writings confirms the impression that the poetry of Browning is more remarkable for quantity than for development. He multiplied examples, but his . . .