The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Excerpt

The aim of this volume is to present a full-length biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning based on original sources. My first impulse to write the book may be traced to a remark by Howard Mumford Jones in his course on Victorian literature at Harvard that there was no complete and authoritative treatment of Mrs. Browning's life and works and that in view of the great influence she had upon her age, a comprehensive study was needed. During the academic years 1948-49 and 1953-54 I traveled in England and Italy gathering materials and visiting many of the places associated with the Barrett family and the Brownings: Coxhoe, Ledbury, Sidmouth, Torquay, and London; Pisa, Florence, Bagni di Lucca, Siena, and Rome. I have also examined manuscripts of her poems, unpublished letters in private and public collections on both sides of the Atlantic, and many of the volumes she owned, in the margins of which she jotted down her comments.

The letters to H. S. Boyd, which give for the first time a detailed picture of the early period of her life, appeared only last year, in a volume edited by Barbara McCarthy. Portions of the correspondence from Elizabeth Barrett to Miss Mitford were brought out two years ago by Betty Miller. The letters to her brother George are to be published within a few months by the University of Illinois Press. But it is a curious fact that although the sesquicentennial of her birth is being observed this year (1956), hundreds of her most interesting letters have not yet been published. The 113 letters--most of them long and intimate-- which she wrote to her sister Arabel over a period of 22 years, the 121 letters to her American friend in Italy, Mrs. Eckley, large parts of the extensive correspondence to her sister Henrietta and her close friend Miss Mitford, and much that she wrote to Mrs. Jameson, Kenyon, and Mrs. Martin may be seen only in manuscript. And in spite of all that has been written on the Brown-

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