Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Letters to Her Sister, 1846-1859

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Letters to Her Sister, 1846-1859

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Letters to Her Sister, 1846-1859

Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Letters to Her Sister, 1846-1859

Excerpt

The two volumes of the Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning edited by Sir F. G. Kenyon in 1897 contain none that she wrote to her sisters Henrietta and Arabel Barrett. Doubtless they were held back by relatives as belonging too closely to the family circle. But with the lapse of seventy years the perspective has changed. Time has removed the personal hesitancies; the inner circle has passed into history, and a later generation can but welcome any fresh touches to the picture of Elizabeth's character, revealing yet more fully how she thought and felt, the perfection of her union with Robert Browning, the tender sympathy for childhood which found vent in her deep love and maternal pride in her little son.

To-day, by great good fortune, one portion of these unpublished letters has come to light. Henrietta lovingly preserved those which were written to her; in 1875, many years after her death, her husband reinsured their existence with no less care by copying them all into a set of quarto MS. books. His invaluable foreword and notes explain family history and allusions in a way possible only to one who still had personal knowledge of those concerned. These descended to his son, the Rev. Altham Surtees Altham, whose brother, General Sir Edward Altham, K.C.B., brought them to Sir John Murray, to ask his advice about publication, and the work was entrusted to the present editor.

The letters are one hundred and seven in number, and include a supplementary letter or postscript from Robert Browning. A certain amount of excision has clearly been necessary. There are, for instance, many nursery details of immediate interest to a young mother, and to her alone. There are passing references to persons and things that have no general interest, and can throw little light on Mrs. Browning's . . .

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