Aurora Leigh

Browning, Elizabeth Barrett

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806–61, English poet, b. Durham. A delicate and precocious child, she spent a great part of her early life in a state of semi-invalidism. She read voraciously—philosophy, history, literature—and she wrote verse. In 1838 the Barrett family moved to 50 Wimpole St., London. Six years later Elizabeth published Poems, which brought her immediate fame. The volume was a favorite of the poet Robert Browning, and he began to correspond with her. The two fell in love, but their courtship was secret because of the opposition of Elizabeth's tyrannical father. They married in 1846 and traveled to Italy, where most of their married life was spent and where their one son was born. Mrs. Browning threw herself into the cause of Italian liberation from Austria. "Casa Guidi," their home in Florence, is preserved as a memorial. Happy in her marriage, Mrs. Browning recovered her health in Italy, and her work as a poet gained in strength and significance. Her greatest poetry, Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850), was inspired by her own love story. Casa Guidi Windows (1851), on Italian liberty, and Aurora Leigh (1857), a novel in verse, followed. During her lifetime Mrs. Browning was considered a better poet than her husband. Today her life and personality excite more interest than her work. Although as a poet she has been criticized for diffuseness, pedantry, and sentimentality, she reveals in such poems as "The Cry of the Children" and some of the Sonnets from the Portuguese a highly individual gift for lyric poetry.


See The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1845–46 (1899, new ed. 1930); R. Besier, The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1930), the most popular dramatization of the Brownings' love story; biographies by G. B. Taplin (1957), I. C. Clarke (1929, repr. 1970), and M. Forster (1989); The Courtship of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning (1985) by D. Karlin; studies by H. Cooper (1988) and G. Stephenson (1989); bibliography by W. Barnes (1967).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Aurora Leigh: Selected full-text books and articles

Aurora Leigh By Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Kerry McSweeney Oxford University Press, 1993
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Woman & Artist By Helen Cooper University of North Carolina Press, 1988
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Woman and Artist, Both Complete: Aurora Leigh (1856)"
Aurora Leigh as Paradigm of Domestic-Professional Fiction By Schatz, Sueann Philological Quarterly, Vol. 79, No. 1, Winter 2000
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Gender Construction and the 'Kunstlerroman': 'David Copperfield' and 'Aurora Leigh.' By Houston, Gail Turley Philological Quarterly, Vol. 72, No. 2, Spring 1993
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Foreign Woman in British Literature: Exotics, Aliens, and Outsiders By Marilyn Demarest Button; Toni Reed Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Challenging Traditionalist Gender Roles: The Exotic Woman as Critical Observer in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh"
Women's Poetry and Religion in Victorian England: Jewish Identity and Christian Culture By Cynthia Scheinberg Cambridge University Press, 2002
Librarian's tip: "Marrying off Miriam: Christian Conversion in Aurora Leigh" begins on p. 85
Germaine de Staël, George Sand, and the Victorian Woman Artist By Linda M. Lewis University of Missouri Press, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh and the Labors of Psyche"
Barrett Browning's Poetic Vocation: Crying, Singing, Breathing By Dillon, Steve Victorian Poetry, Vol. 39, No. 4, Winter 2001
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