Publication Date: January 14, 2003
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Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are without parallel in the nineteenth century: celebrated poets, they became equally famous for their marriage. Still popular more than a century after their deaths, their poetry vividly reflects the unique nature of their relationship.
This collection presents the Brownings’ work in the context of their lives: the early years and their initial friendship, their courtship and marriage, the fifteen happy years they spent living in Italy until Elizabeth’s death. Whether in short poems such as Elizabeth’s “Hector in the Garden” and Robert’s “Natural Magic,” or in extracts from longer works such as Aurora Leigh and Pauline, the great themes they shared are all represented: love, marriage, illicit passion, England and Italy, childhood, religion, poetry, and nature. Elizabeth’s famous Sonnets from the Portuguese, based on their love affair, is included in its entirety.
The poems are augmented with a generous selection of the marvelous letters the Brownings wrote to each other.
Robert Browning (1812-1889) was born in Camberwell, London, the son of a clerk in the Bank of England. The strongest influence on his education were the books in his father's extensive library, particularly the writings of Byron and Shelley. His dramatic poem Paracelsus, published in 1835, established his reputation and brought him the friendship of the actor-manager William Macready. When Macready's eldest son Willie was ill in bed, Browning wrote for the boy's entertainment the poem of The Pied Piper, a story he remembered from his own childhood. After its appearance in print in 1842, it became a children's classic, attracting new illustrators in every generation.In 1846 Robert Browning married a fellow poet, Elizabeth Barrett, eloping with her to Italy where they lived until Elizabeth's death in 1861. He them returned to England to live with his only sister Sarianna, but later he went back to Italy, where he died at the Rezzonico Palace in Venice.Peter Washington is the editor of many of the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets, including Love Poems, and is the author of Madame Blavatsky's Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America.