Elizabeth barrett browning - encyclopedia extract

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Shilstone, F.W.(1996). Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. In World Book Encyclopedia (Volume 2, pp. 655-656). Chicago: World Book, Inc.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the best-known poets of her time. The oldest of twelve children in an upper middle-class family, she received no formal education, but a desire for knowledge enabled her to learn eight languages on her own. She began writing poetry as a child, and by the time she reached adulthood she had published four immensely popular volumes of verse. Though a longtime illness made her something of a recluse, Barrett was able to meet many of the leading writers of the day. In 1845, she began to receive letters from the poet Robert Browning, who, after five months of correspondence, paid her a visit. They fell in love, and when Elizabeth's stern father refused to allow her to spend the winter of 1846 in Italy as her doctors had advised, she and Browning "married secretly" there (Shilstone, 1996, p.656).

In 1849, their son was born, whom they nicknamed Pen.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning used many different emotions when writing her poetry. In the collection, Sonnets from the Portuguese (1849), Elizabeth let the love for her husband speak. The whole collection is forty-four poems written to Robert Browning. Aurora Leigh (1857) is yet another example of love being prominent in Elizabeth's writings. Another element in Elizabeth's writings is statements about faith and her illness/death. In the closing line of her "most famous sonnet" (p.656) Sonnet 43 Elizabeth says, "and if God choose,/ I shall but love thee better after death." In the 19th century, Elizabeth Barrett Browning helped to revive the sonnet cycle, which is a series of sonnets loosely connected by a common subject or theme. Her cycles characteristically treat the subject of love. The Italian sonnet, which is...