Research task: Robert Browning and Context

Essay by boogerboy999High School, 11th gradeA, February 2009

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Year 11 Extension Research Task: Robert Browning and the Victorian Age

Robert Browning (7 May 1812 - 12 December 1889)

Robert Browning was born, in Camberwell, London, England. His father, a senior clerk with the Bank of England, provided a comfortable living for his family and passed on a love of art and literature to Robert. His mother, an excellent amateur pianist, gave him a love of music, while her strong religious faith provided him with a lifelong belief in the existence of God. Browning went to primary school until he was fourteen, when his parents decided that he should instead be taught at home by a tutor.

His first published work was Pauline: A Fragment of a Confession , of whom the hero of the poem is symbolically of Browning himself who bares his soul to a patient heroine. When a critic commented that the anonymous author seemed "possessed with a more intense and morbid self-consciousness than I ever knew in any sane human being," Browning promised himself to never again reveal his thoughts directly to his readers.

Henceforth, he would "only make men and women speak."

The next major step in Browning's poetic development was evident in his next poem, Paracelsus (1835), whose hero was a Renaissance alchemist. It received favourable reviews and brought about important friendships with the authors William Wordsworth (1770-1850) and Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) and with the actor William C. Macready (1793-1873).

In 1838 Browning travelled to northern Italy to acquire firsthand knowledge of its setting and atmosphere for his next long poem. But the publication of Sordello in 1840 was a disaster that dealt Browning's growing reputation a severe blow. After the disappointing reception, Browning turned to the dramatic monologue. He experimented with and perfected this form in the long poem...