Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the most famous poets of the Victorian era and lived between 1806 and 1861. Born in County Durham, England, she was the eldest of twelve children and was raised in a wealthy and intellectually stimulating household.
Despite facing health challenges throughout her life, she wrote some of the most enduring poetry of the 19th century and became a leading voice in the literary world of her time.
Early Life Of Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born into a family of wealth and privilege. Her father, Edward Moulton Barrett, was a landowner and member of Parliament, and her mother, Mary Graham-Clarke, was a gifted musician. She was raised primarily in Herefordshire, where her father owned an estate, and was educated at home by her father and private tutors. She was a precocious child with a talent for languages and literature and began writing poetry at a young age.
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Illness and Recovery Of Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Despite her privileged upbringing, Elizabeth Barrett Browning faced significant challenges in her life, particularly with her health. At the age of 15, she contracted a serious illness that caused her to be bedridden for several years. During this time, she turned to writing as a way to cope with her physical pain and emotional distress. Her first collection of poems, “An Essay on Mind, and Other Poems,” was published in 1826 when she was just 20 years old.
Elizabeth’s health continued to be a struggle throughout her life, and she suffered from respiratory problems, migraines, and depression. In 1838, she moved to Italy in search of a warmer climate and better health. She would spend the rest of her life there, eventually marrying fellow poet Robert Browning and settling in Florence.
Marriage and Love Life
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s marriage to Robert Browning was a turning point in her life and work. The two had met in 1845 through a mutual friend, and quickly fell in love. Their courtship was conducted mostly through letters, as Elizabeth’s health prevented her from travelling or receiving visitors. Against her father’s wishes, Elizabeth and Robert eloped in 1846 and moved to Italy, where they started a new life together.
Their marriage was a happy one, and they collaborated on several works of poetry, including “Sonnets from the Portuguese,” a collection of love poems that Robert had written for Elizabeth. Their partnership was both romantic and creative, and they encouraged each other’s writing and artistic pursuits.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s literary career was prolific and varied. She wrote poetry, essays, and plays, and was known for her use of classical themes and mythological allusions. Some of her most famous works include “The Cry of the Children,” a poem that brought attention to the plight of child labourers in Victorian England, and “Aurora Leigh,” a novel in verse that explores themes of gender and identity.
Elizabeth’s poetry was highly regarded during her lifetime, and she was compared favourably to other prominent poets of the era, such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning. Her work was also influential in the development of the women’s movement, as she wrote about issues such as women’s education and social justice.
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Later Life and Legacy
Elizabeth Barrett Browning continued to write and publish poetry until her death in 1861. Her legacy as a poet and writer has endured, and she is widely regarded as one of the most important voices of the Victorian era. Her influence can be seen in the work of later poets and writers, such as Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf.
In addition to her literary contributions, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was also a pioneer in the use of a new form of writing technology: the typewriter. In the late 1850s, she acquired a typewriter and began using it to write her poetry. This was a revolutionary technology at the time, and Elizabeth was one of the first writers to embrace it.
Today, Elizabeth Barrett Browning is remembered as a poet who broke new ground in both form and content. Her poetry is known for its passionate intensity, its exploration of social and political issues, and its deeply personal reflections on love, loss, and identity. Her life and work continue to inspire readers and writers around the world, and she remains one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century.