Robert Browning

Anna Barton

in Victorian Literature

ISBN: 9780199799558
Published online March 2011 | | DOI:
Robert Browning

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Robert Browning was born in Camberwell in 1812, the first child of Sarah Anna Browning (née Wiedemann) and Robert Browning, who worked as a clerk for the Bank of England having been disinherited after refusing to enter into the family plantation business. Browning attended Thomas Ready’s school as a weekly boarder until he was twelve, when he left to continue his education at home, where he was given private tuition in French, Italian, Latin, and Greek and was able to make use of his father’s extensive library. At this time, heavily influenced by the work of the Romantics, particularly Shelley, he began to write poetry. Two years later, Browning enrolled at the University of London to take classes in Latin, Greek, and German, but he withdrew after six months and returned to home to follow his own course of reading. The 1830s saw the publication of his first poem, Pauline (1833) (which he subsequently withdrew) and the beginnings of his unsuccessful career as a playwright. He composed a number of dramas, of which only the Life of Strafford and A Blot on the ‘Scutcheon were produced for the stage. Paracelsus (1835), a verse drama that was not intended for production represents Browning’s first extended exploration of the relationship between poetry and drama, which he continued in his development of the dramatic monologue. His second poem, Sordello, was published in 1839 to a very poor reception. His reputation began to recover in the 1840s with the publication of a series of pamphlets called Bells and Pomegranates, which included some of the dramatic monologues for which he became most famous. In 1845 he began corresponding with Elizabeth Barrett Moulton Barrett, who he married in secret in 1846, moving to Paris and then to Italy, where they eventually settled at Casa Guidi in Florence. In 1849 Elizabeth gave birth to their son, Robert Weidemann Barrett Browning (“Pen”). In the same year, Browning’s mother died and Browning himself suffered a severe breakdown. During the 1850s, Browning published Christmas Eve and Easter Day (1850) and Men and Women (1855), but his reputation as a poet failed to gain ground until the early 1860s. In 1861 Elizabeth died in Italy and Robert returned to London. From this point his reputation started to improve. The publication of Poetical Works (1863) and Dramatis Personae (1864) and The Ring and the Book (1868–1869) received favourable reviews. Browning then began to be the focus of considerable academic and popular interest, both in Britain and America, which continued until his death in 1889. His later work included poems based on contemporary politics as well as a number of works of classical translation. Contemporary opinion of Browning remained mixed throughout his lifetime. His work was often accused of difficulty and obscurity, but his poetry is recognized as some of the most influential of the Victorian period.

Article.  8693 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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