Elizabeth Moulton Barrett (1806-61) poet, was born near Durham, England, eldest of a family of 12 children, and grew up in the countryside. In 1838 the Barretts moved to 50 Wimpole Street, London. By the time Robert Browning began to correspond with her in 1845, she was an established poet. Four years after their runaway marriage, she wrote her most famous love poems, Sonnets from the Portuguese.
The couple settled in Florence, where their son, Robert Wiedemann Barrett (known as Pen for short), was born in 1849. Elizabeth was then 43. She had a huge popular success with Aurora Leigh (1857), a love story in verse. Her always delicate health gradually became worse; she died on June 29, 1861, and is buried in Florence.
Robert Browning (1812-89) a great Victorian poet, was born in London, the son of a clerk in the Bank of England, and educated by his father, who paid for the printing of his first poems. His early works, mostly verse plays, were little read and less understood. Men and Women (1855), his first collection of dramatic lyrics, sold few copies and the disappointed Browning abandoned writing to care for his adored wife. After her death he turn again to poetry; Dramatis Personae (1864) was a success and was followed by his greatest work, The Ring and the Book (1868-69), which established him as a literary giant, although his many succeeding books never sold as well as Elizabeth’s. He died in Venice in the winter of 1889 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
January 10, 1846
Do you know, when you have told me to think of you, I have been feeling ashamed of thinking of you so much, of thinking of only you–which is too much, perhaps. Shall I tell you? It seems to me, to myself, that no man was ever before to any woman what you are to me–the fulness must be in proportion, you know, to the vacancy…and only I know what was behind–the long wilderness without the blossoming rose…and the capacity for happiness, like a black gaping hole, before this silver flooding. Is it wonderful that I should stand as in a dream, and disbelieve–not you–but my own fate?
Was ever any one taken suddenly from a lampless dungeon and placed upon the pinnacle of a mountain, without the head turning round and the heart turning faint, as mine do? And you love me more, you say?–Shall I thank you or God? Both,–indeed–and there is no possible return from me to either of you! I thank you as the unworthy may.. and as we all thank God. How shall I ever prove what my heart is to you? How will you ever see it as I feel it? I ask myself in vain. Have so much faith in me, my only beloved, as to use me simply for your own advantage and happiness, and to your own ends without a thought of any others–that is all I could ask you without any disquiet as to the granting of it–May God bless you! — Your B.A.
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