Poems of browning 1912

Robert Browning (1812-1889), from Poems of Robert Browning, London & New York: Henry Frowde for Oxford Univrsity Press, 1912. Courtesy Internet Archive.

Robert Browning
Born 7 May 1812
Camberwell, London, England
Died 12 Decemmber 1889 (aged 77)
Venice, Italy
Occupation Poet
Notable work(s) The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Porphyria's Lover, The Ring and the Book, Men and Women, My Last Duchess

Signature File:Robert Browning Signature.svg

Robert Browning (7 May 1812 - 12 December 1889) was an English poet and playwright whose mastery of dramatic verse, especially dramatic monologues, made him one of the foremost Victorian poets.



Browning was born in Camberwell - a district now forming part of the borough of Southwark in South London, England - the only son of Robert and Sarah Anna Browning.[1] His father, a man of fine intellect and character, was a well-paid clerk for the Bank of England, earning about £150 per year.[2] Browning's paternal grandfather was a wealthy slave owner in St. Kitts, West Indies, but Browning's father was an abolitionist. Browning's father had been sent to the West Indies to work on a sugar plantation. Revolted by the slavery there, he returned to England. Browning's mother was a daughter of a German shipowner who had settled in Dundee. He had one sister, Sarianna. It is rumoured that Browning's grandmother, Margaret Tittle, was a Jamaican of mixed race who had inherited a plantation in St Kitts.

Robert's father, a literary collector, amassed a library of around 6,000 books, many of them rare. Thus, Robert was raised in a household of significant literary resources. His mother, to whom he was very close, was a devout nonconformist and a talented musician. [1] His younger sister, Sarianna, also gifted, became her brother's companion in his later years. His father encouraged his children's interest in literature and the arts. [1]

By 12 years old, Browning had written a book of poetry which he later destroyed when no publisher could be found. After being at one or two private schools, and showing an insuperable dislike to school life, he was educated at home by a tutor via the resources of his father's extensive library. [1] By the age of 14 he was fluent in French, Ancient Greek, Italian and Latin.

He became a great admirer of the Romantic poets, especially Shelley. Following the precedent of Shelley, Browning became an atheist and vegetarian, both of which he gave up later. At the age of 16, he studied Greek at University College London but left after his first year. [1] His mother's staunch evangelical faith prevented his studying at either Oxford University or Cambridge University, both then open only to members of the Church of England. [1]

He had inherited substantial musical ability through his mother, and composed arrangements of various songs. He refused a formal career and ignored his parents' remonstrations, dedicating himself to poetry. He stayed at home until the age of 34, financially dependant on his family until his marriage. His father sponsored the publication of his son's poems. [1] Browning travelled widely, joining a British diplomatic mission to Russia in 1834, later journeying to Italy 1838 and 1844.[1]

Middle yearsEdit

Browning's career began with the publication of the anonymous poem Pauline. The piece, which disappeared without notice, would embarrass him for the rest of his life. [1] The long poem Paracelsus, about the renowned doctor and alchemist, had no general popularity; nevertheless, it gained the notice of Thomas Carlyle, William Wordsworth, and other men of letters, and gave him a reputation as a poet of distinguished promise on the London scene. Browning came to befriend Charles Dickens, John Forster, Harriet Martineau and Carlyle, as well as William Charles Macready who encouraged Browning to write the play Strafford, performed in 1837 by Macready and Helen Faucit.[3] It was no great success but Browning was encouraged enough to try again, going on to write eight plays in all, including Pippa Passes (1841) and A Soul's Tragedy (1846). A troubled production of A Blot on the 'Scutcheon (1843) was followed by the publication of the experimental and politically radical long poem Sordello (1840), which were both met with widespread derision. Tennyson commented that he only understood the first and last lines and Carlyle noted that his wife had read the poem through and could not tell whether Sordello was a man, a city or a book.[3] His reputation would not rise again for 25 years. [3]

Portraits of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning

Portraits of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

In 1845, Browning met the poet Elizabeth Barrett, six years his elder, who lived as a semi-invalid in her father's house in Wimpole Street, London. They began regularly corresponding and gradually a romance developed between them, leading to their elopement on 12 September 1846. [3]The marriage was initially secret because Elizabeth's domineering father disapproved of marriage for any of his children. Mr. Barrett disinherited Elizabeth, as he did for each of his children who married: "The Mrs. Browning of popular imagination was a sweet, innocent young woman who suffered endless cruelties at the hands of a tyrannical papa but who nonetheless had the good fortune to fall in love with a dashing and handsome poet named Robert Browning."[4] At her husband's insistence, the second edition of Elizabeth's Poems included her love sonnets. The book increased her popularity and high critical regard, cementing her position as an eminent Victorian poet. Upon William Wordsworth's death in 1850, she was a serious contender to become Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, the position eventually going to Tennyson.

File:Robert browning cartoon-1-.png

From the time of their marriage, the Brownings lived in Italy until Elizabeth's death, first in Pisa, and then, within a year, finding an apartment in Florence at Casa Guidi (now a museum to their memory).[3] Their only child, Robert Wiedemann Barrett Browning, nicknamed "Penini" or "Pen", was born in 1849. [3] In these years Browning was fascinated by and learned from the art and atmosphere of Italy. He would, in later life, describe Italy as his university. Browning bought a home in Asolo, in the Veneto outside Venice.[5] As Elizabeth had inherited money of her own, the couple were reasonably comfortable in Italy, and their relationship together was happy. However, the literary assault on Browning's work did not let up and he was critically dismissed further, by patrician writers such as Charles Kingsley, for the desertion of England for foreign lands. [3]In Florence, Browning worked on the poems that eventually comprised his two-volume Men and Women, for which he is now well known; [3]in 1855, however, when these were published, they made little impact. It was only after his wife's death, in 1861, when he returned to England and became part of the London literary scene—albeit while paying frequent visits in Italy—that his reputation started to take off. [3]

In 1868, after five years work, he completed and published the long blank-verse poem The Ring and the Book. Based on a convoluted murder-case from 1690s Rome, the poem is composed of twelve books, essentially ten lengthy dramatic poems narrated by the various characters in the story, showing their individual perspectives on events, bookended by an introduction and conclusion by Browning himself. Long, even by Browning's own standards (over twenty thousand lines), The Ring and the Book was the poet's most ambitious project and arguably his greatest work; it has been praised as a tour de force of dramatic poetry.[6] Published separately in four volumes from November 1868 through to February 1869, the poem was a success both commercially and critically, and finally brought Browning the renown he had sought for nearly forty years.[6]

Last years and deathEdit

In the remaining years of his life Browning travelled extensively. After a series of long poems published in the early 1870s, of which Fifine at the Fair and Red Cotton Night-Cap Country were the best-received. [6] The volume Pacchiarotto, and How He Worked in Distemper included an attack against Browning's critics, especially the Poet Laureate Alfred Austin. According to some reports Browning became romantically involved with Lady Ashburton, but did not re-marry. In 1878, he returned to Italy for the first time in the seventeen years since Elizabeth's death, and returned there on several occasions. In 1887, Browning produced the major work of his later years, Parleyings with Certain People of Importance In Their Day. It finally presented the poet speaking in his own voice, engaging in a series of dialogues with long-forgotten figures of literary, artistic, and philosophic history. The Victorian public was baffled by this, and Browning returned to the short, concise lyric for his last volume, Asolando (1889), published on the day of his death. [6] Browning died at his son's home Ca' Rezzonico in Venice on 12 December 1889. [6]


Robert Browning

Browning as the Pied Piper. Drawing by Frederick Waddy (1848-1901), from Cartoon Portraits and biographical sketches of men of the day, 1873. Courtesy Wikisource.

To the great majority of readers, probably, Browning is best known by some of his short poems, such as Rabbi Ben Ezra, How they brought the good News to Aix, Evelyn Hope, The Pied Piper of Hammelin, A Grammarian's Funeral, A Death in the Desert. Initially, Browning was not regarded as a great poet, since his subjects were often recondite and lay beyond the ken and sympathy of the great bulk of readers; and owing, partly to the subtle links connecting the ideas and partly to his often extremely condensed and rugged expression, the treatment of them was often difficult and obscure. The keynote of his teaching is a wise and noble optimism.

Browning's fame today rests mainly on his dramatic monologues, in which the words not only convey setting and action but also reveal the speaker's character. Unlike a soliloquy, the meaning in a Browning dramatic monologue is not what the speaker directly reveals but what he inadvertently "gives away" about himself in the process of rationalizing past actions, or "special-pleading" his case to a silent auditor in the poem. Rather than thinking out loud, the character composes a self-defence which the reader, as "juror," is challenged to see through. Browning chooses some of the most debased, extreme and even criminally psychotic characters, no doubt for the challenge of building a sympathetic case for a character who doesn't deserve one and to cause the reader to squirm at the temptation to acquit a character who may be a homicidal psychopath. One of his more sensational dramatic monologues is Porphyria's Lover.

Yet it is by carefully reading the far more sophisticated and cultivated rhetoric of the aristocratic and civilized Duke of My Last Duchess, perhaps the most frequently cited example of the poet's dramatic monologue form, that the attentive reader discovers the most horrific example of a mind totally mad despite its eloquence in expressing itself. The duchess, we learn, was murdered not because of infidelity, not because of a lack of gratitude for her position, and not, finally, because of the simple pleasures she took in common everyday occurrences. She is reduced to an objet d'art in the Duke's collection of paintings and statues because the Duke equates his instructing her to behave like a duchess with "stooping," an action of which his megalomaniac pride is incapable. In other monologues, such as Fra Lippo Lippi, Browning takes an ostensibly unsavory or immoral character and challenges us to discover the goodness, or life-affirming qualities, that often put the speaker's contemporaneous judges to shame. In The Ring and the Book Browning writes an epic-length poem in which he justifies the ways of God to humanity through twelve extended blank verse monologues spoken by the principals in a trial about a murder. These monologues greatly influenced many later poets, including T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, the latter singling out in his Cantos Browning's convoluted psychological poem Sordello about a frustrated 13-century troubadour, as the poem he must work to distance himself from.

Ironically, Browning's style, which seemed modern and experimental to Victorian readers, owes much to his love of the seventeenth century poems of John Donne with their abrupt openings, colloquial phrasing and irregular rhythms. But he remains too much the prophet-poet and descendant of Percy Shelley to settle for the conceits, puns, and verbal play of the Metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century. His is a modern sensibility, all too aware of the arguments against the vulnerable position of one of his simple characters, who recites: "God's in His Heaven; All's right with the world." Browning endorses such a position because he sees an immanent deity that, far from remaining in a transcendent heaven, is indivisible from temporal process, assuring that in the fullness of theological time there is ample cause for celebrating life.


Browning was awarded many distinctions. He was made LL.D. of Edinburgh, a life Governor of London University, and had the offer of the Lord Rectorship of Glasgow.

The Robert Browning Society was formed in 1881 and his work was recognised as belonging within the British literary canon.[6]

Browning was buried in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, on 31 December 1889. In 1906, an inscription was added to his tomb to commemorate Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who is buried in Florence.[7]

16 of Browning's poems ("Song from 'Paracelsus'", "The Wanderers", "Thus the Mayne glideth", "Pippa's Song", "You'll love Me yet", "Porphyria's Lover", "Song", "Earl Mertoun's Song", "In a Gondola", "Meeting at Night", "Parting at Morning", "The Lost Mistress", "The Last Ride together," "Misconceptions", "Home-thoughts, from Abroad", and "Home-thoughts, from the Sea") were included in the Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900.[8]

The story of Browning and his wife Elizabeth was made into a play The Barretts of Wimpole Street, by Rudolph Besier. The play was a success and brought popular fame to the couple in the United States. The role of Elizabeth became a signature role for the actress Katharine Cornell. It was eventually adapted twice into film.

History of sound recordingEdit

Robert Browning Recites His Poem (1889 Edison Cylinder)00:51

Robert Browning Recites His Poem (1889 Edison Cylinder)

At a dinner party on 7 April 1889, at the home of Browning's friend the artist Rudolf Lehmann, an Edison cylinder phonograph recording was made on a white wax cylinder by Edison's British representative, George Gouraud. In the recording, which still exists, Browning recites part of "How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix" (and can be heard apologizing when he forgets the words).[9] When the recording was played in 1890 on the anniversary of his death, at a gathering of his admirers, it was said to be the first time anyone's voice "had been heard from beyond the grave."[10][11]


Poemsrobocad00browuoft 0001



Poemsplaysintrod01browuoft 0009


  • On the Poet Objective and Subjective / On the Latter's Aim / On Shelley as Man and Poet. London, Published for the Browning Society by N. Trübner, 1881.
  • An Essay on Percy Bysshe Shelley. London: Published for the Shelley Society by Reeves and Turner, 1888. 
  • Browning's Prose Life of Strafford. London: Publisht for the Browning Society by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1892; Boston: Estes & Lauriat, 1892.



Collected editionsEdit


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[15]

Poems by Robert BrowningEdit

"My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning (read by Tom O'Bedlam)03:44

"My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

  1. Home Thoughts, from Abroad
  2. My Last Duchess
  3. Porphyria's Lover
  4. Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

See alsoEdit

The Pied Piper of Hamelin - a myRead Production12:48

The Pied Piper of Hamelin - a myRead Production

Porphyria's Lover (Shuggie - Foxygen)03:52

Porphyria's Lover (Shuggie - Foxygen)


  • Chesterton, G.K. Robert Browning (Macmillan, 1903)
  • DeVane, William Clyde. A Browning handbook. 2nd. Ed. (Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1955)
  • Drew, Philip. The poetry of Robert Browning: A critical introduction. (Methuen, 1970)
  • Finlayson, Iain. Browning: A Private Life. (HarperCollins, 2004)
  • Garrett, Martin ed., Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning: Interviews and Recollections. (Macmillan, 2000)
  • Garrett, Martin. Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. (British Library Writers' Lives). (British Library, 2001)
  • Hudson, Gertrude Reese. Robert Browning's literary life from first work to masterpiece. (Texas, 1992)
  • Karlin, Daniel. The courtship of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett. (Oxford, 1985)
  • Kelley, Philip et al. (Eds.) The Brownings' correspondence. 15 vols. to date. (Wedgestone, 1984-) (Complete letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning to 1849.)
  • Litzinger, Boyd and Smalley, Donald (eds.) Robert Browning: the Critical Heritage. (Routledge, 1995)
  • Markus, Julia. Dared and Done: the Marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning (Bloomsbury, 1995)
  • Maynard, John. Browning's youth. (Harvard Univ. Press, 1977)
  • Ryals, Clyde de L. The Life of Robert Browning: a Critical Biography. (Blackwell, 1993)
  • Woolford, John and Karlin, Daniel. Robert Browning. (Longman, 1996)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Browning, Robert. Ed. Karlin, Daniel (2004) Selected Poems Penguin p9
  2. John Maynard, Browning's Youth
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Browning, Robert. Ed. Karlin, Daniel (2004) Selected Poems Penguin p10
  4. Peterson, William S. Sonnets From The Portuguese. Massachusetts: Barre Publishing, 1977.
  5. "Barrett Browning Dies at Asolo, Italy; Artist, son of the Poets, Robert and Elizabeth Browning", obituary, The New York Times, 9 June 1912.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Browning, Robert. Ed. Karlin, Daniel (2004) Selected Poems Penguin p11
  7. Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, People, History, Westminster Abbey. Web, July 11, 2016.
  8. "Alphabetical list of authors: Brontë, Emily to Cutts, Lord. Arthur Quiller-Couch, editor, Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919)., Web, May 16, 2012.
  9. Poetry Archive, retrieved May 2, 2009
  10. Kreilkamp, Ivan, "Voice and the Victorian storyteller." Cambridge University Press, 2005, page 190. ISBN 0-521-85193-9, 9780521851930. Retrieved May 2, 2009
  11. "The Author," Volume 3, January-December 1891. Boston: The Writer Publishing Company. "Personal gossip about the writers-Browning." Page 8. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  12. The poetical works of Robert Browning (1894), Internet Archive. Web, July 14, 2013.
  13. Sonnets (1914), Internet Archive. Web, Oct. 21, 2013.
  14. Dramas (1886)], Internet Archive. Web, July 14, 2013.
  15. Search results = au:Robert Browning, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Oct. 21, 2013.

External linksEdit


Audio / video
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. (view article). (view authors).
This page uses content from Wikinfo . The original article was at Wikinfo:Robert Browning.
The list of authors can be seen in the (view authors). page history. The text of this Wikinfo article is available under the GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.