Barrett-Browning, Elizabeth. (1806 - 1861).
L i f e
- unusually educated for a woman of her time: studied Latin, Greek, history, philosophy, and literature
- married Robert Browning, eloped with him to Italy: deeply involved in Italian nationalist politics during the Risorgimento (= a movement to unify Italy as a nation-state)
W o r k
- early period: Romantic visionary narrative poetry
- mature period: contemporary topics of England, especially its liberal causes
- late period: topical issues of history, tradition, and politics of Italy experiencing a painful evolution into a modern state
The Seraphim and Other Poems (1838)
“The Cry of the Children” (1843):
- criticizes the exploitation of children in coal mines and factories
- uses literature as a tool of social protest and reform
Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850):
- supposedly a translation from the Portuguese language x but: her original creation
- a sequence of 44 love-sonnets written during the courtship
- records the stages of love for her husband and her private emotional awakening
Casa Guidi Windows (1851):
- a poetic sequence on contemporary Italian issues
Aurora Leigh: A Poem in Nine Books (1857):
- a blank verse 'novel': contains a multitude of characters and melodramatic plot => closer to fiction than to poetry
- the first work in English by a woman writer involving a female protagonist identical with the author => a ‘female Prelude’
- the growth of a woman poet’s mind, her conflict as an artist x woman, and her self-liberation by the poetry releasing for her the ‘elemental freedom’
- a female artistic career: a young woman committed to a socially inclusive realist art, passionately interested in social questions, and longing for knowledge and freedom
- a male philanthropic career: the protagonist's cousin becomes her helpmate in liberal causes
- plot: Aurora refuses a marriage proposal from her cousin to pursue a poetic career; rescues a fallen woman, they settle in Italy, and confront the chastened cousin
- conclusion: hope and visionary optimism
- represents social issues concerning women from the feminist point of view
(Picture: Wikimedia Commons).
AuthorElizabeth Barrett-Browning. (1806 - 1861). British.
WorkPoet. Author of Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850).
GenresVictorian period. Personal, social, and political poetry.
Abrams, Meyer Howard, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993.
Barnard, Robert. Stručné dějiny anglické literatury. Praha: Brána, 1997.
Baugh, Albert C. ed. A Literary History of England. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967.
Coote, Stephen. The Penguin Short History of English Literature. London: Penguin, 1993.
Sampson, George. The Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946.
Sanders, Andrew. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. New York: Clarendon Press, 1994.
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. / I love thee to the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight / For the ends of Being and ideal Grace."
From Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850).