Robert Browning, an English poet, born in Camberwell, a suburb of London, in 1812. He was educated at the London university. At the age of 20 he went to Italy, where he remained some years, in order to make himself familiar with all that was peculiarly Italian. The mediaeval history of that country, so fruitful in records of fervid passion and startling crime, was studied in its abundant chronicles and local memoirs. He spent much time in the monasteries of Lombardy and Venice, exploring their dusty libraries, and in the silent air of monastic life, calling up a more distinct image of the past than could have been vouchsafed to him in any "bustle of resort." But he devoted himself with equal energy to the task of making himself acquainted with the life and characteristics of the people around him. He studied a class of Italian population of which most travellers have only occasional glimpses - the peasants in their rural homes, and the residents of those dreamy old towns in which life flows on with so quiet a current. No traveller ever brought away a larger intellectual harvest from Italy than Mr. Browning; and the effect of his Italian life is distinctly perceived by the readers of his poetry, alike in his choice of subjects and his treatment of them.
In 1835 appeared his "Paracelsus," a dramatic poem in which the principal character was the celebrated empiric and alchemist of the 16th century. It did not attract general attention, and has not the elements which secure popularity; but among the discerning few it was welcomed as the work of a truly original mind, rich in performance, and more rich in promise. In 1837" his tragedy "Strafford" was presented on the stage in London; but in spite of the admirable acting of Macready, by whom the principal character was sustained, it met with very moderate success. In 1840 he published " Sor-dello," a poem, the subject of which was drawn from the supposed life of the Mantuan poet, who appears in the 6th canto of Dante's Pur-gatorio. The general public pronounced this work an unintelligible rhapsody, with no meaning at all, and Mr. Browning has judiciously omitted it in the collective edition of his poems. Between 1842 and 1846 there appeared from his pen several successive numbers of a collection of dramatic and lyric poems, to which he gave the title of "Bells and Pomegranates;" an affected designation, and which had the further disadvantage of giving no hint as to the nature of the contents.
Among these was a tragedy of striking poetical power, called "A Blot on the Scutcheon," which was produced in Drury Lane theatre in 1843, but without marked success. Another play of his, "The Duchess of Cleves," was subsequently brought out at the Haymarket, Miss Cushman personating the heroine. In 1849 his collective poems were published in London and Boston, which introduced him to a larger circle of readers than he had before enjoyed. In 1850 he published " Christmas Eve and Easter Day," a poem, in which a picture is presented from the author's point of view of some of the religious and spiritual aspects of the age, and some of his own convictions are expressed. In 1855 appeared his "Men and Women," a collection of poems. His latest publications are " The Ring and the Book," " Balaustion's Adventure" (1871), "Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangan, Saviour of Society " (1871), " Fifine at the Fair " (1872), and "Red Cotton Nightcap Country" (1873). - In November, 1846, Mr. Browning was married to Elizabeth Barrett. Soon after her death he returned to England with their only child, a son, and now resides in or near London.