Elizabeth Barrett Browning, an English poetess, born at Hope End, near Ledbury, Herefordshire, in 1805*, died in Florence, Italy, June 29, 1861. She was educated with great care in a masculine range of studies, and with a masculine strictness of intellectual discipline. She began to write at a very early age for periodical publications. In 1826 she published a volume entitled " An Essay on Mind, with other Poems." No portion of this volume is included in her collected poems. In 1833 appeared- " Prometheus Bound, and Miscellaneous Poems." Her version of the "Prometheus Bound " cannot be considered successful, and she subsequently pronounced it an "early failure," and replaced it by a new translation. Some of the smaller poems in this volume are marked by the characteristics of her most mature productions. In 1838 she published a volume entitled "The Seraphim, and other Poems," of which the principal is a lyrical drama, embodying the thoughts and emotions which may be supposed to be awakened in angelic natures by the spectacle of the crucifixion. This production, as well as her "Drama of Exile," a subsequent work, in which the theme is drawn from the fall of man, is a very bold but not very successful effort to soar into heights of speculation and invention.
In some of the smaller poems contained in this last mentioned volume, such as " Isobel's Child," "My Doves," and "The Sleep," we have glimpses of all that her genius was destined to accomplish. About the time of the publication of this volume her health, which had always been delicate, was seriously impaired by the rupture of a blood vessel, and for a long time she was on the verge between life and death. Her existence for many years was that of a confirmed and seemingly hopeless invalid. She did not leave her room, and saw only the members of her family and a few intimate friends. The long hours of illness were soothed by composition and study. The poets and philosophers of Greece were the companions of her mind, and some of the inspired writers of the Old Testament were studied by her in their original language. Some of the fruits of these studies were made public in a series of articles on the Greek Christian poets, which appeared in the London "Athenseum." In 1844 the first collected edition of her poems appeared in two volumes. In this her earlier productions were revised, and many pieces appeared for the first time in print, including " Lady Geraldine's Courtship," one of the most beautiful of her poems.
It contained a graceful compliment to Mr. Browning, to whom she had not previously been personally known. That poet called to express in person his acknowledgments, and the acquaintance thus made ripened into intimacy and finally into love. Her health improved, and she became the wife of Robert Browning in the autumn of 1846. The growth and progress of this new feeling, and its effects upon her heart and mind, are described with rare grace of expression, as well as exquisite depth and tenderness of feeling, in a series of poems called •" Sonnets from the Portuguese," which appeared for the first time in the second edition of her collected poems, published in 1850. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Browning resided for many years in Florence. In 1851 she published " Casa Guidi Windows," a poem on some of the social and political aspects of Italy, the title of which is taken from the name of the house in which she lived in Florence. In 1856 she published "Aurora Leigh," a narrative poem in nine books; a sort of versified novel, of which the subject, characters, and incidents are taken from English life and manners of the present day.
Her last publication, "Poems before the Congress," appeared in 1860. Mrs.* Browning's rank among English poets is very high, and among female poets she holds unquestionably the first place. She combined in an extraordinary degree the distinctive characteristics of the masculine understanding and the feminine heart. She considered carefully, and was capable of treating wisely, the deepest social problems which have engaged the attention of the most sagacious and practical minds, and yet no one has ever given truer and more fervid expression to the joys, the sorrows, the aspirations, and the visions of the purely womanly nature.