A few days before she had written, "There are so many mercies close around me that God's being seems proved to me, demonstrated to me, by His manifested love." When the blow came, its heavy weight and closeness to her heart convinced her, she wrote, through an awful experience of suffering, of divine action. But many years later the mention of her brother's death was intolerable to her. At the time she only did not die. She had to remain for nearly a year day and night within hearing of the sea, of which the sound seemed to her the moan of a dying man.
There is here an interval of silence in the correspondence which busied her secluded life at all ages; but with an impulse of self-protection she went to work as soon as her strength sufficed. One of her tasks was a part taken in the Chaucer Modernized (1841), a work suggested by Wordsworth, to which he, Leigh Hunt, Horne and others contributed. In 1841 she returned to Wimpole Street, and in that and the following year she was at work on two series of articles on the Greek Christian poets and on the English poets, written for the Athenaeum under the editorship of Mr C.W. Dilke. In work she found some interest and even some delight: "Once I wished not to live, but the faculty of life seems to have sprung up in me again from under the crushing foot of heavy grief. Be it all as God wills."
It is in 1842 that we notice the name of Robert Browning in her letters: "Mr Horne the poet and Mr Browning the poet were not behind in approbation," she says in regard to her work on the poets. "Mr Browning is said to be learned in Greek, especially the dramatists." In this year also she declares her love for Tennyson. To Kenyon she writes, "I ought to be thanking you for your great kindness about this divine Tennyson." In 1842, moreover, she had the pleasure of a letter from Wordsworth, who had twice asked Kenyon for permission to visit her. The visit was not permitted on account of Miss Barrett's ill-health. Now Haydon sent her his unfinished painting of the great poet musing upon Helvellyn; she wrote her sonnet on the portrait, and Haydon sent it to Rydal Mount. Wordsworth's commendation is rather cool. In August 1843 "The Cry of the Children" appeared in Blackwood's Magazine, and during the year she was associated with her friend Horne in a critical work, The New Spirit of the Age, rather by advice than by direct contribution.
Her two volumes of poems (1844) appeared, six years after her former book, under the title of Poems, by Elizabeth Barrett Barrett. The warmest praises that greeted the new poems were H.F. Chorley's in the Athenaeum, John Forster's in the Examiner, and those conveyed in Blackwood, the Dublin Review, the New Quarterly and the Atlas. Letters came from Carlyle and others. Both he and Miss Martineau selected as their favourite poem "Lady Geraldine's Courtship," a violent piece of work. In the beginning of the following year came the letter from a stranger that was to be so momentous to both. "I had a letter from Browning the poet last night," she writes to her old friend Mrs Martin, "which threw me into ecstasies - Browning, the author of Paracelsus, the king of the mystics." She is flattered, though not to "ecstasies," at about the same time by a letter from E.A. Poe, and by the dedication to her, as "the noblest of her sex," of his own work. "What is to be said, I wonder, when a man calls you the 'noblest of your sex'? 'Sir, you are the most discerning of yours.'" America was at least as quick as England to appreciate her poetry; among other messages thence came in the spring letters from Lowell and from Mrs Sigourney. "She says that the sound of my poetry is stirring the 'deep green forests of the New World'; which sounds pleasantly, does it not?" It is in the same year that the letters first speak of the hope of a journey to Italy. The winters in London, with the imprisonment which - according to the medical practice of that day - they entailed, were lowering Elizabeth's strength of resistance against disease.
She longed for the change of light, scene, manners and language, and the longing became a hope, until her father's prohibition put an end to it, and doomed her, as she and others thought, to death, without any perceptible reason for the denial of so reasonable a desire.
Meanwhile the friendship with Browning had become the chief thing in Elizabeth Barrett's life. The correspondence, once begun, had not flagged. In the early summer they met. The allusion to his poetry in "Lady Geraldine's Courtship" had doubtless put an edge to his already keen wish to know her. He became her frequent visitor and kept her room fragrant with flowers. He never lagged, whether in friendship or in love. We have the strange privilege, since the publication of the letters between the two, of following the whole course of this noble love-story from beginning to end, and day by day. Browning was six years younger than the woman he so passionately admired, and he at first believed her to be confined by some hopeless physical injury to her sofa. But of his own wish and resolution he never doubted. Her hesitation, in her regard for his liberty and strength, to burden him with an ailing wife, she has recorded in the Sonnets afterwards published under a slight disguise as Sonnets from the Portuguese. She refused him once "with all her will, but much against her heart," and yielded at last for his sake rather than her own.
Her father's will was that his children should not marry, and, kind and affectionate father though he was, the prohibition took a violent form and struck terror into the hearts of the three dutiful and sensitive girls. Robert Browning's addresses were, therefore, kept secret, for fear of scenes of anger which the most fragile of the three could not face. Browning was reluctant to practise the deception; Elizabeth alone knew how impossible it was to avoid it. When she was persuaded to marry, it was she who insisted, in mental and physical terror, upon a secret wedding. Throughout the summer of 1846 her health improved, and on the 12th of September the two poets were married in St Marylebone parish church. Browning visited it on his subsequent journeys to England to give thanks for what had taken place at its altar. Elizabeth's two sisters had been permitted to know of the engagement, but not of the wedding, so that their father's anger might not fall on them too heavily. For a week Mrs Browning remained in her father's house. On the 19th of September she left it, taking her maid and her little dog, joined her husband, and crossed to the Continent. She never entered that home again, nor did her father ever forgive her.