Her letters, written with tears to entreat his pardon, were never answered. They were all subsequently returned to her unopened. Among them was one she had written, in the prospect of danger, before the birth of her child. With her sisters her relations were, as before, most affectionate. Her brothers, one at least of whom disapproved of her action, held for a time aloof. All others were taken entirely by surprise. Mrs Jameson, who had been one of the few intimate visitors to Miss Barrett's room, had offered to take her to Italy that year, but met her instead on her way thither with a newly-married husband. The poets' journey was full of delight. Where she could not walk, up long staircases or across the waters of the stream at Vaucluse, Browning carried her. In October they reached Pisa, and there they wintered, Mrs Jameson keeping them company for a time lest ignorance of practical things should bring them, in their poverty, to trouble. She soon found that they were both admirable economists; not that they gave time and thought to husbandry, but that they knew how to enjoy life without luxuries.
So they remained to the end, frugal and content with little.
For climate and cheapness they settled in Italy, choosing Florence in the spring of 1847, and remaining there, with the interruptions of a change to places in Italy such as Siena and Rome, and to Paris and England, until Mrs Browning's death. It was at Pisa that Robert Browning first saw the Sonnets from the Portuguese, poems which his wife had written in secret and had no thought of publishing. He, however, resolved to give them to the world. "I dared not," he said, "reserve to myself the finest sonnets written in any language since Shakespeare's." The judgment, which the existence of Wordsworth's sonnets renders obviously absurd, may be pardoned. The sonnets were sent to Miss Mitford and published at Reading, as Sonnets by E.B.B., in 1847. In 1850 they were included, under their final title, in a new issue of poems. During the Pisan autumn appeared in Blackwood's Magazine seven poems by Mrs Browning which she had sent some time before, and the publication of which at that moment disturbed her as likely to hurt her father by an apparent reference to her own story.
At Pisa also she wrote and sent to America a poem, "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim Point," which was published in Boston, in The Liberty Bell, in 1848, and separately in England in 1849. In the summer of 1847 the Brownings left their temporary dwelling in Florence and took the apartment in Casa Guidi, near the Pitti Palace, which was thenceforth their chief home. Early in their residence began that excited interest in Italian affairs which made so great a part of Mrs Browning's emotional life. The Florentines, under the government of the grand duke, were prosperous but disturbed by national aspirations. Mrs Browning, by degrees, wrote Casa Guidi Windows on their behalf and as an appeal to the always impulsive sympathies of England. In 1849 was born the Brownings' only child, their beloved son Robert Wiedemann Barrett. After this event Mrs Browning resumed her literary activities, preparing a new issue, with some additions, of her poems (1850). A poem on the death of a friend's child appeared in the Athenaeum (1849), and there the new volumes were warmly praised.
Casa Guidi Windows followed in 1851. Visiting England in that year, the Brownings saw much of the Procters, and something of Florence Nightingale, Kingsley, Ruskin, Rogers, Patmore and Tennyson, and also of Carlyle, with whom they went to Paris, where they saw George Sand, and where they passed the December days of the coup d'état. Mrs Browning happened to take a political fancy to Napoleon III., whom she would probably have denounced if a tithe of his tyrannies had occurred in Italy, and the fancy became more emotional in after years.
A new edition of Mrs Browning's poems was called for in 1853, and at about this time, in Florence, she began to work on Aurora Leigh. She was still writing this poem when the Brownings were again in England, in 1855. Tennyson there read to them his newly-written Maud. After another interval in Paris they were in London again - Mrs Browning for the last time. She was with her dear cousin Kenyon during the last months of his life. In October 1856 the Brownings returned to their Florentine home, Mrs Browning leaving her completed Aurora Leigh for publication. The book had an immediate success; a second edition was required in a fortnight, a third a few months later. In the fourth edition (1859) several corrections were made. The review in Blackwood was written by W.E. Aytoun, that in the North British by Coventry Patmore.
In 1857 Mrs Browning addressed a petition, in the form of a letter, to the emperor Napoleon begging him to remit the sentence of exile upon Victor Hugo. We do not hear of any reply. In 1857 Mrs Browning's father died, unreconciled. Henrietta Barrett had married, like her sister, and like her was unforgiven. In 1858 occurred another visit to Paris, and another to Rome, where Hawthorne and his family were among the Brownings' friends. In 1859 came the Italian war in which Mrs Browning's hasty sympathies were hotly engaged. Her admiration of Italy's champion, Napoleon III., knew no bounds, and did not give way when, by the peace of Villafranca, Venice and Rome were left unannexed to the kingdom of Italy, and the French frontiers were "rectified" by the withdrawal from that kingdom of Savoy and Nice. That peace, however, was a bitter disappointment, and her fragile health suffered. At Siena and Florence this year the Brownings were very kind to Landor, old, solitary, and ill. Mrs Browning's poem, "A Tale of Villafranca", was published in the Athenaeum in September, and afterwards included in Poems before Congress (1860). Then followed another long visit to Rome, and there Mrs Browning prepared for the press this, her last volume.