The little book was judged with some impatience, A Curse for a Nation being mistaken for a denunciation of England, whereas it was aimed at America and her slavery. The Athenaeum, amongst others, committed this error. The Saturday Review was hard on the volume, so was Blackwood; the Atlas and Daily News favourable. In July 1860 was published "A Musical Instrument" in the young Cornhill Magazine, edited by the author's friend W.M. Thackeray. The last blow she had to endure was the death of her sister Henrietta, in the same year.
On the 30th of June 1861 Elizabeth Barrett Browning died. Her husband, who tended her alone on the night of her decease, wrote to Miss Blagden: "Then came what my heart will keep till I see her again and longer - the most perfect expression of her love to me within my whole knowledge of her. Always smilingly, happily, and with a face like a girl's, and in a few minutes she died in my arms, her head on my cheek. ... There was no lingering, nor acute pain, nor consciousness of separation, but God took her to himself as you would lift a sleeping child from a dark uneasy bed into your arms and the light. Thank God." Her married life had been supremely happy. Something has been said of the difference between husband and wife in regard to "spiritualism", in which Mrs Browning had interest and faith, but no division ever interrupted their entirely perfect affection and happiness. Of her husband's love for her she wrote at the time of her marriage, "He preferred ... of free and deliberate choice, to be allowed to sit only an hour a day by my side, to the fulfilment of the brightest dream which should exclude me in any possible world." "I am still doubtful whether all the brightness can be meant for me.
It is just as if the sun rose again at 7 o'clock P.M." "I take it for pure magic, this life of mine. Surely nobody was ever so happy before." "I must say to you [Mrs Jameson] who saw the beginning with us, that this end of fifteen months is just fifteen times better and brighter; the mystical 'moon' growing larger and larger till scarcely room is left for any stars at all: the only differences which have touched me being the more and more happiness." Browning buried his wife in Florence, under a tomb designed by their friend Frederick Leighton. On the wall of Casa Guidi is placed the inscription: "Qui scrisse e mori Elisabetta Barrett Browning, che in cuore di donna conciliava scienza di dotto e spirito di poeta, e face del suo verso aureo annello fra Italia e Inghilterra. Pone questa lapide Firenze grata 1861." In 1866 Robert Browning published a volume of selections from his wife's works.
The place of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in English literature is high, if not upon the summits. She had an original genius, a fervent heart, and an intellect that was, if not great, exceedingly active. She seldom has composure or repose, but it is not true that her poetry is purely emotional. It is full of abundant, and even over-abundant, thoughts. It is intellectually restless. The impassioned peace of the greatest poetry, such as Wordsworth's, is not hers. Nor did she apparently seek to attain those heights. Her Greek training taught her little of the economy that such a poetic education is held to impose; she "dashed", not by reason of feminine weakness, but as it were to prove her possession of masculine strength. Her gentler work, as in the Sonnets from the Portuguese, is beyond praise. There is in her poetic personality a glory of righteousness, of spirituality, and of ardour that makes her name a splendid one in the history of an incomparable literature.
See the Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning addressed to R.H. Horne, with Comments on Contemporaries, edited by S.R. Townshend Mayer (2 vols., 1877); The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning from 1826 to 1844, edited with memoir by J.H. Ingram (1887); Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Eminent Women series), by J.H. Ingram, 1888); Records of Tennyson, Ruskin and the Brownings, by Anne Ritchie (1892); The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, edited with biographical additions by Frederick G. Kenyon (2 vols., 1897); The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett (2 vols., 1899); La Vie et l'oeuvre d'Elizabeth Browning, by Mdlle. Germaine-Marie Merlette (Paris, 1906)