Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one of the most popular and influential female writers in English literature.
Her impressive body of work is one of the most important pieces of literature by an English writer. Let’s take a look at 10 interesting facts about Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning Facts
1. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born in 1806
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born in Coxhoe Hall in Country Durham on March 6th, 1806. Her father was Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett and her mother was Mary Graham Clarke. Elizabeth was the eldest of 12 children that her parents would have. Eleven of the twelve would live on to become adults, while one of them passed away at the age of three.
All of the children were given nicknames, and Elizabeth’s was ‘Ba’, an interesting Elizabeth Barrett Browning fact. She was a reasonably active child who enjoyed taking part in theatre productions and riding her pony. She did have a reclusive side though, and from a young age was often hiding away burying her head in literature.
2. She was married to Robert Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one-half of one of literature’s most famous romances. After reading some of her poems in 1844, the famous poet Robert Browning decided to reach out to Elizabeth and share his admiration for her work.
This led to a meeting between the two being arranged in May 1845. This was the beginning of a famous relationship between the two. They would secretly marry a few months later and this would later lead to Elizabeth being shunned by her family. She lived a happy life with Robert in Rome though and the two became incredibly popular among literary circles.
3. Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in 1861
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s health deteriorated very quickly between 1860-1861. After causing a stir writing some political poetry in Italy, she and Robert Browning returned to Florence in 1861. Elizabeth’s health had been in decline at this point and one of her sisters had recently passed away as well.
After being given a lot of morphine, Elizabeth Barrett Browning passed away in the arms of her husband on 29th June 1861. Her husband said that she looked peaceful as she passed away. She was buried in an English cemetery in Florence, and her local community paid tribute by closing stores on the day of her funeral.
4. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote her first poem when she was very young
An interesting fact about Elizabeth Barrett Browning is that her first documented piece of poetry was written she was either six or eight years old. The piece is called ‘On the Cruelty of Forcement to Man’ and is a protest against impressment. The poem is currently on display in New York Public Library. There is some controversy over the piece as the number 2 in the year 1812 looks as though it has been edited.
5. A lot of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s work has a religious influence
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a deeply religious woman and a lot of this is reflected in her body of work. During her life, she had read and extensively studied Dante’s Inferno as well as Milton’s Paradise Lost. A lot of her work featured deeply religious themes and imagery. She was very interested in theological discussions and she learned Hebrew so that she could study the Hebrew Bible.
6. Her work influenced many famous writers
Elizabeth Barrett Browning received a lot of praise throughout her lifetime for her work. She was well-received in both England and America. One of the most iconic writers to be influenced by Barrett Browning was Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe was a huge fan of Barrett’s writing, specifically the poem Lady Geraldine’s Courtship. This led to Poe using the same meter as the poem for what would go on to be his most famous work- The Raven.
7. Aurora Leigh is seen as her greatest achievement
While Elizabeth Barrett Browning produced many famous poems during her lifetime, her magnum opus is seen as Aurora Leigh. Aurora Leigh is an epic novel/poem that was released in 1856. It spreads over 9 volumes and encompasses a lot of Browning’s other famous works.
The poem is written in blank verse and is based in various different locations. She also uses her knowledge of Hebrew and Greek for parts of the poem. It is often viewed as one of the greatest poems of the 19th century and it firmly established Elizabeth Barrett Browning as one of the most influential female writers in English literature.
8. She was nearly Poet Laureate
Elizabeth Barrett Browning had a period of ill health at the start of the 1840s but once she had recovered, she became an incredibly prolific writer. She began to have many of her most famous poems published during this time period, as well as a lot of critical essays. Her work was incredibly received and she was becoming one of the most popular poets in the country.
In 1850, following the death of William Wordsworth, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was in contention to replace him as the poet laureate of the UK, an interesting Elizabeth Barrett Browning fact. Sadly, she missed out on getting the prestigious role, which was instead given to Alfred Lord Tennyson.
9. Elizabeth Barrett Browning battled illnesses for a lot of her life
Elizabeth Barrett Browning battled with a lot of illness from a young age. She first became really sick when she was around 14-15. Medical science couldn’t diagnose the illness at the time but it largely consisted of headaches and spinal pain, combined with a feeling of general weakness. She began to take opiates at the time to heal her pain and would use them for the majority of her life. Many historians and critics believe that these may have been responsible for a lot of vivid imagery in her poetry.
She would remain frail for a lot of her life and her siblings also suffered from a lot of illnesses during their lifetime. It is unknown what illness caused her death but there are some who believe she may have carried a lifelong illness that was simply undiagnosable at the time.
10. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s first collection of poetry was published in 1826
The first collection of poems to be published for the public by Elizabeth Barrett Browning was released in 1826 and was entitled An Essay on Mind and Other Poems. This would attract the attention of some notable academics thanks to its references to ancient Greece and its writers.
The collection would go on to become critically acclaimed and it helped established Elizabeth Barrett Browning as one of the hottest writers of the period.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s work has gone to influence countless writers and her iconic romance with Robert Browning is still viewed as one of literature’s greatest love stories.
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