Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Easton Press Elizabeth Barrett Browning books

Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning - Library of Great Poetry

Elizabeth Barrett Browning biography

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, born on March 6, 1806, in Coxhoe Hall, County Durham, England, was a prominent Victorian poet and one of the most celebrated literary figures of the 19th century. Her life and works are marked by poetic brilliance, a deep engagement with social and political issues, and a profound exploration of themes related to love, faith, and the human spirit. Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born into a well-off Victorian family. Despite being frail and often in poor health, she received an extensive education from private tutors, learning several languages and classical literature. Her early exposure to literature and intellectual pursuits ignited her passion for writing.

Her first published work, An Essay on Mind, with Other Poems, appeared in 1826 when she was just 20 years old. However, it was her collection Poems (1844) that brought her significant attention and critical acclaim. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poetry was characterized by its lyricism, emotional intensity, and exploration of contemporary social issues. In 1846, Elizabeth Barrett Browning eloped with fellow poet Robert Browning, defying the objections of her father. The couple settled in Italy, where Elizabeth's health improved, and they had a son named Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning, whom they affectionately called Pen.

One of Elizabeth's most well-known works is the collection Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850), a sequence of 44 sonnets that explore themes of love, spirituality, and the transformative power of romantic relationships. The title is a playful reference to her husband's pet name for her, "my little Portuguese."

Aurora Leigh
Her magnum opus, Aurora Leigh (1856), is an epic novel in verse that delves into issues of social justice, women's rights, and the role of the artist in society. The poem tells the story of an aspiring female poet, Aurora Leigh, and is considered a landmark work in Victorian literature. Aurora Leigh is written in blank verse and is divided into nine books. The poem follows the life and career of its protagonist, Aurora Leigh, an aspiring poet, and provides a sweeping narrative of her experiences, challenges, and relationships. The work is both a Bildungsroman (a novel of personal development) and a social commentary.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's health declined in the later years of her life, and she passed away on June 29, 1861, in Florence, Italy. Her influence on literature, especially her impact on the development of the dramatic monologue and her exploration of feminist themes, has continued to be celebrated. Elizabeth Barrett Browning's legacy endures through her poetry, which remains a testament to the enduring power of language and the human spirit.


Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote a significant body of poetry, exploring themes such as love, social justice, spirituality, and the role of women in society. Famous poems include:

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) This is one of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's most famous sonnets, and it is part of the Sonnets from the Portuguese sequence. It begins with the famous lines "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..." The sonnet begins with the speaker's declaration of love and the desire to enumerate the ways in which she loves her beloved. The poem uses an extended metaphor to describe the depth and expansiveness of the speaker's love. The speaker compares the vastness of her love to the depth, breadth, and height that her soul can reach. The poem moves beyond grand gestures, expressing love in the simplicity of everyday life. The speaker loves the beloved's quiet, daily needs and appreciates them in both sunlight and candlelight.

Aurora Leigh: This is an epic novel in verse, considered one of Barrett Browning's major works. It tells the story of the orphaned Aurora Leigh, addressing issues of gender, art, and social justice.

Sonnet 29 - I think of thee!: Another sonnet from the Sonnets from the Portuguese sequence, this poem reflects on the thoughts and emotions associated with love. Sonnet 29 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning expresses intimacy through the speaker's intense and immediate connection with the beloved. The poem uses vivid imagery and metaphor to convey the depth of emotional and physical closeness. An analysis of lines from Sonnet 29 that express intimacy considers how the opening lines use the metaphor of wild vines twining around a tree to describe the speaker's thoughts about the beloved. This metaphor suggests a natural and organic connection, as if the thoughts naturally grow and entwine around the person, much like vines around a tree. The speaker expresses a desire for the beloved's immediate presence, stating, "Rather, instantly / Renew thy presence." This indicates a longing for a constant and renewed connection, emphasizing the immediacy and intensity of the desired intimacy. The imagery of a palm-tree and greenery adds a natural and sensory dimension to the expression of intimacy. The speaker wants the beloved to be like a strong tree, and the greenery to drop down heavily, creating a sense of abundance and fullness. The sonnet engages the senses to convey intimacy. Words like "see," "hear," and "breathe" evoke a multi-sensory experience, suggesting that the speaker not only thinks about the beloved but also deeply feels their presence through various senses. Overall, Sonnet 29 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning expresses intimacy through the use of nature-inspired metaphors, sensory language, and the emphasis on the immediate and intense presence of the beloved. The poem beautifully captures the emotional and physical dimensions of a close, intimate relationship.

The Cry of the Children: Barrett Browning wrote this poem as a response to the child labor conditions in England during the Victorian era. It is a powerful critique of the exploitation of children in factories.

The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point: This narrative poem explores the theme of slavery and tells the story of a slave who escapes in search of freedom. It addresses issues of human rights and social justice.

Mother and Poet: This poem reflects on the dual role of a woman as both a mother and an artist. It is a poignant exploration of the conflicts and sacrifices that women faced in balancing family and artistic pursuits.

Grief: Also known as To Flush, My Dog, this poem is a heartfelt elegy for Barrett Browning's beloved pet dog, Flush. It explores themes of love, loss, and the nature of grief.

The Dead Pan: This narrative poem reflects on the theme of the death of beauty and inspiration, featuring the mythological figure Pan. It explores the idea of the artist losing inspiration and creativity.

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