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ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (1806-1861)

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ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING (1806-l861)

She was born near Durham to a wealthy merchant family. She was educated learning Greek and Latin (unusually for a girl of her time). She was a voracious reader and an early writer. Her tyrannical father kept her confined at Hope End, the imposing Moorish-style castle where the family lived. The official excuse for her was her infirmity (àshe was semi-invalid). So her life was sad.

By the age of 39 Elizabeth was a well-known poetess (she was the only important Victorian’s poetess à the other are in prose à es: George Eliot). So she sometimes received visits of men of letters and younger writers. One of this was Robert Browning. Their relation was mainly epistolary for a year and a half, after which they secretly married in 1846 and eloped in Italy.

In 1847 she published Sonnets from the Portuguese, a collection of 44 sonnets inspired by her love for Browning à it is the first Canzoniere written in England by a woman and from a woman’s point of view.

Life in Italy brought to Elizabeth both restored health and renewed poetical inspiration. She settled in Florence with her husband at Casa Guidi (à Casa Guidi Windows, 1851, her famous poem inspired by the Italian Risorgimento) and there she died in 1861, being buried in the English protestant cemetery of Florence.

Her literary interests were always characterised by fervent ethical and social concerns. For example she wrote The cry of the children against the exploitation of children in coal mines and factories (à her passionate interest in moral problems and in the suffering of other people). Then in her long poem Aurora Leigh she depicts the growing literary vocation of a woman (herself) at the same time touching on wider questions concerning women’s education and their role in society.

So she wrote sonnets and long poems about love. Then she was concerned with women and children’s problems.

Text: IF THOU MUST LOVE ME, LET IT BE FOR NAUGHT   (. 209)





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