Saturday, 12 December 2009

On this day...

Victorian poet Robert Browning died in 1889, at the age of 77. Athough Browning was an astute learner, fluent in French, Latin, Greek and Italian by the age of 14, his mother's evangelical faith prevented him gaining a place at either Oxford or Cambridge; both only open to Church of England members. He therefore resumed his childhood hobby of writing poetry; a career which did not gain him recognition until 1840. Besides his writings, Browning is arguably most famous for his marriage to fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The courtship and ceremony was carried out in secret from Barrett's father, and the couple eloped to Italy, in an imitation of Browning's idol Shelley. Six years his senior and an invalid, Elizabeth was doubtful that Browning was truly sincere in his feeling, and she later expressed the idea in one of her best known works, 'Sonnets from the Portugese'. Browning's own poetic works are recognisable for their use of the dramatic monologue. They often take the form of an unpleasant character, as in 'My Last Duchess', 'Porphyria's Lover' and 'The Laboratory', yet many are set in a different epoch to distinguish them from the Victorian society of the day.

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