Saturday, 6 March 2010

On this day...

English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born in 1806. One of the most prominent poets of the Victorian Era, Barrett was the eldest of 12 children, whose father had his fortune tied up in the sugar plantations of Jamaica. Throughout Browning's childhood and adolescene, she had an unquenchable desire for knowledge. Tutored in Shakespeare and Milton as a young girl, by the age of twenty, she had read all the notable classical authors in the orginal, read the Old Testament in Hebrew, and had written numerous poems, including an 'epic'.

Yet it was at twenty that she first experienced what was to be a life-long illness, an illness which doctors failed to ever diagnose. She kept publishing however, often on a social theme, and it was one such publication that inspired Robert Browning to write to her, starting a secret courtship that led to their marriage a year later. One of Elizabeth's most famous works is indeed on the subject of her marriage. 'Sonnets From the Portugese' expresses doubts that Robert would ever love such an invalid as herself. Described by Edgar Allan Poe as 'the noblest of her sex', Browning went on to influence numerous poets and her death, in 1861, did nothing to diminsh her legacy.

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