Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Biographical Information

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born on March 6, 1806 in Durham, England. The Barrett family was very wealthy and she enjoyed an incredible childhood. As a young child Elizabeth loved to read and write. Shakespeare was her favorite writer. Inspiration from Shakespeare had Elizabeth writing her own poetry (primarily sonnets) by the time she became a young teenager. Elizabeth was very close to her family, and suffered deep depressions after losing family members. After the death of her favorite brother, she locked herself in her room and refused to come out. Instead of talking, she expressed herself through poetry. She also battled health issues and was never completely happy until she fell in love. She met Robert Browning after he wrote a letter praising her poetry. Her love with Robert Browning inspired her famous “Sonnets from the Portuguese.” Elizabeth died in Robert’s arms June 29, 1861.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one who was admired and sometimes criticized by many. Robert Bernard Martin had a more specific view:

“Elizabeth Barrett Browning has always been one of those writers who act like a polished surface to reflect the concerns of those who write about them. . . . Part of the popular appeal her life has always exerted comes from its evocation of half-recognized motifs from legends, fairy-tales and other fictions; Sleeping Beauty, Juliet and Cinderella all jostle elbows in most accounts of her elopement and marriage, and when Browning reordered them in The Ring and the Book, he found cognates in the stories of Andromeda and Perseus, of St George and the princess victim, even — somewhat embarrassingly — in the flight into Egypt of the Holy Family. Probably a bit too pat for modern readers, particularly when Elizabeth seems to have cast herself in the leading roles. Not the least of their wish fulfilling quality has been that these youthful adventures all happened to a middle-aged woman.”

An Original Letter from Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett

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Sonnets from the Portuguese

The “Sonnets from the Portuguese” were inspired by Robert Browning. It consisted of a series of 44 sonnets describing the love that Elizabeth felt for Robert. This dedication to Robert made it clear that her love was unconditional. These sonnets became very popular among the Victorian period, and young women longed to experience the love that Browning herself got to enjoy.

A Timeline of Browning’s Life


Martin, Robert Bernard. “A Valetudinarian and Her Values,” Times Literary Supplement (August 18-25, 1988): 900.
Pictures taken from http://www.cswnet.com/~erin/loveletter.htm
“Elizabeth Barrett Browning.” Spectrum Biographies. http://www.incwell.com/Biographies/BrowningEB.html
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