Elizabeth Barrett-marriage, motherhood, and mission

Elizabeth suffered from illness and disability during much of her life, which didn’t stop her from using her creativity to write prolifically. She became an activist for social causes, using her writing to fight the oppression of women, child labor, and slavery.

a book, reading glasses and cup of coffee on a table

After reading Elizabeth Barrett’Poems (1844) and corresponding with her for a few months, Robert Browning met her in 1845. Despite opposition from her father, they eloped in 1846. Her father never spoke to her again.

Prior to their marriage Elizabeth had already established her reputation as a poet; although not published until years later, she wrote her well-known and beloved collection of poems, SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE, in response to Robert’s ardent courtship.

“I love thee to the level of everyday’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.”

Sonnet XLIII

Elizabeth read the Bible in its original languages of Hebrew and Greek, and developed a passionate Christian faith; she was active in her church.

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The couple moved from England to Florence, Italy, where they continued to write. They had a son, Robert “Pen” Browning, in 1849, the same year Robert’s COLLECTED POEMS was published.

Elizabeth inspired Robert’s collection of poems Men and Women (1855), which he dedicated to her.

“Now regarded as one of Browning’s best works, the book was received with little notice at the time; its author was then primarily known as Elizabeth Barrett’s husband.”

motherhood; all love begins and ends there. Robert Browning

During much of her life, Elizabeth suffered from illness and disability, which didn’t stop her creativity and prolific writing. She became an activist for social causes, using her writing to fight women’s oppression, child labor, and slavery.

After slowing declining in health from an unidentified illness, she died “in her husband’s arms” in Florence Italy on June 29, 1861; she was 55 years old.

“I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.”

Sonnet XLIII

exploring the HEART of literature and love

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Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

As a family physician, I explore the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, community, and through writing. My blog, Watercress Words, informs and inspires us to live in health. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

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