After reading Elizabeth Barrett’s 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 her marriage Elizabeth had already established a 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.” (quote from poets.org)
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.
“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
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