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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Browning, Elizabeth (Barrett), 1806-1861, poet. Largely self-educated. Early began writing verse. Before her marriage, 1846, contributed to New Monthly, Literary Gazette, Athenaeum, Graham's Magazine (Philadelphia), and other periodicals; also to annuals. After her marriage contributed less often and to fewer periodicals, mainly to Blackwood's and to New York Independent: "... Robert doesn't like my writing for magazines" (Letters to Her Sister, p. 98). Reprinted many of her periodical contributions, together with previously unpublished material, in The Seraphim, and Other Poems, 1838; in Poems, 1844; and in Poems, 1850; the last named included "Sonnets from the Portuguese." Published also Casa Guidi Windows, 1851; Aurora Leigh, 1857 [1856]; Poems before Congress, 1860. Proposed by Athenaeum as Wordsworth's successor for laureateship. 

      T. C. Evans, who called on Dickens in 1859, recorded that Dickens spoke of Barrett Browning. "with the affectionate enthusiasm which she seemed to inspire in all hearts"; Dickens thought it unfortunate, stated Evans, that Barrett Browning's style had been affected by her husband's (Of Many Men, p. 34n). Barrett Browning acknowledged Dickens to be a writer of genius, though she considered him inferior in art and power to Victor Hugo, Balzac, and George Sand. She enjoyed reading some of his books. Dickens's scepticism concerning spiritualism finds occasional mention in her letters. 
      Some weeks before the first number of H.W. appeared, Barrett Browning, as also her husband, was invited to become a contributor; her immediate reaction was to predict the periodical's non-success. From Florence, March 12,1850, she wrote to her sister Arabel: ''Mr. Forster has written to ask us to contribute to Dickens' new periodical – which wont succeed, I predict, especially as they have adopted the fashion of not printing the names of contributors" (quoted by Philip Kelley, reply to "Greek Slave Mystery," N. & Q., May 1967). Her other reasons for prophesying the failure of H.W. Barrett Browning did not specify. Neither she nor her husband sent any contribution in response to Forster's invitation, but one sonnet by her – "Hiram Power's [sic] Greek Slave" – did appear in H.W., [II, 99.] Oct. 26,1850. 
      The item is listed in the Office Book without author's name and without record of payment. [...]
      "Hiram Powers's Greek Slave" first appeared in book form in Poems, 1850, published Nov. 9 (advertisement, Athenaeum). Barrett Browning, in Florence, had asked Sarianna Browning to correct the proofs of the book, an arrangement, as she wrote, whereby "Mr. Forster will have access to the sheets"(quoted by Kelley). Forster was at the time part proprietor of H.W., meeting occasionally with Dickens and Wills to discuss editorial matters. In this capacity, and in the capacity of supervisor of the proof-correction of Poems, he was the one person who would have had access to the sonnet and at the same time could have arranged for its publication in H.W. He would, obviously, have obtained Barrett Browning's consent for the publication. Motivation for the insertion of the sonnet in H.W. was of course its timeliness: Powers's much-admired statue was to be on display in 1851 in the Great Exhibition. 
      In his H.W. article "Ground in the Mill," Morley quoted two lines from Barrett Browning's "Cry of the Children"; Hannay, in "The Sailors' Home," borrowed a phrase from "Lady Geraldine's Courtship"; and Howitt, in "A Day at Waterloo" quoted from Casa Guidi Windows a "simple but sublime truth," as also another passage from the same poem. 

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971. 

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 

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