Project Description

Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning

Elizabeth Barrett was a famous English poet from a wealthy family who lived under her father’s strict hand. Despite the fact that she was a bit of a recluse, she became a well-known poet in her lifetime. Elizabeth’s volume Poems published in 1844 attracted the admiration of a young fellow poet who would later also become immortal – Robert Browning. Her verses inspired him to send her a touching letter of appreciation stating “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,” praising their “fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos and true new brave thought.” With the help of a friend, Robert Browning met Elizabeth and the two quickly fell in love. Elisabeth’s father disapproved of Robert, doubting his motives with his daughter who was older and not what one would consider a beauty, so the couple kept their relationship a secret. The relationship inspired Barrett’s most famous sonnet “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways”. They exchanged hundreds of love letters by 1846 when they made a courageous decision to elope. She was immediately disowned by her father and family, who believed she had married a low-class gold digger. Nevertheless, they fled to Italy shortly after their wedding. They found happiness in Italy – at her husband’s insistence, Elizabeth’s second edition of Poems included her love sonnets; as a result, her popularity increased (as well as critical regard), and her artistic position was confirmed. The couple came to know a wide circle of artists and writers including William Makepeace Thackeray, sculptor Harriet Hosmer and Harriet Beecher Stowe. In 1849 she met Margaret Fuller, and the female French novelist George Sand in 1852, whom she had admired greatly. Elisabeth and Robert had a son together and lived the remainder of their life together in Italy. She died in 1861 in her husband’s arms saying her last word… “Beautiful”.