Today, September 12, 2017, marks the 171st wedding anniversary of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. Since their marriage in 1846, Elizabeth and Robert have became some of the most well-known poets and writers in history. Born on March 6th, 1806 in Durham, England, Elizabeth Barrett Browning began writing novels at the age of six. She went on to produce one of the largest bodies of juvenilia left by an English writer. Some of her works include Sonnets from the Portuguese, published in 1847, and An Essay on Mind: With Other Poems, published in 1826, both of which can be found in Linderman Library’s Jane Austen Exhibit. It is interesting to note that one of Elizabeth Browning’s works held by Special Collections, a supposed 1847 printing of Sonnets, has since been confirmed as a forgery. You can read more about this forgery at the University of Chicago’s library website. The title page of this forged work and its books plates are pictured below:
On the other hand, Robert Browning, born May 7th, 1812 in Camberwell, London, claimed that he learned more over weekends than during his time at school. His father introduced him to Greek literature and drawing, while his mother taught him how to play the piano and appreciate classical music. After being sent home from school on many occasions for making his peers feel inferior due to his exceptional intelligence, Browning’s parents decided to home-school him, which is where his talents flourished. Many of his works are also present in Lehigh’s Special Collections, including an 1855 edition of Men and Women and The Ring and The Book (1868-69).
As for Elizabeth and Robert’s love story, they came to each other’s attention when Elizabeth publicly praised Robert’s poetry in an 1842 journal and a personal poem in 1844. Robert responded to these acknowledgments by posting a letter to her on January 10th, 1845, telling her that “I love your verse with all my heart… and I love you too.” The two continued to exchange letters every few days, and they finally decided to meet in person on May 20th, 1845 at 50 Wimpole Street. Although Elizabeth was very ill and six years his senior, Robert claims that it was love at first sight. The couple ended up eloping on September 12th, 1846 at St. Marylebone Church with only two guests: Robert’s cousin and Elizabeth’s maid. For their honeymoon, they decided to travel for several months to places such as Paris, Avignon, Marseilles, Leghorn and Pisa. After 171 years, the Brownings are still a significant part of literature and deserve to be celebrated in both their love and their work.
Marjorie Stone, ‘Browning , Elizabeth Barrett (1806–1861)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3711, accessed 12 Sept 2017]