Elizabeth Barrett Browning

A picture of the author Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 - 1861) was a prominent Victorian poet. She was widely read in England and the United States and was the wife of the poet Robert Browning, whom she married in 1846.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning didn't come to possess her wonderfully alliterative name by chance alone. Elizabeth Barrett was born into a wealth family with extensive land holdings in England and Jamaica. Their holdings included sugar plantations, mills, glassworks and trading ships. The family was not only proud of their wealth but proud of their name. They often stipulated that the name "Barrett" should be used by a beneficiary inheriting from their estate. Elizabeth herself singed legal documents "Elizabeth Barrett Moulton Barrett" and used the initials EBB for "Elizabeth Barrett Barrett."

Browning's poetry was striking beautiful is prose and sentiment and it was widely read during her lifetime. In addition to the fictional writing for which he is known, the American author Edgar Allen Poe was also an import literary critic.

Poe felt so highly of her work that he borrowed the meter for The Raven from her poem "Lady Geraldine's Courtship".

Perhaps the greatest testament to her skill is the simple fact that her work is so well known and recognized. Here is Sonnet XLIII (43) from the 1845 volume Sonnets from the Portuguese.

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

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