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ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING

There are many famous women poets in English History. A very honored poet is Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, an English poet, as well as an invalid, wrote many great works, such as her well known Sonnets From the Portuguese which included on of her most famous poems, How Do I Love Thee?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born at Coxhoe Hall, Durham, England on March 6, 1806. She was the oldest of 12 children born to Edward and Mary Barrett. Elizabeth was never formally taught. She was taught privately educated and spent most of her childhood in the country. (Omans 195) It was a happy and playful childhood, (www.incwell.com/spectrum.html 3/5/99) but when Elizabeth was 15 years old, Elizabeth became very sick. She suffered from a nervous disorder causing headaches, weakness, and fainting spells for the rest of her life, (Omans 195) basically disabling her from everything. She was described as a pale small person, scarcely embodied at all. Through her disorder, Elizabeth wrote and published many different books and poems. (Barnhart 132) In 1832, Elizabeth moved to Sidmouth, Devon with her family and several years later they moved to London. When Elizabeth was 36, her favorite brother, Edward,

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drowned. (Omans 195) Elizabeth secluded herself from everybody except a close circle of friends and family. She maintained most of her friendships through letters. (www.incwell.com/spectrum.html 3/5/99) In 1845, she received a telegram from a poet named Robert Browning. I love your verses with all my heart, dear Ms. Barrett. I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart – and I love you too. (www.eb.com:180/bot/topic?eu= 16966&sctn 3/17/99) The two of them met a year later and fell in love. They wrote to each other everyday and the letters from their courtship are a wonderful record of its progress. Elizabeth and Robert kept their love secret because Elizabeth s father was strongly opposed to the relationship. He was seen as jealous and tyrannical. (Barnhart 132) On September 12, 1846, Robert and Elizabeth eloped. For the next week, Elizabeth lived at home so the secret would not be revealed. But it was said that when Elizabeth s father died 10 years later, she had never been forgiven. (Omans 195) Shortly after their marriage, Elizabeth and Robert moved to Florence, Italy. (Eagle 171) There, Elizabeth got her health back and in 1849, had a little boy, their only child, Robert Wiedmann Barrett Browning. (Barnhart 132) They lived in Florence until Elizabeth s death in 1861. (Eagle 171)

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Elizabeth Barrett started writing at an early age. When she was 13 years old, her father printed 15 copies of her epic, The Battle of Marathon. When she was 20, Elizabeth anonymously published, An Essay on Mind, with Other Poems . (Omans 195) Elizabeth s best works are contained in her Sonnets From the Portuguese . This collection on poems was a series of love sonnets to her husband. Some other works included: Poems , Casa Guidi Windows , Poems Before Congress , Aurora Leigh (which has recently reviewed new appreciation), and Last Poems , which were her last works before her death. Her husband, Robert, edited them. (Barnhart 132)

One of Elizabeth Barrett Browning s most famous poems comes from her collection of Sonnets From the Portuguese . (Eagle 171) How do I love thee? Let me count the ways . , those are the most widely known love lyrics in Victorian English poetry. (www.incwell.com/spectrum.html 3/5/99) The poem is entitled, 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 everyday s

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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. (Felleman 3)

In this poem, How Do I Love Thee? , Elizabeth is expressing her love for Robert Browning. In the beginning of the poem, she is stating that she loves Robert in so many ways and explains the degree in which she loves him to. She wants to count the ways she loves him. —– How do I love thee? Let me count the ways (Felleman 3) She says that she loves him, as high as her soul will reach. —– I love thee to the depth and breadth my soul can reach (Felleman 3) She loves him every single day, in the morning and at night. —– I love thee to the level of everyday s most quiet need, by sun and candlelight (Felleman 3) She loves him with all the passion that she has put to use, whether is be angry, happy, sad, nervous, anything like that from her old grief and faith as a child—Remember, she was basically an invalid for her teenage life, and also her brother died. All that emotion she puts

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in her love for Robert. I love the with all the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood s faith . (Felleman 3) She loves him with every breath she takes and every smile and tear she creates. — I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of my life! (Felleman 3) And in the poem, Elizabeth also says that no matter what, even if Robert dies, she will still love him, possibly even more. That is only if it was God s will. —- and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death . (Felleman 3)

Elizabeth was a wonderful writer and I especially love this poem. It means a lot and really shows the meaning of true love. If you really think you love someone, you can always look up this poem and see what a very good definition of true love is.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died on June 29, 1861, in Florence, Italy. She is remembered for her love poems and her devotion to her husband and her work despite her physical and medical disadvantages. The love between Robert and Elizabeth was a romantic love poem in itself.


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