By: Juliet M.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Background Information:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was an English poet of the Romantic Movement. Her style of poetry was romance. She wrote many of her poems about love and relationships and was inspired by Shakespeare. She was brought up with twelve younger siblings, her father and her mother. She was born in 1806. Her father, Edward Barrett Moulton Browning, wanted to live in the original place Elizabeth was born , Coxhoe Hall, Durham England. But since the family made most of their money in Jamaica from sugar plantations, they decided to live there. Their family also relied on slave labor in Jamaica, which Elizabeth always opposed of. Elizabeth was a very passionate girl. She taught herself how to speak Hebrew and Greek. Her interest in Hebrew was because she wanted to read the “Old Testament.” She also had a passion for the church. She was involved in the Bible and Missionary Societies. Unfortunately, for Elizabeth, after she wrote her "epic" poems, she had to live with a serious lung ailment, which stayed with her for the rest of her life. Even though Elizabeth suffered from her illness, that didn’t stop her from writing her amazing poems.

In later years, problems on the sugar plantations affected the Barrett’s income, causing them to move back to England in 1832. The family moved to the coast and rented cottages until they settled in London permanently. Elizabeth published her own translation of Prometheus Bound in 1833 while living in the cottages. Prometheus Bound was originally written by the Greek dramatist, Aeschylus. After that she started to write and create her own poems. She was influenced by Christian Sentiments in the form of classical Greek tragedy and soon composed a poem called The Seraphim and Other Poems in 1838. Elizabeth created many more poems through the years. Her main inspiration was Shakespeare. She was forever changed after reading "Paradise Lost" and saw some of his plays. Her poems became widely recognized because of the way she expressed connections with the world and her thoughts about the complicated ways of love.

Later Elizabeth met a man named Robert Browning. One of her most famous works, Poems, was noticed by Browning, who was also a poet. He started to write her love letters.Twenty months and 547 letters later, they fell in love.Her poem, Sonnets from the Portuguese was written in secret to Browning before they married.Her father opposed of their marriage because he believed his children shouldn't marry anyone.They eloped to Florence, Italy and settled there. Her father never spoke to her again. She spent the rest of her years living with Robert Browning and the son they had.She died June 29, 1861 in Florence.

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Link: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This is one of her many famous poems that she wrote.

How Do I Love Thee?

By, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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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 candlelight.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love with a 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.


In this poem, Elizabeth explains what the meaning of love is to her and how other women may feel about love. She shows her true passion and gives you an in depth feeling of what love truly means to her. What stood out the most for me, was her use of metaphors and the way she summarizes love. She compares love from all perspectives. One example of this is" I love thee purely, as men striving for Right;"(line 7). Another, "Smiles, tears, of all my life! and, if God choose,I shall but love thee better after death". It says to me that you would love that person when you're happy, or sad and for the rest of your life, and beyond. You would picture a husband and wife upset at each other, but would also imagine their love for each other, still.

When Elizabeth was young, she used to watch many of Shakespeare’s plays and read his books. Many of Shakespeare’s plays were about love, such as Romeo and Juliet. This is what inspired her to write many of her love poems like this famous one. The way Juliet expressed her love for Romeo, gives the same reflection on how Elizabeth loved Robert.

Link:Two Poems

Many other Poems she composed were:

> An Essay on Mind (1826)

> Prometheus Bound (1833- Translation

> The Seraphim and Other Poems (1838)

> Sonnets from the Portuguese (1850) - Dedicated to her husband Rudolf Beiser

> Casa Guidi Windows (1848-1851)

> Poems before Congress (1860)

And many more...

Pictures of Elizabeth Barret Browning and Robert Browning

EBB_1.jpgPoems_by_Ebb.jpg (Letters to and from Robert Browning)


(Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning)


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