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Life of Robert Browning   By: (1856-1905)

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Life of Browning by William Sharp

Please note: The Following Books relating to Robert Browning are now online:

Corson, Hiram. An Introduction to the Study of Robert Browning's Poetry, 3rd edition. This book is primarily concerned with Browning's poems. Advantages: This book is an excellent introduction to Browning.

Orr, Mrs. Sutherland. Life and Letters of Robert Browning, 2nd edition. This book is primarily concerned with Browning's life. Advantages: As a close friend, the author has a good grasp of the facts, and is meticulous in her treatment of the material. Disadvantages: As a close friend, the author is sometimes partisan.

Sharp, William. Life of Robert Browning. Despite the title, this book is as much a critique of Browning's works as it is a biography of the poet. Advantages: Further removed from poet, the author is willing to make some criticisms. As an early and frequently quoted work on the subject, this book is a good resource. Disadvantages: Due to carelessness on the part of the author and his publisher, a number of factual and other errors were made. Although this electronic text has corrected many of the obvious errors, they are frequent enough to leave misgivings.

[Note on text: Italicized words or phrases are capitalised. Some obvious errors may have been corrected.]

Life of Robert Browning

by William Sharp.


Chapter 1.

London, Robert Browning's birthplace; his immediate predecessors and contemporaries in literature, art, and music; born May 7th, 1812; origin of the Browning family; assertions as to its Semitic connection apparently groundless; the poet a putative descendant of the Captain Micaiah Browning mentioned by Macaulay; Robert Browning's mother of Scottish and German origin; his father a man of exceptional powers, artist, poet, critic, student; Mr. Browning's opinion of his son's writings; the home in Camberwell; Robert Browning's childhood; concerning his optimism; his fondness for Carravaggio's "Andromeda and Perseus"; his poetic precocity; origin of "The Flight of the Duchess"; writes Byronic verse; is sent to school at Peckham; his holiday afternoons; sees London by night, from Herne Hill; the significance of the spectacle to him.

Chapter 2.

He wishes to be a poet; writes in the style of Byron and Pope; the "Death of Harold"; his poems, written when twelve years old, shown to Miss Flower; the Rev. W. J. Fox's criticisms on them; he comes across Shelley's "Daemon of the World"; Mrs. Browning procures Shelley's poems, also those of Keats, for her son; the perusal of these volumes proves an important event in his poetic development; he leaves school when fourteen years old, and studies at home under a tutor; attends a few lectures at University College, 1829 30; chooses his career, at the age of twenty; earliest record of his utterances concerning his youthful life printed in `Century Magazine', 1881; he plans a series of monodramatic epics; Browning's lifework, collectively one monodramatic "epic"; Shakespeare's and Browning's methods compared; Browning writes "Pauline" in 1832; his own criticism on it; his parents' opinions; his aunt's generous gift; the poem published in January 1833; description of the poem; written under the inspiring stimulus of Shelley; its autopsychical significance; its importance to the student of the poet's works; quotations from "Pauline".

Chapter 3.

The public reception of "Pauline"; criticisms thereupon; Mr. Fox's notice in the `Monthly Repository', and its results; Dante Gabriel Rossetti reads "Pauline" and writes to the author; Browning's reference to Tennyson's reading of "Maud" in 1855; Browning frequents literary society; reads at the British Museum; makes the acquaintance of Charles Dickens and "Ion" Talfourd; a volume of poems by Tennyson published simultaneously with "Pauline"; in 1833 he commences his travels; goes to Russia; the sole record of his experiences there to be found in the poem "Ivan Ivanovitch", published in `Dramatic Idyls', 1879; his acquaintance with Mazzini; Browning goes to Italy; visits Asolo, whence he drew hints for "Sordello" and "Pippa Passes"; in 1834 he returns to Camberwell; in autumn of 1834 and winter of 1835 commences "Sordello", writes "Paracelsus", and one or two short poems; his love for Venice; a new voice audible in "Johannes Agricola" and "Porphyria"; "Paracelsus", published in 1835; his own explanation of it; his love of walking in the dark; some of "Paracelsus" and of "Strafford" composed in a wood near Dulwich; concerning "Paracelsus" and Browning's sympathy with the scientific spirit; description and scope of the poem; quotations therefrom; estimate of the work, and its four lyrics... Continue reading book >>

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