In he published Paracelsus and in Sordello , both poems dealing with men of great ability striving to reconcile the demands of their own personalities with those of the world. Encouraged by the actor Charles Macready, Browning devoted his main energies for some years to verse drama, a form that he had already adopted for Strafford In that year he met Elizabeth Barrett.
In her Poems Barrett had included lines praising Browning, who wrote to thank her January In May they met and soon discovered their love for each other. Barrett had, however, been for many years an invalid, confined to her room and thought incurable.
Her father, moreover, was a dominant and selfish man, jealously fond of his daughter, who in turn had come to depend on his love. When her doctors ordered her to Italy for her health and her father refused to allow her to go, the lovers, who had been corresponding and meeting regularly, were forced to act. They were married secretly in September ; a week later they left for Pisa.
Throughout their married life, although they spent holidays in France and England , their home was in Italy, mainly at Florence , where they had a flat in Casa Guidi. Their income was small, although after the birth of their son, Robert, in Mrs. Browning produced comparatively little poetry during his married life. Men and Women, however, had no great sale, and many of the reviews were unfavourable and unhelpful.
Disappointed for the first time by the reception of his work, Browning in the following years wrote little, sketching and modeling in clay by day and enjoying the society of his friends at night. In the autumn he returned slowly to London with his young son. At first he avoided company, but gradually he accepted invitations more freely and began to move in society.
Another collected edition of his poems was called for in , but Pauline was not included. In —69 he published his greatest work, The Ring and the Book , based on the proceedings in a murder trial in Rome in Grand alike in plan and execution, it was at once received with enthusiasm, and Browning was established as one of the most important literary figures of the day.
For the rest of his life he was much in demand in London society. He spent his summers with friends in France, Scotland, or Switzerland or, after , in Italy. The most important works of his last years, when he wrote with great fluency, were the long narrative or dramatic poems, often dealing with contemporary themes, such as Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau , Fifine at the Fair , Red Cotton Night-Cap Country , The Inn Album , and the two series of Dramatic Idyls and Fancies and Facts —Browning published toward the end of his life two books of unusually personal origin— La Saisiaz , at once an elegy for his friend Anne Egerton-Smith and a meditation on mortality, and Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in Their Day , in which he discussed books and ideas that had influenced him since his youth.
While staying in Venice in , Browning caught cold, became seriously ill, and died on December He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Few poets have suffered more than Browning from hostile incomprehension or misplaced admiration, both arising very often from a failure to recognize the predominantly dramatic nature of his work.
The bulk of his writing before was for the theatre; thereafter his major poems showed his increasing mastery of the dramatic monologue.
This consists essentially of a narrative spoken by a single character and amplified by his comments on his story and the circumstances in which he is speaking. From his own knowledge of the historical or other events described, or else by inference from the poem itself, the reader is eventually enabled to assess the intelligence and honesty of the narrator and the value of the views he expresses.
This type of dramatic monologue, since it depends on the unconscious provision by the speaker of the evidence by which the reader is to judge him, is eminently suitable for the ironist. Neither of these criticisms is groundless; both are incomplete.
Browning is not always difficult. In many poems, especially short lyrics, he achieves effects of obvious felicity. Nevertheless, his superficial difficulties, which prevent an easy understanding of the sense of a passage, are evident enough: Sludge or Napoleon III , obliges the reader to follow a chain of subtle or paradoxical arguments.
All these characteristics stand in the way of easy reading. First, Browning often chooses an unexpected point of view, especially in his monologues, thus forcing the reader to accept an unfamiliar perspective.
Second, he is capable of startling changes of focus within a poem. This transition from particular observation to transcendental truth presents much the same challenge to the reader as do the metaphysical poets of the 17th century and much the same excitement. Third, because Browning seldom presents a speaker without irony , there is a constant demand on the reader to appreciate exactly the direction of satiric force in the poem.
It has also been objected that Browning uses his poetry as a vehicle for his philosophy, which is not of itself profound or interesting, being limited to an easy optimism. Thus his great gallery of imagined characters is to be regarded as an exhaustive catalog of human motives, not as a series of self-portraits.
In matters of human conduct his sympathies are with those who show loving hearts, honest natures, and warmth of feeling; certainly these qualities are never satirized.
He is in general on the side of those who commit themselves wholeheartedly to an ideal, even if they fail. By itself this might suggest rather a naive system of values, yet he also, sometimes even in the same poem, shows his understanding of those who have been forced to lower their standards and accept a compromise.
Browning's mother was the daughter of a German shipowner who had settled in Dundee in Scotland, and his Scottish wife. Browning had one sister, Sarianna. Browning's paternal grandmother, Margaret Tittle, who had inherited a plantation in St Kitts, was rumored within the family to have a mixed race ancestry, including some Jamaican blood, but author Julia Markus suggests she was Kittitian rather than Jamaican.
As such, Robert was raised in a household of significant literary resources. His mother, to whom he was very close, was a devout nonconformist and a talented musician. His father encouraged his children's interest in literature and the arts. By twelve, Browning had written a book of poetry which he later destroyed when no publisher could be found. After being at one or two private schools, and showing an insuperable dislike of school life, he was educated at home by a tutor via the resources of his father's extensive library.
He became a great admirer of the Romantic poets , especially Shelley. Following the precedent of Shelley, Browning became an atheist and vegetarian. At the age of sixteen, he studied Greek at University College London but left after his first year.
He refused a formal career and ignored his parents' remonstrations, dedicating himself to poetry. He stayed at home until the age of 34, financially dependent on his family until his marriage. His father sponsored the publication of his son's poems. Some one shall somehow run a muck With this old world, for want of strife Sound asleep: Our men scarce seem in earnest now: Bells and Pomegranates No.
In March , "Pauline, a Fragment of a Confession" was published anonymously by Saunders and Otley at the expense of the author, Robert Browning, who received the money from his aunt, Mrs Silverthorne. Originally Browning considered Pauline as the first of a series written by different aspects of himself, but he soon abandoned this idea.
The press noticed the publication. Fox writing in The Monthly Repository of April discerned merit in the work. Allan Cunningham praised it in the Athenaeum. However, it sold no copies. In he accompanied the Chevalier George de Benkhausen, the Russian consul-general, on a brief visit to St Petersburg and began Paracelsus , which was published in The publication had some commercial and critical success, being noticed by Wordsworth , Dickens , Landor , J.
Mill and the already famous Tennyson. It is a monodrama without action, dealing with the problems confronting an intellectual trying to find his role in society. It gained him access to the London literary world. As a result of his new contacts he met Macready , who invited him to write a play. Browning then wrote two other plays, one of which was not performed, while the other failed, Browning having fallen out with Macready.
In he visited Italy, looking for background for Sordello , a long poem in heroic couplets, presented as the imaginary biography of the Mantuan bard spoken of by Dante in the Divine Comedy , canto 6 of Purgatory, set against a background of hate and conflict during the Guelph-Ghibelline wars. This was published in and met with widespread derision, gaining him the reputation of wanton carelessness and obscurity. Tennyson commented that he only understood the first and last lines and Carlyle wrote that his wife had read the poem through and could not tell whether Sordello was a man, a city or a book.
Browning's reputation began to make a partial recovery with the publication, —, of Bells and Pomegranates , a series of eight pamphlets, originally intended just to include his plays. Fortunately his publisher, Moxon, persuaded him to include some "dramatic lyrics", some of which had already appeared in periodicals. In , Browning met the poet Elizabeth Barrett , six years his elder, who lived as a semi-invalid in her father's house in Wimpole Street , London.
They began regularly corresponding and gradually a romance developed between them, leading to their marriage and journey to Italy for Elizabeth's health on 12 September Barrett disinherited Elizabeth, as he did for each of his children who married: Browning of popular imagination was a sweet, innocent young woman who suffered endless cruelties at the hands of a tyrannical papa but who nonetheless had the good fortune to fall in love with a dashing and handsome poet named Robert Browning.
The book increased her popularity and high critical regard, cementing her position as an eminent Victorian poet.
Upon William Wordsworth 's death in , she was a serious contender to become Poet Laureate , the position eventually going to Tennyson.
From the time of their marriage and until Elizabeth's death, the Brownings lived in Italy, residing first in Pisa , and then, within a year, finding an apartment in Florence at Casa Guidi now a museum to their memory. He would, in later life, describe Italy as his university. As Elizabeth had inherited money of her own, the couple were reasonably comfortable in Italy, and their relationship together was happy. However, the literary assault on Browning's work did not let up and he was critically dismissed further, by patrician writers such as Charles Kingsley , for the desertion of England for foreign lands.
Browning identified as a Liberal , supported the emancipation of women, and opposed slavery, expressing sympathy for the North in the American Civil War. He was also a stalwart opponent of anti-Semitism, leading to speculation that Browning himself was Jewish.
Browning was raised in an evangelical nonconformist household. However, after his reading of Shelley he is said to have briefly become an atheist. However, many have dismissed the usefulness of these works at discovering Browning's own religious views due to the consistent use of dramatic monologue which regularly expresses hypothetical views which cannot be ascribed to the author himself.
All, except this last accident, was truth— This little kind of slip! Browning believed spiritualism to be fraud, and proved one of Daniel Dunglas Home 's most adamant critics. Browning seized the "materialization" and discovered it to be Home's bare foot. To make the deception worse, Browning had never lost a son in infancy. He stood and watched the cobbler at his trade, The man who slices lemons into drink, The coffee-roaster's brazier , and the boys That volunteer to help him turn its winch.
He glanced o'er books on stalls with half an eye, And fly-leaf ballads on the vendor's string, And broad-edge bold-print posters by the wall. He took such cognizance of men and things, If any beat a horse, you felt he saw; If any cursed a woman, he took note; Yet stared at nobody—you stared at him, And found, less to your pleasure than surprise, He seemed to know you and expect as much. In Florence, probably from early in , Browning worked on the poems that eventually comprised his two-volume Men and Women , for which he is now well known,  although in , when they were published, they made relatively little impact.
In Elizabeth died in Florence. Among those whom he found consoling in that period was the novelist and poet Isa Blagden , with whom he and his wife had a voluminous correspondence. They made their home in 17 Warwick Crescent, Maida Vale. It was only when he became part of the London literary scene—albeit while paying frequent visits to Italy though never again to Florence —that his reputation started to take off. In , after five years work, he completed and published the long blank-verse poem The Ring and the Book.
Based on a convoluted murder-case from s Rome, the poem is composed of twelve books: Long even by Browning's standards over twenty-thousand lines , The Ring and the Book was his most ambitious project and is arguably his greatest work; it has been called a tour de force of dramatic poetry. In the remaining years of his life Browning travelled extensively. After a series of long poems published in the early s, of which Balaustion's Adventure and Red Cotton Night-Cap Country were the best-received,  the volume Pacchiarotto, and How He Worked in Distemper included an attack against Browning's critics, especially Alfred Austin , who was later to become Poet Laureate.
According to some reports Browning became romantically involved with Louisa Caroline Stewart-Mackenzie , Lady Ashburton, but he refused her proposal of marriage, and did not remarry. In , he revisited Italy for the first time in the seventeen years since Elizabeth's death, and returned there on several further occasions.
It finally presented the poet speaking in his own voice, engaging in a series of dialogues with long-forgotten figures of literary, artistic, and philosophic history. The Victorian public was baffled by this, and Browning returned to the brief, concise lyric for his last volume, Asolando , published on the day of his death. Browning died at his son's home Ca' Rezzonico in Venice on 12 December During his life Browning was awarded many distinctions.
He was made LL. But he turned down anything that involved public speaking. At a dinner party on 7 April , at the home of Browning's friend the artist Rudolf Lehmann , an Edison cylinder phonograph recording was made on a white wax cylinder by Edison 's British representative, George Gouraud.
In the recording, which still exists, Browning recites part of How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix and can be heard apologising when he forgets the words. Browning's admirers have tended to temper their praise with reservations about the length and difficulty of his most ambitious poems, particularly Sordello and, to a lesser extent, The Ring and the Book.
Byatt 's Possession refer directly to Browning's work. His abortive dinner-party recital of How They Brought The Good News was recorded on an Edison wax cylinder , and is believed to be the oldest surviving recording made in the United Kingdom of a notable person. His critical reputation rests mainly on his dramatic monologues , in which the words not only convey setting and action but reveal the speaker's character.
In a Browning monologue, unlike a soliloquy , the meaning is not what the speaker voluntarily reveals but what he inadvertently gives away, usually while rationalising past actions or special pleading his case to a silent auditor.
Robert Browning: Robert Browning, major English poet of the Victorian age, noted for his mastery of dramatic monologue and psychological portraiture. His most noted work was The Ring and the Book (–69), the story of a Roman murder trial in 12 books. The son of a clerk in the Bank of England in London, Browning.
Robert Browning — Genre, Mode, and Style [Victorian Web Home —> Authors —> Robert Browning —> Works —> ] The Long Poetic Narrative; The Dramatic Monologue An Introduction; Three Defining Characteristics of Browning's Dramatic Monologues; Robert Browning Last modified 17 July
Robert Browning’s Style and Popular Poems Browning’s style of writing mainly relies on dramatic monologues, in which the actions, settings, and characters are revealed through their own words. However, this revelation is not done deliberately but inadvertently as the speaker reveals himself and his past actions through images and symbols. Description and explanation of the major themes of Robert Browning’s Poetry. This accessible literary criticism is perfect for anyone faced with Robert Browning’s Poetry essays, papers, tests, exams, or for anyone who needs to create a Robert Browning’s Poetry lesson plan. Browning further illustrated this idea by writing poems that.
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