Elizabeth Barrett Browning
1806 - 1861
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the poet whose collaboration with fellow poet Robert Browning provided one of the great love stories of all time, died on June 29, 1861. She was 55.
Browning was born Elizabeth Barrett Moulton on March 6, 1806 in Durham, England. The daughter of a prominent merchant, Barrett became an avid reader, voraciously absorbing Shakespeare, Pope, Milton, Latin, and histories of the world’s great empires.
She wrote her first poem at age 11. By age 15, she began suffering physical problems, the first a spinal injury when she was saddling her horse, and the second when she was 22. A blood vessel burst in her chest which left her with a chronic cough the rest of her life.
Despite her ill health, Barrett became prolific in her poetry writing. In 1838, her first major collection, The Seraphim and Other Poems, was published. A critical success, she was proclaimed one of England’s gifted poets.
Her declining health forced her move to Torquay in south England. Her brother and companion Edward died in 1840, leaving her devastated.
Barrett became an invalid and recluse, living in her bedroom, but she continued to write poetry which enhanced her reputation as one of the world’s finest poets.
In 1845, poet Robert Browning wrote her a letter expressing his enjoyment of her poems. They began to exchange letters. A romance ensued and the two were married in 1846. They moved to Florence, Italy, hoping that the climate would be better for her health.
Browning is probably best remembered for her famous poem, How Do I Love Thee, written in 1845 and published in 1850. It was part of her Sonnets from the Portuguese collection. Many of the poems in this collection expressed the love she had for her husband.
Due in part to her lifelong health problems, Browning died in her husband’s arms on June 29, 1861.