Robert Browning’s Life
Robert Browning was a celebrated English poet of the Victorian era. Born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, South London, in England, Browning was the only son of affluent parents Robert Browning Sr. and Sarah Anna Wiedeman. His father was a clerk at the Bank of England and earned a handsome salary. His paternal grandfather was a rich slave owner in Saint Kitts in the West Indies, where Browning Sr. also went to work. Browning’s father returned to England, though, after being revolted by slavery and becoming an abolitionist. Browning’s maternal grandfather was a German ship-owner, whose family settled in Dundee, Scotland.
Browning’s father had a collection of approximately 6,000 books, and Browning developed a keen interest in reading and writing. Raised in such a literary household, Browning gained creativity from his family, and started writing poetry at the young age of 12. His sister, Sarianna, who was also gifted with artistic talents and a musical mind, worked with her brother on many creative projects. Meanwhile Browning’s father further encouraged his literary pursuits.
Given Browning’s literary upbringing, it was natural for him not to feel satisfied by the private schools where he was sent to study. Discontented, Browning left school and set about getting education at home through a private tutor. By the age of fourteen, he had became fluent in Greek, French, Latin, and Italian from reading books from the library his father set up at home. Romantic poets like Shelley and Lord Byron inspired him the most during these years. In order to further his knowledge, Browning attended the University College London to study Greek, but left after a year. His parents’ evangelical faith prevented him from studying at Oxford or Cambridge University.
In 1845, he met a poetess, Elizabeth Barrett, and they developed a romantic relationship, which led to their marriage. The couple took a trip to Italy in hopes of improving Elizabeth’s health. They kept their wedding a secret due to fear of Elizabeth’s father, who did not approve of marriage for any of his children. Elizabeth’s father disowned her when he learned of the marriage, and the Brownings stayed in Italy until Elizabeth’s death. It was during this time that Browning became highly creative and productive in his writings. Unfortunately, his wife passed away in 1861, leaving behind a son.
Browning returned to England with his son, and became an important part of literary circles there. After five years of hard work in England, he published his popular poetry book “The Ring and the Book” in 1868. Following this, Browning started publishing frequently and, in 1870, he released his series of long poems “Red Cotton Night-Cap Country” and “Balaustion’s Adventure.” Browning died in Venice at the residence of his son on December 12, 1889.
Robert Browning’s Works
Browning worked very hard on his poems during his initial years, and finally produced “Men and Women,” which won him wide recognition in 1855. He completed his most ambitious and perhaps the greatest work “The Ring and the Book” in 1869. It received much recognition in the literary circles of England in 1881, when the Browning Society was established. After winning wide popularity, Browning produced his major work “Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in Their Day” in 1887. It was a unique piece of work in that it even baffled the Victorian audience. Browning wrote profusely, and his most popular plays include “Pippa Passes,” “Strafford,” “King Victor and King Charles,” “A Blot in the Scutcheon,” “The Return of the Druses,” and “Colombe’s Birthday,” while his popular dramatic monologues are “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” “Fifine at the Fair,” and “My Last Duchess.”
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. His most popular poems include “A Wall,” “A Tale,” “A Pretty Woman,” “My Last Duchess,” “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” “The Last Ride Together,” “The Last Leader,” and “The Laboratory and Meeting at Night.”
More about His Life
Robert Browning won several awards, including an honorary doctorate fromEdinburgh. He got offers of being Lord Rectorship of Glasgow and Life Governor of London University, but he turned down several other offers. His last collection of poems, “Asolando,” which employed concise lyric, was published in 1889 on the day of his death.