Robert Browning

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Robert Browning, an English poet, was born May 7, 1812, to Robert browning Sr., Sarah Anna Wiedmann Browning. Sarah Browning, from German-Scottish descent, was a musician, a lover of nature, and a devout evangelical Christian. She was the stronger of the two parents, and also guided Robert through his developmental stages. Mrs. Browning was a woman of common sense and stability. Browning's sister Sarianna, who was born in 1814, inherited his mothers' qualities. Browning's father was employed as a clerk in the Bank of England. He, a rather passive man, labored at the bank and pursued his cherished interests in the home environment. He was an artist, a scholar, and a collector of books and pictures. His rare book collection consists of over six thousand volumes in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. It is believed that Browning was already proficient at reading and writing at age 5. He was then sent to a local dame school, but was asked to leave a short time after because he was considered superior to all the other students. He studied at home until the age of seven, until he was sent to the lower school at Peckham, run by the Ready sisters. When Browning reached ten, he graduated from the lower school to the classes of Reverend Thomas Ready at which he studied writing, arithmetic, English, history, Greek, and Latin. From age fourteen to sixteen, the aspiring poet was educated at home, and attended to by various tutors in music, drawing, dancing, and horsemanship. Since Browning was not a member of the Church of England, he was ineligible to attend Oxford College or Cambridge. He attended London University for about a year, during which he was Page 2 Enrolled in a regular program of study in Greek and Latin. His sudden departure from college in 1829 perhaps indicates an urge to poetry as an occupation. Browning, which was especially noted for perfecting the dramatic monologue. His first volume of poetry, Pauline, appeared in 1833 without signature. It was followed by a dramatic poem, "Paracelsus," that brought him into prominence among the literary figures of the day. "Paracelsus" was the first poem in which Browning used a Renaissance setting, a familiar motif in his later work. During the next few years Browning wrote several unsuccessful plays. From 1841 to 1846, a series of poems under the title Bells and Pomegranates appeared, including "Pippa Passes," "My Last Duchess," and "The Bishop Orders His Tomb." His Dramatic Lyrics included "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," and Dramatic Romances and Lyrics included "How We Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix." In 1846 Browning married the poet Elizabeth Barrett. Because of her ill health, worsened by the English climate, they made their home in Florence, Italy, in the palace later made famous by Elizabeth's poem, Casa Guidi Windows. There he wrote Christmas Eve and Easter-Day and a series of dramatic monologues, published collectively as Men and Women, which included "Fra Lippo Lippi" and "Andrea del Sarto," studies of Renaissance artists. Following Elizabeth's death in 1861, Browning returned to London, where he wrote Dramatis Personae and what is regarded as his masterpiece, The Ring and the Book Concerning the events of a 17th-century Italian murder trial, the Ring is an extended dramatic monologue among a number of characters and has been praised as a Page 3 perceptive psychological study. This was the first poem that brought Browning widespread fame. In 1878 Browning returned to Italy, where his only son made his home. During this last period he wrote the prose narrative Dramatic Idylls and Asolando, which appeared on December 12, 1889, the day he died in Venice. Although his wife's reputation as a poet was greater than his own during his lifetime, Robert Browning today is considered one of the major poets of the Victorian era. He is most famous for the development of the dramatic monologue, for his psychological insight, and for his forceful, colloquial poetic style. Browning was criticized by many poets on all his major works and his writing style. An unknown author had this to say about Robert Browning's world famous play "Pauline." "In this little poem, a poetical spirit struggles against some mechanical differences that often give to the lines a prosaic character. The metrical construction is occasionally faulty, and the language is often plain where the image with which the poet is labeling is mystical." From what I understand about this quotation is that this unknown author thinks that Robert Browning has a hard time getting his mechanics and the flow of his poem to go in sync. Oscar Wilde had this to say about Browning's writing as a whole: "Taken as a whole, [Browning] was great. He did not belong to the Olympians, and had all the incompleteness as a titan. He did not survey, and it was but rarely he could sing.

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