Such letters of Mr. Browning's as appear, whole or in part, in the
present volume have been in most cases given to me by the persons to
whom they were addressed, or copied by Miss Browning from the originals
under her care; but I owe to the daughter of the Rev. W. J. Fox--Mrs.
Bridell Fox--those written to her father and to Miss Flower; the two
interesting extracts from her father's correspondence with herself and
Mr. Browning's note to Mr. Robertson.
For my general material I have been largely indebted to Miss Browning.
Her memory was the only existing record of her brother's boyhood and
youth. It has been to me an unfailing as well as always accessible
authority for that subsequent period of his life which I could only know
in disconnected facts or his own fragmentary reminiscences. It is less
true, indeed, to say that she has greatly helped me in writing this
short biography than that without her help it could never have been
I thank my friends Mrs. R. Courtenay Bell and Miss Hickey for their
invaluable assistance in preparing the book for, and carrying it through
the press; and I acknowledge with real gratitude the advantages derived
by it from Mr. Dykes Campbell's large literary experience in his very
careful final revision of the proofs.
A. Orr. April 22, 1891.
Chapter 1 Origin of the Browning Family--Robert Browning's
Grandfather--His position and Character--His first and second
Marriage--Unkindness towards his eldest Son, Robert Browning's
Father--Alleged Infusion of West Indian Blood through Robert Browning's
Grandmother--Existing Evidence against it--The Grandmother's Portrait.
Chapter 2 Robert Browning's Father--His Position in Life--Comparison
between him and his Son--Tenderness towards his Son--Outline of his
Habits and Character--His Death--Significant Newspaper Paragraph--Letter
of Mr. Locker--Lampson--Robert Browning's Mother--Her Character and
Antecedents--Their Influence upon her Son--Nervous Delicacy imparted to
both her Children--Its special Evidences in her Son.
Chapter 3 1812-1826 Birth of Robert Browning--His Childhood
and Schooldays--Restless Temperament--Brilliant Mental
Endowments--Incidental Peculiarities--Strong Religious
Feeling--Passionate Attachment to his Mother; Grief at first
Separation--Fondness for Animals--Experiences of School Life--Extensive
Reading--Early Attempts in Verse--Letter from his Father concerning
them--Spurious Poems in Circulation--'Incondita'--Mr. Fox--Miss Flower.
Chapter 4 1826-1833 First Impressions of Keats and Shelley--Prolonged
Influence of Shelley--Details of Home Education--Its Effects--Youthful
Restlessness--Counteracting Love of Home--Early Friendships: Alfred
Domett, Joseph Arnould, the Silverthornes--Choice of Poetry as a
Profession--Alternative Suggestions; mistaken Rumours concerning
them--Interest in Art--Love of good Theatrical Performances--Talent for
Acting--Final Preparation for Literary Life.
Chapter 5 1833-1835 'Pauline'--Letters to Mr. Fox--Publication of the
Poem; chief Biographical and Literary Characteristics--Mr. Fox's Review
in the 'Monthly Repository'; other Notices--Russian Journey--Desired
diplomatic Appointment--Minor Poems; first Sonnet; their Mode of
Appearance--'The Trifler'--M. de Ripert-Monclar--'Paracelsus'--Letters
to Mr. Fox concerning it; its Publication--Incidental Origin of
'Paracelsus'; its inspiring Motive; its Relation to 'Pauline'--Mr. Fox's
Review of it in the 'Monthly Repository'--Article in the 'Examiner' by
Chapter 6 1835-1838 Removal to Hatcham; some Particulars--Renewed
Intercourse with the second Family of Robert Browning's
Grandfather--Reuben Browning--William Shergold Browning--Visitors
at Hatcham--Thomas Carlyle--Social Life--New Friends and
Acquaintance--Introduction to Macready--New Year's Eve at Elm
Place--Introduction to John Forster--Miss Fanny Haworth--Miss
Martineau--Serjeant Talfourd--The 'Ion' Supper--'Strafford'--Relations
with Macready--Performance of 'Strafford'--Letters concerning it
from Mr. Browning and Miss Flower--Personal Glimpses of Robert
Browning--Rival Forms of Dramatic Inspiration--Relation of 'Strafford'
to 'Sordello'--Mr. Robertson and the 'Westminster Review'.
Chapter 7 1838-1841 First Italian Journey--Letters to Miss Haworth--Mr.
John Kenyon--'Sordello'--Letter to Miss Flower--'Pippa Passes'--'Bells
Chapter 8 1841-1844 'A Blot in the 'Scutcheon'--Letters to Mr.
Frank Hill; Lady Martin--Charles Dickens--Other Dramas and Minor
Poems--Letters to Miss Lee; Miss Haworth; Miss Flower--Second Italian
Journey; Naples--E. J. Trelawney--Stendhal.
Chapter 9 1844-1849 Introduction to Miss Barrett--Engagement--Motives
for Secrecy--Marriage--Journey to Italy--Extract of Letter from
Mr. Fox--Mrs. Browning's Letters to Miss Mitford--Life at
Pisa--Vallombrosa--Florence; Mr. Powers; Miss Boyle--Proposed British
Mission to the Vatican--Father Prout--Palazzo Guidi--Fano; Ancona--'A
Blot in the 'Scutcheon' at Sadler's Wells.
Chapter 10 1849-1852 Death of Mr. Browning's Mother--Birth of his
Son--Mrs. Browning's Letters continued--Baths of Lucca--Florence
again--Venice--Margaret Fuller Ossoli--Visit to England--Winter in
Paris--Carlyle--George Sand--Alfred de Musset.
Chapter 11 1852-1855 M. Joseph Milsand--His close Friendship with
Mr. Browning; Mrs. Browning's Impression of him--New Edition of
Mr. Browning's Poems--'Christmas Eve and Easter Day'--'Essay' on
Shelley--Summer in London--Dante Gabriel Rossetti--Florence; secluded
Life--Letters from Mr. and Mrs. Browning--'Colombe's Birthday'--Baths of
Lucca--Mrs. Browning's Letters--Winter in Rome--Mr. and Mrs. Story--Mrs.
Sartoris--Mrs. Fanny Kemble--Summer in London--Tennyson--Ruskin.
Chapter 12 1855-1858 'Men and Women'--'Karshook'--'Two in the
Campagna'--Winter in Paris; Lady Elgin--'Aurora Leigh'--Death of
Mr. Kenyon and Mr. Barrett--Penini--Mrs. Browning's Letters to Miss
Browning--The Florentine Carnival--Baths of Lucca--Spiritualism--Mr.
Kirkup; Count Ginnasi--Letter from Mr. Browning to Mr. Fox--Havre.
Chapter 13 1858-1861 Mrs. Browning's Illness--Siena--Letter from Mr.
Browning to Mr. Leighton--Mrs. Browning's Letters continued--Walter
Savage Landor--Winter in Rome--Mr. Val Prinsep--Friends in Rome: Mr. and
Mrs. Cartwright--Multiplying Social Relations--Massimo d'Azeglio--Siena
again--Illness and Death of Mrs. Browning's Sister--Mr. Browning's
Occupations--Madame du Quaire--Mrs. Browning's last Illness and Death.
Chapter 14 1861-1863 Miss Blagden--Letters from Mr. Browning to
Miss Haworth and Mr. Leighton--His Feeling in regard to Funeral
Ceremonies--Establishment in London--Plan of Life--Letter to Madame
du Quaire--Miss Arabel Barrett--Biarritz--Letters to Miss
Blagden--Conception of 'The Ring and the Book'--Biographical
Indiscretion--New Edition of his Works--Mr. and Mrs. Procter.
Chapter 15 1863-1869 Pornic--'James Lee's Wife'--Meeting at Mr. F.
Palgrave's--Letters to Miss Blagden--His own Estimate of his Work--His
Father's Illness and Death; Miss Browning--Le Croisic--Academic
Honours; Letter to the Master of Balliol--Death of Miss
Barrett--Audierne--Uniform Edition of his Works--His rising
Fame--'Dramatis Personae'--'The Ring and the Book'; Character of
Chapter 16 1869-1873 Lord Dufferin; Helen's Tower--Scotland; Visit to
Lady Ashburton--Letters to Miss Blagden--St.-Aubin; The Franco-Prussian
War--'Herve Riel'--Letter to Mr. G. M. Smith--'Balaustion's Adventure';
'Prince Hohenstiel--Schwangau'--'Fifine at the Fair'--Mistaken Theories
of Mr. Browning's Work--St.-Aubin; 'Red Cotton Nightcap Country'.
Chapter 17 1873-1878 London Life--Love of Music--Miss
Egerton-Smith--Periodical Nervous Exhaustion--Mers; 'Aristophanes'
Apology'--'Agamemnon'--'The Inn Album'--'Pacchiarotto and other
Poems'--Visits to Oxford and Cambridge--Letters to Mrs. Fitz-Gerald--St.
Andrews; Letter from Professor Knight--In the Savoyard
Mountains--Death of Miss Egerton-Smith--'La Saisiaz'; 'The Two Poets of
Croisic'--Selections from his Works.
Chapter 18 1878-1884 He revisits Italy; Asolo; Letters to Mrs.
Fitz-Gerald--Venice--Favourite Alpine Retreats--Mrs. Arthur
Bronson--Life in Venice--A Tragedy at Saint-Pierre--Mr.
Cholmondeley--Mr. Browning's Patriotic Feeling; Extract from Letter
to Mrs. Charles Skirrow--'Dramatic Idyls'--'Jocoseria'--'Ferishtah's
Chapter 19 1881-1887 The Browning Society; Mr. Furnivall; Miss E.
H. Hickey--His Attitude towards the Society; Letter to Mrs.
Fitz-Gerald--Mr. Thaxter, Mrs. Celia Thaxter--Letter to Miss Hickey;
'Strafford'--Shakspere and Wordsworth Societies--Letters to Professor
Knight--Appreciation in Italy; Professor Nencioni--The Goldoni
Sonnet--Mr. Barrett Browning; Palazzo Manzoni--Letters to Mrs. Charles
Skirrow--Mrs. Bloomfield Moore--Llangollen; Sir Theodore and Lady
Martin--Loss of old Friends--Foreign Correspondent of the Royal
Academy--'Parleyings with certain People of Importance in their Day'.
Chapter 20 Constancy to Habit--Optimism--Belief in Providence--Political
Opinions--His Friendships--Reverence for Genius--Attitude towards
his Public--Attitude towards his Work--Habits of Work--His
Reading--Conversational Powers--Impulsiveness and Reserve--Nervous
Peculiarities--His Benevolence--His Attitude towards Women.
Chapter 21 1887-1889 Marriage of Mr. Barrett Browning--Removal to De
Vere Gardens--Symptoms of failing Strength--New Poems; New Edition
of his Works--Letters to Mr. George Bainton, Mr. Smith, and Lady
Martin--Primiero and Venice--Letters to Miss Keep--The last Year in
London--Asolo--Letters to Mrs. Fitz-Gerald, Mrs. Skirrow, and Mr. G. M.
Chapter 22 1889 Proposed Purchase of Land at Asolo--Venice--Letter
to Mr. G. Moulton-Barrett--Lines in the 'Athenaeum'--Letter to Miss
Keep--Illness--Death--Funeral Ceremonial at Venice--Publication of
'Asolando'--Interment in Poets' Corner.