Browning, Robert (1812-1889)

Browning, Robert, born at Camberwell, May 7,1812, attended lectures at University College, and then travelled abroad. Pauline, a dramatic poem, written at the age of nineteen, was published in 1833; Paracelsus (1835) revealed its author's energy, boldness of thought, lofty aspirations, and grip of human passion. In 1837 he wrote (for Macready) his first tragedy, Strafford. Sordello (1840) traces, not without much crabbed writing and elliptical thinking, the soul's development of an Italian poet named by Dante. Bells and Pomegranates (1841-46) included the plays Pippa Passes, King Victor and King Charles, and Colombe's Birthday; the tragedies The Return of the Druses, A Blot on the 'Scutcheon (produced at Drury Lane), Luria, and A Soul's Tragedy; and the dramatic lyrics How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, Saul, The Lost Leader, and The Pied Piper of Hamelin—poems which still remain the most popular of all Browning's writings. In 1846 he married Elizabeth Barrett, and with her he settled at Florence; their son, R. B. Browning, the sculptor, was born there in 1849. In 1850 he published Christmas Eve and Easter Day; Men and Women (1855) contained some of its author's finest work—Fra Lippo, Childe Roland, Andrea del Sarto, Evelyn Hope, Holy Cross Day, and Up at a Villa. After the death of his wife (1861) he settled permanently in London with his only son. Dramatis Personce (1864) included Abt Vogler, Caliban, A Death in the Desertt and Rabbi ben Ezra, in which the writer unfolded his views upon music, philosophy, and immortality. His masterpiece, The Ring and the Book (1869), is an epic dealing most searchingly with the passions of humanity, and has for its basis the narrative of a murder by an Italian count, as related by the various persons concerned. Herve Riel (1871) is a poem upon a French sailor hero. Balaustion's Adventure (1871) includes a 'Transcript' from the Alcestis of Euripides ; Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society (1871),c deals with the career of Louis-Napoleon ; Fifine at the Fair (1872) handles a question in morals ; Red-cotton Night-cap Country (1873) tells the story of a famous Norman law case ; Aristophanes' Apology (1875) was a second venture amongst the great Greek poets ; The Inn Album (1875) is a graphic story of a deeply-wronged woman; Pacchiarotto (1876) gave the author an opportunity of defending his poetic methods ; Agamemnon (1877) is a graphic transcript of iEschylus ; La Saisiaz, the Two Poets of Croisic (1878), vindicates faith in a future life; and Dramatic Idylls (1879-80) are vigorous character sketches. Jocoseria (1883) consists of narrative poems. Ferishtah's Fancies (1884) discusses the relation of man with the divine. Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in their Day (1887) indicates Browning's views upon philosophical, literary, artistic, and other questions. As a poet, Browning is distinguished for the depth of his spiritual insight, his dramatic energy, and power of psychological analysis. His style is too frequently obscure and difficult, his versification hard and rugged, and his rhymes forced. On 12th December 1889—the very day his last volume of poems, Asolando; Fancies and Facts. was published—Browning died at Venice. See his Works (centenary ed. 10 vols. 1912); Mrs Sutherland Orr's Handbook to Browning (1885); works by Symons (1887), Fotheringhain (1887 and 1898), Gosse (1890), Sharp (1890), J. T. Nettleship (1868 ; 2d ed. 1890), Chesterton (1903), Dowden (1904), Griffin and Mincliin (1910); Berdoe's Browning Cyclopcedia (1892); the Life by Mrs Sutherland Orr (1891; partly rewritten by Kenyon, 1908); Stopford Brooke's The Poetry of Robert Browning (1902).
1. Chamber's Biographical Dictionary, Philadelphia, 1926, page 141.

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