Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I almost hate to ask what's happening with you lately in the 19th century, Amy. Drama, drama, drama as per usual? No? You're simply reading a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning? Everything's just fine now?


The last time we communicated, you were at the house where Charlotte had been banished to. And you said that George, even after being informed of Charlotte's lowly social position as a maid, still wanted to see her. He kissed her hand (her good one with all the fingers). Isn't that what you told me? 
To be honest, I'm kinda surprised you haven't asked my opinion about this important development.

Yeesh. Just like I told ya. I'm reading. I'm in the parlour of the house Charlotte's living in. Okay, I'll tell you how the whole thing's gone down up 'til now.

So, the sick thing is that when the owner of this house recognized George as some important, big land owner, and saw him kiss Charlotte's hand, his wife and him suddenly became really nice to me and Charlotte. Like, he said for us to feel as "contented" in this house as if it was our own. It was weird, but so cool. So me and Charlotte have been hanging out here the last couple of days. She's still acting all shy and stuff with the owner and his wife, but not me. I'm having a blast. There's a store downstairs that has all kinds of stuff: clothes, desserts, cakes, soaps, candles. And the owner told us to pick out whatever we wanted cause he owns the store too.

So, I convinced Charlotte to come down there with me. She hid her left hand behind her back and acted shy the whole time, but she actually laughed when I stuffed her purse with a s***load of cookies. I swear I've never seen her laugh before.

Ahuh. Well don't pick out too much for yourselves in case this whole thing backfires somehow.
And George? What's happening with him?

He came to visit us today. Well, maybe not me, but for sure Charlotte. He brought her the book of poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born in 1806 in Durham, England, the eldest of twelve children. She began writing at the age of six and her collection of poems written before adulthood is one of the largest the world has seen.

Elizabeth was educated at home, and was an extensive reader from an early age, indulging in Shakespeare plays and other classic works. By the age of twelve, she had written a major poem consisting of four books of rhyming verses.

At the age of fifteen Elizabeth became ill with headaches and back pain that would persist for the rest  of her life. Soon after, lung problems arose, perhaps tuberculosis. 

In 1838 her first book of adult poems was published, gaining her much attention, and until 1844 she produced a vast collection of poems and prose. She also became active in the Missionary communities of her church. Elizabeth also opposed slavery and her work helped influence reforms to the child labour legislation of the 19th century.

Success brought with it the attention of the writer Robert Browning, and then love. Because Elizabeth's father was incredibly strict, her marriage to Browning was carried out in secret. It turns out her fears were warranted - when her father discovered her marriage, he disinherited her.

In 1846, the couple decided to move to Italy where Elizabeth would remain the rest of her life. The couple produced one son, Robert Barrett Browning, whom they called Pen. Elizabeth died in Florence in 1861. 
How is Elizabeth Barrett Browning best remembered? Many would say by her poem, "How Do I Love Thee?" written in 1845 and first published in 1850.

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
for the ends of being and ideal grace
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I  love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints -- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! -- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.