Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

A Legendary Victorian Love Story

on February 12, 2022
(Victorian English Poets, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning)

When Robert Browning wrote in 1844, “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,” he sparked a romance that earned its place in literary history.

Elizabeth Barrett had already achieved some notoriety as a poet. Robert Browning was still struggling with his writing. The two exchanged letters, which eventually led to open courtship. Elizabeth was six years older than Robert and an invalid. She also lived under the tyranny of her possessive father. But her deep love for Browning spurred her to elope with him in 1846 without her father’s approval. The couple moved to Florence, Italy, and the relationship between Elizabeth and her father was permanently broken.

As a teenager, Elizabeth developed lung disease and then suffered a spinal injury while saddling a horse. After her brother, Edward, died in a boating accident, she became a complete recluse. With Robert’s love and support, she broke free of her introverted lifestyle and experienced a happy and productive life which included the birth of their son, Robert Wideman Browning, and the publication in 1850 of her most celebrated collection, Sonnets from the Portuguese.

“Portuguese” refers to Robert’s pet name for his wife. Elizabeth’s classical education strongly influenced her poetry, and her sonnets have been compared to those of Shakespeare and Petrarch. Her most memorable sonnet is Sonnet XLIII – How do I Love Thee? – which is often quoted on Valentine’s Day.

Sonnet XLIII

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 everyday’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.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in Florence, Italy on June 29, 1861.

Dawn Pisturino

February 12, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


17 responses to “A Legendary Victorian Love Story

  1. wjwingrove97 says:

    they were both great 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. abvr says:

    You wrote this short summary of the poets’ life and love story in the vein of the romantic movement.
    I really love this sonnet.
    Such a simple question she sets herself and then teases it out with so much romantic passion.
    What a classy poet.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the reminder of such a beautiful classic πŸ’–

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ah, such an endearing love story πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  5. balladeer says:

    Great post for Valentine’s Season!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. alisendopf says:

    I learned something new today. Granted, I do not generally read poetry, but even I recognize that famous sonnet. Now I know where it came from. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Shows and remains, an outstanding writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Haha, that was supposed to read ‘She was…’
    Ok, that was mad.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. jonicaggiano says:

    Such a gorgeous poem and thank you for the history as well lovely post. Big hugs, Joni

    Liked by 1 person

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