Move over Manti, there actually was a couple who fell in love via correspondence!
That’s right, Robert Browning’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Barrett, actually existed. There was no hoax, no fake, no scam.
There was no twitter, nor Facebook, nor instagram either.
Elizabeth Barrett was already a respected poet when she received a letter from Robert Browning praising her work. Flattered and moved by his writing, she began a correspondence that lasted 20 months, and ended, after several secret meetings, in an elopement.
Robert wasn’t the only one who loved Elizabeth. The Victorians thought highly of her, as her writing was perfect for the era, showing Woman at her best; loving, caring, and expressing sentiment.
Elizabeth, prior to her elopement, was a semi-invalid, living in her father’s home. Her father, a candidate for the coveted RLR AOTW award, was opposed to marriage for any of his children, disinheriting them UPon their nuptials.
Her brothers thought Browning was a gold-digger, and refused to see him.
Yet the marriage was a happy one….hmmmm! Some family!
Elizabeth was a bit of a cougar as well, she was six years older than Robert.
They moved to Italy, after a Parisian honeymoon, and stayed there the rest of their lives. The marriage of the woman who would personify Victorian poetry and the man who encouraged her, was by all accounts very happy. The addition of her love poems to her published work was Browning’s idea. Along with that and the money Elizabeth finally inherited was ‘quite enough’ to keep them secure.
When Elizabeth was 43, and after several miscarriages the marriage produced one son, Robert, called Penini.
I’m sure middle school sucked for him.
Elizabeth died in 1861 at the age of 55. Robert soldiered on until 1889.
Love, Italy, money, family, and poetry, what more could a couple ask?
Elizabeth and Robert Browning’s poems live on, and are still published and studied today. Sadly, most people know of one line, hers…”How do I love the, let me count the ways…”
There’s so much more. The sonnets of Elizabeth Barrett Browning are truly her autobiography, or at the very least, her love story.
If you’re needing a little inspiration for the month of love, check them out…I’m sure they’re at the library!