Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Poetry
Support for studying English GCSE and A Level
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born (Durham, England) on 6 March 1806 and died on 29 June 1861 (Florence, Italy). She was an English poet during the Victorian era. She was popular during her lifetime, in Britain and the United States. Elizabeth was a candidate for poet laureate after the death of William Wordsworth. However, Alfred, Lord Tennyson was eventually appointed as poet laureate in 1850.
Elizabeth was the eldest of 12 children. Her family made their fortune from Jamaican sugar plantations. She was educated at home and demonstrated a passion for reading and writing.
Elizabeth developed an incapacitating spine disease in 1821. The family moved to London in 1838, where Elizabeth had the opportunity to socialise with Wordsworth and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
In 1845, the poet Robert Browning wrote to her and eventually they fell love. In 1846 she and Robert left for Italy after a secret marriage, against the will of her disapproving father. They ended up in Florence, where her health improved. In 1849 she gave birth to a son, Robert - known as Pen.
Arguably Browning’s most popular work is her ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’ (1850), which are a collection of love poems to her husband Robert Browning, who called her “my little Portuguese” because of her dark looks.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning - 'Sonnet 43' - Annotation
Annotation prompts for Elizabeth Barrett Browning's 'Sonnet 43'.
'Sonnet 43' is an expression of love. Elizabeth Barrett Browning (06.03.1806 -- 29.06.1861) was a prominent and popular English poet during the Victorian era (in Britain / United States) during her lifetime. Her work inspired Robert Browning. They met in 1845, courted secretly fearing her father wouldn't approve, then married in 1846. Browning called her "My Little Portuguese". Leading up to their marriage (1854-6), she compiled 44 sonnets, Sonnets From the Portuguese (named after her nickname / admiration for Portuguese poet Luís de Camões).
Are we right to assume that this poem is from the poet's perspective? Could the persona be someone else? Is it significant that there are no gender markers (he or she)? Barrett Browning was reluctant to get her collection of sonnets published - she was encouraged to by her husband. They were published originally as translations of foreign sonnets. Why do you think this decision was made? Was privacy an issue?
The annotation prompts are a supportive tool, intended to encourage further analysis and interpretation.