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Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, which is
now a part of London. He had no real formal education so he was largely
self educated. His father was a smart man with an extensive library. His
mother was kindly, religious minded woman, who loved music and her
brilliant son. He lived at his parents house almost until the time of his
marriage. He attended a boarding school near Camberwell and spent a little
bit of his time traveling to places like Russia and Italy. But he preferred to
have his education at home, where he was tutored in foreign languages,
boxing, music, and horsemanship, and where he read "omnivorously." At the
age of 14 he first discovered Percy Shelly works and was strongly influenced
by it. After reading Shelly, He made the decision to be an atheist and a
liberal. But in a few years he grew away from atheism and the extreme
phases of his liberalism. The things he learned from the books he read would
largely influence his poems later in his life.
His earlier poetry was regarded with indifference and largely
misunderstood. It was not until the 1860\'s that he would at last gain publicity
and would even be compared with Alfred Lord Tennyson, another very
famous poet of the time. Some of his early poetry was influenced by his
unusual education. The poet also had an anxious desire to avoid exposing
himself explicitly to his readers. The first poem he wrote called Pauline, was
written in 1883 at the age of twenty-one, but he did not sign it because of his
fear of exposing himself to the public too much.
Since Browning did not want to expose himself too personally, he
decided to try his hand at writing plays. He was encouraged by the actor
W.C. Macready. Browning began work on his first play, Strafford, a
historical tragedy. Unfortunately, the play only lasted four nights when it
was first put on in London in 1837. For ten more years, the young writer
would continue to struggle to produce a play that would better hold the
attention of the audience, but they all remained failures. Not only did
Browning profit from this otherwise disheartening experience, but writing the
dialogue for the characters helped him explore the "dramatic dialogue." The
dramatic dialogue, "enabled him to, through imaginary speakers, to avoid
explicit autobiography and yet did not demand that these speakers act out the
story with the speed or simplifications that a stage production demands. "
William Irvine notes, "In Browning monologues, murderers recollect, but do
not commit, their murders". His first collection of such monologues ,
"Dramatic Lyrics," appearing in 1842, was as unsuccessful as his plays had
His poem Pauline was followed by a dramatic poem called Paracelsus
which was the first poem to bring him fame and prominence with the other
literary figures of the day. In Paracelsus Browning used a Renaissance
setting, which would become a familiar motif in his later work. From 1841
to 1846 he wrote a series of poems under the title "Bells and Pomegranates,"
which included such poems as Pippa Passes, My last Dutchess, and The
Bishop Orders His Tomb.
In 1846 he fell in love with the poet Elizabeth Barret. She was six
years older than Robert and jealously guarded by her "tyrannical" father.
Because of her poor health which was made worse by the English climate,
they moved to Florence, Italy, and were married there. They lived in a
palace that would later be made famous by Elizabeth\'s poem, Casa Guidi
Windows. As Elizabeth\'s health slowly returned to her, she was able to enjoy
a fuller life. Robert seemed to thrive during these years of this remarkable
marriage. While they were there, Robert wrote "Christmas Eve and Easter
Day," and a series of dramatic monologues, which were later published
collectively as "Men and Women," which included Fra Lippo Lippi and
Andrea del Sarto which were studies of renaissance artists. "Men and
Women" also reflects his enjoyment of Italy. He enjoyed most the
picturesque landscapes and the lively street scenes that Italy had to offer.
The happy fifteen year marriage ended in 1861 with Elizabeth\'s death. After
Elizabeth died Robert moved back to London. Elizabeth\'s
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Robert Browning, Men and Women, The Ring and the Book, Andrea del Sarto, Dramatis Personae, Dramatic monologue, Pippa Passes, Fra Lippo Lippi, Dramatic Lyrics, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Red Cotton Night-Cap Country
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