ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING & ROBERT BROWNING
1. THE LIFE OF ELIZABETH BARRET BROWNING.
1.1 THE WORKS OF E. BARRETT BROWNING.
2. THE LIFE OF ROBERT BROWNING.
2.2 THE WORKS OF ROBERT BROWNING.
3. THE RELATIONSHIP OF ELIZABETH BARRET AND ROBERT BROWNING.
4. BIOGRAPHICAL INTERPRETATION OF BARRET BROWNING’S “SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE” (1850).
5. FEMININE VOICE AND PRESENCE IN VICTORIAN POETRY.
6. CULTURAL REFERENCES.
1. THE LIFE OF ELIZABETH BARRET BROWNING
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Elizabeth Barrett was born in Durham, England; March 6, 1806. She lived a privileged childhood. Although frail, she apparently had no health problems until 1821. Her mother died when she was 22, and critics mark signs of this loss in Aurora Leigh.
She had read a number of Shakespearian plays, parts of Pope’s Homeric translations, passages from Paradise Lost, and the histories of England, Greece, and Rome before the age of ten. During her teen years she read the principal Greek and Latin authors and Dante’s Inferno. Her enjoyment of the works and subject matter of Pain, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Wollstonecraft was later expressed by her concern for human rights in her own letters and poems. By the age of twelve she had written an “epic” poem consisting of four books of rhyming couplets. Barrett later referred to her first literary attempt as, “Pope’s Homer done over again, or rather undone”.
From 1822 on, Elizabeth Barrett’s interests tended more and more to the scholarly and literary. In 1838, The Seraphim and Other Poems appeared the first volume of Elizabeth’s mature poetry to appear under her own name. That same year her health forced her to move to the Devonshire coast. She became an invalid and a recluse, spending most of the next five years in her bedroom, seeing only one or two people other than her immediate family.
Her 1844 Poems made her one of the most popular writers in the land, and inspired Robert Browning to write her. A friend of Elizabeth arranged for Robert Browning to come to see her in May 1845, and so began one of the most famous courtships in literature.
She wrote about that relationship in Sonnets from the Portuguese. Elizabeth and Robert got married secretly in London in 1846. They leave England to travel through Europe, and then settled in Florence. In 1849 they had a son, Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning.
At her husband’s insistence, the second edition of her Poems included her love sonnets. Her growing interest in the Italian struggle for independence is evident in Casa Guidi Windows (1851) and Poems before Congress (1860). In 1857 she saw the publication of the verse-novel Aurora Leigh.
She died in the arms of her husband on June 29, 1861.
No female poet was held in higher esteem among cultured readers in both the United States and England than Elizabeth Barrett Browning during the 19th century. Barrett’s poetry had an immense impact on the works of Emily Dickinson who admired her as woman of achievement. Barrett’s treatment of social injustice is manifested in many of her poems.
Aurora Sleigh also dealt with social injustice, but its subject was the subjugation of women to the dominating male. It also commented on the role of a woman as a woman and poet. Barrett’s popularity waned after her death, and late-Victorian critics argued that although much of her writing would be forgotten, she would be remembered for The Cry of the Children, Isobel’s Child, Bertha in the Lane, and most of all the Sonnets from the Portuguese. Virginia Woolf argued that Aurora Leigh’s heroine, “with her passionate interest in the social questions, her conflict as artist and woman, her longing for knowledge and freedom, is the true daughter of her age”. Woolf’s praise of that work predated the modern critical re-evaluation of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and today it attracts more attention than the rest of her poetry.
1.1 THE WORKS OF E. BARRETT BROWNING
· The Battle of Marathon, c. 1818 (age 12).
· “The Rose and Zephyr,” first published work, appears in 1825 Literary Gazette.
· An Essay on Mind (poems), 1826
· Prometheus Bound (translation of Aeschylus), 1833
· The Seraphim and Other Poems, 1838v
· “The Cry of the Children” published 1842v
· Poems, 1844
· Poems (includes the Sonnets from the Portuguese), 1850.v
o “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” (43)
· Casa Guidi Windows, 1851
· Aurora Leigh, 1857
· Poems Before Congress, 1860
· Last Poems (including “De Profundis”) published posthumously, 1862
1. THE LIFE OF ROBERT BROWNING
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Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell (a suburb of London). He was a British poet and playwright whose mastery of dramatic verse, especially dramatic monologues, made him one of the foremost Victorian poets.
Indeed, most of the poet’s education came at home. He was an extremely bright child and a voracious reader and learned Latin, Greek, French and Italian by the time he was fourteen.
In the 1830’s he met the actor William Macready and tried several times to write verse drama for the stage. At about the same time he began to discover that his real talents lay in taking a single character and allowing him to discover himself to us by revealing more of himself in his speeches than he suspects-the characteristics of the dramatic monologue. The reviews of Paracelsus (1835) had been mostly encouraging, but the difficulty and obscurity of his long poem Sordello (1840) turned the critics against him, and for many years they continued to complain of obscurity even in his shorter, more accessible lyrics.
In 1845 he saw Elizabeth Barrett’s Poems and contrived to meet her. The couple settled a week later in Florence. Casa Guide became the base of their life, although the Brownings also visited Rome, Siena, Bagni di Lucca, Paris, and London. The years in Florence were among the happiest for both of them. Her love for him was demonstrated in the Sonnets from the Portuguese, and to her he dedicated Men and Women, which contains his best poetry.
According to some reports Browning became romantically involved with Lady Ashburton in the 1870s, but did not re-marry. In 1878, he returned to Italy for the first time in the seventeen years since Elizabeth’s death, and returned there on several occasions.
The Browning Society was formed for the appreciation of his works in 1881.
He died of bronchitis at his son’s home Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice on 12 December 1889, the same day Asolando was published, and was buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey; his grave now lies immediately adjacent to that of Alfred Tennyson.
He can be compared to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Alfred Lord Tennyson, other literary figures of the time. Therefore, because of Browning’s unique and sometimes absurd poetry, people have been fascinated with his writing and still are today.
2.2 THE WORKS OF ROBERT BROWNING.
Pauline, A Fragment of a Confession (1833)
Bells and Pomegranates (1841), series of books, mostly plays.
Dramatic Lyrics (1842)
· “Count Gismond”
· “My Last Duchess”
· “Porphyria’s Lover”
· “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”
A Blot on the ‘Scutcheon (1842-43)
Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (1845)
· “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church”
A Soul’s Tragedy (1846), which concludes Bells and Pomegranates series.
Christmas Eve and Easter Day (1850)
Men and Women (1855)
· “Andrea del Sarto”
· “Bishop Blougram’s Apology”
· “’Child Roland to the Dark Tower Came’” (
· “An Epistle Concerning the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician”
· “Fra Lippo Lippi”
· “One Word More”
· “A Tocatta of Galuppi”
Dramatis Personae (1864)
· “Caliban upon Setebos”
· “Rabbi ben Ezra”
· “Abt Vogler”
The Ring and the Book (1868)
Red-Cotton Nightcap Country (1873)
The Inn Album (1875)
Pachiarotto and How He Worked in a Distemper (1876)
The Agamemnon of Aeschylus (1877)
Dramatic Idyls (1879)
2. THE RELATIONSHIP OF ELIZABETH BARRET AND ROBERT BROWNING
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Her 1844 Poems inspired Robert to write her, telling her how much he loved her poems. In May 1845 began one of the most famous courtships in English literature. She could not believe that Browning really loved her as much as he professed to, and her doubts are expressed in the Sonnets from the Portuguese which she wrote over the next two years. Browning imitated his hero Shelley by spiriting his beloved off to Italy in August 1846. Since they were proper Victorians they got married a week beforehand.
The relationship began in his admiring her poetry. His audacious first letter moves from loving her books to loving her. Elizabeth was alarmed by his “extravagance”, and worried that he might substitute lioness-worship for real feeling, with something of Aurora Leigh’s distaste for merely literary adulation.
Although her poetry, letters, and diaries reveal a profound ambivalence about love, Elizabeth Barrett seems to have enjoyed a very happy relationship with her husband, Robert Browning.
She questioned what sort of a gift her heart would make to Browning since she was not young, six years an invalid, broken-spirited in guilt and sorrow. So for a long time Robert Browning had to accede to her formula, urged in the Sonnets, that he loved her for nothing at all, just because he loved her. He worried that she might scant her own work in order to help him and write him letters, for her knew how self-sacrificing affection could make her. She was composing the Sonnets during their letter-writing courtship, and she also outlined her rough idea for Aurora Leigh.
Thought Elizabeth did not do a great deal of work for a year o so after her marriage, the intermission was brief and the follow-through impressive. Before her death she wrote, Poems of 1850, Casa Guidi Windows, Aurora Leigh, Poems before Congress, and her last Poem.
Browning’s benefit to her work went beyond encouragement, criticism and provision of a model to study but not to copy. Browning gave her, Italy, travel, experience ... her letters in marriage run over with the high spirits of a wanderer and observer.
Her works address a wide range of issues and ideas; she was learned and thoughtful, influencing many of her contemporaries, including Robert Browning. Her own sufferings, combined with her moral and intellectual strength, made her the champion of the suffering and oppressed.
The romance between Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett is legendary. Here’s the first letter that Robert Browning sent to Elizabeth, who would eventually become his wife.
Robert Browning’s Love Letter to Elizabeth Barrett
By Esther Lombardi, About.com
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3. BIOGRAPHICAL INTERPRETATION OF BARRET BROWNING’S “SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE” (1850).
Poetry written by Barrett during her middle-aged years consisted of works focused on the topic of love.
“Sonnets from the Portuguese” is a sequence of love sonnets addresses to her husband. Browning’s vivid intelligence and ethereal physical appearance made a lifelong impression to Ruskin, Carlyle, Thackeray, Rossetti, Hawthorne, and many others.
“What do we give to out
When her POEMS (1844) appeared, it gained a huge popularity and was praised among others by the American writer Edgar Allan Poe. Elizabeth Browning’s name was mentioned six years later in speculations about the successor of Wordsworth as the poet laureate.
Barrett Browning was a respected working poet for many years before her courtship and marriage to Robert Browning. The secret epistolary romance between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, followed by their controversial elopement and fairytale ending of a happy marriage complete with child has fascinated readers from her contemporaries to the present. The work that most symbolizes this reading of Elizabeth Barrett Browning the poet, in the minds of her time period and still some today, is "Sonnets from the Portuguese."
The love story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning began in 1845 when Robert wrote to Elizabeth in praise of her poetry. After twenty months of correspondence and meetings, they eloped and moved to Italy. During the time of their courtship Barrett began the sonnet sequence, beginning immediately after their first meeting and chronicling her reactions to their relationship. She did not reveal the poems to Robert until thee years after the marriage and the birth of their son (Adams xvi).
However, the title was actually a reference to a term of endearment Robert had for Elizabeth, my little Portuguese, and a reference to her dark complexion. The "Sonnets" fascinated readers because of the fairytale associated with them, not the text itself.
Sonnets are certainly equal to all of Wordsworth's and most of Milton's. [485-56]
Barrett Browning's life became reduced more and more to the "Sonnets" and to love. Her entire life has become reduced to the pursuit of love. As the "Sonnets" became more and more popular, they were valued less and less as poems and more as relics of a fascinating love story (Lootens 146). However, the love letters did complete the love story with which everyone was obsessed, and so, they became popular.
The problem for Barrett Browning's reputation was that as the letters became more popular, the original text that earned her praise, the "Sonnets from the Poertugese," decreased in popularity.
Barrett Browning is still being valued for her love as a woman, but now her poetry is not associated with her value. Other modern writers find the connection between the "Sonnets" and the love letters to be important in a new way of reading the Sonnets. The letters take the form of a dialogue between Barrett and Browning, in which both explore their own feelings in words. The "Sonnets" are Barrett Browning's own reflections outside of the dialogue. "The 'Sonnets from the Portuguese,' in particular, elaborate many of the anxieties of the letters about the possibility of communicating the heart's true feelings" (221). The letters are the communication between two people and the sonnets are the communication of one woman trying to articulate love.
In both the letters and the poems Barrett Browning, speaking from a woman's perspective, breaks the silence of the traditional female role of simply listening or receiving adoration ("'How do I Love Thee?': Love and Marriage" 145).
The similarities and overlaps do not mean that Barrett Browning was simply rehashing the same sentiments from the letters in the poems. One example of how the letters and poems differ is in the giving of a lock of hair, which is played out differently in the poems than the letters. The letters reveal elements of sexual tension and sexual yielding in the dialogue. Browning asks Barrett to give him something he's dared to think of asking for, something precious, a lock of hair. She reveals that giving a lock of hair is something she's only done for her nearest relatives, and she thinks that she might be too prudish to give it to him, but she yields.
There is a longing in his request and coyness in her response that exudes sexuality (Stephenson 80). In the sonnet version of this episode (sonnet 18), the tone is completely different and the giving of the lock of hair is devoid of sexual tension. On the other hand, in the second sonnet where the speaker receives her lover's hair in return (sonnet 19), the tone has become joyful. This retelling is a new interpretation of her experience based on her own reflection, not a dialogue between she and Browning (Stephenson 81-82). The letters shed light on the poems, but the poems are not simply another version of the letters, but instead are a separate, personal tale of love. What is most notable is the fact that critics still evaluate "Sonnets" based on biography rather than evaluating them as poems. This is not to say that no one is reading "Sonnets" for the poetic value but that the trend of biographical interpretation has not ended.
The compelling love story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning attracts modern readers as much as it did Victorians. Everyone loves a true love story. However, biography and literature must be separated to get a true sense of the "Sonnets from the Portuguese". The biography and letters were irresistible for the Victorians and still are today, but the pomes have been read in this way for about 150 years; it is time for a new reading.
Her most famous work is Sonnets from the Portuguese, a collection of love sonnets. By far the most famous poem from this collection, with one of the most famous opening lines in the English language, is number 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 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.
But while her Petrarchan Sonnets from the Portuguese are exquisite, she was also a prophetic, indeed epic, poet, writing Casa Guidi Windows in support of Italy’s Risorgimento, a reflection of Byron’s advocacy of Greece’s liberation from Turkey.
(Click on the image to enlarge) manuscript of poem 43.
Analysis of Sonnets from the Portuguese XLIII:
The poem Sonnets from the Portuguese XLIII is written in first person. It is a passionate affirmation of love from Elizabeth to her lover Robert Browning. She declares her pure and spiritual love him. It begins with a rhetorical question, ‘How do I love thee?’ I think this is a very smart way of beginning the poem because it involves the reader and sets the scene of what the poem will talk about. Then she writes: ‘Let me count the ways’; this is a simple opening of a poem yet it cleverly urges the reader to read on because they feel drawn in to it. The poem then moves on to list the ways in which she loves thee, ‘I love thee to the depth and breadth and height’…
This line because it expresses the full extent of her love, it is to the greatest barriers of measurement. ‘I love thee freely…’, ‘I love thee purely…’, and ‘I love thee with passion…’ She simply expresses how she loves thee. The way in which she lists the sentences is uncomplicated but it makes the poem attractive to read due to the ordering of the words.
The phrase “I love thee” appears in eight of the fourteen lines.
Browning is likening the love in her soul to the love of the ancient Israelites for their God. This is reinforced in line three, where she declares her love even “when feeling out of sight”. In line four, she mentions “the ends of Being and ideal Grace”; this is also a reference to divine love, indicated by the capitalization of Being and Grace. Verses five through ten give her reasons to love freely, purely and with passion. It was a first marriage for both Elizabeth and Robert; and neither seemed to carry any baggage from the past to get in the way of their happiness. She was free to love him, in spite of her father’s wishes, and let him know it. Verses eleven and twelve seem to allude to her mother, “I love thee with a love I seemed to lose/ With my lost Saints-“ Browning’s mother died in 1828, and afterwards her father forbid his children to marry. Nest verses (thirteen and fourteen) ending the sonnet, declare Browning’s faith in God, and she plans on loving her man in heaven, “better after death.”
It is important to realize the biographical context of this poem. Browning had been forbidden to marry. She went against her father’s wishes, which caused him to never speak to her again. She gave up her father for this man. Her love is not merely printed on the page, but is a true emotion she believed enough in to leave her home and family over. She believes in God, and believes her love for Robert is true, pure, and spiritual.
Barrett speaks of love so deeply; it’s almost as if she is one with her writing. She talks so deeply of souls in love, and a perfect life, it is obvious that she is in deep love with Robert Browning. It’s this deep desire and passion that she has for him at this time in her life which inspires her to write the simple poem, Love. Perhaps Barrett’s most famous piece, Sonnets from the Portuguese, describes her doubts regarding Robert’s love for her. He professed to love her so much; she could hardly grasp the idea, and was in great disbelief.
“Say over again, and yet once over again,
(Sonnets from the Portuguese, 1850)
4. FEMININE VOICE AND PRESENCE IN VICTORIAN POETRY.
The feminine voice in Victorian poetry is often overshadowed by male authors' presences coming through in word choice and scenarios. Although these authors attempt to express the desires and emotions of their female characters, their words often often do not convince and more often then not, produce voices of weak women. Although male authors like Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning most often create such enfeebled women, so does Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
When "Marianna" and "The Lady of Shallot" are read in comparison to Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess," the idea of distance between the female in the poem and the reader is repeated. The main difference between the poems is that in Browning's poem, the woman does not ever speak because she is already dead. The Duke describes his last wife, he controls access to the late Duchess, who in this poem is only a painting, not a live woman. The reader does not know how she was killed or even what she looked like, only that she was beautiful. The Duke completely controls all that the reader knows about her.
She is the "Duchess," and we never know her name, just as we never learn the Lady of Shallot's name. The Duke refers to her as "My last Duchess." She is a possession. The way that Browning emphasizes the idea of the artist painting her portrait further objectifies her until she is only a figment of the male characters' impressions, just as the figure of Marianna is discussed as a removed and distant figure. The reader is never given the idea that a true understanding of the Duchess is possible because the Duke and the Duke's ideas of his late wife is the barrier to his accessing the central figure of the poem, the Duchess.
The female voice in many Victorian poems is really only a male voice speaking for the female. In this poem in particular, the male voice comes through because the female is physically not included in the poem to defend herself.
Browning creates a distance between the reader and the female described in the poem, which completely eliminates the reader's ability to feel any connection to her.
Browning similarly objectifies the female character in his poem "Porphyria's Lover." The result of this objectification is the creation of distance between Porphyria and the reader in his poem. Robert continues the theme of men trying to possess women, these women are objects without souls, personalities or thoughts of their own. Although her name is central in the title, the poem is not about Porphyria.
Since the reader does not understand her motivation, it is difficult to feel connected to her and it is thus difficult to feel any sympathy for her. The reader understands that she is a selfless and generous person because of the way she comes into her lover's room and stokes the fire to make sure that he is warm and comfortable. What is so distressing about the poem is that she is not given the chance to speak. This projection further decreases Porphyria's presence in the poem, which increases the reader's distance from her.
Browning's wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning does not create a more convincing portrayal of women in poetry, even though she is a female poet. The women in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh are objectified as the author makes extreme stereotypes about women in different classes. This poem can be read as a brilliant feminine work because of its focus on an independent Victorian woman, but it really only addresses the problem of a woman trying to escape male patriarchy. Although Barrett Browning tries to liberate Aurora Leigh, she only succeeds in showing how women had no real identity of their own as Aurora Leigh's individuality is only through her separation from a man.
The reader learns the most about Aurora Leigh through her relationship to the men in her life. This reinforces the idea that Victorian women did not have their own identities outside of their relationships with these male figures. Early in the poem, Browning writes of Aurora Leigh's attachment to her doting father and how his influence on her does not diminish even as she grows up. Aurora Leigh's existence is defined by her desire to avoid marriage to her cousin Romney and make a living as a poet. Although much time passes during her period as an independent poet, in lines 571-577 of the fifth book, she marks the progress of her life by referring to Romney:
For instance, I have
not seen Romney Leigh
This passage shows that even though years have passed between her visits with Romney, she still thinks about him and about the love that she gave up. Her life at this point is accordingly defined by her deliberate reaction against men, which means that her identity is defined against male figures. The way that Barrett Browning stereotypes women and only defines them against men is most apparent in lines 457-465 of the first book in which she describes the way men perceive women:
The works of women are
Although Aurora Leigh makes a point about her anger regarding the way Victorian women were objectified by men, this statement furthers the idea that women had no identity outside of the men in their lives. Respectable women in Victorian England were either identified by marriage or by spinsterhood. Although many nineteenth-century poets attempted to use the voices of the female characters in their poems in effective ways, the result is usually that the male voice of the author or the presence of men in the poems overshadows the female voice and the female presence. Women are typically objectified in Victorian poetry since their voices and their actions in the poems are only described according to their relationship with men.
Browning rejects the tendency of Shelley and the Romantics to project all their desires onto a female object. His dramatic monologue, "Andrea del Sarto," is a variation on this theme of men possessing women as objects. The speaker is troubled by the contrast between the woman's physical perfection and her superficial values. He is ashamed of the fact that he cannot live without her even though he recognizes her complete lack of depth and "soul." Andrea directly accuses her of robbing him of his artistic potential and success:
He means right — that, a child may understand.
For the speaker, success lies in the endless growth and struggle towards perfection and not in its actual attainment.
As in “My Last Duchess,” the speaker of Porphyria’s Lover” murders his mistress and reflects upon his act while contemplating the image of her beautiful face. Like the Duke, Porphyria’s lover suggests that the girl’s death was meant to immortalize her, as well as her feelings for him, rather than to “kill her.” The following passage, which begins after the speaker has finished strangling Porphyria, describes the kind of “immortal” presence that the girl seems to have.
As a shut bud that holds a bee,
In Andrea del Sarto we hear the apologia of a Renaissance painter who has the most perfect technical grasp of any of his time, yet knows he will never rival the greatness of contemporaries like Leonardo or Michelangelo. He speaks to his wife, whose beauty has enthralled him within the purely worldly, whose extravagance has led to his artistic and moral compromises (page 122).
Robert Barnard, A short History of English Literature, Basil Blackwell in association with Universitetsforlaget, Norway. Oxford and New York.
5. CULTURAL REFERENCES.
The last two lines of the famous "Song" from Pippa Passes — "God's in his heaven, All's right with the world!" — are parodied in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World with the hypnopaedic slogan: - "Ford's in his flivver, all's right with the world!" Browning's lines are also used in the Japanese animations Neon Genesis Evangelion, RahXephon, Black Lagoon, and Darker than Black. In another Japanese animation, R.O.D. the T.V., the final line is a take off stating "The Paper's in her heaven, All's right in the world."
John Lennon's song "Grow Old with Me", which was inspired by Browning’s poem Rabbi ben Ezra, appears on Lennon's album Milk and Honey.
Stephen King's Dark Tower series was inspired by Browning's poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.
In the Get Carter remake, at the opening of the film, the quote "That's all we can expect of man, this side of the grave; his good is ... knowing he is bad" is shown on the screen.
Anthony Powell used Browning's work for the titles of two of his novels: What's Become of Waring (1939) inspired by Waring from Dramatic Romances and Lyrics and The Soldier's Art, part of the A Dance to the Music of Time sequence, named for a line from Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.
Much of Robert Browning's legacy to poets writing after him in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries comes from his vitalization of the dramatic monologue. Victorian and modern poets have found it liberating to assume other personae; and by looking through those characters' eyes, allow them to speak for themselves.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
She was mentioned in an episode of Life with Derek when Casey and Kendra were working on a poetry project together. Her father is mentioned in Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie as "Mr. Barrett of Wimpole Street". Elizabeth B. Browning was also the name of Diane's cat that passed away in an episode of Cheers.
She was also mentioned in: an episode of Three's Company in which Janet is seduced by a jock who attended high school with her; in an episode of Gilmore Girls; several times in 10 Things I Hate About You.
In Jasper Fforde's novel The Eyre Affair, Elizabeth is one of the authors whose name is popular for legal name changes; Thursday befriends a Liz Barrett-Browning at the hotel in Swindon.
The Victorian web:
Robert Barnard, A short History of English Literature, Basil Blackwell in association with Universitetsforlaget, Norway. Oxford and New York.