Biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born in Coxhoe Hall, Durham, England in March of 1806. Her family had been living in Jamaica for over one hundred years before she was born and had become quite wealthy. They were the owners of a number of large estates throughout northern Jamaica, as well as sugar plantations and workshops. 

 

Early Life

She was the first of twelve children born to Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett and Mary Graham Clarke. Her childhood was a pleasant one; she spent time riding horses and walking in the country. In the early 1800s the family moved to Hope End in Ledbury, Herefordhire. It was here that her father built a Turkish inspired mansion for the family. 

Browning was educated at home and began writing poetry at the age of four. She was an outgoing child, dedicated to her studies. During these early years her family compiled her poems into a work titled, Poems by Elizabeth B. Barrett. It was also around this time that she began to deal with an illness which is still to this day unknown. She had intense headaches and spinal pain which degraded her mobility. The illness followed her for the rest of her life. 

Browning’s mother died in 1828 and was soon followed by her grandmother. It was also during this time period that the abolition of slavery was causing the family to lose a great deal of wealth. They had to sell their home, Hope End, and Browning ended up living in Belle Vue in Sidmouth. 

 

Literary Career

During the early 1840s Browning wrote a great deal. She published the poem ‘The Cry of the Children’ in Blackwoods, a work which was focused on the condemnation of child labor. In 1844 she published two volumes of her work Poems, as well as two essays in The Athenaeum. She was a candidate for poet laureate alongside Tennyson in 1850 and was considered one of Britain’s best-loved and prolific poets. 

Elizabeth Barrett Browning married Robert Browning in September of 1846. The two lived in Italy for the rest of Elizabeth’s life. Browning’s health began to decline in the early 1860s. She had developed what might have been tuberculous ulceration of the lungs. Browning died in June of 1861. 

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