Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Biography

There are perhaps three spheres most important to understanding Elizabeth Barrett Browning as a person and as a literary figure: her education, her romance with Robert Browning, and her illness. She was born to Edward Barrett Moulton-Barrett and Mary Graham-Clarke in County Durham on March 6, 1806. She was the first of twelve children. Her immersion in classics began with learning Greek and Latin in 1817. When she was fourteen, her father privately published her epic poem The Battle of Marathon. Her first serious illness struck when she was fifteen, in 1821. Still, she continued studying Greek classics and writing poetry. Her family moved to London in 1835.

In 1845, she began a passionate correspondence with Robert Browning. They were secretly married in St Marylebone Church in 1846. They then moved to Italy, settling in Florence for the rest of their lives with occasional visits to London and Paris. Barrett Browning’s poor health continued, and she suffered several miscarriages. Her son, Pen, was born in 1849. In 1853, she began writing Aurora Leigh, which was then finished and published in 1856. After more bouts of illness, several more poems, and four editions of Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning died on June 29 in 1861 and was buried in the English Cemetery in Florence. Her Last Poems was published posthumously in 1862.