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Robert Browning
Biography

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Robert Browning
1812- 1889

Browning Portrait

Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, England. His mother was an accomplished pianist and a devout evangelical Christian. His father, who worked as a bank clerk, was also an artist, scholar, antiquarian, and collector of books and pictures. Much of Browning's education came from his well-read father. It is believed that he was already reading and writing by the age of five. From fourteen to sixteen he was educated at home. At the age of twelve he wrote a volume of Byronic verse entitled Incondita. Browning was given a ample of Shelley's poetry at age 13; Browning was so taken with the book that he asked for the rest of Shelley's works for his thirteenth birthday, and declared himself a vegetarian and an atheist in emulation of the poet. The random nature of his education later surfaced in his writing, leading to criticism of his poems' obscurities. In 1833, Browning anonymously published his first major published work, Pauline, and in 1840 he published Sordello, which was widely regarded as a failure. He also tried his hand at drama, but his plays were unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the techniques he developed through his dramatic monologues--especially his use of diction, rhythm, and symbol--are regarded as his most important contribution to poetry, influencing such major poets of the twentieth century as Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and Robert Frost. After reading Elizabeth Barrett's Poems (1844) and corresponding with her for a few months, Browning met her in 1845. They were married in 1846, against the wishes of Barrett's father. The couple moved to Pisa and then Florence, where they continued to write. They had a son, Robert "Pen" Browning, in 1849, the same year his Collected Poems was published. Elizabeth inspired Robert's collection of poems Men and Women (1855), which he dedicated to her. Now regarded as one of Browning's best works, the book was received with little notice at the time; its author was then primarily known as Elizabeth Barrett's husband. Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in 1861, and Robert and Pen Browning soon moved to London. Browning went on to publish Dramatis Personae (1863), and The Ring and the Book (1868). The latter, based on a seventeenth-century Italian murder trial, received wide critical acclaim, finally earning of respect in Browning's career. Oxford University in 1882 and the University of Edinburgh in 1884 awarded him honorary degrees. Robert Browning died on the same day that his final volume of verse, Asolando, was published, on December 12, 1889.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning