HAPPY BIRTHDAY – Elizabeth Barrett Browning, born 6 March 1806
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
I’ve always loved the story of the romance between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. She was an invalid, lying in an over-heated room (so hot she was able to hatch a baby bird in there!) and petted by her father. She had made her fame with her poems, and they were read and adored by a younger poet, Robert Browning. He wrote to her and finally persuaded her to let him visit. Soon they were in love and Elizabeth eloped with him to Italy. Her furious father, who liked to keep all his children under wraps, never spoke to her again.
Elizabeth recovered much of her health, gave birth to a son, and lived happily with Robert for many years. Virginia Woolf tells the story through the eyes of Elizabeth’s spaniel in Flush, and biographer of EBB, Margaret Forster, has written of the story through the eyes of Elizabeth’s maid, Wilson, in the novel Lady’s Maid.
Did you know that you can stay in the Browning’s home in Florence, the Casa Guidi? Today it is owned by the Landmark Trust, so you can rent it and stay there. I have been lucky enough to stay there and it is utterly wonderful!
Elizabeth wrote her Sonnets from the Portuguese for her adored husband (he called her a Portuguese because of her dark complexion and hair). The sonnet How Do I Love Thee? Is one of those and is one of the most popular sonnets in all of English literature.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning died on 29 June 1861, aged 55.
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