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Robert Browning 1812-1889

Biography

Robert Browning's work looms large in any Victorian poetry collection, his dramatic, evocative monologues peopled with vivid characters that strike a universal chord.

Born into a Nonconformist Unitarian family in Camberwell, south London in 1812, Browning was a precocious child with a literary interest encouraged by his family. With Oxford and Cambridge universities barred to him because of his religion, Burns would feel like a cultural outsider for much of his life. His own historical reading inspired narratives such as The Pied Piper of Hamelin and, adopting the personas of shadowy characters from across the ages, Browning produced dramatic monologues like My Last Duchess and Fra Lippo Lippi. His travels threw up more characters to fill his monologues, while his distance from home inspired one of his - and British poetry's - best-known verses, Home-Thoughts, From Abroad.

In 1849 he met Elizabeth Barrett, a poet who was virtually bed-ridden. They eloped the following year, settling in Italy. (Their romance inspired the 1934 film The Barretts of Wimpole Street). When Elizabeth died in 1861 Browning returned to England heartbroken.

After his return Browning become known in London society and literary circles. His 1869 collection The Ring and the Book was the hit that secured his fame throughout Victorian England, while his 1889 phonograph of How They Brought the Good News From Ghent to Aix is the earliest known recording of a poet. He died later that year, and is buried in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey.

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