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Browning Versions

Barbara Everett, 4 August 1983

Robert BrowningA Life within Life 
by Donald Thomas.
Weidenfeld, 334 pp., £12.95, August 1982, 0 297 78092 1
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The Elusive Self in the Poetry of Robert Browning 
by Constance Hassett.
Ohio, 186 pp., £17, December 1982, 0 8214 0629 9
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning. Vol. V 
edited by Roma King.
Ohio, 395 pp., £29.75, July 1981, 9780821402207
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The Poetical Works of Robert BrowningVol. I 
edited by Ian Jack and Margaret Smith.
Oxford, 543 pp., £45, April 1983, 0 19 811893 7
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Robert BrowningThe Poems 
edited by John Pettigrew and Thomas Collins.
Yale/Penguin, 1191 pp., £26, January 1982, 0 300 02675 7
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Robert Browning‘The Ring and the Book’ 
edited by Richard Altick.
Yale/Penguin, 707 pp., £21, May 1981, 0 300 02677 3
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... years ago when Thurber was young, although out of fashion for at least the last half-century. Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’ begins, with a fine surprising immediacy:That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,Looking as if she were alive. I callThat piece a wonder, now ...– the 16th-century Duke of Ferrara speaking with a flamboyant strength that ...

Domineering

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 7 November 1985

The Courtship of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett 
by Daniel Karlin.
Oxford, 281 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 19 811728 0
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... courtships follow narrative precedents, but few make for such a satisfying story as that of the Brownings. The slightest imaginative pressure can transform the familiar facts of the case into a myth or fairy-tale, with each of the principals in the affair behaving wonderfully true to type: the spellbound maiden, mysteriously immobilised by an unnamed ...

A Question of Breathing

John Bayley, 4 August 1988

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 400 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3018 0
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Selected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 330 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3311 2
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The Poetical Works of Robert BrowningVol. III 
edited by Ian Jack and Rowena Fowler.
Oxford, 542 pp., £60, June 1988, 0 19 812762 6
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The Complete Works of Robert BrowningVol. VIII 
edited by Roma King and Susan Crowl.
Ohio/Baylor University, 379 pp., £47.50, September 1988, 9780821403808
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... and a person with the right progressive ideas. So could the author of the poem, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It is only fair to say, though, that this kind of wish-fulfilment is not only an accurate portrayal of the kind of selves that Charlotte and Elizabeth became, and wished to become: it is also a truthful discovery of what is possible for a woman, a ...

Write to me

Danny Karlin, 11 January 1990

The Brownings’ Correspondence. Vol. VII: March-October 1843 
edited by Philip Kelley and Ronald Hudson.
Athlone, 429 pp., £60, December 1989, 0 485 30027 3
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... My dear Lady Olliffe,’ Robert Browning wrote in March 1877: I have just been reading my old friend Miss Martineau’s protest against the publication – and indeed, retention – of all correspondence. Here, now, is a sample of mine: be assured I shall never demand it again, from any apprehension that hereafter the friendliness in it may be at variance with whatever feeling I please to entertain thirty years hence ...

Browning’s Last Duchess

Virginia Surtees, 9 October 1986

... first time, with the permission of the Hon. Simon Howard. They cover the visit of the 57-year-old Robert Browning to Naworth Castle, the Cumberland home of the George Howards. Browning had recently published his great poem The Ring and the Book, with its dedication to his dead wife. He was mentally tired, and uneasy ...

His and Hers

Matthew Reynolds: Robert Browning, 9 October 2008

The Poems of Robert Browning. Vol. III: 1847-61 
edited by John Woolford, Daniel Karlin and Joseph Phelan.
Longman, 753 pp., £100, November 2007, 978 0 582 08453 7
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... Browning’s contemporaries agreed he was a genius, but they were not all sure he was a poet. Wilde’s quip – ‘Meredith is a prose Browning, and so is Browning’ – expresses a view shared by admirers such as George Eliot and Henry James, doubters like Carlyle and Hopkins, and a chorus of others ...

Reader, I married you

Alethea Hayter, 30 March 1989

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett: The Courtship Correspondence 1845-1846 
edited by Daniel Karlin.
Oxford, 363 pp., £17.50, March 1989, 0 19 818547 2
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... by being first to my intellect, before they were first to my heart,’ Elizabeth Barrett told Browning when they had been corresponding for over a year and had acknowledged their love. When she first got the fan letter from a fellow poet, six years younger and much less celebrated than she was, she took it for the opening of another correspondence such as ...

Resurrection Man

Danny Karlin: Browning and His Readers, 23 May 2002

The Ring and the Book 
by Robert Browning, edited by Richard Altick and Thomas Collins.
Broadview, 700 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 1 55111 372 4
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. Vol. VIII: The Ring and the Book, Books V-VIII 
edited by Stefan Hawlin and Tim Burnett.
Oxford, £75, February 2001, 0 19 818647 9
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... At the very end of The Ring and the Book Browning delivers one of the most staggering mule-kicks ever meted out by an author to his readers. Bear in mind that the poem is more than 21,000 lines of blank verse – about twice the length of Paradise Lost. It was published in four monthly instalments, each containing three books of the poem, which appeared from November 1868 to February 1869 ...

Browning and Modernism

Donald Davie, 10 October 1991

ThePoems of Browning. Vol. I: 1826-1840 
edited by John Woolford and Daniel Karlin.
Longman, 797 pp., £60, April 1991, 0 582 48100 7
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ThePoems of Browning. Vol. II: 1841-1846 
edited by John Woolford and Daniel Karlin .
Longman, 581 pp., £50, April 1991, 9780582063990
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... Browning is in high favour once again, or promises to be. Has not A.S. Byatt, CBE, declared him ‘one of the very greatest English poets’? In a switch to fighting talk, she adds that ‘his greatness has never been fully acknowledged or described ... in part because he is difficult to docket in terms of the usual literary discussions of Victorian Poetry ...

Tennyson’s Text

Danny Karlin, 12 November 1987

The Poems of Tennyson 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Longman, 662 pp., £40, May 1987, 0 582 49239 4
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Tennyson’s ‘Maud’: A Definitive Edition 
edited by Susan Shatto.
Athlone, 296 pp., £28, August 1986, 0 485 11294 9
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The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson. Vol.2: 1851-1870 
edited by Cecil Lang and Edgar Shannon.
Oxford, 585 pp., £40, May 1987, 0 19 812691 3
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The New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse 
edited by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 654 pp., £15.95, June 1987, 0 19 214154 6
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... Writing in 1842 to his friend Alfred Domett, who had emigrated to New Zealand, Robert Browning enclosed ‘Tennyson’s new vol. and, alas, the old with it – that is what he calls old’. Browning was referring to the two-volume Poems of 1842, whose first volume consisted of heavily revised versions of poems published in 1830 and 1832 ...

Mary Swann’s Way

Danny Karlin, 27 September 1990

Jane Fairfax 
by Joan Aiken.
Gollancz, 252 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 575 04889 1
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Lady’s Maid 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 536 pp., £13.95, July 1990, 0 7011 3574 3
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Mary Swann 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 313 pp., £12.99, August 1990, 1 872180 02 7
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... is history, not fiction. The ground is that of her own recent biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the marginal figure is that of her maid, Elizabeth Wilson, who came to Wimpole Street in 1844, was privy to her mistress’s clandestine love affair with Robert Browning (and was one of only two witnesses to ...

In a horizontal posture

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 5 July 1984

The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford: 1836-1854 
edited by Meredith Raymond and Mary Rose Sullivan.
Baylor University, Browning Institute, Wedgestone Press and Wellesley College, 431 pp., March 1983, 0 911459 01 4
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Love and the Woman Question in Victorian Literature: The Art of Self-Postponement 
by Kathleen Blake.
Harvester, 254 pp., £25, November 1983, 0 7108 0560 8
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... yield enough romantic intrigue even for the pen of a Richardsonian heroine. The history of the Browning courtship and elopement seems made for storytelling, and beginning with the correspondence of the lovers themselves, it has of course been told many times. The nearly five hundred letters to Mitford collected here represent the largest number Barrett ...

Porcupined

John Bayley, 22 June 1989

The Essential Wyndham Lewis 
edited by Julian Symons.
Deutsch, 380 pp., £17.95, April 1989, 0 233 98376 7
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... Lewis again: but he goes on, as he often does, to a truly piercing criticism, in this case against Browning: ‘When Robert Browning denied that Shakespeare was capable of such an action as “unlocking his heart” (as Wordsworth said that he did) he classed himself with more nicety than he knew. The romantically ...

Viva la trattoria

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 9 October 2003

Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Her Sister Arabella 
edited by Scott Lewis.
Wedgestone, $300, October 2002, 0 911459 29 4
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... children survived to adulthood; and eight were left behind when the eldest escaped to Italy with Robert Browning in 1846 (two sons, including the father’s namesake, had died six years earlier). Moulton-Barrett did not attempt to hoard girl-children only, although the legend surrounding his daughter’s elopement has sometimes suggested that. The sex ...

Against the Same-Old Same-Old

Seamus Perry: The Brownings, 3 November 2016

The Brownings’ Correspondence, Vol 21 
edited by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Joseph Phelan, Edward Hagan and Rhian Williams.
Wedgestone, 432 pp., $110, April 2014, 978 0 911459 38 8
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The Brownings’ Correspondence, Vol 22 
edited by Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Joseph Phelan, Edward Hagan and Rhian Williams.
Wedgestone, 430 pp., $110, June 2015, 978 0 911459 39 5
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Robert Browning 
edited by Richard Cronin and Dorothy McMillan.
Oxford, 904 pp., £95, December 2014, 978 0 19 959942 4
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Browning Studies: Being Select Papers by Members of the Browning Society 
edited by Edward Berdoe.
Routledge, 348 pp., £30, August 2015, 978 1 138 02488 5
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... for the imagination in which we all have a shared stake. Like the other great Victorian poets, Robert Browning came of age as a writer vividly aware of the exciting powers of Romantic inwardness, which, like most of his contemporaries, he found a burden as much as a spur to new achievements. His early poems revolve about subjectivity in an ...

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