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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 ...

Foiled by Pleasure

Matthew Bevis: Barrett Browning, 30 August 2018

Elizabeth Barrett BrowningSelected Writings 
edited by Josie Billington and Philip Davis.
Oxford, 592 pp., £14.99, February 2018, 978 0 19 879763 0
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... as a foil; more often, though, it wants to be foiled by pleasure. A hundred years later Barrett Browning had become a damsel famed in story. In 1934 Virginia Woolf observed that ‘“Lady Geraldine’s Courtship” is glanced at perhaps by two professors in American universities once a year; but we all know how Miss Barrett lay on her sofa; how she escaped ...

Cold Winds

Walter Nash, 18 December 1986

Answered Prayers 
by Truman Capote.
Hamish Hamilton, 181 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 241 11962 6
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A Rich Full Death 
by Michael Dibdin.
Cape, 204 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780224023870
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Leaning in the Wind 
by P.H. Newby.
Faber, 235 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 14512 4
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The Way-Paver 
by Anne Devlin.
Faber, 155 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 571 14597 3
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... in the year 1855, and the narration takes the form of letters written by a young American, Robert Booth, to his friend Professor Prescott, an authority on Theoretical and Practical Ethics. Booth, in retreat from rejection in love and a sense of his own failure in literature, has known at least one stroke of luck: he has become, he tells his ...

Cumin-coated

Colin Burrow: Two Novels about Lost Bellinis, 14 August 2008

The Bellini Card 
by Jason Goodwin.
Faber, 306 pp., £12.99, July 2008, 978 0 571 23992 4
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The Bellini Madonna 
by Elizabeth Lowry.
Quercus, 343 pp., July 2008, 978 1 84724 364 5
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... of James Roper, Anna’s great-grandfather. This describes a trip to the Veneto in the company of Robert Browning and the love of his late years, Mrs Bronson. The diary explains that Roper married into the Italian family which was given the Bellini Madonna by the artist in the 16th century in lieu of a debt. It’s written in a style that’s perhaps ...

Chronicities

Christopher Ricks, 21 November 1985

Gentlemen in England 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 311 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 02 411165 1
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... and Gain, to say nothing of Modern Love and The Europeans, and – best of all and best used – Browning’s great poem of comedy and sadness, of hopes dished, ‘Youth and Art’. The allusions are child’s play for homo ludens. It is true that the decision to compile a compendium both does and doesn’t help with Wilson’s notorious difficulty in ...

Death for Elsie

Christopher Ricks, 7 August 1986

Found in the Street 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 277 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 9780434335244
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Private Papers 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 214 pp., £8.95, February 1986, 0 7011 2987 5
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... Papers makes the most responsible and unexpected use of Emily Brontë and of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But it is Robert Browning who fails to furnish the one thing needed, and this is where the novel fails. The dramatic monologue, after all, grew out of the epistolary novel. Forster is writing essentially an ...

Poetry is a horrible waste of time

Frances Wilson: Thomas Lovell Beddoes, 28 October 1999

Thomas Lovell Beddoes: Selected Poetry 
edited by Judith Higgens and Michael Bradshaw.
Carcanet, 116 pp., £8.95, June 1999, 1 85754 408 0
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... to this history of ambivalence, in 1883 Beddoes’s entire oeuvre ended up in the care of Robert Browning. Browning had expressed to Kelsall, Beddoes’s executor, his admiration for the poet, and Kelsall, hoping that Browning’s influence might help in establishing ...

Snakes and Leeches

Rosemary Hill: The Great Stink, 4 January 2018

One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Yale, 352 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 300 22726 0
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... weaves together the lives of the famous, the obscure and the forgotten. Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning plan their elopement. Samuel Rogers entertains the Gräfin Hahn-Hahn, a romantic novelist who has come to meet her English public and disappoints them by turning out to have false teeth and a glass eye. The painter Benjamin Haydon approaches ...

Tons of Sums

Michael Mason, 16 September 1982

Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer 
by Anthony Hyman.
Oxford, 287 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 9780198581703
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... imitation of Babbage’s machine printed the English Life Table No 3, of 1864. And that was that. Robert Browning remarked to Elizabeth Barrett that certain revisions Tennyson had made to his poems in deference to the critics were ‘much as if Babbage were to take my opinion – undo his calculating machine by it’. ...

Umpteens

Christopher Ricks, 22 November 1990

Bloomsbury Dictionary of Dedications 
edited by Adrian Room.
Bloomsbury, 354 pp., £17.99, September 1990, 0 7475 0521 7
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Unauthorised Versions: Poems and their Parodies 
edited by Kenneth Baker.
Faber, 446 pp., £14.99, September 1990, 0 571 14122 6
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The Faber Book of Vernacular Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 407 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 571 14470 5
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... to an occasional session of sweet silent thought, or even to the consulting of a concordance. Robert Browning, Luria, 1846 – I dedicate this last attempt for the present at Dramatic Poetry to a Great Dramatic Poet: ‘Wishing what I write may be read by his light’: if a phrase originally addressed, by not the least worthy of his ...

Want-of-Tin and Want-of-Energy

Dinah Birch: The lives of the Rossettis, 20 May 2004

The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume One 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 464 pp., £95, July 2002, 9780859915281
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The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume Two 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 640 pp., £95, July 2002, 0 85991 637 5
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William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis 
by Angela Thirlwell.
Yale, 376 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 300 10200 3
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... of Blake, crucial to the development of aesthetic thought in the period. His allegiance to Robert Browning, recipient of several deferentially adoring letters in these volumes, was comparable, and became yet more fervent after his first meeting with ‘the glorious Robert’ in 1851. Gabriel was among the few to ...

Behind the Veil

Richard Altick, 6 March 1986

The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England 1850-1914 
by Janet Oppenheim.
Cambridge, 503 pp., £25, March 1985, 0 521 26505 3
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... the Continent with a succession of séances, two or three of which were attended by Elizabeth and Robert Browning. On the first occasion, an unseen hand lowered a clematis wreath (laurel was hard to come by) on Elizabeth’s brow. She believed in spiritual manifestations, but Robert, though he shared her dislike of ...

Woman in Love

Marghanita Laski, 1 April 1983

... of English artists and intellectuals. Her great-uncle was the painter Rudolph Lehmann, friend of Robert Browning and George Eliot. Her father, R.C. Lehmann, was a well-known writer and man of letters. Of her siblings, a younger sister is Beatrix Lehmann, the actress, her younger brother John Lehmann, poet, and fructifying editor and founder of the ...

It ain’t him, babe

Danny Karlin, 5 February 1987

No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan 
by Robert Shelton.
New English Library, 573 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 450 04843 8
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... time.’ (Dave Van Ronk said that.) That must be how every interviewer feels – except, it seems, Robert Shelton. It’s 1966: Dylan is talking to Shelton, whose book about him he has agreed to countenance, if not to ‘authorise’. He says something about his relationship with Joan Baez, and then asks: ‘Can you write this in your book? If you ...

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