These manuscript letters from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to the poet Thomas Westwood span over 10 years from 1843 to 1853, providing a fascinating insight into Barrett Browning’s life as a writer.
Many of them discuss a range of literary matters. This includes Barrett Browning’s reviews of other poets, published in leading journals such as The Athenaeum, as well as her private opinions; on 2 September 1843 she reveals how Alfred Lord Tennyson ‘makes me thrill sometimes to the end of her fingers’, while also acknowledging, somewhat less passionately, that Robert Browning (her future husband) has ‘noble capabilities’. Two years later in the letter dated 9 April 1845, however, she writes of Browning: ‘He is a true poet, and a poet, I believe, of a large “future in-rus, about to be.” He is only growing to the height he will attain’.
Barrett Browning also praises contemporary women writers including Charlotte Brontë, as in the letter from September 1853:
If you can read novels, and you have too much sense not to be fond of them, read 'Villette.' The scene of the greater part of it is in Belgium, and I think it a strong book. 'Ruth,' too, by Mrs. Gaskell, the author of 'Mary Barton,' has pleased me very much.
In other letters Barrett Browning articulates the painful isolation that she experiences, caused by long bouts of illness. In October 1843 she writes,
I live in London, to be sure, and except for the glory of it I might live in a desert, so profound is my solitude and so complete my isolation form things and persons without. I lie all day, and day after day, on the sofa, and my windows do not even look into the street … Books and thoughts and dreams … and domestic tenderness can and ought to leave nobody lamenting
- Full title:
- Letters from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Thomas Westwood, chiefly on literary matters
- Manuscript / Letter / Ephemera
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
- © The Provost and Fellows of Eton College
- Usage terms
- Creative Commons Attribution licence
- Held by
- British Library
- Add MS 40689
- Article by:
- Simon Avery
- Gender and sexuality, Victorian poetry
Dr Simon Avery considers how Elizabeth Barrett Browning used poetry to explore and challenge traditional Victorian roles for women, assessing the early influences on her work and thought.
- Article by:
- Simon Avery
- Victorian poetry
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetic form encompasses lyric, ballad and narrative, while engaging with historical events, religious belief and contemporary political opinion. Dr Simon Avery considers how her experimentation with both the style and subject of her poetry affected its reception during the 19th century.