Robert Browning
The Ring and The Book

"There's a great text in Galatians,
Once you trip on it, entails
Twenty-nine distinct damnations,
One sure, if another fails" ("Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister")

Robert Browning was born on May 7th, 1812, in London. His father worked as a clerk in the Bank of England. As a child he received little formal education, but enjoyed reading from his father's voluminous library. He tried to attend university, but found the atmosphere of the University of London stuffy and uninspiring. He lived with his parents until the age of thirty-four.

Browning's first published work, which he put out anonymously, was Pauline, a Fragment of a Confession. It received mixed reviews, being attacked by John Stuart Mill amongst others. 1835 saw the publication of two works which revealed his talent, but also the limitations which would hold him back. Paracelsus and Sordello are both poems of great accomplishment, but the former is well-crafted and contained, whilst the latter is almost incomprehensible in its sprawling erudition. Paracelsus was praised; Sordello declared unreadable.

After this, Browning turned to writing a series of plays, which have not stood the test of time well. In 1845, he met Elizabeth Barrett, who had written in praise of Browning in verse published the year before. Browning and Barrett eloped in order to escape her domineering father. They lived in Italy throughout the 1850s, with Browning writing a series of poems and a book of critical work which was generally ill-received. In 1861, the invalid Elizabeth finally died, and Browning returned with their son to London.

On returning to London, he began work on his greatest poem, The Ring and the Book, a description of a trial in Rome in 1698. This work finally assured his position as a writer of prominence and he received the critical attention which he had craved. Browning died in Venice on December 12th, 1889.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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