Eminent Women Series
EDITED BY JOHN H. INGRAM
JOHN H. INGRAM
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & COMPANY
15a, Paternoster Row, E.C.
No writer approaching the eminence of Elizabeth Barrett Browning has been so little written about. Hitherto, nothing even claiming to be a biography of her has been published in her native land, whilst her works, which reveal so much of her inner self, have only been attainable in costly editions. It would almost appear as if it had been desired to retard, rather than promote, the popularity of one of England's purest as well as greatest poets.
All critical persons who have read the correspondence of Elizabeth Barrett Browning assign it a pre-eminent place in epistolary literature; yet it is only allowed to appear in fragments, without proper or responsible editorship. It is to be hoped that this injustice to the memory of a great writer will not continue much longer, because, as Mr. Browning has himself said of another great poet, "letters and poems are obviously an act of the same mind, produced by the same law, only differing in the application to the individual. . . . Letters and poems may be used indifferently as the basement of our opinion upon the writer's character; the finished expression of a sentiment in the poems giving light and significance to the rudiments of the same in the letters, and these, again, in their incipiency and unripeness, authenticating the exalted mood and re-attaching it to the personality of the writer."
Notwithstanding these pregnant words, as, also, Mr. Browning's uttered opinion that "it is advisable to lose no opportunity of strengthening and completing the chain of biographical testimony," the testimony to the goodness and greatness of our poetess, which the publication of her literary correspondence would afford, is still withheld. Those letters of Mrs. Browning which have been published, it should be observed, do not express any repugnance to afford biographical information, but rather the reverse.
The mystery which has hitherto shrouded Mrs. Browning's personal career, has caused quite a mythology to spring up around her name, and this fictitious lore the publications of those assuming to speak with authority has only increased. Miss Mitford, who saw Mrs. Browning frequently, knew her relatives intimately, and claimed to have received two letters a week from her, is utterly wrong in her biographical statements about her; Richard H. Horne, who published two volumes of Mrs. Browning's correspondence, muddles the dates almost beyond elucidation; whilst Mrs. Richmond Ritchie, who has contributed to the Dictionary of National Biography the most copious and authoritative memoir of Mrs. Browning extant, has, so far as biographical data are concerned, made "confusion worse confounded."
With examples so misleading, and material so restricted, neither accuracy nor substance sufficient for a volume might have been hoped for; but some past success in the paths of biography has encouraged me to place before the public what, with all its shortcomings, is the initial biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
JOHN H. INGRAM.
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LIST OF AUTHORITIES.
A New Spirit of the Age. Edited by R. H. Horne. 1844.
Letters of E. B. Browning to R. H. Horne. 1877.
Life of M. R. Mitford. Edited by A. G. L'Estrange. 1870.
Letters of M. R. Mitford. Edited by Henry Chorley. 1872.
The Friendships of M. R. Mitford. Edited by A. G. L'Estrange. 1882.
Dictionary of National Biography, vol. vii. pp. 78–82. 1886.
Passages from the Note-Books of Nathaniel Hawthorne. 1883.
Notes in England and Italy. By Mrs. Hawthorne. 1870.
Memoirs of Anna Jameson. By G. Macpherson. 1878.
Edgar Allan Poe. His Life and Letters. By John H. Ingram. 1886.
H. F. Chorley. Memoir, &c. Compiled by H. G. Hewlett. 1873.Living Authors of Britain. By Thomas Powell. 1851.
The Atlantic Monthly. Letter from W. W. Story. 1861.
The Athenæum. 1825–84.
Walter Savage Landor. Biography by John Forster. 1879.
The Correspondence of Leigh Hunt, vol. ii. 1862.
Yesterdays with Authors. Article on "M. R. Mitford." By J. T. Fields. 1873.
The Quarterly Review. "Modern English Poetesses." 1840.
At Home and Abroad. By Bayard Taylor. 1880.
Browning Society Papers. 1881, &c.
Six Months in Italy. By G. S. Hillard. 1853.
Recollections of a Literary Life. By M. R. Mitford. 1859.
Benjamin Robert Haydon. Correspondence. 1876.Notes and Queries, Magazines, Newspapers, Vills, &c.