Men of the Time, eleventh edition/Browning, Robert

940814Men of the Time, eleventh edition — Browning, RobertThompson Cooper

BROWNING, Robert, poet and dramatist, was born in 1812, at Camberwell, Surrey, and educated at the University of London. His father's family being dissenters, his mind was trained and his character formed under influences less peculiarly English than those to which youths are exposed in the great public schools and Universities. At the age of twenty he went to Italy, and during his residence in that country he diligently studied its medieval history, and became acquainted with the life of the people. His first published attempt in poetry was "Pauline," a tale in verse, to which was appended "Paracelsus" (1835), a dramatic poem—dramatic in form, at least—in which the principal character is the celebrated empiric and alchymist of the sixteenth century. This work did not attract general attention; but among the discerning few it was welcomed as the production of a truly original mind, rich in performances, and richer still in promise. In 1837 Mr. Browning's tragedy of "Strafford" was presented on the stage in London, but it met with very moderate success, in spite of Macready's masterly personification of the hero. In 1840 Mr. Browning published "Sordello," a poem, the subject of which was drawn from the supposed life of the Provençal poet, mentioned in the sixth canto of Dante's "Purgatorio." The public pronounced this work to be an unintelligible rhapsody, and the author himself omitted "Sordello" from the edition of his collected poems. Between 1842 and 1846 there appeared from his pen several successive numbers of a collection of dramatic and lyric poems, to which he gave the title of "Bells and Pomegranates." Among these was a tragedy of striking poetical power, called "A Blot on the Scutcheon," which was produced at Drury Lane Theatre in 1843, but without marked success. Another play of his, "The Duchess of Cleves," was subsequently brought out at the Haymarket, Miss Cushman personating the heroine. In Nov., 1846, he married Miss Elizabeth Barrett, the distinguished poet (who died in 1861), and after his marriage he resided for some years in Italy, chiefly at Florence, making occasional visits to France and England. In 1849 his collected poems were published in two vols, in London, and reprinted in the United States. His "Christmas Eve and Easter Day" (1850), a poem embodying his impressions of the religious and spiritual aspects of the age, was followed by a collection of poems, entitled "Men and Women" (1855), one of the most powerful of his works. In addition to the above works, Mr. Browning has published "King Victor and King Charles;" "Dramatic Lyrics;" "Return of the Druses;" "Colombe's Birthday;" "Dramatic Romances;" "The Soul's Errand;" a new volume of Poems (1864); "The Ring and the Book," 4 vols.; "Balaustion's Adventure, including a Transcription from Euripides," 1871; "Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society," 1871; "Fifine at the Fair," 1872; "Red Cotton Night-cap Country; or, Turf and Towers," 1873; and "Aristophanes' Apology," including a Transcript from Euripides, being "The Last Adventure of Balaustion," 1875; "The Agamemnon of Æschylus, transcribed," 1877; "La Saisiaz: the Two Poets of Croisic," 1878; "Dramatic Idyls," 1879; and "Joco-Seria," 1883. Mr. Browning has specially cultivated the arts of music and painting, with the history of both of which he is minutely and widely acquainted. The honorary degree of D.C.L. was conferred upon him by the University of Oxford in 1882. The "Browning Society," established in London, held its first meeting Oct. 28, 1881. According to its programme, "This Society is founded to gather together some, at least, of the many admirers of Bobert Browning, for the study and discussion of his works, and the publication of Papers on them, and extracts from works illustrating them. The Society will also encourage the formation of Browning Reading-Clubs, the acting of Browning's dramas by amateur companies, the writing of a Browning Primer, the compilation of a Browning Concordance or Lexicon, and, generally, the extension of the study and influence of the poet." The second edition, enlarged, of "A Bibliography of Robert Browning, from 1833 to 1881," compiled by Mr. Frederick J. Furnivall, was published at London, in 1882.