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Title: Life of Robert Browning
Author: Sharp, William, 1856-1905
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life of Robert Browning" ***

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"Great Writers."

EDITED BY
ERIC ROBERTSON AND FRANK T. MARZIALS.



LIFE OF BROWNING.



FOR FULL LIST OF THE VOLUMES IN THIS SERIES, SEE CATALOGUE AT END OF BOOK



LIFE

OF

ROBERT BROWNING



BY

WILLIAM SHARP.



LONDON
WALTER SCOTT, LIMITED
PATERNOSTER SQUARE
1897



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.

London, Robert Browning's birthplace; his immediate predecessors and
contemporaries in literature, art, and music; born May 7th, 1812; origin
of the Browning family; assertions as to its Semitic connection
apparently groundless; the poet a putative descendant of the Captain
Micaiah Browning mentioned by Macaulay; Robert Browning's mother of
Scottish and German origin; his father a man of exceptional powers,
artist, poet, critic, student; Mr. Browning's opinion of his son's
writings; the home in Camberwell; Robert Browning's childhood;
concerning his optimism; his fondness for Carravaggio's "Andromeda and
Perseus"; his poetic precocity; origin of "The Flight of the Duchess";
writes Byronic verse; is sent to school at Peckham; his holiday
afternoons; sees London by night, from Herne Hill; the significance of
the spectacle to him. Page 11.


CHAPTER II.

He wishes to be a poet; writes in the style of Byron and Pope; the
"Death of Harold"; his poems, written when twelve years old, shown to
Miss Flower; the Rev. W.J. Fox's criticisms on them; he comes across
Shelley's "Dæmon of the World"; Mrs. Browning procures Shelley's poems,
also those of Keats, for her son; the perusal of these volumes proves
an important event in his poetic development; he leaves school when
fourteen years old, and studies at home under a tutor; attends a few
lectures at University College, 1829-30; chooses his career, at the age
of twenty; earliest record of his utterances concerning his youthful
life printed in _Century Magazine_, 1881; he plans a series of
monodramatic epics; Browning's life-work, collectively one monodramatic
"epic"; Shakspere's and Browning's methods compared; Browning writes
"Pauline" in 1832; his own criticism on it; his parents' opinions; his
aunt's generous gift; the poem published in January 1833; description of
the poem; written under the inspiring stimulus of Shelley; its
autopsychical significance; its importance to the student of the poet's
works; quotations from "Pauline". Page 29.


CHAPTER III.

The public reception of "Pauline"; criticisms thereupon; Mr. Fox's
notice in the _Monthly Repository_, and its results; Dante Gabriel
Rossetti reads "Pauline" and writes to the author; Browning's reference
to Tennyson's reading of "Maud" in 1855; Browning frequents literary
society; reads at the British Museum; makes the acquaintance of Charles
Dickens and "Ion" Talfourd; a volume of poems by Tennyson published
simultaneously with "Pauline"; in 1833 he commences his travels; goes to
Russia; the sole record of his experiences there to be found in the poem
"Ivàn Ivànovitch," published in _Dramatic Idyls_, 1879; his acquaintance
with Mazzini; Browning goes to Italy; visits Asolo, whence he drew hints
for "Sordello" and "Pippa Passes"; in 1834 he returns to Camberwell; in
autumn of 1834 and winter of 1835 commences "Sordello," writes
"Paracelsus," and one or two short poems; his love for Venice; a new
voice audible in "Johannes Agricola" and "Porphyria"; "Paracelsus,"
published in 1835; his own explanation of it; his love of walking in the
dark; some of "Paracelsus" and of "Strafford" composed in a wood near
Dulwich; concerning "Paracelsus" and Browning's sympathy with the
scientific spirit; description and scope of the poem; quotations
therefrom; estimate of the work, and its four lyrics. Page 49.


CHAPTER IV.

Criticisms upon "Paracelsus," important one written by John Forster;
Browning meets Macready at the house of Mr. Fox; personal description of
the poet; Macready's opinion of the poem; Browning spends New Year's
Day, 1836, at the house of the tragedian and meets John Forster;
Macready urges him to write a play; his subsequent interview with the
tragedian; he plans a drama to be entitled "Narses"; meets Wordsworth
and Walter Savage Landor at a supper party, when the young poet is
toasted, and Macready again proposes that Browning should write a play,
from which arose the idea of "Strafford"; his acquaintance with
Wordsworth and Landor; MS. of "Strafford" accepted; its performance at
Covent Garden Theatre on the 26th May 1837; runs for five nights; the
author's comments; the drama issued by Messrs. Longman & Co.; the
performance in 1886; estimate of "Strafford"; Browning's dramas;
comparison between the Elizabethan and Victorian dramatic eras;
Browning's soul-depictive faculty; his dramatic method; estimate of his
dramas; Landor's acknowledgment of the dedication to him of "Luria".
Page 73.


CHAPTER V.

"Profundity" and "Simplicity"; the faculty of wonder; Browning's first
conception of "Pippa Passes"; his residence in London; his country
walks; his ways and habits, and his heart-episodes; debates whether to
become a clergyman; is "Pippa Passes" a drama? estimate of the poem;
Browning's rambles on Wimbledon Common and in Dulwich Wood, where he
composed his lines upon Shelley; asserts there is romance in Camberwell
as well as in Italy; "Sordello"; the charge of obscurity against
"Sordello"; the nature and intention of the poem; quotations therefrom;
anecdote about Douglas Jerrold; Tennyson's, Carlyle's, and M. Odysse
Barot's opinions on "Sordello"; "enigmatic" poetry; in 1863 Browning
contemplated the re-writing of "Sordello"; dedication to the French
critic, Milsand. Page 93.


CHAPTER VI.

Browning's three great dramatic poems; "The Ring and the Book" his
finest work; its uniqueness; Carlyle's criticism of it; Poetry _versus_
Tour-de-Force; "The Ring and the Book" begun in 1866; analysis of the
poem; kinship of "The Ring and the Book" and "Aurora Leigh"; explanation
of title; the idea taken from a parchment volume Browning picked up in
Florence; the poem planned at Casa Guidi; "O Lyric Love," etc.;
description and analysis of "The Ring and the Book," with quotations;
compared as a poem with "The Inn Album," "Pauline," "Asolando," "Men and
Women," etc.; imaginary volumes, to be entitled "Transcripts from Life"
and "Flowers o' the Vine"; Browning's greatest period; Browning's
primary importance. Page 113.


CHAPTER VII.

Early life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning; born in 1820; the chief sorrow
of her life; the Barrett family settle in London; "The Cry of the
Children" and its origin; Miss Barrett's friends; effect on her of
Browning's poetry; she makes Browning's acquaintance in 1846; her early
belief in him as a poet; her physical delicacy and her sensitiveness of
feeling; personal appearance of Robert Browning; his "electric" hand;
Elizabeth Barrett discerns his personal worth, and is susceptible to the
strong humanity of Browning's song; Mr. Barrett's jealousy; their
engagement; Miss Barrett's acquaintance with Mrs. Jameson; quiet
marriage in 1846; Mr. Barrett's resentment; the Brownings go to Paris;
thence to Italy with Mrs. Jameson; Wordsworth's comments; residence in
Pisa; "Sonnets from the Portuguese"; in the spring they go to Florence,
thence to Ancona, where "The Guardian Angel" was written; Casa Guidi;
W.W. Story's account of the rooms at Casa Guidi; perfect union. Page 135.


CHAPTER VIII.

March 1849, birth of Robert Wiedemann Barrett Browning; Browning writes
his "Christmas Eve and Easter Day"; "Casa Guidi Windows" commenced;
1850, they go to Rome; "Two in the Campagna"; proposal to confer
poet-laureateship on Mrs. Browning; return to London; winter in Paris;
summer in London; Kenyon's friendship; return in autumn to Casa Guidi;
Browning's Essay on Shelley for the twenty-five spurious Shelley
letters; midsummer at Baths of Lucca, where "In a Balcony" was in part
written; winter of 1853-4 in Rome; record of work; "Pen's" illness; "Ben
Karshook's Wisdom"; return to Florence; (1856) "Men and Women"
published; the Brownings go to London; in summer "Aurora Leigh" issued;
1858, Mrs. Browning's waning health; 1855-64 comparatively, unproductive
period with R. Browning; record of work; July 1855, they travel to
Normandy; "Legend of Pornic"; Mrs. Browning's ardent interest in the
Italian struggle of 1859; winter in Rome; "Poems before Congress"; her
last poem, "North and South"; death of Mrs. Browning at Casa Guidi, 28th
June 1861. Page 157.


CHAPTER IX.

Browning's allusions to death of his wife; Miss Browning resides with
her brother from 1866; 1868, collected works published; first part of
"The Ring and the Book" published in November 1866; "Hervé Riel"
written; Browning's growing popularity; Tauchnitz editions of his poems
in 1872; also first book of selections; dedication to Lord Tennyson;
1877, he goes to La Saisiaz, near Geneva; "La Saisiaz" and "The Two
Poets of Croisic" published 1878; Browning's later poems; Browning
Society established 1881; Browning's letter thereupon to Mr. Yates;
trips abroad; his London residences; his last letter to Tennyson;
revisits Asolo; Palazzo Rezzonico; his belief in immortality; his death,
Thursday, Dec. 12th, 1889; funeral in Westminster Abbey; Sonnet by
George Meredith; new star in Orion; R. Browning's place in literature;
Summary, etc. Page 176.



NOTE.


In all important respects I leave this volume to speak for itself. For
obvious reasons it does not pretend to be more than a _Mémoire pour
servir_: in the nature of things, the definitive biography cannot appear
for many years to come. None the less gratefully may I take the present
opportunity to express my indebtedness to Mr. R. Barrett Browning, and
to other relatives and intimate friends of Robert Browning, who have
given me serviceable information, and otherwise rendered kindly aid. For
some of the hitherto unpublished details my thanks are, in particular,
due to Mrs. Fraser Corkran and Miss Alice Corkran, and to other old
friends of the poet and his family, here, in Italy, and in America;
though in one or two instances, I may add, I had them from Robert
Browning himself. It is with pleasure that I further acknowledge my
indebtedness to Dr. Furnivall, for the loan of the advance-proofs of his
privately-printed pamphlet on "Browning's Ancestors"; and to the
Browning Society's Publications--particularly to Mrs. Sutherland Orr's
and Dr. Furnivall's biographical and bibliographical contributions
thereto; to Mr. Gosse's biographical article in the _Century Magazine_
for 1881; to Mr. Ingram's _Life of E.B. Browning_; and to the _Memoirs
of Anna Jameson_, the _Italian Note-Books_ of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mr.
G.S. Hillard's _Six Months in Italy_ (1853), and the Lives and
Correspondence of Macready, Miss Mitford, Leigh Hunt, and Walter Savage
Landor. I regret that the imperative need of concision has prevented the
insertion of many of the letters, anecdotes, and reminiscences, so
generously placed at my disposal; but possibly I may have succeeded in
educing from them some essential part of that light which they
undoubtedly cast upon the personality and genius of the poet.



LIFE OF BROWNING.



CHAPTER I.


It must, to admirers of Browning's writings, appear singularly
appropriate that so cosmopolitan a poet was born in London. It would
seem as though something of that mighty complex life, so confusedly
petty to the narrow vision, so grandiose and even majestic to the larger
ken, had blent with his being from the first. What fitter birthplace for
the poet whom a comrade has called the "Subtlest Assertor of the Soul in
Song," the poet whose writings are indeed a mirror of the age?

A man may be in all things a Londoner and yet be a provincial. The
accident of birthplace does not necessarily involve parochialism of the
soul. It is not the village which produces the Hampden, but the Hampden
who immortalises the village. It is a favourite jest of Rusticus that
his urban brother has the manner of Omniscience and the knowledge of a
parish beadle. Nevertheless, though the strongest blood insurgent in the
metropolitan heart is not that which is native to it, one might well be
proud to have had one's atom-pulse atune from the first with the large
rhythm of the national life at its turbulent, congested, but ever
ebullient centre. Certainly Browning was not the man to be ashamed of
his being a Londoner, much less to deny his natal place. He was proud of
it: through good sense, no doubt, but possibly also through some
instinctive apprehension of the fact that the great city was indeed the
fit mother of such a son. "Ashamed of having been born in the greatest
city of the world!" he exclaimed on one occasion; "what an extraordinary
thing to say! It suggests a wavelet in a muddy shallow grimily
contorting itself because it had its birth out in the great ocean."

On the day of the poet's funeral in Westminster Abbey, one of the most
eminent of his peers remarked to me that Browning came to us as one
coming into his own. This is profoundly true. There was in good sooth a
mansion prepared against his advent. Long ago, we should have
surrendered as to a conqueror: now, however, we know that princes of the
mind, though they must be valorous and potent as of yore, can enter upon
no heritance save that which naturally awaits them, and has been made
theirs by long and intricate processes.

The lustrum which saw the birth of Robert Browning, that is the third in
the nineteenth century, was a remarkable one indeed. Thackeray came into
the world some months earlier than the great poet, Charles Dickens
within the same twelvemonth, and Tennyson three years sooner, when also
Elizabeth Barrett was born, and the foremost naturalist of modern times
first saw the light. It is a matter of significance that the great wave
of scientific thought which ultimately bore forward on its crest so many
famous men, from Brewster and Faraday to Charles Darwin, had just begun
to rise with irresistible impulsion. Lepsius's birth was in 1813, and
that of the great Flemish novelist, Henri Conscience, in 1812: about the
same period were the births of Freiligrath, Gutzkow, and Auerbach,
respectively one of the most lyrical poets, the most potent dramatist,
the most charming romancer of Germany: and, also, in France, of
Théophile Gautier and Alfred de Musset. Among representatives of the
other arts--with two of which Browning must ever be closely
associated--Mendelssohn and Chopin were born in 1809, and Schumann,
Liszt, and Wagner within the four succeeding years: within which space
also came Diaz and Meissonier and the great Millet. Other high names
there are upon the front of the century. Macaulay, Cardinal Newman, John
Stuart Mill (one of the earliest, by the way, to recognise the genius of
Browning), Alexandre Dumas, George Sand, Victor Hugo, Ampère, Quinet,
Prosper Merimée, Sainte-Beuve, Strauss, Montalembert, are among the
laurel-bearers who came into existence betwixt 1800 and 1812.

When Robert Browning was born in London in 1812, Sheridan had still four
years to live; Jeremy Bentham was at the height of his contemporary
reputation, and Godwin was writing glibly of the virtues of humanity and
practising the opposite qualities, while Crabbe was looked upon as one
of the foremost of living poets. Wordsworth was then forty, Sir Walter
Scott forty-one, Coleridge forty-two, Walter Savage Landor and Charles
Lamb each in his forty-fifth year. Byron was four-and-twenty, Shelley
not yet quite of age, two radically different men, Keats and Carlyle,
both youths of seventeen. Abroad, Laplace was in his maturity, with
fifteen years more yet to live; Joubert with twelve; Goethe, with
twenty; Lamarck, the Schlegels, Cuvier, Chateaubriand, Hegel, Niebühr
(to specify some leading names only), had many years of work before
them. Schopenhauer was only four-and-twenty, while Béranger was
thirty-two. The Polish poet Mickiewicz was a boy of fourteen, and
Poushkin was but a twelvemonth older; Heine, a lad of twelve, was
already enamoured of the great Napoleonic legend. The foremost literary
critic of the century was running about the sands of Boulogne, or
perhaps wandering often along the ramparts of the old town,
introspective even then, with something of that rare and insatiable
curiosity which we all now recognise as so distinctive of Sainte-Beuve.
Again, the greatest creative literary artist of the century, in prose at
any rate, was leading an apparently somewhat indolent schoolboy life at
Tours, undreamful yet of enormous debts, colossal undertakings, gigantic
failures, and the _Comédie Humaine._ In art, Sir Henry Raeburn, William
Blake, Flaxman, Canova, Thorwaldsen, Crome, Sir Thomas Lawrence,
Constable, Sir David Wilkie, and Turner were in the exercise of their
happiest faculties: as were, in the usage of theirs, Beethoven, Weber,
Schubert, Spohr, Donizetti, and Bellini.

It is not inadvisedly that I make this specification of great names, of
men who were born coincidentally with, or were in the broader sense
contemporaries of Robert Browning. There is no such thing as a
fortuitous birth. Creation does not occur spontaneously, as in that
drawing of David Scott's where from the footprint of the Omnipotent
spring human spirits and fiery stars. Literally indeed, as a great
French writer has indicated, a man is the child of his time. It is a
matter often commented upon by students of literature, that great men do
not appear at the beginning, but rather at the acme of a period. They
are not the flying scud of the coming wave, but the gleaming crown of
that wave itself. The epoch expends itself in preparation for these
great ones.

If Nature's first law were not a law of excess, the economy of life
would have meagre results. I think it is Turgenïev who speaks somewhere
of her as a gigantic Titan, working in gloomy silence, with the same
savage intentness upon a subtler twist of a flea's joints as upon the
Destinies of Man.

If there be a more foolish cry than that poetry is on the wane, it is
that the great days had passed away even before Robert Browning and
Alfred Tennyson were born. The way was prepared for Browning, as it was
for Shakspere: as it is, beyond doubt, for the next high peer of these.

There were 'Roberts' among the sons of the Browning family for at least
four generations. It has been affirmed, on disputable authority, that
the surname is the English equivalent for Bruning, and that the family
is of Teutonic origin. Possibly: but this origin is too remote to be of
any practical concern. Browning himself, it may be added, told Mr.
Moncure Conway that the original name was De Bruni. It is not a matter
of much importance: the poet was, personally and to a great extent in
his genius, Anglo-Saxon. Though there are plausible grounds for the
assumption. I can find nothing to substantiate the common assertion
that, immediately, or remotely, his people were Jews.[1]

[Footnote 1: Fairly conclusive evidence to the contrary, on the paternal
side, is afforded in the fact that, in 1757, the poet's
great-grandfather gave one of his sons the baptismal name of Christian.
Dr. Furnivall's latest researches prove that there is absolutely "no
ground for supposing the presence of any Jewish blood in the poet's
veins."]

As to Browning's physiognomy and personal traits, this much may be
granted: if those who knew him were told he was a Jew they would not be
much surprised. In his exuberant vitality, in his sensuous love of music
and the other arts, in his combined imaginativeness and shrewdness of
common sense, in his superficial expansiveness and actual reticence, he
would have been typical enough of the potent and artistic race for whom
he has so often of late been claimed.

What, however, is most to the point is that neither to curious
acquaintances nor to intimate friends, neither to Jews nor Gentiles, did
he ever admit more than that he was a good Protestant, and sprung of a
Puritan stock. He was tolerant of all religious forms, but with a
natural bias towards Anglican Evangelicalism.

In appearance there was, perhaps, something of the Semite in Robert
Browning: yet this is observable but slightly in the portraits of him
during the last twenty years, and scarcely at all in those which
represent him as a young man. It is most marked in the drawing by Rudolf
Lehmann, representing Browning at the age of forty-seven, where he looks
out upon us with a physiognomy which is, at least, as much distinctively
Jewish as English. Possibly the large dark eyes (so unlike both in
colour and shape what they were in later life) and curved nose and full
lips, with the oval face, may have been, as it were, seen judaically by
the artist. These characteristics, again, are greatly modified in Mr.
Lehmann's subsequent portrait in oils.

The poet's paternal great-grandfather, who was owner of the Woodyates
Inn, in the parish of Pentridge, in Dorsetshire, claimed to come of good
west-country stock. Browning believed, but always conscientiously
maintained there was no proof in support of the assumption, that he was
a descendant of the Captain Micaiah Browning who, as Macaulay relates in
his _History of England_, raised the siege of Derry in 1689 by springing
the boom across Lough Foyle, and perished in the act. The same ancestral
line is said to comprise the Captain Browning who commanded the ship
_The Holy Ghost_, which conveyed Henry V. to France before he fought the
Battle of Agincourt, and in recognition of whose services two waves,
said to represent waves of the sea, were added to his coat of arms. It
is certainly a point of some importance in the evidence, as has been
indicated, that these arms were displayed by the gallant Captain
Micaiah, and are borne by the present family. That the poet was a
pure-bred Englishman in the strictest sense, however, as has commonly
been asserted, is not the case. His mother was Scottish, through her
mother and by birth, but her father was the son of a German from
Hamburg, named Wiedemann, who, by the way, in connection with his
relationship as maternal grandfather to the poet, it is interesting to
note, was an accomplished draughtsman and musician.[2] Browning's
paternal grandmother, again, was a Creole. As Mrs. Orr remarks, this
pedigree throws a valuable light on the vigour and variety of the poet's
genius. Possibly the main current of his ancestry is as little strictly
English as German. A friend sends me the following paragraph from a
Scottish paper:--"What of the Scottish Brownings? I had it long ago from
one of the name that the Brownings came originally from Ayrshire, and
that several families of them emigrated to the North of Ireland during
the times of the Covenanters. There is, moreover, a small town or
village in the North of Ireland called Browningstown. Might not the poet
be related to these Scottish Brownings?"

[Footnote 2: It has frequently been stated that Browning's maternal
grandfather, Mr. Wiedemann, was a Jew. Mr. Wiedemann, the son of a
Hamburg merchant, was a small shipowner in Dundee. Had he, or his
father, been Semitic, he would not have baptised one of his daughters
'Christiana.']

Browning's great-grandfather, as indicated above, was a small proprietor
in Dorsetshire. His son, whether perforce or from choice, removed to
London when he was a youth, and speedily obtained a clerkship in the
Bank of England, where he remained for fifty years, till he was
pensioned off in 1821 with over £400 a year. He died in 1833. His wife,
to whom he was married in or about 1780, was one Margaret Morris Tittle,
a Creole, born in the West Indies. Her portrait, by Wright of Derby,
used to hang in the poet's dining-room. They resided, Mr. R. Barrett
Browning tells me, in Battersea, where his grandfather was their
first-born. The paternal grandfather of the poet decided that his three
sons, Robert, William Shergold, and Reuben, should go into business,
the two younger in London, the elder abroad. All three became efficient
financial clerks, and attained to good positions and fair means.[3] The
eldest, Robert, was a man of exceptional powers. He was a poet, both in
sentiment and expression; and he understood, as well as enjoyed, the
excellent in art. He was a scholar, too, in a reputable fashion: not
indifferent to what he had learnt in his youth, nor heedless of the high
opinion generally entertained for the greatest writers of antiquity, but
with a particular care himself for Horace and Anacreon. As his son once
told a friend. "The old gentleman's brain was a storehouse of literary
and philosophical antiquities. He was completely versed in mediæval
legend, and seemed to have known Paracelsus, Faustus, and even Talmudic
personages, personally"--a significant detail, by the way. He was fond
of metrical composition, and his ease and grace in the use of the heroic
couplet were the admiration, not only of his intellectual associates,
but, in later days, of his son, who was wont to affirm, certainly in all
seriousness, that expressionally his father was a finer poetic artist
than himself. Some one has recorded of him that he was an authority on
the Letters of Junius: fortunately he had more tangible claims than this
to the esteem of his fellows. It was his boast that, notwithstanding the
exigencies of his vocation, he knew as much of the history of art as any
professional critic. His extreme modesty is deducible from this naïve
remark. He was an amateur artist, moreover, as well as poet, critic,
and student. I have seen several of his drawings which are
praise-worthy: his studies in portraiture, particularly, are ably
touched: and, as is well known, he had an active faculty of pictorial
caricature. In the intervals of leisure which beset the best regulated
clerk he was addicted to making drawings of the habitual visitors to the
Bank of England, in which he had obtained a post on his return, in 1803,
from the West Indies, and in the enjoyment of which he remained till
1853, when he retired on a small pension. His son had an independent
income, but whether from a bequest, or in the form of an allowance from
his then unmarried Uncle Reuben, is uncertain. In the first year of his
marriage Mr. Browning resided in an old house in Southampton Street,
Peckham, and there the poet was born. The house was long ago pulled
down, and another built on its site. Mr. Browning afterwards removed to
another domicile in the same Peckham district. Many years later, he and
his family left Camberwell and resided at Hatcham, near New Cross, where
his brothers and sisters (by his father's second marriage) lived. There
was a stable attached to the Hatcham house, and in it Mr. Reuben
Browning kept his horse, which he let his poet-nephew ride, while he
himself was at his desk in Rothschild's bank. No doubt this horse was
the 'York' alluded to by the poet in the letter quoted, as a footnote,
at page 189 of this book. Some years after his wife's death, which
occurred in 1849, Mr. Browning left Hatcham and came to Paddington, but
finally went to reside in Paris, and lived there, in a small street off
the Champs Élysées, till his death in 1866. The Creole strain seems to
have been distinctly noticeable in Mr. Browning, so much so that it is
possible it had something to do with his unwillingness to remain at St.
Kitts, where he was certainly on one occasion treated cavalierly enough.
The poet's complexion in youth, light and ivory-toned as it was in later
life, has been described as olive, and it is said that one of his
nephews, who met him in Paris in his early manhood, took him for an
Italian. It has been affirmed that it was the emotional Creole strain in
Browning which found expression in his passion for music.

[Footnote 3: The three brothers were men of liberal education and
literary tastes. Mr. W.S. Browning, who died in 1874, was an author of
some repute. His _History of the Huguenots_ is a standard book on
the subject.]

By old friends of the family I have been told that Mr. Browning had a
strong liking for children, with whom his really remarkable faculty of
impromptu fiction made him a particular favourite. Sometimes he would
supplement his tales by illustrations with pencil or brush. Miss Alice
Corkran has shown me an illustrated coloured map, depictive of the main
incidents and scenery of the _Pilgrim's Progress_, which he genially
made for "the children."[4]

[Footnote 4: Mrs. Fraser Corkran, who saw much of the poet's father
during his residence in Paris, has spoken to me of his extraordinary
analytical faculty in the elucidation of complex criminal cases. It was
once said of him that his detective faculty amounted to genius. This is
a significant trait in the father of the author of "The Ring and the
Book."]

He had three children himself--Robert, born May 7th, 1812, a daughter
named Sarianna, after her mother, and Clara. His wife was a woman of
singular beauty of nature, with a depth of religious feeling saved from
narrowness of scope only by a rare serenity and a fathomless charity.
Her son's loving admiration of her was almost a passion: even late in
life he rarely spoke of her without tears coming to his eyes. She was,
moreover, of an intellectual bent of mind, and with an artistic bias
having its readiest fulfilment in music, and, to some extent, in poetry.
In the latter she inclined to the Romanticists: her husband always
maintained the supremacy of Pope. He looked with much dubiety upon his
son's early writings, "Pauline" and "Paracelsus"; "Sordello," though he
found it beyond either his artistic or his mental apprehension, he
forgave, because it was written in rhymed couplets; the maturer works he
regarded with sympathy and pride, with a vague admiration which passed
into a clearer understanding only when his long life was drawing near
its close.

Of his children's company he never tired, even when they were scarce out
of babyhood. He was fond of taking the little Robert in his arms, and
walking to and fro with him in the dusk in "the library," soothing the
child to sleep by singing to him snatches of Anacreon in the original,
to a favourite old tune of his, "A Cottage in a Wood." Readers of
"Asolando" will remember the allusions in that volume to "my father who
was a scholar and knew Greek." A week or two before his death Browning
told an American friend, Mrs. Corson, in reply to a statement of hers
that no one could accuse him of letting his talents lie idle: "It would
have been quite unpardonable in my case not to have done my best. My
dear father put me in a condition most favourable for the best work I
was capable of. When I think of the many authors who have had to fight
their way through all sorts of difficulties, I have no reason to be
proud of my achievements. My good father sacrificed a fortune to his
convictions. He could not bear with slavery, and left India and
accepted a humble bank-office in London. He secured for me all the ease
and comfort that a literary man needs to do good work. It would have
been shameful if I had not done my best to realise his expectations of
me."[5]

[Footnote 5: 'India' is a slip on the part either of Browning or of Mrs.
Corson. The poet's father was never in India. He was quite a youth when
he went to his mother's sugar-plantation at St. Kitts, in the West
Indies.]

The home of Mr. Browning was, as already stated, in Camberwell, a suburb
then of less easy access than now, and where there were green trees, and
groves, and enticing rural perspectives into "real" country, yet withal
not without some suggestion of the metropolitan air.

                              "The old trees
     Which grew by our youth's home--the waving mass
     Of climbing plants, heavy with bloom and dew--
     The morning swallows with their songs like words--
     All these seem clear....
                            ...most distinct amid
     The fever and the stir of after years."

                                    (_Pauline_.)

Another great writer of our time was born in the same parish: and those
who would know Herne Hill and the neighbourhood as it was in Browning's
youth will find an enthusiastic guide in the author of _Praeterita_.

Browning's childhood was a happy one. Indeed, if the poet had been able
to teach in song only what he had learnt in suffering, the larger part
of his verse would be singularly barren of interest. From first to last
everything went well with him, with the exception of a single profound
grief. This must be borne in mind by those who would estimate aright the
genius of Robert Browning. It would be affectation or folly to deny that
his splendid physique--a paternal inheritance, for his father died at
the age of eighty-four, without having ever endured a day's illness--and
the exceptionally fortunate circumstances which were his throughout
life, had something to do with that superb faith of his which finds
concentrated expression in the lines in Pippa's song--"God's in His
Heaven, All's right with the world!"

It is difficult for a happy man with an imperturbable digestion to be a
pessimist. He is always inclined to give Nature the benefit of the
doubt. His favourite term for this mental complaisance is "catholicity
of faith," or, it may be, "a divine hope." The less fortunate brethren
bewail the laws of Nature, and doubt a future readjustment, because of
stomachs chronically out of order. An eminent author with a weak
digestion wrote to me recently animadverting on what he calls Browning's
insanity of optimism: it required no personal acquaintanceship to
discern the dyspeptic well-spring of this utterance. All this may be
admitted lightly without carrying the physiological argument to
extremes. A man may have a liberal hope for himself and for humanity,
although his dinner be habitually a martyrdom. After all, we are only
dictated to by our bodies: we have not perforce to obey them. A bitter
wit once remarked that the soul, if it were ever discovered, would be
found embodied in the gastric juice. He was not altogether a fool, this
man who had learnt in suffering what he taught in epigram; yet was he
wide of the mark.

As a very young child Browning was keenly susceptible to music. One
afternoon his mother was playing in the twilight to herself. She was
startled to hear a sound behind her. Glancing round, she beheld a little
white figure distinct against an oak bookcase, and could just discern
two large wistful eyes looking earnestly at her. The next moment the
child had sprung into her arms, sobbing passionately at he knew not
what, but, as his paroxysm of emotion subsided, whispering over and
over, with shy urgency, "Play! play!"

It is strange that among all his father's collection of drawings and
engravings nothing had such fascination for him as an engraving of a
picture of Andromeda and Perseus by Caravaggio. The story of the
innocent victim and the divine deliverer was one of which in his boyhood
he never tired of hearing: and as he grew older the charm of its
pictorial presentment had for him a deeper and more complex
significance. We have it on the authority of a friend that Browning had
this engraving always before his eyes as he wrote his earlier poems. He
has given beautiful commemoration to his feeling for it in "Pauline":--

                                 "Andromeda!
     And she is with me--years roll, I shall change,
     But change can touch her not--so beautiful
     With her dark eyes, earnest and still, and hair
     Lifted and spread by the salt-sweeping breeze;
     And one red beam, all the storm leaves in heaven,
     Resting upon her eyes and face and hair,
     As she awaits the snake on the wet beach,
     By the dark rock, and the white wave just breaking
     At her feet; quite naked and alone,--a thing
     You doubt not, nor fear for, secure that God
     Will come in thunder from the stars to save her."

One of his own early recollections was that of sitting on his father's
knees in the library, and listening with enthralled attention to the
Tale of Troy, with marvellous illustrations among the glowing coals in
the fireplace; with, below all, the vaguely heard accompaniment--from
the neighbouring room where Mrs. Browning sat "in her chief happiness,
her hour of darkness and solitude and music"--of a wild Gaelic lament,
with its insistent falling cadences. A story concerning his poetic
precocity has been circulated, but is not worth repeating. Most children
love jingling rhymes, and one need not be a born genius to improvise a
rhyming couplet on an occasion.

It is quite certain that in nothing in these early poemicules, in such
at least as have been preserved without the poet's knowledge and against
his will, is there anything of genuine promise. Hundreds of youngsters
have written as good, or better, Odes to the Moon, Stanzas on a
Favourite Canary, Lines on a Butterfly. What is much more to the point
is, that at the age of eight he was able not only to read, but to take
delight in Pope's translation of Homer. He used to go about declaiming
certain couplets with an air of intense earnestness highly diverting to
those who overheard him.

About this time also he began to translate the simpler odes of Horace.
One of these (viii. Bk. II.) long afterwards suggested to him the theme
of his "Instans Tyrannus." It has been put on record that his sister
remembers him, as a very little boy, walking round and round the
dining-room table, and spanning out the scansion of his verses with his
hand on the smooth mahogany. He was scarce more than a child when, one
Guy Fawkes' day, he heard a woman singing an unfamiliar song, whose
burden was, "Following the Queen of the Gipsies, O!" This refrain
haunted him often in the after years. That beautiful fantastic romance,
"The Flight of the Duchess," was born out of an insistent memory of this
woman's snatch of song, heard in childhood. He was ten when, after
several _passions malheureuses_, this precocious Lothario plunged into a
love affair whose intensity was only equalled by its hopelessness. A
trifle of fifteen years' seniority and a husband complicated matters,
but it was not till after the reckless expenditure of a Horatian ode
upon an unclassical mistress that he gave up hope. The outcome of this
was what the elder Browning regarded as a startling effusion of much
Byronic verse. The young Robert yearned for wastes of ocean and
illimitable sands, for dark eyes and burning caresses, for despair that
nothing could quench but the silent grave, and, in particular, for
hollow mocking laughter. His father looked about for a suitable school,
and decided to entrust the boy's further education to Mr. Ready, of
Peckham.

Here he remained till he was fourteen. But already he knew the dominion
of dreams. His chief enjoyment, on holiday afternoons, was to gain an
unfrequented spot, where three huge elms re-echoed the tones of
incoherent human music borne thither-ward by the west winds across the
wastes of London. Here he loved to lie and dream. Alas, those elms, that
high remote coign, have long since passed to the "hidden way" whither
the snows of yester year have vanished. He would lie for hours looking
upon distant London--a golden city of the west literally enough,
oftentimes, when the sunlight came streaming in long shafts from behind
the towers of Westminster and flashed upon the gold cross of St. Paul's.
The coming and going of the cloud-shadows, the sweeping of sudden rains,
the dull silvern light emanating from the haze of mist shrouding the
vast city, with the added transitory gleam of troubled waters, the
drifting of fogs, at that distance seeming like gigantic veils
constantly being moved forward and then slowly withdrawn, as though some
sinister creature of the atmosphere were casting a net among all the
dross and débris of human life for fantastic sustenance of its own--all
this endless, ever-changing, always novel phantasmagoria had for him an
extraordinary fascination. One of the memorable nights of his boyhood
was an eve when he found his way, not without perturbation of spirit
because of the unfamiliar solitary dark, to his loved elms. There, for
the first time, he beheld London by night. It seemed to him then more
wonderful and appalling than all the host of stars. There was something
ominous in that heavy pulsating breath: visible, in a waning and waxing
of the tremulous, ruddy glow above the black enmassed leagues of
masonry; audible, in the low inarticulate moaning borne eastward across
the crests of Norwood. It was then and there that the tragic
significance of life first dimly awed and appealed to his questioning
spirit: that the rhythm of humanity first touched deeply in him a
corresponding chord.



CHAPTER II.


It was certainly about this time, as he admitted once in one of his rare
reminiscent moods, that Browning felt the artistic impulse stirring
within him, like the rising of the sap in a tree. He remembered his
mother's music, and hoped to be a musician: he recollected his father's
drawings, and certain seductive landscapes and seascapes by painters
whom he had heard called "the Norwich men," and he wished to be an
artist: then reminiscences of the Homeric lines he loved, of haunting
verse-melodies, moved him most of all.

     "I shall never, in the years remaining,
      Paint you pictures, no, nor carve you statues,
      Make you music that should all-express me:
      ... verse alone, one life allows me."

He now gave way to the compulsive Byronic vogue, with an occasional
relapse to the polished artificialism of his father's idol among British
poets. There were several ballads written at this time: if I remember
aright, the poet specified the "Death of Harold" as the theme of one.
Long afterwards he read these boyish forerunners of "Over the sea our
galleys went," and "How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix,"
and was amused by their derivative if delicate melodies. Mrs. Browning
was very proud of these early blooms of song, and when her
twelve-year-old son, tired of vain efforts to seduce a publisher from
the wary ways of business, surrendered in disgust his neatly copied out
and carefully stitched MSS., she lost no opportunity--when Mr. Browning
was absent--to expatiate upon their merits. Among the people to whom she
showed them was a Miss Flower. This lady took them home, perused them,
discerned dormant genius lurking behind the boyish handwriting, read
them to her sister (afterwards to become known as Sarah Flower Adams),
copied them out before returning them, and persuaded the celebrated Rev.
William Johnson Fox to read the transcripts. Mr. Fox agreed with Miss
Flower as to the promise, but not altogether as to the actual
accomplishment, nor at all as to the advisability of publication. The
originals are supposed to have been destroyed by the poet during the
eventful period when, owing to a fortunate gift, poetry became a new
thing for him: from a dream, vague, if seductive, as summer-lightning,
transformed to a dominating reality. Passing a bookstall one day, he
saw, in a box of second-hand volumes, a little book advertised as "Mr.
Shelley's Atheistical Poem: very scarce." He had never heard of Shelley,
nor did he learn for a long time that the "Dæmon of the World," and the
miscellaneous poems appended thereto, constituted a literary piracy.
Badly printed, shamefully mutilated, these discarded blossoms touched
him to a new emotion. Pope became further removed than ever: Byron,
even, lost his magnetic supremacy. From vague remarks in reply to his
inquiries, and from one or two casual allusions, he learned that there
really was a poet called Shelley; that he had written several volumes;
that he was dead.

Strange as it may seem, Browning declared once that the news of this
unknown singer's death affected him more poignantly than did, a year or
less earlier, the tidings of Byron's heroic end at Missolonghi. He
begged his mother to procure him Shelley's works, a request not easily
complied with, for the excellent reason that not one of the local
booksellers had even heard of the poet's name. Ultimately, however, Mrs.
Browning learned that what she sought was procurable at the Olliers' in
Vere Street, London.

She was very pleased with the result of her visit. The books, it is
true, seemed unattractive: but they would please Robert, no doubt. If
that packet had been lost we should not have had "Pauline": we might
have had a different Browning. It contained most of Shelley's writings,
all in their first edition, with the exception of "The Cenci": in
addition, there were three volumes by an even less known poet, John
Keats, which kindly Mrs. Browning had been persuaded to include in her
purchase on Mr. Ollier's assurance that they were the poetic kindred of
Shelley's writings, and that Mr. Keats was the subject of the elegiac
poem in the purple paper cover, with the foreign-looking type and the
imprint "Pisa" at the foot of the title-page, entitled "Adonais." What
an evening for the young poet that must have been. He told a friend it
was a May night, and that in a laburnum, "heavy with its weight of
gold," and in a great copper-beech at the end of a neighbour's garden,
two nightingales strove one against the other. For a moment it is a
pleasant fancy to imagine that there the souls of Keats and Shelley
uttered their enfranchised music, not in rivalry but in welcome. We can
realise, perhaps, something of the startled delight, of the sudden
electric tremors, of the young poet when, with eager eyes, he turned
over the pages of "Epipsychidion" or "Prometheus Unbound," "Alastor" or
"Endymion," or the Odes to a Nightingale, on Melancholy, on a Grecian
Urn.

More than once Browning alluded to this experience as his first
pervasive joy, his first free happiness in outlook. Often in after life
he was fain, like his "wise thrush," to "recapture that first fine
careless rapture." It was an eventful eve.

     "And suddenly, without heart-wreck, I awoke
      As from a dream."

Thenceforth his poetic development was rapid, and continuous. Shelley
enthralled him most. The fire and spirit of the great poet's verse, wild
and strange often, but ever with an exquisiteness of music which seemed
to his admirer, then and later, supreme, thrilled him to a very passion
of delight. Something of the more richly coloured, the more human rhythm
of Keats affected him also. Indeed, a line from the Ode to a
Nightingale, in common with one of the loveliest passages in
"Epipsychidion," haunted him above all others: and again and again in
his poems we may encounter vague echoes of those "remote isles" and
"perilous seas"--as, for example, in "the dim clustered isles of the
blue sea" of "Pauline," and the "some isle, with the sea's silence on
it--some unsuspected isle in the far seas!" of "Pippa Passes."

But of course he had other matters for mental occupation besides poetry.
His education at Mr. Ready's private academy seems to have been
excellent so far as it went. He remained there till he was fourteen.
Perhaps because of the few boarders at the school, possibly from his own
reticence in self disclosure, he does not seem to have impressed any
school-mate deeply. We hear of no one who "knew Browning at school." His
best education, after all, was at home. His father and mother
incidentally taught him as much as Mr. Ready: his love of painting and
music was fostered, indirectly: and in the 'dovecot' bookshelf above the
fireplace in his bedroom, were the precious volumes within whose sway
and magic was his truest life.

His father, for some reason which has not been made public, but was
doubtless excellent, and is, in the light in which we now regard it, a
matter for which to be thankful, decided to send his son neither to a
large public school, nor, later, to Oxford or Cambridge. A more
stimulative and wider training was awaiting him elsewhere.

For a time Robert's education was superintended by a tutor, who came to
the house in Camberwell for several hours daily. The afternoons were
mainly devoted to music, to exercise, and occasionally to various
experimental studies in technical science. In the evenings, after his
preparatory tasks were over, when he was not in the entertaining company
of his father, he read and assiduously wrote. After poetry, he cared
most for history: but as a matter of fact, little came amiss to his
eager intellectual appetite. It was a period of growth, with, it may
be, a vague consciousness that his mind was expanding towards compulsive
expression.

     "So as I grew, I rudely shaped my life
      To my immediate wants, yet strong beneath
      Was a vague sense of powers folded up--
      A sense that though those shadowy times were past,
      Their spirit dwelt in me, and I should rule."

When Mr. Browning was satisfied that the tutor had fulfilled his duty he
sent his son to attend a few lectures at University College, in Gower
Street, then just founded. Robert Browning's name is on the registrar's
books for the opening session, 1829-30. "I attended with him the Greek
class of Professor Long" (wrote a friend, in the _Times_, Dec. 14:'89),
"and I well recollect the esteem and regard in which he was held by his
fellow-students. He was then a bright, handsome youth, with long black
hair falling over his shoulders." So short was his period of attendance,
however, and so unimportant the instruction he there derived, that to
all intents it may be said Browning had no University training.

Notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Browning but slightly appreciated his
son's poetic idols and already found himself in an opposite literary
camp, he had a profound sympathy with the boy's ideals and no little
confidence in his powers. When the test came he acted wisely as well as
with affectionate complaisance. In a word, he practically left the
decision as to his course of life to Robert himself. The latter was
helped thereto by the knowledge that his sister would be provided for,
and that, if need be, there was sufficient for himself also. There was
of course but one way open to him. He would not have been a true poet,
an artist, if he had hesitated. With a strange misconception of the
artistic spirit, some one has awarded the poet great credit for his
choice, because he had "the singular courage to decline to be rich."
Browning himself had nothing of this bourgeois spirit: he was the last
man to speak of an inevitable artistic decision as "singular courage."
There are no doubt people who estimate his resolve as Mr. Barrett, so
his daughter declared, regarded Horne when he heard of that poet having
published "Orion" at a farthing: "Perhaps he is going to shoot the
Queen, and is preparing evidence of monomania."

With Browning there never could have been two sides to the question: it
were excusable, it were natural even, had his father wavered. The
outcome of their deliberations was that Robert's further education
should be obtained from travel, and intercourse with men and foreign
literatures.

By this time the poet was twenty. His youth had been uneventful; in a
sense, more so than his boyhood. His mind, however, was rapidly
unfolding, and great projects were casting a glory about the coming
days. It was in his nineteenth year, I have been told on good authority,
that he became ardently in love with a girl of rare beauty, a year or
two older than himself, but otherwise, possibly, no inappropriate lover
for this wooer. Why and when this early passion came to a close, or was
rudely interrupted, is not known. What is certain is that it made a deep
impression on the poet's mind. It may be that it, of itself, or wrought
to a higher emotion by his hunger after ideal beauty, was the source of
"Pauline," that very unequal but yet beautiful first fruit of Browning's
genius.

It was not till within the last few years that the poet spoke at all
freely of his youthful life. Perhaps the earliest record of these
utterances is that which appeared in the _Century Magazine_ in 1881.
From this source, and from what the poet himself said at various times
and in various ways, we know that just about the time Balzac, after
years of apparently waste labour, was beginning to forecast the Titanic
range of the _Comédie Humaine_, Browning planned "a series of
monodramatic epics, narratives of the life of typical souls--a gigantic
scheme at which a Victor Hugo or a Lope de Vega would start back
aghast."

Already he had set himself to the analysis of the human soul in its
manifold aspects, already he had recognised that for him at least there
was no other study worthy of a lifelong devotion. In a sense he has
fulfilled this early dream: at any rate we have a unique series of
monodramatic poems, illustrative of typical souls. In another sense, the
major portion of Browning's life-work is, collectively, one monodramatic
"epic." He is himself a type of the subtle, restless, curious, searching
modern age of which he is the profoundest interpreter. Through a
multitude of masks he, the typical soul, speaks, and delivers himself of
a message which could not be presented emphatically enough as the
utterance of a single individual. He is a true dramatic poet, though not
in the sense in which Shakspere is. Shakspere and his kindred project
themselves into the lives of their imaginary personages: Browning pays
little heed to external life, or to the exigencies of action, and
projects himself into the minds of his characters.

In a word, Shakspere's method is to depict a human soul in action, with
all the pertinent play of circumstance, while Browning's is to portray
the processes of its mental and spiritual development: as he said in his
dedicatory preface to "Sordello," "little else is worth study." The one
electrifies us with the outer and dominant actualities; the other
flashes upon our mental vision the inner, complex, shaping
potentialities. The one deals with life dynamically, the other with life
as Thought. Both methods are compassed by art. Browning, who is above
all modern writers the poet of dramatic situations, is surpassed by many
of inferior power in continuity of dramatic sequence. His finest work is
in his dramatic poems, rather than in his dramas. He realised intensely
the value of quintessential moments, as when the Prefect in "The Return
of the Druses" thrusts aside the arras, muttering that for the first
time he enters without a sense of imminent doom, "no draught coming as
from a sepulchre" saluting him, while that moment the dagger of the
assassin plunges to his heart: or, further in the same poem, when Anael,
coming to denounce Djabal as an impostor, is overmastered by her
tyrannic love, and falls dead with the too bitter freight of her
emotion, though not till she has proclaimed him the God by her single
worshipping cry, _Hakeem!_--or, once more, in "The Ring and the Book,"
where, with the superbest close of any dramatic poem in our literature,
the wretched Guido, at the point of death, cries out in the last
extremity not upon God or the Virgin, but upon his innocent and
murdered wife--"Abate,--Cardinal,--Christ,--Maria,--God, ... Pompilia,
will you let them murder me?" Thus we can imagine Browning, with his
characteristic perception of the profound significance of a circumstance
or a single word even, having written of the knocking at the door in
"Macbeth," or having used, with all its marvellous cumulative effect,
the word 'wrought' towards the close of "Othello," when the Moor cries
in his bitterness of soul, "But being wrought, perplext in the extreme":
we can imagine this, and yet could not credit the suggestion that even
the author of "The Ring and the Book" could by any possibility have
composed the two most moving tragedies writ in our tongue.

In the late autumn of 1832 Browning wrote a poem of singular promise and
beauty, though immature in thought and crude in expression.[6]
Thirty-four years later he included "Pauline" in his "Poetical Works"
with reluctance, and in a note explained the reason of his
decision--namely, to forestall piratical reprints abroad. "The thing was
my earliest attempt at 'poetry always dramatic in principle, and so many
utterances of so many imaginary persons, not mine,' which I have since
written according to a scheme less extravagant, and scale less
impracticable, than were ventured upon in this crude preliminary
sketch--a sketch that, on reviewal, appears not altogether wide of some
hint of the characteristic features of that particular _dramatis
persona_ it would fain have reproduced: good draughtsmanship, however,
and right handling were far beyond the artist at that time." These be
hard words. No critic will ever adventure upon so severe a censure of
"Pauline": most capable judges agree that, with all its shortcomings, it
is a work of genius, and therefore ever to be held treasurable for its
own sake as well as for its significance.

[Footnote 6: Probably from the fact of "Richmond" having been added to
the date at the end of the preface to "Pauline," have arisen the
frequent misstatements as to the Browning family having moved west from
Camberwell in or shortly before 1832. Mr. R. Barrett Browning tells me
that his father "never lived at Richmond, and that that place was
connected with 'Pauline,' when first printed, as a mystification."]

On the fly-leaf of a copy of this initial work, the poet, six years
after its publication, wrote: "Written in pursuance of a foolish plan I
forget, or have no wish to remember; the world was never to guess that
such an opera, such a comedy, such a speech proceeded from the same
notable person.... Only this crab remains of the shapely Tree of Life in
my fool's Paradise." It was in conformity with this plan that he not
only issued "Pauline" anonymously, but enjoined secrecy upon those to
whom he communicated the fact of his authorship.

When he read the poem to his parents, upon its conclusion, both were
much impressed by it, though his father made severe strictures upon its
lack of polish, its terminal inconcision, and its vagueness of thought.
That he was not more severe was accepted by his son as high praise. The
author had, however, little hope of seeing it in print. Mr. Browning was
not anxious to provide a publisher with a present. So one day the poet
was gratified when his aunt, handing him the requisite sum, remarked
that she had heard he had written a fine poem, and that she wished to
have the pleasure of seeing it in print.

To this kindly act much was due. Browning, of course, could not now have
been dissuaded from the career he had forecast for himself, but his
progress might have been retarded or thwarted to less fortunate grooves,
had it not been for the circumstances resultant from his aunt's timely
gift.

The MS. was forthwith taken to Saunders & Otley, of Conduit Street, and
the little volume of seventy pages of blank verse, comprising only a
thousand and thirty lines, was issued by them in January 1833. It seems
to us, who read it now, so manifestly a work of exceptional promise,
and, to a certain extent, of high accomplishment, that were it not for
the fact that the public auditory for a new poet is ever extraordinarily
limited, it would be difficult to understand how it could have been
overlooked.

"Pauline" has a unique significance because of its autopsychical hints.
The Browning whom we all know, as well as the youthful dreamer, is here
revealed; here too, as well as the disciple of Shelley, we have the
author of "The Ring and the Book." In it the long series culminating in
"Asolando" is foreshadowed, as the oak is observable in the sapling. The
poem is prefaced by a Latin motto from the _Occult Philosophy_ of
Cornelius Agrippa, and has also a note in French, set forth as being by
Pauline, and appended to her lover's manuscript after his death.
Probably Browning placed it in the mouth of Pauline from his rooted
determination to speak dramatically and impersonally: and in French, so
as to heighten the effect of verisimilitude.[7]

[Footnote 7: "I much fear that my poor friend will not be always
perfectly understood in what remains to be read of this strange
fragment, but it is less calculated than any other part to explain what
of its nature can never be anything but dream and confusion. I do not
know, moreover, whether in striving at a better connection of certain
parts, one would not run the risk of detracting from the only merit to
which so singular a production can pretend--that of giving a tolerably
precise idea of the manner (_genre_) which it can merely indicate. This
unpretending opening, this stir of passion, which first increases, and
then gradually subsides, these transports of the soul, this sudden
return upon himself, and above all, my friend's quite peculiar turn of
mind, have made alterations almost impossible. The reasons which he
elsewhere asserts, and others still more cogent, have secured my
indulgence for this paper, which otherwise I should have advised him to
throw into the fire. I believe none the less in the great principle of
all composition--in that principle of Shakespeare, of Raphael, and of
Beethoven, according to which concentration of ideas is due much more to
their conception than to their execution; I have every reason to fear
that the first of these qualities is still foreign to my friend, and I
much doubt whether redoubled labour would enable him to acquire the
second. It would be best to burn this, but what can I do?"--(_Mrs.
Orr_.)]

"Pauline" is a confession, fragmentary in detail but synthetic in range,
of a young man of high impulses but weak determination. In its
over-emphasis upon errors of judgment, as well as upon real if
exaggerated misdeeds, it has all the crudeness of youth. An almost
fantastic self-consciousness is the central motive: it is a matter of
question if this be absolutely vicarious. To me it seems that the author
himself was at the time confused by the complicated flashing of the
lights of life.

The autobiographical and autopsychical lines and passages scattered
through the poem are of immediate interest. Generously the poet repays
his debt to Shelley, whom he apostrophises as "Sun-treader," and invokes
in strains of lofty emotion--"Sun-treader--life and light be thine for
ever." The music of "Alastor," indeed, is audible ever and again
throughout "Pauline." None the less is there a new music, a new poetic
voice, in

     "Thou wilt remember one warm morn, when Winter
      Crept aged from the earth, and Spring's first breath
      Blew soft from the moist hills--the black-thorn boughs,
      So dark in the bare wood, when glistening
      In the sunshine were white with coming buds,
      Like the bright side of a sorrow--and the banks
      Had violets opening from sleep like eyes."

If we have an imaginary Browning, a Shelleyan phantasm, in

     "I seemed the fate from which I fled; I felt
      A strange delight in causing my decay;
      I was a fiend, in darkness chained for ever
      Within some ocean-wave:"

we have the real Browning in

     "So I will sing on--fast as fancies come
      Rudely--the verse being as the mood it paints.
            *       *       *       *       *
      I am made up of an intensest life,"

and all the succeeding lines down to "Their spirit dwelt in me, and I
should rule."

Even then the poet's inner life was animated by his love of the
beautiful Greek literature. Telling how in "the first dawn of life,"
"which passed alone with wisest ancient books," Pauline's lover
incorporated himself in whatsoever he read--was the god wandering after
beauty, the giant standing vast against the sunset-light, the
high-crested chief sailing with troops of friends to Tenedos--his
second-self cries, "I tell you, nought has ever been so clear as the
place, the time, the fashion of those lives." Never for him, then, had
there been that alchemy of the soul which turns the inchoate drift of
the world into golden ore, not then had come to him the electric
awakening flash from "work of lofty art, nor woman's beauty, nor sweet
nature's face"--

     "Yet, I say, never morn broke clear as those
      On the dim clustered isles in the blue sea:
      The deep groves, and white temples, and wet caves--
      And nothing ever will surprise me now--
      Who stood beside the naked Swift-footed,
      Who bound my forehead with Proserpine's hair."

Further, the allusion to Plato, and the more remote one to Agamemnon, the

                                      "old lore
      Loved for itself, and all it shows--the King
      Treading the purple calmly to his death,"

and the beautiful Andromeda passage, afford ample indication of how
deeply Browning had drunk of that vital stream whose waters are the
surest conserver of the ideal loveliness which we all of us, in some
degree, cherish in various guises.

Yet, as in every long poem that he has written (and, it must be
admitted, in too many of the shorter pieces of his later period) there
is an alloy of prose, of something that is not poetry, so in "Pauline,"
written though it was in the first flush of his genius and under the
inspiring stimulus of Shelley, the reader encounters prosaic passages,
decasyllabically arranged. "Twas in my plan to look on real life, which
was all new to me; my theories were firm, so I left them, to look upon
men, and their cares, and hopes, and fears, and joys; and, as I
pondered on them all, I sought how best life's end might be attained, an
end comprising every joy." Again: "Then came a pause, and long restraint
chained down my soul, till it was changed. I lost myself, and were it
not that I so loathe that time, I could recall how first I learned to
turn my mind against itself ... at length I was restored, yet long the
influence remained; and nought but the still life I led, apart from all,
which left my soul to seek its old delights, could e'er have brought me
thus far back to peace." No reader, alert to the subtle and haunting
music of rarefied blank verse (and unless it be rarefied it should not
be put forward as poetry), could possibly accept these lines as
expressionally poetical. It would seem as though, from the first,
Browning's ear was keener for the apprehension than for the sustained
evocation of the music of verse. Some flaw there was, somewhere. His
heart, so to say, beat too fast, and the singing in his ears from the
o'er-fevered blood confused the serene rhythm haunting the far
perspectives of the brain, "as Arab birds float sleeping in the wind."

I have dwelt at this length upon "Pauline" partly because of its
inherent beauty and autopsychical significance, and partly because it is
the least familiar of Browning's poems, long overshadowed as it has been
by his own too severe strictures: mainly, however, because of its
radical importance to the student who would arrive at a broad and true
estimate of the power and scope and shaping constituents of its author's
genius. Almost every quality of his after-verse may be found here, in
germ or outline. It is, in a word, more physiognomic than any other
single poem by Browning, and so must ever possess a peculiar interest
quite apart from its many passages of haunting beauty.

To these the lover of poetry will always turn with delight. Some will
even regard them retrospectively with alien emotion to that wherewith
they strive to possess their souls in patience over some one or other of
the barbarisms, the Titanic excesses, the poetic banalities recurrent in
the later volumes.

How many and how haunting these delicate oases are! Those who know and
love "Pauline" will remember the passage where the poet, with that
pantheistic ecstasy which was possibly inspired by the singer he most
loved, tells how he can live the life of plants, content to watch the
wild bees flitting to and fro, or to lie absorbent of the ardours of the
sun, or, like the night-flowering columbine, to trail up the tree-trunk
and through its rustling foliage "look for the dim stars;" or, again,
can live the life of the bird, "leaping airily his pyramid of leaves and
twisted boughs of some tall mountain-tree;" or be a fish, breathing the
morning air in the misty sun-warm water. Close following this is another
memorable passage, that beginning "Night, and one single ridge of narrow
path;" which has a particular interest for two notes of a deeper and
broader music to be evolved long afterwards. For, as it seems to me, in

     "Thou art so close by me, the roughest swell
      Of wind in the tree-tops hides not the panting
      Of thy soft breasts -----"

(where, by the way, should be noticed the subtle correspondence between
the conceptive and the expressional rhythm) we have a hint of that
superb scene in "Pippa Passes," where, on a sinister night of July, a
night of spiritual storm as well as of aerial tempest, Ottima and Sebald
lie amid the lightning-searcht forest, with "the thunder like a whole
sea overhead." Again, in the lovely Turneresque, or rather Shelleyan
picture of morning, over "the rocks, and valleys, and old woods," with
the high boughs swinging in the wind above the sun-brightened mists, and
the golden-coloured spray of the cataract amid the broken rocks,
whereover the wild hawks fly to and fro, there is at least a suggestion,
an outline, of the truly magnificent burst of morning music in the
poet's penultimate volume, beginning--

     "But morning's laugh sets all the crags alight
      Above the baffled tempest: tree and tree
      Stir themselves from the stupor of the night,
      And every strangled branch resumes its right
      To breathe, shakes loose dark's clinging dregs, waves free
      In dripping glory. Prone the runnels plunge,
      While earth, distent with moisture like a sponge,
      Smokes up, and leaves each plant its gem to see,
      Each grass-blade's glory-glitter," etc.

Who that has ever read "Pauline" will forget the masterful poetry
descriptive of the lover's wild-wood retreat, the exquisite lines
beginning "Walled in with a sloped mound of matted shrubs, tangled, old
and green"? There is indeed a new, an unmistakable voice here.

     "And tongues of bank go shelving in the waters,
      Where the pale-throated snake reclines his head,
      And old grey stones lie making eddies there;
      The wild mice cross them dry-shod"....

What lovelier image in modern poetry than that depictive of the
forest-pool in depths of savage woodlands, unvisited but by the shadows
of passing clouds,--

                     "the trees bend
      O'er it as wild men watch a sleeping girl."

How the passionate sexual emotion, always deep and true in Browning,
finds lovely utterance in the lines where Pauline's lover speaks of the
blood in her lips pulsing like a living thing, while her neck is as
"marble misted o'er with love-breath," and

     "... her delicious eyes as clear as heaven,
      When rain in a quick shower has beat down mist,
      And clouds float white in the sun like broods of swans."

In the quotations I have made, and in others that might be selected
(_e.g._, "Her fresh eyes, and soft hair, and _lips which bleed like a
mountain berry_"), it is easy to note how intimate an observer of nature
the youthful poet was, and with what conscious but not obtrusive art he
brings forward his new and striking imagery. Browning, indeed, is the
poet of new symbols.

"Pauline" concludes with lines which must have been in the minds of many
on that sad day when the tidings from Venice sent a thrill of startled,
half-incredulous, bewildered pain throughout the English nations--

     "Sun-treader, I believe in God, and truth,
      And love; ...
      ... but chiefly when I die ...
      All in whom this wakes pleasant thoughts of me,
      Know my last state is happy--free from doubt,
      Or touch of fear."

Never again was Browning to write a poem with such conceptive crudeness,
never again to tread the byways of thought so falteringly or so
negligently: but never again, perhaps, was he to show so much
over-rapturing joy in the world's loveliness, such Bacchic abandon to
the ideal beauty which the true poet sees glowing upon the forlornest
height and brooding in the shadow-haunted hollows of the hills. The
Browning who might have been is here: henceforth the Browning we know
and love stands unique among all the lords of song. But sometimes do we
not turn longingly, wonderingly at least, to the young Dionysos upon
whose forehead was the light of another destiny than that which
descended upon him? The Icelanders say there is a land where all the
rainbows that have ever been, or are yet to be, forever drift to and
fro, evanishing and reappearing, like immortal flowers of vapour. In
that far country, it may be, are also the unfulfilled dreams, the
visions too perfect to be fashioned into song, of the young poets who
have gained the laurel.

We close the little book lovingly:

     "And I had dimly shaped my first attempt,
      And many a thought did I build up on thought,
      As the wild bee hangs cell to cell--in vain;
      For I must still go on: my mind rests not."



CHAPTER III.


It has been commonly asserted that "Pauline" was almost wholly
disregarded, and swiftly lapsed into oblivion.

This must be accepted with qualification. It is like the other general
assertion, that Browning had to live fifty years before he gained
recognition--a statement as ludicrous when examined as it is unjust to
the many discreet judges who awarded, publicly and privately, that
intelligent sympathy which is the best sunshine for the flower of a
poet's genius. If by "before he gained recognition" is meant a general
and indiscriminate acclaim, no doubt Browning had, still has indeed,
longer to wait than many other eminent writers have had to do: but it is
absurd to assert that from the very outset of his poetic career he was
met by nothing but neglect, if not scornful derision. None who knows the
true artistic temperament will fall into any such mistake.

It is quite certain that neither Shakspere nor Milton ever met with such
enthusiastic praise and welcome as Browning encountered on the
publication of "Pauline" and "Paracelsus." Shelley, as far above
Browning in poetic music as the author of so many parleyings with other
people's souls is the superior in psychic insight and intellectual
strength, had throughout his too brief life not one such review of
praiseful welcome as the Rev. W.J. Fox wrote on the publication of
"Pauline" (or, it may be added, as Allan Cunningham's equally kindly but
less able review in the _Athenæum_), or as John Forster wrote in _The
Examiner_ concerning "Paracelsus," and later in the _New Monthly
Magazine_, where he had the courage to say of the young and quite
unknown poet, "without the slightest hesitation we name Mr. Robert
Browning at once with Shelley, Coleridge, Wordsworth." His plays even
(which are commonly said to have "fallen flat") were certainly not
failures. There is something effeminate, undignified, and certainly
uncritical, in this confusion as to what is and what is not failure in
literature. So enthusiastic was the applause he encountered, indeed,
that had his not been too strong a nature to be thwarted by adulation
any more than by contemptuous neglect, he might well have become
spoilt--so enthusiastic, that were it not for the heavy and prolonged
counterbalancing dead weight of public indifference, a huge amorphous
mass only of late years moulded into harmony with the keenest minds of
the century, we might well be suspicious of so much and long-continued
eulogium, and fear the same reversal of judgment towards him on the part
of those who come after us as we ourselves have meted to many an one
among the high gods of our fathers.

Fortunately the deep humanity of his work in the mass conserves it
against the mere veerings of taste. A reaction against it will
inevitably come; but this will pass: what, in the future, when the
unborn readers of Browning will look back with clear eyes untroubled by
the dust of our footsteps, not to subside till long after we too are
dust, will be the place given to this poet, we know not, nor can more
than speculatively estimate. That it will, however, be a high one, so
far as his weightiest (in bulk, it may possibly be but a relatively
slender) accomplishment is concerned, we may rest well assured: for
indeed "It lives, If precious be the soul of man to man."

So far as has been ascertained there were only three reviews or notices
of "Pauline": the very favourable article by Mr. Fox in the _Monthly
Repository_, the kindly paper by Allan Cunningham in the _Athenæum_,
and, in _Tait's Edinburgh Magazine_, the succinctly expressed impression
of either an indolent or an incapable reviewer: "Pauline; a Fragment of
a Confession; a piece of pure bewilderment"--a "criticism" which
anticipated and thus prevented the insertion of a highly favourable
review which John Stuart Mill voluntarily wrote.

Browning must have regarded his first book with mingled feelings. It was
a bid for literary fortune, in one sense, but a bid so handicapped by
the circumstances of its publication as to be almost certainly of no
avail. Probably, however, he was well content that it should have mere
existence. Already the fever of an abnormal intellectual curiosity was
upon him: already he had schemed more potent and more vital poems:
already, even, he had developed towards a more individualistic method.
So indifferent was he to an easily gained reputation that he seems to
have been really urgent upon his relatives and intimate acquaintances
not to betray his authorship. The Miss Flower, how ever, to whom
allusion has already been made, could not repress her admiration to the
extent of depriving her friend, Mr. Fox, of a pleasure similar to that
she had herself enjoyed. The result was the generous notice in the
_Monthly Repository_. The poet never forgot his indebtedness to Mr. Fox,
to whose sympathy and kindness much direct and indirect good is
traceable. The friendship then begun was lifelong, and was continued
with the distinguished Unitarian's family when Mr. Fox himself ended his
active and beneficent career.

But after a time the few admirers of "Pauline" forgot to speak about it:
the poet himself never alluded to it: and in a year or two it was almost
as though it had never been written. Many years after, when articles
upon Robert Browning were as numerous as they once had been scarce,
never a word betrayed that their authors knew of the existence of
"Pauline." There was, however, yet another friendship to come out of
this book, though not until long after it was practically forgotten by
its author.

One day a young poet-painter came upon a copy of the book in the British
Museum Library, and was at once captivated by its beauty. One of the
earliest admirers of Browning's poetry, Dante Gabriel Rossetti--for it
was he--felt certain that "Pauline" could be by none other than the
author of "Paracelsus." He himself informed me that he had never heard
this authorship suggested, though some one had spoken to him of a poem
of remarkable promise, called "Pauline," which he ought to read. If I
remember aright, Rossetti told me that it was on the forenoon of the day
when the "Burden of Nineveh" was begun, conceived rather, that he read
this story of a soul by the soul's ablest historian. So delighted was he
with it, and so strong his opinion it was by Browning, that he wrote to
the poet, then in Florence, for confirmation, stating at the same time
that his admiration for "Pauline" had led him to transcribe the whole of
it.

Concerning this episode, Robert Browning wrote to me, some seven years
ago, as follows:--

    "St. Pierre de Chartreuse, Isère, France.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Rossetti's 'Pauline' letter was addressed to me at Florence more
    than thirty years ago. I have preserved it, but, even were I at
    home, should be unable to find it without troublesome searching. It
    was to the effect that the writer, personally and altogether unknown
    to me, had come upon a poem in the British Museum, which he copied
    the whole of, from its being not otherwise procurable--that he
    judged it to be mine, but could not be sure, and wished me to
    pronounce in the matter--which I did. A year or two after, I had a
    visit in London from Mr. (William) Allingham and a friend--who
    proved to be Rossetti. When I heard he was a painter I insisted on
    calling on him, though he declared he had nothing to show me--which
    was far enough from the case. Subsequently, on another of my returns
    to London, he painted my portrait, not, I fancy, in oils, but
    water-colours, and finished it in Paris shortly after. This must
    have been in the year when Tennyson published 'Maud,' for I remember
    Tennyson reading the poem one evening while Rossetti made a rapid
    pen-and-ink sketch of him, very good, from one obscure corner of
    vantage, which I still possess, and duly value. This was before
    Rossetti's marriage."[8]


[Footnote 8: The highly interesting and excellent portrait of Browning
here alluded to has never been exhibited.]

As a matter of fact, as recorded on the back of the original drawing,
the eventful reading took place at 13 Dorset Street, Portman Square, on
the 27th of September 1855, and those present, besides the
Poet-Laureate, Browning, and Rossetti, were Mrs. E. Barrett Browning and
Miss Arabella Barrett.

When, a year or two ago, the poet learned that a copy of his first work,
which in 1833 could not find a dozen purchasers at a few shillings, went
at a public sale for twenty-five guineas, he remarked that had his dear
old aunt been living he could have returned to her, much to her
incredulous astonishment, no doubt, he smilingly averred, the cost of
the book's publication, less £3 15s. It was about the time of the
publication of "Pauline" that Browning began to see something of the
literary and artistic life for which he had such an inborn taste. For a
brief period he went often to the British Museum, particularly the
Library, and to the National Gallery. At the British Museum Reading Room
he perused with great industry and research those works in philosophy
and medical history which are the bases of "Paracelsus," and those
Italian Records bearing upon the story of Sordello. Residence in
Camberwell, in 1833, rendered night engagements often impracticable: but
nevertheless he managed to mix a good deal in congenial society. It is
not commonly known that he was familiar to these early associates as a
musician and artist rather than as a poet. Among them, and they
comprised many well-known workers in the several arts, were Charles
Dickens and "Ion" Talfourd. Mr. Fox, whom Browning had met once or twice
in his early youth, after the former had been shown the Byronic verses
which had in one way gratified and in another way perturbed the poet's
father, saw something more of his young friend after the publication of
"Pauline." He very kindly offered to print in his magazine any short
poems the author of that book should see fit to send--an offer, however,
which was not put to the test for some time.

Practically simultaneously with the publication of "Pauline" appeared
another small volume, containing the "Palace of Art," "Oenone,"
"Mariana," etc. Those early books of Tennyson and Browning have
frequently, and somewhat uncritically, been contrasted. Unquestionably,
however, the elder poet showed a consummate and continuous mastery of
his art altogether beyond the intermittent expressional power of
Browning in his most rhythmic emotion at any time of his life. To affirm
that there is more intellectual fibre, what Rossetti called fundamental
brain-work, in the product of the younger poet, would be beside the
mark. The insistence on the supremacy of Browning over all poets since
Shakspere because he has the highest "message" to deliver, because his
intellect is the most subtle and comprehensive, because his poems have
this or that dynamic effect upon dormant or sluggish or other active
minds, is to be seriously and energetically deprecated. It is with
presentment that the artist has, fundamentally, to concern himself. If
he cannot _present_ poetically then he is not, in effect, a poet, though
he may be a poetic thinker, or a great writer. Browning's eminence is
not because of his detachment from what some one has foolishly called
"the mere handiwork, the furnisher's business, of the poet." It is the
delight of the true artist that the product of his talent should be
wrought to a high technique equally by the shaping brain and the
dexterous hand. Browning is great because of his formative energy:
because, despite the excess of burning and compulsive thought--

     "Thoughts swarming thro' the myriad-chambered brain
      Like multitudes of bees i' the innumerous cells,
      Each staggering 'neath the undelivered freight--"

he strikes from the _furor_ of words an electric flash so transcendently
illuminative that what is commonplace becomes radiant with that light
which dwells not in nature, but only in the visionary eye of man. Form
for the mere beauty of form, is a playing with the wind, the acceptance
of a shadow for the substance. If nothing animate it, it may possibly be
fair of aspect, but only as the frozen smile upon a dead face.

We know little of Browning's inner or outer life in 1833 and 1834. It
was a secretive, not a productive period. One by one certain pinnacles
of his fair snow-mountain of Titanic aim melted away. He began to
realise the first disenchantment of the artist: the sense of dreams
never to be accomplished. That land of the great unwritten poems, the
great unpainted pictures: what a heritance there for the enfranchised
spirits of great dreamers!

In the autumn of 1833 he went forth to his University, that of the world
of men and women. It was ever a favourite answer of his, when asked if
he had been at either Oxford or Cambridge,--"Italy was my University."

But first he went to Russia, and spent some time in St. Petersburg,
attracted thither by the invitation of a friend. The country interested
him, but does not seem to have deeply or permanently engaged his
attention. That, however, his Russian experiences were not fruitless is
manifest from the remarkably picturesque and technically very
interesting poem, "Ivàn Ivànovitch" (the fourth of the _Dramatic Idyls_,
1879). Of a truth, after his own race and country--readers will at once
think of "Home Thoughts from the Sea," or the thrilling lines in "Home
Thoughts from Abroad," beginning--

     "Oh, to be in England,
      Now that April's there!"--

or perhaps, those lines in his earliest work--

                           "I cherish most
      My love of England--how, her name, a word
      Of hers in a strange tongue makes my heart beat!"

--it was of the mystic Orient or of the glowing South that he oftenest
thought and dreamed. With Heine he might have cried: "O Firdusi! O
Ischami! O Saadi! How do I long after the roses of Schiraz!" As for
Italy, who of all our truest poets has not loved her: but who has
worshipped her with so manly a passion, so loyal a love, as Browning?
One alone indeed may be mated with him here, she who had his heart of
hearts, and who lies at rest in the old Florentine cemetery within sound
of the loved waters of Arno. Who can forget his lines in "De Gustibus,"
"Open my heart and you will see, graved inside of it, Italy."

It would be no difficult task to devote a volume larger than the present
one to the descriptive analysis of none but the poems inspired by Italy,
Italian personages and history, Italian Painting, Sculpture,
Architecture, and Music. From Porphyria and her lover to Pompilia and
all the direful Roman tragedy wherein she is as a moon of beauty above
conflicting savage tides of passion, what an unparalleled gallery of
portraits, what a brilliant phantasmagoria, what a movement of intensest
life!

It is pleasant to know of one of them, "The Italian in England," that
Browning was proud, because Mazzini told him he had read this poem to
certain of his fellow-exiles in England to show how an Englishman could
sympathise with them.

After leaving Russia the young poet spent the rest of his _Wanderjahr_
in Italy. Among other places he visited was Asolo, that white little
hill-town of the Veneto, whence he drew hints for "Sordello," and "Pippa
Passes," and whither he returned in the last year of his life, as with
unconscious significance he himself said, "on his way homeward."

In the summer of 1834, that is, when he was in his twenty-second year,
he returned to Camberwell. "Sordello" he had in some fashion begun, but
had set aside for a poem which occupied him throughout the autumn of
1834 and winter of 1835, "Paracelsus." In this period, also, he wrote
some short poems, two of them of particular significance. The first of
the series was a sonnet, which appeared above the signature 'Z' in the
August number of the _Monthly Repository_ for 1834. It was never
reprinted by the author, whose judgment it is impossible not to approve
as well as to respect. Browning never wrote a good sonnet, and this
earliest effort is not the most fortunate. It was in the _Repository_
also, in 1835 and 1836, that the other poems appeared, four in all.

The song in "Pippa Passes," beginning "A King lived long ago," was one
of these; and the lyric, "Still ailing, wind? Wilt be appeased or no?"
afterwards revised and incorporated in "James Lee," was another. But the
two which are much the most noteworthy are "Johannes Agricola" and
"Porphyria." Even more distinctively than in "Pauline," in their novel
sentiment, new method, and generally unique quality, is a new voice
audible in these two poems. They are very remarkable as the work of so
young a poet, and are interesting as showing how rapidly he had outgrown
the influence of any other of his poetic kindred. "Johannes Agricola" is
significant as being the first of those dramatic studies of warped
religiosity, of strange self-sophistication, which have afforded so much
matter for thought. In its dramatic concision, its complex psychological
significance, and its unique, if to unaccustomed ears somewhat barbaric,
poetic beauty, "Porphyria" is still more remarkable.

It may be of this time, though possibly some years later, that Mrs.
Bridell-Fox writes:--"I remember him as looking in often in the
evenings, having just returned from his first visit to Venice. I cannot
tell the date for certain. He was full of enthusiasm for that Queen of
Cities. He used to illustrate his glowing descriptions of its beauties,
the palaces, the sunsets, the moonrises, by a most original kind of
etching. Taking up a bit of stray notepaper, he would hold it over a
lighted candle, moving the paper about gently till it was cloudily
smoked over, and then utilising the darker smears for clouds, shadows,
water, or what not, would etch with a dry pen the forms of lights on
cloud and palace, on bridge or gondola on the vague and dreamy surface
he had produced. My own passionate longing to see Venice dates from
those delightful, well-remembered evenings of my childhood."

"Paracelsus," begun about the close of October or early in November
1834, was published in the summer of the following year. It is a poem in
blank verse, about four times the length of "Pauline," with interspersed
songs. The author divided it into five sections of unequal length, of
which the third is the most extensive: "Paracelsus Aspires"; "Paracelsus
Attains"; "Paracelsus"; "Paracelsus Aspires"; "Paracelsus Attains." In
an interesting note, which was not reprinted in later editions of his
first acknowledged poem, the author dissuades the reader from mistaking
his performance for one of a class with which it has nothing in common,
from judging it by principles on which it was not moulded, and from
subjecting it to a standard to which it was never meant to conform. He
then explains that he has composed a dramatic poem, and not a drama in
the accepted sense; that he has not set forth the phenomena of the mind
or the passions by the operation of persons and events, or by recourse
to an external machinery of incidents to create and evolve the crisis
sought to be produced. Instead of this, he remarks, "I have ventured to
display somewhat minutely the mood itself in its rise and progress, and
have suffered the agency, by which it is influenced and determined, to
be generally discernible in its effects alone, and subordinate
throughout, if not altogether excluded: and this for a reason. I have
endeavoured to write a poem, not a drama." A little further, he states
that a work like "Paracelsus" depends, for its success, immediately upon
the intelligence and sympathy of the reader: "Indeed, were my scenes
stars, it must be his co-operating fancy which, supplying all chasms,
shall connect the scattered lights into one constellation--a Lyre or a
Crown."

In the concluding paragraph of this note there is a point of
interest--the statement of the author's hope that the readers of
"Paracelsus" will not "be prejudiced against other productions which may
follow in a more popular, and perhaps less difficult form." From this it
might fairly be inferred that Browning had not definitively adopted his
characteristic method: that he was far from unwilling to gain the
general ear: and that he was alert to the difficulties of popularisation
of poetry written on lines similar to those of "Paracelsus." Nor would
this inference be wrong: for, as a matter of fact, the poet, immediately
upon the publication of "Paracelsus," determined to devote himself to
poetic work which should have so direct a contact with actual life that
its appeal should reach even to the most uninitiate in the mysteries and
delights of verse.

In his early years Browning had always a great liking for walking in the
dark. At Camberwell he was wont to carry this love to the point of
losing many a night's rest. There was, in particular, a wood near
Dulwich, whither he was wont to go. There he would walk swiftly and
eagerly along the solitary and lightless byways, finding a potent
stimulus to imaginative thought in the happy isolation thus enjoyed,
with all the concurrent delights of natural things, the wind moving like
a spirit through the tree-branches, the drifting of poignant fragrances,
even in winter-tide, from herb and sappy bark, imperceptible almost by
the alertest sense in the day's manifold detachments. At this time, too,
he composed much in the open air. This he rarely, if ever, did in later
life. Not only many portions of "Paracelsus," but several scenes in
"Strafford," were enacted first in these midnight silences of the
Dulwich woodland. Here, too, as the poet once declared, he came to know
the serene beauty of dawn: for every now and again, after having read
late, or written long, he would steal quietly from the house, and walk
till the morning twilight graded to the pearl and amber of the new day.

As in childhood the glow of distant London had affected him to a
pleasure that was not without pain, perhaps to a pain rather that was a
fine delirium, so in his early manhood the neighbourhood of the huge
city, felt in those midnight walks of his, and apprehended more by the
transmutive shudder of reflected glare thrown fadingly upward against
the stars, than by any more direct vision or even far-borne
indeterminate hum, dominated his imagination. At that distance, in those
circumstances, humanity became more human. And with the thought, the
consciousness of this imperative kinship, arose the vague desire, the
high resolve to be no curious dilettante in novel literary experiments,
but to compel an interpretative understanding of this complex human
environment.

Those who knew the poet intimately are aware of the loving regard he
always had for those nocturnal experiences: but perhaps few recognise
how much we owe to the subtle influences of that congenial isolation he
was wont to enjoy on fortunate occasions.

It is not my intention--it would, obviously, be a futile one, if
entertained--to attempt an analysis or elaborate criticism of the many
poems, long and short, produced by Robert Browning. Not one volume, but
several, of this size, would have to be allotted to the adequate
performance of that end. Moreover, if readers are unable or unwilling to
be their own expositors, there are several trustworthy hand-books which
are easily procurable. Some one, I believe, has even, with unselfish
consideration for the weaker brethren, turned "Sordello" into prose--a
superfluous task, some scoffers may exclaim. Personally, I cannot but
think this craze for the exposition of poetry, this passion for
"dissecting a rainbow," is harmful to the individual as well as
humiliating to the high office of Poetry itself, and not infrequently it
is ludicrous.

I must be content with a few words anent the more important or
significant poems, and in due course attempt an estimate by a broad
synthesis, and not by cumulative critical analyses.

In the selection of Paracelsus as the hero of his first mature poem,
Browning was guided first of all by his keen sympathy with the
scientific spirit--the spirit of dauntless inquiry, of quenchless
curiosity, of a searching enthusiasm. Pietro of Abano, Giordano Bruno,
Galileo, were heroes whom he regarded with an admiration which would
have been boundless but for the wise sympathy which enabled him to
apprehend and understand their weaknesses as well as their lofty
qualities. Once having come to the conclusion that Paracelsus was a
great and much maligned man, it was natural for him to wish to portray
aright the features he saw looming through the mists of legend and
history. But over and above this, he half unwittingly, half consciously,
felt the fascination of that mysticism associated with the name of the
celebrated German scientist--a mysticism, in all its various phases, of
which he is now acknowledged to be the subtlest poetic interpreter in
our language, though, profound as its attraction always was for him,
never was poet with a more exquisite balance of intellectual sanity.

Latest research has proved that whatsoever of a pretender Paracelsus may
have been in certain respects, he was unquestionably a man of
extraordinary powers: and, as a pioneer in a science of the first
magnitude of importance, deserving of high honour. If ever the famous
German attain a high place in the history of the modern intellectual
movement in Europe, it will be primarily due to Browning's championship.

But of course the extent or shallowness of Paracelsus' claim is a matter
of quite secondary interest. We are concerned with the poet's
presentment of the man--of that strange soul whom he conceived of as
having anticipated so far, and as having focussed all the vagrant
speculations of the day into one startling beam of light, now lambently
pure, now lurid with gross constituents.[9]

[Footnote 9: Paracelsus has two particular claims upon our regard. He
gave us laudanum, a discovery of incalculable blessing to mankind. And
from his fourth baptismal name, which he inherited from his father, we
have our familiar term, 'bombast.' Readers interested in the known facts
concerning the "master-mind, the thinker, the explorer, the creator,"
the forerunner of Mesmer and even of Darwin and Wallace, who began life
with the sounding appellation "Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus
ab Hohenheim," should consult Browning's own learned appendical note,
and Mr. Berdoe's interesting essay in the Browning Society Papers,
No. xlix.]

Paracelsus, his friends Festus and his wife Michal, and Aprile, an
Italian poet, are the characters who are the personal media through
which Browning's already powerful genius found expression. The poem is,
of a kind, an epic: the epic of a brave soul striving against baffling
circumstance. It is full of passages of rare technical excellence, as
well as of conceptive beauty: so full, indeed, that the sympathetic
reader of it as a drama will be too apt to overlook its radical
shortcomings, cast as it is in the dramatic mould. But it must not be
forgotten that Browning himself distinctly stated he had attempted to
write "a poem, not a drama": and in the light of this simple statement
half the objections that have been made fall to the ground.

Paracelsus is the protagonist: the others are merely incidental. The
poem is the soul-history of the great medical student who began life so
brave of aspect and died so miserably at Salzburg: but it is also the
history of a typical human soul, which can be read without any knowledge
of actual particulars.

Aprile is a projection of the poet's own poetical ideal. He speaks, but
he does not live as Festus lives, or even as Michal, who, by the way, is
interesting as being the first in the long gallery of Browning's
women--a gallery of superbly-drawn portraits, of noble and striking and
always intensely human women, unparalleled except in Shakspere. Pauline,
of course, exists only as an abstraction, and Porphyria is in no exact
sense a portrait from the life. Yet Michal can be revealed only to the
sympathetic eye, for she is not drawn, but again and again suddenly
silhouetted. We see her in profile always: but when she exclaims at the
last, "I ever did believe," we feel that she has withdrawn the veil
partially hiding her fair and generous spirit.

To the lover of poetry "Paracelsus" will always be a Golconda. It has
lines and passages of extraordinary power, of a haunting beauty, and of
a unique and exquisite charm. It may be noted, in exemplification of
Browning's artistic range, that in the descriptive passages he paints as
well in the elaborate Pre-Raphaelite method as with a broad synthetic
touch: as in

              "One old populous green wall
      Tenanted by the ever-busy flies,
      Grey crickets and shy lizards and quick spiders,
      Each family of the silver-threaded moss--
      Which, look through near, this way, and it appears
      A stubble-field or a cane-brake, a marsh
      Of bulrush whitening in the sun...."

But oftener he prefers the more succinct method of landscape-painting,
the broadest impressionism: as in

     "Past the high rocks the haunts of doves, the mounds
      Of red earth from whose sides strange trees grow out,
      Past tracks of milk-white minute blinding sand."

And where in modern poetry is there a superber union of the scientific
and the poetic vision than in this magnificent passage--the
quintessence of the poet's conception of the rapture of life:--

     "The centre-fire heaves underneath the earth,
      And the earth changes like a human face;
      The molten ore bursts up among the rocks,
      Winds into the stone's heart, outbranches bright
      In hidden mines, spots barren river-beds,
      Crumbles into fine sand where sunbeams bask--
      God joys therein. The wroth sea's waves are edged
      With foam, white as the bitten lip of hate,
      When in the solitary waste, strange groups
      Of young volcanoes come up, cyclops-like,
      Staring together with their eyes on flame--
      God tastes a pleasure in their uncouth pride.
      Then all is still; earth is a wintry clod:
      But Spring-wind, like a dancing psaltress, passes
      Over its breast to waken it, rare verdure
      Buds tenderly upon rough banks, between
      The withered tree-rests and the cracks of frost,
      Like a smile striving with a wrinkled face;
      The grass grows bright, the boughs are swoln with blooms
      Like chrysalids impatient for the air,
      The shining dorrs are busy, beetles run
      Along the furrows, ants make their ado;
      Above, birds fly in merry flocks, the lark
      Soars up and up, shivering for very joy;
      Afar the ocean sleeps; white fishing gulls
      Flit where the strand is purple with its tribe
      Of nested limpets; savage creatures seek
      Their loves in wood and plain--and God renews
      His ancient rapture."

In these lines, particularly in their close, is manifest the influence
of the noble Hebraic poetry. It must have been at this period that
Browning conned over and over with an exultant delight the simple but
lordly diction of Isaiah and the other prophets, preferring this
Biblical poetry to that even of his beloved Greeks. There is an anecdote
of his walking across a public park (I am told Richmond, but more
probably it was Wimbledon Common) with his hat in his left hand and his
right waving to and fro declamatorily, while the wind blew his hair
around his head like a nimbus: so rapt in his ecstasy over the solemn
sweep of the Biblical music that he did not observe a small following
consisting of several eager children, expectant of thrilling
stump-oratory. He was just the man, however, to accept an anti-climax
genially, and to dismiss his disappointed auditory with something more
tangible than an address.

The poet-precursor of scientific knowledge is again and again manifest:
as, for example, in

     "Hints and previsions of which faculties
      Are strewn confusedly everywhere about
      The inferior natures, and all lead up higher,
      All shape out dimly the superior race,
      The heir of hopes too fair to turn out false,
      And man appears at last."[10]

[Footnote 10: Readers interested in Browning's inspiration from, and
treatment of, Science, should consult the excellent essay on him as "A
Scientific Poet" by Mr. Edward Berdoe, F.R.C.S., and, in particular,
compare with the originals the references given by Mr. Berdoe to the
numerous passages bearing upon Evolution and the several sciences, from
Astronomy to Physiology.]

There are lines, again, which have a magic that cannot be defined. If it
be not felt, no sense of it can be conveyed through another's words.

     "Whose memories were a solace to me oft,
      As mountain-baths to wild fowls in their flight."

     "Ask the gier-eagle why she stoops at once
      Into the vast and unexplored abyss,
      What full-grown power informs her from the first,
      Why she not marvels, strenuously beating
      The silent boundless regions of the sky."

There is one passage, beautiful in itself, which has a pathetic
significance henceforth. Gordon, our most revered hero, was wont to
declare that nothing in all nonscriptural literature was so dear to him,
nothing had so often inspired him in moments of gloom:--

                             "I go to prove my soul!
      I see my way as birds their trackless way.
      I shall arrive! What time, what circuit first,
      I ask not: but unless God send His hail
      Or blinding fireballs, sleet or stifling snow,
      In some time, His good time, I shall arrive:
      He guides me and the bird. In his good time."

As for the much misused 'Shaksperian' comparison, so often mistakenly
applied to Browning, there is nothing in "Paracelsus" in the least way
derivative. Because Shakspere is the greatest genius evolved from our
race, it does not follow that every lofty intellect, every great
objective poet, should be labelled "Shaksperian." But there is a certain
quality in poetic expression which we so specify, because the intense
humanity throbbing in it finds highest utterance in the greatest of our
poets: and there is at least one instance of such poignant speech in
"Paracelsus," worthy almost to be ranked with the last despairing cry of
Guido calling upon murdered Pompilia:--

     "Festus, strange secrets are let out by death
      Who blabs so oft the follies of this world:
      And I am death's familiar, as you know.
      I helped a man to die, some few weeks since,
      Warped even from his go-cart to one end--
      The living on princes' smiles, reflected from
      A mighty herd of favourites. No mean trick
      He left untried, and truly well-nigh wormed
      All traces of God's finger out of him:
      Then died, grown old. And just an hour before,
      Having lain long with blank and soulless eyes,
      He sat up suddenly, and with natural voice
      Said that in spite of thick air and closed doors
      God told him it was June; and he knew well
      Without such telling, harebells grew in June;
      And all that kings could ever give or take
      Would not be precious as those blooms to him."

Technically, I doubt if Browning ever produced any finer long poem,
except "Pippa Passes," which is a lyrical drama, and neither exactly a
'play' nor exactly a 'poem' in the conventional usage of the terms.
Artistically, "Paracelsus" is disproportionate, and has faults,
obtrusive enough to any sensitive ear: but in the main it has a beauty
without harshness, a swiftness of thought and speech without tumultuous
pressure of ideas or stammering. It has not, in like degree, the intense
human insight of, say, "The Inn Album," but it has that charm of sequent
excellence too rarely to be found in many of Browning's later writings.
It glides onward like a steadfast stream, the thought moving with the
current it animates and controls, and throbbing eagerly beneath. When we
read certain portions of "Paracelsus," and the lovely lyrics
interspersed in it, it is difficult not to think of the poet as
sometimes, in later life, stooping like the mariner in Roscoe's
beautiful sonnet, striving to reclaim "some loved lost echo from the
fleeting strand." But it is the fleeting shore of exquisite art, not of
the far-reaching shadowy capes and promontories of "the poetic land."

Of the four interlusive lyrics the freer music is in the unique chant,
"Over the sea our galleys went:" a song full of melody and blithe lilt.
It is marvellously pictorial, and yet has a freedom that places it among
the most delightful of spontaneous lyrics:--

     "We shouted, every man of us,
      And steered right into the harbour thus,
      With pomp and pæan glorious."

It is, however, too long for present quotation, and as an example of
Browning's early lyrics I select rather the rich and delicate second of
these "Paracelsus" songs, one wherein the influence of Keats is so
marked, and yet where all is the poet's own:--

     "Heap cassia, sandal-buds and stripes
        Of labdanum, and aloe-balls,
      Smeared with dull nard an Indian wipes
        From out her hair: such balsam falls
        Down sea-side mountain pedestals,
      From tree-tops where tired winds are fain,
      Spent with the vast and howling main,
      To treasure half their island-gain.

     "And strew faint sweetness from some old
        Egyptian's fine worm-eaten shroud
      Which breaks to dust when once unrolled;
        Or shredded perfume, like a cloud
        From closet long to quiet vowed,
      With mothed and dropping arras hung,
      Mouldering her lute and books among,
      As when a queen, long dead, was young."

With this music in our ears we can well forgive some of the prosaic
commonplaces which deface "Paracelsus"--some of those lapses from
rhythmic energy to which the poet became less and less sensitive, till
he could be so deaf to the vanishing "echo of the fleeting strand" as to
sink to the level of doggerel such as that which closes the poem called
"Popularity."

"Paracelsus" is not a great, but it is a memorable poem: a notable
achievement, indeed, for an author of Browning's years. Well may we
exclaim with Festus, when we regard the poet in all the greatness of his
maturity--

                                      "The sunrise
      Well warranted our faith in this full noon!"



CHAPTER IV.


The _Athenæum_ dismissed "Paracelsus" with a half contemptuous line or
two. On the other hand, the _Examiner_ acknowledged it to be a work of
unequivocal power, and predicted for its author a brilliant career. The
same critic who wrote this review contributed an article of about twenty
pages upon "Paracelsus" to the _New Monthly Magazine_, under the
heading, "Evidences of a New Dramatic Poetry." This article is ably
written, and remarkable for its sympathetic insight. "Mr. Browning," the
critic writes, "is a man of genius, he has in himself all the elements
of a great poet, philosophical as well as dramatic."

The author of this enthusiastic and important critique was John Forster.
When the _Examiner_ review appeared the two young men had not met: but
the encounter, which was to be the seed of so fine a flower of
friendship, occurred before the publication of the _New Monthly_
article. Before this, however, Browning had already made one of the most
momentous acquaintanceships of his life.

His good friend and early critic, Mr. Fox, asked him to his house one
evening in November, a few months after the publication of "Paracelsus."
The chief guest of the occasion was Macready, then at the height of his
great reputation. Mr. Fox had paved the way for the young poet, but the
moment he entered he carried with him his best recommendation. Every one
who met Browning in those early years of his buoyant manhood seems to
have been struck by his comeliness and simple grace of manner. Macready
stated that he looked more like a poet than any man he had ever met. As
a young man he appears to have had a certain ivory delicacy of
colouring, what an old friend perhaps somewhat exaggeratedly described
to me as an almost flower-like beauty, which passed ere long into a less
girlish and more robust complexion. He appeared taller than he was, for
he was not above medium height, partly because of his rare grace of
movement, and partly from a characteristic high poise of the head when
listening intently to music or conversation. Even then he had that
expressive wave o' the hand, which in later years was as full of various
meanings as the _Ecco_ of an Italian. A swift alertness pervaded him,
noticeable as much in the rapid change of expression, in the deepening
and illuming colours of his singularly expressive eyes, and in his
sensitive mouth, with the upper lip ever so swift to curve or droop in
response to the most fluctuant emotion, as in his greyhound-like
apprehension, which so often grasped the subject in its entirety before
its propounder himself realised its significance. A lady, who remembers
Browning at that time, has told me that his hair--then of a brown so
dark as to appear black--was so beautiful in its heavy sculpturesque
waves as to attract frequent notice. Another, and more subtle, personal
charm was his voice, then with a rare flute-like tone, clear, sweet,
and resonant. Afterwards, though always with precise clarity, it became
merely strong and hearty, a little too loud sometimes, and not
infrequently as that of one simulating keen immediate interest while the
attention was almost wholly detached.

Macready, in his Journal,[11] about a week later than the date of his
first meeting with the poet, wrote--"Read 'Paracelsus,' a work of great
daring, starred with poetry of thought, feeling, and diction, but
occasionally obscure: the writer can scarcely fail to be a leading
spirit of his time." The tragedian's house, whither he went at week-ends
and on holidays, was at Elstree, a short distance to the northward of
Hampstead: and there he invited Browning, among other friends, to come
on the last day of December and spend New Year's Day (1836).[12] When
alluding, in after years, to this visit, Browning always spoke of it as
one of the red-letter days of his life. It was here he first met
Forster, with whom he at once formed what proved to be an enduring
friendship; and on this occasion, also, that he was urged by his host to
write a poetic play.

[Footnote 11: For many interesting particulars concerning Macready and
Browning, and the production of "Strafford," etc., _vide_ the
_Reminiscences_, vol. i.]

[Footnote 12: It was for Macready's eldest boy, William Charles, that
Browning wrote one of the most widely popular of his poems, "The Pied
Piper of Hamelin." It is said to have been an impromptu performance, and
to have been so little valued by the author that he hesitated about its
inclusion in "Bells and Pomegranates." It was inserted at the last
moment, in the third number, which was short of "copy." Some one
(anonymous, but whom I take to be Mr. Nettleship) has publicly alluded
to his possession of a rival poem (entitled, simply, "Hamelin") by
Robert Browning the elder, and of a letter which he had sent to a friend
along with the verses, in which he writes: "Before I knew that Robert
had begun the story of the 'Rats' I had contemplated a tale on the same
subject, and proceeded with it as far as you see, but, on hearing that
Robert had a similar one on hand, I desisted." This must have been in
1842, for it was in that year that the third part of _Bells and
Pomegranates_ was published. In 1843, however, he finished it.
Browning's "Pied Piper" has been translated into French, Russian,
Italian, and German. The latter (or one German) version is in prose. It
was made in 1880, for a special purpose, and occupied the whole of one
number of the local paper of Hameln, which is a quaint townlet in
Hanover.]

Browning promised to consider the suggestion. Six weeks later, in
company with Forster, with whom he had become intimate, he called upon
Macready, to discuss the plot of a tragedy which he had pondered. He
told the tragedian how deeply he had been impressed by his performance
of "Othello," and how this had deflected his intention from a modern and
European to an Oriental and ancient theme. "Browning said that I had
_bit_ him by my performance of 'Othello,' and I told him I hoped I
should make the blood come." The "blood" had come in the guise of a
drama-motive based on the crucial period in the career of Narses, the
eunuch-general of Justinian. Macready liked the suggestion, though he
demurred to one or two points in the outline: and before Browning left
he eagerly pressed him to "go on with 'Narses.'" But whether Browning
mistrusted his own interest in the theme, or was dubious as to the
success with which Macready would realise his conception, or as to the
reception a play of such a nature would win from an auditory no longer
reverent of high dramatic ideals, he gave up the idea. Some three
months later (May 26th) he enjoyed another eventful evening. It was the
night of the first performance of Talfourd's "Ion," and he was among the
personal friends of Macready who were invited to the supper at
Talfourd's rooms. After the fall of the curtain, Browning, Forster, and
other friends sought the tragedian and congratulated him upon the
success both of the play and of his impersonation of the chief
character. They then adjourned to the house of the author of "Ion." To
his surprise and gratification Browning found himself placed next but
one to his host, and immediately opposite Macready, who sat between two
gentlemen, one calm as a summer evening, and the other with a
tempestuous youth dominating his sixty years, whom the young poet at
once recognised as Wordsworth and Walter Savage Landor. Every one was in
good spirits: the host perhaps most of all, who was celebrating his
birthday as well as the success of "Ion." Possibly Macready was the only
person who felt at all bored--unless it was Landor--for Wordsworth was
not, at such a function, an entertaining conversationalist. There is
much significance in the succinct entry in Macready's journal concerning
the Lake-poet--"Wordsworth, who pinned me." ... When Talfourd rose to
propose the toast of "The Poets of England" every one probably expected
that Wordsworth would be named to respond. But with a kindly grace the
host, after flattering remarks upon the two great men then honouring him
by sitting at his table, coupled his toast with the name of the youngest
of the poets of England--"Mr. Robert Browning, the author of
'Paracelsus.'" It was a very proud moment for Browning, singled out
among that brilliant company: and it is pleasant to know, on the
authority of Miss Mitford, who was present, that "he performed his task
with grace and modesty," looking, the amiable lady adds, even younger
than he was. Perhaps, however, he was prouder still when Wordsworth
leaned across the table, and with stately affability said, "I am proud
to drink your health, Mr. Browning:" when Landor, also, with a superbly
indifferent and yet kindly smile, also raised his glass to his lips in
courteous greeting.

Of Wordsworth Browning saw not a little in the ensuing few years, for on
the rare visits the elderly poet paid to London, Talfourd never failed
to ask the author of "Paracelsus," for whom he had a sincere admiration,
to meet the great man. It was not in the nature of things that the two
poets could become friends, but though the younger was sometimes annoyed
by the elder's pooh-poohing his republican sympathies, and
contemptuously waiving aside as a mere nobody no less an individual than
Shelley, he never failed of respect and even reverence. With what
tenderness and dignity he has commemorated the great poet's falling away
from his early ideals, may be seen in "The Lost Leader," one of the most
popular of Browning's short poems, and likely to remain so. For several
reasons, however, it is best as well as right that Wordsworth should not
be more than merely nominally identified with the Lost Leader. Browning
was always imperative upon this point.

Towards Landor, on the other hand, he entertained a sentiment of genuine
affection, coupled with a profound sympathy and admiration: a sentiment
duly reciprocated. The care of the younger for the elder, in the old
age of the latter, is one of the most beautiful incidents in a
beautiful life.

But the evening was not to pass without another memorable incident, one
to which we owe "Strafford," and probably "A Blot on the 'Scutcheon."
Just as the young poet, flushed with the triumphant pleasure of the
evening, was about to leave, Macready arrested him by a friendly grip of
the arm. In unmistakable earnestness he asked Browning to write him a
play. With a simplicity equal to the occasion, the poet contented
himself with replying, "Shall it be historical and English? What do you
say to a drama on Strafford?"

Macready was pleased with the idea, and hopeful that his friend would be
more successful with the English statesman than with the eunuch Narses.

A few months elapsed before the poet, who had set aside the long work
upon which he was engaged ("Sordello"), called upon Macready with the
manuscript of "Strafford." The latter hoped much from it. In March the
MS. was ready. About the end of the month Macready took it to Covent
Garden Theatre, and read it to Mr. Osbaldiston, "who caught at it with
avidity, and agreed to produce it without delay."

It was an eventful first of May--an eventful twelvemonth, indeed, for it
was the initial year of the Victorian era, notable, too, as that wherein
the Electric Telegraph was established, and, in letters, wherein a new
dramatic literature had its origin. For "Strafford," already significant
of a novel movement, and destined, it seems to me, to be still more
significant in that great dramatic period towards which we are fast
converging, was not less important to the Drama in England, as a new
departure in method and radically indicative of a fresh standpoint, than
"Hernani" was in France. But in literary history the day itself is
doubly memorable, for in the forenoon Carlyle gave the first of his
lectures in London. The play was a success, despite the shamefully
inadequate acting of some of those entrusted with important parts. There
was once, perhaps there were more occasions than one, where success
poised like the soul of a Mohammedan on the invisible thread leading to
Paradise, but on either side of which lies perdition. There was none to
cry _Timbul_ save Macready, except Miss Helen Faucit, who gained a
brilliant triumph as Lady Carlisle. The part of Charles I. was enacted
so execrably that damnation for all was again and again within
measurable distance. "The Younger Vane" ranted so that a hiss, like an
embodied scorn, vibrated on vagrant wings throughout the house. There
was not even any extraneous aid to a fortunate impression. The house was
in ill repair: the seats dusty, the "scenery" commonplace and sometimes
noticeably inappropriate, the costumes and accessories almost sordid.
But in the face of all this, a triumph was secured. For a brief while
Macready believed that the star of regeneration had arisen.
Unfortunately 'twas, in the words of a contemporary dramatic poet, "a
rising sorrow splendidly forlorn." The financial condition of Covent
Garden Theatre was so ruinous that not even the most successful play
could have restored its doomed fortunes.

After the fifth night one of the leading actors, having received a
better offer elsewhere, suddenly withdrew.

This was the last straw. A collapse forthwith occurred. In the scramble
for shares in the few remaining funds every one gained something, except
the author, who was to have received £12 for each performance for the
first twenty-five nights, and, £10 each for ten nights further. This
disaster was a deep disappointment to Browning, and a by no means
transitory one, for three or four years later he wrote (_Advt._ of
"Bells and Pomegranates"): "Two or three years ago I wrote a play, about
which the chief matter I much care to recollect at present is, that a
pitful of good-natured people applauded it. Ever since, I have been
desirous of doing something in the same way that should better reward
their attention." But, except in so far as its abrupt declension from
the stage hurt its author in the eyes of the critics, and possibly in
those of theatrical managers, "Strafford" was certainly no failure. It
has the elements of a great acting play. Everything, even the language
(and here was a stumbling-block with most of the critics and
criticasters), was subordinated to dramatic exigencies: though the
subordination was in conformity with a novel shaping method. "Strafford"
was not, however, allowed to remain unknown to those who had been unable
to visit Covent Garden Theatre.[13] Browning's name had quite sufficient
literary repute to justify a publisher in risking the issue of a drama
by him; one, at any rate, that had the advantage of association with
Macready's name. The Longmans issued it, and the author had the pleasure
of knowing that his third poetic work was not produced at the expense of
a relative, but at that of the publishers. It had but an indifferent
reception, however.

[Footnote 13: "It is time to deny a statement that has been repeated _ad
nauseam_ in every notice that professes to give an account of Mr.
Browning's career. Whatever is said or not said, it is always that his
plays have 'failed' on the stage. In point of fact, the three plays
which he has brought out have all succeeded, and have owed it to
fortuitous circumstances that their tenure on the boards has been
comparatively short."--E.W. GOSSE, in article in _The Century
Magazine._]

Most people who saw the performance of "Strafford" given in 1886, under
the auspices of the Browning Society, were surprised as well as
impressed: for few, apparently, had realised from perusal the power of
the play as made manifest when acted. The secret of this is that the
drama, when privily read, seems hard if not heavy in its diction, and to
be so inornate, though by no means correspondingly simple, as to render
any comparison between it and the dramatic work of Shakspere out of the
question. But when acted, the artistry of the play is revealed. Its
intense naturalness is due in great part to the stern concision of the
lines, where no word is wasted, where every sentence is fraught with the
utmost it can convey. The outlines which disturbed us by their vagueness
become more clear: in a word, we all see in enactment what only a few of
us can discern in perusal. The play has its faults, but scarcely those
of language, where the diction is noble and rhythmic, because it is, so
to speak, the genuine rind of the fruit it envelops. But there are
dramatic faults--primarily, in the extreme economy of the author in the
presentment of his _dramatis personæ_, who are embodied
abstractions--monomaniacs of ideas, as some one has said of Hugo's
personages--rather than men as we are, with manifold complexities in
endless friction or fusion. One cardinal fault is the lack of humour,
which to my mind is the paramount objection to its popular acceptance.
Another, is the misproportionate length of some of the speeches. Once
again, there is, as in the greater portion of Browning's longer poems
and dramas, a baneful equality of emphasis. The conception of Charles I.
is not only obviously weak, but strangely prejudiced adversely for so
keen an analyst of the soul as Browning. For what a fellow-dramatist
calls this "Sunset Shadow of a King," no man or woman could abase every
hope and energy. Shakspere would never have committed the crucial
mistake of making Charles the despicable deformity he is in Browning's
drama. Strafford himself disappears too soon: in the fourth act there is
the vacuum abhorred of dramatic propriety.

When he again comes on the scene, the charm is partly broken. But withal
the play is one of remarkable vigour and beauty. It seems to me that too
much has been written against it on the score of its metrical rudeness.
The lines are beat out by a hammer, but in the process they are wrought
clear of all needless alloy. To urge, as has been lately urged, that it
lacks all human touch and is a mere intellectual fanfaronade, and that
there is not once a line of poignant insight, is altogether uncritical.
Readers of this mind must have forgotten or be indifferent to those
lines, for example, where the wretched Charles stammeringly excuses
himself to his loyal minister for his death-warrant, crying out that it
was wrung from him, and begging Strafford not to curse him: or, again,
that wonderfully significant line, so full of a too tardy knowledge and
of concentrated scorn, where Strafford first begs the king to "be good
to his children," and then, with a contempt that is almost sublime,
implores, "Stay, sir, do not promise, do not swear!" The whole of the
second scene in the fifth act is pure genius. The reader, or spectator,
knows by this time that all hope is over: that Strafford, though all
unaware, is betrayed and undone. It is a subtle dramatic ruse, that of
Browning's representing him sitting in his apartment in the Tower with
his young children, William and Anne, blithely singing.

Can one read and ever forget the lines giving the gay Italian rhyme,
with the boy's picturesquely childish prose-accompaniment? Strafford is
seated, weary and distraught:--

                             "_O bell'andare
                                 Per barca in mare,
                                 Verso la sera
                                 Di Primavera!_

_William_.   The boat's in the broad moonlight all this while--

                              _Verso la sera
                                 Di Primavera!_

                  And the boat shoots from underneath the moon
                  Into the shadowy distance; only still
                  You hear the dipping oar--

                              _Verso la sera,_

                  And faint, and fainter, and then all's quite gone,
                  Music and light and all, like a lost star.

_Anne_.      But you should sleep, father: you were to sleep.

_Strafford_. I do sleep, Anne; or if not--you must know
                  There's such a thing as ...

_William_.   You're too tired to sleep.

_Strafford_. It will come by-and-by and all day long,
                  In that old quiet house I told you of:
                  We sleep safe there.

_Anne_.                          Why not in Ireland?

_Strafford_.                                         No!
                  Too many dreams!--"

To me this children's-song and the fleeting and now plaintive echo of
it, as "Voices from Within"--"_Verso la sera, Di Primavera_"--in the
terrible scene where Strafford learns his doom, is only to be paralleled
by the song of Mariana in "Measure for Measure," wherein, likewise, is
abduced in one thrilling poignant strain the quintessential part of the
tense life of the whole play.

So much has been written concerning the dramas of Robert
Browning--though indeed there is still room for a volume of careful
criticism, dealing solely with this theme--that I have the less regret
in having so inadequately to pass in review works of such poetic
magnitude as those enumerated above.

But it would be impossible, in so small a book as this, to examine them
in detail without incurring a just charge of misproportion. The
greatness and the shortcomings of the dramas and dramatic poems must be
noted as succinctly as practicable; and I have dwelt more liberally upon
"Pauline," "Paracelsus," and "Strafford," partly because (certainly
without more than one exception, "Sordello") these are the three least
read of Browning's poems, partly because they indicate the sweep and
reach of his first orient eagle-flight through new morning-skies, and
mainly because in them we already find Browning at his best and at his
weakest, because in them we hear not only the rush of his sunlit
pinions, but also the low earthward surge of dullard wings.

Browning is foreshadowed in his earliest writings, as perhaps no other
poet has been to like extent. In the "Venus and Adonis," and the "Rape
of Lucrece," we have but the dimmest foreview of the author of "Hamlet,"
"Othello," and "Macbeth"; had Shakspere died prematurely none could
have predicted, from the exquisite blossoms of his adolescence, the
immortal fruit of his maturity. But, in Browning's three earliest works,
we clearly discern him, as the sculptor of Melos provisioned his Venus
in the rough-hewn block.

Thenceforth, to change the imagery, he developed rapidly upon the same
lines, or doubled upon himself in intricate revolutions; but already his
line of life, his poetic parallel, was definitely established.

In the consideration of Browning's dramas it is needful to be sure of
one's vantage for judgment. The first step towards this assurance is the
ablation of the chronic Shaksperian comparison. Primarily, the shaping
spirit of the time wrought Shakspere and Browning to radically divergent
methods of expression, but each to a method in profound harmony with the
dominant sentiment of the age in which he lived. Above all others, the
Elizabethan era was rich in romantic adventure, of the mind as well as
of the body, and above all others, save that of the Renaissance in
Italy, animated by a passionate curiosity. So, too, supremely, the
Victorian era has been prolific of novel and vast Titanic struggles of
the human spirit to reach those Gates of Truth whose lowest steps are
the scarce discernible stars and furthest suns we scan, by piling Ossas
of searching speculation upon Pelions of hardly-won positive knowledge.
The highest exemplar of the former is Shakspere, Browning the
profoundest interpreter of the latter. To achieve supremacy the one had
to create a throbbing actuality, a world of keenest living, of acts and
intervolved situations and episodes: the other to fashion a mentality so
passionately alive that its manifold phases should have all the reality
of concrete individualities. The one reveals individual life to us by
the play of circumstance, the interaction of events, the correlative
eduction of personal characteristics: the other by his apprehension of
that quintessential movement or mood or phase wherein the soul is
transitorily visible on its lonely pinnacle of light. The elder poet
reveals life to us by the sheer vividness of his own vision: the
younger, by a newer, a less picturesque but more scientific abduction,
compels the complex rayings of each soul-star to a singular simplicity,
as by the spectrum analysis. The one, again, fulfils his aim by a broad
synthesis based upon the vivid observance and selection of vital
details: the other by an extraordinary acute psychic analysis. In a
word, Shakspere works as with the clay of human action: Browning as with
the clay of human thought.

As for the difference in value of the two methods it is useless to
dogmatise. The psychic portraiture produced by either is valuable only
so far as it is convincingly true.

The profoundest insight cannot reach deeper than its own possibilities
of depth. The physiognomy of the soul is never visible in its entirety,
barely ever even its profile. The utmost we can expect to reproduce,
perhaps even to perceive in the most quintessential moment, is a
partially faithful, partially deceptive silhouette. As no human being
has ever seen his or her own soul, in all its rounded completeness of
good and evil, of strength and weakness, of what is temporal and
perishable and what is germinal and essential, how can we expect even
the subtlest analyst to adequately depict other souls than his own. It
is Browning's high distinction that he has this soul-depictive
faculty--restricted as even in his instance it perforce is--to an extent
unsurpassed by any other poet, ancient or modern. As a sympathetic
critic has remarked, "His stage is not the visible phenomenal England
(or elsewhere) of history; it is a point in the spiritual universe,
where naked souls meet and wrestle, as they play the great game of life,
for counters, the true value of which can only be realised in the
bullion of a higher life than this." No doubt there is "a certain
crudeness in the manner in which these naked souls are presented," not
only in "Strafford" but elsewhere in the plays. Browning markedly has
the defects of his qualities.

As part of his method, it should be noted that his real trust is upon
monologue rather than upon dialogue. To one who works from within
outward--in contradistinction to the Shaksperian method of striving to
win from outward forms "the passion and the life whose fountains are
within"--the propriety of this dramatic means can scarce be gainsaid.
The swift complicated mental machinery can thus be exhibited infinitely
more coherently and comprehensibly than by the most electric succinct
dialogue. Again and again Browning has nigh foundered in the morass of
monologue, but, broadly speaking, he transcends in this dramatic method.

At the same time, none must take it for granted that the author of the
"Blot on the 'Scutchcon," "Luria," "In a Balcony," is not dramatic in
even the most conventional sense. Above all, indeed--as Mr. Walter Pater
has said--his is the poetry of situations. In each of the _dramatis
personæ_, one of the leading characteristics is loyalty to a dominant
ideal. In Strafford's case it is that of unswerving devotion to the
King: in Mildred's and in Thorold's, in the "Blot on the 'Scutcheon," it
is that of subservience respectively to conventional morality and family
pride (Lord Tresham, it may be added, is the most hopelessly
monomaniacal of all Browning's "monomaniacs"): in Valence's, in
"Colombe's Birthday," to chivalric love: in Charles, in "King Victor and
King Charles," to kingly and filial duty: in Anael's and Djabal's, in
"The Return of the Druses," respectively to religion and unscrupulous
ambition modified by patriotism: in Chiappino's, in "A Soul's Tragedy,"
to purely sordid ambition: in Luria's, to noble steadfastness: and in
Constance's, in "In a Balcony," to self-denial. Of these plays, "The
Return of the Druses" seems to me the most picturesque, "Luria" the most
noble and dignified, and "In a Balcony" the most potentially a great
dramatic success. The last is in a sense a fragment, but, though the
integer of a great unaccomplished drama, is as complete in itself as the
Funeral March in Beethoven's _Eroica_ Symphony. The "Blot on the
'Scutcheon" has the radical fault characteristic of writers of
sensational fiction, a too promiscuous "clearing the ground" by syncope
and suicide. Another is the juvenility of Mildred:--a serious infraction
of dramatic law, where the mere tampering with history, as in the
circumstances of King Victor's death in the earlier play, is at least
excusable by high precedent. More disastrous, poetically, is the ruinous
banality of Mildred's anticlimax when, after her brother reveals himself
as her lover's murderer, she, like the typical young _Miss Anglaise_
of certain French novelists, betrays her incapacity for true passion by
exclaiming, in effect, "What, you've murdered my lover! Well, tell me
all. Pardon? Oh, well, I pardon you: at least I _think_ I do. Thorold,
my dear brother, how very wretched you must be!"

I am unaware if this anticlimax has been pointed out by any one, but
surely it is one of the most appalling lapses of genius which could be
indicated. Even the beautiful song in the third scene of the first act,
"There's a woman like a dew-drop, she's so purer than the purest," is,
in the circumstances, nearly over the verge which divides the sublime
from the ridiculous. No wonder that, on the night the play was first
acted, Mertoun's song, as he clambered to his mistress's window, caused
a sceptical laugh to ripple lightly among the tolerant auditory. It is
with diffidence I take so radically distinct a standpoint from that of
Dickens, who declared he knew no love like that of Mildred and Mertoun,
no passion like it, no moulding of a splendid thing after its
conception, like it; who, further, at a later date, affirmed that he
would rather have written this play than any work of modern times: nor
with less reluctance, that I find myself at variance with Mr. Skelton,
who speaks of the drama as "one of the most perfectly conceived and
perfectly executed tragedies in the language." In the instance of Luria,
that second Othello, suicide has all the impressiveness of a plenary act
of absolution: the death of Anael seems as inevitable as the flash of
lightning after the concussion of thunder-clouds. But Thorold's suicide
is mere weakness, scarce a perverted courage; and Mildred's broken heart
was an ill not beyond the healing of a morally robust physician.
"Colombe's Birthday" has a certain remoteness of interest, really due to
the reader's more or less acute perception of the radical divergence,
for all Valence's greatness of mind and spirit, between the fair young
Duchess and her chosen lover: a circumstance which must surely stand in
the way of its popularity. Though "A Soul's Tragedy" has the saving
quality of humour, it is of too grim a kind to be provocative of
laughter.

In each of these plays[14] the lover of Browning will recall passage
after passage of superbly dramatic effect. But supreme in his
remembrance will be the wonderful scene in "The Return of the Druses,"
where the Prefect, drawing a breath of relief, is almost simultaneously
assassinated; and that where Anael, with every nerve at tension in her
fierce religious resolve, with a poignant, life-surrendering cry, hails
Djabal as _Hakeem_--as Divine--and therewith falls dead at his feet.
Nor will he forget that where, in the "Blot on the 'Scutcheon," Mildred,
with a dry sob in her throat, stammeringly utters--

                "I--I--was so young!
      Besides I loved him, Thorold--and I had
      No mother; God forgot me: so I fell----"

or that where, "at end of the disastrous day," Luria takes the phial of
poison from his breast, muttering--

     "Strange! This is all I brought from my own land
      To help me."

[Footnote 14: "Strafford," 1837; "King Victor and King Charles," 1842;
"The Return of the Druses," and "A Blot on the 'Scutcheon," 1843;
"Colombe's Birthday," 1844; "Luria," and "A Soul's Tragedy," 1845.]

Before passing on from these eight plays to Browning's most imperishable
because most nearly immaculate dramatic poem, "Pippa Passes," and to
"Sordello," that colossal derelict upon the ocean of poetry, I should
like--out of an embarrassing quantity of alluring details--to remind the
reader of two secondary matters of interest pertinent to the present
theme. One is that the song in "A Blot on the 'Scutcheon," "There's a
woman like a dew-drop," written several years before the author's
meeting with Elizabeth Barrett, is so closely in the style of "Lady
Geraldine's Courtship," and other ballads by the sweet singer who
afterwards became a partner in the loveliest marriage of which we have
record in literary history, that, even were there nothing to
substantiate the fact, it were fair to infer that Mertoun's song to
Mildred was the electric touch which compelled to its metric shape one
of Mrs. Browning's best-known poems.

The further interest lies in the lordly acknowledgment of the dedication
to him of "Luria," which Landor sent to Browning--lines pregnant with
the stateliest music of his old age:--

     "Shakespeare is not our poet but the world's,
      Therefore on him no speech! and brief for thee,
      Browning! Since Chaucer was alive and hale
      No man has walked along our roads with step
      So active, so enquiring eye, or tongue
      So varied in discourse. But warmer climes
      Give brighter plumage, stronger wing: the breeze
      Of Alpine heights thou playest with, borne on
      Beyond Sorrento and Amalfi, where
      The Siren waits thee, singing song for song."



CHAPTER V.


In my allusion to "Pippa Passes," towards the close of the preceding
chapter, as the most imperishable because the most nearly immaculate of
Browning's dramatic poems, I would not have it understood that its
pre-eminence is considered from the standpoint of technical achievement,
of art, merely. It seems to me, like all simple and beautiful things,
profound enough for the searching plummet of the most curious explorer
of the depths of life. It can be read, re-read, learned by heart, and
the more it is known the wider and more alluring are the avenues of
imaginative thought which it discloses. It has, more than any other long
composition by its author, that quality of symmetry, that _symmetria
prisca_ recorded of Leonardo da Vinci in the Latin epitaph of Platino
Piatto; and, as might be expected, its mental basis, what Rossetti
called fundamental brain-work, is as luminous, depth within depth, as
the morning air. By its side, the more obviously "profound" poems,
Bishop Blougram and the rest, are mere skilled dialectics.

The art that is most profound and most touching must ever be the
simplest. Whenever Æschylus, Dante, Shakspere, Milton, are at white heat
they require no exposition, but meditation only--the meditation akin to
the sentiment of little children who listen, intent upon every syllable,
and passionately eager of soul, to hearth-side tragedies. The play of
genius is like the movement of the sea. It has its solemn rhythm: its
joy, irradiate of the sun; its melancholy, in the patient moonlight: its
surge and turbulence under passing tempests: below all, the deep oceanic
music. There are, of course, many to whom the sea is but a waste of
water, at best useful as a highway and as the nursery of the winds and
rains. For them there is no hint "of the incommunicable dream" in the
curve of the rising wave, no murmur of the oceanic undertone in the
short leaping sounds, invisible things that laugh and clap their hands
for joy and are no more. To them it is but a desert: obscure,
imponderable, a weariness. The "profundity" of Browning, so dear a claim
in the eyes of the poet's fanatical admirers, exists, in their sense,
only in his inferior work. There is more profound insight in Blake's
Song of Innocence, "Piping down the valleys wild," or in Wordsworth's
line, "Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears," or in Keats'
single verse, "There is a budding morrow in midnight," or in this
quatrain on Poetry, by a young living poet--

     "She comes like the husht beauty of the night,
        But sees too deep for laughter;
      Her touch is a vibration and a light
        From worlds before and after--"

there is more "profundity" in any of these than in libraries of "Sludge
the Medium" literature. Mere hard thinking does not involve profundity,
any more than neurotic excitation involves spiritual ecstasy. _De
profundis,_ indeed, must the poet come: there must the deep rhythm of
life have electrified his "volatile essence" to a living rhythmic joy.
In this deep sense, and this only, the poet is born, not made. He may
learn to fashion anew that which he hath seen: the depth of his insight
depends upon the depth of his spiritual heritage. If wonder dwell not in
his eyes and soul there can be no "far ken" for him. Here it seems apt
to point out that Browning was the first writer of our day to indicate
this transmutive, this inspired and inspiring wonder-spirit, which is
the deepest motor in the evolution of our modern poetry.
Characteristically, he puts his utterance into the mouth of a dreamy
German student, the shadowy Schramm who is but metaphysics embodied,
metaphysics finding apt expression in tobacco-smoke: "Keep but ever
looking, whether with the body's eye or the mind's, and you will soon
find something to look on! Has a man done wondering at women?--there
follow men, dead and alive, to wonder at. Has he done wondering at
men?--there's God to wonder at: and the faculty of wonder may be, at the
same time, old and tired enough with respect to its first object, and
yet young and fresh sufficiently, so far as concerns its novel one."

This wonder is akin to that 'insanity' of the poet which is but
impassioned sanity. Plato sums the matter when he says, "He who, having
no touch of the Muse's madness in his soul, comes to the door and thinks
he will get into the temple by the help of Art--he, I say, and his
poetry, are not admitted."

In that same wood beyond Dulwich to which allusion has already been
made, the germinal motive of "Pippa Passes" flashed upon the poet. No
wonder this resort was for long one of his sacred places, and that he
lamented its disappearance as fervently as Ruskin bewailed the
encroachment of the ocean of bricks and mortar upon the wooded privacies
of Denmark Hill.

Save for a couple of brief visits abroad, Browning spent the years,
between his first appearance as a dramatic writer and his marriage, in
London and the neighbourhood. Occasionally he took long walks into the
country. One particular pleasure was to lie beside a hedge, or deep in
meadow-grasses, or under a tree, as circumstances and the mood
concurred, and there to give himself up so absolutely to the life of the
moment that even the shy birds would alight close by, and sometimes
venturesomely poise themselves on suspicious wings for a brief space
upon his recumbent body. I have heard him say that his faculty of
observation at that time would not have appeared despicable to a
Seminole or an Iroquois: he saw and watched everything, the bird on the
wing, the snail dragging its shell up the pendulous woodbine, the bee
adding to his golden treasure as he swung in the bells of the campanula,
the green fly darting hither and thither like an animated seedling, the
spider weaving her gossamer from twig to twig, the woodpecker heedfully
scrutinising the lichen on the gnarled oak-hole, the passage of the wind
through leaves or across grass, the motions and shadows of the clouds,
and so forth. These were his golden holidays. Much of the rest of his
time, when not passed in his room in his father's house, where he wrote
his dramas and early poems, and studied for hours daily, was spent in
the Library of the British Museum, in an endless curiosity into the more
or less unbeaten tracks of literature. These London experiences were
varied by whole days spent at the National Gallery, and in communion
with kindred spirits. At one time he had rooms, or rather a room, in the
immediate neighbourhood of the Strand, whither he could go when he
wished to be in town continuously for a time, or when he had any social
or theatrical engagement.

Browning's life at this period was distraught by more than one episode
of the heart. It would be strange were it otherwise. He had in no
ordinary degree a rich and sensuous nature, and his responsiveness was
so quick that the barriers of prudence were apt to be as shadowy to him
as to the author of "The Witch of Atlas." But he was the earnest student
for the most part, and, above all, the poet. His other pleasure, in his
happy vagrant days, was to join company with any tramps, gipsies, or
other wayfarers, and in good fellowship gain much knowledge of life that
was useful at a later time. Rustic entertainments, particularly
peripatetic "Theatres Royal," had a singular fascination for him, as for
that matter had rustic oratory, whether of the alehouse or the pulpit.
At one period he took the keenest interest in sectaries of all kinds:
and often he incurred a gentle reproof from his mother because of his
nomad propensities in search of "_pastors_ new." There was even a time
when he seriously deliberated whether he should not combine literature
and religious ministry, as Faraday combined evangelical fervour with
scientific enthusiasm. "'Twas a girl with eyes like two dreams of night"
that saved him from himself, and defrauded the Church Independent of a
stalwart orator.

It was, as already stated, while he strolled through Dulwich Wood one
day that the thought occurred to him which was to find development and
expression in "Pippa Passes." "The image flashed upon him," writes his
intimate friend, Mrs. Sutherland Orr, "of some one walking thus alone
through life; one apparently too obscure to leave a trace of his or her
passage, yet exercising a lasting though unconscious influence at every
step of it; and the image shaped itself into the little silk-winder of
Asolo, Felippa or Pippa."

It has always seemed to me a radical mistake to include "Pippa Passes"
among Browning's dramas. Not only is it absolutely unactable, but
essentially undramatic in the conventional sense. True dramatic writing
concerns itself fundamentally with the apt conjunction of events, and
the more nearly it approximates to the verity of life the more likely is
it to be of immediate appeal. There is a _vraie vérité_ which only the
poet, evolving from dramatic concepts rather than attempting to
concentrate these in a quick, moving verisimilitude, can attempt. The
passing hither and thither of Pippa, like a beneficent Fate, a wandering
chorus from a higher amid the discordant medley of a lower world,
changing the circumstances and even the natures of certain more or less
heedless listeners by the wild free lilt of her happy song of innocence,
is of this _vraie vérité_. It is so obviously true, spiritually, that
it is unreal in the commonplace of ordinary life. Its very effectiveness is
too apt for the dramatist, who can ill afford to tamper further with the
indifferent banalities of actual existence. The poet, unhampered by the
exigencies of dramatic realism, can safely, and artistically, achieve an
equally exact, even a higher verisimilitude, by means which are, or
should be, beyond adoption by the dramatist proper.

But over and above any 'nice discrimination,' "Pippa Passes" is simply a
poem, a lyrical masque with interspersed dramatic episodes, and
subsidiary interludes in prose. The suggestion recently made that it
should be acted is a wholly errant one. The finest part of it is
unrepresentable. The rest would consist merely of a series of tableaux,
with conversational accompaniment.

The opening scene, "the large mean airy chamber," where Pippa, the
little silk-winder from the mills at Asolo, springs from bed, on her New
Year's Day _festa_, and soliloquises as she dresses, is as true as it
is lovely when viewed through the rainbow glow of the poetic atmosphere:
but how could it succeed on the stage? It is not merely that the
monologue is too long: it is too inapt, in its poetic richness, for its
purpose. It is the poet, not Pippa, who evokes this sweet sunrise-music,
this strain of the "long blue solemn hours serenely flowing." The
dramatic poet may occupy himself with that deeper insight, and the wider
expression of it, which is properly altogether beyond the scope of the
playwright. In a word, he may irradiate his theme with the light that
never was on sea or land, nor will he thereby sacrifice aught of
essential truth: but his comrade must see to it that he is content with
the wide liberal air of the common day. The poetic alchemist may turn a
sword into pure gold: the playwright will concern himself with the due
usage of the weapon as we know it, and attribute to it no transcendent
value, no miraculous properties. What is permissible to Blake, painting
Adam and Eve among embowering roses and lilies, while the sun, moon, and
stars simultaneously shine, is impermissible to the portrait-painter or
the landscapist, who has to idealise actuality to the point only of
artistic realism, and not to transmute it at the outset from
happily-perceived concrete facts to a glorified abstract concept.

In this opening monologue the much-admired song, "All service ranks the
same with God," is no song at all, properly, but simply a beautiful
short poem. From the dramatist's point of view, could anything be more
shaped for disaster than the second of the two stanzas?--

     "Say not 'a small event!' Why 'small'?
      Costs it more pain than this, ye call
      A 'great event,' should come to pass,
      Than that? Untwine me from the mass
      Of deeds which make up life, one deed
      Power shall fall short in or exceed!"

The whole of this lovely prologue is the production of a dramatic poet,
not of a poet writing a drama. On the other hand, I cannot agree with
what I read somewhere recently--that Sebald's song, at the opening of
the most superb dramatic writing in the whole range of Victorian
literature, is, in the circumstances, wholly inappropriate. It seems to
me entirely consistent with the character of Ottima's reckless lover. He
is akin to the gallant in one of Dumas' romances, who lingered atop of
the wall of the prison whence he was escaping in order to whistle the
concluding bar of a blithe chanson of freedom. What is, dramatically,
disastrous in the instance of Mertoun singing "There's a woman like a
dewdrop," when he ought to be seeking Mildred's presence in profound
stealth and silence, is, dramatically, electrically startling in the
mouth of Sebald, among the geraniums of the shuttered shrub-house, where
he has passed the night with Ottima, while her murdered husband lies
stark in the adjoining room.

It must, however, be borne in mind that this thrilling dramatic effect
is fully experienced only in retrospection, or when there is knowledge
of what is to follow.

A conclusive objection to the drama as an actable play is that three of
the four main episodes are fragmentary. We know nothing of the fate of
Luigi: we can but surmise the future of Jules and Phené: we know not how
or when Monsignor will see Pippa righted. Ottima and Sebald reach a
higher level in voluntary death than they ever could have done in life.

It is quite unnecessary, here, to dwell upon this exquisite flower of
genius in detail. Every one who knows Browning at all knows "Pippa
Passes." Its lyrics have been unsurpassed, for birdlike spontaneity and
a rare high music, by any other Victorian poet: its poetic insight is
such as no other poet than the author of "The Ring and the Book" and
"The Inn Album" can equal. Its technique, moreover, is superb. From the
outset of the tremendous episode of Ottima and Sebald, there is a note
of tragic power which is almost overwhelming. Who has not known what
Jakob Boehme calls "the shudder of a divine excitement" when Luca's
murderer replies to his paramour,

                            "morning?
      It seems to me a night with a sun added."

How deep a note, again, is touched when Sebald exclaims, in allusion to
his murder of Luca, that he was so "wrought upon," though here, it may
be, there is an unconscious reminiscence of the tenser and more
culminative cry of Othello, "but being wrought, perplext in the
extreme." Still more profound a touch is that where Ottima, daring her
lover to the "one thing that must be done; you know what thing: Come in
and help to carry," says, with affected lightsomeness, "This dusty pane
might serve for looking-glass," and simultaneously exclaims, as she
throws them rejectingly from her nervous fingers, "Three, four--four
grey hairs!" then with an almost sublime coquetry of horror turns
abruptly to Sebald, saying with a voice striving vainly to be blithe--

                              "Is it so you said
      A plait of hair should wave across my neck?
      No--this way."

Who has not been moved by the tragic grandeur of the verse, as well as
by the dramatic intensity of the episode of the lovers' "crowning
night"?

     "_Ottima_.             The day of it too, Sebald!
      When heaven's pillars seemed o'erbowed with heat,
      Its black-blue canopy suffered descend
      Close on us both, to weigh down each to each,
      And smother up all life except our life.
      So lay we till the storm came.

      _Sebald_.                     How it came!

      _Ottima_. Buried in woods we lay, you recollect;
      Swift ran the searching tempest overhead;
      And ever and anon some bright white shaft
      Burned thro' the pine-tree roof, here burned and there,
      As if God's messenger thro' the close wood screen
      Plunged and replunged his weapon at a venture,
      Feeling for guilty thee and me: then broke
      The thunder like a whole sea overhead ----"

Surely there is nothing in all our literature more poignantly dramatic
than this first part of "Pippa Passes." The strains which Pippa sings
here and throughout are as pathetically fresh and free as a thrush's
song in the heart of a beleaguered city, and as with the same
unconsidered magic. There is something of the mavis-note, liquid falling
tones, caught up in a moment in joyous caprice, in

     "_Give her but a least excuse to love me!
      When--where----_"

No one of these songs, all acutely apt to the time and the occasion, has
a more overwhelming effect than that which interrupts Ottima and Sebald
at the perilous summit of their sin, beyond which lies utter darkness,
behind which is the narrow twilit backward way.

     "_Ottima_. Bind it thrice about my brow;
      Crown me your queen, your spirit's arbitress,
      Magnificent in sin. Say that!

      _Sebald_.                  I crown you
      My great white queen, my spirit's arbitress,
      Magnificent..

      [_From without is heard the voice of_ PIPPA _singing_--]

           The year's at the spring,
           And day's at the morn;
           Morning's at seven;
           The hill-side's dew-pearled;
           The lark's on the wing;
           The snail's on the thorn:
           God's in his heaven--
           All's right with the world! [PIPPA _passes_,

      _Sebald_. God's in his heaven! Do you hear that?
      Who spoke?"

This sweet voice of Pippa reaches the guilty lovers, reaches Luigi in
his tower, hesitating between love and patriotic duty, reaches Jules and
Phené when all the happiness of their unborn years trembles in the
balance, reaches the Prince of the Church just when his conscience is
sore beset by a seductive temptation, reaches one and all at a crucial
moment in the life of each. The ethical lesson of the whole poem is
summed up in

     "All service ranks the same with God--
      With God, whose puppets, best and worst,
      Are we: there is no last nor first,"

and in

     "God's in his heaven--
      All's right with the world!"

"With God there is no lust of Godhood," says Rossetti in "Hand and
Soul": _Und so ist der blaue Himmel grosser als jedes Gewölk darin, und
dauerhafter dazu_, meditates Jean Paul: "There can be nothing good, as
we know it, nor anything evil, as we know it, in the eye of the
Omnipresent and the Omniscient," utters the Oriental mystic.

It is interesting to know that many of the nature touches were
indirectly due to the poet's solitary rambles, by dawn, sundown, and
"dewy eve," in the wooded districts south of Dulwich, at Hatcham, and
upon Wimbledon Common, whither he was often wont to wander and to
ramble for hours, and where he composed one day the well-known lines
upon Shelley, with many another unrecorded impulse of song. Here, too,
it was, that Carlyle, riding for exercise, was stopped by 'a beautiful
youth,' who introduced himself as one of the philosopher's profoundest
admirers.

It was from the Dulwich wood that, one afternoon in March, he saw a
storm glorified by a double rainbow of extraordinary beauty; a memorable
vision, recorded in an utterance of Luigi to his mother: here too that,
in autumnal dusks, he saw many a crescent moon with "notched and burning
rim." He never forgot the bygone "sunsets and great stars" he saw in
those days of his fervid youth. Browning remarked once that the romance
of his life was in his own soul; and on another occasion I heard him
smilingly add, to some one's vague assertion that in Italy only was
there any romance left, "Ah, well, I should like to include poor old
Camberwell!" Perhaps he was thinking of his lines in "Pippa Passes," of
the days when that masterpiece came ebullient from the fount of his
genius--

     "May's warm slow yellow moonlit summer nights--
      Gone are they, but I have them in my soul!"

There is all the distinction between "Pippa Passes" and "Sordello" that
there is between the Venus of Milos and a gigantic Theban Sphinx. The
latter is, it is true, proportionate in its vastness; but the symmetry
of mere bulk is not the _symmetria prisca_ of ideal sculpture. I have
already alluded to "Sordello" as a derelict upon the ocean of poetry.
This, indeed, it still seems to me, notwithstanding the well-meaning
suasion of certain admirers of the poem who have hoped "I should do it
justice," thereby meaning that I should eulogise it as a masterpiece. It
is a gigantic effort, of a kind; so is the sustained throe of a
wrestling Titan. That the poem contains much which is beautiful is
undeniable, also that it is surcharged with winsome and profound
thoughts and a multitude of will-o'-the-wisp-like fancies which all
shape towards high thinking.

But it is monotonous as one of the enormous American inland seas to a
lover of the ocean, to whom the salt brine is as the breath of delight.
The fatal facility of the heroic couplet to lapse into diffuseness, has,
coupled with a warped anxiety for irreducible concision, been Browning's
ruin here.

There is one charge even yet too frequently made against "Sordello,"
that of "obscurity." Its interest may be found remote, its treatment
verbose, its intricacies puzzling to those unaccustomed to excursions
from the familiar highways of old usage, but its motive thought is not
obscure. It is a moonlit plain compared with the "_silva oscura_" of the
"Divina Commedia."

Surely this question of Browning's obscurity was expelled to the Limbo
of Dead Stupidities when Mr. Swinburne, in periods as resplendent as the
whirling wheels of Phoebus Apollo's chariot, wrote his famous incidental
passage in his "Essay on Chapman."

Too probably, in the dim disintegrating future which will reduce all our
o'ertoppling extremes, "Sordello" will be as little read as "The Faerie
Queene," and, similarly, only for the gleam of the quenchless lamps amid
its long deserted alleys and stately avenues. Sadly enough, for to poets
it will always be an unforgotten land--a continent with
amaranth-haunted Vales of Tempe, where, as Spenser says in one of the
Aeclogues of "The Shepherd's Calendar," they will there oftentimes
"sitten as drouned in dreme."

It has, for those who are not repelled, a charm all its own. I know of
no other poem in the language which is at once so wearisome and so
seductive. How can one explain paradoxes? There is a charm, or there is
none: that is what it amounts to, for each individual. _Tutti ga, i so
gusti, e mi go i mii_--"everybody follows his taste, and I follow mine,"
as the Venetian saying, quoted by Browning at the head of his Rawdon
Brown sonnet, has it.

All that need be known concerning the framework of "Sordello," and of
the real Sordello himself, will be found in the various Browning
hand-books, in Mr. Nettleship's and other dissertations, and,
particularly, in Mrs. Ball's most circumspect and able historical essay.
It is sufficient here to say that while the Sordello and Palma of the
poet are traceable in the Cunizza and the strange comet-like Sordello of
the Italian and Provençal Chronicles (who has his secure immortality, by
Dante set forth in leonine guise--_a guisa di leon quando si posa_--in
the "Purgatorio"), both these are the most shadowy of prototypes. The
Sordello of Browning is a typical poetic soul: the narrative of the
incidents in the development of this soul is adapted to the historical
setting furnished by the aforesaid Chronicles. Sordello is a far more
profound study than Aprile in "Paracelsus," in whom, however, he is
obviously foreshadowed. The radical flaw in his nature is that indicated
by Goethe of Heine, that "he had no heart." The poem is the narrative
of his transcendent aspirations, and more or less futile accomplishment.

It would be vain to attempt here any adequate excerption of lines of
singular beauty. Readers familiar with the poem will recall passage
after passage--among which there is probably none more widely known than
the grandiose sunset lines:--

                "That autumn eve was stilled:
      A last remains of sunset dimly burned
      O'er the far forests,--like a torch-flame turned
      By the wind back upon its bearer's hand
      In one long flare of crimson; as a brand,
      The woods beneath lay black." ...

What haunting lines there are, every here and there--such as those of
Palma, with her golden hair like spilt sunbeams, or those on Elys, with
her

                          "Few fine locks
      Coloured like honey oozed from topmost rocks
      Sun-blanched the livelong summer," ...

or these,

                                "Day by day
      New pollen on the lily-petal grows,
      And still more labyrinthine buds the rose----"

or, once more,

                            "A touch divine--
      And the sealed eyeball owns the mystic rod;
      Visibly through his garden walketh God----"

But, though sorely tempted, I must not quote further, save only the
concluding lines of the unparalleled and impassioned address to Dante:--

                       "Dante, pacer of the shore
      Where glutted hell disgorgeth filthiest gloom,
      Unbitten by its whirring sulphur-spume,
      Or whence the grieved and obscure waters slope
      Into a darkness quieted by hope;
      Plucker of amaranths grown beneath God's eye
      In gracious twilights where his chosen lie----"
             *       *       *       *       *

It is a fair land, for those who have lingered in its byways: but, alas,
a troubled tide of strange metres, of desperate rhythms, of wild
conjunctions, of panic-stricken collocations, oftentimes overwhelms it.
"Sordello" grew under the poet's fashioning till, like the magic vapour
of the Arabian wizard, it passed beyond his control, "voluminously
vast."

It is not the truest admirers of what is good in it who will refuse to
smile at the miseries of conscientious but baffled readers. Who can fail
to sympathise with Douglas Jerrold when, slowly convalescent from a
serious illness, he found among some new books sent him by a friend a
copy of "Sordello." Thomas Powell, writing in 1849, has chronicled the
episode. A few lines, he says, put Jerrold in a state of alarm. Sentence
after sentence brought no consecutive thought to his brain. At last the
idea occurred to him that in his illness his mental faculties had been
wrecked. The perspiration rolled from his forehead, and smiting his head
he sank back on the sofa, crying, "O God, I _am_ an idiot!" A little
later, adds Powell, when Jerrold's wife and sister entered, he thrust
"Sordello" into their hands, demanding what they thought of it. He
watched them intently while they read. When at last Mrs. Jerrold
remarked, "I don't understand what this man means; it is gibberish,"
her delighted husband gave a sigh of relief and exclaimed, "Thank God, I
am _not_ an idiot!"

Many friends of Browning will remember his recounting this incident
almost in these very words, and his enjoyment therein: though he would
never admit justification for such puzzlement.

But more illustrious personages than Douglas Jerrold were puzzled by the
poem. Lord Tennyson manfully tackled it, but he is reported to have
admitted in bitterness of spirit: "There were only two lines in it that
I understood, and they were both lies; they were the opening and closing
lines, '_Who will may hear Sordello's story told_,' and '_Who would
has heard Sordello's story told!_'" Carlyle was equally candid: "My
wife," he writes, "has read through 'Sordello' without being able to make
out whether 'Sordello' was a man, or a city, or a book."

In an article on this poem, in a French magazine, M. Odysse Barot quotes
a passage where the poet says "God gave man two faculties"--and adds, "I
wish while He was about it (_pendant qu'il était en train_) God had
supplied another--viz., the power of understanding Mr. Browning."

And who does not remember the sad experience of generous and delightful
Gilead P. Beck, in "The Golden Butterfly": how, after "Fifine at the
Fair," frightful symptoms set in, till in despair he took up "Red Cotton
Nightcap Country," and fell for hours into a dull comatose misery. "His
eyes were bloodshot, his hair was pushed in disorder about his head, his
cheeks were flushed, his hands were trembling, the nerves in his face
were twitching. Then he arose, and solemnly cursed Robert Browning. And
then he took all his volumes, and, disposing them carefully in the
fireplace, set light to them. 'I wish,' he said, 'that I could put the
poet there too.'" One other anecdote of the kind was often, with evident
humorous appreciation, recounted by the poet. On his introduction to the
Chinese Ambassador, as a "brother-poet," he asked that dignitary what
kind of poetic expression he particularly affected. The great man
deliberated, and then replied that his poetry might be defined as
"enigmatic." Browning at once admitted his fraternal kinship.

That he was himself aware of the shortcomings of "Sordello" as a work of
art is not disputable. In 1863, Mrs. Orr says, he considered the
advisability of "rewriting it in a more transparent manner, but
concluded that the labour would be disproportionate to the result, and
contented himself with summarising the contents of each 'book' in a
continuous heading, which represents the main thread of the story."

The essential manliness of Browning is evident in the famous dedication
to the French critic Milsand, who was among his early admirers. "My own
faults of expression were many; but with care for a man or book such
would be surmounted, and without it what avails the faultlessness of
either? I blame nobody, least of all myself, who did my best then and
since."

Whatever be the fate of "Sordello," one thing pertinent to it shall
survive: the memorable sentence in the dedicatory preface--"My stress
lay on the incidents in the development of a soul: little else is worth
study."

The poem has disastrous faults, but is a magnificent failure. "Vast as
night," to borrow a simile from Victor Hugo, but, like night,
innumerously starred.



CHAPTER VI.


"Pippa Passes," "The Ring and the Book," "The Inn Album," these are
Browning's three great dramatic poems, as distinct from his poetic
plays. All are dramas in the exact sense, though the three I have named
are dramas for mental and not for positive presentation. Each reader
must embody for himself the images projected on his brain by the
electric quality of the poet's genius: within the ken of his imagination
he may perceive scenes not less moving, incidents not less thrilling,
complexities of motive and action not less intricately involved, than
upon the conventional stage.

The first is a drama of an idea, the second of the immediate and remote
consequences of a single act, the third of the tyranny of the passions.

I understand the general opinion among lovers and earnest students of
Browning's poetry to be that the highest peaks of his genius tower from
the vast tableland of "The Ring and the Book"; that thenceforth there
was declension. But Browning is not to be measured by common estimates.
It is easy to indicate, in the instances of many poets, just where the
music reaches its sweetest, its noblest, just where the extreme glow
wanes, just where the first shadows come leaping like greyhounds, or
steal almost imperceptibly from slow-closing horizons.

But with Browning, as with Shakspere, as with Victor Hugo, it is
difficult for our vision to penetrate the glow irradiating the supreme
heights of accomplishment. Like Balzac, like Shakspere again, he has
revealed to us a territory so vast, that while we bow down before the
sun westering athwart distant Andes, the gold of sunrise is already
flashing behind us, upon the shoulder of Atlas.

It is certain that "The Ring and the Book" is unique. Even Goethe's
masterpiece had its forerunners, as in Marlowe's "Faustus," and its
ambitious offspring, as in Bailey's "Festus." But is it a work of art?
Here is the only vital question which at present concerns us.

It is altogether useless to urge, as so many admirers of Browning do,
that "The Ring and the Book" is as full of beauties as the sea is of
waves. Undeniably it is, having been written in the poet's maturity.
But, to keep to the simile, has this epical poem the unity of ocean?
Does it consist of separate seas, or is it really one, as the wastes
which wash from Arctic to Antarctic, through zones temperate and
equatorial, are yet one and indivisible? If it have not this unity it is
still a stupendous accomplishment, but it is not a work of art. And
though art is but the handmaiden of genius, what student of Comparative
Literature will deny that nothing has survived the ruining breath of
Time--not any intellectual greatness nor any spiritual beauty, that is
not clad in perfection, be it absolute or relative--for relative
perfection there is, despite the apparent paradox.

The mere bulk of "The Ring and the Book" is, in point of art, nothing.
One day, after the publication of this poem, Carlyle hailed the author
with enthusiastic praise in which lurked damning irony: "What a
wonderful fellow you are, Browning: you have written a whole series of
'books' about what could be summed up in a newspaper paragraph!" Here,
Carlyle was at once right and wrong. The theme, looked at
dispassionately, is unworthy of the monument in which it is entombed for
eternity. But the poet looked upon the central incident as the inventive
mechanician regards the tiny pivot remote amid the intricate maze of his
machinery. Here, as elsewhere, Browning's real subject is too often
confounded with the accidents of the subject. His triumph is not that he
has created so huge a literary monument, but rather that,
notwithstanding its bulk, he has made it shapely and impressive. Stress
has frequently been laid on the greatness of the achievement in the
writing of twelve long poems in the exposition of one theme. Again, in
point of art, what significance has this? None. There is no reason why
it should not have been in nine or eleven parts; no reason why, having
been demonstrated in twelve, it should not have been expanded through
fifteen or twenty. Poetry ever looks askance at that gipsy-cousin of
hers, "Tour-de-force."

Of the twelve parts--occupying in all about twenty-one thousand
lines--the most notable as poetry are those which deal with the plea of
the implicated priest, Caponsacchi, with the meditation of the Pope, and
with the pathetic utterance of Pompilia. It is not a dramatic poem in
the sense that "Pippa Passes" is, for its ten Books (the first and
twelfth are respectively introductory and appendical) are monologues.
"The Ring and the Book," in a word, consists, besides the two
extraneous parts, of ten monodramas, which are as ten huge facets to a
poetic Koh-i-Noor.

The square little Italian volume, in its yellow parchment and with its
heavy type, which has now found a haven in Oxford, was picked up by
Browning for a _lira_ (about eightpence), on a second-hand bookstall
in the Piazza San Lorenzo at Florence, one June day, 1865. Therein is set
forth, in full detail, all the particulars of the murder of his wife
Pompilia, for her supposed adultery, by a certain Count Guido
Franceschini; and of that noble's trial, sentence, and doom. It is much
the same subject matter as underlies the dramas of Webster, Ford, and
other Elizabethan poets, but subtlety of insight rather than intensity
of emotion and situation distinguishes the Victorian dramatist from his
predecessors. The story fascinated Browning, who, having in this book
and elsewhere mastered all the details, conceived the idea of writing
the history of the crime in a series of monodramatic revelations on the
part of the individuals more or less directly concerned. The more he
considered the plan the more it shaped itself to a great accomplishment,
and early in 1866 he began the most ambitious work of his life.

An enthusiastic admirer has spoken of the poem as "one of the most
extraordinary feats of which we have any record in literature." But
poetry is not mental gymnastics. All this insistence upon "extraordinary
feats" is to be deprecated: it presents the poet as Hercules, not as
Apollo: in a word, it is not criticism. The story is one of vulgar fraud
and crime, romantic to us only because the incidents occurred in Italy,
in the picturesque Rome and Arezzo of two centuries ago. The old
bourgeois couple, Pietro and Violante Comparini, manage to wed their
thirteen-year-old putative daughter to a middle-aged noble of Arezzo.
They expect the exquisite repute of an aristocratic connection, and
other tangible advantages. He, impoverished as he is, looks for a
splendid dowry. No one thinks of the child-wife, Pompilia. She becomes
the scapegoat, when the gross selfishness of the contracting parties
stands revealed. Count Guido has a genius for domestic tyranny. Pompilia
suffers. When she is about to become a mother she determines to leave
her husband, whom she now dreads as well as dislikes. Since the child is
to be the inheritor of her parents' wealth, she will not leave it to the
tender mercies of Count Guido. A young priest, a canon of Arezzo,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi, helps her to escape. In due course she gives birth
to a son. She has scarce time to learn the full sweetness of her
maternity ere she is done to death like a trampled flower. Guido, who
has held himself thrall to an imperative patience, till his hold upon
the child's dowry should be secure, hires four assassins, and in the
darkness of night betakes himself to Rome. He and his accomplices enter
the house of Pietro Comparini and his wife, and, not content with
slaying them, also murders Pompilia. But they are discovered, and Guido
is caught red-handed. Pompilia's evidence alone is damnatory, for she
was not slain outright, and lingers long enough to tell her story.
Franceschini is not foiled yet, however. His plea is that he simply
avenged the wrong done to him by his wife's adulterous connection with
the priest Caponsacchi. But even in the Rome of that evil day justice
was not extinct. Guido's motive is proved to be false; he himself is
condemned to death. An appeal to the Pope is futile. Finally, the
wretched man pays the too merciful penalty of his villainy.

There is nothing grand, nothing noble here: at most only a tragic pathos
in the fate of the innocent child-wife Pompilia. It is clear, therefore,
that the greatness of "The Ring and the Book" must depend even less upon
its subject, its motive, than upon its being "an extraordinary feat" in
the gymnastics of verse.

In a sense, Browning's longest work is akin to that of his wife. Both
"The Ring and the Book" and "Aurora Leigh" are metrical novels. The one
is discursive in episodes and spiritual experiences: the other in
intricacies of evidence. But there the parallel ends. If "The Ring and
the Book" were deflowered of its blooms of poetry and rendered into a
prose narrative, it might interest a barrister "getting up" a criminal
case, but it would be much inferior to, say, "The Moonstone"; its author
would be insignificant beside the ingenious M. Gaboriau. The
extraordinariness of the feat would then be but indifferently commented
upon.

As neither its subject, nor its extraordinariness as a feat, nor its
method, will withstand a searching examination, we must endeavour to
discern if transcendent poetic merit be discoverable in the treatment.
To arrive at a just estimate it is needful to free the mind not merely
from preconceptions, but from that niggardliness of insight which can
perceive only the minor flaws and shortcomings almost inevitable to any
vast literary achievement, and be blind to the superb merits. One must
prepare oneself to listen to a new musician, with mind and body alert
to the novel harmonies, and oblivious of what other musicians have done
or refrained from doing.

"The Ring and the Book," as I have said, was not begun in the year of
its imagining.[15] It is necessary to anticipate the biographical
narrative, and state that the finding of the parchment-booklet happened
in the fourth year of the poet's widowerhood, for his happy married
period of less than fifteen years came to a close in 1861.

[Footnote 15: The title is explained as follows:--"The story of the
Franceschini case, as Mr. Browning relates it, forms a circle of
evidence to its one central truth; and this circle was constructed in
the manner in which the worker in Etruscan gold prepares the ornamental
circlet which will be worn as a ring. The pure metal is too soft to bear
hammer or file; it must be mixed with alloy to gain the necessary power
of resistance. The ring once formed and embossed, the alloy is
disengaged, and a pure gold ornament remains. Mr. Browning's material
was also inadequate to his purpose, though from a different cause. It
was too _hard_. It was 'pure crude fact,' secreted from the fluid
being of the men and women whose experience it had formed. In its existing
state it would have broken up under the artistic attempt to weld and
round it. He supplied an alloy, the alloy of fancy, or--as he also calls
it--of one fact more: this fact being the echo of those past existences
awakened within his own. He breathed into the dead record the breath of
his own life; and when his ring of evidence had re-formed, first in
elastic then in solid strength, here delicately incised, there broadly
stamped with human thought and passion, he could cast fancy aside, and
bid his readers recognise in what he set before them unadulterated human
truth."--_Mrs. Orr_.]

On the afternoon of the day on which he made his purchase he read the
book from end to end. "A Spirit laughed and leapt through every limb."
The midsummer heats had caused thunder-clouds to congregate above
Vallombrosa and the whole valley of Arno: and the air in Florence was
painfully sultry. The poet stood by himself on his terrace at Casa
Guidi, and as he watched the fireflies wandering from the enclosed
gardens, and the sheet-lightnings quivering through the heated
atmosphere, his mind was busy in refashioning the old tale of loveless
marriage and crime.

                                            "Beneath
      I' the street, quick shown by openings of the sky
      When flame fell silently from cloud to cloud,
      Richer than that gold snow Jove rained on Rhodes,
      The townsmen walked by twos and threes, and talked,
      Drinking the blackness in default of air--
      A busy human sense beneath my feet:
      While in and out the terrace-plants, and round
      One branch of tall datura, waxed and waned
      The lamp-fly lured there, wanting the white flower."

Scene by scene was re-enacted, though of course only in certain
essential details. The final food for the imagination was found in a
pamphlet of which he came into possession of in London, where several
important matters were given which had no place in the volume he had
picked up in Florence.

Much, far the greater part, of the first "book" is--interesting! It is
mere verse. As verse, even, it is often so involved, so musicless
occasionally, so banal now and again, so inartistic in colour as well as
in form, that one would, having apprehended its explanatory interest,
pass on without regret, were it not for the noble close--the passionate,
out-welling lines to "the truest poet I have ever known," the beautiful
soul who had given her all to him, whom, but four years before he wrote
these words, he had laid to rest among the cypresses and ilexes of the
old Florentine garden of the dead.

     "O lyric Love, half angel and half bird
      And all a wonder and a wild desire,--
      Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun,
      Took sanctuary within the holier blue,
      And sang a kindred soul out to his face,--
      Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart--
      When the first summons from the darkling earth
      Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue,
      And bared them of the glory--to drop down,
      To toil for man, to suffer or to die,--
      This is the same voice: can thy soul know change?
      Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help!
      Never may I commence my song, my due
      To God who best taught song by gift of thee,
      Except, with bent head and beseeching hand--
      That still, despite the distance and the dark,
      What was, again may be; some interchange
      Of grace, some splendour once thy very thought,
      Some benediction anciently thy smile:
      --Never conclude, but raising hand and head
      Thither where eyes, that cannot reach, yet yearn
      For all hope, all sustainment, all reward,
      Their utmost up and on,--so blessing back
      In those thy realms of help, that heaven thy home,
      Some whiteness which, I judge, thy face makes proud,
      Some wanness where, I think, thy foot may fall!"
             *       *       *       *       *

Thereafter, for close upon five thousand words, the poem descends again
to the level of a versified tale. It is saved from ruin by subtlety of
intellect, striking dramatic verisimilitude, an extraordinary vigour,
and occasional lines of real poetry. Retrospectively, apart from the
interest, often strained to the utmost, most readers, I fancy, will
recall with lingering pleasure only the opening of "The Other Half
Rome," the description of Pompilia, "with the patient brow and
lamentable smile," with flower-like body, in white hospital array--a
child with eyes of infinite pathos, "whether a flower or weed, ruined:
who did it shall account to Christ."

In these three introductory books we have the view of the matter taken
by those who side with Count Guido, of those who are all for Pompilia,
and of the "superior person," impartial because superciliously
indifferent, though sufficiently interested to "opine."

In the ensuing three books a much higher poetic level is reached. In the
first, Guido speaks; in the second, Caponsacchi; the third, that
lustrous opal set midway in the "Ring," is Pompilia's narrative. Here
the three protagonists live and move before our eyes. The sixth book may
be said to be the heart of the whole poem. The extreme intellectual
subtlety of Guido's plea stands quite unrivalled in poetic literature.
In comparing it, for its poetic beauty, with other sections, the reader
must bear in mind that in a poem of a dramatic nature the dramatic
proprieties must be dominant. It would be obviously inappropriate to
make Count Guido Franceschini speak with the dignity of the Pope, with
the exquisite pathos of Pompilia, with the ardour, like suppressed
molten lava, of Caponsacchi. The self-defence of the latter is a superb
piece of dramatic writing. Once or twice the flaming volcano of his
heart bursts upward uncontrollably, as when he cries--

     "No, sirs, I cannot have the lady dead!
      That erect form, flashing brow, fulgurant eye,
      That voice immortal (oh, that voice of hers!)--
      That vision of the pale electric sword
      Angels go armed with--that was not the last
      O' the lady. Come, I see through it, you find,
      Know the manoeuvre! Also herself said
      I had saved her: do you dare say she spoke false?
      Let me see for myself if it be so!"

Than the poignant pathos and beauty of "Pompilia," there is nothing more
exquisite in our literature. It stands alone. Here at last we have the
poet who is the Lancelot to Shakspere's Arthur. It takes a supreme
effort of genius to be as simple as a child. How marvellously, after the
almost sublime hypocrisy of the end of Guido's defence, after the
beautiful dignity of Caponsacchi's closing words, culminating abruptly
in the heart-wrung cry, "O great, just, good God! miserable me!"--how
marvellously comes upon the reader the delicate, tearful tenderness of
the innocent child-wife--

     "I am just seventeen years and five months old,
      And, if I lived one day more, three full weeks;
      'Tis writ so in the church's register,
      Lorenzo in Lucina, all my names
      At length, so many names for one poor child,
      --Francesca Camilla Vittoria Angela
      Pompilia Comparini--laughable!"

Only two writers of our age have depicted women with that imaginative
insight which is at once more comprehensive and more illuminative than
women's own invision of themselves--Robert Browning and George Meredith,
but not even the latter, most subtle and delicate of all analysts of the
tragi-comedy of human life, has surpassed "Pompilia." The meeting and
the swift uprising of love between Lucy and Richard, in "The Ordeal of
Richard Feveral," is, it is true, within the highest reach of prose
romance: but between even the loftiest height of prose romance and the
altitudes of poetry, there is an impassable gulf.

And as it is with simplicity so it is with tenderness. Only the sternly
strong can be supremely tender. And infinitely tender is the poetry of
"Pompilia"--

     "Oh, how good God is that my babe was born,
      --Better than born, baptised and hid away
      Before this happened, safe from being hurt!
      That had been sin God could not well forgive:
      _He was too young to smile and save himself_----"

or the lines which tell how as a little girl she gave her roses not to
the spick and span Madonna of the Church, but to the poor, dilapidated
Virgin, "at our street-corner in a lonely niche," with the babe that had
sat upon her knees broken off: or that passage, with its exquisite
naïveté, where Pompilia relates why she called her boy Gaetano, because
she wished "no old name for sorrow's sake," so chose the latest addition
to the saints, elected only twenty-five years before--

                          "So, carefuller, perhaps,
      To guard a namesake than those old saints grow,
      Tired out by this time,--see my own five saints!"

or these--

                            "Thus, all my life,
      I touch a fairy thing that fades and fades.
      --Even to my babe! I thought, when he was born,
      Something began for once that would not end,
      Nor change into a laugh at me, but stay
      For evermore, eternally quite mine----"

once more--

                           "One cannot judge
      Of what has been the ill or well of life
      The day that one is dying....
      Now it is over, and no danger more ...
      To me at least was never evening yet
      But seemed far beautifuller than its day,
      For past is past----"

Lovely, again, are the lines in which she speaks of the first "thrill of
dawn's suffusion through her dark," the "light of the unborn face sent
long before:" or those unique lines of the starved soul's Spring (ll.
1512-27): or those, of the birth of her little one--

     "A whole long fortnight; in a life like mine
      A fortnight filled with bliss is long and much.
      All women are not mothers of a boy....
      I never realised God's birth before--
      How he grew likest God in being born.
      This time I felt like Mary, had my babe
      Lying a little on my breast like hers."

When she has weariedly, yet with surpassing triumph, sighed out her last
words--

     "God stooping shows sufficient of His light
      For us i' the dark to rise by. And I rise----"

who does not realise that to life's end he shall not forget that
plaintive voice, so poignantly sweet, that ineffable dying smile, those
wistful eyes with so much less of earth than heaven?

But the two succeeding "books" are more tiresome and more unnecessary
than the most inferior of the three opening sections--the first of the
two, indeed, is intolerably wearisome, a desolate boulder-strewn gorge
after the sweet air and sunlit summits of "Caponsacchi" and "Pompilia."
In the next "book" Innocent XII. is revealed. All this section has a
lofty serenity, unsurpassed in its kind. It must be read from first to
last for its full effect, but I may excerpt one passage, the high-water
mark of modern blank-verse:--

     "For the main criminal I have no hope
      Except in such a suddenness of fate.
      I stood at Naples once, a night so dark
      I could have scarce conjectured there was earth
      Anywhere, sky or sea or world at all:
      But the night's black was burst through by a blaze--
      Thunder struck blow on blow, earth groaned and bore,
      Through her whole length of mountain visible:
      There lay the city thick and plain with spires,
      And, like a ghost disshrouded, white the sea.
      So may the truth be flashed out by one blow,
      And Guido see, one instant, and be saved."

Finally comes that throbbing, terrible last "book" where the murderer
finds himself brought to bay and knows that all is lost. Who can forget
its unparalleled close, when the wolf-like Guido suddenly, in his
supreme agony, transcends his lost manhood in one despairing cry--

     "Abate,--Cardinal,--Christ,--Maria,--God, ...
      Pompilia, will you let them murder me?"

Lastly, the Epilogue rounds off the tale. But is this Epilogue
necessary? Surely the close should have come with the words just quoted?

It will not be after a first perusal that the reader will be able to
arrive at a definite conviction. No individual or collective estimate of
to-day can be accepted as final. Those who come after us, perhaps not
the next generation, nor the next again, will see "The Ring and the
Book" free of all the manifold and complex considerations which confuse
our judgment. Meanwhile, each can only speak for himself. To me it seems
that "The Ring and the Book" is, regarded as an artistic whole, the most
magnificent failure in our literature. It enshrines poetry which no
other than our greatest could have written; it has depths to which many
of far inferior power have not descended. Surely the poem must be judged
by the balance of its success and failure? It is in no presumptuous
spirit, but out of my profound admiration of this long-loved and
often-read, this superb poem, that I, for one, wish it comprised but the
Prologue, the Plea of Guido, "Caponsacchi," "Pompilia," "The Pope," and
Guido's last Defence. I cannot help thinking that this is the form in
which it will be read in the years to come. Thus circumscribed, it seems
to me to be rounded and complete, a great work of art void of the dross,
the mere _débris_ which the true artist discards. But as it is, in all
its lordly poetic strength and flagging impulse, is it not, after all,
the true climacteric of Browning's genius?

"The Inn Album," a dramatic poem of extraordinary power, has so much
more markedly the defects of his qualities that I take it to be, at the
utmost, the poise of the first gradual refluence. This analogy of the
tidal ebb and flow may be observed with singular aptness in Browning's
life-work--the tide that first moved shoreward in the loveliness of
"Pauline," and, with "long withdrawing roar," ebbed in slow, just
perceptible lapse to the poet's penultimate volume. As for "Asolando," I
would rather regard it as the gathering of a new wave--nay, again
rather, as the deep sound of ocean which the outward surge has reached.

But for myself I do not accept "The Inn Album" as the first hesitant
swing of the tide. I seem to hear the resilient undertone all through
the long slow poise of "The Ring and the Book." Where then is the full
splendour and rush of the tide, where its culminating reach and power?

I should say in "Men and Women"; and by "Men and Women" I mean not
merely the poems comprised in the collection so entitled, but all in the
"Dramatic Romances," "Lyrics," and the "Dramatis Personæ," all the short
pieces of a certain intensity of note and quality of power, to be found
in the later volumes, from "Pacchiarotto" to "Asolando."

And this because, in the words of the poet himself when speaking of
Shelley, I prefer to look for the highest attainment, not simply the
high--and, seeing it, to hold by it. Yet I am not oblivious of the mass
of Browning's lofty achievement, "to be known enduringly among men,"--an
achievement, even on its secondary level, so high, that around its
imperfect proportions, "the most elaborated productions of ordinary art
must arrange themselves as inferior illustrations."

How am I to convey concisely that which it would take a volume to do
adequately--an idea of the richest efflorescence of Browning's genius in
these unfading blooms which we will agree to include in "Men and
Women"? How better--certainly it would be impossible to be more
succinct--than by the enumeration of the contents of an imagined volume,
to be called, say "Transcripts from Life"?

It would be to some extent, but not rigidly, arranged chronologically.
It would begin with that masterpiece of poetic concision, where a whole
tragedy is burned in upon the brain in fifty-six lines, "My Last
Duchess." Then would follow "In a Gondola," that haunting lyrical drama
_in petto_, where the lover is stabbed to death as his heart is
beating against that of his mistress; "Cristina," with its keen
introspection; those delightfully stirring pieces, the "Cavalier-Tunes,"
"Through the Metidja to Abd-el-Kadr," and "The Pied Piper of Hamelin";
"The Flower's Name"; "The Flight of the Duchess"; "The Tomb at St.
Praxed's," the poem which educed Ruskin's enthusiastic praise for its
marvellous apprehension of the spirit of the Middle Ages; "Pictor Ignotus,"
and "The Lost Leader." But as there is not space for individual detail, and
as many of the more important are spoken of elsewhere in this volume, I
must take the reader's acquaintance with the poems for granted. So,
following those first mentioned, there would come "Home Thoughts from
Abroad"; "Home Thoughts from the Sea"; "The Confessional"; "The
Heretic's Tragedy"; "Earth's Immortalities"; "Meeting at Night: Parting
at Morning"; "Saul"; "Karshish"; "A Death in the Desert"; "Rabbi Ben
Ezra"; "A Grammarian's Funeral"; "Love Among the Ruins"; _Song_, "Nay
but you"; "A Lover's Quarrel"; "Evelyn Hope"; "A Woman's Last Word";
"Fra Lippo Lippi"; "By the Fireside"; "Any Wife to Any Husband"; "A
Serenade at the Villa"; "My Star"; "A Pretty Woman"; "A Light Woman";
"Love in a Life"; "Life in a Love"; "The Last Ride Together"; "A Toccata
of Galuppi's"; "Master Hugues of Saxe Gotha"; "Abt Vogler";
"Memorabilia"; "Andrea Del Sarto"; "Before"; "After"; "In Three Days";
"In a Year"; "Old Pictures in Florence"; "De Gustibus"; "Women and
Roses"; "The Guardian Angel"; "Cleon"; "Two in the Campagna"; "One Way
of Love"; "Another Way of Love"; "Misconceptions"; "May and Death";
"James Lee's Wife"; "Dîs Aliter Visum"; "Too Late"; "Confessions";
"Prospice"; "Youth and Art"; "A Face"; "A Likeness"; "Apparent Failure."
Epilogue to Part I.--"O Lyric Voice," etc., from end of First Part of
"The Ring and the Book." Part II.--"Hervé Riel"; "Amphibian"; "Epilogue
to Fifine"; "Pisgah Sights"; "Natural Magic"; "Magical Nature";
"Bifurcation"; "Numpholeptos"; "Appearances"; "St. Martin's Summer"; "A
Forgiveness"; Epilogue to Pacchiarotto volume; Prologue to "La Saisiaz";
Prologue to "Two Poets of Croisic"; "Epilogue"; "Pheidippides";
"Halbert and Hob"; "Ivàn Ivànovitch"; "Echetlos"; "Muléykeh"; "Pan and
Luna"; "Touch him ne'er so lightly"; Prologue to "Jocoseria"; "Cristina
and Monaldeschi"; "Mary Wollstonecraft and Fuseli"; "Ixion"; "Never the
Time and the Place"; _Song_, "Round us the wild creatures ";
_Song_, "Wish no word unspoken "; _Song_, "You groped your way";
_Song_:, "Man I am"; _Song_, "Once I saw"; "Verse-making";
"Not with my Soul Love"; "Ask not one least word of praise"; "Why from
the world"; "The Round of Day" (Pts. 9, 10, 11, 12 of Gérard de Lairesse);
Prologue to "Asolando"; "Rosny"; "Now"; "Poetics"; "Summum Bonum";
"A Pearl"; "Speculative"; "Inapprehensiveness"; "The Lady and the Painter;"
"Beatrice Signorini"; "Imperante Augusto"; "Rephan"; "Reverie";
Epilogue to "Asolando" (in all, 122).

But having drawn up this imaginary anthology, possibly with faults of
commission and probably with worse errors of omission, I should like to
take the reader into my confidence concerning a certain volume,
originally compiled for my own pleasure, though not without thought of
one or two dear kinsmen of a scattered Brotherhood--a volume half the
size of the projected Transcripts, and rare as that star in the tip of
the moon's horn of which Coleridge speaks.

_Flower o' the Vine_, so it is called, has for double-motto these two
lines from the Epilogue to the Pacchiarotto volume--

     "Man's thoughts and loves and hates!
      Earth is my vineyard, these grew there--"

and these words, already quoted, from the Shelley Essay, "I prefer to
look for the highest attainment, not simply the high."

1. From "Pauline"[16]--i. "Sun-treader, life and light be thine for
ever!" 2. The Dawn of Beauty; 3. Andromeda; 4. Morning. II. "Heap
Cassia, Sandal-buds," etc. (song from "Paracelsus"). III. "Over the Sea
our Galleys went" (song from "Paracelsus"). IV. The Joy of the World
("Paracelsus").[17] V. From "Sordello"--1. Sunset;[18] 2. The Fugitive
Ethiop;[19] 3. Dante.[20] VI. Ottima and Sebald (Pt. i., "Pippa
Passes"). VII. Jules and Phene (Pt. ii., "Pippa Passes"). VIII. My Last
Duchess. IX. In a Gondola. X. Home Thoughts from Abroad (i. and ii.).
XI. Meeting at Night: Parting at Morning. XII. A Grammarian's Funeral.
XIII. Saul. XIV. Rabbi Ben Ezra. XV. Love among the Ruins. XVI. Evelyn
Hope. XVII. My Star. XVIII. A Toccata of Galuppi's. XIX. Abt Vogler. XX.
Memorabilia. XXI. Andrea del Sarto. XXI. Two in the Campagna. XXII.
James Lee's Wife. XXIII. Prospice. XXIV. From "The Ring and the
Book"--1. O Lyric Love (The Invocation: 26 lines); 2. Caponsacchi (ll.
2069 to 2103); 3. Pompilia (ll. 181 to 205); 4. Pompilia (ll. 1771 to
1845); 5. The Pope (ll. 2017 to 2228); 6. Count Guido (Book XI., ll.
2407 to 2427). XXV. Prologue to "La Saisiaz." XXVI. Prologue to "Two
Poets of Croisic." XXVII. Epilogue to "Two Poets of Croisic." XXVIII.
Never the Time and Place. XXIX. "Round us the Wild Creatures," etc.
(song from "Ferishtah's Fancies"). XXX. "The Walk" (Pts. ix., x., xi.,
xii., of "Gérard de Lairesse.") XXXI. "One word more" (To E.B.B.).[21]

[Footnote 16: The first, from the line quoted, extends through 55
lines--"To see thee for a moment as thou art." No. 2 consists of the
xviii ll. beginning, "They came to me in my first dawn of life." No. 3,
the xi ll. of the Andromeda picture. No. 4, the lix ll. beginning,
"Night, and one single ridge of narrow path" (to "delight").]

[Footnote 17: No. IV. comprises the xxix ll. beginning, "The centre fire
heaves underneath the earth," down to "ancient rapture."]

[Footnote 18: No. V. The vi. ll. beginning, "That autumn ere has stilled."]

[Footnote 19: The xxii ll. beginning, "As, shall I say, some Ethiop."]

[Footnote 20: The xxix ll. beginning, "For he,--for he."]

[Footnote 21: To these XXXI selections there must now be added "Now,"
"Summum Bonum," "Reverie" and the "Epilogue," from "Asolando."]

It is here--I will not say in _Flower o' the Vine_, nor even venture
to restrictively affirm it of that larger and fuller compilation we have
agreed, for the moment, to call "Transcripts from Life"--it is here, in
the worthiest poems of Browning's most poetic period, that, it seems to
me, his highest greatness is to be sought. In these "Men and Women" he
is, in modern times, an unparalleled dramatic poet. The influence he
exercises through these, and the incalculably cumulative influence which
will leaven many generations to come, is not to be looked for in
individuals only, but in the whole thought of the age, which he has
moulded to new form, animated anew, and to which he has imparted a fresh
stimulus. For this a deep debt is due to Robert Browning. But over and
above this shaping force, this manipulative power upon character and
thought, he has enriched our language, our literature, with a new wealth
of poetic diction, has added to it new symbols, has enabled us to inhale
a more liberal if an unfamiliar air, has, above all, raised us to a
fresh standpoint, a standpoint involving our construction of a new
definition.

Here, at least, we are on assured ground: here, at any rate, we realise
the scope and quality of his genius. But, let me hasten to add, he, at
his highest, not being of those who would make Imagination the handmaid
of the Understanding, has given us also a Dorado of pure poetry, of
priceless worth. Tried by the severest tests, not merely of substance,
but of form, not merely of the melody of high thinking, but of rare and
potent verbal music, the larger number of his "Men and Women" poems are
as treasurable acquisitions, in kind, to our literature, as the shorter
poems of Milton, of Shelley, of Keats, and of Tennyson. But once again,
and finally, let me repeat that his primary importance--not greatness,
but importance--is in having forced us to take up a novel standpoint,
involving our construction of a new definition.



CHAPTER VII.


There are, in literary history, few _scènes de la vie privée_ more
affecting than that of the greatest of English poetesses, in the
maturity of her first poetic period, lying, like a fading flower, for
hours, for days continuously, in a darkened room in a London house. So
ill was Miss Elizabeth Barrett, early in the second half of the forties,
that few friends, herself even, could venture to hope for a single one
of those Springs which she previsioned so longingly. To us, looking back
at this period, in the light of what we know of a story of singular
beauty, there is an added pathos in the circumstance that, as the singer
of so many exquisite songs lay on her invalid's sofa, dreaming of things
which, as she thought, might never be, all that was loveliest in her
life was fast approaching--though, like all joy, not without an equally
unlooked-for sorrow. "I lived with visions for my company, instead of
men and women ... nor thought to know a sweeter music than they played
to me."

This is not the occasion, and if it were, there would still be
imperative need for extreme concision, whereon to dwell upon the early
life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The particulars of it are familiar
to all who love English literature: for there is, in truth, not much to
tell--not much, at least, that can well be told. It must suffice, here,
that Miss Barrett was born on the 4th of March 1809, and so was the
senior, by three years, of Robert Browning.

By 1820, in remote Herefordshire, the not yet eleven-year-old poetess
had already "cried aloud on obsolete Muses from childish lips" in
various "nascent odes, epics, and didactics." At this time, she tells
us, the Greeks were her demi-gods, and she dreamt much of Agamemnon. In
the same year, in suburban Camberwell, a little boy was often wont to
listen eagerly to his father's narrative of the same hero, and to all
the moving tale of Troy. It is significant that these two children, so
far apart, both with the light of the future upon their brows, grew up
in familiarity with something of the antique beauty. It was a lifelong
joy to both, that "serene air of Greece." Many an hour of gloom was
charmed away by it for the poetess who translated the "Prometheus Bound"
of Æschylus, and wrote "The Dead Pan": many a happy day and memorable
night were spent in that "beloved environment" by the poet who wrote
"Balaustion's Adventure" and translated the "Agamemnon."

The chief sorrow of her life, however, occurred in her thirty-first
year. She never quite recovered from the shock of her well-loved brother
Edward's tragic death, a mysterious disaster, for the foundering of the
little yacht _La Belle Sauvage_ is almost as inexplicable as that of
the _Ariel_ in the Spezzian waters beyond Lerici. Not only through the
ensuing winter, but often in the dreams of after years, "the sound of
the waves rang in my ears like the moans of one dying."

The removal of the Barrett household to Gloucester Place, in Western
London, was a great event. Here, invalid though she was, she could see
friends occasionally and get new books constantly. Her name was well
known and became widely familiar when her "Cry of the Children" rang
like a clarion throughout the country. The poem was founded upon an
official report by Richard Hengist Horne, the friend whom some years
previously she had won in correspondence, and with whom she had become
so intimate, though without personal acquaintance, that she had agreed
to write a drama in collaboration with him, to be called "Psyche
Apocalypté," and to be modelled on "Greek instead of modern tragedy."

Horne--a poet of genius, and a dramatist of remarkable power--was one of
the truest friends she ever had, and, so far as her literary life is
concerned, came next in influence only to her poet-husband. Among the
friends she saw much of in the early forties was a distant "cousin,"
John Kenyon--a jovial, genial, gracious, and altogether delightful man,
who acted the part of Providence to many troubled souls, and, in
particular, was "a fairy godfather" to Elizabeth Barrett and to "the
other poet," as he used to call Browning. It was to Mr. Kenyon--"Kenyon,
with the face of a Bendectine monk, but the most jovial of good
fellows," as a friend has recorded of him; "Kenyon the Magnificent," as
he was called by Browning--that Miss Barrett owed her first introduction
to the poetry of her future husband.

Browning's poetry had for her an immediate appeal. With sure insight she
discerned the special quality of the poetic wealth of the "Bells and
Pomegranates," among which she then and always cared most for the
penultimate volume, the "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." Two years before
she met the author she had written, in "Lady Geraldine's Courtship"--

     "Or from Browning some 'Pomegranate' which, if cut deep down
           the middle,
      Shows a heart within blood-tinctured, of a veined humanity."

A little earlier she had even, unwittingly on either side, been a
collaborateur with "the author of 'Paracelsus.'" She gave Horne much aid
in the preparation of his "New Spirit of the Age," and he has himself
told us "that the mottoes, which are singularly happy and appropriate,
were for the most part supplied by Miss Barrett and Robert Browning,
then unknown to each other." One thing and another drew them nearer and
nearer. Now it was a poem, now a novel expression, now a rare sympathy.

An intermittent correspondence ensued, and both poets became anxious to
know each other. "We artists--how well praise agrees with us," as Balzac
says.

A few months later, in 1846, they came to know one another personally.
The story of their first meeting, which has received a wide acceptance,
is apocryphal. The meeting was brought about by Kenyon. This common
friend had been a schoolfellow of Browning's father, and so it was
natural that he took a more than ordinary interest in the brilliant
young poet, perhaps all the more so that the reluctant tide of
popularity which had promised to set in with such unparalleled sweep and
weight had since experienced a steady ebb.

And so the fates brought these two together. The younger was already far
the stronger, but he had an unbounded admiration for Miss Barrett. To
her, he was even then the chief living poet. She perceived his ultimate
greatness; as early as 1845 had "a full faith in him as poet and
prophet."

As Browning admitted to a friend, the love between them was almost
instantaneous, a thing of the eyes, mind, and heart--each striving for
supremacy, till all were gratified equally in a common joy. They had one
bond of sterling union: passion for the art to which both had devoted
their lives.

To those who love love for love's sake, who _se passionnent pour la
passion_, as Prosper Merimée says, there could scarce be a more sacred
spot in London than that fiftieth house in unattractive Wimpole Street,
where these two poets first met each other; and where, in the darkened
room, "Love quivered, an invisible flame." Elizabeth Barrett was indeed,
in her own words, "as sweet as Spring, as Ocean deep." She, too, was
always, as she wrote of Harriet Martineau, in a hopeless anguish of body
and serene triumph of spirit. As George Sand says, of one of her
fictitious personages, she was an "artist to the backbone; that is, one
who feels life with frightful intensity." To this too keen intensity of
feeling must be attributed something of that longing for repose, that
deep craving for rest from what is too exciting from within, which made
her affirm the exquisite appeal to her of such Biblical passages as "The
Lord of peace Himself give you peace," and "He giveth His Beloved
Sleep," which, as she says in one of her numerous letters to Miss
Mitford, "strike upon the disquieted earth with such a _foreignness_
of heavenly music."

Nor was he whom she loved as a man, as well as revered as a poet,
unworthy of her. His was the robustest poetic intellect of the century;
his the serenest outlook; his, almost the sole unfaltering footsteps
along the perilous ways of speculative thought. A fair life, irradiate
with fairer ideals, conserved his native integrity from that incongruity
between practice and precept so commonly exemplified. Comely in all
respects, with his black-brown wavy hair, finely-cut features, ready and
winsome smile, alert luminous eyes, quick, spontaneous, expressive
gestures--an inclination of the head, a lift of the eyebrows, a
modulation of the lips, an assertive or deprecatory wave of the hand,
conveying so much--and a voice at that time of a singular penetrating
sweetness, he was, even without that light of the future upon his
forehead which she was so swift to discern, a man to captivate any woman
of kindred nature and sympathies. Over and above these advantages, he
possessed a rare quality of physical magnetism. By virtue of this he
could either attract irresistibly or strongly repel.

I have several times heard people state that a hand-shake from Browning
was like an electric shock. Truly enough, it did seem as though his
sterling nature rang in his genially dominant voice, and, again, as
though his voice transmitted instantaneous waves of an electric current
through every nerve of what, for want of a better phrase, I must
perforce call his intensely alive hand. I remember once how a lady,
afflicted with nerves, in the dubious enjoyment of her first experience
of a "literary afternoon," rose hurriedly and, in reply to her hostess'
inquiry as to her motive, explained that she could not sit any longer
beside the elderly gentleman who was talking to Mrs. So-and-so, as his
near presence made her quiver all over, "like a mild attack of
pins-and-needles," as she phrased it. She was chagrined to learn that
she had been discomposed not by 'a too exuberant financier,' as she had
surmised, but by, as "Waring" called Browning, the "subtlest assertor of
the Soul in song."

With the same quick insight as she had perceived Robert Browning's
poetic greatness, Elizabeth Barrett discerned his personal worth. He was
essentially manly in all respects: so manly, that many frail souls of
either sex philandered about his over-robustness. From the twilight
gloom of an æesthetic clique came a small voice belittling the great man
as "quite too 'loud,' painfully excessive." Browning was manly enough to
laugh at all ghoulish cries of any kind whatsoever. Once in a way the
lion would look round and by a raised breath make the jackals wriggle;
as when the poet wrote to a correspondent, who had drawn his attention
to certain abusive personalities in some review or newspaper: "Dear
Sir--I am sure you mean very kindly, but I have had too long an
experience of the inability of the human goose to do other than cackle
when benevolent and hiss when malicious, and no amount of goose
criticism shall make me lift a heel against what waddles behind it."

Herself one whose happiest experiences were in dreamland, Miss Barrett
was keenly susceptible to the strong humanity of Browning's song, nor
less keenly attracted by his strenuous and fearless outlook, his poetic
practicality, and even by his bluntness of insight in certain matters.
It was no slight thing to her that she could, in Mr. Lowell's words, say
of herself and of him--

     "We, who believe life's bases rest
      Beyond the probe of chemic test."

She rejoiced, despite her own love for remote imaginings, to know that
he was of those who (to quote again from the same fine poet)

     "... wasted not their breath in schemes
      Of what man might be in some bubble-sphere,
      As if he must be other than he seems
      Because he was not what he should be here,
      Postponing Time's slow proof to petulant dreams;"

that, in a word, while 'he could believe the promise of to-morrow,' he
was at the same time supremely conscious of 'the wondrous meaning of
to-day.'

Both, from their youth onward, had travelled 'on trails divine of
unimagined laws.' It was sufficient for her that he kept his eyes fixed
on the goal beyond the way he followed: it did not matter that he was
blind to the dim adumbrations of novel byways, of strange Calvarys by
the wayside, so often visible to her.

Their first meeting was speedily followed by a second--by a third--and
then? When we know not, but ere long, each found that happiness was in
the bestowal of the other.

The secret was for some time kept absolutely private. From the first Mr.
Barrett had been jealous of his beloved daughter's new friend. He did
not care much for the man, he with all the prejudices and baneful
conservatism of the slave-owning planter, the other with ardent
democratic sentiments and a detestation of all forms of iniquity. Nor
did he understand the poet. He could read his daughter's flowing verse
with pleasure, but there was to his ear a mere jumble of sound and sense
in much of the work of the author of "The Tomb at St. Praxed's" and
"Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis." Of a selfishly genial but also of a
violent and often sullen nature, he resented more and more any
friendship which threatened to loosen the chain of affection and
association binding his daughter to himself.

Both the lovers believed that an immediate marriage would, from every
point of view, be best. It was not advisable that it should be long
delayed, if to happen at all, for the health of Miss Barrett was so poor
that another winter in London might, probably would, mean irretrievable
harm.

Some time before this she had become acquainted with Mrs. Jameson, the
eminent art-writer. The regard, which quickly developed to an
affectionate esteem, was mutual. One September morning Mrs. Jameson
called, and after having dwelt on the gloom and peril of another winter
in London, dwelt on the magic of Italy, and concluded by inviting Miss
Barrett to accompany her in her own imminent departure for abroad. The
poet was touched and grateful, but, pointing to her invalid sofa, and
gently emphasising her enfeebled health and other difficult
circumstances, excused herself from acceptance of Mrs. Jameson's
generous offer.

In the "Memoirs of Mrs. Jameson" that lady's niece, Mrs. Macpherson,
relates how on the eve of her and her aunt's departure, a little note of
farewell arrived from Miss Barrett, "deploring the writer's inability
to come in person and bid her friend good-bye, as she was 'forced to be
satisfied with the sofa and silence.'"

It is easy to understand, therefore, with what amazement Mrs. Jameson,
shortly after her arrival in Paris, received a letter from Robert
Browning to the effect that he _and his wife_ had just come from
London, on their way to Italy. "My aunt's surprise was something almost
comical," writes Mrs. Macpherson, "so startling and entirely unexpected
was the news." And duly married indeed the two poets had been!

From the moment the matter was mooted to Mr. Barrett, he evinced his
repugnance to the idea. To him even the most foolish assertion of his
own was a sacred pledge. He called it "pride in his word": others
recognised it as the very arrogance of obstinacy. He refused to
countenance the marriage in any way, refused to have Browning's name
mentioned in his presence, and even when his daughter told him that she
had definitely made up her mind, he flatly declined to acknowledge as
even possible what was indeed very imminent.

Nor did he ever step down from his ridiculous pinnacle of wounded
self-love. Favourite daughter though she had been, Mr. Barrett never
forgave her, held no communication with her even when she became a
mother, and did not mention her in his will. It is needless to say
anything more upon this subject. What Mr. and Mrs. Browning were
invariably reticent upon can well be passed over with mere mention of
the facts.

At the last moment there had been great hurry and confusion. But
nevertheless, on the forenoon of the 12th of September 1846, Robert
Browning and Elizabeth Barrett had unceremoniously stepped into St.
Maryle-bone Church and there been married. So secret had the matter been
kept that even such old friends as Richard Hengist Horne and Mr. Kenyon
were in ignorance of the event for some time after it had actually
occurred.

Mrs. Jameson made all haste to the hotel where the Brownings were, and
ultimately persuaded them to leave the hotel for the quieter _pension_
in the Rue Ville d'Evêque, where she and Mrs. Macpherson were staying.
Thereafter it was agreed that, as soon as a fortnight had gone by, they
should journey to Italy together.

Truly enough, as Mrs. Macpherson says, the journey must have been
"enchanting, made in such companionship." Before departing from Paris,
Mrs. Jameson, in writing to a friend, alluded to her unexpected
companions, and added, "Both excellent: but God help them! for I know
not how the two poet heads and poet hearts will get on through this
prosaic world." This kindly friend was not the only person who
experienced similar doubts. One acquaintance, no other than the
Poet-Laureate, Wordsworth, added: "So, Robert Browning and Elizabeth
Barrett have gone off together! Well, I hope they may understand each
other--nobody else could!"

As a matter of fact they did, and to such good intent that they seem
never to have had one hour of dissatisfaction, never one jar in the
music of their lives.

What a happy wayfaring through France that must have been! The
travelling had to be slow, and with frequent interruptions, on account
of Mrs. Browning's health: yet she steadily improved, and was almost
from the start able to take more exercise, and to be longer in the open
air than had for long been her wont. They passed southward, and after
some novel experiences in _diligences_, reached Avignon, where they
rested for a couple of days. Thence a little expedition, a poetical
pilgrimage, was made to Vaucluse, sacred to the memory of Petrarch and
Laura. There, as Mrs. Macpherson has told us, at the very source of the
"chiare, fresche e dolce acque," Browning took his wife up in his arms,
and, carrying her across through the shallow curling waters, seated her
on a rock that rose throne-like in the middle of the stream. Thus,
indeed, did love and poetry take a new possession of the spot
immortalised by Petrarch's loving fancy.

Three weeks passed happily before Pisa, the Brownings' destination, was
reached. But even then the friends were unwilling to part, and Mrs.
Jameson and her niece remained in the deserted old city for a score of
days longer. So wonderful was the change wrought in Mrs. Browning by
happiness, and by all the enfranchisement her marriage meant for her,
that, as her friend wrote to Miss Mitford, "she is not merely improved
but transformed." In the new sunshine which had come into her life, she
blossomed like a flower-bud long delayed by gloom and chill. Her heart,
in truth, was like a lark when wafted skyward by the first spring-wind.

At last to her there had come something of that peace she had longed
for, and though, in the joy of her new life, her genius "like an Arab
bird slept floating in the wind," it was with that restful hush which
precedes the creative storm. There is something deeply pathetic in her
conscious joy. So little actual experience of life had been hers that in
many respects she was as a child: and she had all the child's yearning
for those unsullied hours that never come when once they are missed. But
it was not till love unfastened the inner chambers of her heart and
brain that she realised to the full, what she had often doubted, how
supreme a thing mere life is. It was in some such mood that she wrote
the lovely forty-second of the "Sonnets from the Portuguese," closing
thus--

                            "Let us stay
      Rather on earth, Belovèd,--where the unfit
      Contrarious moods of men recoil away
      And isolate pure spirits, and permit
      A place to stand and love in for a day,
      With darkness and the death-hour rounding it."

As for Browning's love towards his wife, nothing more tender and
chivalrous has ever been told of ideal lovers in an ideal romance. It is
so beautiful a story that one often prefers it to the sweetest or
loftiest poem that came from the lips of either. That love knew no
soilure in the passage of the years. Like the flame of oriental legend,
it was perennially incandescent though fed not otherwise than by
sunlight and moonshine. If it alone survive, it may resolve the poetic
fame of either into one imperishable, luminous ray of white light: as
the uttered song fused in the deathless passion of Sappho gleams
star-like down the centuries from the high steep of Leucadoe.

It was here, in Pisa, I have been told on indubitable authority, that
Browning first saw in manuscript those "Sonnets from the Portuguese"
which no poet of Portugal had ever written, which no man could have
written, which no other woman than his wife could have composed. From
the time when it had first dawned upon her that love was to be hers, and
that the laurel of poetry was not to be her sole coronal, she had found
expression for her exquisite trouble in these short poems, which she
thinly disguised from 'inner publicity' when she issued them as "from
the Portuguese."

It is pleasant to think of the shy delight with which the delicate,
flower-like, almost ethereal poet-wife, in those memorable Pisan
evenings--with the wind blowing soundingly from the hills of Carrara, or
quiescent in a deep autumnal calm broken only by the slow wash of Arno
along the sea-mossed long-deserted quays--showed her love-poems to her
husband. With what love and pride he must have read those outpourings of
the most sensitive and beautiful nature he had ever met, vials of lovely
thought and lovelier emotion, all stored against the coming of a golden
day.

     "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
      I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
      My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
      For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
      I love thee to the level of every day's
      Most quiet need, by sun and candle light.
      I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
      I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
      I love thee with the passion put to use
      In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
      I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
      With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
      Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
      I shall but love thee better after Death!"

Even such heart-music as this cannot have thrilled him more than these
two exquisite lines, with their truth almost too poignant to permit of
serene joy--

     "I yield the grave for thy sake, and exchange
      My near sweet view of heaven for earth with thee!"

Their Pisan home was amid sacred associations. It was situate in an old
palazzo built by Vasari, within sight of the Leaning Tower and the
Duomo. There, in absolute seclusion, they wrote and planned. Once and
again they made a pilgrimage to the Lanfranchi Palace "to walk in the
footsteps of Byron and Shelley": occasionally they went to Vespers in
the Duomo, and listened, rapt, to the music wandering spirally through
the vast solitary building: once they were fortunate in hearing the
impressive musical mass for the dead, in the Campo Santo. They were even
reminded often of their distant friend Horne, for every time they
crossed one of the chief piazzas they saw the statue of Cosimo de Medici
looking down upon them.

In this beautiful old city, so full of repose as it lies "asleep in the
sun," Mrs. Browning's health almost leapt, so swift was her advance
towards vigour. "She is getting better every day," wrote her husband,
"stronger, better wonderfully, and beyond all our hopes."

That happy first winter they passed "in the most secluded manner,
reading Vasari, and dreaming dreams of seeing Venice in the summer." But
early in April, when the swallows had flown inland above the pines of
Viareggio, and Shelley's favourite little Aziola was hooting silverly
among the hollow vales of Carrara, the two poets prepared to leave what
the frailer of them called "this perch of Pisa."

But with all its charm and happy associations, the little city was dull.
"Even human faces divine are quite _rococo_ with me," Mrs. Browning
wrote to a friend. The change to Florence was a welcome one to both.
Browning had already been there, but to his wife it was as the
fulfilment of a dream. They did not at first go to that romantic old
palace which will be for ever sociate with the author of "Casa Guidi
Windows," but found accommodation in a more central locality.

When the June heats came, husband and wife both declared for Ancona, the
picturesque little town which dreams out upon the Adriatic. But though
so close to the sea, Ancona is in summer time almost insufferably hot.
Instead of finding it cooler than Florence, it was as though they had
leapt right into a cauldron. Alluding to it months later, Mrs. Browning
wrote to Horne, "The heat was just the fiercest fire of your
imagination, and I _seethe_ to think of it at this distance."

It was a memorable journey all the same. They went to Ravenna, and at
four o'clock one morning stood by Dante's tomb, moved deeply by the
pathetic inscription and by all the associations it evoked. All along
the coast from Ravenna to Loretto was new ground to both, and endlessly
fascinating; in the passing and repassing of the Apennines they had
'wonderful visions of beauty and glory.' At Ancona itself,
notwithstanding the heat, they spent a happy season. Here Browning wrote
one of the loveliest of his short poems, "The Guardian Angel," which had
its origin in Guercino's picture in the chapel at Fano. By the allusions
in the sixth and eighth stanzas it is clear that the poem was inscribed
to Alfred Domett, the poet's well-loved friend immortalised as "Waring."
Doubtless it was written for no other reason than the urgency of song,
for in it are the loving allusions to his wife, "_my_ angel with me
too," and "my love is here." Three times they went to the chapel, he
tells us in the seventh stanza, to drink in to their souls' content the
beauty of "dear Guercino's" picture. Browning has rarely uttered the
purely personal note of his inner life. It is this that affords a
peculiar value to "The Guardian Angel," over and above its technical
beauty. In the concluding lines of the stanzas I am about to quote he
gives the supreme expression to what was his deepest faith, his
profoundest song-motive.

     "I would not look up thither past thy head
          Because the door opes, like that child, I know,
      For I should have thy gracious face instead,
          Thou bird of God! And wilt thou bend me low
      Like him, and lay, like his, my hands together,
      And lift them up to pray, and gently tether
          Me, as thy lamb there, with thy garment's spread?

             *       *       *       *       *

     "How soon all worldly wrong would be repaired!
          I think how I should view the earth and skies
      And sea, when once again my brow was bared
          After thy healing, with such different eyes.
      O world, as God has made it! All is beauty:
      And knowing this, is love, and love is duty.
          What further may be sought for or declared?"

After the Adriatic coast was left, they hesitated as to returning to
Florence, the doctors having laid such stress on the climatic
suitability of Pisa for Mrs. Browning. But she felt so sure of herself
in her new strength that it was decided to adventure upon at least one
winter in the queen-city. They were fortunate in obtaining a residence
in the old palace called Casa Guidi, in the Via Maggiore, over against
the church of San Felice, and here, with a few brief intervals, they
lived till death separated them.

On the little terrace outside there was more noble verse fashioned in
the artist's creative silence than we can ever be aware of: but what a
sacred place it must ever be for the lover of poetry! There, one ominous
sultry eve, Browning, brooding over the story of a bygone Roman crime,
foreshadowed "The Ring and the Book," and there, in the many years he
dwelt in Casa Guidi, he wrote some of his finer shorter poems. There,
also, "Aurora Leigh" was born, and many a lyric fresh with the dew of
genius. Who has not looked at the old sunworn house and failed to think
of that night when each square window of San Felice was aglow with
festival lights, and when the summer lightnings fell silently in broad
flame from cloud to cloud: or has failed to hear, down the narrow
street, a little child go singing, 'neath Casa Guidi windows by the
church, _O bella libertà, O bella!_

Better even than these, for happy dwelling upon, is the poem the two
poets lived. Morning and day were full of work, study, or that
pleasurable idleness which for the artist is so often his best
inspiration. Here, on the little terrace, they used to sit together, or
walk slowly to and fro, in conversation that was only less eloquent than
silence. Here one day they received a letter from Horne. There is
nothing of particular note in Mrs. Browning's reply, and yet there are
not a few of her poems we would miss rather than these chance
words--delicate outlines left for the reader to fill in: "We were
reading your letter, together, on our little terrace--walking up and
down reading it--I mean the letter to Robert--and then, at the end,
suddenly turning, lo, just at the edge of the stones, just between the
balustrades, and already fluttering in a breath of wind and about to fly
away over San Felice's church, we caught a glimpse of the feather of a
note to E.B.B. How near we were to the loss of it, to be sure!"

Happier still must have been the quiet evenings in late spring and
summer, when, the one shrouded against possible chills, the other
bare-headed and with loosened coat, walked slowly to and fro in the
dark, conscious of "a busy human sense" below, but solitary on their
balcony beyond the lamplit room.

     "While in and out the terrace-plants, and round
      One branch of tall datura, waxed and waned
      The lamp-fly lured there, wanting the white flower."

An American friend has put on record his impressions of the two poets,
and their home at this time. He had been called upon by Browning, and by
him invited to take tea at Casa Guidi the same evening. There the
visitor saw, "seated at the tea-table of the great room of the palace in
which they were living, a very small, very slight woman, with very long
curls drooping forward, almost across the eyes, hanging to the bosom,
and quite concealing the pale, small face, from which the piercing
inquiring eyes looked out sensitively at the stranger. Rising from her
chair, she put out cordially the thin white hand of an invalid, and in
a few moments they were pleasantly chatting, while the husband strode up
and down the room, joining in the conversation with a vigour, humour,
eagerness, and affluence of curious lore which, with his trenchant
thought and subtle sympathy, make him one of the most charming and
inspiring of companions."

In the autumn the same friend, joined by one or two other acquaintances,
went with the Brownings to Vallombrosa for a couple of days, greatly to
Mrs. Browning's delight, for whom the name had had a peculiar
fascination ever since she had first encountered it in Milton.

She was conveyed up the steep way towards the monastery in a great
basket, without wheels, drawn by two oxen: though, as she tells Miss
Mitford, she did not get into the monastery after all, she and her maid
being turned away by the monks "for the sin of womanhood." She was too
much of an invalid to climb the steeper heights, but loved to lie under
the great chestnuts upon the hill-slopes near the convent. At twilight
they went to the little convent-chapel, and there Browning sat down at
the organ and played some of those older melodies he loved so well.

It is, strangely enough, from Americans that we have the best account of
the Brownings in their life at Casa Guidi: from R.H. Stoddart, Bayard
Taylor, Nathaniel Hawthorne, George Stillman Hillard, and W.W. Story. I
can find room, however, for but one excerpt:--

     "Those who have known Casa Guidi as it was, could hardly enter the
      loved rooms now, and speak above a whisper. They who have been so
      favoured, can never forget the square anteroom, with its great
      picture and pianoforte, at which the boy Browning passed many an
      hour--the little dining-room covered with tapestry, and where hung
      medallions of Tennyson, Carlyle, and Robert Browning--the long
      room filled with plaster-casts and studies, which was Mrs.
      Browning's retreat--and, dearest of all, the large drawing-room
      where _she_ always sat. It opens upon a balcony filled with
      plants, and looks out upon the iron-grey church of Santa Felice.
      There was something about this room that seemed to make it a
      proper and especial haunt for poets. The dark shadows and subdued
      light gave it a dreary look, which was enhanced by the
      tapestry-covered walls, and the old pictures of saints that looked
      out sadly from their carved frames of black wood. Large bookcases
      constructed of specimens of Florentine carving selected by Mr.
      Browning were brimming over with wise-looking books. Tables were
      covered with more gaily-bound volumes, the gifts of brother
      authors. Dante's grave profile, a cast of Keats's face and brow
      taken after death, a pen-and-ink sketch of Tennyson, the genial
      face of John Kenyon, Mrs. Browning's good friend and relative,
      little paintings of the boy Browning, all attracted the eye in
      turn, and gave rise to a thousand musings. A quaint mirror,
      easy-chairs and sofas, and a hundred nothings that always add an
      indescribable charm, were all massed in this room. But the glory
      of all, and that which sanctified all, was seated in a low
      arm-chair near the door. A small table, strewn with
      writing-materials, books, and newspapers, was always by her
      side.... After her death, her husband had a careful water-colour
      drawing made of this room, which has been engraved more than once.
      It still hangs in his drawing-room, where the mirror and one of
      the quaint chairs above named still are. The low arm-chair and
      small table are in Browning's study--with his father's desk, on
      which he has written all his poems."--(_W.W. Story_.)


To Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne, Mr. Hillard, and Mr. Story, in particular, we
are indebted for several delightful glimpses into the home-life of the
two poets. We can see Mrs. Browning in her "ideal chamber," neither a
library nor a sitting-room, but a happy blending of both, with the
numerous old paintings in antique Florentine frames, easy-chairs and
lounges, carved bookcases crammed with books in many languages,
bric-a-brac in any quantity, but always artistic, flowers everywhere,
and herself the frailest flower of all.

Mr. Hillard speaks of the happiness of the Brownings' home and their
union as perfect: he, full of manly power, she, the type of the most
sensitive and delicate womanhood. This much-esteemed friend was
fascinated by Mrs. Browning. Again and again he alludes to her exceeding
spirituality: "She is a soul of fire enclosed in a shell of pearl:" her
frame "the transparent veil for a celestial and mortal spirit:" and
those fine words which prove that he too was of the brotherhood of the
poets, "Her tremulous voice often flutters over her words like the flame
of a dying candle over the wick."



CHAPTER VIII.


With the flower-tide of spring in 1849 came a new happiness to the two
poets: the son who was born on the 9th of March. The boy was called
Robert Wiedemann Barrett, the second name, in remembrance of Browning's
much-loved mother, having been substituted for the "Sarianna" wherewith
the child, if a girl, was to have been christened. Thereafter their "own
young Florentine" was an endless joy and pride to both: and he was
doubly loved by his father for his having brought a renewal of life to
her who bore him.

That autumn they went to the country, to the neighbourhood of
Vallombrosa, and then to the Bagni di Lucca. There they wandered content
in chestnut-forests, and gathered grapes at the vintage.

Early in the year Browning's "Poetical Works" were published in two
volumes. Some of the most beautiful of his shorter poems are to be found
therein. What a new note is struck throughout, what range of subject
there is! Among them all, are there any more treasurable than two of the
simplest, "Home Thoughts from Abroad" and "Night and Morning"?

     "Oh, to be in England
      Now that April's there,
      And whoever wakes in England
      Sees, some morning, unaware,
      That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
      Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
      While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
      In England--now!

      And after April, when May follows,
      And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
      Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
      Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
      Blossoms and dewdrops--at the bent spray's edge--
      That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
      Lest you should think he never could recapture
      The first fine careless rapture!"

A more significant note is struck in "Meeting at Night" and "Parting at
Morning."

                  MEETING.

                     I.

      The grey sea and the long black land;
      And the yellow half-moon large and low;
      And the startled little waves that leap
      In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
      As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
      And quench its speed i' the slushy sand.

                    II.

      Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
      Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
      A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
      And blue spurt of a lighted match,
      And a voice lass loud, through its joys and fears,
      Than the two hearts beating each to each!

                  PARTING.

      Round the cape of a sudden came the sea,
      And the sun looked over the mountain's rim:
      And straight was a path of gold for him,
      And the need of a world of men for me.

The following winter, when they were again at their Florentine home,
Browning wrote his "Christmas Eve and Easter Day," that remarkable
_apologia_ for Christianity, and close-reasoned presentation of the
religious thought of the time. It is, however, for this reason that it
is so widely known and admired: for it is ever easier to attract readers
by dogma than by beauty, by intellectual argument than by the seduction
of art. Coincidently, Mrs. Browning wrote the first portion of "Casa
Guidi Windows."

In the spring of 1850 husband and wife spent a short stay in Rome. I
have been told that the poem entitled 'Two in the Campagna' was as
actually personal as the already quoted "Guardian Angel." But I do not
think stress should be laid on this and kindred localisations. Exact or
not, they have no literary value. To the poet, the dramatic poet above
all, locality and actuality of experience are, so to say, merely
fortunate coigns of outlook, for the winged genius to temporally
inhabit. To the imaginative mind, truth is not simply actuality. As for
'Two in the Campagna': it is too universally true to be merely personal.
There is a gulf which not the profoundest search can fathom, which not
the strongest-winged love can overreach: the gulf of individuality. It
is those who have loved most deeply who recognise most acutely this
always pathetic and often terrifying isolation of the soul. None save
the weak can believe in the absolute union of two spirits. If this were
demonstratable, immortality would be a palpable fiction. The moment
individuality can lapse to fusion, that moment the tide has ebbed, the
wind has fallen, the dream has been dreamed. So long as the soul
remains inviolate amid all shock of time and change, so long is it
immortal. No man, no poet assuredly, could love as Browning loved, and
fail to be aware, often with vague anger and bitterness, no doubt, of
this insuperable isolation even when spirit seemed to leap to spirit, in
the touch of a kiss, in the evanishing sigh of some one or other
exquisite moment. The poem tells us how the lovers, straying hand in
hand one May day across the Campagna, sat down among the seeding
grasses, content at first in the idle watching of a spider spinning her
gossamer threads from yellowing fennel to other vagrant weeds. All
around them

     "The champaign with its endless fleece
        Of feathery grasses everywhere!
      Silence and passion, joy and peace,
        An everlasting wash of air-- ...

     "Such life here, through such length of hours,
        Such miracles performed in play,
      Such primal naked forms of flowers,
        Such letting nature have her way." ...

Let us too be unashamed of soul, the poet-lover says, even as earth lies
bare to heaven. Nothing is to be overlooked. But all in vain: in vain "I
drink my fill at your soul's springs."

     "Just when I seemed about to learn!
        Where is the thread now? off again!
      The old trick! Only I discern--
        Infinite passion, and the pain
      Of finite hearts that yearn."

It was during this visit to Rome that both were gratified by the
proposal in the leading English literary weekly, that the
Poet-Laureateship, vacant by the death of Wordsworth, should be
conferred upon Mrs. Browning: though both rejoiced when they learned
that the honour had devolved upon one whom each so ardently admired as
Alfred Tennyson. In 1851 a visit was paid to England, not one very much
looked forward to by Mrs. Browning, who had never had cause to yearn for
her old home in Wimpole Street, and who could anticipate no
reconciliation with her father, who had persistently refused even to
open her letters to him, and had forbidden the mention of her name in
his home circle.

Bayard Taylor, in his travel-sketches published under the title "At Home
and Abroad," has put on record how he called upon the Brownings one
afternoon in September, at their rooms in Devonshire Street, and found
them on the eve of their return to Italy.

In his cheerful alertness, self-possession, and genial suavity Browning
impressed him as an American rather than as an Englishman, though there
can be no question but that no more thorough Englishman than the poet
ever lived. It is a mistake, of course, to speak of him as a typical
Englishman: for typical he was not, except in a very exclusive sense.
Bayard Taylor describes him in reportorial fashion as being apparently
about seven-and-thirty (a fairly close guess), with his dark hair
already streaked with grey about the temples: with a fair complexion,
just tinged with faintest olive: eyes large, clear, and grey, and nose
strong and well-cut, mouth full and rather broad, and chin pointed,
though not prominent: about the medium height, strong in the shoulders,
but slender at the waist, with movements expressive of a combination of
vigour and elasticity. With due allowance for the passage of
five-and-thirty years, this description would not be inaccurate of
Browning the septuagenarian.

They did not return direct to Italy after all, but wintered in Paris
with Robert Browning the elder, who had retired to a small house in a
street leading off the Champs Élysées. The pension he drew from the Bank
of England was a small one, but, with what he otherwise had, was
sufficient for him to live in comfort. The old gentleman's health was
superb to the last, for he died in 1866 without ever having known a
day's illness.

Spring came out and found them still in Paris, Mrs. Browning
enthusiastic about Napoleon III. and interested in spiritualism: her
husband serenely sceptical concerning both. In the summer they again
went to London: but they appear to have seen more of Kenyon and other
intimate friends than to have led a busy social life. Kenyon's
friendship and good company never ceased to have a charm for both poets.
Mrs. Browning loved him almost as a brother: her husband told Bayard
Taylor, on the day when that good poet and charming man called upon
them, and after another visitor had departed--a man with a large rosy
face and rotund body, as Taylor describes him--"there goes one of the
most splendid men living--a man so noble in his friendship, so lavish in
his hospitality, so large-hearted and benevolent, that he deserves to be
known all over the world as Kenyon the Magnificent."

In the early autumn a sudden move towards Italy was again made, and
after a few weeks in Paris and on the way the Brownings found
themselves at home once more in Casa Guidi.

But before this, probably indeed before they had left Paris for London,
Mr. Moxon had published the now notorious Shelley forgeries. These were
twenty-five spurious letters, but so cleverly manufactured that they at
first deceived many people. In the preceding November Browning had been
asked to write an introduction to them. This he had gladly agreed to do,
eager as he was for a suitable opportunity of expressing his admiration
for Shelley. When the letters reached him, he found that, genuine or
not, though he never suspected they were forgeries, they contained
nothing of particular import, nothing that afforded a just basis for
what he had intended to say. Pledged as he was, however, to write
something for Mr. Moxon's edition of the Letters, he set about the
composition of an Essay, of a general as much as of an individual
nature. This he wrote in Paris, and finished by the beginning of
December. It dealt with the objective and subjective poet; on the
relation of the latter's life to his work; and upon Shelley in the light
of his nature, art, and character. Apart from the circumstance that it
is the only independent prose writing of any length from Browning's pen,
this is an exceptionally able and interesting production.

Dr. Furnivall deserves general gratitude for his obtaining the author's
leave to re-issue it, and for having published it as one of the papers
of the Browning Society. As that enthusiastic student and good friend of
the poet says in his "foretalk" to the reprint, the essay is noteworthy,
not merely as a signal service to Shelley's fame and memory, but for
Browning's statement of his own aim in his own work, both as objective
and subjective poet. The same clear-sightedness and impartial sympathy,
which are such distinguishing characteristics of his dramatic studies of
human thought and emotion, are obvious in Browning's Shelley essay. "It
would be idle to enquire," he writes, "of these two kinds of poetic
faculty in operation, which is the higher or even rarer endowment. If
the subjective might seem to be the ultimate requirement of every age,
the objective in the strictest state must still retain its original
value. For it is with this world, as starting-point and basis alike,
that we shall always have to concern ourselves; the world is not to be
learned and thrown aside, but reverted to and reclaimed."

Of its critical subtlety--the more remarkable as by a poet-critic who
revered Shelley the poet and loved and believed in Shelley the man--the
best example, perhaps, is in those passages where he alludes to the
charge against the poet's moral nature--"charges which, if substantiated
to their wide breadth, would materially disturb, I do not deny, our
reception and enjoyment of his works, however wonderful the artistic
qualities of these. For we are not sufficiently supplied with instances
of genius of his order to be able to pronounce certainly how many of its
constituent parts have been tasked and strained to the production of a
given lie, and how high and pure a mood of the creative mind may be
dramatically simulated as the poet's habitual and exclusive one."

The large charity, the liberal human sympathy, the keen critical acumen
of this essay, make one wish that the author had spared us a "Sludge
the Medium" or a "Pacchiarotto," or even a "Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau,"
and given us more of such honourable work in "the other harmony."

Glad as the Brownings were to be home again at Casa Guidi, they could
not enjoy the midsummer heats of Florence, and so went to the Baths of
Lucca. It was a delight for them to ramble among the chestnut-woods of
the high Tuscan forests, and to go among the grape-vines where the
sunburnt vintagers were busy. Once Browning paid a visit to that remote
hill-stream and waterfall, high up in a precipitous glen, where, more
than three-score years earlier, Shelley had been wont to amuse himself
by sitting naked on a rock in the sunlight, reading _Herodotus_ while
he cooled, and then plunging into the deep pool beneath him--to emerge,
further up stream, and then climb through the spray of the waterfall
till he was like a glittering human wraith in the middle of a dissolving
rainbow.

Those Tuscan forests, that high crown of Lucca, must always have special
associations for lovers of poetry. Here Shelley lived, rapt in his
beautiful dreams, and translated the _Symposium_ so that his wife
might share something of his delight in Plato. Here, ten years later, Heine
sneered, and laughed and wept, and sneered again--drank tea with "la
belle Irlandaise," flirted with Francesca "la ballerina," and wrote
alternately with a feathered quill from the breast of a nightingale and
with a lancet steeped in aquafortis: and here, a quarter of a century
afterward, Robert and Elizabeth Browning also laughed and wept and
"joyed i' the sun," dreamed many dreams, and touched chords of beauty
whose vibration has become incorporated with the larger rhythm of all
that is high and enduring in our literature.

On returning to Florence (Browning with the MS. of the greater part of
his splendid fragmentary tragedy, "In a Balcony," composed mainly while
walking alone through the forest glades), Mrs. Browning found that the
chill breath of the _tramontana_ was affecting her lungs, so a move
was made to Rome, for the passing of the winter (1853-4). In the spring
their little boy, their beloved "Pen,"[22] became ill with malaria. This
delayed their return to Florence till well on in the summer. During this
stay in Rome Mrs. Browning rapidly proceeded with "Aurora Leigh," and
Browning wrote several of his "Men and Women," including the exquisite
'Love among the Ruins,' with its novel metrical music; 'Fra Lippo
Lippi,' where the painter, already immortalised by Landor, has his third
warrant of perpetuity; the 'Epistle of Karshish' (in part);
'Memorabilia' (composed on the Campagna); 'Saul,' a portion of which had
been written and published ten years previously, that noble and lofty
utterance, with its trumpet-like note of the regnant spirit; the
concluding part of "In a Balcony;" and 'Holy Cross Day'--besides,
probably, one or two others. In the late spring (April 27th) also, he
wrote the short dactylic lyric, 'Ben Karshook's Wisdom.' This little
poem was given to a friend for appearance in one of the then popular
_Keepsakes_--literally given, for Browning never contributed to
magazines. The very few exceptions to this rule were the result of a
kindliness stronger than scruple: as when (1844), at request of Lord
Houghton (then Mr. Monckton Milnes), he sent 'Tokay,' the 'Flower's
Name,' and 'Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis,' to "help in making up some
magazine numbers for poor Hood, then at the point of death from
hemorrhage of the lungs, occasioned by the enlargement of the heart,
which had been brought on by the wearing excitement of ceaseless and
excessive literary toil." As 'Ben Karshook's Wisdom,' though it has been
reprinted in several quarters, will not be found in any volume of
Browning's works, and was omitted from "Men and Women" by accident, and
from further collections by forgetfulness, it may be fitly quoted here.
Karshook, it may be added, is the Hebraic word for a thistle.

[Footnote 22: So-called, it is asserted, from his childish effort to
pronounce a difficult name (Wiedemann). But despite the good authority
for this statement, it is impossible not to credit rather the
explanation given by Nathaniel Hawthorne, who, moreover, affords the
practically definite proof that the boy was at first, as a term of
endearment, called "Pennini," which was later abbreviated to "Pen." The
cognomen, Hawthorne states, was a diminutive of "Apennino," which was
bestowed upon the boy in babyhood because he was very small, there being
a statue in Florence of colossal size called "Apennino."]

                  I.

     "'Would a man 'scape the rod'?--
        Rabbi Ben Karshook saith,
      'See that he turns to God
        The day before his death.'

      'Ay, could a man inquire
        When it shall come!' I say.
      The Rabbi's eye shoots fire--
        'Then let him turn to-day!'

                 II.

      Quoth a young Sadducee,--
        'Reader of many rolls,
      Is it so certain we
        Have, as they tell us, souls?'--

      'Son, there is no reply!'
        The Rabbi bit his beard:
      'Certain, a soul have _I_--
        _We_ may have none,' he sneer'd.

      Thus Karshook, the Hiram's Hammer,
        The Right-Hand Temple column,
      Taught babes their grace in grammar,
        And struck the simple, solemn."

It was in this year (1855) that "Men and Women" was published. It is
difficult to understand how a collection comprising poems such as "Love
among the Ruins," "Evelyn Hope," "Fra Lippo Lippi," "A Toccata of
Galuppi's," "Any Wife to any Husband," "Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha,"
"Andrea del Sarto," "In a Balcony," "Saul," "A Grammarian's Funeral," to
mention only ten now almost universally known, did not at once obtain a
national popularity for the author. But lovers of literature were simply
enthralled: and the two volumes had a welcome from them which was
perhaps all the more ardent because of their disproportionate numbers.
Ears alert to novel poetic music must have thrilled to the new strain
which sounded first--"Love among the Ruins," with its Millet-like
opening--

     "Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,
                    Miles and miles
      On the solitary pastures where our sheep
                    Half asleep
      Tinkle homeward through the twilight, stray or stop
                    As they crop--
      Was the site once of a city great and gay ..."

Soon after the return to Florence, which, hot as it was, was preferable
in July to Rome, Mrs. Browning wrote to her frequent correspondent Miss
Mitford, and mentioned that about four thousand lines of "Aurora Leigh"
had been written. She added a significant passage: that her husband had
not seen a single line of it up to that time--significant, as one of the
several indications that the union of Browning and his wife was indeed a
marriage of true minds, wherein nothing of the common bane of
matrimonial life found existence. Moreover, both were artists, and,
therefore, too full of respect for themselves and their art to bring in
any way the undue influence of each other into play.

By the spring of 1856, however, the first six "books" were concluded:
and these, at once with humility and pride, Mrs. Browning placed in her
husband's hands. The remaining three books were written, in the summer,
in John Kenyon's London house.

It was her best, her fullest answer to the beautiful dedicatory poem,
"One Word More," wherewith her husband, a few months earlier, sent forth
his "Men and Women," to be for ever associated with "E.B.B."

                  I.

     "There they are, my fifty men and women
      Naming me the fifty poems finished!
      Take them, Love, the book and me together:
      Where the heart lies, let the brain lie also.

                XVIII.

      This I say of me, but think of you, Love!
      This to you--yourself my moon of poets!
      Ah, but that's the world's side, there's the wonder,
      Thus they see you, praise you, think they know you!
      There, in turn I stand with them and praise you--
      Out of my own self, I dare to phrase it.
      But the best is when I glide from out them,
      Cross a step or two of dubious twilight,
      Come out on the other side, the novel
      Silent silver lights and darks undreamed of,
      Where I hush and bless myself with silence."

The transference from Florence to London was made in May. In the summer
"Aurora Leigh" was published, and met with an almost unparalleled
success: even Landor, most exigent of critics, declared that he was
"half drunk with it," that it had an imagination germane to that of
Shakspere, and so forth.

The poem was dedicated to Kenyon, and on their homeward way the
Brownings were startled and shocked to hear of his sudden death. By the
time they had arrived at Casa Guidi again they learned that their good
friend had not forgotten them in the disposition of his large fortune.
To Browning he bequeathed six thousand, to Mrs. Browning four thousand
guineas. This loss was followed early in the ensuing year (1857) by the
death of Mr. Barrett, steadfast to the last in his refusal of
reconciliation with his daughter.

Winters and summers passed happily in Italy--with one period of feverish
anxiety, when the little boy lay for six weeks dangerously ill, nursed
day and night by his father and mother alternately--with pleasant
occasionings, as the companionship for a season of Nathaniel Hawthorne
and his family, or of weeks spent at Siena with valued and lifelong
friends, W.W. Story, the poet-sculptor, and his wife.

So early as 1858 Mrs. Hawthorne believed she saw the heralds of death in
Mrs. Browning's excessive pallor and the hectic flush upon the cheeks,
in her extreme fragility and weakness, and in her catching, fluttering
breath. Even the motion of a visitor's fan perturbed her. But "her soul
was mighty, and a great love kept her on earth a season longer. She was
a seraph in her flaming worship of heart." "She lives so ardently," adds
Mrs. Hawthorne, "that her delicate earthly vesture must soon be burnt up
and destroyed by her soul of pure fire."

Yet, notwithstanding, she still sailed the seas of life, like one of
those fragile argonauts in their shells of foam and rainbow-mist which
will withstand the rude surge of winds and waves. But slowly, gradually,
the spirit was o'erfretting its tenement. With the waning of her
strength came back the old passionate longing for rest, for quiescence
from that "excitement from within," which had been almost over vehement
for her in the calm days of her unmarried life.

It is significant that at this time Browning's genius was relatively
dormant. Its wings were resting for the long-sustained flight of "The
Ring and the Book," and for earlier and shorter though not less royal
aerial journeyings. But also, no doubt, the prolonged comparatively
unproductive period of eight or nine years (1855-1864), between the
publication of "Men and Women" and "Dramatis Personæ," was due in some
measure to the poet's incessant and anxious care for his wife, to the
deep sorrow of witnessing her slow but visible passing away, and to the
profound grief occasioned by her death. However, barrenness of
imaginative creative activity can be only very relatively affirmed, even
of so long a period, of years wherein were written such memorable and
treasurable poems as 'James Lee's Wife,' among Browning's writings what
'Maud' is among Lord Tennyson's; 'Gold Hair: a Legend of Pornic;' 'Dis
Aliter Visum;' 'Abt Vogler,' the most notable production of its kind in
the language; 'A Death in the Desert,' that singular and impressive
study; 'Caliban upon Setebos,' in its strange potency of interest and
stranger poetic note, absolutely unique; 'Youth and Art;' 'Apparent
Failure;' 'Prospice,' that noble lyrical defiance of death; and the
supremely lofty and significant series of weighty stanzas, 'Rabbi Ben
Ezra,' the most quintessential of all the distinctively psychical
monologues which Browning has written. It seems to me that if these two
poems only, "Prospice" and "Rabbi Ben Ezra," were to survive to the day
of Macaulay's New Zealander, the contemporaries of that meditative
traveller would have sufficient to enable them to understand the great
fame of the poet of "dim ancestral days," as the more acute among them
could discern something of the real Shelley, though time had preserved
but the three lines--

     "Yet now despair itself is mild,
      Even as the winds and waters are;
      I could lie down like a tired child" ...

something of the real Catullus, through the mists of remote antiquity,
if there had not perished the single passionate cry--

                               "Lesbia illa,
      Illa Lesbia, quam Catullus unam
      Plus quam se, atque suos amavit omnes!"

At the beginning of July (1858), the Brownings left Florence for the
summer and autumn, and by easy stages travelled to Normandy. Here the
invalid benefited considerably at first: and here, I may add, Browning
wrote his 'Legend of Pornic,' 'Gold-Hair.' This poem of twenty-seven
five-line stanzas (which differs only from that in more recent
"Collected Works," and "Selections," in its lack of the three stanzas
now numbered xxi., xxii., and xxiii.) was printed for limited private
circulation, though primarily for the purpose of securing American
copyright. Browning several times printed single poems thus, and for the
same reasons--that is, either for transatlantic copyright, or when the
verses were not likely to be included in any volume for a prolonged
period. These leaflets or half-sheetlets of 'Gold Hair' and 'Prospice,'
of 'Cleon' and 'The Statue and the Bust'--together with the "Two Poems
by Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning," published, for benefit of a
charity, in 1854--are among the rarest "finds" for the collector, and
are literally worth a good deal more than their weight in gold.

In the tumultuous year of 1859 all Italy was in a ferment. No patriot
among the Nationalists was more ardent in her hopes than the delicate,
too fragile, dying poetess, whose flame of life burned anew with the
great hopes that animated her for her adopted country. Well indeed did
she deserve, among the lines which the poet Tommaseo wrote and the
Florence municipality caused to be engraved in gold upon a white marble
slab, to be placed upon Casa Guidi, the words _fece del suo verso aureo
anello fra Italia e Inghilterra_--"who of her Verse made a golden link
connecting England and Italy."

The victories of Solferino and San Martino made the bitterness of the
disgraceful Treaty of Villafranca the more hard to bear. Even had we not
Mr. Story's evidence, it would be a natural conclusion that this
disastrous ending to the high hopes of the Italian patriots accelerated
Mrs. Browning's death. The withdrawal of hope is often worse in its
physical effects than any direct bodily ill.

It was a miserable summer for both husband and wife, for more private
sorrows also pressed upon them. Not even the sweet autumnal winds
blowing upon Siena wafted away the shadow that had settled upon the
invalid: nor was there medicine for her in the air of Rome, where the
winter was spent. A temporary relief, however, was afforded by the more
genial climate, and in the spring of 1860 she was able, with Browning's
help, to see her Italian patriotic poems through the press. It goes
without saying that these "Poems before Congress" had a grudging
reception from the critics, because they dared to hint that all was not
roseate-hued in England. The true patriots are those who love despite
blemishes, not those who cherish the blemishes along with the virtues.
To hint at a flaw is "not to be an Englishman."

The autumn brought a new sadness in the death of Miss Arabella
Barrett--a dearly loved sister, the "Arabel" of so many affectionate
letters. Once more a winter in Rome proved temporally restorative. But
at last the day came when she wrote her last poem--"North and South," a
gracious welcome to Hans Christian Andersen on the occasion of his
first visit to the Eternal City.

Early in June of 1861 the Brownings were once more at Casa Guidi. But
soon after their return the invalid caught a chill. For a few days she
hovered like a tired bird--though her friends saw only the seemingly
unquenchable light in the starry eyes, and did not anticipate the
silence that was soon to be.

By the evening of the 28th day of the month she was in sore peril of
failing breath. All night her husband sat by her, holding her hand. Two
hours before dawn she realised that her last breath would ere long fall
upon his tear-wet face. Then, as a friend has told us, she passed into a
state of ecstasy: yet not so rapt therein but that she could whisper
many words of hope, even of joy. With the first light of the new day,
she leaned against her lover. Awhile she lay thus in silence, and then,
softly sighing "_It is beautiful!_" passed like the windy fragrance of
a flower.



CHAPTER IX.


It is needless to dwell upon what followed. The world has all that need
be known. To Browning himself it was the abrupt, the too deeply
pathetic, yet not wholly unhappy ending of a lovelier poem than any he
or another should ever write, the poem of their married life.

There is a rare serenity in the thought of death when it is known to be
the gate of life. This conviction Browning had, and so his grief was
rather that of one whose joy has westered earlier. The sweetest music of
his life had withdrawn: but there was still music for one to whom life
in itself was a happiness. He had his son, and was not void of other
solace: but even had it been otherwise he was of the strenuous natures
who never succumb, nor wish to die--whatever accident of mortality
overcome the will and the power.

It was in the autumn following his wife's death that he wrote the noble
poem to which allusion has already been made: "Prospice." Who does not
thrill to its close, when all of gloom or terror

     "Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain,
                 Then a light, then thy breast,
       O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again,
                 And with God be the rest."

There are few direct allusions to his wife in Browning's poems. Of those
prior to her death the most beautiful is "One Word More," which has been
already quoted in part: of the two or three subsequent to that event
none surpasses the magic close of the first part of "The Ring and the
Book."

Thereafter the details of his life are public property. He all along
lived in the light, partly from his possession of that serenity which
made Goethe glad to be alive and to be able to make others share in that
gladness. No poet has been more revered and more loved. His personality
will long be a stirring tradition. In the presence of his simple
manliness and wealth of all generous qualities one is inclined to pass
by as valueless, as the mere flying spray of the welcome shower, the
many honours and gratifications that befell him. Even if these things
mattered, concerning one by whose genius we are fascinated, while
undazzled by the mere accidents pertinent thereto, their recital would
be wearisome--of how he was asked to be Lord Rector of this University,
or made a doctor of laws at that: of how letters and tributes of all
kinds came to him from every district in our Empire, from every country
in the world: and so forth. All these things are implied in the
circumstance that his life was throughout "a noble music with a golden
ending."

In 1866 his father died in Paris, strenuous in life until the very end.
After this event Miss Sarianna Browning went to reside with her brother,
and from that time onward was his inseparable companion, and ever one of
the dearest and most helpful of friends. In latter years brother and
sister were constantly seen together, and so regular attendants were
they at such functions as the "Private Views" at the Royal Academy and
Grosvenor Gallery, that these never seemed complete without them. A
Private View, a first appearance of Joachim or Sarasate, a first concert
of Richter or Henschel or Hallé, at each of these, almost to a
certainty, the poet was sure to appear. The chief personal happiness of
his later life was in his son. Mr. R. Barrett Browning is so well known
as a painter and sculptor that it would be superfluous for me to add
anything further here, except to state that his successes were his
father's keenest pleasures.

Two years after his father's death, that is in 1868, the "Poetical Works
of Robert Browning, M.A., Honorary Fellow of Baliol College, Oxford,"
were issued in six volumes. Here the equator of Browning's genius may be
drawn. On the further side lie the "Men and Women" of the period
anterior to "The Ring and the Book": midway is the transitional zone
itself: on the hither side are the "Men and Women" of a more temperate
if not colder clime.

The first part of "The Ring and the Book" was not published till
November. In September the poet was staying with his sister and son at
Le Croisic, a picturesque village at the mouth of the Loire, at the end
of the great salt plains which stretch down from Guérande to the Bay of
Biscay. No doubt, in lying on the sand-dunes in the golden September
glow, in looking upon the there somewhat turbid current of the Loire,
the poet brooded on those days when he saw its inland waters with her
who was with him no longer save in dreams and memories. Here he wrote
that stirring poem, "Hervé Riel," founded upon the valorous action of a
French sailor who frustrated the naval might of England, and claimed
nothing as a reward save permission to have a holiday on land to spend a
few hours with his wife, "la belle Aurore." "Hervé Riel" (which has been
translated into French, and is often recited, particularly in the
maritime towns, and is always evocative of enthusiastic applause) is one
of Browning's finest action-lyrics, and is assured of the same
immortality as "How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix," or
the "Pied Piper" himself.

In 1872 there was practical proof of the poet's growing popularity.
Baron Tauchnitz issued two volumes of excellently selected poems,
comprising some of the best of "Men and Women," "Dramatis Personæ," and
"Dramatic Romances," besides the longer "Soul's Tragedy," "Luria," "In a
Balcony," and "Christmas Eve and Easter Day"--the most Christian poem of
the century, according to one eminent cleric, the heterodox
self-sophistication of a free-thinker, according to another: really, the
reflex of a great crisis, that of the first movement of the tide of
religious thought to a practically limitless freedom. This edition also
contained "Bishop Blougram," then much discussed, apart from its poetic
and intellectual worth, on account of its supposed verisimilitude in
portraiture of Cardinal Wiseman. This composition, one of Browning's
most characteristic, is so clever that it is scarcely a poem. Poetry and
Cleverness do not well agree, the muse being already united in perfect
marriage to Imagination. In his Essay on Truth, Bacon says that one of
the Fathers called poetry _Vinum Dæmonum_, because it filleth the
imagination. Certainly if it be not _vinum dæmonum_ it is not Poetry.

In this year also appeared the first series of "Selections" by the
poet's latest publishers: "Dedicated to Alfred Tennyson. In
Poetry--illustrious and consummate: In Friendship--noble and sincere."
It was in his preface to this selection that he wrote the often-quoted
words: "Nor do I apprehend any more charges of being wilfully obscure,
unconscientiously careless, or perversely harsh." At or about the date
of these "Selections" the poet wrote to a friend, on this very point of
obscurity, "I can have little doubt that my writing has been in the main
too hard for many I should have been pleased to communicate with; but I
never designedly tried to puzzle people, as some of my critics have
supposed. On the other hand, I never pretended to offer such literature
as should be a substitute for a cigar or a game at dominoes to an idle
man. So perhaps, on the whole, I get my deserts, and something over--not
a crowd, but a few I value more."

In 1877 Browning, ever restless for pastures new, went with his sister
to spend the autumn at La Saisiaz (Savoyard for "the sun"), a villa
among the mountains near Geneva; this time with the additional company
of Miss Anne Egerton Smith, an intimate and valued friend. But there was
an unhappy close to the holiday. Miss Smith died on the night of the
fourteenth of September, from heart complaint. "La Saisiaz" is the
direct outcome of this incident, and is one of the most beautiful of
Browning's later poems. Its trochaics move with a tide-like sound.

At the close, there is a line which might stand as epitaph for the
poet--

     "He, at least, believed in Soul, was very sure of God."

In the following year "La Saisiaz" was published along with "The Two
Poets of Croisic," which was begun and partly written at the little
French village ten years previously. There is nothing of the eight-score
stanzas of the "Two Poets" to equal its delightful epilogue, or the
exquisite prefatory lyric, beginning

     "Such a starved bank of moss
         Till that May-morn
      Blue ran the flash across:
         Violets were born."

Extremely interesting--and for myself I cannot find "The Two Poets of
Croisic" to be anything more than "interesting"--it is as a poem
distinctly inferior to "La Saisiaz." Although detached lines are often
far from truly indicative of the real poetic status of a long poem,
where proportion and harmony are of more importance than casual
exfoliations of beauty, yet to a certain extent they do serve as musical
keys that give the fundamental tone. One certainly would have to search
in vain to find in the Croisic poem such lines as

     "Five short days, scarce enough to
      Bronze the clustered wilding apple, redden ripe the mountain ash."

Or these of Mont Blanc, seen at sunset, towering over icy pinnacles and
teeth-like peaks,

    "Blanc, supreme above his earth-brood, needles red and white and green,
     Horns of silver, fangs of crystal set on edge in his demesne."

Or, again, this of the sun swinging himself above the dark shoulder of
Jura--

     "Gay he hails her, and magnific, thrilled her black length burns to
          gold."

Or, finally, this sounding verse--

     "Past the city's congregated peace of homes and pomp of spires."

The other poems later than "The Ring and the Book" are, broadly
speaking, of two kinds. On the one side may be ranged the groups which
really cohere with "Men and Women." These are "The Inn Album," the
miscellaneous poems of the "Pacchiarotto" volume, the "Dramatic Idyls,"
some of "Jocoseria," and some of "Asolando." "Ferishtah's Fancies" and
"Parleyings" are not, collectively, dramatic poems, but poems of
illuminative insight guided by a dramatic imagination.[23] They, and the
classical poems and translations (renderings, rather, by one whose own
individuality dominates them to the exclusion of that _nearness_ of the
original author, which it should be the primary aim of the translator to
evoke), the beautiful "Balaustion's Adventure," "Aristophanes' Apology,"
and "The Agamemnon of Aeschylus," and the third group, which comprises
"Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau," "Red Cotton Nightcap Country," and
"Fifine at the Fair"--these three groups are of the second kind.

[Footnote 23: In a letter to a friend, Browning wrote:--"I hope and
believe that one or two careful readings of the Poem [Ferishtah's
Fancies] will make its sense clear enough. Above all, pray allow for the
Poet's inventiveness in any case, and do not suppose there is more than
a thin disguise of a few Persian names and allusions. There was no such
person as Ferishtah--the stories are all inventions. ... The Hebrew
quotations are put in for a purpose, as a direct acknowledgment that
certain doctrines may be found in the Old Book, which the Concocters of
Novel Schemes of Morality put forth as discoveries of their own."]

Remarkable as are the three last-named productions, it is extremely
doubtful if the first and second will be read for pleasure by readers
born after the close of this century. As it is impossible, in my narrow
limits, to go into any detail about poems which personally I do not
regard as essential to the truest understanding of Browning, the truest
because on the highest level, that of poetry--as distinct from dogma, or
intellectual suasion of any kind that might, for all its æsthetic charm,
be in prose--it would be presumptuous to assert anything derogatory of
them without attempting adequate substantiation. I can, therefore,
merely state my own opinion. To reiterate, it is that, for different
reasons, these three long poems are foredoomed to oblivion--not, of
course, to be lost to the student of our literature and of our age, a
more wonderful one even than that of the Renaissance, but to lapse from
the general regard. That each will for a long time find appreciative
readers is certain. They have a fascination for alert minds, and they
have not infrequent ramifications which are worth pursuing for the
glimpses afforded into an always evanishing Promised Land. "Prince
Hohenstiel-Schwangau" (the name, by the way, is not purely fanciful,
being formed from Hohen Schwangau, one of the castles of the late King
of Bavaria) is Browning's complement to his wife's "Ode to Napoleon
III." "Red Cotton Nightcap Country" is a true story, the narrative of
the circumstances pertinent to the tragic death of one Antonio Mellerio,
a Paris jeweller, which occurred in 1870 at St. Aubin in Normandy,
where, indeed, the poet first heard of it in all its details. It is a
story which, if the method of poetry and the method of prose could for a
moment be accepted as equivalent, might be said to be of the school of a
light and humorously grotesque Zola. It has the fundamental weakness of
"The Ring and the Book"--the weakness of an inadequate ethical basis. It
is, indeed, to that great work what a second-rate novelette is to a
masterpiece of fiction.

"Fifine at the Fair," on the other hand, is so powerful and often so
beautiful a poem that one would be rash indeed were he, with the blithe
critical assurance which is so generally snuffed out like a useless
candle by a later generation, to prognosticate its inevitable seclusion
from the high place it at present occupies in the estimate of the poet's
most uncompromising admirers. But surely equally rash is the assertion
that it will be the "poem of the future." However, our concern is not
with problematical estimates, but with the poem as it appears to _us_.
It is one of the most characteristic of Browning's productions. It would
be impossible for the most indolent reader or critic to attribute it,
even if anonymous, to another parentage. Coleridge alludes somewhere to
certain verses of Wordsworth's, with the declaration that if he had met
them howling in the desert he would have recognised their authorship.
"Fifine" would not even have to howl.

Browning was visiting Pornic one autumn, when he saw the gipsy who was
the original of "Fifine." In the words of Mrs. Orr, "his fancy was
evidently set roaming by the gipsy's audacity, her strength--the
contrast which she presented to the more spiritual types of womanhood;
and this contrast eventually found expression in a pathetic theory of
life, in which these opposite types and their corresponding modes of
attraction became the necessary complement of each other. As he laid
down the theory, Mr. Browning would be speaking in his own person. But
he would turn into some one else in the act of working it out--for it
insensibly carried with it a plea for yielding to those opposite
attractions, not only successively, but at the same time; and a modified
Don Juan would grow up under his pen."

One drawback to an unconditional enjoyment of Balzac is that every now
and again the student of the _Comédie Humaine_ resents the too obvious
display of the forces that propel the effect--a lesser phase of the
weariness which ensues upon much reading of the mere "human documents"
of the Goncourt school of novelists. In the same way, we too often see
Browning working up the electrical qualities, so that, when the
fulmination comes, we understand "just how it was produced," and, as
illogically as children before a too elaborate conjurer, conclude that
there is not so much in this particular poetic feat as in others which,
like Herrick's maids, continually do deceive. To me this is affirmable
of "Fifine at the Fair." The poet seems to know so very well what he is
doing. If he did not take the reader so much into his confidence, if he
would rely more upon the liberal grace of his earlier verse and less
upon the trained subtlety of his athletic intellect, the charm would be
the greater. The poem would have a surer duration as one of the author's
greater achievements, if there were more frequent and more prolonged
insistence on the note struck in the lines (§ lxxiii.) about the
hill-stream, infant of mist and dew, falling over the ledge of the
fissured cliff to find its fate in smoke below, as it disappears into
the deep, "embittered evermore, to make the sea one drop more big
thereby:" or in the cloudy splendour of the description of nightfall (§
cvi.): or in the windy spring freshness of

     "Hence, when the earth began afresh its life in May,
      And fruit-trees bloomed, and waves would wanton, and the bay
      Ruffle its wealth of weed, and stranger-birds arrive,
      And beasts take each a mate." ...

But its chief fault seems to me to be its lack of that transmutive glow
of rhythmic emotion without which no poem can endure. This rhythmic
energy is, inherently, a distinct thing from intellectual emotion.
Metric music may be alien to the adequate expression of the latter,
whereas rhythmic emotion can have no other appropriate issue. Of course,
in a sense, all creative art is rhythmic in kind: but here I am speaking
only of that creative energy which evolves the germinal idea through the
medium of language. The energy of the intellect under creative stimulus
may produce lordly issues in prose: but poetry of a high intellectual
order can be the outcome only of an intellect fused to white heat, of
intellectual emotion on fire--as, in the fine saying of George Meredith,
passion is noble strength on fire. Innumerable examples could be taken
from any part of the poem, but as it would not be just to select the
most obviously defective passages, here are two which are certainly
fairly representative of the general level--

     "And I became aware, scarcely the word escaped my lips, that swift
      ensued in silence and by stealth, and yet with certitude, a
      formidable change of the amphitheatre which held the Carnival;
      _although the human stir continued just the same amid that shift
      of scene_." (No. CV.)

     "And where i' the world is all this wonder, you detail so
      trippingly, espied? My mirror would reflect a tall, thin, pale,
      deep-eyed personage, pretty once, it may be, doubtless still
      loving--certain grace yet lingers if you will--but all this
      wonder, where?" (No. XL.)


Here, and in a hundred other such passages, we have the rhythm, if not
of the best prose, at least not that of poetry. Will "Fifine" and poems
of its kind stand re-reading, re-perusal over and over? That is one of
the most definite tests. In the pressure of life can we afford much time
to anything but the very best--nay, to the vast mass even of that which
closely impinges thereupon?

For myself, in the instance of "Fifine," I admit that if re-perusal be
controlled by pleasure I am content (always excepting a few scattered
noble passages) with the Prologue and Epilogue. A little volume of those
Summaries of Browning's--how stimulating a companion it would be in
those hours when the mind would fain breathe a more liberal air!

As for "Jocoseria,"[24] it seems to me the poorest of Browning's works,
and I cannot help thinking that ultimately the only gold grain
discoverable therein will be "Ixion," the beautiful penultimate poem
beginning--

     "Never the time and the place
        And the loved one altogether;"

and the thrush-like overture, closing--

     "What of the leafage, what of the flower?
      Roses embowering with nought they embower!
      Come then! complete incompletion, O comer,
      Pant through the blueness, perfect the summer!
               Breathe but one breath
               Rose-beauty above,
               And all that was death
               Grows life, grows love,
                  Grows love!"

[Footnote 24: In a letter to a friend, along with an early copy of this
book, Browning stated that "the title is taken from the work of Melander
(_Schwartzmann_), reviewed, by a curious coincidence, in the
_Blackwood_ of this month. I referred to it in a note to 'Paracelsus.'
The two Hebrew quotations (put in to give a grave look to what is mere fun
and invention) being translated amount to (1) 'A Collection of Many Lies':
and (2), an old saying, 'From Moses to Moses arose none like Moses'......"]

In 1881 the "Browning Society" was established. It is easy to ridicule
any institution of the kind--much easier than to be considerate of other
people's earnest convictions and aims, or to be helpful to their object.
There is always a ridiculous side to excessive enthusiasm, particularly
obvious to persons incapable of enthusiasm of any kind. With some
mistakes, and not a few more or less grotesque absurdities, the members
of the various English and American Browning Societies are yet to be
congratulated on the good work they have, collectively, accomplished.
Their publications are most interesting and suggestive: ultimately they
will be invaluable. The members have also done a good work in causing
some of Browning's plays to be produced again on the stage, and in Miss
Alma Murray and others have found sympathetic and able exponents of some
of the poet's most attractive _dramatis personæ_. There can be no
question as to the powerful impetus given by the Society to Browning's
steadily-increasing popularity. Nothing shows his judicious good sense
more than the letter he wrote, privately, to Mr. Edmund Yates, at the
time of the Society's foundation.

      "The Browning Society, I need not say, as well as Browning
      himself, are fair game for criticism. I had no more to do with the
      founding it than the babe unborn; and, as Wilkes was no Wilkeite,
      I am quite other than a Browningite. But I cannot wish harm to a
      society of, with a few exceptions, names unknown to me, who are
      busied about my books so disinterestedly. The exaggerations
      probably come of the fifty-years'-long charge of unintelligibility
      against my books; such reactions are possible, though I never
      looked for the beginning of one so soon. That there is a grotesque
      side to the thing is certain; but I have been surprised and
      touched by what cannot but have been well intentioned, I think.
      Anyhow, as I never felt inconvenienced by hard words, you will not
      expect me to wax bumptious because of undue compliment: so enough
      of 'Browning,'--except that he is yours very truly, 'while this
      machine is to him.'"


The latter years of the poet were full of varied interest for himself,
but present little of particular significance for specification in a
monograph so concise as this must perforce be. Every year he went
abroad, to France or to Italy, and once or twice on a yachting trip in
the Mediterranean.[25] At home--for many years, at 19 Warwick Crescent,
in what some one has called the dreary Mesopotamia of Paddington, and
for the last three or four years of his life at 29 De Vere Gardens,
Kensington Gore--his avocations were so manifold that it is difficult to
understand where he had leisure for his vocation. Everybody wished him
to come to dine; and he did his utmost to gratify Everybody. He saw
everything; read all the notable books; kept himself acquainted with the
leading contents of the journals and magazines; conducted a large
correspondence; read new French, German, and Italian books of mark; read
and translated Euripides and Æschylus; knew all the gossip of the
literary clubs, salons, and the studios; was a frequenter of
afternoon-tea parties; and then, over and above it, he was Browning: the
most profoundly subtle mind that has exercised itself in poetry since
Shakspere. His personal grace and charm of manner never failed. Whether
he was dedicating "Balaustion's Adventure" in terms of gracious
courtesy, or handing a flower from some jar of roses, or lilies, or his
favourite daffodils, with a bright smile or merry glance, to the lady of
his regard, or when sending a copy of a new book of poetry with an
accompanying letter expressed with rare felicity, or when generously
prophesying for a young poet the only true success if he will but listen
and act upon "the inner voice,"--he was in all these, and in all things,
the ideal gentleman. There is so charming and characteristic a touch in
the following note to a girl-friend, that I must find room for it:--

      29 De Vere Gardens, W.,
      _6th July_ 1889.

      MY BELOVED ALMA,--I had the honour yesterday of dining with the
      Shah, whereupon the following dialogue:--

      "Vous êtes poëte?"

      "On s'est permis de me le dire quelquefois."

      "Et vous avez fait des livres?"

      "Trop de livres."

      "Voulez-vous m'en donner un, afin que je puisse me ressouvenir de
      vous?"

      "Avec plaisir."

      I have been accordingly this morning to town, where the thing is
      procurable, and as I chose a volume of which I judged the binding
      might take the imperial eye, I said to myself, "Here do I present
      my poetry to a personage for whom I do not care three straws; why
      should I not venture to do as much for a young lady I love dearly,
      who, for the author's sake, will not impossibly care rather for
      the inside than the outside of the volume?" So I was bold enough
      to take one and offer it for your kind acceptance, begging you to
      remember in days to come that the author, whether a good poet or
      no, was always, my Alma, your affectionate friend,

      ROBERT BROWNING.


[Footnote 25: It was on his first experience of this kind, more than a
quarter of a century earlier, that he wrote the nobly patriotic lines of
"Home Thoughts from the Sea," and that flawless strain of bird-music,
"Home Thoughts from Abroad:" then, also, that he composed "How they
brought the Good News." Concerning the last, he wrote, in 1881 (_vide
The Academy_, April 2nd), "There is no sort of historical foundation
about [this poem]. I wrote it under the bulwark of a vessel off the
African coast, after I had been at it long enough to appreciate even the
fancy of a gallop on the back of a certain good horse, 'York,' then in
my stable at home. It was written in pencil on the fly-leaf of Bartoli's
_Simboli_, I remember."]

His look was a continual and serene gleam. Lamartine, who remarks this
of Bossuet in his youth, adds a phrase which, as observant acquaintances
of the poet will agree, might be written of Browning--"His lips quivered
often without utterance, as if with the wind of an internal speech."

Except for the touching and beautiful letter which he wrote from Asolo
about two months before his death, to Mr. Wilfrid Meynell, about a young
writer to whom the latter wished to draw the poet's kindly attention--a
letter which has a peculiar pathos in the words, "I shall soon depart
for Venice, on my way homeward"--except for this letter there is none so
well worth repetition here as his last word to the Poet-Laureate. The
friendship between these two great poets has in itself the fragrance of
genius. The letter was written just before Browning left London.

      29 De Vere Gardens, W.,
      _August 5th_, 1889.

      MY DEAR TENNYSON,--To-morrow is your birthday--indeed, a memorable
      one. Let me say I associate myself with the universal pride of our
      country in your glory, and in its hope that for many and many a
      year we may have your very self among us--secure that your poetry
      will be a wonder and delight to all those appointed to come after.
      And for my own part, let me further say, I have loved you dearly.
      May God bless you and yours.

      At no moment from first to last of my acquaintance with your
      works, or friendship with yourself, have I had any other feeling,
      expressed or kept silent, than this which an opportunity allows me
      to utter--that I am and ever shall be, my dear Tennyson,
      admiringly and affectionately yours,

      ROBERT BROWNING.


Shortly after this he was at Asolo once more, the little hill-town in
the Veneto, which he had visited in his youth, and where he heard again
the echo of Pippa's song--

     "God's in His heaven,
      All's right with the world!"

Mr. W.W. Story writes to me that he spent three days with the poet at
this time, and that the latter seemed, except for a slight asthma, to be
as vigorous in mind and body as ever. Thence, later in the autumn, he
went to Venice, to join his son and daughter-in-law at the home where he
was "to have a corner for his old age," the beautiful Palazzo Rezzonico,
on the Grand Canal. He was never happier, more sanguine, more joyous,
than here. He worked for three or four hours each morning, walked daily
for about two hours, crossed occasionally to the Lido with his sister,
and in the evenings visited friends or went to the opera. But for some
time past, his heart--always phenomenally slow in its action, and of
late ominously intermittent--had been noticeably weaker. As he suffered
no pain and little inconvenience, he paid no particular attention to the
matter. Browning had as little fear of death as doubt in God. In a
controlling Providence he did indeed profoundly believe. He felt, with
Joubert, that "it is not difficult to believe in God, if one does not
worry oneself to define Him."[26]

[Footnote 26: "Browning's 'orthodoxy' brought him into many a combat
with his rationalistic friends, some of whom could hardly believe that
he took his doctrine seriously. Such was the fact, however; indeed, I
have heard that he once stopped near an open-air assembly which an
atheist was haranguing, and, in the freedom of his _incognito_, gave
strenuous battle to the opinions uttered. To one who had spoken of an
expected 'Judgment Day' as a superstition, I heard him say: 'I don't see
that. Why should there not be a settling day in the universe, as when a
master settles with his workmen at the end of the week?' There was
something in his tone and manner which suggested his dramatic conception
of religious ideas and ideals."--MONCURE D. CONWAY.]

"How should externals satisfy my soul?" was his cry in "Sordello," and
it was the fundamental strain of all his poetry, as the fundamental
motive is expressible in

     "--a loving worm within its sod
      Were diviner than a loveless god
      Amid his worlds"--

love being with him the golden key wherewith to unlock the world of the
universe, of the soul, of all nature. He is as convinced of the two
absolute facts of God and Soul as Cardinal Newman in writing of "Two and
two only, supreme and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my
Creator." Most fervently he believes that

     "Haply for us the ideal dawn shall break ...
      And set our pulse in tune with moods divine"--

though, co-equally, in the necessity of "making man sole sponsor of
himself." Ever and again, of course, he was betrayed by the bewildering
and defiant puzzle of life: seeing in the face of the child the seed of
sorrow, "in the green tree an ambushed flame, in Phosphor a vaunt-guard
of Night." Yet never of him could be written that thrilling saying which
Sainte-Beuve uttered of Pascal, "That lost traveller who yearns for
home, who, strayed without a guide in a dark forest, takes many times
the wrong road, goes, returns upon his steps, is discouraged, sits down
at a crossing of the roads, utters cries to which no one responds,
resumes his march with frenzy and pain, throws himself upon the ground
and wants to die, and reaches home at last only after all sorts of
anxieties and after sweating blood." No darkness, no tempest, no gloom,
long confused his vision of 'the ideal dawn.' As the carrier-dove is
often baffled, yet ere long surely finds her way through smoke and fog
and din to her far country home, so he too, however distraught, soon or
late soared to untroubled ether. He had that profound inquietude, which
the great French critic says 'attests a moral nature of a high rank, and
a mental nature stamped with the seal of the archangel.' But, unlike
Pascal--who in Sainte-Beuve's words exposes in the human mind itself
two abysses, "on one side an elevation toward God, toward the morally
beautiful, a return movement toward an illustrious origin, and on the
other side an abasement in the direction of evil"--Browning sees,
believes in, holds to nothing short of the return movement, for one and
all, toward an illustrious origin.

The crowning happiness of a happy life was his death in the city he
loved so well, in the arms of his dear ones, in the light of a
world-wide fame. The silence to which the most eloquent of us must all
one day lapse came upon him like the sudden seductive twilight of the
Tropics, and just when he had bequeathed to us one of his finest
utterances.

It seems but a day or two ago that the present writer heard from the
lips of the dead poet a mockery of death's vanity--a brave assertion of
the glory of life. "Death, death! It is this harping on death I despise
so much," he remarked with emphasis of gesture as well as of speech--the
inclined head and body, the right hand lightly placed upon the
listener's knee, the abrupt change in the inflection of the voice, all
so characteristic of him---"this idle and often cowardly as well as
ignorant harping! Why should we not change like everything else? In
fiction, in poetry, in so much of both, French as well as English, and,
I am told, in American art and literature, the shadow of death--call it
what you will, despair, negation, indifference--is upon us. But what
fools who talk thus! Why, _amico mio_, you know as well as I that
death is life, just as our daily, our momentarily dying body is none the
less alive and ever recruiting new forces of existence. Without death,
which is our crapelike churchyardy word for change, for growth, there could
be no prolongation of that which we call life. Pshaw! it is foolish to
argue upon such a thing even. For myself, I deny death as an end of
everything. Never say of me that I am dead!"

On the evening of Thursday, the 12th of December (1889), he was in bed,
with exceeding weakness. In the centre of the lofty ceiling of the room
in which he lay, and where it had been his wont to work, there is a
painting by his son. It depicts an eagle struggling with a serpent, and
is illustrative of a superb passage in Shelley's "Revolt of Islam." What
memories, what deep thoughts, it must have suggested; how significant,
to us, the circumstance! But weak as the poet was, he yet did not see
the shadow which had begun to chill the hearts of the watchers. Shortly
before the great bell of San Marco struck ten, he turned and asked if
any news had come concerning "Asolando," published that day. His son
read him a telegram from the publishers, telling how great the demand
was and how favourable were the advance-articles in the leading papers.
The dying poet smiled and muttered, "How gratifying!" When the last toll
of St. Mark's had left a deeper stillness than before, those by the
bedside saw a yet profounder silence on the face of him whom they loved.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is needless to dwell upon the grief everywhere felt and expressed for
the irreparable loss. The magnificent closing lines of Shelley's
"Alastor" must have occurred to many a mourner; for gone, indeed, was "a
surpassing Spirit." The superb pomp of the Venetian funeral, the solemn
grandeur of the interment in Westminster Abbey, do not seem worth
recording: so insignificant are all these accidents of death made by the
supreme fact itself. Yet it is fitting to know that Venice has never in
modern times afforded a more impressive sight, than those craped
processional gondolas following the high flower-strewn funeral-barge
through the thronged water-ways and out across the lagoon to the
desolate Isle of the Dead: that London has rarely seen aught more solemn
than the fog-dusked Cathedral spaces, echoing at first with the slow
tramp of the pall-bearers, and then with the sweet aerial music swaying
upward the loved familiar words of the 'Lyric Voice' hushed so long
before. Yet the poet was as much honoured by those humble friends,
Lambeth artizans and a few poor working-women, who threw sprays of
laurel before the hearse--by that desolate, starving, woe-weary
gentleman, shivering in his threadbare clothes, who seemed transfixed
with a heart-wrung though silent emotion, ere he hurriedly drew from his
sleeve a large white chrysanthemum, and throwing it beneath the coffin
as it was lifted inward, disappeared in the crowd, which closed again
like the sea upon this lost wandering wave.

Who would not honour this mighty dead? All who could be present were
there, somewhere in the ancient Abbey. One of the greatest, loved and
admired by the dead poet, had already put the mourning of many into the
lofty dignity of his verse:--

     "Now dumb is he who waked the world to speak,
      And voiceless hangs the world beside his bier,
      Our words are sobs, our cry of praise a tear:
      We are the smitten mortal, we the weak.
      We see a spirit on Earth's loftiest peak
      Shine, and wing hence the way he makes more clear:
      See a great Tree of Life that never sere
      Dropped leaf for aught that age or storms might wreak:
      Such ending is not Death: such living shows
      What wide illumination brightness sheds
      From one big heart--to conquer man's old foes:
      The coward, and the tyrant, and the force
      Of all those weedy monsters raising heads
      When Song is murk from springs of turbid source."[27]

[Footnote 27: George Meredith.]

One word more of "light and fleeting shadow." In the greatness of his
nature he must be ranked with Milton, Defoe, and Scott. His very
shortcomings, such as they were, were never baneful growths, but mere
weeds, with a certain pleasant though pungent savour moreover, growing
upon a rich, an exuberant soil. Pluck one of the least lovely--rather
call it the unworthy arrow shot at the body of a dead comrade, so
innocent of ill intent: yet it too has a beauty of its own, for the
shaft was aflame from the fulness of a heart whose love had withstood
the chill passage of the years.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the night of Browning's death a new star suddenly appeared in Orion.
The coincidence is suggestive if we like to indulge in the fancy that in
that constellation--

     "No more subjected to the change or chance
      Of the unsteady planets----"

gleam those other "abodes where the Immortals are." Certainly, a
wandering fire has passed away from us. Whither has it gone? To that
new star in Orion: or whirled to remote silences in the trail of lost
meteors? Whence, and for how long, will its rays reach our storm and
gloom-beleaguered earth?

Such questions cannot meanwhile be solved. Our eyes are still confused
with the light, with that ardent flame, as we knew it here. But this we
know, it was indeed "a central fire descending upon many altars." These,
though touched with but a spark of the immortal principle, bear enduring
testimony. And what testimony! How heartfelt: happily also how
widespread, how electrically stimulative!

But the time must come when the poet's personality will have the
remoteness of tradition: when our perplexed judgments will be as a tale
of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It is impossible for any student
of literature, for any interested reader, not to indulge in some
forecast as to what rank in the poetic hierarchy Robert Browning will
ultimately occupy. The commonplace as to the impossibility of
prognosticating the ultimate slow decadence, or slower rise, or, it may
be, sustained suspension, of a poet's fame, is often insincere, and but
an excuse of indolence. To dogmatise were the height of presumption as
well as of folly: but to forego speculation, based upon complete present
knowledge, for an idle contentment with narrow horizons, were perhaps
foolisher still. But assuredly each must perforce be content with his
own prevision. None can answer yet for the generality, whose decisive
franchise will elect a fit arbiter in due time.

So, for myself, let me summarise what I have already written in several
sections of this book, and particularly in the closing pages of Chapter
VI. There, it will be remembered--after having found that Browning's
highest achievement is in his second period--emphasis was laid on the
primary importance of his life-work in its having compelled us to the
assumption of a fresh critical standpoint involving the construction of
a new definition. In the light of this new definition I think Browning
will ultimately be judged. As the sculptor in "Pippa Passes" was the
predestinated novel thinker in marble, so Browning himself appears as
the predestinated novel thinker in verse; the novel thinker, however, in
degree, not in kind. But I do not for a moment believe that his
greatness is in his status as a thinker: even less, that the poet and
the thinker are indissociable. Many years ago Sainte-Beuve destroyed
this shallow artifice of pseudo-criticism: "Venir nous dire que tout
poëte de talent est, par essence, un grand _penseur_, et que tout vrai
_penseur_ est nécessairement artiste et poëte, c'est une prétention
insoutenable et que dément à chaque instant la réalité."

When Browning's enormous influence upon the spiritual and mental life of
our day--an influence ever shaping itself to wise and beautiful
issues--shall have lost much of its immediate import, there will still
surely be discerned in his work a formative energy whose resultant is
pure poetic gain. It is as the poet he will live: not merely as the
"novel thinker in verse." Logically, his attitude as 'thinker' is
unimpressive. It is the attitude, as I think some one has pointed out,
of acquiescence with codified morality. In one of his _Causeries_, the
keen French critic quoted above has a remark upon the great Bossuet,
which may with singular aptness be repeated of Browning:--"His is the
Hebrew genius extended, fecundated by Christianity, and open to all the
acquisitions of the understanding, but retaining some degree of
sovereign interdiction, and closing its vast horizon precisely where its
light ceases." Browning cannot, or will not, face the problem of the
future except from the basis of assured continuity of individual
existence. He is so much in love with life, for life's sake, that he
cannot even credit the possibility of incontinuity; his assurance of
eternity in another world is at least in part due to his despair at not
being eternal in this. He is so sure, that the intellectually scrupulous
detect the odours of hypotheses amid the sweet savour of indestructible
assurance. Schopenhauer says, in one of those recently-found Annotations
of his which are so characteristic and so acute, "that which is called
'mathematical certainty' is the cane of a blind man without a dog, or
equilibrium in darkness." Browning would sometimes have us accept the
evidence of his 'cane' as all-sufficient. He does not entrench himself
among conventions: for he already finds himself within the fortified
lines of convention, and remains there. Thus is true what Mr. Mortimer
says in a recent admirable critique--"His position in regard to the
thought of the age is paradoxical, if not inconsistent. He is in advance
of it in every respect but one, the most important of all, the matter of
fundamental principles; in these he is behind it. His processes of
thought are often scientific in their precision of analysis; the sudden
conclusion which he imposes upon them is transcendental and inept."
Browning's conclusions, which harmonise so well with our haphazard
previsionings, are sometimes so disastrously facile that they exercise
an insurrectionary influence. They occasionally suggest that wisdom of
Gotham which is ever ready to postulate the certainty of a fulfilment
because of the existence of a desire. It is this that vitiates so much
of his poetic reasoning. Truth may ring regnant in the lines of Abt
Vogler--

     "And what is our failure here but a triumph's evidence
      For the fulness of the days?"--

but, unfortunately, the conclusion is, in itself, illogical.

We are all familiar with, and in this book I have dwelt more than once
upon, Browning's habitual attitude towards Death. It is not a novel one.
The frontage is not so much that of the daring pioneer, as the sedate
assurance of 'the oldest inhabitant.' It is of good hap, of welcome
significance: none the less there is an aspect of our mortality of which
the poet's evasion is uncompromising and absolute. I cannot do better
than quote Mr. Mortimer's noteworthy words hereupon, in connection,
moreover, with Browning's artistic relation to Sex, that other great
Protagonist in the relentless duel of Humanity with Circumstance. "The
final inductive hazard he declines for himself; his readers may take it
if they will. It is part of the insistent and perverse ingenuity which
we display in masking with illusion the more disturbing elements of
life. Veil after veil is torn down, but seldom before another has been
slipped behind it, until we acquiesce without a murmur in the
concealment that we ourselves have made. Two facts thus carefully
shrouded from full vision by elaborate illusion conspicuously round in
our lives--the life-giving and life-destroying elements, Sex and Death.
We are compelled to occasional physiologic and economic discussion of
the one, but we shrink from recognising the full extent to which it
bases the whole social fabric carefully concealing its insurrections,
and ignoring or misreading their lessons. The other, in certain aspects,
we are compelled to face, but to do it we tipple on illusions, from our
cradle upwards, in dread of the coming grave, purchasing a drug for our
poltroonery at the expense of our sanity. We uphold our wayward steps
with the promises and the commandments for crutches, but on either side
of us trudge the shadow Death and the bacchanal Sex, and we mumble
prayers against the one, while we scourge ourselves for leering at the
other. On one only of these can Browning be said to have spoken with
novel force--the relations of sex, which he has treated with a subtlety
and freedom, and often with a beauty, unapproached since Goethe. On the
problem of Death, except in masquerade of robes and wings, his eupeptic
temperament never allowed him to dwell. He sentimentalised where
Shakspere thought." Browning's whole attitude to the Hereafter is
different from that of Tennyson only in that the latter 'faintly,' while
he strenuously, "trusts the larger hope." To him all credit, that,
standing upon the frontiers of the Past, he can implicitly trust the
Future.

     "High-hearted surely he;
      But bolder they who first off-cast
      Their moorings from the habitable Past."

The teacher may be forgotten, the prophet may be hearkened to no more,
but a great poet's utterance is never temporal, having that in it which
conserves it against the antagonism of time, and the ebb and flow of
literary ideals. What range, what extent of genius! As Mr. Frederick
Wedmore has well said, 'Browning is not a book--he is a literature.'

But that he will "stand out gigantic" in _mass_ of imperishable work,
in that far-off day, I for one cannot credit. His poetic shortcomings seem
too essential to permit of this. That fatal excess of cold over emotive
thought, of thought that, however profound, incisive, or scrupulously
clear, is not yet impassioned, is a fundamental defect of his. It is the
very impetuosity of this mental energy to which is due the miscalled
obscurity of much of Browning's work--miscalled, because, however remote
in his allusions, however pedantic even, he is never obscure in his
thought. His is that "palace infinite which darkens with excess of
light." But mere excess in itself is nothing more than symptomatic.
Browning has suffered more from intellectual exploitation than any
writer. It is a ruinous process--for the poet. "He so well repays
intelligent study." That is it, unfortunately. There are many, like the
old Scotch lady who attempted to read Carlyle's _French Revolution_,
who think they have become "daft" when they encounter a passage such as,
for example,

                               "Rivals, who ...
      Tuned, from Bocafoli's stark-naked psalms,
      To Plara's sonnets spoilt by toying with,
      'As knops that stud some almug to the pith
      'Prickèd for gum, wry thence, and crinkled worse
      'Than pursèd eyelids of a river-horse
      'Sunning himself o' the slime when whirrs the breeze--
      _Gad-fly,_ that is."

The old lady persevered with Carlyle, and, after a few days, found "she
was nae sae daft, but that she had tackled a varra dee-fee-cult author."
What would even that indomitable student have said to the above
quotation, and to the poem whence it comes? To many it is not the
poetry, but the difficulties, that are the attraction. They rejoice,
after long and frequent dippings, to find their plummet, almost lost in
remote depths, touch bottom. Enough 'meaning' has been educed from
'Childe Roland,' to cite but one instance, to start a School of
Philosophy with: though it so happens that the poem is an imaginative
fantasy, written in one day. Worse still, it was not inspired by the
mystery of existence, but by 'a red horse with a glaring eye standing
behind a dun one on a piece of tapestry that used to hang in the poet's
drawing-room.'[28] Of all his faults, however, the worst is that
jugglery, that inferior legerdemain, with the elements of the beautiful
in verse: most obvious in "Sordello," in portions of "The Ring and the
Book," and in so many of the later poems. These inexcusable violations
are like the larvæ within certain vegetable growths: soon or late they
will destroy their environment before they perish themselves. Though
possessive above all others of that science of the percipient in the
allied arts of painting and music, wherein he found the unconventional
Shelley so missuaded by convention, he seemed ever more alert to the
substance than to the manner of poetry. In a letter of Mrs. Browning's
she alludes to a friend's "melodious feeling" for poetry. Possibly the
phrase was accidental, but it is significant. To inhale the vital air of
poetry we must love it, not merely find it "interesting," "suggestive,"
"soothing," "stimulative": in a word, we must have a "melodious feeling"
for poetry before we can deeply enjoy it. Browning, who has so often
educed from his lyre melodies and harmonies of transcendent, though
novel, beauty, was too frequently, during composition, without this
melodious feeling of which his wife speaks. The distinction between
literary types such as Browning or Balzac on the one hand, and Keats or
Gustave Flaubert on the other, is that with the former there exists a
reverence for the vocation and a relative indifference to the means, in
themselves--and, with the latter, a scrupulous respect for the mere
means as well as for that to which they conduce. The poet who does not
love words for themselves, as an artist loves any chance colour upon his
palette, or as the musician any vagrant tone evoked by a sudden touch in
idleness or reverie, has not entered into the full inheritance of the
sons of Apollo. The writer cannot aim at beauty, that which makes
literature and art, without this heed--without, rather, this creative
anxiety: for it is certainly not enough, as some one has said, that
language should be used merely for the transportation of intelligence,
as a wheelbarrow carries brick. Of course, Browning is not persistently
neglectful of this fundamental necessity for the literary artist. He is
often as masterly in this as in other respects. But he is not always,
not often enough, alive to the paramount need. He writes with "the verse
being as the mood it paints:" but, unfortunately, the mood is often
poetically unformative. He had no passion for the quest for seductive
forms. Too much of his poetry has been born prematurely. Too much of it,
indeed, has not died and been born again--for all immortal verse is a
poetic resurrection. Perfect poetry is the deathless part of mortal
beauty. The great artists never perpetuate gross actualities, though
they are the supreme realists. It is Schiller, I think, who says in
effect, that to live again in the serene beauty of art, it is needful
that things should first die in reality. Thus Browning's dramatic
method, even, is sometimes disastrous in its untruth, as in Caliban's
analytical reasoning--an initial absurdity, as Mr. Berdoe has pointed
out, adding epigrammatically, 'Caliban is a savage, with the
introspective powers of a Hamlet, and the theology of an evangelical
Churchman.' Not only Caliban, but several other of Browning's personages
(Aprile, Eglamour, etc.) are what Goethe calls _schwankende
Gestalten_, mere "wavering images."

[Footnote 28: One account says 'Childe Roland' was written in three
days; another, that it was composed in one. Browning's rapidity in
composition was extraordinary. "The Return of the Druses" was written in
five days, an act a day; so, also, was the "Blot on the 'Scutcheon."]

Montaigne, in one of his essays, says that to stop gracefully is sure
proof of high race in a horse: certainly to stop in time is imperative
upon the poet. Of Browning may be said what Poe wrote of another, that
his genius was too impetuous for the minuter technicalities of that
elaborate _art_ so needful in the building up of monuments for
immortality. But has not a greater than Poe declared that "what
distinguishes the artist from the amateur is _architectoniké_ in the
highest sense; that power of execution which creates, forms, and
constitutes: not the profoundness of single thoughts, not the richness
of imagery, not the abundance of illustration." Assuredly, no "new
definition" can be an effective one which conflicts with Goethe's
incontrovertible dictum.

But this much having been admitted, I am only too willing to protest
against the uncritical outcry against Browning's musical incapacity.

A deficiency is not incapacity, otherwise Coleridge, at his highest the
most perfect of our poets, would be lowly estimated.

     "Bid shine what would, dismiss into the shade
      What should not be--and there triumphs the paramount
      Surprise o' the master." ...

Browning's music is oftener harmonic than melodic: and musicians know
how the general ear, charmed with immediately appellant melodies,
resents, wearies of, or is deaf to the harmonies of a more remote, a
more complex, and above all a more novel creative method. He is, among
poets, what Wagner is among musicians; as Shakspere may be likened to
Beethoven, or Shelley to Chopin. The common assertion as to his
incapacity for metric music is on the level of those affirmations as to
his not being widely accepted of the people, when the people have the
chance; or as to the indifference of the public to poetry generally--and
this in an age when poetry has never been so widely understood, loved,
and valued, and wherein it is yearly growing more acceptable and more
potent!

A great writer is to be adjudged by his triumphs, not by his failures:
as, to take up Montaigne's simile again, a famous race-horse is
remembered for its successes and not for the races which it lost. The
tendency with certain critics is to reverse the process. Instead of
saying with the archbishop in Horne's "Gregory VII.," "He owes it all
to his Memnonian voice! He has no genius:" or of declaring, as Prospero
says of Caliban in "The Tempest," "He is as disproportioned in his
manners as in his shape:" how much better to affirm of him what Ben
Jonson wrote of Shakspere, "Hee redeemed his vices with his vertues:
there was ever more in him to bee praysed than to bee pardoned." In the
balance of triumphs and failures, however, is to be sought the relative
measure of genius--whose equipoise should be the first matter of
ascertainment in comparative criticism.

For those who would discriminate between what Mr. Traill succinctly
terms his _generic_ greatness as thinker and man of letters, and his
_specific_ power as poet, it is necessary to disabuse the mind of
Browning's "message." The question is not one of weighty message, but of
artistic presentation. To praise a poem because of its optimism is like
commending a peach because it loves the sunshine, rather than because of
its distinguishing bloom and savour. The primary concern of the artist
must be with his vehicle of expression. In the instance of a poet, this
vehicle is language emotioned to the white-heat of rhythmic music by
impassioned thought or sensation. Schopenhauer declares it is all a
question of style now with poetry; that everything has been sung, that
everything has been duly cursed, that there is nothing left for poetry
but to be the glowing forge of words. He forgets that in quintessential
art there is nothing of the past, nothing old: even the future has part
therein only in that the present is always encroaching upon, becoming,
the future. The famous pessimistic philosopher has, in common with other
critics, made, in effect, the same remark--that Style exhales the odour
of the soul: yet he himself has indicated that the strength of Shakspere
lay in the fact that 'he had no taste,' that 'he was not a man of
letters.' Whenever genius has displayed epic force it has established a
new order. In the general disintegration and reconstruction of literary
ideals thus involved, it is easier to be confused by the novel flashing
of strange lights than to discern the central vivifying altar-flame. It
may prove that what seem to us the regrettable accidents of Browning's
genius are no malfortunate flaws, but as germane thereto as his
Herculean ruggednesses are to Shakspere, as the laboured inversions of
his blank verse are to Milton, as his austere concision is to Dante.
Meanwhile, to the more exigent among us at any rate, the flaws seem
flaws, and in nowise essential.

But when we find weighty message and noble utterance in union, as we do
in the magnificent remainder after even the severest ablation of the
poor and mediocre portion of Browning's life-work, how beneficent seem
the generous gods! Of this remainder most aptly may be quoted these
lines from "The Ring and the Book,"

     "Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore;
      Prime nature with an added artistry."

How gladly, in this dubious hour--when, as an eminent writer has phrased
it, a colossal Hand, which some call the hand of Destiny and others that
of Humanity, is putting out the lights of Heaven one by one, like
candles after a feast--how gladly we listen to this poet with his serene
faith in God, and immortal life, and the soul's unending development!
"Hope hard in the subtle thing that's Spirit," he cries in the Prologue
to "Pacchiarotto": and this, in manifold phrasing, is his
_leit-motif_, his fundamental idea, in unbroken line from the
"Pauline" of his twenty-first to the "Asolando" of his seventy-sixth year.
This superb phalanx of faith--what shall prevail against it?

How winsome it is, moreover: this, and the humanity of his song.
Profoundly he realised that there is no more significant study than the
human heart. "The development of a soul: little else is worth study," he
wrote in his preface to "Sordello": so in his old age, in his last
"Reverie"--

     "As the record from youth to age
        Of my own, the single soul--
      So the world's wide book: one page
        Deciphered explains the whole
      Of our common heritage."

He had faith also that "the record from youth to age" of his own soul
would outlast any present indifference or neglect--that whatever tide
might bear him away from our regard for a time would ere long flow
again. The reaction must come: it is, indeed, already at hand. But one
almost fancies one can hear the gathering of the remote waters once
more. We may, with Strafford,

                                  "feel sure
      That Time, who in the twilight comes to mend
      All the fantastic day's caprice, consign
      To the low ground once more the ignoble Term,
      And raise the Genius on his orb again,--
      That Time will do me right." ...

Indeed, Browning has the grand manner, for all it is more that of the
Scandinavian Jarl than of the Italian count or Spanish grandee.

And ever, below all the stress and failure, below all the triumph of his
toil, is the beauty of his dream. It was "a surpassing Spirit" that went
from out our midst.

     "One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
             Never doubted clouds would break,
      Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
      Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
                    Sleep to wake."

"Speed, fight on, fare ever There as here!" are the last words of this
brave soul. In truth, "the air seems bright with his past presence yet."

     "Sun-treader--life and light be thine for ever;
      Thou art gone from us--years go by--and spring
      Gladdens, and the young earth is beautiful,
      Yet thy songs come not--other bards arise,
      But none like thee--they stand--thy majesties,
      Like mighty works which tell some Spirit there
      Hath sat regardless of neglect and scorn,
      Till, its long task completed, it hath risen
      And left us, never to return."

            *       *       *       *       *



INDEX.


A.

"Abt Vogler," 130, 172, 202
"A Face," 130
"A Forgiveness," 130
"After," 130
"Agamemnon of Æschylus," 182
"A Grammarian's Funeral," 129, 168
"A Likeness," 130
Alma ----, Letter to, 191
"Amphibian," 130
Ancona, 150
"Andrea del Sarto," 130, 168
"Andromeda," 25
"Another way of Love," 130
"Any Wife to any Husband," 129, 168
"A Pearl," 130
"Apparent Failure," 130, 172
"Appearances," 130
Appearance, Browning's personal, 74, 161
Aprile, 107, 204, 207
"Aristophanes' Apology," 182
"Ask not one least word of praise," 130
"Asolando," 22, 39, 128, 131, 182, 196, 207, 210
Asolo, 58, 192
"A Soul's Tragedy," 89, 91, 179
"Athenæum, The," 73
"A Toccata of Galuppi's," 130, 168
"Aurora Leigh," 118, 152, 166, 169, 170


B.

Bagni di Lucca, 157, 165
Bailey's "Festus," 114
"Balaustion's Adventure," 182, 190
Balzac, 36, 114, 138, 185, 203, 206
Barrett, Arabella, 54, 174
Barrett, Edward, 136
Barrett, Mr., 144, 161, 170
"Beatrice Signorini," 131
Beautiful in Verse, the, 206-7
Beethoven, 209
"Before," 130
"Bells and Pomegranates," 76, 81, 138
"Ben Karshook's Wisdom," 167
Berdoe, E., 68, 204, 207
"Bifurcations," 130
"Bishop Blougram," 93, 179
Blake, William, 94
"Blot on the 'Scutcheon, A," 79, 88, 89, 90, 91, 206
Bossuet and Browning, 191
Browning, Clara, 21
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett:
  Browning's early influence on, 92;
  born March 4, 1809, 136;
  her girlhood and early work, 136;
  death of brother, 136;
  residence in London, 137;
  "The Cry of the Children," 137;
  friendships with Horne and Kenyon, 137;
  her appreciation of Browning's poems, 138;
  correspondence with him, 138;
  engagement, 139;
  acquaintance with Mrs. Jameson, 143;
  marriage, 145;
  Mr. Barrett's resentment, 144;
  journey to Paris, 145;
  thence to Pisa, 146;
  Browning's love for his wife, 146;
  "Sonnets from the Portuguese," 147;
  in spring to Florence, 150;
  to Ancona, _via_ Ravenna, in June, 150;
  winter at Casa Guidi, 152;
  "Aurora Leigh," 152;
  description of poetess, 153, 154;
  birth of son in 1849, 157;
  "Casa Guidi Windows," 159;
  1850, spring in Rome; proposal to confer poet-laureateship on
      Mrs. Browning, 159, 161;
  1851, visits England, 161;
  winter in Paris, 162;
  she is enthusiastic about Napoleon III. and interested in Spiritualism;
  summer in London, 162;
  autumn at Casa Guidi, 162;
  winter 1853-4 in Rome, 1856 "Aurora Leigh," death of Kenyon,
      legacies, 170;
  1857, death of Mr. Barrett, 170;
  1858, delicacy of Mrs. Browning, 171;
  July 1858, Brownings travel to Normandy; "Two Poems by Elizabeth
      Barrett and Robert Browning," 1854, 173;
  1860, "Poems before Congress," and death of Arabella Barrett, 160;
  "North and South," 174;
  return to Casa Guidi, and death on 28th June 1861, 175, 206
Browning, Reuben, 18, 19, 20
Browning, Robert:
  born in London in 1812, 11, 13, 19;
  his literary and artistic antecedents and contemporaries, 12-14;
  his parentage and ancestry, 15, 17-19;
  concerning traces of Semitic origin, 15-19;
  his sisters, 20;
  his father, 18;
  his mother, 20, 23;
  his uncle, Reuben Browning, 20;
  the Camberwell home, 23;
  his childhood, 22;
  early poems, 25;
  translation of the odes of Horace, 26;
  goes to school at Peckham, 27;
  his holiday afternoons, 27;
  "Death of Harold," 29;
  criticisms of Miss Flower and Mr. Fox, 30;
  he reads Shelley's and Keats's poems, 30, 31;
  he has a tutor, 33;
  attends Gower Street University College, 34;
  he decides to be a poet, 35;
  writes "Pauline," 1832, 36;
  it is published in 1833, 39;
  "Pauline," 39-49;
  criticisms thereon, 49;
  Rossetti and "Pauline," studies at British Museum, 52, 53;
  travels in 1833 to Russia, 57;
  to Italy, 58;
  return to Camberwell, 1834, 58, and begins "Paracelsus," sonnet
      signed "Z," 1834, 60;
  love for Venice, 62;
  "Paracelsus," 59, 62;
  criticisms thereon, 71, 73;
  he meets Macready, 73;
  "Narses," 76;
  he meets Talfourd, Wordsworth, Landor, 77;
  "Strafford," 79;
  his dramas, 85;
  his love of the country, 95;
  "Pippa Passes," 96, 98;
  "Sordello," 105;
  origin of "The Ring and the Book," 1865;
  "The Ring and the Book," 113-119;
  "The Inn Album," 127;
  "Men and Women," 128;
  proposed "Transcripts from Life," 129;
  "Flower o' the Vine," 131;
  correspondence between him and Miss Barrett, 136;
  meeting in 1846, 138;
  engagement, 140;
  marriage, 12th September 1846, 145;
  sojourn in Pisa, 146;
  they go to Florence, 148;
  to Ancona, _via_ Ravenna, 150;
  "The Guardian Angel," 150;
  Casa Guidi, 152;
  birth of son, March 9th, 1849, 157;
  they go to Vallombrosa and Bagni di Lucca for the autumn, and winter
      at Casa Guidi, 156;
  spring of 1850 in Rome, 159;
  "Two in the Campagna," 156;
  1851, they visit England;
  description of Browning, 161;
  winter 1851-2 in Paris with Robert Browning, senior, 162;
  Browning writes Prefatory Essay to Moxon's edition of Shelley's
      Letters, 163;
  midsummer, Baths of Lucca, 165;
  in Florence, 166;
  "In a Balcony," 166;
  winter in Rome, 1853-4, 166;
  the work written there, 167;
  "Ben Karshook's Wisdom," 167;
  "Men and Women" published, 168;
  Kenyon's death, and legacies to the Brownings, 170;
  poems written between 1855-64, 169;
  July 1858, Brownings go to Normandy, 173;
  "Legend of Pornic," "Gold Hair," 173;
  autumn of 1859 in Sienna; winter 1860-61 in Rome, 173;
  death of Mrs. Browning, June 1861, 175;
  "Prospice," 176;
  1866, Browning loses his father;
    Miss Sarianna resides with Browning, 177;
  his ways of life, 177;
  first collected edition of his works, 1868, 178;
  first part of "The Ring and the Book" published, 178;
  "Hervé Riel," 179;
  Tauchnitz edition, 1872, 179;
  "Bishop Blougram," 179;
  "Selections," 180;
  "La Saisiaz," 1877, 180;
  "The Two Poets of Croisic," 181;
  later works, 182;
  "Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau," "Red Cotton Nightcap Country," 182, 183;
  "Fifine at the Fair," 183, 184, 185-7;
  "Jocoseria," 187;
  1881, Browning Society established, 188;
  his latter years, 189;
  revisits Asolo, 191;
  Palazzo Rezzonico, 192;
  religious belief, 193;
  death, December 12th, 1889, 195, 196;
  funeral, 197;
  to be estimated by a new definition, 200;
  as poet, rather than as thinker, 200;
  his love of life, 201;
  his, like Bossuet's, a Hebrew genius fecundated by Christianity, 201;
  his artistic relations to Death and Sex, 201-3;
  where, in standpoint, he differs from Tennyson, 203;
  as to quality of his _mass_ of work, 204;
  intellectually exploited, 204;
  his difficulties, and their attraction to many, 205;
  his attitude to the future, influence, and significance, 205-211;
  summary of his life-work, 200-212.
Browning, Robert Wiedemann Barrett, 18, 37, 157, 163, 174
Browning, Robert (senior), 18, 20, 32, 33, 37, 38, 159, 173
Browning, Sarianna (Mrs.), 21, 25, 29, 32
Browning, Sarianna (Miss), 20, 177, 188
Browning Society, the, 160, 188
Browning, William Shergold, 18
Byron, 149
"By the Fireside," 130


C.

"Caliban upon Setebos," 172, 207, 209
Camberwell, 20, 27, 33, 38, 54, 58, 61
Carlyle, Thomas, 80, 105, 110, 115, 202, 204
Casa Guidi, 120, 152, 154, 163, 166, 174
"Cavalier-Tunes," 129
"Childe Roland," 203, 205
Chopin, 209
"Christmas Eve and Easter-Day," 159, 179
"Cleon," 130
Coleridge, 208
"Colombe's Birthday," 89-91
"Confessional, The," 129
"Confessions," 130
Contemporaries, literary and artistic, of Browning, 12-14
Conway, Moncure, 15, 193
Cristina, 129
"Cristina and Manaldeschi," 130
Cunningham, Allan, 50, 51


D.

Dante, 93, 106, 107, 150
Death, Browning on, 195, 202, 211
"Death of Harold," 29
"Death in the Desert, A," 129, 172
Defoe, 198
"De Gustibus," 57, 59, 130
Dickens, Charles, 54, 90
"Dîs Aliter Visum," 130, 172
Domett, A. (Waring), 151
Dramas, Browning's, 82-92
"Dramatic Idyls," 57, 182
"Dramatic Romances," 128, 179
"Dramatis Personæ," 127, 171, 179
Dulwich Wood, 62, 95, 98, 104-5


E.

"Earth's Immortalities," 129
"Echetlos," 130
Epics, series of monodramatic, 36
Equator of Browning's genius, the, 178
"Evelyn Hope," 129, 168


F.

Faucit, Miss Helen, 80
"Ferishtah's Fancies," 182
"Fifine at the Fair," 110, 130, 182, 184-7
Flaubert, Gustave, 206
"Flight of the Duchess," 27, 129
"Flower's Name, The," 129, 167
_Flower o' the Vine_, 131
Flower, Miss Sarah (afterwards Adams), 30, 52
Form, Artistic, 206-9
Forster, John, 50, 73, 76
Fox, Mrs. Bridell, 59
Fox, Rev. William Johnson, 30, 50, 51, 52, 54, 73
"Fra Lippo Lippi," 129, 166, 168
Furnivall, Dr., 16, 163
Future, Browning and  the, 201-10


G.

Goethe, 114, 203, 207, 208
"Gold Hair," 172, 173
Gordon, General, 69
Gosse, E.W., 81
"Grammarian's Funeral, A," 129, 168
"Guardian Angel, The," 130, 150


H.

"Halburt and Hob," 130
Hawthorne, N., 154-5, 171
"Heap Cassia," etc., 71
Heine, 57, 165
"Heretic's Tragedy, The," 129
"Hervé Riel," 130, 179
Hillard, G.S., 154-6
"Holy Cross Day," 167
"Home Thoughts from Abroad," 57, 129, 157, 189
"Home Thoughts from the Sea," 57, 129, 189
Hood, Thomas, 167
Horne, R.H., 137, 138, 150, 152, 206, 209
Houghton, Lord, 167
"How they brought the Good News," etc., 29, 179, 189
Hugo, Victor, 112, 114


I.

"Imperante Augusto," 131
"In a Balcony," 88, 166, 167, 168, 179
"In a Gondola," 129
"Inapprehensiveness," 131
"In a Year," 130
"Inn Album, The," 70, 101, 113, 127, 182
"Instans Tyrannus," 26
"Italian in England, The," 58
Italian Art, Music, etc.--Influence of, on Browning, 58
Italy, first visit to, 56-7
"Ivàn Ivànovitch," 57, 130
"Ixion," 188


J.

Jameson, Mrs., 143
"James Lee's Wife," 59, 130, 172
Jerrold, Douglas, 109
"Jocoseria," 130, 182, 187
"Johannes Agricola," 59
Joubert, 193


K.

Karshish, Epistle to, 129, 166
Keats, 32, 71, 94, 134, 198, 206
Kenyon, John, 137, 163, 170
"King Victor and King Charles," 89, 91


L.

"Lady and the Painter, The," 131
Lamartine on Bossuet, 191
Landor, W.S., 77-9, 92
"La Saisiaz," 130, 180
"Last Ride Together, The," 130
Le Croisie, 178
Lehmann's, Rudolf, portrait of Browning, 16, 17
_Leit-Motif_, Browning's, 210
Letter to a Girl Friend, 191
"Life in a Love," 130
"Light Woman, A," 130
"Lost Leader, The," 78, 129
"Love among the Ruins," 129, 166, 168
"Love in a Life," 130
"Lover's Quarrel, A," 129
Lowell, J.R., 142
"Luria," 88, 89-92, 179


M.

Macpherson, Mrs., 143-6
Macready, 74-81
"Magical Nature," 130
Manner, Browning's, 211
Marlowe, 114
"Mary Wollstonecraft and Fuseli," 130
"Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha," 130, 168
"May and Death," 130
Mazzini, 58
"Meeting at Night," 129, 158
"Memorabilia," 130, 166
"Men and Women," 127-136, 166, 168, 169, 171, 178, 179, 182
Meredith, George, 123, 124, 186, 198
Meynell, Wilfrid, 191
Montaigne, 207
Mortimer, 201-2
Motive, Browning's fundamental poetic, 210
Mill, John Stuart, 51
Milsand, J., 111
Milton, 49, 92, 133, 198
"Misconceptions," 130
Mitford, Mary, 78
"Muléykeh," 130
Murray, Alma, 188
Music of Browning's verse, 205-10
"My Last Duchess," 129
"My Star," 130


N.

"Narses," 76
"Natural Magic," 120
Nature, Browning's observation of, 96
Nettleship, J., 75, 107
"Never the Time and the Place," 130, 188
Newman, Cardinal, 194
_New Spirit of the Age_, 138
Normandy, the Brownings in, 173
"Now," 131
"Numpholeptos," 130


O.

Obscurity, Browning's, 106, 180
"Old Pictures in Florence," 130
"O Lyric Love," 121, 130, 177
"One Way of Love," 130
"One Word More," 169, 177
Optimism, Browning's, 24 (and _vide_ Summary)
Orion, new star in, 198
Orr, Mrs. Sutherland, 18, 98, 111, 184
Orthodoxy, Browning's, 193
"Over the seas our galleys went," 29


P.

"Pacchiarotto," 128-30, 165, 182, 207, 210
Palazzo Rezzonico, 192
"Pan and Luna," 130
"Paracelsus," 50, 58, 60-72, 85, 106, 107
Paris, the Brownings in, 162
"Parleyings," 182
"Parting at Morning," 158
Pater, Walter, 88
"Pauline," 25, 32, 36, 38-48, 51-54, 85, 128, 208, 210
"Pheidippides," 130
"Pictor Ignotus," 129
"Pied Piper of Hamelin," 75, 129, 179
"Pippa Passes," 24, 32, 45, 58, 59, 70, 92, 95-104, 113
Pisa, 146
"Pisgah Sights," 130
Plato, 95
Poe, E.A., 207
Poems, Early, 25, 26, 27, 28, 71
"Poetical Works," 178
"Poetics," 131
Pompilia, 58, 122-125
"Pope, The," 126
"Popularity," 72
"Porphyria," 59, 66
Portraits of Browning, 16, 17, 53
"Pretty Woman, A," 130
Primary importance, Browning's, 134
"Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau," 165, 182, 183
Profundity, Browning's, 94
"Prospice," 130, 172, 176


R.

Rabbi Ben Ezra, 129, 172
Rawdon Brown, Sonnet to, 107
"Red Cotton Nightcap Country," 110, 182-3
Religious Opinions, 193, etc.
"Rephan," 131
"Return of the Druses, The," 37, 89-91, 206
"Reverie," 131, 207, 210
Richmond, 38
"Ring and the Book, The," 39, 101, 113-128, 177, 182, 203, 205, 210
Romance, Browning and, 105
Rome, the Brownings in, 159, 166
Roscoe, W.C., 70
"Rosny," 131
Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 52-3, 55, 104
"Round of Day, The," 131
Ruskin, J., 23, 129
Russia, Visit to, 58


S.

Sainte-Beuve, 194, 200
"Saul," 129, 167, 168
Schiller, 207
School, Peckham, 27, 33
Schopenhauer, 209, 210
Shortcomings, Browning's artistic, 205
Science, Browning and, 68
Scott, David, 14
Scott, Sir W., 198
"Serenade at the Villa," 130
Sex, Browning's artistic relation to, 202
Shakspere, 36, 85-8, 93, 114, 206, 208, 209, 210
Shelley, 30, 43, 136, 146, 149, 164-5, 172, 196, 203, 205, 209
Shelley Letters, the, 163
"Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis," 143, 167
Skelton, John, 90
"Sludge the Medium," 94, 165
_Songs_--"Nay but you," 129;
  "Round us the wild creatures," 130;
  "Once I saw," 130;
  "Man I am," 130;
  "You groped your way," 130;
  "Wish me no wish unspoken," 130
Sonnets, Browning's, 58
"Sonnets from the Portuguese," 147, 148
"Sordello," 37, 58, 63, 79, 85, 89, 91, 92, 105-12, 203, 205, 210
Soul,  Browning and the, 210-11
"Soul's Tragedy, A," 89, 91, 179
"Speculative," 131
Spiritual influence, Browning's, 200
"St. Martin's Summer," 130
Story, W.W., 154, 171, 192
"Strafford," 62, 75, 79-86, 89, 211
Summary of Criticism, 198-212
Swinburne, A.C., 106


T.

Talfourd, 54, 78
Tauchnitz edition, 179
Taylor, Bayard, 161
Tennyson, Lord, 54, 55, 134, 161, 180, 192
"The Statue and the Bust," 173
"The Tomb at St. Praxed's," 129, 143
"There's a woman like a Dew-drop," 192
Thinker, Browning as, 200
"Through the Metidja to Abd-el-Kadr," 129
"Tokay," 167
"Too Late," 130
"Touch him ne'er so lightly," 130
Tour-de-force, Poetry and, 115
_Transcripts from Life_, 129-131
Traill, H.D., 209
"Two in the Campagna," 130, 159, 160
"Two Poets of Croisic," 130, 181


U.

University College, 33


V.

Venice, 59, 192, 197
"Verse-making," 130


W.

Wagner, 209
Wedmore, F., 204
Westminster Abbey, 196
"What of the Leafage," etc., 188
"Why from the World," 130
Wiedemann, Mr., 18
"Woman's Last Word, A," 129
Women, Browning's, 66
"Women and Roses," 130
Wonder Spirit, Browning and the, 95
Wordsworth, 78, 94, 145, 161
Work, Browning's mass of, 201


Y.

Yates, E., Letter from Browning to, 189
York, the horse, 20, 190
"Youth and Art," 130, 172


Z.

"Z" signed Sonnet, 58



BIBLIOGRAPHY.

BY

JOHN P. ANDERSON

(_British Museum_).


  I. WORKS.
 II. SINGLE WORKS.
III. CONTRIBUTIONS TO MAGAZINES.
 IV. PRINTED LETTERS.
  V. SELECTIONS.
 VI. APPENDIX--
       Biography, Criticism, etc.
       Magazine Articles.
VII. CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF WORKS

       *       *       *       *       *



I. WORKS.

Poems. 2 vols. A new edition. London, 1849, 16mo.
  Vol. i.,
    Paracelsus;
    Pippa Passes, a Drama;
    King Victor and King Charles, a Tragedy;
    Colombe's Birthday, a Play.
  Vol. ii.,
    A Blot in the 'Scutcheon, a Tragedy;
    The Return of the Druses, a Tragedy;
    Luria, a Tragedy;
    A Soul's Tragedy;
    Dramatic Romances and Lyrics.

The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. Third edition. 3 vols.
London, 1863, 8vo.
  Vol. i.,
    Lyrics;
    Romances;
    Men and Women.
  Vol. ii.,
    Tragedies and other Plays.
  Vol. iii.,
    Paracelsus;
    Christmas Eve and Easter-Day;
    Sordello.

The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. 6 vols. London, 1868, 8vo.
  Vol. i.,
    Pauline;
    Paracelsus;
    Strafford.
  Vol. ii.,
    Sordello;
    Pippa Passes.
  Vol. iii.,
    King Victor and King Charles;
    Dramatic Lyrics;
    The Return of the Druses.
  Vol. iv.,
    A Blot in the 'Scutcheon;
    Colombe's Birthday;
    Dramatic Romances.
  Vol. v.,
    A Soul's Tragedy;
    Luria;
    Christmas Eve and Easter-Day;
    Men and Women.
  Vol. vi.,
    In a Balcony;
    Dramatis Personæ.

Complete works of Robert Browning. A reprint from the latest English
edition. Chicago, 1872-74, 8vo.
  Nos. 1-19 of the "Official Guide of the Chicago and Alton R.R. and
  Monthly Reprint and Advertiser."

The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. 2 vols. Leipzig, 1872, 8vo.
  Vols. 1197, 1198 of the "Tauchnitz Collection of British Authors."

The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. 16 vols. London, 1888-9, 8vo.
  Vol. i. contains _Pauline_ and _Sordello_.
  Vol. ii., _Paracelsus_ and _Strafford_.
  Vol. iii., _Pippa Passes; King Victor and King Charles; The Return of
             the Druses; A Soul's Tragedy._
  Vol. iv., _A Blot in the 'Scutcheon; Colombe's Birthday; Men and
            Women_.
  Vol. v., _Dramatic Romances; Christmas Eve and Easter-Day._
  Vol. vi., _Dramatic Lyrics; Luria._
  Vol. vii., _In a Balcony; Dramatis Personæ._
  Vols. viii.-x., _The Ring and the Book_, 3 vols.
  Vol. xi., _Balaustion's Adventure; Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau;
            Fifine at the Fair_.
  Vol. xii., _Red Cotton Night-Cap Country; The Inn Album._
  Vol. xiii., _Aristophanes' Apology; The Agamemnon of Æschylus._
  Vol. xiv., _Pacchiarotto and how he worked in Distemper, with
             other Poems._
  Vol. xv., _Dramatic Idyls; Jocoseria_.
  Vol. xvi., _Ferishtah's Fancies; Parleyings with Certain People._



II. SINGLE WORKS.

The Agamemnon of Æschylus, transcribed by Robert Browning.
  London, 1877, 8vo.

Aristophanes' Apology, including a transcript from Euripides,
  being the Last Adventure of Balaustion. London, 1875, 8vo.

Asolando: Fancies and Facts. London, 1890 [1889], 8vo.
  Now in seventh edition.

Balaustion's Adventure; including a transcript from Euripides
  [i.e., a translation of the "Alcestis"]. London, 1871, 8vo.
  Now in third edition.

Bells and Pomegranates. 8 Nos. London, 1841-1846, 8vo.
  No. i., _Pippa Passes_, 1841.
  No. ii., _King Victor and King Charles_, 1842.
  No. iii., _Dramatic Lyrics_, 1842.
  No. iv., _The Return of the Druses_, 1843.
  No. v., _A Blot in the 'Scutcheon_, 1843.
  No. vi., _Colombe's Birthday_, 1844.
  No. vii., _Dramatic Romances and Lyrics_, 1845.
  No. viii., _Luria_; and _A Soul's Tragedy_, 1846.

Christmas Eve and Easter-Day. A poem. London, 1850, 16mo.

Cleon. _Moxon_: London, 1855, 8vo.
  Reprinted in _Men and Women_.

Dramatic Idyls, 2 series. London, 1879-80, 8vo.
  The First Series now in 2nd edition.

Dramatis Personæ. London, 1864, 8vo.
  Three poems in this book were reprinted from advance copies in the
  Atlantic Monthly in vol. 13, 1864, viz., _Gold Hair_, pp. 596-599;
  Prospice, p. 694; _Under the Cliff_, pp. 737, 738.
    Second edition.  London, 1864, 8vo.

Ferishtah's Fancies.  London, 1884, 8vo.
  Now in third edition.

Fifine at the Fair. London, 1872, 8vo.

Gold Hair: a Legend of Pornic. [London], 1864, 8vo.
  Reprinted in _Dramatis Personæ_. Gold Hair appeared in the
  Atlantic Monthly, May 1864, and _Dramatis Personæ_ was published
  on May 28, 1864.

The Inn Album. London, 1875, 8vo.

Jocoseria. London, 1883, 8vo.
  Now in third edition.

La Saisiaz. The Two Poets of Croisie. London, 1878, 8vo.

Men and Women. 2 vols. London, 1855, 8vo.

Pacchiarotto and how he worked in distemper: with other poems.
  London, 1876, 8vo.

Paracelsus. London, 1835, 8vo.

Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in their Day. Introduced by
  a Dialogue between Apollo and the Fates, etc. London, 1887, 8vo.

Pauline, a Fragment of a Confession. London, 1833, 8vo.
  There are only five known copies extant, two of which are in the
    British Museum.
  A reprint of the original edition of 1833. Edited by T.J. Wise.
    London, 1886, 12mo. Four copies were printed on vellum.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin, with 35 illustrations by Kate Greenaway.
  London [1889], 4to.
  Appeared originally in _Dramatic Lyrics_ (Bells and Pomegranates,
  No. III.), 1842.

Prince Hohenstiel--Schwangau: Saviour of Society. London, 1871, 8vo.

Red Cotton Night-Cap Country; or Turf and Towers. London, 1873, 8vo.

The Ring and the Book. 4 vols. London, 1868-69, 8vo.
  Now in second edition.

Sordello. London, 1840, 8vo.

The Statue and the Bust. _Moxon_: London, 1855, 8vo.
  Reprinted in _Men and Women_.

Strafford: an historical tragedy. London, 1837, 8vo.
  [Acting edition for the use of the North London Collegiate School
     for Girls.] [London, 1882.] 8vo.
  Another edition. With notes and preface by E.H. Hickey, and an
     introduction by S.R. Gardiner. London, 1884, 8vo.

Two Poems. By Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning.
  London, 1854, 8vo.
  These two poems, "A Plea for the Ragged Schools of London," by
  Elizabeth B. Browning, and "The Twins," by Robert Browning, were
  printed by Miss Arabella Barrett, for a bazaar in aid of a "Refuge
  for Young Destitute Girls." "The Twins" was reprinted in "Men and
  Women," in 1850.



III. CONTRIBUTIONS TO MAGAZINES, ETC.

Sonnet.--"Eyes, calm beside thee, (Lady couldst thou know!")
  Dated August 17, 1834; signed "Z."
  (_Monthly Repository_, vol. 8 N.S., 1834, p. 712.)

The King.--"A King lived long ago." Signed "Z."
  (_Monthly Repository_, vol. 9 N.S., 1835, pp. 707, 708.)
  Reprinted with six fresh lines and revised throughout,
  in Pippa Passes (1841).

Porphyria.--"The rain set early in to-night." Signed "Z."
  (_Monthly Repository_, vol. 10 N.S., 1836, pp. 43, 44.)

Johannes Agricola.--"There's Heaven above; and night by night." Signed "Z."
  (_Monthly Repository_, vol. 10 N.S., 1836, pp. 45, 46.)
  _Porphyria_ and _Johannes Agricola_ were reprinted in
  "Bells and Pomegranates," No. iii., with the title _Madhouse Cells_.

Lines.--"Still ailing, wind? Wilt be appeased or no?" Signed "Z."
  (_Monthly Repository_, vol. 10 N.S., 1836, pp. 270, 271.)
  Reprinted revised, in _Dramatis Personae_, 1884, as the first
  six stanzas of VI. of "James Lee."

The Laboratory (Ancient Régime).
  (_Hood's Magazine_, vol. 1, 1844, pp. 513, 514.)
  Reprinted in _Dramatic Romances and Lyrics_ (1845), as the first
  of two poems called "France and England."

Claret and Tokay.
  (_Hoofs Magazine_, vol. 1, 1844, p. 525.)
  Reprinted in _Dramatic Romances and Lyrics_ (1846).

Garden Fancies. I. The Flower's Name; II. Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis.
  (_Hood's Magazine_, vol. 2, 1844, pp. 45-48.)
  Reprinted in _Dramatis Romances and Lyrics_ (1845).

The Boy and the Angel.
  (_Hood's Magazine_, vol. 2, 1844, pp. 140-142.)
  Reprinted revised, and with five fresh couplets, in _Dramatic
  Romances and Lyrics_ (1845).

The Tomb at St. Praxed's (Rome 15--).
  (_Hood's Magazine_, vol. 3, 1845, pp. 237-239.)
  Reprinted in _Dramatic Romances and Lyrics_ (1845).

The Flight of the Duchess.
  (_Hood's Magazine_, vol. 3, 1845, pp. 313-318.)
  Reprinted in _Dramatic Romances and Lyrics_ (1845).

Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley. [A fabrication.]
  With an introductory essay, by Robert Browning. London, 1852, 8vo.
---- On the poet, objective and subjective; on the latter's aim;
     on Shelley as man and poet. [Being a reprint of the Introductory
     Essay to "Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley."] London, 1881, 8vo.
     Published for the Browning Society.
---- A reprint of the Introductory Essay prefixed to the volume of
     Letters of Shelley. Edited by W. Tyas Harden. London, 1838, 8vo.

Ben Karshook's Wisdom.
  (_The Keepsake_, 1856, p. 16.)

May and Death.
  (_The Keepsake_, 1857, p. 164.)
  Reprinted in _Dramatis Personæ_ (1845).

Orpheus and Eurydice.
  F. Leighton. 8 lines. (_Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogue_
  1864, p. 13.)
  Reprinted in _Poetical Works_, 1868, where it is included in
  _Dramatis Personæ_.

Gold Hair.
  _See_ note to _Dramatis Personæ_.

Prospice.
  _See_ note to _Dramatis Personæ_.

Under the Cliff.
  _See_ note to _Dramatis Personæ_.

A selection from the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
  [First series edited by Robert Browning.] 2 series. London, 1866-80, 8vo.

Hervé Riel. (_Cornhill Magazine_, vol 23, 1871, pp. 257-260.)
  Reprinted in _Pacchiarotto and other Poems_, 1876.

"Oh Love, Love:" the Lyric of Euripides in his Hippolytus.
  (_Euripides. By J.P. Mahaffy_, p. 16.) London, 1879, 12mo.

"The Blind Man to the Maiden said."
  (_The Hour will Come_, by _Wilhelmine von Hillern.
  From the German by Clara Bell_, vol. ii., p. 174.)
  London [1879], 8vo.
  Printed anonymously; quoted with statement of authorship in the
  _Whitehall Review_, March 1, 1883.
  Reprinted in _Browning Society's Papers_, Pt. iv., p. 410.

Ten new lines to "Touch him ne'er so lightly."
  (_Dramatic Idyls_, 2nd ser., 1880, p. 149.)
  Lines written in an autograph album, Oct. 14, 1880.
  (_Century Magazine_, vol. 25, 1882, pp. 159, 160.)
  Printed without Mr. Browning's consent. Reprinted in the
  _Browning Society's Papers_, Pt. in., p. 43.

Sonnet on Goldoni (dated "Venice, Nov. 27, 1883").
  Written for the Album of the Committee of the Goldoni Monument
  at Venice, and inserted on the first page.
  (_Pall Mall Gazette_, Dec. 8, 1883.)
  Reprinted in the Browning Society's Papers, Pt. v., p. 98.

Sonnet on Rawdon Brown (dated Nov. 28, 1883).
  (_Century Magazine_, vol. 27, 1884, p. 640.)
  Reprinted in the Browning Society's Papers, Pt. v., p. 132.

Paraphrase from Horace.
  Four lines, written impromptu for Mr. Felix Moscheles.
  (_Pall Mall Gazette_, Dec. 13, 1883, p. 6.)
  Reprinted in the Browning Society's Papers, Pt. v., p. 99.

Helen's Tower: Sonnet, dated "April 26, 1870."
  Written for the Earl of Dufferin, who built a tower in memory of his
  mother, Helen, Countess of Gifford, on his estate at Clandeboye.
  (_Pall Mall Gazette_, Dec. 28, 1883, p. 2.)
  Reprinted in _Sonnets of this Century_, edited by William Sharp,
  1886, and in the Browning Society's Papers, Pt. v., p. 97.

The Founder of the Feast: Sonnet. (Dated "April 5, 1884.")
  Inscribed by Mr. Browning in the Album presented to Mr. Arthur Chappell,
  director of the St. James's Hall Concerts, etc. (_The World_,
  April 16, 1884.)
  Reprinted in the Browning Society's Papers, Pt. vii., p. 18.

"The Names." Sonnet on Shakespeare.
  Contributed to the "Shaksperian Show-Book" of the Shaksperian Show,
  held at the Albert Hall, on May 29-31, 1884.
  Reprinted in the _Pall Mall Gazette_, May 29, and in the Browning
  Society's Papers, Pt. v., p. 105.

The Divine Order and other Sermons and Addresses,
  by the late Thomas Jones. Edited by Brynmor Jones.
  With a short introduction by Robert Browning. London, 1884, 8vo.

Why I am a Liberal: Sonnet.
  (_Why I am a Liberal_, edited by Andrew Reid. London, 1885, p. 11.)
  Reprinted in _Sonnets of this Century_, edited by William Sharp,
  1886, and in the Browning Society's Papers, Pt. viii., p. 92.

Prefatory Note to the _Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning_,
  1889, dated "Dec. 10, 1887."

To Edward Fitzgerald. "I chanced upon a new book yesterday."
  12 lines, dated "July 8, 1889" (_Athenæum_, July 13, 1889, p. 64).



IV. PRINTED LETTERS.

Letter to Laman Blanchard [? April, 1841], dated "Craven Cottage,
  Saturday." (_Poetical Works of Laman Blanchard_, pp. 6-8.)
  London, 1876, 8vo.

Letters to Henry Fothergill Chorley on his novels Pomfret (1845) and
  Roccabella (1860). (_Autobiography, Memoir, and Letters of Henry
  Fothergill Chorley_, vol. ii., pp. 25, 26, 169-174.)

Letter to R.H. Horne, dated Pisa, Dec. 4 [1846]. Another dated London,
  Sept. 24 [1851], signed Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
  (_Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to R.H. Horne_, 1877,
  vol. ii., pp. 182-3, 194-5.) Londen, 1877, 8vo.

Letter to William Etty, R.A., dated "Bagni di Lucea, Sept. 21, 1849."
  (_Life of William Etty, R.A. By Alexander_ _Gilchrist_,
  vol. ii., pp. 280-81.) London, 1855, 8vo.

Letter to Leigh Hunt (dated "Bagni di Lucca, 6th Oct., 1857").
  (_Correspondence of Leigh Hunt, edited by his eldest son_,
  vol. ii., pp. 264-267.) London, 1862, 8vo.

Letter to the Editor of _The Daily News_, dated "19 Warwick
  Crescent, W., Feb. 9," stating that his contribution to the French
  Relief Fund was his publishers' payment for a lyrical poem (Hervé Riel).
  (_Daily News_, Feb. 10, 1871.)

Letter to the Editor of _The Daily News_, dated "Nov. 20."
  On line 131, "Gave us the doctrine of the enclitic De" of the poem,
  _A Grammarian's Funeral_. (_Daily News_, Nov. 21, 1874.)

Letter to the Rev. Alexander B. Grosart, on the Poem of _The Lost
  Leader_ and _Wordsworth_, dated "19 Warwick Crescent,
  Feb. 24, 1875." (_The Prose Works of William Wordsworth.
  Edited by the Rev. A.B. Grosart_, vol. i., p. xxxvii.)
  London, 1876, 8vo.

The Lord Rectorship of St. Andrew's. Letter to the Editor of
  _The Times_, dated "19 Warwick Crescent, Nov. 19."
  (_Times_, Nov. 20, 1877.)

Letter to F.J. Furnivall. (_Academy_, Dec. 20, 1878.)

Letter to Mr. J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps, and printed by the latter in 1881.

Letter to Mr. Charles Kent, dated "29 De Vere Gardens, W.,
  28 August, 1889." Accompanied by a presentation copy of the
  3rd vol. of the new collective edition of "Poems." (_Athenaeum._.
  Dec. 21, 1889, p. 860).

In Berdoe's "Browning's Message to his Time," etc., London, 1890, there
are a number of letters from Browning.

In the new edition of Kingsland's "Robert Browning," London, 1890, there
are several letters from Browning.



V. SELECTIONS.

Selections from the Poetical Works of Robert Browning.
  [Edited by J. Forster and B.W. Procter.] London, 1863 [1862], 16mo.

Moxon's Miniature Poets. A Selection from the Works of Robert Browning.
  London, 1865, 8vo.

Selections from the Poetical Works of Robert Browning.
  2 series. London, 1872-80, 8vo.

Favourite Poems. Illustrated.
  Boston, 1877, 16mo.

A Selection from the Works of Robert Browning.
  With a memoir of the author, and explanatory notes. Edited by F.H. Ahn.
  Berlin, 1882, 8vo. Vol. viii. of Ahn's "Collection of British and
  American Standard Authors."

Stories from Robert Browning.
  By F.M. Holland. With an introduction by Mrs. Sutherland Orr.
  London, 1882, 8vo.

Lyrical and Dramatic Poems selected from the works of Robert Browning.
  With an extract from Stedman's "Victorian Poets." Edited by E.T. Mason.
  New York, 1883, 8vo.

Selections from the Poetry of Robert Browning.
  With an introduction by R.G. White. New York [1883], 8vo.

Pomegranates from an English Garden: a selection from the poems
of Robert Browning.
  With introduction and notes by J.M. Gibson. New York, 1885, 8vo.

Select Poems of Robert Browning.
  Edited, with notes, by William J. Rolfe and Heloise E. Hersey.
  New York, 1886, 8vo.

Lyrics, Idyls, and Romances from the poetic and dramatic works
of Robert Browning.
  Boston, 1887, 8vo.

Good and true Thoughts from Robert Browning.
  Selected by Amy Cross. New York, 1888, 4to.
  Printed in blue ink, and on one side of the leaf.

The Browning Reciter: Poems for Recitation, by Robert Browning
and other writers.
  Edited by A.H. Miles. London, 1889, 8vo.
  Part of the "Platform Series."



VI. APPENDIX.

BIOGRAPHY, CRITICISM, ETC.


Alexander, William John.
  An Introduction to the poetry of Robert Browning.
    Boston, 1889, 8vo.

Austin, Alfred.
  The Poetry of the Period.
    London, 1870, 8vo. Robert Browning, pp. 38-76. Appeared originally
    in _Temple Bar_, vol. 28, 1869, pp. 316-333.

Bagehot, Walter.
  Literary Studies.
    2 vols. London, 1879, 8vo. Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Browning; or,
    Pure, Ornate, and Grotesque Art in English Poetry, vol. ii.,
    pp. 338-390. Appeared originally in the _National Review_,
    vol. 19, 1864, pp. 27-67.

Barnett, Professor.
  Browning's Jews and Shakespeare's Jew.
    Read at the 54th meeting of the Browning Society, Nov. 25th, 1887.
    London, 1888, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. x., pp. 207-220.

Beale, Dorothea.
  The Religious Teaching of Browning.
    (Read at the 10th meeting of the Browning Society, Oct. 27th, 1882.)
    London, 1882, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. iii.,
    pp. 323-338.

Berdoe, Edward.
  Browning as a Scientific Poet.
    (Read at the meeting of the Browning Society, April 24th, 1885.)
    London, 1885, 8vo. The Browning Society's Paper, Pt. vii., pp. 33-54.
  Browning's Estimate of Life.
    (Read at the meeting of the Society, Oct. 28, 1887.) London, 1888,
    8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. x., pp. 200-206.
  Browning's Message to his Time: His Religion, Philosophy, and Science.
    [With facsimile letters of Browning and portrait.] London, 1890, 8vo.

Birrell, Augustine.
  Obiter Dicta.
    London, 1884, 8vo. On the alleged obscurity of Mr. Browning's poetry,
    pp. 55-95.

Browning, Robert.
  Robert Browning's Poetry.
    Outline Studies published for the Chicago Browning Society.
    Chicago, 1886, 8vo.

Browning Society.
  The Browning Society's Papers.
    In progress. London, 1881, etc., 8vo.

Buchanan, Robert.
  Master-Spirits.
    London, 1873, 8vo. Browning's Masterpiece, pp. 89-109. A revised
    reprint of the Athenæum reviews of the "Ring and the Book" in
    December and March 1870.

Bulkeley, Rev. J.H.
  James Lee's Wife.
    (Read at the 16th meeting of the Browning Society, May 25, 1883.)
    London, 1883, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. iv., pp. 455-468.
  The Reasonable Rhythm of some of Browning's poems.
    Read at the 42nd meeting of the Browning Society, May 28, 1886.
    London, 1886, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. viii.,
    pp. 119-131.

Burt, Mary K.
  Browning's Women, etc.
    Chicago, 1887, 8vo.

Bury, John B.
  Browning's Philosophy.
    (Read at the 6th meeting of the Browning Society, April 28, 1882.)
    London, 1882, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. iii, pp. 259-277.
  On "Aristophanes' Apology."
    Read at the 38th meeting of the Browning Society, Jan. 29, 1886.
    London, 1886, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. viii., pp. 79-86.

C.C.S., _i.e._, C.S. Calverley.
  Fly Leaves.
    Cambridge, 1872, 8vo. "The Cock and the Bull," a Parody on _The Ring
    and the Book,_ pp. 113-120.

Cooke, Bancroft.
  An Introduction to Robert Browning.
    A criticism of the purpose and method of his earlier works.
    London [1883], 8vo.

Cooke, George Willis.
  Poets and Problems.
    London [1886], 8vo. Browning, pp. 269-388.

Cooper, Thompson.
  Men of Mark, etc.
    London, 1881, 4to. Robert Browning, with photograph. Fifth Series,
    No. 17.

Corson, Hiram.
  The Idea of Personality, as embodied in Robert Browning's Poetry.
    (Read at the 8th meeting of the Browning Society, June 23, 1882.)
    London, 1882, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. iii. pp. 293-321.
  An Introduction to the Study of Robert Browning's Poetry.
    Boston, 1886, 8vo.

Courtney, W.L.
  Studies New and Old.
    London, 1888, 8vo. Robert Browning, Writer of Plays, pp. 100-123.

Devey, J.
  A Comparative Estimate of Modern English Poets.
    London, 1873, 8vo. Browning, pp. 376-421.

Dowden, Edward.
  Mr. Tennyson and Mr. Browning.
    (_The Afternoon Lectures on Literature and Art delivered
    in ... Dublin,_ 1867 _and_ 1868, pp. 141-179.) Dublin, 1869,
    8vo. Reprinted in B. Dowden's "Studies in Literature," 1878,
    pp. 191-239.
  Studies in Literature, 1789-1877.
    London, 1878, 8vo. Mr. Browning's place in recent literature,
    pp. 80-84; Mr. Tennyson and Mr. Browning, pp. 191-239.
  Transcripts  and  Studies.
    London, 1888, 8vo. Mr. Browning's "Sordello," pp. 474-525.

Eyles, F.A.H.
  Popular Poets of the Period, etc.
    London, 1888, etc., 8vo. Robert Browning, by Alexander H. Japp,
    No. 7, pp. 193-199.

Fleming, Albert.
  Andrea del Sarto.
    Read at the 39th meeting of the Browning Society, Feb. 26, 1886.
    London, 1886, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. viii.,
    pp. 95-102.

Forman, H. Buxton.
  Our Living Poets.
    London, 1871, 8vo. Robert Browning, pp. 103-152.

Fotheringham, James.
  Studies in the Poetry of Robert Browning.
    London, 1887, 8vo.
  Second edition, revised and enlarged.
    London, 1888, 8vo.

Friswell, J. Hain.
  Modern Men of Letters honestly criticised.
    London, 1870, 8vo. Robert Browning, pp. 119-131.

Fuller, S. Margaret.
  Papers on Literature and Art.
    2 parts. London, 1846, 8vo. Browning's Poems, Pt. ii., pp. 31-45

Furnivall, Frederick J.
  A Bibliography of Robert Browning, from 1833-81.
    London, 1881-82, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, 1881-4,
    Pts. i. and ii.
  How the Browning Society came into being.
    With some words on the characteristics and contrasts of Browning's
    early and late work. London, 1884, 8vo.
  A grammatical analysis of "O Lyric Love."
    Read at the 48th meeting of the Browning Society, Feb. 25, 1886.
    London, 1888, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. ix., pp. 105-108.

Galton, Arthur.
  Urbana Scripta.
    Studies of five living poets, etc. London, 1885, 8vo. Mr. Browning,
    pp. 59-76.

Gannon, Nicholas J.
  An Essay on the characteristic errors of our most distinguished
  living poets.
    Dublin, 1853, 8vo. Robert Browning, pp. 25-32.

Glazebrook, Mrs. M.G.
  "A Death in the Desert."
    Read at the 48th meeting of the Browning Society, Feb. 25, 1857.
    London, 1888, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, vol. ix.,
    pp. 153-164.

Halliwell-Phillipps, James O.
  Copy of Correspondence
    [between J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps and Robert Browning, concerning
    expressions respecting Halliwell-Phillipps, used by F.J. Furnivall
    in the preface to a fac-simile of the second edition of Hamlet,
    published in 1880]. [Brighton ? 1881] fol.

Hamilton, Walter.
  Parodies of the Works of English and American Authors.
    London, 1889, 8vo. Robert Browning, vol. vi., pp. 46-65.

Haweis, Rev. H R.
  Poets in the Pulpit.
    London, 1880, 8vo. Robert Browning. New Year's Eve, pp. 117-143.

Herford, C.H.
  Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau.
    London, 1886, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. viii.,
    pp. 133-145.

Hodgkins, Louise Manning.
  Nineteenth Century Authors.
    Robert Browning. Boston [1889], 8vo.

Holland, F. May.
  Sordello.
    A Story from Robert Browning. New York, 1881, 8vo. Very scarce.

Horne, R.H.
  A New Spirit of the Age.
    2 vols. London, 1844, 8vo. Robert Browning (with a portrait engraved
    by J.C. Armytage) and J.W. Marston, vol. ii., pp. 153-186.

Hutton, Richard Holt.
  Essays, Theological and Literary.
    2 vols. London, 1871, 8vo. Mr. Browning, vol. ii., pp. 190-247.

Johnson, Rev. Prof. Edwin.
  On "Bishop Blougram's Apology."
    (Read at the 7th meeting of the Browning Society, May 26, 1882.)
    London, 1882, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. iii.,
    pp. 279-292.
  Conscience and Art in Browning.
    London, 1882, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. iii.,
    pp. 345-379.
  On "Mr. Sludge the Medium."
    Read at the 31st meeting of the Browning Society, March 27, 1885.
    London, 1885, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. vii., pp. 13-32.

Kingsland, William G.
  Robert Browning: chief poet of the age.
    An essay addressed primarily to beginners in the study of Browning's
    poems. London, 1887, 8vo.
  New edition, with biographical and other additions.
    London, 1890, 8vo.

Landor, Walter Savage.
  The Works of Walter Savage Landor.
    2 vols. London, 1846, 8vo. Poem "To Robert Browning," vol. ii., p. 673.

M'Cormick, William S.
  Three Lectures on English Literature.
    Paisley, 1889, 8vo. The poetry of Robert Browning, pp. 125-184.

Macdonald, George
  Orts.
    London, 1882, 8vo. Browning's "Christmas Eve," pp. 195-217.
  The Imagination and other Essays.
    Boston [1883], 8vo. Browning's "Christmas Eve," pp. 195-217.

McNicoll, Thomas.
  Essays on English Literature.
    London, 1861, 8vo. New Poems of Browning and Landor (1858),
    pp. 208-314.

McCrie, George.
  The Religion of our Literature.
    Essays upon Thomas Carlyle, Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, etc.
    London, 1875, 8vo. Robert Browning, pp. 69-109.

Macready, William Charles.
  Macready's Reminiscences and Selections from his diaries and letters.
    2 vols. London, 1875, 8vo. Numerous references to Browning.

Mayor, Joseph B.
  Chapters on English Metre.
    London, 1886, 8vo. Tennyson and Browning, Chap. xii., pp. 184-196.

Morison, J. Cotter.
  "Caliban upon Setebos," with some notes on Browning's Subtlety and
  Humour.
    (Read at the 24th Meeting of the Browning Society, April 25, 1884.)
    London, 1884, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. v., pp. 489-498.

Morrison, Jeanie.
  Sordello.
    An outline analysis of Mr. Browning's Poem. London, 1889, 8vo.

Nettleship, John T.
  Essays on Robert Browning's Poetry.
    London, 1868, 8vo.
  New edition.
    New York, 1890, 8vo.
  On Browning's "Fifine at the Fair."
    To be read at the 4th Meeting of the Browning Society, Feb. 24, 1882.
    London, 1882, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. ii., p. 199-230.
  Classification of Browning's Works.
    London, 1882, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. ii., pp. 231-234.
  Browning's Intuition, specially in regard of music and the Plastic Arts.
    (Read at the 13th Meeting of the Browning Society, Feb. 23, 1883.)
    London, 1883, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. iv., pp. 331-396.
  On the development of Browning's Genius in his capacity as poet or maker.
    Read at the 35th Meeting of the Browning Society, Oct. 30, 1885.
    London, 1886, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. viii, pp. 55-77.

Noel, Hon. Roden.
  Essays on Poetry and Poets.
    London, 1886, 8vo. Robert Browning, pp. 256-282; Robert Browning's
    Poetry, pp. 283-303.

Notes and Queries.
  Notes and Queries.
    7 Series.  London, 1849-1889, 4to. Numerous references to Browning.

O'Byrne, George.
  Robert Browning.
    In Memoriam. An Epicedium. Nottingham [1890], 8vo.

O'Conor, William Anderson.
  Essays in Literature and Ethics.
    Manchester, 1889, 8vo. Browning's "Childe Roland," pp. 1-24.

Ormerod, Helen J.
  Some Notes on Browning's Poems referring to Music.
    Read at the 51st Meeting of the Browning Society, May 27, 1887.
    London, 1888, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. ix., pp. 180-195.
  Abt Vogler, the Man.
    Read at the 55th Meeting of the Browning Society, Jan. 27th, 1888.
    London, 1888, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. x., pp 221-236.

Orr, Mrs. Sutherland.
  A Handbook to the Works of Robert Browning.
    London, 1885, 8vo.
  Second edition, revised.
    London, 1886, 8vo.
  Classification of Browning's Poems.
    London, 1882, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. ii., pp. 235-238.

Outram, Leonard S.
  Love's Value. Colombe's Birthday. Act IV. (The Avowal of Valence.)
    Read at the 38th Meeting of the Browning Society, Jan. 29, 1886.
    London, 1886, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. viii., pp. 87-94.

Pearson, Howard S.
  On Browning as a Landscape Painter.
    Read at the 41st Meeting of the Browning Society, April 30, 1886.
    London, 1886, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. viii.,
    pp. 103-118.

Pollock, Frederick.
  Leading cases done into English.
    By an Apprentice of Lincoln's Inn [Frederick Pollock]. Second edition.
    London, 1876, 8vo. IV. "Scott _v_. Shepherd (1 _Sm. L.C._ 477),
    Any Pleader to any Student," pp. 15-19. A Parody on Browning.

Portrait.
  The Portrait.
    Vol. I. London, 1877, 4to. Robert Browning, by G. Barnett Smith,
    4 pages. The portrait is from a photograph by Elliott & Fry.

Portrait Gallery.
  National Portrait Gallery.
    London [1877], 4to. Robert Browning (with portrait), 4th Series,
    pp. 73-80.

Powell,  Thomas.
  The Living Authors of England.
    New York, 1849, 8 vo. Robert Browning, pp. 71-85.
  Pictures of the Living Authors of Britain.
    London, 1851, 8vo. Robert Browning, pp. 61-75.

Radford, Ernest.
  Illustrations to Browning's Poems;
    with a notice of the artists and the pictures, by E, Radford. 2 pts.
    London, 1882-3, fol. Published for the _Browning Society._

Raleigh, W.A.
  On some prominent points in Browning's Teaching.
    (Read at the 22nd Meeting of the Browning Society, Feb. 22, 1884.)
    London, 1884, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. v., pp. 477-488.

Reeve, Lovell.
  Portraits of Men of Eminence in Literature, Science, and Art,
    with biographical memoirs, etc. 6 vols. London, 1863-67, 8vo.
    Robert Browning, vol. i., pp. 109-112.

Revell, William F.
  Browning's Poems on God and Immortality as bearing on life here.
    (Read at the 14th Meeting of the Browning Society, March 30, 1883.)
    London, 1883, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. iv., pp. 435-454.
  Browning's Views of Life.
    Address on Oct. 28, 1887. London, 1888, 8vo. The Browning Society's
    Papers, Pt. x., pp. 197-199.

Sharp, William.
  Browning and the Arts.
    London, 1882, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. iii., pp. 34-40.

Sharpe, Rev. John.
  On "Pietro of Abano" and the leading ideas of "Dramatic Idyls."
    Second series, 1880. (Read at the 2nd Meeting of the Browning Society,
    Nov. 25, 1881.) London, 1882, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers,
    Pt. ii., pp. 191-197.
  Jocoseria.
    (Read at the 20th Meeting of the Browning Society, Nov. 23, 1883.)
    London, 1884, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. v., pp. 93-97.

Shirley, _pseud._ [_i.e._, John Skelton].
  A Campaigner at Home.
    London, 1865, 8vo. Robert Browning, pp. 247-283. Appeared originally
    in Fraser's Magazine, vol. 67, 1863, pp. 240-256.

Stedman, Edmund Clarence.
  Victorian Poets.
    Boston, 1875, 8vo. Robert Browning, pp. 293-341.
  Another edition.
    Boston, 1887, 8vo.

Stoddart, Anna M.
  "Saul."
    Read at the 59th Meeting of the Browning Society, May 25, 1888.
    London, 1888, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. x., pp. 264-274.

Swinburne, Algernon C.
  The Works of George Chapman: Poems and Minor Translations.
    London, 1875, 8vo. On Browning, pp. xiv.-xix. of the "Essay on George
    Chapman's poetical and dramatic works."
  Specimens of Modern Poets.
    The Heptalogia, or the Seven against Sense, etc. London, 1880, 8vo.
    John Jones, pp. 9-39. A parody on James Lee.

Symons, Arthur.
  Is Browning Dramatic?
    (Read at the 29th Meeting of the Browning Society, Jan. 30, 1885.)
    London, 1885, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. vii., pp. 1-12.
  An Introduction to the Study of Browning.
    London, 1886, 8vo.
  Some Notes on Mr. Browning's last volume.
    (On Parleyings with Certain People.) Read at the 50th Meeting of the
    Browning Society, April 29, 1887. London, 1888, 8vo. The Browning
    Society's Papers, Pt. ix., pp. 169-179.

Thomson, James.
  Notes on the Genius of Robert Browning.
    (Read at the 3rd Meeting of the Browning Society, Jan. 27, 1882.)
    London, 1882, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. ii., pp. 239-250.

Todhunter, Dr. John.
  "The Ring and the Book."
    (Read at the 19th Meeting of the Browning Society, Oct. 26, 1883.)
    London, 1884, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. v., pp. 85-92.
  "Strafford" at the Strand Theatre, Dec. 21, 1886.
    Read at the 47th Meeting of the Browning Society, Jan. 28, 1887.
    London, 1888, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. ix., pp. 147-152.

Turnbull, Mrs.
  Abt Vogler.
    (Read at the 17th Meeting of the Browning Society, June 22, 1883.)
    London, 1883, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. iv., pp. 469-476.
  In a Balcony.
    (Read at the Annual Meeting of the Browning Society, July 4, 1884.)
    London, 1884, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. v., pp. 499-502.

Wall, Annie.
  Sordello's Story retold in prose.
    Boston, 1886, 8vo.

West, E.D.
  One aspect of Browning's Villains.
    (Read at the 15th Meeting of the Browning Society, April 27, 1883.)
    London, 1883, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. iv., pp. 411-434.

Westcott, B.F.
  On some points in Browning's View of Life.
    A paper read before the Cambridge Browning Society, November, 1882.
    Cambridge, 1883, 8vo. Printed also in the Browning Society's Papers,
    Pt. iv., pp. 397-410.

Whitehead, Miss C.M.
  Browning as a Teacher of the Nineteenth Century.
    Read at the 58th Meeting of the Browning Society, April 27, 1888.
    London, 1888, 8vo. The Browning Society's Papers, Pt. x., pp. 237-263.


MAGAZINE ARTICLES, ETC.

Browning, Robert.
  Sharpe's London Magazine, vol. 8, 1849, pp. 60-62, 122-127.
  Revue des Deux Mondes, by J. Milsand, 15 Aug. 1851, pp. 661-689.
  London Quarterly Review, vol. 6, 1856, pp. 493-501, vol. 22, p. 30, etc.
  Revue Contemporaine, by J. Milsand, vol. 27, 1856, pp. 511-546.
  Fraser's Magazine, by J. Skelton, vol. 67, 1863, pp. 240-256;
    reprinted in "A Campaigner at Home," 1865.
  Victoria Magazine, by M.D. Conway, vol. 2, 1854, pp. 298-316.
  Contemporary Review, vol. 4, 1867, pp. 1-15, 133-148; same article,
    Eclectic Magazine, vol. 5 N.S., pp. 314-323, 501-513.
  Revue des Deux Mondes, by Louis Etienne, tom. 85, 1870, pp. 704-735.
  Appleton's Journal (with portrait), by R.H. Stoddard, vol. 6, 1871,
    pp. 533-536.
  Once a Week, vol. 9 N.S., 1872, pp. 164-167.
  Scribner's Monthly, by E.C. Stedman, vol. 9, 1874, pp. 167-183.
  Galaxy, by J. H. Browne, vol. 19, 1875, pp. 764-774.
  St. James's Magazine, by T. Bayne, vol. 32, 1877, pp. 153-164.
  Dublin University Magazine (with portrait), vol. 3 N.S., 1878,
    pp. 322-335, 416-443.
  Gentleman's Magazine, by A.N. McNicoll, vol. 244, 1879, pp. 54-67.
  Congregationalist, vol. 8, 1879, pp. 915-922.
  International Review, by G. Barnett Smith, vol. 6, 1879, pp. 176-194.
  Literary World (Boston), by F. J. Furnivall, H.E. Scudder, etc.,
    vol. 13, 1882, pp. 76-81.
  Critic, by J.H. Morse, vol. 3,1883, pp. 263, 264.
  Contemporary Review, by Hon. Roden Noel, vol. 44, 1883, pp. 701-718;
    same article, Littell's Living Age, vol. 159, pp. 771-781.
  British Quarterly Review, vol. 80, 1884, pp. 1-28.
  Family Friend, by J. Fuller Higgs, vol. 18, 1887, pp. 10-13.
  Graphic, with portrait, Jan, 15, 1887.
  Athenæum, Dec. 21, 1889, pp. 858-860.
  Atalanta, by Edmund Gosse, Feb. 1889, pp. 361-364.
  Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1890, pp. 243-248.
  Contemporary Review, by the Rev. Stopford A. Brooke, Jan. 1890,
    pp. 141-152.
  Universal Review, by Gabriel Sarrazin, Feb. 1890, pp. 230-246.
  Art and Literature, with portrait, Feb. 1890, pp. 17-19.
  Congregational Review, by Ruth J. Pitt, Jan. 1890, pp. 57-66.
  Expository Times, by the Rev. Professor Salmond, Feb. 1890, pp. 110, 111.
  The Speaker, by Augustine Birrell, Jan. 4, 1890, pp. 16, 17.
  National Review, by H. D. Traill, Jan. 1890, pp. 592-597.
  Scots Magazine, Jan. 1890, pp. 131-136.
  Argosy, by E.F. Bridell-Fox, Feb. 1890, pp. 108-114
  New Church Magazine, by C. E. Rowe, Feb. 1890, pp. 49-58.

  ---- Agamemnon.
         Edinburgh Review, vol. 147, 1878, pp. 409-436.
         Athenæum, Oct. 27,1877, pp. 525-527.
         Academy, by J.A. Symonds, Nov. 3, 1877, pp. 419, 420.
         Literary World (Boston), vol. 13, 1882, p. 419.

  ---- and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
         Leisure Hour (with portraits), 1883, pp. 396-404.
         Manhattan, by K.M. Rowland, June 1884, pp. 553-562.

  ---- and the Edinburgh Review.
         Reader, by Gerald Massey, Nov. 26, 1864, pp. 674, 675.

  ---- and the Epic of Psychology.
         London Quarterly Review, vol. 32, 1869, pp. 325-357.

  ---- and the Greek Drama.
         Manchester Quarterly, by A.S. Wilkins, vol. 2, 1883, pp. 377-390.

  ---- and James Hussell Lowell.
         New Englander, vol. 29, 1870, pp. 125-136.

  ---- and Tennyson.
         Eclectic Review, vol. 7 N.S., 1864, pp. 361-389.
         Leisure Hour, Feb. 1890, pp. 231-234.

  ---- Another Way of Love.
         Critic (New York), by F.L. Turnbull, Sept. 26, 1885, pp. 151, 152.

  ---- Aristophanes' Apology.
         London Quarterly Review, vol. 44, 1875, pp. 354-376.
         Academy, by J. A. Symonds, April 17, 1875, pp. 389,390.
         Athenæum, April 17, 1875, pp. 513, 514.

  ---- as a Preacher.
         Dark Blue, by E.D. West, vol. 2, 1872, pp. 171-184, 305-319;
           same article, Littell's Living Age, vol. 3, pp. 707-723.

  ---- as a Religious Teacher.
         Month, by the Rev. John Rickaby, Feb. 1890, pp. 173-190
         Good Words, by R.H. Hutton, Feb. 1890, pp. 87-93.

  ---- as a Teacher. In Memoriam.
         Gentlemen's Magazine, by Mrs. Alexander Ireland, Feb. 1890,
           pp. 177-184.

  ---- as Theologian.
         Time, by H.W. Massingham, Jan. 1890, pp. 90-96.

  ---- as a Writer of Plays.
         Fortnightly Review, by W.L. Courtney, vol. 33 N.S., 1883,
           pp. 888-900;
           same article, Eclectic Magazine, vol. 38 N.S., pp. 358-366.

  ---- Balaustion's Adventure.
         Contemporary Review, by Matthew Browne, vol.18, 1871, pp. 284-296.
         Nation, by J.R. Dennett, vol. 13, 1871, pp. 173, 179.
         Fortnightly Review, by Sidney Colvin, vol. 10 N.S., 1871,
           pp. 478-490.
         Edinburgh Review, vol. 135, 1872, pp. 221-249.
         London Quarterly Review, vol. 37, 1871, pp. 346-368.
         Athenaeum, Aug. 12, 1871, pp. 199, 200.
         Penn Monthly, by R.E. Thompson, vol. 6, 1875, pp. 928-940.
         St. Paul's Magazine, by E.J. Hasell, vol. 12, 1873, pp. 680-699;
           vol. 13, pp. 49-66.
         Pioneer, Oct. 1887, pp. 159-162.

  ---- Bells  and  Pomegranates.
         Christian Remembrancer, vol. 11 N.S., 1846, pp. 316-330.
         People's Journal, by H.F. Chorley, vol. 2, 1847, pp. 38-40,
           104-106.

  ---- Browning Society.
         Saturday Review, vol. 53, 1882, pp. 12, 13; vol. 58, 1884,
           pp. 721, 722.

  ---- Childe Roland.
         Papers of the Manchester Literary Club, by the Rev. W.A. O'Conor,
           vol. 3, 1877, pp. 12-25.
         Critic (New York), by J.E. Cooke, vol. 8, 1886, pp. 201, 202,
           and by A. Bates, pp. 231, 232.

  ---- ---- Childe Roland, Childe Harold, and the Sangrail.
              Papers of the Manchester Literary Club, by John Mortimer,
                vol. 3, 1877, pp. 26-31.

  ---- Christmas Eve and Easter-Day.
         Prospective Review, vol. 6, 1850, pp. 267-279.
         Littell's Living Age (from the Examiner), vol. 25, pp. 403-409.
         The Germ, No. 4, by W.M. Rossetti, pp. 187-192.
         Day of Rest, by George MacDonald, vol. 1, 1873, pp. 34-36, 55, 56.

  ---- Clubs in the United States.
         Literary World (Boston), by H. Corson, vol. 14, 1883, p. 127.

  ---- Day with the Brownings at Pratolino.
         Scribner's Monthly, by E.C. Kinney, vol. 1, 1870, pp. 185-188.

  ---- Dead in Venice.
         (Verses.) Athenaeum, Dec. 21, 1889, p. 860.

  ---- The "Detachment" of.
         Athenaeum, Jan. 4, 1890, pp. 18, 19.

  ---- Dramatic Idyls.
         Fortnightly Review, by Grant Allen, vol.26 N.S., 1879, pp.149-154.
         Contemporary Review, by Mrs. Sutherland Orr, vol. 35, 1879,
           pp. 289-302.
         Saturday Review, June 21, 1879, pp. 774, 775.
         Fraser's Magazine, vol. 20 N.S., 1879, pp. 103-124.
         St. James's Magazine, by T. Bayne, vol. 8, fourth series, 1880,
           pp. 108-118.
         Athenaeum, May 10, 1879, pp. 593-595.
         Academy, by Frank Wedmore, May 10, 1879, pp. 403, 404.
         Athenaeum, July 10, 1880, pp. 39-41.
         Literary World, July 23, 1880, pp. 49-51.

  ---- Dramatis Personae.
         St. James's Magazine, by R. Bell, vol. 10, 1864, pp. 477-491.
         New Monthly Magazine, by T.F. Wedmore, vol. 133, 1865, pp.186-194.
         Dublin University Magazine, vol. 64, 1864, pp. 573-579.
         Eclectic Review, by E. Paxton Hood, vol. 7 N.S., 1864, pp. 62-72.

  ---- Early Writings of.
         Century, by E.W. Gosse, vol. 23, 1881, pp. 189-200.

  ---- Ferishtah's Fancies.
         Athenaeum, Dec. 6, 1884, pp. 725-727.
         Saturday Review, vol. 58, 1884, pp. 727, 728.
         Spectator, Dec. 6, 1884, pp. 1614-1616.
         Academy, by H.C. Beeching, Dec. 13, 1884, pp. 385, 386.
         Critic (New York), Dec. 1884, p. 279.
         Oxford Magazine, vol. 3, 1885, pp. 161, 162.

  ---- Fifine at the Fair.
         Old and New, by C. C. Everett, vol. 6, 1872, pp. 609-615.
         Canadian Monthly, by Goldwin Smith, vol. 2, 1872, pp. 285-287.
         Temple Bar, vol. 37, 1873, pp. 315-328.
         Literary World, July 12, 1872, pp. 17, 18, and July 19, pp.42, 43.
         Fortnightly Review, by Sidney Colvin, vol. 12 N.S., 1872,
           pp. 118-120.
         Saturday Review, vol. 34, 1872, pp. 220, 221.

  ---- First Poem of
         St. James's Magazine, vol. 7 N.S., 1871, pp. 485-496.

  ---- Funeral of.
         Scots Magazine, by Elizabeth R. Chapman, Feb. 1890, pp. 216-223.

  ---- Handbook to the Works of, Orr's.
         Academy, by J.T. Nettleship, vol. 27, 1885, pp. 429-431.
         Athenaeum, Sept. 26, 1885, pp. 396, 397.

  ---- in 1869.
         Cornhill Magazine, vol. 19, 1869, pp. 249-256.

  ---- In a Balcony.
         Theatre, by H.L. Mosely, May 1, 1885, pp. 225-230.

  ---- In Memoriam.
         New Review, by Edmund W. Gosse, Jan. 1890, pp. 91-96.

  ---- Inn Album.
         Macmillan's Magazine, by A.C. Bradley, vol. 33, 1876, pp. 347-354.
         Nation, by Henry James, junr., vol. 22, 1876, pp. 49,50.
         International Review, by Bayard Taylor, vol. 3, 1876, pp. 402-404.
         Athenaeum, Nov. 27, 1875, pp. 701, 702.
         Academy, by J.A. Symonds, Nov. 27, 1875, pp. 543, 544.
         Spectator, December 11, 1875, pp. 1555-1557,
         Examiner, Dec. 11, 1875, pp. 1389-1390.

  ---- in Westminster Abbey.
         Speaker, by Henry James, Jan. 4, 1890, pp. 10-12.

  ---- Jocoseria.
         National Review, by W.J. Courtliope, vol. 1, 1883, pp. 548-561.
         Atlantic Monthly, vol. 51, 1883, pp. 840-845.
         Cambridge Review, vol. 4, 1883, pp. 352, 353.
         Gentleman's Magazine, by R.H. Shepherd, vol. 254, 1883,
           pp. 624 630.
         Academy, by J.A. Symonds, vol. 23, 1883, pp. 213, 214.
         Athenaeum, March 24, 1883, pp. 367, 358.
         Saturday Review, vol. 55, 1883, pp. 376, 377.
         Spectator, March 17, 1883, pp. 351-353.

  ---- Kingsland's.
         Literary Opinion, May 1, 1887.

  ---- La Saisiaz. The Two Poets of Croisic.
         Academy, by G.A. Simcox, vol. 13, 1878, pp. 478-480.
         Athenaeum, May 25, 1878, pp. 661-664.
         Saturday Review, June 15, 1878, pp. 759, 760.

  ---- Love Poems of.
         Journal of Education, by Arthur Sidgwick, May 1, 1882, pp.139-143.

  ---- Lyrical and Dramatic Poems.
         Literary World (Boston), Feb. 24, 1883, p. 58.

  ---- Men and Women.
         Bentley's Miscellany, vol. 39, 1856, pp. 64-70.
         British Quarterly Review, vol. 23, 1856, pp. 151-180.
         Rambler, vol. 5 N.S., 1856, pp. 55-71.
         Christian Remembrancer, vol. 31 N.S., 1856, pp. 281-294;
           vol. 34 N.S., 1857, pp. 361-890.
         Dublin University Magazine, vol. 47, 1856, pp. 673-675.
         Fraser's Magazine, by G.
         Brimley, vol. 53, 1856, pp. 105-116.
         Irish Quarterly Review, vol. 6, 1856, pp. 21-28.
         Westminster Review, vol. 9 N.S., 1856, pp. 290-296.

  ---- Note on.
         Art Review, by W. Mortimer, Jan. 1890, pp. 28-32.

  ---- One Way of Love.
         Literary World (Boston), by C.R. Corson, July 26, 1884,
           pp. 250, 251.

  ---- Pacchiarolto.
         Academy, by Edward Dowden, July 29, 1876, pp. 99, 100.
         Athenæum, July 22, 1876, pp. 101, 102.

  ---- Paracelsus.
          New Monthly Magazine, by John Forster, vol. 46, 1836, pp.289-308.
          Examiner, by John Forster, Sept. 6, 1835, pp. 563-565.
          Theologian, vol. 2, 1845, pp. 276-282.
          Monthly Repository, by W.J. Fox, vol. 9 N.S., 1835, pp. 716-727.
          Fraser's Magazine, by J. Heraud, vol. 13, 1836, pp. 363-374.
          Leigh Hunt's Journal, vol. 2, 1835, pp. 405-408.
          Revue des Deux Mondes, by Philarète Chasles, tom, xxii., 1840,
            pp. 127-133.

  ---- Parleyings with Certain People.
         Literary Opinion, March 1, 1887.

  ---- Pauline.
         Monthly Repository, by W. J. Fox, vol. 7 N.S., 1833, pp. 252-262.
         Athenæum, April 6, 1833, p. 216.

  ---- Place of, in Literature.
         Contemporary Review, by Mrs. Sutherland-Orr, vol. 23, 1874,
           pp. 934-965; same article, Littell's Living Age, vol. 122,
           pp. 67-85.

  ---- Plays and Poems.
         North American Review, by J. R. Lowell, vol. 66, 1848, pp.357-400.

  ---- Poems.
         British Quarterly Review, vol. 6, 1847, pp. 490-509.
         Eclectic Review, vol. 26 N.S., 1849, pp. 203-214.
         Eclectic Magazine, vol. 18, 1849, pp. 453-469.
         Christian Examiner, by C. C. Everett, vol. 48, 1850, pp. 361-372.
         Massachusetts Quarterly Review, vol. 3, 1850, pp. 347-385.
         Fraser's Magazine, vol. 43, 1851, pp. 170-182.
         Putnam's Monthly Magazine, vol. 7, 1856, pp. 372-381.
         North British Review, vol. 34, 1861, pp. 350-374.
         Chambers's Journal, vol. 19, 1863, pp. 91-95; vol. 20, pp. 39-41.
         National Review, vol. 17, 1863, pp. 417-446.
         Eclectic Review, by E. P. Hood, vol. 4 N.S., 1863, pp. 436-454;
           vol. 7 N.S., 1864, pp. 62-72.
         Edinburgh Review, vol. 120, 1864, pp. 537-565.
         Christian Examiner, by C. C. Everett, vol. 77, 1864, pp. 51-64.
         Quarterly Review, vol. 118, 1865, pp. 77-105.
         Nuova Antologia di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, by Enrico Nencioni,
           July 1867, pp. 468-481.
         North British Review, by J. Hutchinson Stirling, vol. 49, 1868,
           pp. 353-408.
         Temple Bar, by Alfred Austin, vol. 26, 1869, pp. 316-333;
           vol. 27, pp. 170-186; vol. 28, pp. 33-48.
         British Quarterly Review, vol. 49, 1869, pp. 435-459.
         Saint Paul's Magazine, by S.J. H[asell], vol. 7, 1871, pp.257-276;
           same article, Eclectic Magazine, vol. 13 N.S., pp. 267-279,
           and in Littell's Living Age, vol. 108, pp. 155-166.
         Church Quarterly Review, by the Hon. and Rev. Arthur Lyttleton,
           vol. 7, 1878, pp. 65-92.
         Cambridge Review, vol. 3, 1881, pp. 126, 127.
         Scottish Review, vol. 2, 1883, pp. 349-358.
         London Quarterly Review, vol. 65, 1886, pp. 238-250.

  ---- Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau.
         New Englander, by J. S. Sewall, vol. 33, 1874, pp. 493-505.
         Examiner, Dec. 23, 1871, pp. 1267, 1268.
         Academy, by G. A. Simcox, Jan. 15, 1872, pp. 24-26.
         Literary World, Jan. 5, 1872, pp. 8, 9.

  ---- Red Cotton Night-Cap Country.
         Nation, by J.K. Dennett, vol. 17, 1873, pp. 116-118.
         Contemporary Review, by Mrs. Sutherland-Orr, vol. 22, 1873,
           pp. 87-106.
         Penn Monthly Magazine, vol. 4, 1873, pp. 657-661.
         Athenaeum, May 10, 1873, pp. 593, 594.

  ---- Ring and the Book.
         Athenaeum, Dec. 26, 1868, pp. 875, 876; March 20, 1869,
           pp. 399, 400.
         Edinburgh Review, vol. 130, 1869, pp. 164-186.
         Dublin Review, vol. 13 N.S., 1869, pp. 48-62.
         Chambers's Journal, July 24, 1869, pp. 473-476.
         Fortnightly Review, by John Morley, vol. 5 N.S., 1869, pp.331-343.
         Macmillan's Magazine, by J.A. Symonds, vol. 19, 1869, pp. 258-262,
           and by J.R. Mozley, pp. 544-552.
         North American Review, by E.J. Cutler, vol. 109, 1869, pp.279-283.
         Nation, by J.R. Dennett, vol. 8, 1869, pp. 135, 136.
         Tinsley's Magazine, vol. 3, 1869, pp. 665-674.
         Christian Examiner, by J.W. Chadwick, vol. 86, 1869, pp. 295-315.
         Gentleman's Magazine, by James Thomson, vol.251, 1881, pp.682-695.
         St. James's Magazine, vol. 2 N.S., 1869, pp. 460-464.
         Saint Paul's, vol. 7, 1871, pp. 377-397;
           same article, Eclectic Magazine, vol. 13 N.S., pp. 400-412,
           and in Littell's Living Age, vol. 108, pp. 771-783.
         North British Review, vol. 51, 1870, pp. 97-126.
         Quarterly Review, vol. 126, 1869, pp. 328-359.

  ---- ---- Some of the Teaching of "The Ring and the Book."
              Poet-Lore, by F.B. Hornbrooke, July 1889, pp. 314-320.

  ---- Science of.
         Poet-Lore, by Edward Berdoe, Aug. 15, 1889, pp. 353-362.

  ---- Selections from.
         London Quarterly Review, by Frank T. Marzials, vol. 20, 1863,
           pp. 527-532.
         Literary World, May 19, 1883, p. 157.

  ---- Sequence of Sonnets on death of.
         Fortnightly Review, by Algernon C. Swinburne, Jan. 1890, pp. 1-4.

  ---- Some Thoughts on.
         Macmillan's Magazine, by M.A. Lewis, vol. 46, 1882, pp. 205-219;
           same article, Littell's Living Age, vol. 154, pp. 238-246.

  ---- Sonnets to.
         Macmillan's Magazine, by Aubrey de Vere, Feb. 1890, p. 258.
         Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, by Sir Theodore Martin,
           Jan. 1890, p. 112.
         Household Words, vol. 4, 1852, p. 213.

  ---- Sonnets of.
         Manchester Quarterly, by Benjamin Sagar, vol. 6, 1887, pp.148-159.

  ---- Sordello.
         Fraser's Magazine, by E. Dowden, vol. 76, pp. 518-530.
         Macmillan's Magazine, by R.W. Church, vol. 55, 1887, pp. 241-253.

  ---- ---- Sordello at the East End.
              Journal of Education, July 1, 1885, pp. 281-283.

  ---- Stories from, Holland's.
         Academy, by J. A. Blaikie, vol. 22, 1882, pp. 287, 288.

  ---- Strafford: a Tragedy.
         Edinburgh Review, vol. 65, 1837, pp. 132-151.

  ---- Study of.
         Overland Monthly, by Caroline Le Conte, vol. 3, 2nd series, 1884,
           pp. 645-651.
         Literary World (Boston), vol. 17, 1886, p. 44.

  ---- Two Sonnets to.
         New Monthly Magazine, vol. 48, 1835, p. 48.

  ---- Types of Womanhood.
         Woman's World, by Annie E. Ireland, Nov. 1889, pp. 47-50.

  ---- Verses on.
         Art Review (with portrait), by William Sharp, Feb. 1890, pp.33-36.
         Murray's Magazine, by Rev. H.D. Rawnsley, Feb. 1890, pp. 145-150.
         Belford's Magazine (poem of 20 six-line stanzas), by William
           Sharp, March 1890.

  ---- Wordsworth and Tennyson.
         National Review, by Walter Bagehot, vol. 19, 1864, pp. 27-67;
         reprinted in "Literary Studies", 1879;
         same article, Eclectic Magazine, vol. 1 N.S., pp.273-284, 415-427,
         and in Littell's Living Age, vol. 84, pp. 3-24.


VII. CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF WORKS,

Pauline 1833

Paracelsus 1835

Strafford 1837

Sordello 1840

Pippa Passes (_Bells and Pomegranates_, No. I.). 1841

King Victor and King Charles (_Bells and Pomegranates_, No. II.) 1842

Dramatic Lyrics (_Bells and Pomegranates_, No. III). 1842
  Cavalier Times.
      I. Marching Along.
     II. Give a Rouse.
    III. My Wife Gertrude.
  Italy and France.
     I. Italy.
    II. France.
  Camp and Cloister.
     I. Camp (French).
    II. Cloister (Spanish).
  In a Gondola.
  Artemis Prologuizes.
  Waring.
  Queen Worship.
     I. Eudel and the Lady of Tripoli.
    II. Christina.
  Madhouse Cells.
     I. Johannes Agricola.
    II. Porphyria.
  Through the Metidja.
  The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

The Return of the Druses (_Bells and Pomegranates_, No. IV.) 1843

A Blot in the 'Scutcheon (_Bells and Pomegranates_, No. V.) 1843

Colombo's Birthday (_Bells and Pomegranates_, No. VI.) 1844

Dramatic Romances and Lyrics (_Bells and Pomegranates_, No. VII.) 1845
  How they brought the Good News.
  Pictor Ignotus.
  Italy in England.
  England in Italy.
  The Lost Leader.
  The Lost Mistress.
  Home Thoughts  from Abroad.
  The Tomb at St. Praxeil's.
  Garden Fancies.
  I. The Flower's Name.
  II. Sibrandus Schafnaburgensis.
  France and Spain.
  I. The Laboratory.
  II. The Confessional.
  The Flight of the Duchess.
  Earth's Immortalities.
  Song.
  The Boy and the Angel.
  Night and Morning.
  Claret and Tokay.
  Saul.
  Time's Revenges.
  The Glove.

Luria.            }
A Soul's Tragedy. } (_Bells and Pomegranates_, No. VIII.) 1846

Christmas Eve and Easter-Day 1850

Introductory Essay to Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley 1852

Men and Women 1855
  Vol. I.
    Love among the ruins.
    A Lover's Quarrel.
    Evelyn Hope.
    Up at a Villa--Down In the City.
    A Woman's Last Word.
    Fra Lippo Lippi.
    A Toccata of Galuppi's.
    By the Fireside.
    Any Wife to any Husband.
    An Epistle of Karshish,
    Mesmerism.
    A Serenade at the Villa.
    My Star.
    Instans Tyrannus.
    A Pretty Woman.
    "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came."
    Respectability.
    A Light Woman.
    The Statue and the Bust.
    Love in a Life.
    Life in a Love.
    How it strikes a Contemporary.
    The Last Ride Together.
    The Patriot.
    Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha.
    Bishop Blougram's Apology.
    Memorabilia.
  Vol. II.
    Andrea del Sarto.
    Before.
    After.
    In Three Days.
    In a Year.
    Old Pictures in Florence.
    In a Balcony.
    Saul.
    "De Gustibus ----"
    Women and Roses.
    Protus.
    Holy-Cross Day.
    The Guardian-Angel.
    Cleon.
    The Twins.
    Popularity.
    The Heretic's Tragedy.
    Two in the Campagna.
    A Grammarian's Funeral.
    One Way of Love.
    Another Way of Love.
    "Transcendentalism."
    Misconceptions.
    One Word More.

Dramatis Personæ 1864
  James Lee.
  Gold Hair.
  The Worst of It.
  Dis Aliter Visum.
  Too Late.
  Abt Vogler.
  Rabbi Ben Ezra.
  A Death in the Desert.
  Caliban upon Setebos.
  Confessions.
  May and Death.
  Prospice.
  Youth and Art.
  A Face.
  A Likeness.
  Mr. Sludge.
  Apparent Failure.
  Epilogue.

The Ring and the Book 1868-69

Balaustion's Adventure 1871

Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau 1871

Fifine at the Fair 1872

Red Cotton Night-Cap Country 1873

Aristophanes' Apology 1875

The Inn Album 1875

Pacchiarotto, and other Poems 1876
  Prologue.
  Of Pacchiarotto.
  At the "Mermaid."
  House.
  Shop.
  Pisgah Sights, I. and II.
  Fears and Scruples.
  Natural Magic.
  Magical Nature.
  Bifurcation.
  Numpholeptos.
  Appearances.
  St. Martin's Summer.
  Hervé Riel. (Reprinted from Cornhill Magazine, March 1871.)
  A Forgiveness.
  Cenciaja.
  Filippo Baldinucci.
  Epilogue.

The Agamemnon of Æschylus 1877

La Saisiaz 1878

The Two Poets of Croisie 1878

Dramatic Idyls 1879-80
  Series I.
    Martin Relph.
    Pheidippides.
    Halbert and Hob.
    Ivàn Ivànovitch.
    Tray.
    Ned Bratts.
  Series II.
    Proem.
    Echetlos.
    Clive.
    Muléykeh.
    Pietro of Abano.
    Doctor ----
    Pan and Luna.
    Epilogue.

Jocoseria 1883
  Wanting is--What?
  Donald.
  Solomon and Balkis.
  Cristina and Monaldeschi.
  Mary Wollstonecraft and Fuseli.
  Adam, Lilith, and Eve.
  Ixion.
  Jochanan Hakkadosh.
  Never the Time and the Place.
  Pambo.

Ferishtah's Fancies 1884
  Prologue.
  Ferishtah's Fancies
   1. The Eagle.
   2. Melon-Seller.
   3. Shah Abbas.
   4. The Family.
   5. The Sun.
   6. Mihrab Shah.
   7. A Camel-Driver.
   8. Two Camels.
   9. Cherries.
  10. Plot-Culture.
  11. A Pillar at Sebzevah.
  12. A Bean-stripe; also Apple-Eating.
  Epilogue.

Parleyings with Certain People 1887
  Apollo and the Fates--a Prologue.
  I. With Bernard de Mandeville.
  II. With Daniel Bartoli.
  III. With Christopher Smart.
  IV. With George Babb Dodington.
  V. With Francis Furini
  VI. With Gerard de Lairesse.
  VII. With Charles Avison.
  Fust and his Friends--an Epilogue.

Asolando 1890
  Prologue.
  Rosny.
  Dubiety.
  Now.
  Humility.
  Poetics.
  Summum Bonum.
  A Pearl, a Girl.
  Speculative.
  White Witchcraft.
  Bad Dreams
  Inapprehensiveness.
  Which?
  The Cardinal and the Dog.
  The Pope and the Net.
  The Bean-Feast.
  Muckle-mouth Meg.
  Arcades Ambo.
  The Lady and the Painter.
  Ponte dell' Angelo, Venice.
  Beatrice Signorini.
  Flute-music, with an Accompaniment.
  "Imperante Augusto natus est ----"
  Development.
  Rephan.
  Reverie.
  Epilogue.



The Canterbury Poets.


IMPORTANT ADDITIONS.


WORKS BY ROBERT BROWNING.


VOL. I.

Pippa Passes, and other Poetic Dramas, by Robert Browning.
  With an Introductory Note by Frank Rinder.

VOL. II.

A Blot in the 'Scutcheon, and other Poetic Dramas, by Robert Browning.
  With an Introductory Note by Frank Rinder.

VOL. III.

Dramatic Romances and Lyrics; and Sordello, by Robert Browning.
  To which is prefixed an Appreciation of Browning by Miss E. Dixon.

       *       *       *       *       *

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By GEORGE MOORE.

       *       *       *       *       *

SOME PRESS NOTICES.

"Of the very few hooks on art that painters and critics should on no
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"His book is one of the best books about pictures that have come
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"If there is an art critic who knows exactly what he means and says
it with exemplary lucidity, it is 'G.M.'"--_The Sketch_.

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than this volume."--_Glasgow Herald_.

"Impressionism, to use that word, in the absence of any fitter
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volume so effective, is, in short, the secret both of his likes and
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"Mr. Moore, in spite of the impediments that he puts in the way of
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"As everybody knows by this time, Mr. Moore is a person of strong
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"Of his [Mr. Moore's] sincerity, of his courage, and of his candour
there can be no doubt.... One of the most interesting writers on art
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THE STORY OF ORATORIO.  BY ANNIE W. PATTERSON, B.A., MUS. DOC.
THE STORY OF NOTATION.  BY C.F. ABDY WILLIAMS, M.A., MUS. BAC.
THE STORY OF THE PIANOFORTE.  BY ALGERNON S. ROSE, Author of
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THE STORY OF HARMONY.  BY EUSTACE J. BREAKSPEARE, Author of
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THE STORY OF THE ORGAN.  BY C.F. ABDY WILLIAMS, Author of
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THE STORY OF THE ORCHESTRA. BY STEWART MACPHERSON, Fellow
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THE STORY OF CHAMBER MUSIC.  BY N. KILBURN, MUS. BAC.
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THE STORY OF BIBLE MUSIC.  BY ELEONORE D'ESTERRE-KEELING,
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THE STORY OF THE VIOLIN.  BY A PRACTICAL VIOLINIST.
THE STORY OF CHURCH MUSIC. BY THE EDITOR.
ETC., ETC., ETC.

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NOW READY:

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       *       *       *       *       *

THE WALTER SCOTT PUBLISHING COMPANY, LTD., LONDON AND NEWCASTLE-ON-TYNE





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