Robert Browning


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Browning, Robert,

1812–89, English poet. His remarkably broad and sound education was primarily the work of his artistic and scholarly parents—in particular his father, a London bank clerk of independent means. Pauline, his first poem, was published anonymously in 1833. In 1834 he visited Italy, which eventually became his second homeland. He won some recognition with Paracelsus (1835) and Sordello (1840). In 1837, urged by William Macready, the Shakespearean actor, Browning began writing for the stage. Although not especially successful, he wrote eight verse plays during the next nine years, two of which were produced—Strafford in 1837 and A Blot in the 'Scutcheon in 1843. The narrative poem Pippa Passes appeared in 1841; it and subsequent poems were later published collectively as Bells and Pomegranates (1846). Included were "My Last Duchess" and "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister," both dramatic monologues; this form proved to be the ideal medium for Browning's poetic genius. Other notable poems of this kind are "Fra Lippo Lippi," "Andrea del Sarto," and "The Bishop Orders His Tomb." In 1846, after a romantic courtship, Browning secretly married the poet Elizabeth Barrett and took her to Italy, where they lived for 15 happy years. There he wrote Christmas Eve and Easter Day (1850) and Men and Women (1855). In 1861, after the death of his wife, he returned to England, where he wrote Dramatis Personae (1864). This was followed by what is considered his masterpiece, the murder story The Ring and the Book (4 vol., 1868–69). Set in 17th-century Italy, the poem reveals, through a series of dramatic dialogues, how a single event—a murder—is perceived by different people. Browning gained recognition slowly, but after the publication of this work he was acclaimed a great poet. Societies were instituted for the study of his work in England and America. His later works include Dramatic Idyls (2 vol., 1879–80) and Asolando (1889). Browning's thought is persistently optimistic. He believed in commitment to life. His psychological portraits in verse, ironic and indirect in presentation, and his experiments in diction and rhythm have made him an important influence on 20th-century poetry. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Bibliography

See variously published volumes of his letters; complete works, ed. by R. A. King (5 vol., 1967–82); biographies by M. Ward (2 vol., 1967–69), B. Miller (1952, repr. 1973), and W. Irvine and P. Honan (1974); studies by R. Langbaum (1963), P. Drew (1966 and 1970), R. E. Gridley (1972), T. Blackburn (1967, repr. 1973), and J. Woolford (1988).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Browning, Robert

 

Born May 7, 1812, in London; died Dec. 12, 1889, in Venice. English poet.

In his first poetic experiments, Browning followed the traditions of the English romanticists (for example, in the poems Pauline, 1833, and Paracelsus, 1835), but in his early dramas (Strafford, 1837, Pippa Passes, 1841, and,4 Blot in the ’Scutcheon, 1843) he was influenced by Shakespeare. The collections Dramatic Lyrics (1842), Dramatic Poems (1845), Men and Women (1855), and Dramatis Personae (1864) brought him fame. The main genre of Browning’s poetry is the dramatic monologue, used in philosophical reflections on the purpose of art (Fra Lippo Lippi, Andrea del Sarto) and the cruelty of a feudal lord (My Last Duchess). In “The Heretic’s Tragedy” he drew a frightful picture of wild fanaticism. The peak of his creativity was the novel in verse The Ring and the Book (1868-69), which portrays the tragic death of a young man and the hardheartedness of his milieu. His verse novels drawn from contemporary French life (Country of Red Nightcaps, 1873) and English life (Tavern Album, 1875) depict the power of money and religious obscurantism. The verse novellas in his collection Dramatic Idyls (1879) are devoted to ethical problems. In 1881 the Browning Society was founded for commentary on the texts of Browning.

WORKS

Complete Works, vols. 1-12. New York, [1912].
In Russian translation:
In the book Antologiia novoi angliiskoi poezii. Leningrad, 1937.

REFERENCES

Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 2, issue 2. Moscow, 1955.
Klimenko, E. I. Tvorchestvo R. Brauninga. Leningrad, 1967.
Nersesova, M. “Dobroe nachalo.” Voprosy literatury, 1968, no. 9.
Griffin, W. H., and H. Ch. Minchin. The Life of R. Browning, 3rd ed. London, 1938.
De Vane, W. C. A Browning Handbook, 2nd ed. New York, 1955.
Browning’s Mind and Art. Edinburgh-London, 1968.
Burrows, L. Browning the Poet. [Perth, 1969]. (Bibliography, pp. 298-300.)

M. A. NERSESOVA

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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