One of the most famous romantic marriages in history began as the result of a love letter from one person to the other. Almost anyone who has read any of the major classics of English language literature will know about the work of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband Robert Browning.
Elizabeth, was an amazing and well educated child, but she was self-taught in almost every respect. For example by the age of ten years old she had read a number of Shakespeare’s plays, parts of Pope’s Homeric translations, passages from Paradise Lost, and the histories of England, Greece, and Rome. During her teen years she read most of the principal Greek and Latin authors and Dante’s Inferno — all texts in the original languages. Her appetite for learning compelled her to learn enough of the old Hebrew language to be able to read the Old Testament from beginning to end.
It was not however just soaking up knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Her reading of work by Paine, Voltaire and Wollstonecraft was later expressed in her own letters and poetry showing her own equal concern for human rights. For example one of the poems in the collection, “A Curse For a Nation,” which attacked the injustice of slavery, had been previously published in an abolitionist journal in Boston. Aurora Leigh also dealt with social injustice, but its subject was the subjugation of women to the dominating male.
However following an serious spine injury in 1821 caused by falling off a horse she lost a lot of her own mobility. Despite that she remained quite active at least until her brother died in 1838. Following this Elizabeth fell into a state of depression and became — in her thoughts and life style — a permanent invalid rarely leaving her room and spending most of her time writing poetry.
But then in 1844 she received the most amazing fan letter.
“It was from Robert Browning who had by that time started writing books and poetry. In his letter to Elizabeth he proclaims his sincere love of her poetry. However by the end of the letter he was also proclaiming his love for Elizabeth. She was skeptical of course apart from having never met him but because of her own depression and her physical condition. Robert never gave up and after more love letters being written back and forth the following year she agreed to marry him. Your initial love can be anything poetry, literature, gardening, exercise, or whatever your heart desires, and when you shift your focus on a person that’s when magic can happen. Writing sincere love letters can bring about major romance.”
Because of her fathers strong disapproval of the relationship they married in secret and ran off to italy to live. The romantic relationship they shared brought about major improvements in her health so she was able to travel widely around the country. See Love can conquer all things.
They had a sort of reciprocal muse relationship as well, each feeding off the other’s poetry and constructive criticism which led to them through their published poetry becoming one of the romantic era’s favorite couples.
Elizabeth’s most famous work “Sonnets from the Portugese” was a collection of poems which clearly shows her love growing with her relationship with her husband. Robert had given her the pet nickname “My Little Portuguese” referring to her dark complexion.
In 1861 Elizabeth died at 55 years old, after which Robert returned to England and to become known as one of the truly great poets of the 19th century. He was later to be buried in Poets Corner in Westminster Abbey.
His romantic loving relationship with Elizabeth Barrett was one of the sweetest of any century and it all started with a love letter.
Do you have a romantic story to share that all started with a love letter? Then please share it with me and the rest of the world.