Robert Browning was an English poet and playwright whose mastery of the dramatic monologue made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. His poems are known for their irony, characterization, dark humour, social commentary, historical settings, Brownings early career began promisingly, but was not a success. His reputation took more than a decade to recover, during which time he moved away from the Shelleyan forms of his early period, in 1846 Browning married the older poet Elizabeth Barrett, who at the time was considerably better known than himself. So started one of historys most famous literary marriages and they went to live in Italy, a country he called my university, and which features frequently in his work. By the time of her death in 1861, he had published the crucial collection Men and Women, the collection Dramatis Personae and the book-length epic poem The Ring and the Book followed, and made him a leading British poet. He continued to write prolifically, but his reputation rests largely on the poetry he wrote in this middle period. Unusually for a poet, societies for the study of his work were founded while he was still alive, such Browning Societies remained common in Britain and the United States until the early 20th century. Brownings admirers have tended to temper their praise with reservations about the length and difficulty of his most ambitious poems, particularly The Ring and the Book. Nevertheless, they have included such eminent writers as Henry James, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, G. K. Chesterton, Ezra Pound, Jorge Luis Borges, among living writers, Stephen Kings The Dark Tower series and A. S. Byatts Possession refer directly to Brownings work, today Brownings critically most esteemed poems include the monologues Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, Fra Lippo Lippi, Andrea Del Sarto, and My Last Duchess. Robert Browning was born in Walworth in the parish of Camberwell, Surrey and he was baptized on 14 June 1812, at Locks Fields Independent Chapel, York Street, Walworth, the only son of Sarah Anna and Robert Browning. His father was a clerk for the Bank of England. Brownings paternal grandfather was an owner in Saint Kitts, West Indies. Brownings father had sent to the West Indies to work on a sugar plantation. Brownings mother was the daughter of a German shipowner who had settled in Dundee in Scotland, the evidence, however, is inconclusive either way. Roberts father, a collector, amassed a library of around 6,000 books. As such, Robert was raised in a household of significant literary resources and his mother, to whom he was very close, was a devout nonconformist and a talented musician. His younger sister, Sarianna, also gifted, became her brothers companion in his later years and his father encouraged his childrens interest in literature and the arts
Robert Browning circa 1888
Portraits of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning.