August 8, 2004

Robert Browning

Posted in Outstanding Figures at 12:10 pm by Rou...

I once read a quote for someone called Browning, I didn’t happen to know him by that time so forgive my ignorance. Unfortunately that quote was translated in Arabic… but I liked it so much that I started searching for the original quote in English… and it was amazing what I found about the Brownings.


Today I’ll write to you what I know about Robert Browning, with some of his quotes. And I’ll be following up with other things about him along with his wife… Elizabeth Barrettes Browning.


By the way, I never found the original English translation of that quote… so if anyone happens to know it… please send it to me… it said:

“نحن نسقط لكي ننهض… و نهزم في المعارك لنحرر نصراً أروع … تماماً كما ننام لكي نصحو أكثر قوة و نشاطاً…!”




Robert Browning was born in Camberwell, south London, in 1812 as the son of Robert Browning, a wealthy clerk in the Bank of England, and Sarah Anna Wiedemann, of German-Scottish origin. Young Robert spent much of his time in his father’s private library of 6000 volumes in several languages. The chief source of his education.


At the age of 16, he began to study at newly established London University, returning home after a brief period. At home his parents showed understanding of his decision to withdraw and supported him morally and financially.


In 1833 Browning published anonymously PAULINE: A FRAGMENT OF A CONFESSION. It has been said, that it was inspired by Eliza Flower, a performer and composer of religious music. First the publication sold not a single copy but eventually the work was noted by J.S. Mills.


Between 1834 and 1836 The Monthly Repository published several shorter poems by Browning. In 1834 he traveled to Russia and made in 1838 his first trip to Italy.


Browning’s early poetical works attracted little attention until the publication of PARACELSUS (1835), which dealt with the life of the famous Swiss alchemist.

From 1837 to 1846 Browning attempted to write verse drama for the stage. During these years he met Carlyle, Dickens, and Tennyson, and formed several important friendships.


Between 1841 and 1846 Browning works appeared under the title BELLS AND POMEGRANATES. It contained several of his best-known lyrics, such as How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, and PIPPA PASSES (1841), a dramatic poem depicting a silk winder and his wandering in Italy.


Among his earlier works was SORDELLO (1840), set against the background of restless southern Europe of the 13th century. It influenced Ezra Pound in his conception of the Cantos. However, Sordello‘s hostile reception shadowed Browning’s reputation for over twenty years.


Browning became an admirer of Elizabeth’s Barrettes (1806-1861), poetry in 1844. He began corresponding with her by letter. This was the start of one of the world’s most famous romances. Their courtship lasted until 1846 when they were married. The couple moved to Italy that same year and had a son, Pen, later in 1849.


He produced comparatively little poetry during the next 15 years. When Elizabeth Browning died in 1861, he moved to London with his son Robert Barrett Browning (1849-1912). There he wrote his greatest work, THE RING AND THE BOOK (1869), based on the proceedings in a murder trial in Rome in 1698. It consisted of 10 verse narratives, all dealing with the same crime, each from a distinct viewpoint.


Browning made poetry compete with prose, and used idioms of ordinary speech in his text. A typical Browning poem tells of a key moment in the life of a prince, priest or painter of the Italian Renaissance. He often crammed his meaning into so few words that many readers could not grasp what he meant.


Robert did not become recognized as a poet, until after Elizabeth’s death in 1861. After which, he was honored for the rest of his life as a literary figure.


Robert is perhaps best-known for his dramatic monologue technique. In his monologues, he spoke in the voice of an imaginary or historical character. Robert had a fondness for people who lived during the Renaissance. Most of his monologues portray persons at dramatic moments in their lives.


In the 1850s and 1860s Browning’s reputation began to revive. In 1855 appeared the masterpiece of his middle period, MEN AND WOMEN. With DRAMATIS PERSONAE (1864) and The Ring and the Book he was back in the literary scene.

In 1866, after his father died, Browning lived with his sister, generally spending the season in London, and the rest of the year in the country or abroad. In the 1870s Browning published several works, including THE INN ALBUM (1875), a dramatic poems, where two couples use the the visitors’ book to convey messages, and a translation of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon. Browning Society was founded in 1881 as an indication of the poets status as a sage and celebrity.


Robert Browning died on December 12, 1889 in Venice in his son’s house. Various difficulties made the poet’s requested burial in Florence impossible, and his body was returned to England to be interred in Westminster Abbey. Browning’s narrative poem, ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came’, has inspired Stephen King’s King’s Dark Tower series, which started in 1982 with The Gunslinger.




“A minute’s success pays the failure of years.”


Grow old along with me! … The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made:   Our times are in His hand …Who saith, ‘A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!’  ”


I show you doubt, to prove that faith exists.”


Ignorance is not innocence but sin.”


What’s the earth with all its art, verse, music, and worth Compared with love found, gained, and kept?”


Why comes temptation, but for man to meet and master and crouch beneath his foot, and so be pedestaled in triumph?”


“A face to lose youth for, to occupy age with the dream of, and meet death with.”

“If you get simple beauty and nought else, you get about the best thing God invents.”


“All at once they leave you, and you know them!”


“Might she have loved me? Just as well … She might have hated, who can tell?”


“Ah, but a man’s grasp should exceed his reach, or what’s a Heaven for?”


“I count life just a stuff to try the soul’s strength on.”


“It is best to be yourself, imperial, plain and true.”


“Man partly is and wholly hopes to be.”


“My sun sets to rise again.”


“Truth lies within ourselves: it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness and to know rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendor may escape than in effecting entry for light supposed to be without.”


“What I aspired to be and was not, comforts me.”


“What Youth deemed crystal, Age finds out was dew.”


“Like dogs in a wheel, birds in a cage, or squirrels in a chain, ambitious men still climb and climb, with great labor, and incessant anxiety, but never reach the top.”


“Take away love and our earth is a tomb.”






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