“I have lived all my chief joys, and indeed nearly all emotions that go warmly by that name and relate to myself personally, in poetry, and in poetry alone.”~Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How’s this for a “homeschooled prodigy”?(from Victorian Web)
“Elizabeth, an accomplished child, had read a number of Shakespearian plays, parts of Pope’s Homeric translations, passages from Paradise Lost, and the histories of England, Greece, and Rome before the age of ten. She was self-taught in almost every respect. During her teen years she read the principal Greek and Latin authors and Dante’s Inferno–all texts in the original languages. Her voracious appetite for knowledge compelled her to learn enough Hebrew to read the Old Testament from beginning to end. Her enjoyment of the works and subject matter of Paine, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Wollstonecraft was later expressed by her concern for human rights in her own letters and poems. By the age of twelve she had written an “epic” poem about the Battle of Marathon, consisting of four books of rhyming couplets. Barrett later referred to her first literary attempt as, “Pope’s Homer done over again, or rather undone.”
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 everyday’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.
More EBB trivia:
The Barretts had 12 children, and Mr. Barrett forbade all those who grew to adulthood to marry. Elizabeth had to elope to marry Robert Browning.
Elizabeth began taking opium for pain relief at age 15, and she remained addicted to it for the rest of her life.
Robert and Elizabeth Browning lived in Italy for most of their marriage–which was apparently very happy and mutually beneficial. They had one child, a son.
Romantically, Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in Italy “in her husband’s arms.”