Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Biography
Throughout the course of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life, poetry played the hand of fate. All of the major events that took place in her life seem to coincide with her poetry. Poetry made her famous. It gave her solace, and comfort, somewhere to drown her sorrow. It introduced her to her husband, and (indirectly) divorced her from her father. Poetry was not only a part of her life, but an integral part of her soul.
It all began in Gosforth Church, with the marriage of Mary Graham Clarke, and Robert Moulton. Soon after their marriage, Edward Moulton inherited his family’s sugar plantations in Jamaica, and took on the name Barrett. Their first daughter was born on March 6, 1806 in Coxhoe Hall, located in Durham, England. She was christened Elizabeth Barrett. She was to be the first of twelve siblings: Edward, Henrietta, Arabella, Samuel, Charles, George, Henry, Alfred, Septimus, Octavius, and Mary. (Mary died at the age of three.) Out of the twelve, Elizabeth Barrett was closest to her younger brother Edward, affectionately dubbing him “bro.” He in turn, responded by calling her “ba.” They all resided happily at “Hope End near Ledbury in Herefordshire, where Edward Barrett had built himself a country house with Moorish windows and turrets” (World Authors 77).
Elizabeth Barrett’s education began at the age of eight when she first started receiving lessons from her tutor. It soon became obvious that Barrett was a proficient learner. She could read Homer in the original before she turned nine years old, and when she no longer had a tutor, she taught herself by studying Edward’s lessons, and by reading incessantly. But, more importantly, she developed a passion not only for learning, but for poetry as well. There is speculation that she began writing poetry at a very early age, but one of the first documentations of her work is Battle of Marathon, an epic poem contained in four books, written when she was twelve. Her father published it privately in 1820. She also began keeping a diary around the age of twelve, entitled “Memorandum Book Containing Day and Night thoughts of Elizabeth Barrett”. It is composed of around one thousand words and “. . . it ranges in subjects discussed from the doctrine of innate ideas to the writer’s own character. To read the diary is to see that at the age of twelve she had already developed the intensity that distinguished her mature style” (Radley 15). Her childhood diary is presently kept in the rare books room in Wellesley College.
A Tragic Flaw
As stated by Elizabeth Barrett’s own hand, quoted from her diary, “. . .I am very passionate but impatience is my ruling passion. I can confess without shame and I am willing to repent and I can forgive without malice but impatience leads me into more faults that I can repent . . .”
Elizabeth was a relatively healthy girl until 1815. Her tragic flaw came into play when she grew impatient as she...