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Robert Browning was born on 7 May 1812, in Camberwell, south London. He was the eldest of two children born to Robert Browning and Sarah Anna Browning (née Wiedemann).
Between 1820-26 he attended the school of the Rev. Thomas Ready at Peckham, and for a short while in 1828, he attended University College London, but most of Browning's education was informal. He often had private tutors, and his father's unusually large library was at his disposal.
Browning's first publication was entitled Pauline, and was published anonymously in 1833. It was soon followed by Paracelsus (1835) and Sordello (1840). A year later, Pippa Passes, the first in a series entitled Bells and Pomegranates was published; the remaining seven parts appeared between 1841-46.
On 12 September 1846, Robert Browning married Elizabeth Barrett at St. Marylebone Parish Church, London. They left a week later for Florence, Italy, where they spent the remainder of their married life. Their Florentine home, called Casa Guidi, has been preserved as a memorial to the poets.
In 1849, the birth of his son was overshadowed by the death of Browning's mother. Also in 1849, a two-volume selection of Browning's poetry was published. The following year, Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day was published, and it was five years later before Men and Women appeared.
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After the death of his wife in 1861, Browning left Florence, never to return. In 1860, however, he had bought the "Old Yellow Book" in a secondhand stall in Florence. This was the source for his epic poem, The Ring and the Book, published in 1868-69.
Between 1864 and 1889, Browning published almost two dozen titles, including: The Poetical Works (1863); Dramatis Personae (1864); Balaustion's Adventure (1871); Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau (1871); Fifine at the Fair (1872); Red Cotton Night-Cap Country (1873); Aristophanes' Apology and The Inn Album (1875); Pacchiarotto and How He Worked in Distemper (1876); The Agamemnon of Aeschylus (1877); La Saisiaz: The Two Poets of Croisic (1878); Dramatic Idyls (1879); Jocoseria (1883); Ferishtah's Fancies (1884); Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in Their Day (1887); and The Poetical Works (16 vols., 1888-89).
In 1867, Browning received an Honorary M.A. from Oxford and was made and Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. Later in 1882, he received an Honorary D.C.L. from Oxford. Browning died on 12 December 1889 at Ca'Rezzonico, Venice, but not before he heard the news of the success of his latest volume of poetry, Asolando, published that same day. These lines from the "Epilogue" to that volume offer a fitting tribute to one of the great poets of the Victorian age:
One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.
On 31 December 1889, Browning was buried in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey.
The Poems. Ed. John Pettigrew. 2 vols. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981.
The Poems of Browning. 4 vols to date. Ed. John Woolford, Daniel Karlin and Joseph Phelan. London: Longman, 1991-.
The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. 15 vols (9 vols to date). Gen. ed. Ian Jack and Michael Meredith. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983-.
The Brownings' Correspondence. 40 vols (18 vols to date). Ed. Philip Kelley, Ronald Hudson and Scott Lewis. Winfield, KS: Wedgestone Press, 1983-.
Works (selected editions in paperback)
Robert Browning's Poetry. Ed. James F. Loucks and Andrew M. Stauffer. New York: Norton Critical Editions, 2007.
Robert Browning: Selected Poems. Ed. John Woolford, Daniel Karlin and Joseph Phelan. London: Longman, 2010.
Robert Browning: The Major Works. Ed. Adam Roberts. Oxford: Oxford World Classics, 2005.
Daniel Karlin, The Courtship of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985.
Richard S. Kennedy and Donald S. Hair, The Dramatic Imagination of Robert Browning: A Literary Life. Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 2007.
John Maynard, Browning's Youth. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977.
Pamela Neville-Sington, Robert Browning: A Life After Death. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 2004.
Clyde de L. Ryals, The Life of Robert Browning: A Critical Biography. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.
Introductions to the Work
Stefan Hawlin, The Complete Critical Guide to Robert Browning. London: Routledge, 2002.
John Woolford, Robert Browning: Writers and Their Work. Tavistock: Northcote House, 2007.
John Woolford and Daniel Karlin, Robert Browning. London: Longman, 1996.