Each year, in Poets' Corner at London's Westminster Abbey, a wreath laying ceremony takes place at the grave of Robert Browning on or near December 12th, the date of the poet's death in 1889. On December 7, 2012 representatives from Armstrong Browning Library and the Baylor Libraries Board of Advisors participated in the ceremony honoring the poet whose work continues to inspire and impact people worldwide 200 years after his birth.
"The wreath laying ceremony was begun by the London Browning Society after Browning's death," Director of Armstrong Browning Library Rita Patteson said. "It has been a tradition for a Baylor wreath to be placed on Browning's grave by a friend of the Browning Library since 1926, when Library founder A. J. Armstrong organized his first Browning Pilgrimage."
The annual event continues to be sponsored by the London Browning Society and brings together Browning scholars from around the world. For the past eight consecutive years the ABL Director, usually with other Baylor representatives, has attended.
This year, the bicentenary of Browning's birth, Baylor alum and former Chair of the Baylor Library Board of Advisors D. M. Edwards placed Baylor's wreath on the poet's grave. In addition to Edwards and Patteson, ABL's Curator of Books & Printed Materials, Cynthia Burgess, attended the ceremony.
"It is an opportunity for Browning enthusiasts to gather and pay homage to one of the great Victorian poets," Patteson said. "The occasion is especially meaningful this year, so I am extremely pleased that several from the Baylor community could attend the memorial service as we celebrate the 200th birthday of Robert Browning and the centenary of Dr. Armstrong's arrival at Baylor as chairman of the English Department."
At the ceremony, guests were welcomed by the Dean of Westminster Abbey, The Very Rev. John R. Hall, followed by an address by the Bishop of London, The Rt. Rev. and Rt. Hon. Dr. Richard Chartres. Additional wreaths were laid on behalf of the Browning Society; the Friends of Casa Guidi, supporters of the Florentine home of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning; and the Browning Settlement, a social work organization originally associated with London's York Street Independent Chapel where Browning's family worshiped. Immediately following the ceremony, a reception was held in the Abbey's historic Jerusalem Chamber where King Henry IV died in 1413.
The wreath laying ceremony was a fitting conclusion to the year-long celebration of Browning at the Armstrong Browning Library that was marked by an international conference and various events honoring the life and work of Robert Browning.
The Armstrong Browning Library is the premiere research facility for the works of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and a 19th-Century research center. The Library also serves as a museum, open Monday through Saturday, where visitors can view rare items once owned by the Brownings and catch a glimpse of life in the Victorian era.