Baylor Is Home To The 'Ultimate Valentine'

Feb. 11, 2005
News Photo 2544Baylor's handwritten manuscript of the famous love poem "How Do I love Thee?" is one of only three copies in existence today.

by Alan Hunt

The handwritten manuscript of the famous love poem "How Do I Love Thee?" can be found at Baylor's Armstrong Browning Library. The treasured manuscript is among many artifacts relating to English poets and lovers Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning at the library, which houses the world's largest collection of memorabilia associated with the Brownings.

Rita S. Patteson, assistant professor and curator of manuscripts, says the "How Do I Love Thee?" sonnet celebrates "the power and magic" of love. "It has become a symbol of ideal romance - the ultimate valentine."

The poem was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who died at the age of 55 in 1861, for her husband, Robert Browning, who was 77 when he died in 1889. The two were married for only 15 years when Elizabeth died in Browning's arms at their home in Florence, Italy. Their union was considered to be one of the greatest literary romances ever known.

Baylor's manuscript of the poem, which is contained in "Sonnets from the Portuguese," is one of only three copies in existence today, Patteson says. "The other two are at the British Library and the Pierpoint Morgan Library in New York. Ours is a fair copy prepared by Elizabeth Barrett Browning for use by the printer when the sonnets were published in 1850."

Patteson says that a number of the 20,000 visitors to the library each year ask about the sonnets. "I'm happy to show them without previous appointment, but it does help to know ahead of time. I generally show the sonnets to visitors who are particularly enamored with the Brownings and to students of our upper-level classes." Other artifacts held by the library include two pieces of jewelry given to Elizabeth by Robert--an onyx cross as a honeymoon gift and a topaz brooch for their first wedding anniversary.

For more information about the Brownings, contact Patteson at (254) 710-4967 or by email: Rita_Patteson@baylor.edu

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