The 'Ultimate Valentine' Can Be Found At Baylor
by Alan Hunt
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Baylor University offers a few thoughts on matters of the heart for Feb. 14.
Baylor's Armstrong Browning Library is home to what many recognize as the "ultimate valentine" - the handwritten manuscript of the famous love poem "How Do I Love Thee?" 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 librarian/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."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who died at the age of 55 in 1861, wrote the poem 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.
Patteson says Baylor's manuscript of the poem, which is contained in "Sonnets from the Portuguese," is one of only three copies in existence today. She 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."
She notes 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 upper-level classes."
For more information about the Brownings, call Patteson at (254) 710-3566.