Letters & Manuscripts

The Armstrong Browning Library includes over 3,000 letters written either by or to Robert Browning or his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. An additional 8,000 letters in the collection were written by or to Browning family members or other prominent, as well as less known, British and American figures. This latter group is a growing resource known as the Victorian Collection. Letters of Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, William Surtees Cook (afterwards Altham), Charles Dickens, Edward Dowden, John Forster, William Johnson Fox, Oliver Wendell Holmes, R. H. Horne, Anna Brownell Jameson, Walter Savage Landor, Enid Lady Layard, James Russell Lowell, Bulwer and Robert Lytton, the Meynells, Joseph Milsand, Francis William Newman, John Henry Newman, Uvedale Price, John Ruskin, Tom Taylor, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Thomas Westwood, and T. J. Wise (naming only a small sampling) enhance the main collecting focus of the Armstrong Browning Library.

Over 400 of the poetical and literary manuscripts of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are housed in the Armstrong Browning Library, with an additional 200 poetical and literary manuscripts written by Browning family members or by figures in the Victorian Collection. British and American writers such as Isa Blagden, Eliza Cook, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Alfred Lord Tennyson are well represented.

A selection of letters available in the Armstrong Browning Library collection is:

  • Sarah Flower to W. J. Fox, 31 May 1827, in which she included transcripts of Browning's earliest poetry, "The Dance of Death" and "The First-Born of Egypt."
  • Robert Browning to Euphrasia Fanny Haworth, [1837], mentioning Strafford and that there is "another Tragedy in prospect" (Sordello). Browning refers to W. J. Fox as his "literary father."
  • Robert Browning to William Macready, [27 July? 1840], telling about a "spick & span new Tragedy."
  • Robert Browning to John Kenyon, 6 March 1845, mentioning Miss Barrett's poems.
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Henrietta Moulton-Barrett, 22 December [1849], three years after the marriage to Browning and the resulting disownment by her father.
  • Robert Browning to Thomas Carlyle, [ca. 22 October 1851], about writing "a mere preface to some new letters of Shelley."
  • Robert Browning to John Ruskin, 1 February 1856, including quotations from Sordello.
  • Robert Browning to William Allingham, 28 November 1868, giving an insight into Browning's relationship with Tennyson.
  • Robert Browning to an unnamed friend, 30 October 1882, explaining briefly the history of Rosicrucianism and its relationship to Paracelsus.
  • Robert Browning to Emily Hickey, 8 December 1883, answering questions about Strafford.
  • Robert Browning to Arthur Thompson, 25 July 1889, thanking him for his appreciation, "a sufficient reward for whatever difficulties I have met with, in the cause of a long life's endeavour to write poetry."
  • Robert Barrett Browning (the son) to Katharine deKay Bronson, 12 December 1889, immediately after the death of Robert Browning, "Our beloved breathed his last as St Marks struck ten...."

A selection of manuscripts available in the Armstrong Browning Library collection is:

  • Elizabeth Barrett. "My Character and Bro's Compared." Essay, 7 pages, part of a notebook. Hope End.
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Fair copies of forty-three of the famous Sonnets from the Portuguese written for the printer's use [1849-1850].
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning. "The North and the South." Seven stanzas of five lines each edited by Robert Browning for inclusion in Last Poems and signed: Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Rome. May 1861.
  • Robert Browning. "Cockney Anthology." Ten lines in dialogue form, on a page with "On the deleterious effects of Tea," signed: R. Browning. Thursday Feby. 6. 1834.
  • Robert Browning. "Sonnet to Rawdon Brown." Fair copy, headed by Browning "Tutti ga i so gusti e rmi go i mii," and signed: Robert Browning. Nov. 28. '83.
  • Robert Browning. Seven-line autograph manuscript of possibly his last poem, a rendering of "Inscription on an ancient Sundial at Newquay, Cornwall." Contained in an envelope inscribed by the daughter-in-law: Found in Robert Browning's blotter after his death-Dec. 1889.
  • Robert Browning, Sr. (the father). The Old Schoolfellow. Album of 21 watercolor caricatures accompanied by captions.
  • Sarianna Browning. Manuscript copy of a review of Paracelsus which appeared in The Metropolitan, October 1835.

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