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Browning wrote more poetry than almost any other English poet, all wonderfully intense and original and of an uncompromisingly high standard. He never thought of "retiring"; his last poems were published on the day of his death, December 12, 1889. He was remarkable not only for his creative but also his social energy. Nearly all his life was spent in his native London where he was well known as an entertaining dinner party guest and social personality--rather an unusual role for a great philosophical poet.
His was an encouraging voice amid the anxiety and spiritual dismay that followed the scientific revelations of the nineteenth century. This is not to say that he was blandly optimistic, as he is sometimes portrayed. He wrote fully about the world's cruelty and vice and was quite frank that he had himself had no divine revelation. Nevertheless, he resolved to hope rather than to doubt; and this determined hopefulness remains a comfort and inspiration for many.
Somewhere, below, above,
Shall a day dawn—this I know—
When Power, which vainly strove
My weakness to o'erthrow,
Shall triumph. I breathe, I move,
I truly am, at last!
For a veil is rent between
Me and the truth which passed
Fitful, half-guessed, half-seen,
Grasped at—not gained, held fast.
"Reverie," Asolando, lines 16-25
Later Years and Death
Today, Robert Browning is well known to the general public as the writer of the lines "Grow old along with me! / The best is yet to be..." (from "Rabbi Ben Ezra") and "Oh to be in England, / Now that April's there..." (from "Home Thoughts from Abroad"). To some, he is also known as the hero of the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street; but to the serious Browning scholar, he is a literary figure with ill-defined edges. On December 31, 1889, Robert Browning was buried in London's Westminster Abbey in Poets' Corner among the very greatest figures in British history.