Robert Browning: Poems

Introduction

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Robert Browning (7 May 1812 – 12 December 1889) was an English poet and playwright whose dramatic monologues put him high among the Victorian poets. His verse was noted for irony, characterization, dark humour, social commentary, historical settings and challenging vocabulary and syntax. His career began well – the long poems Pauline (1833) and Paracelsus (1835) were acclaimed – but his reputation shrank for a time – his 1840 poem Sordello was seen as wilfully obscure – and took over a decade to recover, by which time he had moved from Shelleyan forms to a more personal style. In 1846 Browning married the older poet Elizabeth Barrett and went to live in Italy. By her death in 1861 he had published the collection Men and Women (1855). His Dramatis Personae (1864) and book-length epic poem The Ring and the Book (1868–1869) made him a leading British poet. He continued to be prolific, but his reputation today rests mainly on his middle period. By his death in 1889 he was seen as a sage and philosopher-poet who had fed into Victorian social and political discourse. Societies for studying his work formed in his lifetime and survived in Britain and the US into the 20th century.


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