Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s works have been celebrated for their style and diverse themes including love, politics, religion, and feminism. Her works were influenced by many literary masters before her, from John Milton to Dante to Petrarch. While her writing has intrigued readers for over a century, her influence on other great writers—both male and female—is equally notable.
Edgar Allan Poe, a contemporary of Browning’s, was a great admirer of her work. In his review of Barrett Browning in the January 1845 issue of the Broadway Journal, he claimed that “her poetic inspiration is the highest.” Browning returned the compliment with praise for Poe’s The Raven. Poe subsequently dedicated his 1845 volume of poetry, The Raven and Other Poems, to Browning.
Another poet who idolized Browning was Emily Dickinson. The reclusive woman was fascinated by Browning’s writing and admired her as a woman who had achieved artistic fulfillment in life. Dickinson’s respect for her was so great that she actually hung a framed portrait of Browning in her bedroom.
After Browning’s death, many late-Victorian critics claimed that her popularity would eventually dwindle and that she would only be remembered for a handful of her works. In 1930, author Virginia Woolf wrote a powerful article for the Times Literary Supplement in which she lamented the fact that people no longer read Browning’s epic Aurora Leigh. She urged readers to read the poem and acknowledge the poet’s genius. Eventually, Woolf would go on to pay tribute to Browning in another way. Inspired by the love letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, she decided to write a biography with an imaginative, creative twist: Their life as told from the perspective of Browning’s beloved cocker spaniel. In 1933, Flush: A Biography was published, combining elements from Browning’s life with Woolf’s social commentary and feminist perspectives.