Dared and Done: The Marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning

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The story of two great English poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, whose work was immediately recognized and adored by their contemporaries, whose courtship ranks with the great love stories of all time - and in whose marriage romance was not merely sustained but intensified. We follow the course of their rich marriage, from the beginning when each saw the other as a brilliant poet, a compassionate and strangely similar heart, through the years in which they discovered each other's differences, each ...
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Dared And Done: The Marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning

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Overview

The story of two great English poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, whose work was immediately recognized and adored by their contemporaries, whose courtship ranks with the great love stories of all time - and in whose marriage romance was not merely sustained but intensified. We follow the course of their rich marriage, from the beginning when each saw the other as a brilliant poet, a compassionate and strangely similar heart, through the years in which they discovered each other's differences, each remaining a complex and thrilling human being to the other. To tell their story, Markus for the first time makes use of much of Elizabeth's unpublished correspondence, amid a wealth of other documents. She delves fully into the Brownings' Creole background and shows how it affected their lives and their work (Elizabeth was the first of the Jamaican Barretts to be born in England in many generations). Brilliantly interweaving the Brownings' own words with her authentic and perceptive narrative, Julia Markus brings these two great poets - their marriage, their work, their times - alive as never before.

Dared and Done is a glorious dual biography of two of the 19th century's greatest English poets, whose courtship and marriage was one of the great love stories of the day. Brilliantly weaving the Brownings' own words with an authentic and perceptive narrative, Julia Markus brings these two great artists--their love, their work, their times--alive as never before.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Defying her tyrannical father and in spite of poor health due to lung disease, English poet Elizabeth Barrett married poet-playwright Robert Browning in 1846 after a secret courtship, and they spent the next 15 years in Italy until her death. Elizabeth wrote great love sonnets, the proto-feminist novel in verse, Aurora Leigh, and fiery political poems condemning American slavery or supporting Italian unification. But illness and habitual depression took their toll. Robert, who during their marriage produced his breakthrough book of poems, Men and Women, witnessed the long decline of the great love of his life and he never remarried in 28 years of widowerhood. Markus, a novelist and head of Hofstra University's creative writing department in New York, has written a moving dual biography that peels away the myth and sentiment surrounding this union. She also delves into the Brownings' West Indies background. Pro-abolitionist Elizabeth's great-grandfather was a wealthy slaveholder in Jamaica, and the poet believed she had African blood. Robert's grandmother was Creole with claims to plantations in St. Kitts. Photos. (Feb.)
Library Journal
The Brownings' story is so far-fetched that it could only be true. By midlife Barrett had become a morphine-addicted shut-in, kept prisoner by a tyrannical father. Indeed, Moulton Barrett forbade all of his 11 children to marry; Elizabeth was one of three to defy him (and, like them, lose her inheritance) and elope with Browning to Italy, where they eventually had a son and enjoyed "the only years in which they really lived." Markus, a novelist and the head of the creative writing program at Hofstra University, may not charm conservative scholars with her methods (she occasionally dramatizes episodes from letters or journals by turning them into dialog), but the result is a thrilling re-creation of an invalid's nightmare that became a lover's dream. A pleasure for informed readers.-David Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee
School Library Journal
YA-A charming and well-documented analysis of the courtship and marriage of two well-known English poets, which presents their relationship as reflected in their work. Elizabeth Barrett was a morphine-addicted invalid, totally under the control of her domineering father, when she arranged to secretly meet Robert Browning, whose poems she greatly admired. Mutual infatuation drove the couple together and gave Barrett the strength to defy her father and marry Browning. Quoting heavily from their poetry and Barrett's correspondence, Markus shows the richness that love brought into the couple's life together. Dared and Done will appeal to mature readers of poetry and to those who enjoy romantic biography.-Susan R. Farber, Chappaqua Library, NY
Donna Seaman
Novelist turned literary historian Markus has lifted the veils of misconception that have long concealed the truth about that most poetic and celebrated of love stories and marriages, that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. Along the way, Markus also reaffirms Barrett Browning's standing as a major English poet. It's ironic, Markus says, that Barrett Browning's "Sonnets from the Portuguese" "landed on the cute shelf" in bookstores when it is, in fact, a serious cycle of poems about the choice between love and death. The eldest child of a tyrannical father whose fortune came from his family's Jamaican plantations, Barrett Browning was a 39-year-old invalid and recluse when the handsome, robust, and sincere Browning strode into her life, already in love with her from reading her poetry. His love and conviction transformed Barrett, who triumphed over her ailments and defied her father (he had forbidden all 12 of his sons and daughters to marry). Markus offers the convincing theory that Barrett was ashamed of his racially mixed background and lived in fear of having dark-skinned grandchildren. The lovers, however, were fearless on many fronts. As Markus chronicles the personal and artistic growth of this devoted couple, she insightfully analyzes their social and political milieu and how it shaped their lives and poetry. A fascinating study of what was truly a union of mind, body, and soul.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679416029
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/31/1995
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 382
  • Product dimensions: 6.71 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Julia Markus graduated from Boston University and received her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. Robert Browning was the subject of her doctoral thesis, and she has written extensively on both Brownings. She served for eight years on the Board of Directors of the Browning Institute. Ms. Markus is the Director of Creative Writing at Hofstra University. She is the author of four novels: Uncle, which won the Houghton Mifflin Literary Award, American Rose. Friends Along the Way, and A Change of' Luck. Her articles and reviews have appeared in Smithsonian and The New York Times. She lives in Connecticut and New York City and is at work on a novel.
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