Robert Browning | First Editions

1812 - 1889

Robert Browning (7 May 1812 – 12 December 1889) was an English poet and playwright, whose mastery of the dramatic monologue established his reputation as one of the foremost Victorian poets. His poems are known for their irony, characterization, dark humour, social commentary, historical settings, and challenging vocabulary and syntax.

Early praise for Browning's work was put forth by Dickens, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Wordsworth; however, his obscure 1840 poem Sordello damaged his reputation as a master poet, and his career took more than a decade to recover. Post-Sordello disaster, Browning's work can be seen to move away from the Shelleyan forms of his early period, and is of a more personal style. In 1846 Browning married the older poet Elizabeth Barrett, who at the time was considerably better known than himself. Their union resulted in one of history's most famous literary marriages. The couple went to live in Italy, which features frequently in his work. 

When Browning died in 1889, he was regarded as a sage and philosopher-poet who had made contributions to Victorian social and political discourse through his writing. Unusually for a poet, societies for the study of his work were founded while he was still alive. Such Browning Societies remained common in Britain and the United States until the early 20th century.

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