Today is Elizabeth Barrett Browning's birthday. She is known almost as much for love letters as she is for her poetry. For those of you who need a refresher, Elizabeth (and her ten siblings) was forbidden by her father to ever marry and have children. When Robert Browning read her poetry, he fell in love with her and began to write her. Between the two of them, they wrote 570 letters to each other before they ran away and eloped. They both kept all the love letters and the door to the Barrett house which half of those letters came through, was saved before the house was torn down. I believe it is kept at Wellesley College Library and was a popular place for college students to slip Valentine cards until it was sealed shut.
So why did Elizabeth's father want to stop his bloodline? Well, according to one scholar, Julia Markus, in her book Dared and Done, It might be because either her grandfather or gear grandfather has a child with a Jamaican slave. Either he was such a racist that he did not want his bloodline tainted or, being an abolitionist, he was ashamed of his white bloodline and wished to end it.
Either way, it was the reason for Elizabeth and Robert's secrecy. Her father never forgave her for running off and getting married and having a child. She wrote to him often and he always returned her letters unopened.
Here is a reading comprehension practice for her poem "How Do I Love Thee?"
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