from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Kate Field (1838-1896)

Kate_Field_undatedKate Field was an American journalist, lecturer, and actress of eccentric talent. She never married, but she had a close relationship with Anthony Trollope. She became acquainted with the Brownings and other literary persons living in Florence. Field died of pneumonia in Honolulu. The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to her include four books and  thirty letters.

RB-to-Kate-Field

Letter from Robert Browning to Kate Field.
[?late June 1859].

This letter conveys the box number for the opera that Browning and Field will attend that evening. Browning expresses his doubt that anyone else will come, except Isa Blagden.

Charles-Dickens-Kate-Field

Kate Field. Pen Photographs of Charles Dickens’s Readings. Taken from Life. Boston: Loring, [ca. 1868].

This booklet recounts the readings of Charles Dickens. Field likens her descriptions to a photograph. She describes the purpose of her book:

Their publication is induced by the hope of clinching the recollection of Mr. Dicken’s readings in the minds of  many; and . . . giving to those who have not had the good fortune to hear them, some faint outline of a rare pleasure, the like of which will ne’er come to us again.

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Elizabeth Clementine Kinney (1810–1889)

Elizabeth_Clementine_KinneyElizabeth Clementine Kinney was an American writer, contributing frequently to periodicals such as Blackwood’s, The Daily Telegraph, and Knickerbockers. During a fourteen year stay in Europe she developed a close friendship with Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to Kinney include two books, five letters, and two manuscripts.

EBB-to-Kinney-1EBB-to-Kinney-2Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Elizabeth Clementine Kinney. [ca. September 1854].

In this very interesting letter, Elizabeth Barrett Browning discusses the plans of Harriet Hosmer, Elizabeth Kinney, and herself related to dressing up as men in order to gain access to a monastery not far from the Porta Roma of Florence in order to view some Donnatello paintings. Their elaborate plan, however, was never realized.

Kinney-Casa-Guidi-WindowsEllizabeth Clementine Kinney.
“Stay!—come not here with unannointed eyes.”
Autograph Manuscript. Undated.

This sonnet is addressed to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and signed with Elizabeth Clementine Kinney’s iinitials. The poem is written on the end-pages of Casa Guidi Windows, London: Chapman and Hall, 1851.

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Edward Oliver Wolcott (1848–1905)

Wolcott

Edward Oliver Wolcott was a prominent politician during the 1890s, serving as senator from Colorado from 1879 until 1882. His biographer, Thomas Fulton Dawson, observed that Wolcott had an overwhelming personality and “whatever he did, good or bad, he did on an unusual scale.” The last year of his life he traveled in Italy, hoping that a change of climate would aid his failing health, but he died in Monaco in 1905.

Wolcott-letter-3webWolcott letter-1Letter from Robert Browning to Edward Oliver Wolcott.
28 February 1887.

In this letter Browning thanks Wolcott for a “generous and beautiful gift” delivered to him by Joseph Charles Parkinson, journalist, civil servant, and social reformer. The gift, according to a letter from Wolcott to Browning on 13 January 1887, was a set of photographs of the Rocky Mountains and the Taos Indians.

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Susan Howard

The Armstrong Browning Library owns a small album of manuscripts, letters, and printed items that contains memorials to Annie Howard, daughter of Susan and John Tasker Howard.  Annie died unexpectedly in Milan on 6 June 6 1860. The Howards, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the Brownings had shared acquaintances in Italy during that period. The tributes in the album were written by three well-known nineteenth-century figures—the anti-slavery preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, his novelist sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and poet Elizabeth Barret Browning. The album contains two letters from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Annie’s mother Susan and a copy of Barrett Browning’s “De Profundis,” written twenty years earlier following the drowning death of her dear brother, Edward. Stowe contributed a poem commemorating Annie to the album and a copy of Henry Ward Beecher’s funeral sermon was also included in the memorial album.

Memory-of-Annieweb Harriet Beecher Stowe. “To the Memory of Annie, who died at Milan June 6. 1860.” In the Annie Howard Memorial Album. Autograph Manuscript. [1860].

The two letters from Elizabeth Barrett Browning are beautiful expressions of condolences on the death of Annie.

EBB-to-Howard-2-1EBB-to-Howard-2-2EBB-to-Howard-2-3EBB-to-Howard-2-4Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Susan Howard. 14 August [1860].

Excerpts from the letter:

Villa Alberti, Siena—                                    August 14—

My dear Mrs Howard

I receive your letter, read it, hold it in my hands, with a sympathy  deeply moved. . . . Hearing of such things makes us silent before God. What must it be to experience them?—I have suffered myself very heavy afflictions, but the affliction of the mother I have not suffered, & I shut my eyes to the image of it—.

Only, where Christ brings His cross He brings his presence—& where He is, none are desolate—& there is no room for despair. At the darkest you have felt a Hand through the Dark—closer perhaps, & tenderer, than any touch dreamt of at noon. As He knows His own, so He knows how to comfort them—using sometimes  the very grief itself, & straining it to the sweetness of a peace unattainable to those ignorant of any grief—

. . . we write in most affectionate sympathy with you .. & your husband, .. may I add, while I sign this letter as your true friend

Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

EBB-to-Howard-1-1EBB-to-Howard-1-2EBB-to-Howard-1-3EBB-to-Howard-1-4

Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Susan Howard. 12 March [1861].

Elizabeth, who had just lost her sister, Henrietta, expresses her sympathy for Susan Howard in these excerpts from the letter:

Rome. 126. Via Felice

March 12.

         My dear Mrs Howard, your letter came to me when I was in bitter need of comfort myself—What are we to say to others while our own heart faints? I had been in great anxiety for months, —& then at last came news from England, —& there was no more to fear. . . .

Before then, the pain you expressed & a sermon of Mr Beecher’s had reminded me of an old forgotten m-s. of mine (De Profundis) “written in my earlier manner” (say the critics) & referring to a great grief, —and I sent it for printing in the Independent- That was for you, & not for me—yet by the time it was printed  & came out here, some of it sailed me also thro’ a new trial. How the threads cross! —

. . . Dear Mrs Howard—when the young go away with hands full of unblown roses, who should lament that they did not stay to sit under leafless trees? —Why yearn for them to live to lose daughters?-Let us consider, of all our holy Dead, that the lessons they learn now are not learnt with pangs but easily, while they sit under the eyes of Him who loves them more than we ever could. . . .

Yours in affectionate sympathy
Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Annie-S.-HowardwebPhotograph of a painting of Annie S. Howard,

daughter of Susan and John Tasker Howard.

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896)

harriet-beecher-stoweHarriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and writer, most well-known for her novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a depiction of the lives of African Americans under slavery. She met Elizabeth Barrett Browning during a trip to England in 1856. In 1859-60 she traveled to Italy and became acquainted with the Brownings socially.

EBB-to-StowewebLetter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to
Harriet Beecher Stowe. [?24 March 1860].

In this letter Elizabeth Barrett Browning assures Stowe that she is not ill with “typhus,” but would like to reschedule their meeting until Monday.

Uncle-Tom's-Cabinweb Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 
London: J. Cassell, 1852.

Stowe’s anti-slavery novel sold 300,000 copies in its first year of publication in 1852.  In a letter to her friend Mary Russell Mitford, dated 15 March [1853], Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes of Stowe and her novel:

No woman ever had such a success, such a fame! No man ever had, in a single book. For my part I rejoice greatly in it. It is an individual glory full of healthy influence & benediction to the world.

sunny memories

Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands [2 vols.]. Boston:  Phillips, Sampson, and Company; New York:  J.C. Derby, 1854.

Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands was an account of Stowe’s travels in Europe in 1853 written for an American audience.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in a letter to Sarianna Browning on [18 September 1854], says she plans to read Stowe’s book:

[A]nd in the meantime Robert read aloud snatches caught out of the heart of it, to Isa Bladgen, Hatty Hosmer & me.

The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings  related to Harriet Beecher Stowe include more than a dozen books and one letter.

 

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

John_Greenleaf_Whittier_webJohn Greenleaf Whittier was an American Quaker poet, associated with the Fireside poets, and a fervent abolitionist. In a letter to Lucy Larcom (1855), he described reading Robert Browning’s Men and Women as “taking a bath among electric eels.”

EBB-to-WhittierwebLetter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning to John Greenleaf Whittier. [20 October 1856].

This letter acknowledges Whittier’s gift to the Brownings of his book The Panorama and Other Poems (1856) and contains a “kind and gratifying word of sympathy” from him. In the letter the Brownings express their gratitude that Whittier has numbered them with his friends.

Whittier-Autogrpah-Album-174s2olThe letter is mounted in an Autograph Book which had belonged to Elizabeth Whittier Pickard, niece of John Greenleaf Whittier. The album also contains letters, notes, and autographs  by Julia  Ward Howe, Edward Everett, John Greenleaf Whittier, Phoebe Cary, U.S. Grant, Alice Cary, Emily  Faithfull,  Thomas  Wentworth  Higginson,  Ralph  Waldo  Emerson,  Bayard Taylor,  A. Bronson Alcott, Henry W. Longfellow, Daniel  Webster, Celia Thaxter,  William Cullen Bryant, Edward Everett, William Lloyd Garrison, Joaquin Miller, P.T. Barnum, Edward E. Hale, Oliver Wendell Holmes, George and Louis MacDonald, and many others.

The holdings of the Armstrong Browning Library related to John Greenleaf Whittier include over eighty books, fourteen letters, and an album owned by Whittier’s niece.

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

James_Russell_Lowell,_Brady-Handy_Photograph_Collection-copywebJames Russell Lowell was an American Romantic poet, critic, editor and diplomat associated with the Fireside Poets. The Fireside Poets, whose popularity rivaled English poets, used conventional meter, making the poems suitable for family reading by the fireside. Lowell and Elizabeth Barrett Browning corresponded, sharing volumes of poetry and an interest in anti-slavery issues. Later when Lowell visited in England and Europe, letters were exchanged with Robert Browning about their social engagements.

EBB-to-Lowellweb Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning
to James Russell Lowell.
17 December 1846.

The manuscript of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point” was originally enclosed with this letter. The manuscript and letter have become separated; and, although the letter is at the ABL, the manuscript of the poem is in the Camellia Collection in London. In the letter Elizabeth Barrett Browning asks Lowell to make allowances for me in remembering that I am only three month’s married, & in the sudden glare of light & happiness, here in Italy, after my long years of imprisonment in sickness & depression, without so much as the hope of this liberty.

Lowell-EBBwebElizabeth Barrett Browning. “Italy—1859—by Lowell.”
Autograph Manuscript. Undated.

This is a fair copy in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s hand of six verses written by James Russell Lowell, published under the title “Villa Franca.”

Lowell-to-Browning-1web

Lowell-to-Browning-2webLetter from James Russell Lowell to Robert Browning.
5 December  1883.

Lowell, living in London at this time, forwards a letter to Browning that has been mistakenly delivered to his address.  He says, I am sorry to say that I opened it without looking at the address. I read no further than ‘My dear Mr. Browning’ & am dying to know the rest. He then asks Browning about the weather in Venice and expresses a desire for Browning to return soon.

Lowell-MsswebJames Russell Lowell. “I asked of Echo: ‘what’s a good advisor?’” Autograph Manuscript. No date.

This poem, written on the back of an envelope, has never been published.

The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to James Russell Lowell include over seventy books, sixteen letters, one Elizabeth Barrett Browning manuscript of Lowell’s poems, and one previously unpublished poem by Lowell. The ABL also has three Robert Browning titles that belonged to Lowell.—Pacchiarotto and How He Worked in Distemper, with Other Poems, The Ring and the Book, and Sordello.

 

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…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents

         from America-Brownings' Amer.Corr.The cataracts and mountains you speak of have been, are, mighty dreams to me—and the great people which, proportionate to that scenery, is springing up in their midst to fill a yet vaster futurity, is dearer to me than a dream. America is our brother-land, and though a younger brother, sits already on the teacher’s seat, and expounds the common rights of our humanity. It would be strange indeed if we in England did not love and exult in America—if English poets, of whom I am least if at all, did not receive with peculiar feeling of gratitude and satisfaction the kind welcoming word of American readers. Believe me grateful to America— . . . .

We have one Shakespeare between us—your land and ours—have we not? And one Milton, and now we are waiting for you to give us another. . . .

 You would wonder a good deal—but would do so less if you were aware of the seclusion of my life, when I tell you that I never consciously stood face to face with an American in the whole course of it. I never had any sort of personal acquaintance with an American, man or woman. Therefore you are all dreamed dreams to me “Gentle dreams” I may well account you.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Cornelius Mathews
3 November 1842

In fact, Elizabeth and Robert Browning did meet many Americans face to face. Their American acquaintances included publishers, editors, journalists, poets, novelists, socialites, sculptors, painters, actresses, social activists, and politicians. Although Elizabeth and Robert never traveled to America, they corresponded with these American friends and met many of them socially in their home in Italy and during their stays in England and Europe.

This blog will introduce several of the Americans with whom the Brownings corresponded including:

Katharine DeKay Bronson
Moncure Daniel Conway
Daniel Sargent Curtis
Kate Field
James T. Fields
Harriet Goodhue Hosmer
Susan Howard
Elizabeth Clementine Kinney
James Russell Lowell
Cornelius Mathews
Hiram and Elizabeth Powers
The William Wetmore Story Family
Harriet Beecher Stowe
John Greenleaf Whittier
Edward Oliver Wolcott

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More Literary Allusions in Downton Abbey — Stowe and Byron

dowager

There were two more literary allusions in this week’s episode of Downton Abbey, both of which connect to the Brownings.

When Lord Grantham and Mr. Drewe, the son of the recently deceased tenant farmer, are discussing whether or not he will be allowed to remain as a tenant, Lord Grantham says he is no “Simon Legree.” This, of course, is a reference to the cruel slave dealer in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible.

harriet-beecher-stoweThe author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was one of the many American correspondents of the Brownings. (Soon the Armstrong Browning Library will shortly be featuring an exhibit, “…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents.) There are six recorded letters between the Brownings and Harriet Beecher Stowe between 1857 and 1861, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning makes references to Stowe in six more letters. One of these letters is in the collection at the Armstrong Browning Library.

Stowe Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Harriet Beecher Stowe
[?24 March 1860]

Fifteen Harriet Beecher Stowe books are in the ABL’s collection, including a first edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Among the books are two volumes of Stowe’s poetry, which are in the digital collection of 19th Century Women Poets

The other literary allusion focused on Lord Byron. Lord Grantham is complimented on his rather pithy statement about the past and the future. His dowager mother responds, “It was too good. One thing we don’t want is a poet in the family.” When Isobel Crawley asks if that would be a bad thing, the dowager answers, “The only poet peer I am familiar with is Lord Byron. And I presume we all know how that ended.” The dowager was referring to Byron’s divorce, remarriage, accusations against him of sodomy and incest, his affairs, and his eventual flight from England to Italy. Obviously, his lifestyle was not the sort that the dowager would approve.

The Brownings, however, admirers of Byron’s poetry owned ten copies of Byron’s work, two portraits of the poet, and a copy of Byron’s verses in an unidentified hand.

Robert makes this reference to Byron in a love letter he wrote to Elizabeth Barrett Browning on August 22, 1846:

Ba, Lord Byron is altogether in my affection again .. I have read on to the end, and am quite sure of the great qualities which the last ten or fifteen years had partially obscured- Only a little longer life and all would have been gloriously right again. I read this book of Moore’s [Letters and Journals of Lord Byron: with Notices of His Life by Thomas Moore, 1830] too long ago: but I always retained my first feeling for Byron in many respects .. the interest in the places he had visited, in relics of him: I would at any time have gone to Finchley to see a curl of his hair or one of his gloves, I am sure–while Heaven knows that I could not get up enthusiasm enough to cross the room if at the other end of it all Wordsworth, Coleridge & Southey were condensed into the little china bottle yonder, after the Rosicrucian fashion .. they seem to “have their reward” and want nobody’s love or faith.

Byron 1 Byron2

Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett Browning
22 August 1846

Robert Browning’s life offers some parallels to Lord Byron’s and some differences. Although his marriage to EBB was clandestine, he was a devoted and loving husband. He did leave England to live in Italy, but his leaving was not under duress, and he did return to England often and freely.

Notes and Queries:

Could other similarities and differences be found in the lives of these great poets?

Melinda Creech

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Literary and Historical Allusions in Downton Abbey, Season 4

kiriContinuing to tease out a bond between the historical milieu of Highclere Castle, which is the setting for the PBS drama Downton Abbey, and the real world of Robert Browning, I have found a literary and an historical allusion in Season 4 of Downton Abbey that may provide a tenuous connection to Robert Browning.

Trying to draw Isobel Crawley, mother of recently deceased Matthew Crawley, out of her mourning, Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, quotes the last two lines of Christina Rossetti’s poem, “Remember:”

remember-1

Christina Rossetti. “Remember”
from Goblin Market and Other Poems.  
Cambridge, London: Macmillan and Co., 1862, p. 58

Isobel reminds Dame Crawley that in the poem Christina Rossetti is talking about her own death, not the death of her child.

Robert Browning corresponded with Christina Rossetti. In fact, the Armstrong Browning Library owns a letter written by Christina Rossetti to Robert Browning, dated 21 December 1869, in which she extends an invitation to attend a gathering at her home. “Remember” was published in Goblin Market and Other Poems, which was part of Robert Browning’s library. The frontispiece and vignette title page were illustrated by Christina’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who also corresponded with the Brownings. The ABL’s advance copy of this work was sent to Robert Browning by the Rossetti family and remained in his library until his death.

Goblin-Market-1Christina Rossetti. Goblin Market and Other Poems.  
Cambridge, London: Macmillan and Co., 1862.

Also in Episode 1, a famous Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba, sings “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” a song for voice and piano written in 1880 by Antonín Dvořák. It is the fourth of seven songs from his cycle Gypsy Songs. The English lyrics for the song are:

Songs my mother taught me, In the days long vanished;
Seldom from her eyelids were the teardrops banished.
Now I teach my children, each melodious measure.
Oft the tears are flowing, oft they flow from my memory’s treasure.

Antonín Dvořák, “Songs My Mother Taught Me,” (No. 4 in: Zigeunermelodien, Op. 55),German  words, Adolph Heyduk; English words, Mrs. Natalia Macfarren, Berlin: N. Simrock [1880].

Robert Browning and Antonín Dvořák were contemporaries. According to Musical World, 28 February 1885, the song, which was very popular at the time, was to be performed at St. James Hall that very afternoon. Antonín Dvořák visited England nine times in all, but I have yet to find evidence that their paths crossed.

Dame Nellie Melba, the character portrayed by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, is the first historical character to be featured on Downton Abbey. In the episode, she sang Dvorak’s “Songs My Mother Taught Me” and a selection from Puccini. Dame Nellie was a famous performer during Browning’s lifetime. In fact, Melba toast and peach Melba were created in her name by famed chef Auguste Escoffier. Her debut in London at Covent Garden was in May 1888, the year before Browning’s death. She was twenty-seven years old.

Dame-Nellie-Melba-as-Ophelia1_11402134_tcm11-17655Dame Nellie Melba as “Ophelie,” circa 1889.

Courtesy of the National Archives of Australia

Melinda Creech

Notes and Queries: Thus far I have not been able to directly connect Robert Browning to either Dvorak or Dame Nellie. Does anyone know of a connection?

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