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
James T. Fields
Harriet Goodhue Hosmer
Elizabeth Clementine Kinney
James Russell Lowell
Hiram and Elizabeth Powers
The William Wetmore Story Family
Harriet Beecher Stowe
John Greenleaf Whittier
Edward Oliver Wolcott