ABL Makes List of the “16 Coolest College Libraries in the Country”

The Business Insider, a business and technology news website, recently listed the Armstrong Browning Library as one of the “16 Coolest College Libraries in the Country.”

Other special collections libraries included on the list were the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, the George Peabody Library at Johns Hopkins University, and the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina.

…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Katharine DeKay Bronson

KatharineKatharine de Kay Bronson was a wealthy American who frequently traveled with her husband Arthur Bronson around Europe.  In 1875, the couple and their daughter Edith (born 1861) decided to make Venice, Italy, their permanent home.  Katharine Bronson entertained guests in her house, called Ca Alvisi, on the Grand Canal and became acquainted with a group of English-speaking artists and writers, among them Henry James and Robert Browning.  Bronson was first introduced to Browning in 1880 probably by their mutual friend the American sculptor William Wetmore Story.  Bronson and Browning developed a close friendship, and he and his sister Sarianna spent many holidays with Bronson in Venice and in Asolo.  Browning’s Ferishtah’s Fancies, completed in 1884, is thought to be influenced in part by Bronson and Venice, and in 1889, Browning dedicated Asolando to Bronson.  The dedication reads:

To whom but you, dear Friend, should I dedicate verses—some few written, all of them supervised, in the comfort of your presence, and with yet another experience of the gracious hospitality now bestowed on me since so many a year,—adding a charm even to my residences at Venice, and leaving me little regret for the surprise and delight at my visits to Asolo in bygone days?



Bronson-Album-2Personal Letters from Robert Browning in the Collection of Katharine de Kay Bronson and Edith Rucelai Bronson.

This scrapbook was created by Katharine Bronson after Robert Browning’s death and contains photographs of Robert Browning as well as his letters to her.

Bronson-Album-3Letter from Robert Browning to Katharine DeKay Bronson, 16 September 884

In a letter from Robert Browning to Mrs. Bronson, dated 16 September 1884, Robert Browning reminisces about the warm greeting he and his sister Sarianna received from Mrs. Bronson when they arrived in Italy for a holiday in 1883:

So it was last year, and the end of the journey was at the Venice Station when the first blessing was that of Luigi’s fat face—lighting the way a few footsteps farther to the more than Friend who had come in the rain to take us and keep us.

The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to Katharine DeKay Bronson include one manuscript and eighty-seven letters.







…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Hiram (1805–1873) and Elizabeth (1809–1892) Powers


Elizabeth Gibson PowersHiram Powers was an American neoclassical sculptor. In 1837 he moved to Italy, settling on the Via Fornace in Florence, where he had access to good supplies of marble and to traditions of stone-cutting and bronze casting. He remained in Florence until his death. Hiram and his wife became friends with the Brownings in Florence. His most famous sculpture was The Greek Slave. It toured America and was exhibited at the Crystal Palace in London. Viewing the exhibit in London, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was inspired to write her famous sonnet, “Hiram Power’s Greek Slave.” EBB-to-Powers-2

 Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Elizabeth Powers. [?30 November] [1854].

 In this letter Elizabeth Barrett Browning returns books that Elizabeth Powers lent to her for Pen to read. Pen’s favorite was The Pretty Village.

….He has read them himself, & had them read to him again  & again, –his particular favorite being ‘The Pretty Village’.


 Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Hiram Powers. [?20 February 1855].

In this letter Elizabeth asks for more books for Pen.

. . . My Penini has been delighted with several of the books & has read them all, & will be very glad to have others.

The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to  the Powers include six Browning letters.

William Shakespeare at the ABL

Illustration from The Tempest

Illustration from The Tempest in Nicolas Rowe’s 1709 edition

The Stokes Shakespeare Collection was given to the ABL by William N. Stokes, Jr., a former student of ABL founder Dr. A.J. Armstrong, and contains over 280 titles, including significant eighteenth-century editions of William Shakespeare’s collected works.  According to bibliographer Colin Franklin, the eighteenth century produced the first critical editions of Shakespeare’s works that attempted to correct errors introduced in earlier editions of single plays by previous editors, printers, and compositors.  The size of the volumes in which these new texts appeared also made them, for the first time, suitable for home reading.

Portrait of William Shakespeare

Portrait of William Shakespeare in Lewis Theobald’s 1733 edition

A number of the important eighteenth-century editions of Shakespeare’s works identified by Franklin in his book Shakespeare Domesticated are contained in the Stokes Shakespeare Collection.  Among them is the 1709 edition edited by playwright and later Poet Laureate Nicolas Rowe, which was the first illustrated edition of Shakespeare’s works and includes the first biography of Shakespeare.  The 1733 edition by Lewis Theobald contains extensive footnotes in which Theobald hotly debates other editors of Shakespeare’s works, namely Alexander Pope and William Warburton.  The 1765 edition by Samuel Johnson may, according to Franklin, be considered the first variorum edition of Shakespeare because notes appearing in all previous editions of Shakespeare’s works were reprinted so that they could be examined side by side.

Title Page from Johnson

Title page for Samuel Johnson’s 1765 edition

Other significant eighteenth-century editions of Shakespeare’s works in the collection include those by Alexander Pope (1723-1725), Thomas Hanmer (1744), Edward Capell (1767), Samuel Johnson and George Steevens (1773), John Bell (1786-1788), Edmund Malone (1790), and the “anonymous” edition of 1745.  Also in the collection is the Boswell-Malone variorum (1821).

Illustration from Macbeth

Illustration from Macbeth in John Bell’s 1788 edition

In addition to Shakespeare’s works, the collection contains a number of books relating to the Bacon-Shakespeare authorship controversy, a particular interest of the collection’s donor.  A list of the books in the Stokes Shakespeare Collection can be found in the Baylor Libraries’ Online Catalog, BearCat, and by clicking here.

Works Cited:

Franklin, Colin.  Shakespeare Domesticated:  The Eighteenth-Century Editions.  Scolar Press, 1991.  Print.

Shakespeare, William.  The Dramatick Writings of Will. Shakspere.  Eds. Samuel Johnson and George Steevens.  Vol. 10.  London:  John Bell, 1788.  Print.

Shakespeare, William.  The Plays of William Shakespeare.  Ed. Samuel Johnson.  Vol. 1.  London:  J. and R. Tonson, 1765.  Print.

Shakespeare, William.  The Works of Mr. William Shakespear.  Ed. Nicolas Rowe.  Vol. 1.  London:  Jacob Tonson, 1709.  Print.

Shakespeare, William.  The Works of Shakespeare.  Ed. Lewis Theobald.  Vol. 1.  London:  A. Bettesworth and C. Hitch, 1733.  Print.

…from America: The Brownings’ American Correspondents–Harriet Goodhue Hosmer (1830–1908)

harriet hosmerHarriet Goodhue Hosmer was an American sculptor. While she was living and studying in Rome, she became associated with a group of women sculptors known as “The White Marmorean Flock.” She was also a frequent visitor at the Brownings’ home in Florence, Casa Guidi. Hosmer is remembered for her casting in bronze of the Brownings’ “Clasped Hands.”

EBB-to-Hosmer-firstEBB-to-HosmerEBB-to-Hosmer-1Letter from Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning to Harriet Goodhue Hosmer.  13 January 1856.

 Writing to Hosmer from Paris on 13 January 1856, Robert Browning says how much he misses “Hatty” and gives news about their common friends, Mrs. Sartoris, Leighton, Tennyson, Ruskin, and Carlyle. Elizabeth concludes by saying: “Be magnanimous & send us a long letter of absolution. You ought, being at Rome.”


Hosmer-Ms-2Hosmer-Ms-3Hosmer-Ms-4Harriet Goodhue Hosmer. “Quaint twins well-mated, will you pardon one.” Autograph Manuscript. No date.

 In this poem of forty-four lines Hosmer asserts The ‘one thing needful’ to you both is Truth. It is inscribed by Hosmer on an integral page: Inscribed with the sincerest regard to Robert & Elizabeth Browning—by H.G. H. The poem was extracted from an unpublished volume of poems.

Hosmer-bookHarriet Goodhue Hosmer. Harriet Hosmer Letters and Memories, edited by Cornelia Carr. New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1912.

This collection of letters, edited by Cornelia Carr, long-time friend of Harriet Hosmer and published four years after her death, contains much of the Brownings’ correspondence.

The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to Hosmer include one book, three letters, and one manuscript.

…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.


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.


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.

…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.

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


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.

…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.


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.