Moncure Daniel Conway was an American abolitionist, Unitarian clergyman, and author. His life took many turns. He moved from being the son of a wealthy slaveholder in Virginia, to a Methodist minister, and to an outspoken abolitionist with transcendental tendancies. He traveled to England to become an advocate for abolition and to Venice, spending most of the remainder of his life in England as minister of the South Place Chapel, occasionally traveling back to the United States. In England, having become a journalist and a literary agent, he admired the poetry of Robert Browning and became a close acquaintance. After his wife died, he moved to France, devoting his life to the peace movement and to writing. He died alone in Paris.
In this letter Browning explains the origin of a story he had recounted in the epilogue to his book, The Two Poets of Croisic, about a cricket and a singer, explaining that the story came from a Greek myth.
The story that Browning was explaining to Conway in the letter appears in the “Epilogue” to The Two Poets of Croisic.
Tell the gazer “’Twas a cricket
Helped my crippled lyre, whose lilt
Sweet and low, when strength usurped
Softness’ place i’ the scale, she chirped?
The Armstrong Browning Library’s holdings related to Conway include three books and four letters.