About Carl Flynn

Director of Marketing & Communications for Information Technology and University Libraries for Baylor University. My staff and I manage marketing and publicity for Information Technology Services and all of the Baylor University Libraries, which include the Moody Memorial & Jones Libraries (Central Libraries), The Texas Collection, The W. R. Poage Legislative Library, and the Armstrong Browning Library. Connect with use via Twitter @BaylorLibraries.

New Faces of Armstrong Browning Library

Recently the Armstrong Browning Library has welcomed three new employees. They are Rachel Bates, Caleb Lindgren, and Carolina Criscione. I asked each of them a couple questions so that we can get to know them better.

Rachel Bates:

Where are you from and what is your background before coming to Baylor Libraries?

I am from the great small town of West, Texas (just north of Waco).  I graduated high school from there, then made my way to the Texas Hill Country where I went to school at Texas State in San Marcos and received my Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Science, and a Minor in Mass Communications.  After college, I entered the events/wedding industry where I worked for over a decade coordinating events and weddings. I also managed a floral company for weddings and specialty events.

What does your new position entail?  

I wil­l be in charge of scheduling and coordinating events held in the Library and overseeing daily operations of the public areas of the building. I will manage the Gift Gallery, supervise the part-time hosts of the Library and the work-study students assigned to the main floor. I will also oversee all specialty events at the Library.

What is your favorite part of your role (or Baylor) so far?  

I have really enjoyed meeting my new team, and the work study-students that will work with me. I have also enjoyed getting to see the excitement of people who come to the library/museum for the first time.  They get to see what a treasure Armstrong Browning Library is, and how lucky we are to have it here on campus.

What do you like to do in your free time? What is a fun fact about you?  

I spend most of my free time with my friends and family.  I like to catch live music when I can and am a big fan of podcasts.

Fun Facts:  In my floral industry days, I probably created close to 1,000 bridal bouquets.  Floral design is still a passion of mine that I hope to carry throughout my life.

Caleb Lindgren:

Where are you from and what is your background before coming to Baylor Libraries?

I came to Baylor Libraries about one year ago after getting married to my wife, Katherine, who is a current Baylor PhD student (in history). Previously, I worked as the theology editor for Christianity Today magazine until 2020, when I left full-time work there to pursue my own PhD in theology (at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois).

What does your new position entail?  

My role is a library host at the Armstrong Browning Library, and I primarily supervise the student workers who sit at the front desk and greet visitors and give tours. I train them on their duties and how to give a tour. I am also here to answer any questions the student workers can’t answer and to work with the rest of the library staff to make sure the library is welcoming and safe.

What is your favorite part of your role (or Baylor) so far? 

I really have enjoyed getting to know my co-workers and the student workers. Baylor brings incredible people from all over the world, and I’ve loved getting to know them. Also, it is wonderful to work in such a peaceful (and beautiful) environment.

What do you like to do in your free time? What is a fun fact about you?  

I am an avid runner and an avid reader. I am also a military aviation buff, though I am not a veteran myself.

Carolina Criscione

Where are you from and what is your background before coming to Baylor Libraries?

I am originally from the Chicagoland area (Wheaton, IL). I studied Art History and Spanish at Wheaton College, and then moved to Boston to attend Simmons University for my M.L.I.S. degree. I concentrated in cultural heritage studies and explored the many different historic landmarks, museums, and libraries of New England as a student. After my wedding last summer in Maine, I moved to Texas to join my husband, David Criscione, as he completes his PhD program here at Baylor.

What does your new position entail?  

I serve as the Assistant to the Curator at the Armstrong Browning Library. My primary responsibility is supervising the Library Services area, more specifically assisting library patrons and visiting scholars. I also am involved in the circulation of library materials, fulfilling Interlibrary Loan requests, compiling library statistics, and recording climate data. One task I especially enjoy is performing research and other supportive tasks for the ABL Curator.

What is your favorite part of your role (or Baylor) so far? 

My favorite part about working at Baylor is my team of coworkers! I’ve been amazed by their kindness and patience as I’ve learned the ropes at the ABL.  Since they are all very knowledgeable about, and dedicated to, the preservation of rare books, I have learned a lot about special collection care and archives work from them!

What do you like to do in your free time? What is a fun fact about you?  

In my free time, I enjoy reading (a librarian who enjoys reading? It’s horribly cliché, I know!). I am also an avid gardener, and while I do not have a yard here in Texas, it’s been fun to learn about the geography and wildlife native to Texas. A fun fact about myself is that I have been a strict vegetarian most of my life!

We are so grateful to have Rachel, Caleb, and Carolina join the Armstrong Browning Library team!

Browning Scholar Enjoys Long-Awaited Research Visit

A photo of Marta Gimenez Orti outside of the Armstrong Browning Library & Museum

Marta Gimenez Orti

In late 2019, Marta Gimenez Orti, a doctoral student from Spain, received a scholarship from Universidad Complutense de Madrid. The award enabled her to conduct dissertation research for a semester at Armstrong Browning Library & Museum at Baylor University, which is the international center for research on the lives and works of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. However, as she began to make travel plans it soon became clear her Baylor visit would be delayed due to COVID-19.

Orti completed her undergraduate degree and two masters degrees in education and translation in Spain. However, she decided to pursue a Ph.D in literature. Her love of literature and Italian drew her to the works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

When Orti found out she was awarded the scholarship, she was excited because she was working full-time as a high school teacher while trying to complete work on her Ph.D. The research leave would enable her to focus on her dissertation research and complete her degree.

“I had to wait for two years. I had to keep on working which was hard for me, and I also had to do a lot more paperwork to come here,” said Orti. “I had to go to the embassy to do my visa and I had to do a lot of COVID-19 tests.”

Orti’s research asks why Elizabeth Barrett Browning is not as highly recognized as other English writers from the Victorian era.

“She [Elizabeth Barrett Browning] was like the Shakespeare of women, and she influenced a lot of writers such as Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe. However, today they are much more popular than her and few study her. I want to know why she is not well-known anymore, even though she is a pioneer among English authors.”

Reductions in COVID travel restrictions enabled Orti to make her journey to Baylor in August. Now that she is at the Armstrong Browning Library she enjoys the atmosphere around campus.

“I am happy that Marta was finally able to join us, and I look forward to learning what her research reveals about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s reputation and reception in Italy,” said Director of Armstrong Browning Library Jennifer Borderud. “I am also happy that Marta has been able to experience campus life at Baylor and explore Waco and Texas.”

One of the biggest differences between Baylor and her school in Madrid is the amount of help that Orti has received at Armstrong Browning Library.

Coming to a place like Armstrong Browning Library allows Orti to have resources all in one building, where in Spain, she described having to go to different cities to find certain resources. She is also appreciative of the staff that accompanies her at Armstrong Browning Library as they have greatly helped her adjust to life in the United States.

“I thought that adjusting to life in the United States would be harder, but it’s not. Christi and Jennifer at the Armstrong Browning Library are helping me a lot. They even looked for an apartment for me here,” said Orti. “I have also met some people here at the library and I have been spending time with them, so I thought that it would be harder but I am very good here actually.”

Since coming to the United States, Orti is also pleasantly surprised at the amount of student activities that Baylor offers compared to universities in Spain.

“It is so different from Europe. Here you have a lot of activities for students and organizations and I have a lot of opportunities to go out, so that’s something new for me as a student and I really love it.”

Orti plans on completing and defending her dissertation in January and would love to remain at Baylor for a little longer as a professor of language or literature.

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face – Anna Brownell Jameson [née Murphy] (1794–1860)

A gifted woman may pursue a public vocation, yet preserve the purity and maintain the dignity of her sex. . . there is no prejudice which will not shrink away before moral energy, and no profession which may not be made compatible with the respect due to us as women, the cultivation of every feminine virtue, and the practice of every private duty.

Anna Brownell Jameson
Visits and Sketches at Home and Abroad
London: Saunders and Otley, 1834, p. 271.

The quotation above, suggested by Dr. Cheri L. Larsen Hoeckley, Professor of English and Coordinator of Gender Studies at Westmont College, comes from an essay Jameson wrote on the actress Sarah Siddons, whom she found fascinating.

It seems Miss Jameson was passionate about quite a lot of things.

She was born in Dublin, the eldest of five daughters of Denis Brownell Murphy, an Irish miniature painter and his wife. The family moved to England in 1798 and eventually settled in Hanwell, near London. Anna was educated at home, and at sixteen became a governess in the family of Charles Paulet, the 13th Marquis of Winchester. In 1821 she was engaged to Robert Jameson, but the engagement was broken off, and Anna accompanied the Rowles family to Europe as a governess for their daughter Laura. She wrote a fictitious account of her travels, published in 1826 as The Diary of an Ennuyée.

In 1821, Anna became the governess to the children of Edward Littleton, later know as Baron Hatherton, finally marrying Robert Jameson in 1825. The marriage proved to be unhappy. When Robert Jameson was appointed Puisne Judge in the Island of Dominica in 1829, the couple separated, and Anna visitied the Continent with her father and Sir Gerard Noel, perhaps as a governess for Noel’s daughter, Harriet Jane. She made her first visit to Germany, aquiring there a passion for German art and literature.

In 1833, Robert Jameson received a new appointment as chief justice of the upper province of Canada, and in 1836 he summoned his wife to Canada. He failed to meet her in New York, and she was left to make her way alone in the winter. After eight months of traveling in Canada and the United States, she felt it useless to continue a life far from all ties of family happiness and opportunities for a woman of her class and education. Before leaving, she undertook a journey to the depths of the Indian settlements in Canada. She explored Lake Huron, and saw much of emigrant and aboriginal life unknown to colonial travelers.

She returned to England in 1837 and devoted her life to writing, chiefly to support her parents and sisters. She had passionate relationships with Lady Byron and Ottolie van Goethe, and her many friends included Catherine Sedgwick, Jane Carlyle, George Eliot, Fanny Kemble, Harriet Martineau, Mary Russell Mitford, and Elizabeth Gaskell. She was a friend of both Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. It was she who assisted the poets on their journey from Paris to Pisa just after their marriage.

Mrs. Jameson was deeply concerned with the legal and educational concerns of women. Her travel writings enlighten female roles and responses. In her much acclaimed art and literary criticism, she expands the aesthetic context to propound her views on womanhood. She wrote of women celebrated in poetry, female sovereigns, and Restoration beauties. Her Shakespeare’s Heroines: Characteristics of Women analyzes the female characters of Shakespeare’s works.

Anna’s financial need, and that of her family, remained acute, although from 1851, she had a Civil List pension. In her later writings she treats the plights of governesses and the need for wider female employment opportunities. Her celebrated lectures, published as Sisters of Charity, Catholic and Protestant, at home and abroad (1855) and The Communion of Labour: a second lecture on the social employments of women (1856) focus on the pressing controversy over “Superabundant Women” and praise the good work and courage demonstated by women united in communities, while strongly rejecting any separatist ethic. Partly spurred by a sense of injustice on being omitted from her husband’s will in 1854, Anna actively supported a group of young reformers and educational pioneers including Adelaide Procter, Emily Faithful, and Barbara Bodichon. With Bessie Parkes, she helped initiate the English Women’s Journal, (1858-64).

She died on March 17, 1860.

The Armstrong Browning Library has an extensive collection of the writings of this essayist, fiction and travel writer, biographer, and literary and art critic. It consists of twelve nineteenth century books by Anna Brownell Jameson, nine letters from the Brownings, and forty-two letters to or from other Victorian correspondents.

 Melinda Creech

[1835], August 31. Anna Brownell Jameson to [Eliza Murphy]. The letter above, written to her sister, Eliza Murphy, from Vienna, describing her travels and time spent with friends, is cross-written to conserve paper and postage.

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face – Felicia Dorothea Hemans [née Browne] (1793–1835)

The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though child-like form.

The flames rolled on–he would not go
Without his Father’s word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.

He called aloud–’say, Father, say
If yet my task is done?’
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.

‘Speak, father!’ once again he cried,
‘If I may yet be gone!’
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.

Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death
In still yet brave despair.

And shouted but once more aloud,
‘My father! must I stay?’
While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.

They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And streamed above the gallant child,
Like banners in the sky.

There came a burst of thunder sound–
The boy–oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea!–

With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part–
But the noblest thing which perished there
Was that young faithful heart.

“Casabianca” in
The Poetical Works of Mrs. Felicia Hemans,
New York: James C. Derby, 1854.

Felicia Hemans, who published nearly 400 poems during her lifetime, was a popular poet during the Romantic era. Her poetry included sonnets, lyrics, narratives, dramas, and polemics. Although some critics consider her style merely decorative, others recognize in her poems a critical study of politics and gender and trace her influence in the dramatic lyrics of the Brownings, Tennyson, Kipling, Sigourney, Longfellow, Whittier, and Harper. The ABL owns thirteen of Hemans’ books.

The first line of the poem above is instantly recognizable to many people, committed to memory in elementary school days. Susan Wolfson, editor of Felicia Hemans: Selected Poems, Letters, Reception Materials (2010), agrees that the beginning lines from “Casabianca” are probably Hemans most familiar, but points out that the poem is “much edgier than its reputation as a sentimental favorite would have it.” Citing Heman’s own footnote describing the circumstances of the poem, Wolfson reminds us that Hemans, a loyal British subject, writes sympathetically about Nelson’s opponent in the Battle of the Nile, heroizing the French boy and lifting her female voice to descry the loss of a child martyr and his useless filial loyalty to a patriarchal agenda and command.

Melinda Creech

from The Poetical Works of Mrs. Felicia Hemans,
Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Company,
New York: James C. Derby, 1854
accessed through
The 19th Century Women Poets Collection
at Baylor University.

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face – Mary Russell Mitford (1787–1855)

The slightest emotion of disinterested kindness that passes through the mind improves and refreshes that mind, producing generous thought and noble feeling, as the sun and rain foster your favourite flowers. Cherish kind wishes, my children; for a time may come when you may be enabled to put them in practice.

Mary Russell Mitford
Our Village: Sketches of Rural Character and Scenery
London: Ward, Lock and Company, 1870
“The Residuary Legatee,” vol. 5, p. 145

Mary Russell Mitford was the only daughter of a father with excessive spending habits. At age ten Mitford won a substantial sum of money in a lottery, which her father quickly spent. Mitford had to work hard to earn enough to support both herself and her father. Luckily, Mitford’s writing was well liked and she and her father were able to survive primarily on the proceeds of her literature. As a poet, novelist, dramatist, and playwright, Mitford was a diverse writer but her prose was the most popular.

Mitford was a close friend and frequent correspondent of Elizabeth Barrett’s, particularly before Barrett’s marriage to Robert Browning. Their letters to each other are full of literary commentary as well as discussions of their daily lives. As a token of their friendship, Miss Mitford gave Elizabeth Barrett an important gift—Flush, EBB’s beloved spaniel. The Armstrong Browning Library has 24 volumes written by Miss Mitford and nine letters.

One of Miss Mitford’s acquaintances was John Kenyon, who was a distant cousin of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This letter from Miss Mitford to Mr. Kenyon talks about geranium seeds given to her by Miss Catharine Sedgwick, then progresses to a review of Miss Sedgwick’s book, presents an offer to share geranium cuttings with Mr. Kenyon, and ends with a discussion of American authors. The letter provides a glimpse into this popular and appealing author, known for her unaffected spontaneous humor, quick wit, and literary skill.

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face – Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849)

The law, in our case, seems to make the right; and the very reverse ought to be done – the right should make the law.

Maria Edgeworth
“The Grateful Negro”
Popular Tales (1804)

Maria Edgeworth was born in England but moved to Ireland at the age of five following her mother’s death. Primarily educated in London, she returned to Ireland to care for her siblings after her father fell ill. Many of her early works documented life in Ireland and celebrated Irish culture.

Edgeworth also wrote children’s novels with moral lessons. Her popular Parent’s Assistant, or Stories for Children is a collection of short stories reflecting her view that boys and girls ought to receive equal education. Sir Walter Scott, Maria’s friend, was inspired by her novel, The Absentee, to publish his own novels, attempting “to emulate the admirable Irish portraits drawn by Miss Edgeworth.”

Maria lived during the Irish famine and worked tirelessly for the relief of the Irish peasants. Although after her father’s death she assumed the management of the family estate, she continued to write. She sold her last novel, Orlandino, at the end of the great Irish famine “to raise a little money for our parish poor.”

Kathryn J. Kirkpatrick, Professor of English at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, who has prepared edition of both Belinda and Castle Rackrent, notes that Edgeworth, thankfully, is these days often read within the British canon along with writers like Jane Austen. Kirkpatrick, however, enjoyed working with Edgeworth’s deep engagement with her Irish context.

 Melinda Creech

The Armstrong Browning Library owns five volumes authored by Maria Edgeworth and one letter written by her. In this letter Maria Edgeworth, always concerned with the fair treatment of her tenants, is advocating on behalf of her tenant’s son, Archy Wilson, for his position with the Earl of Desmond.

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face – Hannah More (1745-1833)

It is humbling to reflect, that in those countries in which fondness for the mere persons of women is carried to the highest excess, they are slaves; and that their moral and intellectual degradation increases in direct proportion to the adoration which is paid to their mere external charms.

Hannah More
Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education (1799)

Dr. David Lyle Jeffrey, Distinguished Professor of Literature and the Humanities in the Honors College at Baylor University, in his anthology, A Burning and a Shining Light: English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley, devotes a chapter to Hannah More, describing her as a woman who would have been “remarkable in any century” and “an outstanding woman of her time.” She was both a shrewd culture critic and a Christian feminist, who being more interested in truth than applause, challenged and continues to challenge the political correctness of society.

She was one of the most prolific female writers prior to the Victorian era, with her collected works filling eleven volumes. Her poetry, plays, letters, essays, and tracts focus on women’s education, evangelicalism, abolition, and the poor. She was occupied with promoting philanthropy, establishing charity schools, and providing affordable reading materials for the lower classes in the form of Cheap Repository Tracts.

Although her literary merits were disparaged later in the twentieth century, recent criticism has begun to re-evaluate her influence in religious writing, education, the role of women, abolition, and practical philanthropy. The Armstrong Browning Library owns eleven items authored by Hannah More, including several of the original Cheap Repository Tracts. Hannah More’s Poems can be viewed at the Baylor University 19th Century Women Poets Collection.

Melinda Creech

Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face

1864 Photograph by Cameron adorns the poster for the latest Armstrong Browning Library exhibit
This poster introducing a new exhibit at the Armstrong Browning Library, Giving Nineteenth Century Women Writers a Voice and a Face, contains words from a poem written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning between 1842-44, discovered in a small pocket notebook, and only recently published in 2006. This excerpt from a fragment of the poem, “My sisters! Daughters of this fatherland” expresses the challenges Barrett Browning faced as she sought to assert her voice in a predominately male tradition of public poetry in the 1840s.

The photograph was taken in 1864 by Julia Margaret Cameron, one of the first women photographers. She was a remarkable woman, growing up in Ceylon, moving to England after her marriage, and living on the Isle of Wight, next door to Tennyson. She began taking photos at the age of forty-eight. Her photographs have a soft, ethereal feeling to them and an amazingly contemporary appeal. Cameron, who also wrote an autobiography, translated German, and published poems and fiction, is one of the women featured in the exhibit.

The exhibit in the Hankamer Treasure Room at the Armstrong Browning Library features texts and images of twenty-three nineteenth century women. These women were mothers, daughters, wives, lovers, friends, poets, novelists, tract writers, storytellers, hymn writers, advocates for social reform, philanthropists, and more. So many fascinating things were discovered about these amazing women during my research that we wanted to share their voices and faces with a wider audience through this blog.

Many of the items in the exhibit are taken from the Armstrong Browning Library’s large Nineteenth Century Women Poets Collection. This collection can be viewed at digitalcollections.baylor.edu.

It is our sincere hope that, through the texts and images exhibited in this display and shared through this blog, we at the Armstrong Browning Library might be able to honor Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s wish by giving nineteenth century women writers a voice and a face.

Enjoy the slideshow below for a preview of the women featured in this exhibit.


Browning at Downton Abbey: Fathers and Children

by Melinda Creech

A photo of Matthew Crawley holding his newborn baby in Downton Abbey

Matthew Crawley of Downton Abbey (portrayed by Dan Stevens) holds his son. Photo courtesy of iTV.

Viewers were upset and angered when Matthew Crawley died at the end of the season just after holding his new-born son in his arms. Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, explained his decision in an interview with the New York Times blog. Dan Stevens, the actor playing Matthew Crawley, decided to leave the show and having him die in a tragic accident seemed the best way to remove a major character from the story line.

Although the father and son story in Downton Abbey had a sad ending, the real story of fathers and children at Highclere Castle is a little more heartening. Robert Browning and Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, Fourth Earl of Carnarvon, seemed to have a mutual admiration for each other. Many of the letters from Lord Carnarvon to Robert Browning in the Armstrong Browning Library collection are simply personal invitations for Browning to come to Highclere. Robert Browning’s sister, Sarianna, confided in a letter to Joseph Milsand, November 1869, that “Robert writes me he feels tired of the life he is leading—and has declined another invitation somewhere. Still, he has accepted Ld Carnarvon’s for the beginning of Decr.” In another letter to Sarianna on November 20, 1873, Browning says “Ld. Carnarvon was so exceedingly warm in his manner last evening,–kind he can’t help being.” So what connected Lord Carnarvon and Robert Browning?

Although they died within a few months of each other, Robert Browning was born nineteen years before Lord Carnarvon. They both married for the first time in their thirties and lost their wives after fourteen or fifteen years of marriage. Lord Carnarvon married again, and his second wife outlived him by forty years. Browning never remarried, but outlived his wife by almost thirty years.

Browning’s correspondence with the Carnarvons began in 1868 and continued until at least 1885. When this acquaintance began Lord Carnarvon was thirty-seven and had a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. Robert Browning was fifty-six and had a nineteen-year-old son.

A photo of Robert and Pen Browning

Photo of Robert and Pen Browning (1869) from Armstrong Browning Library

Near the end of their acquaintance in 1885, Robert Browning was seventy-three and Pen was thirty-six. Lord Carnarvon was fifty-four and had five children: Winifred, (21), George (19), Margaret (15), Victoria (11), and Aubrey (5).

A photo of Lord Carnarvon and his son, Aubrey Herbert Carnarvon

Photograph of Lord Carnarvon and Aubrey (1885) from The Life of Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert, Fourth Earl of Carnarvon, 1831-1890, Vol. 3, by Arthur Henry Hardinge, 1925.

These two photographs present visual bookends for the beginning and the end of the relationship between Robert Browning and The Fourth Earl of Carnarvon. Both men faced death with a similar peaceful composure. According to The Political Diaries of the Fourth Earl of Carnarvon, 1857-1890, edited by Peter Gordon, Lord Carnarvon’s last words were “I am so happy.” A Browning Chronology by Martin Garrett reports that Robert Browning’s last words were “my son, my dear son.”

Resources are available for searching through the Browning correspondence online or through catalogues and documents in person here at the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Anyone with a modicum of curiosity can discover how the relationship between Robert Browning and Lord Carnarvon included shooting parties, trout-fishing excursions, late night literary discussions, comparisons of Greek translations, walks in the park, personal and political favors, delightful lunches, and extravagant dinners. Doubtless, some of the conversations at Highclere focused on the disappointments and joys of fathers and children.

Browning at Downton Abbey: Stalking in Scotland

by Melinda Creech

Inveraray Castle in Scotland

Inveraray Castle in Scotland – photo by Jim Brodie [http://www.flickr.com/photos/rojabro/4159089973/]

Most of the season three finale did not occur at Downton Abbey at all. The Crawley family traveled to the Scottish estate of Duneagle, belonging to their cousin “Shrimpie,” to enjoy stalking hinds, fishing, and dancing the Highland reel, and, of course, the season ended with a tragic accident.

The castle in the movie was actually Inveraray, the residence of the Duke of Argyll, in Browning’s day. Although I could not establish that Browning, who actually came from Scottish stock, visited Inveraray, he did visit all around the area. The Brownings travelled to St. Andrews (September 1868), Lock Luichart (August 1869), Loch Tummell (August-October 1872), Brahan Castle (October 1872), and Lamlesh (August 1876) all within 100 miles of the Inverary Castle that was featured in the season three finale.

In the letters here at the Armstrong Browning Library, I was surprised to find a very unusual coincidence, and a much happier ending. Robert Browning and his son, Robert Barrett Browning, affectionately known as “Pen,” went to Scotland on hunts and reading-parties several times. Pen’s Aunt Sarianna, Robert Browning’s sister, lamented the fact that “it is strange how little parents can prevent youths from following the current of his age. Here, in England, the tide set in for athletics—for rowing, shooting, and such like rubbish—in one sense, though useful in another” [Sarianna Browning to Joseph Milsand, November, 1869]. Three years later Robert Browning wrote to Isa Blagden that “Pen has been quite well and enjoying himself in Scotland: shooting, riding, & dancing the Highland Reel. He had a miraculous escape about a fortnight ago: driving a friend in a pony-chaise drawn by a big horse—he came to grief—by no sort of fault of his own—to grief in a place I know exactly, at the foot of a bridge over a ravine close by my last years abode: the carriage came to pieces, the horse rushed at the bridge, with the wreck on his heels, guiding him was out of the question, and Pen was sent flying over the bridge through a tree which broke the fall,–his companion, a man, going along with the cushions &c, over Pen’s head at the same time, with no hurt to either but a few bruises and general stiffness” [Robert Browning to Isa Blagden, October 3, 1872]. Have the writers at Downton Abbey been reading Robert Browning’s mail? Truth, it seems, is stranger than fiction.

A Letter from Robert Browning to Isa Blagden (1872)

A Letter from Robert Browning to Isa Blagden (1872) [Photo courtesy of Armstrong Browning Library, Baylor University]