James 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.
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.
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, 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.
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over seventy books, sixteen letters, one Elizabeth Barrett Browning manuscript of Lowell’s poems, and one previously unpublished poem by Lowell.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.