“I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett...”Share
So begins the first love letter to 19th century poet Elizabeth Barrett from her future husband, fellow poet Robert Browning. Their 573 love letters, which capture their courtship, their blossoming love and their forbidden marriage, have long fascinated scholars and poetry fans. Though transcriptions of their correspondence have been published in the past, the handwritten letters could only be seen at Wellesley College, where the collection has been kept since 1930. But beginning Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, their famous love letters will become available online where readers can see them — just as they were written — with creased paper, fading ink, quill pen cross outs, and even the envelopes the two poets used.
The digitization project is a collaboration between Wellesley and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, which houses the world’s largest collection of books, letters and other items related to the Brownings. Wellesley administrators hope the project will expose students, romantics, poetry lovers and others to their love story. Barrett, one of the most well-known poets of the Victorian era, suffered from chronic illness and was in her late 30s when Browning first wrote her in 1845 to tell her he admired her work. In their fifth month of corresponding, they met for the first time, introduced by Barrett’s cousin.
After more than a year of almost daily letters between them, the couple married in secret in September 1846, defying her father’s prohibition against her ever marrying. They fled from London to Italy, where doctors had told Barrett her health might improve. Her father disinherited her and never spoke to her again.
“It’s the fact that she defied her father, she was in ill health, they fell in love through letters, she left with hardly anything,” said Ruth Rogers, Wellesley’s curator of special collections. “If you want a perfect romance, just read the letters,” she said. (Read entire post.)