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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Ever since I had received in my girlhood, from my best friend, the works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in five volumes in blue and gold, I had read and re-read the pages, till I knew scores by heart. I had longed to see the face and home of her whom the English call "Shakespeare's daughter," and whom Edmund Clarence Stedman names "the passion-flower of the century."

I shall never forget that beautiful July morning spent in the Browning home in London. The poet-wife had gone out from it, and lay buried in Florence, but here were her books and her pictures. Here was a marble bust, the hair clustering about the face, and a smile on the lips that showed happiness. Near by was another bust of the idolized only child, of whom she wrote in Casa Guidi Windows:--

    "The sun strikes through the windows, up the floor:
    Stand out in it, my own young Florentine,
    Not two years old, and let me see thee more!
    It grows along thy amber curls to shine
    Brighter than elsewhere. Now look straight before
    And fix thy brave blue English eyes on mine,
    And from thy soul, which fronts the future so
    With unabashed and unabated gaze,
    Teach me to hope for what the Angels know
    When they smile clear as thou dost!"

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Here was the breakfast-table at which they three had often sat together. Close beside it hung a picture of the room in Florence, where she lived so many years in a wedded bliss as perfect as any known in history. Tears gathered in the eyes of Robert Browning, as he pointed out her chair, and sofa, and writing-table.

Of this room in Casa Guidi, Kate Field wrote in the Atlantic Monthly, September, 1861: "They who have been so favored can never forget the square ante-room, with its great picture and piano-forte, at which the boy Browning passed many an hour; the little dining room covered with tapestry, and where hung medallions of Tennyson, Carlyle, and Robert Browning; the long room filled with plaster casts and studies, which was Mr. Browning's retreat; and, dearest of all, the large drawing-room, where she always sat. It opens upon a balcony filled with plants, and looks out upon the old iron-gray church of Santa Felice. There was something about this room that seemed to make it a proper and especial haunt for poets. The dark shadows and subdued light gave it a dreamy look, which was enhanced by the tapestry-covered walls, and the old pictures of saints that looked out sadly from their carved frames of black wood. Large bookcases, constructed of specimens of Florentine carving selected by Mr. Browning, were brimming over with wise-looking books. Tables were covered with more gayly bound volumes, the gifts of brother authors. Dante's grave profile, a cast of Keats' face and brow taken after death, a pen-and-ink sketch of Tennyson, the genial face of John Kenyon, Mrs. Browning's good friend and relative, little paintings of the boy Browning, all attracted the eye in turn, and gave rise to a thousand musings. But the glory of all, and that which sanctified all, was seated in a low armchair near the door. A small table, strewn with writing materials, books and newspapers, was always by her side."

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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