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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Nine years after her first book, Prometheus Bound and Miscellaneous Poems was published in 1835. She was now twenty-six. A translation from the Greek of Aeschylus by a woman caused much comment, but like the first book it received severe criticism. Several years afterward, when she brought her collected poems before the world, she wrote: "One early failure, a translation of the Prometheus of Aeschylus, which, though happily free of the current of publication, may be remembered against me by a few of my personal friends, I have replaced here by an entirely new version, made for them and my conscience, in expiation of a sin of my youth, with the sincerest application of my mature mind." "This latter version," says Mr. Stedman, "of a most sublime tragedy is more poetical than any other of equal correctness, and has the fire and vigor of a master-hand. No one has succeeded better than its author in capturing with rhymed measures the wilful rushing melody of the tragic chorus."

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In 1835 Miss Barrett made the acquaintance of Mary Russell Mitford, and a life-long friendship resulted. Miss Mitford says: "She was certainly one of the most interesting persons I had ever seen. Everybody who then saw her said the same. Of a slight, delicate figure, with a shower of dark curls falling on either side of a most expressive face, large tender eyes, richly fringed by dark eyelashes, a smile like a sunbeam, and such a look of youthfulness, that I had some difficulty in persuading a friend, in whose carriage we went together to Cheswick, that the translatress of the Prometheus of Aeschylus, the authoress of the Essay on Mind, was old enough to be introduced into company, in technical language, was out. We met so constantly and so familiarly that, in spite of the difference of age, intimacy ripened into friendship, and after my return into the country, we corresponded freely and frequently, her letters being just what letters ought to be,--her own talk put upon paper."

The next year Miss Barrett, never robust, broke a blood-vessel in the lungs. For a year she was ill, and then with her eldest and favorite brother, was carried to Torquay to try the effect of a warmer climate. After a year spent here, she greatly improved, and seemed likely to recover her usual health.

One beautiful summer morning she went on the balcony to watch her brother and two other young men who had gone out for a sail. Having had much experience, and understanding the coast, they allowed the boatman to return to land. Only a few minutes out, and in plain sight, as they were crossing the bar, the boat went down, and the three friends perished. Their bodies even were never recovered.

The whole town was in mourning. Posters were put upon every cliff and public place, offering large rewards "for linen cast ashore marked with the initials of the beloved dead; for it so chanced that all the three were of the dearest and the best: one, an only son; the other, the son of a widow"; but the sea was forever silent.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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