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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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"As a filial daughter, Elizabeth told her father of the poet's love, and of the poet's love in return, and asked a parent's blessing to crown their happiness. At first he was incredulous of the strange story; but when the truth flashed on him from the new fire in her eyes, he kindled with rage, and forbade her ever seeing or communicating with her lover again, on the penalty of disinheritance and banishment forever from a father's love. This decision was founded on no dislike for Mr. Browning personally, or anything in him or his family; it was simply arbitrary. But the new love was stronger than the old in her,--it conquered." Mr. Barrett never forgave his daughter, and died unreconciled, which to her was a great grief.

In 1846, Elizabeth Barrett arose from her sick-bed to marry the man of her choice, who took her at once to Italy, where she spent fifteen happy years. At once, love seemed to infuse new life into the delicate body and renew the saddened heart. She was thirty-seven. She had wisely waited till she found a person of congenial tastes and kindred pursuits. Had she married earlier, it is possible that the cares of life might have deprived the world of some of her noblest works.

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The marriage was an ideal one. Both had a grand purpose in life. Neither individual was merged in the other. George S. Hillard, in his Six Months in Italy, when he visited the Brownings the year after their marriage, says, "A happier home and a more perfect union than theirs it is not easy to imagine; and this completeness arises not only from the rare qualities which each possesses, but from their perfect adaptation to each other.... Nor is she more remarkable for genius and learning, than for sweetness of temper and purity of spirit. It is a privilege to know such beings singly and separately, but to see their powers quickened, and their happiness rounded, by the sacred tie of marriage, is a cause for peculiar and lasting gratitude. A union so complete as theirs--in which the mind has nothing to crave nor the heart to sigh for--is cordial to behold and soothing to remember."

"Mr. Browning," says one who knew him well, "did not fear to speak of his wife's genius, which he did almost with awe, losing himself so entirely in her glory that one could see that he did not feel worthy to unloose her shoe-latchet, much less to call her his own."

When mothers teach their daughters to cultivate their minds as did Mrs. Browning, as well as to emulate her sweetness of temper, then will men venerate women for both mental and moral power. A love that has reverence for its foundation knows no change.

"Mrs. Browning's conversation was most interesting. She never made an insignificant remark. All that she said was always worth hearing; a greater compliment could not be paid her. She was a most conscientious listener, giving you her mind and heart, as well as her magnetic eyes. Persons were never her theme, unless public characters were under discussion, or friends were to be praised. One never dreamed of frivolities in Mrs. Browning's presence, and gossip felt itself out of place. Yourself, not herself, was always a pleasant subject to her, calling out all her best sympathies in joy, and yet more in sorrow. Books and humanity, great deeds, and above all, politics, which include all the grand questions of the day, were foremost in her thoughts, and therefore oftenest on her lips. I speak not of religion, for with her everything was religion.

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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