While I've reviewed a different edition of just "Aurora Leigh" previously, this volume containing not only the book-length novel-in-blank-verse but a generous selection of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's other poems, including the full "Sonnets from the Portuguese" sequence, is perfect for any reader who wants to explore this superb writer's oeuvre in depth.
"Aurora Leigh" remains immensely readable, with a strong, intelligent narrator who knows what she wants & refuses to settle for the sedate roles reserved for genteel, well-read women of her time. It's a romance, a Bildungsroman, a novel of ideas & philosophy; and it moves with the fluid grace & momentum of a fine film, replete with sparkling wit & well-matched adversaries/lovers. I've read it more than once & constantly find new delights in its supple, finely-crafted lines. The poem & the character both deserve to be better known.
"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." Who doesn't know this line? Yet so many people have never gone beyond that single sonnet to savor the entire sequence, which recounts & celebrates Robert Browning's courtship of Elizabeth Barrett, which ended in their elopement to Italy. For a passionate, precise examination of a woman's soul in the luxuriant throes of overpowering love, these sonnets have rarely been matched.
The other poems are a good sampling of the author's eye & ear as a poet. As with all her work, she combines her considerable intellect & education with intense emotion, striking just the right balance to make her poems breathe within their conventional late Victorian forms. There's nothing stodgy here! Life & feeling burn like the swiftly beating heart of a bird in these poems.
All in all, this volume is a powerful argument for the importance of Elizabeth Barrett Browning as a major poet, one who not only illuminates her own era, but whose voice speaks eloquently to the contemporary reader as well. It also offers nearly 50 pages of notes that add a good deal of context to the poems. For any devotee of English poetry, this volume is most highly recommended!