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Sonnets from the Portuguese: A Celebration of Love [Paperback]

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Book Description

20 May 2011
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was a prolific writer and reviewer in the Victorian period, and in her lifetime, her reputation as a poet was at least as great as that of her husband, poet Robert Browning. Some of her poetry has been noted in recent years for strong feminist themes, but the poems for which Elizabeth Barrett Browning is undoubtedly best know are Sonnets from the Portuguese. Written for Robert Browning, who had affectionately nicknamed her his "little Portuguese," the sequence is a celebration of marriage, and of one of the most famous romances of the nineteenth century. Recognized for their Victorian tradition and discipline, these are some of the most passionate and memorable love poems in the English language. There are forty-four poems in the collection, including the very beautiful sonnet, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

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Product details

  • Paperback: 52 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Reprint edition (20 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1463544359
  • ISBN-13: 978-1463544355
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 0.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,715,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861) was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband, Robert Browning, shortly after her death. "Portuguese" was a pet name her husband used. Sonnets from the Portuguese also refers to the series of sonnets of the 16th-century Portuguese poet Luís de Camões; in all these poems she used rhyme schemes typical of the Portuguese sonnets. The verse-novel Aurora Leigh, her most ambitious and perhaps the most popular of her longer poems, appeared in 1856. It is the story of a woman writer making her way in life, balancing work and love. The writings depicted in this novel are based on similar, personal experiences that Elizabeth suffered through herself. The North American Review praised Elizabeth’s poem in these words: “Mrs. Browning’s poems are, in all respects, the utterance of a woman—of a woman of great learning, rich experience, and powerful genius, uniting to her woman’s nature the strength which is sometimes thought peculiar to a man.”

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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time For Romance 30 Jan 2010
By Garman Lord - Published on Amazon.com
You couldn't make this stuff up... well, maybe you could, but strictly for the Harlequin Romance market. Famous poet and man about London Robert Browning reads a poem by Elizabeth Barrett, a girl he never met... mainly because nobody else ever did either, since she lives in her bedroom in Emily Dickinson-style seclusion, in her case as an invalid, lifelong victim of some Victorianly-obscure wasting disease, under the care of a tyrannically possessive, somewhat demented father... and falls in love with her at long distance. Being who he is, Browning manages to wangle an interview, then further meetings, until, inevitably, he and this strange, ethereally beautiful (in Browning's eyes, at least) bedridden woman, six years his senior, fall in love. Browning knows he must spirit this creature away and possess her for his own, a challenge for which he must enlist the assistance of others of her (not entirely unsympathetic) family members, because of the father. Barrett senior, it seems, descended from a family of West Indian plantation owners, is possessed of the notion that none of his offspring should ever marry. The reason: he suspects his bloodline to be tainted by the tarbrush of slave ancestry somewhere along the line, and therefore not fit to be perpetuated.

Not to be so easily put off, Browning arranges an abduction/elopement, spiriting "Ba" (his pet name for Elizabeth) out of the paternal tower in which she has been imprisoned for years, gets the two of them married on the fly before her father even tumbles to what has happened, and the couple decamp to Italy and the British expat community there, where they continue to spout poetry while living happily ever after, becoming in due time the darlings of the international high cultural set, Elizabeth even managing to have a darling son at age 43. Or approximately ever after. They did have some score of good years together, until Ba, who really was ill with something, finally died at age sixty, and her heartbroken husband took their son back to be educated in England and never married again.

The kicker here, though, comes after the Brownings have been living some months of connubial bliss in Italy, when Robert happens to discover a secret collection of beautiful love sonnets among his wife's personal effects, and asks her what they might be. She confesses to him that during those months of meetings in her Wimpole Street bedroom, when all they did was talk, she had secretly fallen in love with him already, and was consoling her fantasies during his absences by writing secret love poems to him. Browning was flabbergasted, insisting that she ought to publish. The poems are indeed beautiful, thought by some to be EBB's best work, the most famous among them being the one that includes the lines "How do I love thee? / Let me count the ways..." Ba resists; for her, the poetry is too personal to expose to the public gaze. Robert comes up, accordingly, with a solution. Publish under a pseudonym or false title, one artfully chosen to misdirect authorship from herself, at least for awhile.

As it happens, EBB was herself somewhat dark and exotic in appearance. The tarbrush, perhaps? Whatever the case, another pet name of Robert's for her was, accordingly, "Portugese." Ultimately, they decided to publish the collection under EBB's name, but as "Sonnets From the Portugese," the implication being that the poems were not authored by EBB, but merely translated from a foreign tongue. The ploy worked, more or less, and the rest is history.

EBB's poetry shows great talent and flair, her perhaps most ambitious work being an experimental novel,"Aurora Leigh," written entirely in poetic verse. It is not a complete success, not because the poetry was bad; it isn't. Rather, a reading will show that there are some aspects of novel plot construction that are bound to present problems that the poetic tool kit simply lacks the appropriate tools to overcome. "Sonnets From the Portugese," however, is a perfect poetic gem.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Introduction to a Talented Poet 30 Aug 2006
By C. Green - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful collection of poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, telling the story of her meeting Robert Browning and how she discovered her love for him, and his love for her. The introduction to this volume is especially helpful, in that it gives a brief summary of her life before she met and Browning, so that one can follow the narrative fairly easily. Some of the references in the poems are a bit obscure, so it would have been nice if there were notes accompyaning them, but on the whole this is a very nice introduction to a talented poet.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful work of art! 27 Oct 2009
By Alice in Wonderland - Published on Amazon.com
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

This magical collection of verse was written by the incomparable Elizabeth Barrett during her courtship with Robert Browning. It speaks of a love so deep and yearning to be expressed that it has been acclaimed by each and every generation since it was first published in 1850.

This is one of the greatest works of the English language, and quite possibly *the* great poetry every penned in English. Give your heart and your soul a treat, and read this wonderful work of art!

(Review of Sonnets from the Portuguese: A Celebration 0f Love by Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful hard copy of these familiar sonnets 20 Aug 2013
By Sue from CA - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I purchased this copy as a gift to accompany other gifts at a bridal shower. It's a very nicely bound volume, suitable as a gift, and a way to introduce yet another generation to these beautiful love sonnets and their back story.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book 18 July 2013
By marcus ross - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
great book, got it quickly, read it in one sitting, and then read it all over again, no complaints here!
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