on 11 February 2009
Along with Tennyson, Rosetti and Clough, Robert Browning ranks as one of the great poets of the Victorian age; although many argue that his wife, Elizabeth Barrett, wrote the better work. Browning's poetry ranges from the obscure (and early) epic poems of Sordello to the mature dramatic monologue's of 'My Last Duchess' and 'Porphyria's Lover', poetry that is much more distinguished, stylish and confident.
Generally speaking, Penguin have succeeded in compiling Browning's output into a 'Selected' volume that is representative of his accalimed mature work, whilst providing an aperture into the more densely allusive work, by including difficult poems like 'Caliban upon Setebos'. From reading this volume a reader should be able to make an informed decision as to whether they want to dig deeper into Browning's oeuvre.
In a 'Selected' there will always be one or two omissions that are a bit of disappointment ('Rabbi Ben Ezra' is not included), but generally the selections here make good sense. There's also an excerpt from 'Pippa Passes' which provides a glimpse of Browning work as a playwright.
The book features a brief introduction from Daniel Karlin and in-depth notes on each of the poems, making the book particularly geared towards students. The emphasis is very much on providing the reader with a grounding in Browning's work and an extra layer of depth on top of that, so readers should be able to develop their knowledge of one of the most important poets of the nineteenth century.