In 1845, Elizabeth Barrett received her first letter from Robert Browning. He had read a volume of her poetry and wrote her a letter expressing how much he loved it. At the time he wrote her, she was a renowned poet.
Ever since she was a teenager, Elizabeth suffered from a mysterious illness that brought spasms of pain, breathing difficulties, and general malaise. She spent most of her life shut up in her room and on morphine and opium. She believed she would remain an invalid and spinster the rest of her life.
Robert and Elizabeth corresponded for five months before they met. At first, she refused to meet him because she was feeling her worst. But once she recovered her health enough, she agreed to meet him. Robert would only come over to visit when Elizabeth’s father was not home. Elizabeth’s father was tyrannical and did not permit courting or marriage. Robert declared his love and desire to marry Elizabeth, but she did not trust marriage or like how women were treated in marriage and turned him down. However, he continued to court her anyway.
Soon after their meeting, Elizabeth’s doctor told her and her father that a harsh winter could cause Elizabeth’s death. He recommended that she go to Italy for the winter, but her father refused to let her go. Elizabeth became distraught. She wrote Robert of her problem, and he said he would marry her immediately and take her. It was then that she agreed to marry him.
For whatever reason, they did not marry right away. Fortunately, the winter was a warm one, and through Robert’s encouragement, she began to leave her room and weaned herself from the morphine and opium. By spring, she was stronger. A few months later, she secretly married Robert Browning, and they moved to Italy and lived there the rest of their lives.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning believed Robert’s love transformed her life and credits his love and support for her recovery from her illness. She was able to live a normal life for fifteen years and even gave birth to a son.
This is one of the most amazing love stories I have ever read. Because of love, Elizabeth was able to overcome her disease and live a normal life. Love inspired both writers to do their best work. This true story is a testament to how powerful love can be.
How do I love thee?
Let me count the ways…Elizabeth Barrett Browning