North Carolina Newspapers is powered by Chronam.
VOL. I. New Series
ELON COLLEGE, N. C, TUESDAY, MARCH 8, 1910.
O^Rce of Publication: Burlington, N. C.
TTie year 1812 marks an eventful era
in the world’s history; and among the
events for which the above year is noted
not the least was the birth of one of the
greatest English poets, Robert Browning.
/ Browning was descended from a race
of bank clerks. His grand-father, Rob
ert Brovraing first, from his salary, first as
errand boy and later as principal of the
stock room, had saved a neat sum which,
well mvested, was inherited by his son,
Robert second. Robert Browning sec
ond, like his father, at an early age en
tered the employ of the Bank of England.
He was industrioiis, with but one promi
nent weakness—a mania for book col
lecting. His library invaded the whole
house. Because he wished to buy as
many books as possible, he would not en
trust the domestic finances to his wife for
fear she would spend more than was nec
essary. She, having nothing to do, lapsed
into idleness, grew pale and anemic, and
finally became a shut-in, Robert and a
a sister a year younger than himself were
the only children born to book-buying
Robert and his delicate wife.
Browning's schooling, if considered
with respect to instruction, by regular
not b(?5* He wasfi'"*'
sent to a school conducted by an ancient
spmster, near his home. He showed e-
markable aptitude for learning, but his
tendency to such innovations as the intro
duction into the school room of bats, mice,
and turtles, brought forth a request for
his withdrawal, which was complied with.
His father then mapped out a course of
instruction for him to pursue at home,
which he did for perhaps a week. He
next began a course of reading, in which
he was allowed to select his own subjects.
He did much of his reading under the
supervision of his mother, who was very
well versed in the better books, and
whose companionship and influence were
worth much to him.
At the age of fourteen. Browning, as
do most boys of that age, experienced a
change of heart, as it is called. He began
to grow sentimental, irritable and atheistic;
and devoted much of his time to writing
high-sounding verse, which he showed,
first to his mother, then to his father, and
last to Lizzie Flower.
This Lizzie Llower was a rather plain
looking lady, about nine years older than
Browning. Her affections had been
ruthlessly cast aside by a young minister
cf her parish, and in consequence she
very willingly bestowed them upon young
Browning. It is said that a woman is
never truly good until her fondest hopes
have been trampled in the dust; we may
therefore surmise fhat Lizzie Flower was
truly good and that her companionship
with Browning elevated him. He, as
was natural, thought much of her and so
informed his mother. He was often en
tertained at the Flower home by Lizzie
and her sister, Sarah, (author of the song,
" Nearer My God to Thee".) He, in
turn, would entertain them with his poems.
He and Lizzie spent a great deal of time
studying Byeon, Keats and Shelley.
They would seek the shelter of some
great oak and there spend hours reading
a book. For two years they eschewed
a diet of meat and spent most of their
time in the open air.
At the age of eighteen the father,
thinking it was time for his son to go to
work, secured him a position in the Bank
of England. Browning refused to do
the work, declared he was tired of the
dull, plodding, mercenary world and
wanted a change. This change came
about a week later, when, after a quarrel
with his father, he joined a wandering
band of gypsies. A few weeks spent in
• their company brought him to the con-
! elusion that civilization was not such a
I disagreeable disease after all, and he re-
, turned home. After taking a bath and
burning his gypsy garb, he was once
more in his right mind.
Soon after this he took up the study
of French under a private tutor and con
tinued it for some time with varying suc
cess. Following this came a term as a
special student in Greek at London Uni
versity. In order to be near the school
he obtained rooms In Gower Street. He
had lived there a week v ’ ;n a slight
rough-house Incident occurcd, in which
most of the furniture wets crippled and
not a' few of tfre uaftwieTStsf ui.''
broken. After his father had settled for'
the damages. Browning, now tired of
university life, returned hom. He next
announced that he was going to write
poetry as a profession. This purpose
pleased his mother. Lizzie Flower was
delighted and predicted tor him a career
that would lead to the poet laureateshlp.
Carter us Pod.
This poetic career was uneventful,
obscure until he reached the age of thirty.
His works so far had not been appre
ciated except by his immediate circle of
acquaintances. His father had, at per
sonal expense, got several volumes of his
poems printed. Most of these lay upon
the shelves at home. A few had been
bought by friends and some given away.
People who tried to read them declared
they were too hard to read or too ob
scure. A few editors tried to bring
Browning before the public, but their
efforts failed. Finally an editor by the
name of Fox pursuaded Browning to ac
company him to several dinners. Here
Browning became acquainted with sev
eral other authors and actors. Among
the latter was Macready who urged
Browning to write a play. Browning at
his solicitation produced the play, Stafford,
in which Macready acted the principal
Fails as Playwright.
The result was a feeling of coldness
between the author and the actor. The
play was little appreciated by the public
The author censured the actor and the
actor blamed the author. Browning
wrote several plays after this, but failed
to win public approval as a playwright.
In fact, the reputation of his plays delayed
for several years the fame justly due him
as a poet. Browning’s relatives consider
ed him a failure, and his father, when he
paid the weekly allowance, would often
remind him of the fact. Lizzie Flower,
however, was still loyal to him. During
all these years she and Browning had
been firm friends, except for a short time
after they had quarreled and returned
letters, but they soon made up again.
About this time Browning formed a
friendship with a Miss Haworth, a mem
ber of London's best society. This
friendship detracted somewhat from that
with Miss Flower.
Gets Into Llternrii Circle.
Edward Moxton, a London publisher,
finally suggested to Browning that Brown
ing allow him to get out his verse in
pamplet form. To this Browning assent
ed, and such was the favor with which
they were received that he soon had a
firm literary footing In London. His
royalties now amounted to more than the
allowance from his father.
Encouraged by his success, he deter
mined to make another trip to Italy, since
some of his best verse had been inspired
by a former visit to that country. Ac
cordingly, after completing arrangements.
At a dUSTgi'^nin Browning s Tionor '
soon after his return, he was aisked by a |
gentleman in the party to inscribe a copy
of Bells and Pemegranates. Upon
Browning's asking the name, the gentle
man replied, 'John Kenyon."
John Kenyon and Elizabeth Bar
This little incident led to a conversa- I
tion In the course of which Kenyon in
formed Browning that he (Kenyon) was
a cousin of Elizabeth Barrett, a writler
whose works were slowly gaining (avor.
Browning replied that he had read and
admired her works. Encouraged by
this, Kenyon requested Browning to write
to her, praising her latest book; since she
and her friends were somewhat fearful
of Its success, and a a word of commen
dation from a man like Browning would
greatly cheer the author. Browning,
having secured her address, wrote to her
and received a reply. After the corre
spondence thus begun had continued for
some time, Brow^ning sought permission
to call, but received the reply that she
was an invalid confined in a dark room
and was a "weed fit only for the ground."
This only aroused in him a more intense
desire to see her; and, by the aid of
John Kenyon, he finally succeeded in
going in at a time when the father was
gone and the doctor and nurse were out.
The visit was a brief one, but when
Browning came out into the sunlight a
new purpose stirred his heart. The
vision of a pale face with a halo of curls
was indelibly stamped upon his memory.
Here was genius which must soon be
lost to the world unless some very effect
ive remedy be employed. Browning
believed he could restore her to health
and strength; he would love her back to
light and life. He told her this soon
after; and so potent was the charm of
love that we soon find the former invalid
throwing open the windows and letting
in the fresh air and sunshine. The doc
tor became highly indignant and the
nurse resigned, neither knowing what
had effected the transformation.
She became able to walk. During
the absence of her father, she and
Browning hastened to a nearby church
and were married. She returned home
alone and for nearly a week Browning
did not see her. Then one day while
the remainder of the family were at din
ner she slipped out of the house to
Brownjng who was waiting, and together
they hastened away. The family knew
nothing of the marriage until the runaways
were safe in France and had written
home, seeking forgiveness and a blessing.
These, however were denied as Mrs.
Browning's father declared his daughter
was dead and refused to open or answer
any letters from her. Her father's cruel
obstinacy and the fact that she, who had
once lived in a home of luxury, must now
share the lot ofja poor poet, must have
been a severe trial to her. Browning
realizing this, endeavored to make up for
the los.« of parental love and luxuries by
his tenderness. And right well he must
^lave succeeded, for in a letter to o^o-of
her (riends, IVfrs browning said' tliat love
had turned the dial backward and the
joyousness of girlhood was once more
returning to her.
Browning and his wife did but little
writing for two years, which were spent
in the mountains of Switzerland and In
Italy. The royalties hrom their published
books kept them from actual want; and
when John Kenyon at his death left them
ten thousand pounds they were placed
forever beyond the reach of want. For
fifteen years they lived a life such as few
mortals enjoy, when, without warning,
the spirit of her who had both inspired
and written some of the most beautiful
poems in the English language, took its
Hight. Her loss touched Browning with
a depth of feeling such as only his great
heart was capable of. But his was not a
spirit to be conquered by sorrow and he
determined to live for her boy. After
her death in 1861, Browning returned
to England, and revisited Italy not until
1878 and thereafter frequently spent his
autmns in Venice, where he died Dec.
12, 1889. Browning was forty-nine
when his wife died, and before he had
reached his fifty-first year England had
awakened to the fact that he was one
of her great poets. Honors came slowly
but surely. A degree from Oxford, ten
der of the Lord Rectorship, from St. An
drews, which he declined, and advance
payments from publishers were heralds of
his fame. His best work was done after
his wife's death. Through this work
runs the spirit of that love which ever
remained with him. In his best work,
"The Ring and the Book," the character
Pompilia is a portrayal of her, whose
(Continued on page 2.)