Depending on where youre coming from, this book could either restore
or encourage your faith in the strength of love. It might even make a British romantic poetry period
skeptic (like me) believe in the romantic period, at least as far as
it concerns Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her husband Robert.
This book places each poem from Elizabeths Sonnets from the Portuguese
on the right-hand page, juxtaposed with related snippets from Elizabeth and
Roberts courtship correspondence on the left. The result is a gripping
(and no, although other positive words apply, Im not always able to apply
the word gripping to either poetry or to correspondence snippets) portrait of
a truly beautiful, unexpected courtship between two sincere, i
people. The letters help you understand the sonnets (which were written by Elizabeth
for Robert during the same period but werent shown to him until after
their wedding) and vice versa.
The great part about this book is that it guides you so quietly in understanding
the story behind the poetry. The letter bits are just enough to illumine, but
not enough to overpower, the poetry, and are well chosen. While reading this
book, I never felt like the editors were forcing critical opinions on me. Instead,
I felt like they were unfolding a powerful story about the progression of a
realistic love between two people. A love that ended happily, in spite of so
many obstacles: Elizabeths father did not want his children to marry at
all, and Elizabeths health was poor, among others. In spite of having
to elope, Elizabeth and Robert had a happy fifteen year marriage before she
So if you need to read an actual happy-ever-after love story that somehow avoids
sap, this is an excellent book to pick up. I had a hard time putting it down.