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“Do you hear the children weeping,
O my brothers,
-The Cry of the Children. “ Yet half a beast is the great god Pan
To laugh, as he sits by the river,
-A Musical Instrument.
And one of them shot in the west by the sea.
-Mother and Poet. The series of love-sonnets, called “ From the Portuguese," and written between the declaration of Robert Browning's love and their marriage, reflects the varying phases of their courtship. No eye but the author's saw them, however, until after their marriage, when she gave them to him as a gift. The title is simply the substitution for her own name of the pet phrase, “My Little Portuguese," by which he sometimes addressed her in allusion to her poem, Catarina to Camoëns," of which he was particularly fond. In the first sonnet of the series she alludes to the fact that her affection for him had saved her from death:
"I thought how once Theocritus had sung
Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
I saw in gradual vision through my tears
A shadow across me. Straightway I was 'ware,
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair;
'Guess now who holds thee?' 'Death!' I said. But there
The silver answer rang, ‘Not Death, but Love!'” In" Aurora Leigh," which Mrs. Browning considered the maturest of her works, she discussed with true moral heroism the cruelties and injustices in the conventional relations of the sexes. Though by no means an autobiography, its most interesting passages are probably autobiographical. For instance:
'The works of women are symbolical.
Curse that stool!'
that, after all, we are paid
“We get no good
so much help By so much reading. It is rather when We gloriously forget ourselves and plunge Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's profound, Impassioned for its beauty and salt of truth'Tis then we get the right good from a book.”
“Books, books, books! I had found the secret of a garret-room, Piled high with cases in my father's name. Piled high, packed large—where creeping in and out Among the giant fossils of the past, Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there At this or at that box, pulling through the gap, In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy, The first book first. And how I felt it beat Under my pillow in the morning's dark, An hour before the sun would let me read! My books! At last, because the time was ripe, I chanced upon the poets.'
“ All poets use the skies, the clouds, the fields,
The happy violets hiding from the roads
And cottage gardens smelling everywhere,
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. What were The Sonnets from the Portuguese”? 2. Recount Elizabeth Barrett's life up to her marriage to Robert Browning. 3. Do you find in Robert Browning's poetry the same health-giving fire
which his wife found in her association with him? 4. What was the political cause in Italy in which Mrs. Browning was so
interested? (Refer to Hazen's “ Europe Since 1815.") 5. In whom was the public more interested, Mrs. Browning or her hus
band? 6. What was the subject of “Aurora Leigh "? 7. In what great poem by Mrs. Browning is the cruelty of the English
Industrial Revolution presented ? 8. What two other men of letters whom you have been studying were
affected by the sufferings of the poor in England ? 9. What English poets have sought refuge from English opinion in Italy? 10. How did Mrs. Browning's horizon differ from Jane Austen's ?
Suggested Readings.-" The Cry of the Children," “A Musical Instrument," and several of “The Sonnets from the Portuguese” are suggestive of her humaneness and lyric power. “The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning” are intimate and characteristic.
GEORGE ELIOT (1819–1880)
“ The first of our woman novelists."-J. Logie Robertson.
“In some particulars ‘Silas Marner' is the most remarkable novel in our language."-Sidney Lanier.
“Her flight of Hetty Sorrel in ‘Adam Bede' and Thackeray's gradual breaking down of Colonel Newcome are the two most pathetic things in modern prose fiction.”—Tennyson.
GEORGE Eliot is the name by which Mary Ann or Marian Evans elected to be known as an author and which her genius as a novelist has made as famous as those of Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, and Jane Austen.
The youngest daughter of the second family of Robert Evans, a Warwickshire land agent, she was born at Asbury Farm, near Nuneaton, November 22, 1819. Four months later her father removed to the farm of Griff, with its charming red brick ivy-covered house, which was her home for twenty-one years. Many of her father's traits are preserved in the character of “ Adam Bede”; and some of the features of life at Griff, especially her relations with her brother Isaac, are depicted in the story of Tom and Maggie Tulliver in “ The Mill on the Floss.” Between five and nine she was at school at Attleboro and Nuneaton; from thirteen to sixteen at Coventry. She lost her mother, whom she loved devotedly, in 1836, and from 1837 took entire charge of her father's house. These duties were not permitted, however, to interfere with her education, as masters came over from Coventry to give her lessons in German, Italian, and music, of the last of which she was always passionately fond. She also read as few human beings have read. Her worship of Scott dated from her seventh year and she made the last few years of her father's life cheerful by reading Scott's novels aloud to him during the evenings.
In 1841 her father removed to Coventry. Here she met new friends, who upset her early religious training to such an extent that she refused for a time to go to church, thereby greatly offending her father. Between 1844 and 1846 she was busy on a translation of Strauss's “Life of Jesus." Her father died 1849. In 1850 she began to write for the “ Westminster Review," and in 1851 became its assistant editor. Her labors in this connection, a translation which she made of Feuerbach's “ Essence of Christianity,” and the brilliancy of her conversation soon made her the centre of a literary circle. Two of its members were Herbert Spencer and George Henry Lewes.
The latter, born 1817, was a journalist, critic, novelist, dramatist, biographer, essayist, mathematician, physicist, biologist, psychologist, and philosopher—not without brilliancy and power. His friendship with George Eliot ripened rapidly into love. He had been married unhappily, and could not get a divorce; but in 1854 he went with Miss Evans to Germany, and thenceforward until his death in 1878 they lived together as man and wife. While they were abroad he worked