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  • Robert Browning
  • Suzanne Bailey (bio)
The Brownings' Correspondence, 1854–55, vol. 23, eds. Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Edward Hagan|, Joseph Phelan, and Rhian Williams (Winfield, Kan.: Wedgestone, 2016).

This year's essays speak to each other through numerous shared themes. Browning and the visual arts are the subject of work by Vicky Greenaway, Sophie Ratcliffe, Amelia Yeates, and Daniel Brown, focusing on Browning's own interest in the arts or on artists in the poems. Global perspectives on other cultures and on landscape and the environment are treated by Christopher Keirstead, Reza Taher-Kermani, and Allen MacDuffie, though Taher-Kermani links Browning's interest in Persia in Ferishtah's Fancies (1884) to his antipathy for the author of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám (1859), Edward FitzGerald. Texts and reading publics, together with questions of literary periodization, are the subject of articles by Justin Sider, Nancy Glazener, Jennifer McDonell, and Amy Wong, while Browning and print culture, from published juvenilia to first editions, is the focus of writing by Michael Meredith and David C. Hanson. Issues of poetic influence and sources, particularly Browning's relationship to Romanticism, are examined in essays by Rieko Suzuki, Sarah Lyons, and John Woolford and in Linda Shires's edition of earlier essays by U. C. Knoepflmacher. The latter collection offers an overview of Knoepflmacher's critical preoccupations and makes the case for the ongoing significance of this generation's foundational work in Victorian criticism (Victorians Reading the Romantics: Essays by U. C. Knoepflmacher [Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 2016]).

Debates about prosody and the nature of a historical poetics feature in articles by Yopie Prins, Simon Jarvis, Herbert Tucker, and Tyson Stolte. Jarvis writes against reading for representation and argues that a single line in a poem by Browning may capture the quiddity of Browning's poetic enterprise. Tucker in particular speaks of a generation or more of scholars and undergraduate students who have not been trained in verse scansion and points to the ensuing loss both to literary studies and to the enjoyment of poetry. Tucker is a force behind the open-access teaching site For Better for Verse, engagingly described as "an interactive learning tool that can help you understand what makes metered poetry in English tick." The site is accessible through and is an invaluable resource for instructors who wish to teach students the basics of prosody. Finally, the most recent edition of The Brownings' Correspondence translates and thus makes available a major review of Men and Women (1855) by the French critic Joseph Milsand. This essay by Browning's close friend is a significant work in itself, both contributing to Browning's reception in France and also offering insights into the poetry on [End Page 349] the part of someone who knew Browning personally and who informally edited Browning's work.

The Brownings' Correspondence, 1854–55, vol. 23, eds. Philip Kelley, Scott Lewis, Edward Hagan, Joseph Phelan, and Rhian Williams (Winfield, Kan.: Wedgestone, 2016).

This year's installment of the Browning letters takes readers from July 1856 to January 1857, a memorable period for the Brownings, encompassing the publication of Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh (1856) and the death of their patron and friend John Kenyon. The letters published in Volume 23 document Robert Browning's interactions with Victorian artists and intellectuals: among these, Sir Richard Monckton Milnes, Thomas Carlyle, Leigh Hunt, John Ruskin, Charles Eliot Norton, Thomas Woolner, Coventry Patmore, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (whom Browning asks to attend an evening with William Holman Hunt), and the sculptor Thomas Woolner. The volume also includes letters about Robert Browning: for instance, Thomas Carlyle to Ralph Waldo Emerson (Browning "is abstruse; but worth knowing"; p. 246); Harriet Martineau to John Chapman, on Browning's past "quarrelsomeness" and his "frankness and kindliness" (p. 250); or the diary of Robert Davidson, who described Browning in Florence as "very impulsive and always in motion, as quick as a bird and as vivacious" (p. 266). Browning's contacts with Dante Gabriel Rossetti are extensively documented in a biographical sketch (pp. 223–232), and a second excellent biography covers John Ruskin, who was also a significant correspondent of the Brownings...


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