Updated:
Original:
Year
1846
Month Day
September 12

Poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning elope

Elizabeth Barrett elopes with Robert Browing on September 12, 1846.

Barrett was already a respected poet who had published literary criticism and Greek translations in addition to poetry. Her first volume of poetry, The Seraphim and Other Poems, appeared in 1838, followed by Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Barrett (1844). Born in 1806 near Durham, England, at her father’s 20-bedroom mansion, she enjoyed wealth and position, but suffered from weak lungs and tended to be reclusive in her youth. She became even more so after the death of her beloved brother in 1840. However, her poetry was well received, and she met with Wordsworth and other renowned poets.

Meanwhile, Robert Browning, the son of a bank clerk, had studied at the University of London and continued his education at his parents’ home, reading extensively and writing poetry. His early work was harshly criticized. While trying his hand at drama, he discovered the dramatic monologue, which he adapted to his own poetry in Dramatic Lyrics (1842). While most critics rejected the work, Elizabeth Barrett defended it. Browning wrote to thank her for her praise and asked to meet her.

She hesitated at first but finally relented, and the couple quickly fell in love. Barrett’s strict father disliked Browning, whom he viewed as an unreliable fortune hunter, so most of the courtship was conducted in secret. On September 12, 1846, while her family was away, Barrett sneaked out of the house and met Browning at St. Marylebone Parish Church, where they were married. She returned home for a week, keeping the marriage a secret, then fled with Browning to Italy. She never saw her father again.

The Brownings lived happily in Italy for 15 years. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s weak health improved dramatically, and the couple had a son in 1849. She published her best-known work, Sonnets from the Portuguese, in 1850. The sonnets chronicled the couple’s courtship and marriage. In 1857, her blank-verse novel Aurora Leigh became a bestseller, despite being rejected by critics. During her lifetime, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s reputation as a poet overshadowed that of her spouse, who was sometimes referred to as “Mrs. Browning’s husband,” but his work later gained recognition by critics. Elizabeth died in her husband’s arms in 1861. He returned to England with their son, where he became an avid socialite. In 1868, he published The Ring and the Book, a 12-volume poem about a real 17th-century murder trial in Rome. Browning died in 1889.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Nikita Khrushchev elected Soviet leader

Six months after the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev succeeds him with his election as first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Born into a Ukrainian peasant family in 1894, Khrushchev worked as a mine mechanic before joining the Soviet ...read more

Lascaux cave paintings discovered

Near Montignac, France, a collection of prehistoric cave paintings are discovered by four teenagers who stumbled upon the ancient artwork after following their dog down a narrow entrance into a cavern. The 15,000- to 17,000-year-old paintings, consisting mostly of animal ...read more

The Laconia is sunk

A German U-boat sinks a British troop ship, the Laconia, killing more than 1,400 men on September 12, 1942. The commander of the German sub, Capt. Werner Hartenstein, realizing that Italians POWs were among the passengers, strove to aid in ...read more

Sugar Ray Robinson wins back belt

On September 12, 1951, former middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson defeats Randy Turpin to win back the belt in front of 61,370 spectators at the Polo Grounds in New York City. Robinson, a New York City native, had lost the belt to Turpin two months prior in Turpin’s native ...read more