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In any case, Browning acknowledged Fox as his 'literary father' Orr , Life , Following his two years of tutoring at home, Browning entered the newly founded University of London. In April the elder Browning applied for admission for his son, who was accepted.

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Robert , settled into a rooming-house in or near Bedford Square, began his classes in German, Greek, and Latin in late October. He was disappointed from the beginning, finding student life drab and the lectures for the most part perfunctory. He soon withdrew from his student lodging and went home to live while continuing his classes. At the end of the academic year he withdrew from the university. The question then arose as to how the boy of seventeen was to make a living. His father had hoped that by attending the university he might qualify for the bar, but Browning expressed contempt for the legal profession.

His father then suggested the medical profession, but although he visited Guy's Hospital, Browning's interest in medicine was merely that of the detached observer. What he undertook then was study with no goal in view, following an unsystematic course of reading in his father's library. As he was later to say, '[B]y the indulgence of my father and mother, I was allowed to live my own life and choose my own course in it' Orr , Life , The years from to are the least-known period in Browning's life.

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What is known is that he continued his self-education. He read widely in European culture in his father's library, the diverse subject matter that he hoped to master proving unending.

Robert Browning - My Last Duchess - Poetry Lecture and Analysis by Dr. Andrew Barker

The result was that Browning became, with the possible exception of Milton , the most learned of the great English poets. But more important than his gain of general knowledge during this period was his discovery of a philosophy far different from that of Shelley , which he had hitherto followed so devotedly.

What Browning perceived was that there is no stable centre of selfhood accessible to the thinking subject. The subject, he learned, is accessible only obliquely, not in the continuity of its self-consciousness but in the discontinuity of its shifting forms. And following this perception, he saw that truth and meaning are not fixed but, instead, are always becoming. Further, he saw that the questions posed determine to no small degree the answers reached, and that the angle of view limits visions of the whole.

This apprehension caused Browning to conclude that not enough questions or enough points of view can ever be asked to gain a complete, encompassing overview of any matter. At best, one gains approximations of the truth which are always subject to better formulations.

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Absolute truth, then, is never present in the phenomenal world, although informing it. It was with such newly gained belief that he recoiled from Shelley's mythopoeic, visionary expressions about a world that can be redeemed by poets who are the unacknowledged legislators of mankind. Yet it was not easy to break with Shelley. In a kind of poetic autobiography, the speaker looks back over his past life in which he had deserted Pauline who may have been inspired by Eliza Flower and had foregone his inherited religious faith under the influence of the Sun-treader Shelley.

At the end, expressing a willingness to submit to the world of limitations and not seek hereafter for a world in which he will know all, he embraces God, Pauline, and the Sun-treader. Yet in the final verse paragraph it becomes clear that the poet's betrayal of Shelley the Sun-treader is a greater source of remorse than his forswearing of his traditional religious faith. Reviews of Pauline were mixed, W.

Fox praising it and others despising it as unintelligible. In February Browning took his first trip abroad: to St Petersburg at the invitation of the Russian consul-general to accompany him there. Browning was so fascinated by court life on this occasion that for a brief period he considered a diplomatic career. They became close friends, and their friendship lasted until the s, when they seem to have drifted apart.

Monclar was an important influence on Browning in many ways, and he even seems to have influenced Browning's poetic development, in that he was to suggest Paracelsus as the subject for an extended piece of verse Orr , Life , Browning began this poem early in October , and completed it in mid-March His father bore the expense of publication, and Paracelsus was published anonymously on 15 August Although its format is that of a play—it was divided into five scenes and contained four characters—the author claims in the preface that it is not a drama nor a dramatic poem, but that each scene presents Paracelsus at a critical moment of his inner life in which he is brought by an articulation of his 'mood' to new insights.

In effect, the five scenes are five monologues, in the first of which Paracelsus begins as a Shelleyan visionary whose role is to encounter the divine and reveal the results to mankind. At the close he comprehends how his pursuit was misconceived, for he learns that the noumenal, even if partially touched by means of language, cannot be communicated to others through the phenomenal, which is language.

The reviews of the poem were largely favourable, although the work did not gain the author a great deal of money. For a number of years thereafter the title-pages of Browning's new works bore the legend 'By the Author of Paracelsus '. In the mids Browning was introduced to a number of literary figures through the agency of W. Although some of them like Thomas Carlyle found his dandyism in dress and manner off-putting, they soon discerned beneath the foppish surface a serious though ironic personality. Of most immediate importance, however, was the fact that William Charles Macready , the actor and producer of plays, asked the young poet to write a play for him.

Browning's Strafford was produced at Covent Garden on 1 May , after some conflict with Macready and John Forster over its nature as a play. In the end, it ran for only five performances. It was not well received—apparently because, as the author said in the preface to the published play, his aim was 'Action in Character rather than Character in Action'. Following his disappointment with the reception of Strafford , Browning visited Paris and in spring made a three-month tour of Europe.

For the previous four or five years he had been working on a long poem devoted to the Italian troubadour Sordello , but he was so taken with Italy that he was unable to finish the poem among the scenes described in it. Sordello was not published until March , again at the expense of his father. Browning's conception of the poem had changed several times and his intractable materials could not be fused into a harmonious union.

But to the poet this was no drawback, for, in his opinion, conventional formal unity and logical coherence were attributes merely of poetry of the past. His aim was to be one of the. Sordello , 1. Speaking in his own voice, the poet admits to a new kind of narrative presentation and to a new kind of genre which mixed many genres. One of the chief characteristics of the poem that gives it its distinctive voice is parabasis: that is, the presence of digressions in which the author addresses the audience on personal or topical matters.

After devoting six books often relating in a roundabout way to Sordello , in the end the narrator suggests that the real subject was not Sordello but rather the poet himself and his efforts to write the poem. Carefully ordered but appearing unstructured, purportedly historical but in fact deeply personal, generically indeterminate and stylistically complex, Sordello is unique in literary history.

Browning believed that Sordello would make his reputation, but for the next two decades it had the opposite effect, as its critical reception was almost universally condemnatory. The poem 'became notorious for its obscurity', partly because Browning unreasonably assumed that his readers would be familiar with the thirteenth-century Italian history that was key to its narrative structure.

Even Elizabeth Barrett , who was soon publicly to praise the young poet's work, had difficulty with Sordello , and the confusion prevailed well into the modern era, with only Ezra Pound finding the poem 'a model of lucidity', and consequently being 'probably the only person who has ever seriously claimed to have understood Sordello ' Poems , 1. Certainly in his own time, the work damaged the young poet's standing, and his publisher, Edward Moxon , attempted to redeem Browning's reputation as well as his own , with the suggestion that his next poetry be printed in a series of inexpensive paper-bound pamphlets, the cost to be borne by Browning's ever supportive father.

Browning agreed and chose the general title Bells and Pomegranates hoping by this title to 'indicate an endeavour towards something like an alternation, or mixture, of music with discoursing, sound with sense, poetry with thought; which looks too ambitious, thus expressed, so the symbol was preferred' ibid.

The eight pamphlets were to contain seven plays and two collections of poems and were published between April and April Pippa Passes April , the first number, contests Romantic notions of poetry as lyric effusion, a view summed up and advocated by J. Mill in two essays in in which he maintained that the greatest poetry is by nature soliloquy, not heard but overheard. In Pippa Passes , Browning presents a heroine whose key mode of utterance is lyric poetry overheard by others. The innocence and religiosity of Pippa's song which is inadvertently overheard by the various characters is crucial.

As she sings famously at the beginning of the poem:. But all is emphatically not right in the world of Pippa Passes , and the overheard lyric acts as a commentary on the auditors' situations, and acts on the characters to great effect, causing significant changes in their viewpoints and actions. In working out the implications of this mode of poetic utterance Browning showed that the poet has a dialogic relationship with the audience and a responsibility from which he or she cannot escape. In effect, in the four scenes Browning shows how poetry is theatre, or performance, before an interactive audience.

Robert Browning Poems

The next pamphlet and four more of them were plays, which Browning designed for stage production. The only one produced, by Macready against his better judgement, was A Blot in the 'Scutcheon. Presented in February , it was withdrawn after three performances, at which point Browning's break with Macready was complete and so, effectively, were his hopes for the stage. The plays offer little plot and almost no action, their interest as in Strafford centring on action in character rather than character in action.

Poems by Robert Browning | List of Famous Robert Browning Poems

The root conception of Browning's plays lies in the conflict between love and duty, or love and power, which is for the most part worked out within a political situation. However interesting to Browning , this was far from being the primary focus that theatregoers expected. These are dramatic monologues called by the poet dramatic lyrics or dramatic romances , which take the form of narratives told in the first person by a carefully characterized narrator who, so distanced, is understood to be distinct from the poet.

Browning's achievement in grounding these narrators in their historical milieu was memorably praised in Modern Painters by Ruskin , who commented that in 'The Bishop Orders his Tomb at St Praxed's Church' , Browning had put 'nearly all that I said of the central Renaissance in thirty pages of the Stones of Venice into as many lines' Poems , 1. The narrator in one of Browning's dramatic monologues usually speaks to an auditor within the poem, and inadvertently reveals his true nature to the reader through his words. The monologues internalize plot and deal with an interior conflict of which the speaker is frequently not consciously aware. As Browning said in the preface to Dramatic Lyrics , the poems in this genre are 'for the most part Lyric in expression, always Dramatic in principle, and so many utterances of so many imaginary persons, not mine'.

In other words, the utterance by the fictitious speaker is lyric to the degree that it is expressive of self, and dramatic to the degree that it is suggestive of conflicting motives and tendencies.

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