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Switzerland must present to the world ; Lucerne at this season, where the inhabthat is the mission imposed upon

her by

itants of the oldest republic in existence nature. It is worth the while to live in are celebrating their great anniversary, a country destined to so noble a trial.” wishing the brave little nation Godspeed

We Americans may therefore well on her mission, and another six centusend our congratulations to the Lake of ries of self-government.

W. D. McCrackan.



The well-known reluctance of Brown- and after his loss of her, these which she ing to admit the public to a view of his contributes have a vitality and directness

a private life, shown by the care he took that set them in high relief. She reveals in sheltering his wife's memory from the herself; but of Browning we have only revelations of a biographer, and by the a portrait which Mrs. Orr has drawn, destruction of his own letters and other and which results from many minute papers which might have illustrated his touches, made with painstaking care and career and the development of his genius, fidelity to fact, but requiring much attenhas led to an expectation of rather a mea

tion from the reader in order to compregre and dry biography; and it is a wel hend it and give it the wholeness of a come surprise to find Mrs. Orr's work personal impression.

? so interesting as it is. The absence In the opening chapters Mrs. Orr prehitherto of any Life of Mrs. Browning pares the reader for some modification which could make a fair claim to be au- of the popular conception of Browning. thoritative is greatly advantageous to the It is a minor though an important matpresent volumes; for we have in them ter that she sets at rest the suggestion an account of both authors, and the rela- of any Jewish or negro strain in his tions between them and the contrast of blood inheritance. The stock was Engtheir characters were such that the in- lish, so far as can be known, except by terest of each is much enhanced. The his mother, who was “the true type of personality of Mrs. Browning, too, found a Scottish gentlewoman,” Carlyle said, expression in her letters far more than and who was of German descent on her was the case with her husband, and the father's side. The notion that Browning description of their domestic life comes was a person of great physical vitality, more gracefully from her pen. Those and in some way peculiarly “ manly,” is whom she has attached by her poems, one that will not so readily yield to a or whom womanhood naturally attracts, different view ; for it is a part of the may well find her confidences to her secret of his attraction for women. It friends the most entertaining portion of would be almost "grotesque,” Mrs. Orr this work, and value it as much for her thinks, “ to say that only a delicate wosake as for the poet's. She gives, at man could have been the mother of least, the main human interest to it; and Robert Browning;” but his mother was in comparison with the chapters dealing such a woman, and transmitted to her with Browning's life before his marriage son, in the author's opinion, a

6 slow

and not strong pulse," a marked “ 1 Life and Letters of Robert Browning. By Mrs. SUTHERLAND ORR. In two volumes.

vousness of nature,” which appears to Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. 1891.

have been the ground of his temperament,


and in general infused into his physique such revelation as Christianity affirms. an element of weakness, sensibility, and At first the only effect of these novel consciousness of pain which powerfully views was to intensify his independence, modified the perfect health which should aggressiveness, and general defiance of have descended to him from his father's those about him, to the distress of his mofamily. This is observable at once in ther, to whom he was fondly attached. " the fiery child and the impatient boy” It was an unamiable period in his life, whom she describes, with his precoci so much so that in later years he was ty of talent, his restlessness, and what unwilling to dwell upon his youth and we should call his unmanageableness in early manhood. “I am better now,"

,” he many ways.

His education was care used to say, when the attempt was made fully attended to by his father, a man to direct his memory to those days. of bookish tastes; somewhat whimsical, Shelley's influence is also clearly perperhaps, but evidently proud of his son, ceptible in the inspiration of the early and well pleased to support him in an poem Pauline, but Browning's own geunprofitable literary career. The boy's nius soon passed from the reflective (it social circle was narrow, and of the sort is too much to call it imitative) stage. in which a youthful prodigy would easily In Paracelsus, the dramas, and Bells and develop independence and conceit. The Pomegranates he showed his qualities tastes which filled his after life were and those modes of mental action and early cultivated. He wrote his first imagination which were most native to book of poems at twelve years, and be him and remained permanent. He was fore he was out of his boyhood he had young, and had the defects of youth, composed music for songs, shared in both in the use of his talents and in his theatrical representations, and shown an character ; but his work was sufficiently inclination for art.

distinguished to secure his mingling with It is possibly more important still to literary men, and his individuality was notice his early interest in religious attractive enough to engage their good speculation. He was brought up in a will. He was ambitious, keen for sucsomewhat narrow school of religion, and cess and fame, and admired the “hero in his childhood, under the tutelage of in literature” from the start. Self-ashis mother, was subjected to a strain of sertive, with a will and a way of his feeling which seems to have been prema own, evidently full to overflowing of selfture. He had no sooner come to his first consciousness, he did not perhaps make thinking for himself than he revolted the best impression upon all he met; from what he had been taught, and, but Carlyle knew and liked him in those finding in the early poems of Shelley days; others were kindly disposed toward the reflection of his own state of mind, him, and Macready, at least, was his he “became a professing atheist," and, friend. He had been to Russia and to humorously following his youthful guide, Italy, and in Sordello he had written the “a practicing vegetarian.” Two years most characteristic of his first works, of the vegetable diet satisfied him in and with it he closed the period of imthat part of the field, but he remained maturity in thought and art. He had unsettled in religion ; and even in ma not, however, won acceptance with the ture life, while believing in a direct re- public; his literary acquaintance had lation with the Creator and professing not helped his vogue, -a fact of which a certain faith, there was still so large he afterwards complained ; at most, his an element of skepticism in his mind friendship with Macready had encourthat Mrs. Orr frankly pronounces him aged his dramatic faculty and got his " heterodox” and a disbeliever in any plays acted. The most striking thing



in all this early period, lasting until past changes of residence and its cares, was his thirtieth year, is specially brought out not favorable to his poetical productiveby Mrs. Orr: he made no warm friend

Mrs. Orr thinks that he felt the ships, and in general his emotional life weakening effects of the climate, and was slight. This implies a self-concen- his constitution was not fitted to sustain tration unusual in degree, and an absence, them without real loss of energy. It is or at least a feebleness, of that form of to be remembered that he had not met passion which has been associated with with recognition in poetry. With his his individuality.

new friends, the Storys, he was diverted The romance of his own life began from literature to an amateurish work with his acquaintance with Miss Barrett, in drawing and modeling. Perhaps no to whom Mr. Kenyon, her cousin, known better impression of the final effect upon too as a friend of Wordsworth and other him can be given than by a quotation literary men, introduced him. She was from one of his wife's letters near the an invalid, and received him always lying end of their life together : down. Her family believed her to be “ Robert has made his third bust copin a decline, and marriage would seem ied from the antique. He breaks them to have been the least likely thing in all up as they are finished

it's only the world for her. Browning saw her matter of education. When the power three times a week, and corresponded of execution is achieved, he will try at with her; and finally, acting impulsive- something original. Then reading hurts ly, he proposed marriage. At this crit- him ; as long as I have known him he ical moment the family physician ad- has not been able to read long at a time vised a winter in the south of Europe as he can do it now better than at the the only means of prolonging her life, beginning. The consequence of which is and her father refused his consent to that an active occupation is salvation to such a journey. He thought her case him. . . . Nobody exactly understands was hopeless. She decided, therefore, him except me, who am in the inside of knowing that she could not win her him and hear him breathe. ... He had father's approval, to elope with Brown- a room all last summer, and did nothing. ing. They were secretly married, with Then he worked himself out by riding the knowledge of only her sisters; and for three or four hours together. There a week later Mrs. Browning stole away has been little poetry done since last while the family were at dinner, joined winter, when he did much. He was not her husband and went abroad with him. inclined to write this winter. The modelIt was certainly a very grave responsi- ing combines body-work and soul-work, bility that Browning took, and that Mrs. and the more tired he has been, and the Browning allowed him to take;

more his back ached, poor fellow, the of the serious consequences that were more he has exulted and been happy." most probable occurred. She never re- The ease with which his wife wrote covered her health, but she became much may have been a discouraging contrast, better, and at times was able to join in though he rejoiced in her success. He an out-of-doors existence that she could thought she had the more inspired genever have anticipated. In Italy she nius. “Can't you imagine,” he writes, found life, and to keep it they were “a clever sort of angel who plots and obliged to live there. They were very plans, and tries to build up something

, happy, and Browning, on his side, was a he wants to make you see it as he thoroughly good husband to his invalid sees it — shows you one point of view, wife, considerate, attentive, and devoted. carries you off to another, hammering Their life, however, with its frequent into your head the thing he wants you

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to understand; and whilst this bother is she was interested in the spectacles of going on, God Almighty turns you off life itself, and her pen is never more a little star that's the difference be full of spirit than in describing some adtween us. The true creative power is venture, such as her attendance at the hers, not mine." In one way or another, masked ball of the Carnival. Her enwhatever the causes may have been, his tire correspondence is entertaining, and residence in Italy was useful to him in exhibits her curiously compounded nastoring impressions and feeding his sense ture very frankly and in an unconvenof beauty through other modes of ex- tional way. She wrote, as we know, a pression than poetry, but it was not mass of verse during these years, and fruitful in original work.

her life was full. Only one cause of difMrs. Browning, on the other hand, ference arose between herself and her owed everything to the Italian climate. husband, the subject of spiritualism, and She enjoyed it physically, as an invalid it did not disturb her as it did him. would. “ Mountain air without its keen- The end came, however, and in 1861 ness sheathed in Italian sunshine Browning returned to London a widower. think what that must be !” she writes; The remainder of his life was occuand in other ways the experience was pied only by the events of the publicato her, after her London confinement at tion of his successive volumes, his outhome, a return to life. Thus she de- ings on the French coast and in Italy, scribes Vallombrosa : “ Such scenery, the education of his son, and the sosuch hills, such a sea of hills looking cial pleasures of a diner-out at London. alive among the clouds which rolled The immediate result of the change to it was difficult to discern. Such fine English air was to renew his diminished woods, supernaturally silent, with the

energy as an author, though Mrs. Orr ground black as ink. There were eagles thinks he remained always rather a pasthere, too, and there was no road. Rob- sive than an active man, and grew conert went on horseback, and Wilson and tinually more fond of ease, cultivated I were drawn on a sledge (that is, an happiness for its own sake, acquiesced old hamper, a basket wine - hamper - in human conditions of action and know

without a wheel) by two white bullocks ledge rather than struggled to better up the precipitous mountains. Think of them, and in general showed the qualimy traveling in those wild places at four ties of optimistic weakness rather than of o'clock in the morning! a little fright- intellectual and moral vigor. Perhaps ened, dreadfully tired, but in an ecstasy the impression made by her words is of admiration.” Again at the Baths of deeper than she intended ; but, whatever Lucca : “ It seems like a dream when I be its degree, her opinion runs counter find myself able to climb the hills with to that which is commonly held. The Robert, and help him to lose himself in fact is that in her later chapters she the forests. Ever since my confinement makes Browning known as he appeared I have been growing stronger and strong- in London rather than as he expressed er, and where it is to stop I can't tell himself in his works. She is not retireally. I can do as much or more than cent in respect to his qualities, whether at any point of my life since I arrived they make for hero-worship or not. The at woman's estate.” She thoroughly en- most noticeable confession is that he was joyed this Italian life, and often gives defective in broad human sympathy, and expression to the enthusiasm she felt in to the end very self-centred, although beholding the mere scenery, the hills at not deficient in moral power of sacrifice the Baths of Lucca, the olives of Spezzia, when he was personally interested. She the rock of Ancona. And besides this forces forward, more than is necessary,



the points at which he was out of touch inhered in and the character that rewith Christianity, and emphasizes the sulted. It is enough to say that he incongruities in his religious ideas and showed at the end of his career, as at feelings. She uses criticism very freely the beginning, that natural irritability or throughout the work to give full promi- nervousness of nature” which made nence to whatever of personal mean- him impatient, hard to differ from amiaing his poems can be made to convey. bly, excitable, effusive in manner, and in It is all very interesting, always able, general what is called impulsive. He though in our judgment it is not always enjoyed his fame to the full, and was convincing. Some of it must prove sensible of the honors done him. He perplexing to the devout admirer of thought his last works the best. He was Browning. The most special matter is constant in his friendships, and he prized her belief that he studied Pompilia in

them more as life went on. His later his wife's nature, and that this charac- London life appears to have been, on the ter, which Mrs. Orr thinks his “master- whole, the most congenial to him. He piece,” is an instance of “ reflected in- shows the marks of its influence. To spiration.” She bases this opinion upon what extent the late recognition of his the feebleness of Browning's parental work affected his genius unfavorably by instinct, “the weakest in his nature,” making him indifferent to criticism in - and supports it as follows: “The the higher sense is a curious question. ingenuously unbounded maternal pride, His individuality was perhaps strong the almost luscious maternal sentiment, enough to have resisted all modification, of Pompilia's dying moments can only and as he was plainly without that arassociate themselves in our mind with tistic sense on which the faculty of selfMrs. Browning's personal utterances, criticism depends, the criticism of oth

, and some notable passages in Casa Guidi ers, whether express or felt merely in Windows and Aurora Leigh. Even the the reaction of an author's audience exalted fervor of the invocation to Capon- upon himself, might have been useless sacchi, its blending of spiritual ecstasy to him. It appears that his learning with half-realized earthly emotion, has, was much less than has been supposed. I think, no parallel in her husband's In thought he never passed beyond the work."

vague sphere in which his early poems This is interesting in itself, and also moved, but he became increasingly inin its connection with Browning's re- terested in incident and character, and lation to women. He was always a his study of them he accomplished the a woman's man.” He preferred the better part of his non-lyrical work. It society of women to that of men, made is curious that this interest should have them his confidantes, and appears to been so specialized as it was and limited have held a somewhat unconventional to particular cases; he did not care for attitude toward them. Mrs. Orr thinks history, - that is, for humanity in the he never understood the essential differ- abstract or the collective form. This ence in their position and point of view is connected with that defective human that their sex makes. It should be sympathy on which Mrs. Orr remarks. added that he supported the woman suf- In the light of these volumes much frage movement until near the end of Browning criticism will have to be rehis life.

written, and by that light all such critiIt would carry this notice to an un- cism may be made more searching and reasonable length to attempt to gather exact. Whether Browning's reputation, up the various statements that are made on the personal side, will gain or lose about Browning's traits, the nature they by the biography is, we think, doubtful.


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