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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Browning Version

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died 150 years ago today.  At the time of her death she was the most famous woman poet in the English language, and perhaps the most popular, period.  It might be instructive to all of us, today, Picador poets on down to the smallest of small presses, to keep that in mind, because in 150 years - in 2161, the middle of the 22nd century - how shall our reputations fare?  Bluntly, no one really reads even Mrs. Browning anymore, in any depth, except for students of her work, academics, and the readers who come across her most famous sonnets, in mass market anthologies.  There is hardly a craze.  Christina Rossetti and Dickinson have fared better.  And yet, her legend, and her name, have endured.  In today's Evening Standard Michael Meredith defends her husband from slurs he killed her (and does so handily).  How does time render us humble?  Let me count the ways.
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