“HOW DO I LOVE THEE? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS”: FIRST AMERICAN APPEARANCE OF ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING’S SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE
BROWNING, Elizabeth Barrett. Prometheus Bound, and Other Poems; Including Sonnets from the Portuguese, Casa Guidi Windows, etc. New York: C.S. Francis & Co., 1851. Small octavo, original brown cloth.
First American edition of this collection of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poetry, containing the first American appearance of her famous love poems to her husband, Sonnets from the Portuguese. A very nice copy in original cloth.
“The strange courtship of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, morally chained to a monstrous father, and their subsequent elopement, is one of the most romantic stories in 19th-century literature. What Browning did not know is that while Elizabeth was lying on that famous sofa in her father’s house on Wimpole Street she was pouring out her heart in some of the most remarkable love poetry ever written by a woman. One morning some time later, when they were living in Pisa, Elizabeth Browning pushed a packet under her husband’s arm, asked him to read the sonnets it contained and, should he disapprove, destroy them. Then she rushed from the room. Browning sat there and read with ever-growing wonder. Even before he had finished he hurried to his wife and demanded their publication. To shelter her feelings it was pretended that the sonnets had been translated from the Portuguese” (Great Books and Book Collectors, 239). In addition to the Sonnets from the Portuguese, this edition includes Browning’s translation of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound (1833) and the long poem Casa Guidi Windows, which was first separately published in London in the same year as this collection, 1851. Browning’s collected Poems first appeared in London in 1844, without the Sonnets from the Portuguese; the 1850 London edition marked the Sonnets’ first appearance. Likewise, in 1850 C.S. Francis issued a collection of Browning’s poetry entitled simply Poems, but this earlier and substantially different collection did not include the Sonnets from the Portuguese, nor Casa Guidi Windows. Bound with half title, and with six pages of publisher’s ads at rear. Barnes E3. Contemporary ink ownership signature dated in the year of publication.
Faint smudge to title page, a few minor spots of foxing to text. Mild rubbing to spine head. An extremely good and very nice copy of a book often found in later editions or in poor condition.