"HOW DO I LOVE THEE? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS": FIRST APPEARANCE OF ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING'S SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE
BROWNING, Elizabeth Barrett. Poems. New Edition. London: Chapman & Hall, 1850. Two volumes. Small octavo, contemporary three-quarter tan calf, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, raised bands, tan and brown morocco spine labels. Housed in a custom chemise and half morocco clamshell box. $15,000.
Important and preferred second edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Poems, containing the first appearance of her famous love poems to her husband, Sonnets from the Portuguese, which did not appear in the 1844 first edition of Poems. A lovely copy in fine contemporary calf-gilt.
This enlarged edition of Browning's Poems is rightly considered an entirely separate work from the 1844 first edition. It includes, in addition to the Sonnets from the Portuguese, a number of poems here printed or collected for the first time. "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). Bound with half titles. Second state, as usual, with publisher's address of "193, Piccadilly" on title pages (only four copies are known in the first state, and the title page is presumed to have been reset prior to publication). Barnes A6. Wise 7. Bookplates.
Moderate foxing to first and last few leaves only of each volume (blank leaves and half titles), contemporary calf-gilt quite handsome. A lovely copy in excellent, near-fine condition.