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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

             Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
             Elizabeth Barrett, an English poet of the Romantic Movement, was born in 1806 at Coxhoe Hall, Durham, England. She was the oldest of twelve children born to Mary and Edward Barrett. For centuries, the Barrett family who were part Creole, had lived in Jamaica where they owned sugar plantations and relied on slave labor. Elizabeth's father Edward chose to raise his family in England, while his fortune grew in Jamaica.
             Elizabeth was educated at home and by the time she was ten years old she had read passages from Paradise Lost and a number of Shakespearean plays. She was considered somewhat of a child prodigy. She was highly intelligent, determined and dedicated to becoming a poet. By the time she was twelve years old she had written her first "epic" poem, which consisted of four books of rhyming couplets. Two years later, Elizabeth developed a lung ailment that plagued her for the rest of her life. Doctors began treating her with morphine, which she would take until her death. While saddling a pony when she was fifteen, Elizabeth also suffered a spinal injury. Despite her ailments, her education continued to flourish. Throughout her teenage years, Elizabeth taught herself Hebrew so that she could read the Old Testament; her interests later turned to Greek studies. Accompanying her appetite for the classics was a passionate enthusiasm for her Christian faith. She became active in the Bible and Missionary Societies of her church.
             In 1826, Elizabeth anonymously published her collection An Essay on Mind and Other Poems. Two years later, her mother passed away. The slow abolition of slavery in England and mismanagement of the plantations depleted the Barrett's income, and in 1832, Elizabeth's father sold his rural estate at a public auction. He moved his family to a coastal town and rented cottages for the next three years, before settling permanently in London.

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