It all began when she read the words, “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett …”
In 2014, it may seem impossible to imagine that a romance can begin with a simple letter, but it is something that the Victorians certainly got right. The English poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning exchanged some 573 love letters over the duration of their courtship, which all began after Browning wrote Barrett a letter praising her poetry. Although Barrett was afflicted by a chronic illness, she and Browning continued to exchange letters, which allowed the two poets to gain a deeper understanding of one another. After their fifth month of correspondence, Barrett and Browning finally met face to face, but continued to explore their relationship through writing letters. In 1864, just over a year after they began corresponding, Barrett and Browning married and moved to Italy in an effort to alleviate Elizabeth’s illness in the country’s warmer climate. Barrett’s father, who wished her to never marry, disowned her after she ran away with her new husband.
It was through their habitual letter writing that the two poets revealed their sentiments for one another, ultimately allowing their love to grow. Their souls were embedded in their handwriting, lying exposed for the other to see. They shared poetry and philosophy, sealing their devotion to one another upon the sealing of each envelope. For these poets, their letters acted as a means for them to plunge into the other’s world, to learn what it is like to be Elizabeth Barrett, to be Robert Browning. Their story, one that evolved through letters, is one that will continue to withstand time. As their eyes scrolled over each delicately written word, their intimacy blossomed into something that no one else in the world could touch.
Today, there are infinite possibilities of how couples come to be. Here at Dempsey & Carroll, our passion is paper, and we would love to learn about your own personal love story and the letters and notes exchanged that helped to cultivate that love. If you are interested in sharing your story on our blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.