Robert Browning is a famous and established Victorian poet, the romantic lover of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But it didn't start like that.
He was born in South London, the son of a musically gifted mother and a Bank of England clerk. He hated school so much that he was allowed to give it up, and he went on to drop out of University, refuse to get a job, and live at home until his mid-thirties writing unsuccessful poetry. Then he eloped to Italy with a young woman of means, an invalid, thereby getting her disinherited (though she did retain enough money for them both to live quite comfortably). That woman was, of course, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. They were very happy together, and had a son.
It wasn't until after Elizabeth's death, and Browning's return to England, that he began to be properly successful. He wrote some long poems (The Ring and The Book has over 20,000 lines) and some short ones, and he developed a form of poetic monologue where a character speaks directly to the reader and gradually reveals a story - and himself.
Oscar Wilde said of Browning that He used poetry as a medium for writing prose, and you can see what Wilde means in My Last Duchess.
It's still terrific verse, though - and a murder mystery, too.
Here's just a bit of it. To read the whole creepy story (it's only a page or so) you can find it HERE.
That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her?Portraits can be spooky things, especially in fiction. But I think that The Last Duchess might have the edge of them all when it comes to sheer dawning horror.
Word To Use Today: wonder. The English have been wondering for a long time. The word is barely changed from its Old English form wundor.