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Barrett-Browning love letters go digital

On February 14, the famous love letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning were made available online.

Robert Browning's first letter to Elizabeth Barrett. The couple secretly married nineteen months later.

Wellesley College

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The eminent 18th-century English literary critic and polymath Samuel Johnson once wrote, "There is, indeed, no transaction which offers stronger temptations to fallacy and sophistication than epistolary intercourse." Had Johnson lived long enough to read the correspondence between Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, he might not have been so quick to decry the art of letter writing. This Valentine’s Day, the courtship letters of two of the most famous Victorian poets were made publicly available online. Suffused with ardent intimacy and candor, the letters not only afford readers a glimpse into the Browning’s burgeoning romance, but also illuminate their views on each other’s aesthetics as well as contemporary affairs.

The Browning love letters, totaling 573, are housed in the Margaret Clapp Special Collections of Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and have been uploaded to the massive digital collection of Browning letters at the Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University in Texas. According to a press release from Wellesley College, the event marks "the largest digitization effort of love letters ever undertaken." Students, scholars, and poetry enthusiasts alike can now view transcriptions of the letters as well as high-resolution images of the handwritten missives and corresponding envelopes. In addition to zoom and rotate functions, a search feature allows users to locate keywords in each of the letters.


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