‘I was as a man dying who had not read Shakespeare’

  • Elizabeth Barrett


You seem to have drunken of the cup of life full, with the sun shining on it. I have lived only inwardly; or with sorrow, for a strong emotion. Before this seclusion of my illness, I was secluded still, and there are few of the youngest women in the world who have not seen more, heard more, known more, of society, than I, who am scarcely to be called young now. I grew up in the country — had no social opportunities, had my heart in books and poetry, and my experience in reveries. My sympathies drooped towards the ground like an untrained honeysuckle — and but for one,1 in my own house — but of this I cannot speak. It was a lonely life, growing green like the grass around it. Books and dreams were what I lived in — and domestic love only seemed to buzz gently around, like the bees about the grass. And so time passed, and passed — and afterwards, when my illness came and I seemed to stand at the edge of the world with all done, and no prospect (as appeared at one time) of ever passing the threshold of one room again; why then, I turned to thinking with some bitterness (after the greatest sorrow of my life2 had given me room and time to breathe) that I had stood blind in this temple I was about to leave — that I had seen no Human nature, that my brothers and sisters of the earth were names to me, that I had beheld no great mountain or river, nothing in fact.


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Barrett

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