‘An enviably happy man’

  • William Michael Rossetti


[Browning] always appeared to me — spite of the one great sorrow of his life — an enviably happy man. Conscious of power, conscious of the fine exercise of his power; having no definite occupation save that of writing poetry, writing as much of it as he chose — and he was wont to sit down to it day by day with the regularity of a professional man, as I have more than once heard him avouch — and, when he had done what he wanted, devoting the rest of the day to cheerful converse, pleasant sight-seeing, or attractive society; undisturbed by censure or indifference, undated by fame, free from envy or jealousy, and ‘from all uncharitableness’;1 exalted above this world by a firm confidence in an immortal destiny—Browning lived such a life as united the highest ideal of a great genius with the choice satisfactions of a man of leisure and social success. To achieve poetry, to hunger and thirst after righteousness, and to have all the fleshpots of Egypt thrown in as a bonne bouche — this is indeed a destiny to which few of the sons of song have attained. It is true that until a mature period of life Browning was not rich, either in widespread fame or in the material gifts of fortune; but then, in compensation, he was young, ardent, full of the capacity for enjoyment, and prodigal of fine work which could not in the long run miss its aim.

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Michael Rossetti

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