Thackeray pp 103-106 | Cite as

Goodness Showed through his Noticeable Defects

  • Robert Browning
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Sources given in notes. Thackeray was acquainted with Robert Browning (1812–89) and his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–61) before their marriage in 1846, but first came to know them well in Rome, winter 1853–4, and Paris, 1858. He invited them both to contribute to the Cornhill (LPP, iv, 165–6). Browning, averse to periodical publication, declined but his wife offered a poem which, much to his embarrassment, Thackeray had to reject to deference to Mrs Grundy (LPP, iv, 226–9). Privately he agreed with Washington Irving in detesting Browning’s poetry: ‘we do not read Robert Browning because we cannot altogether comprehend him. I have no head above my eyes’ (Wilson, i, 118). As Richard Bedingfield recalled, he saw Browning as ‘an excellent fellow, but … a madman’, and William Allingham records his opinion that Browning’s poetry was unmusical and unmanageable, and his personality uncomfortably positive (see below, i, 123; ii, 283). Edward C. McAleer comments, ‘Although Thackeray retained cordial relations with the Brownings, his temperament and theirs were not such as to make intimate friendship easy’ — Dearest Isa: Robert Browning’s Letters to Isabella Blagden, ed. McAleer (Austin, Tex., 1951) p. 22. If somewhat patronising about ‘the good Brownings’, Thackeray was grateful for Mrs Browning’s kindness to his daughters (LPP, iii, 333, 341), as she was moved by his goodness to her son Pen (see below). Extracts below are from the Brownings’ letters.


Publisher Limited Good Nature Partial Truth Domestic Life Periodical Publication 
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  1. 1.
    Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ed. Frederic G. Kenyon (1897) I, 401.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    New Letters of Robert Browning, ed. William De Vane and Kenneth Leslie (1951) p. 68.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Letters to her Sister 1846–1859, ed. Leonard Huxley (1929) p. 196.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Letters of the Brownings to George Barrett, ed. Paul Landis (Urbana, Ill., 1958) pp. 209–10.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Letters to Mrs David Ogilvy 1849–1861, ed. Peter N. Heydon and Philip Kelley (1974) p. 118.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    William Wetmore Story and his Friends, ed. Henry James (1903) II, 147.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Browning
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning

There are no affiliations available

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