Elizabeth Barrett Browning is recognised – and was acknowledged in her lifetime – as one of the best known and most popular poets of the Victorian era. And though she lived most of her life in Herefordshire, the south of
and England , Italy was actually born at Coxhoe Hall, Co.Durham, in 1806. Elizabeth
Although she came to vehemently oppose slavery, her family fortune was largely derived from the industry – from sugar plantations in
At the time of her birth, the family lived at the aforementioned mansion
situated between Coxhoe and Kelloe, though they would move to their famous Hope
End estate near the Jamaica Malvern Hills in 1809. was the eldest of twelve children, and was herself baptised at
Kelloe parish church shortly before the move. Elizabeth
She was a deeply studious child, an avid reader and wrote poetry from any early age. Her mother would compile collections of her work, and her father would encourage her efforts, too – and she was educated thoroughly at home whilst her brothers were formally schooled. She became an ardent feminist after studying the work of Mary Wollstonecraft.
Published from an early age, she built up and maintained correspondence with many leading classical scholars. However, from the age of 15 she suffered a lengthy and undiagnosed illness, which troubled her for the rest of her life. The opiates and morphine she took to combat the pain may have contributed to her vivid imaginings.
Financial misfortune took the family to
, where she expanded her social circle to include the likes of
Wordsworth, Coleridge and Tennyson. She spent some time in Torquay for health
reasons, but returned to the capital for her most prolific period of the early
1840s. She married Robert Browning in 1846, and they moved to London –
being largely disowned by her family. Despite her ill-health, they had a son,
Robert, in 1849, but her frail body finally gave way to death – probably from
lung disease – in 1861. She was buried in Italy – a long
way from her place of birth here in the North-East – and was lauded long after
her death. Florence
Coxhoe Hall eventually found its way into the hands of the Coal Board, was used to house enemy PoWs during WWII, and then fell into disrepair prior to its demolition in 1956.
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