THE BOOK, THE RING, AND THE POET: A Biography of Robert Browning by William & Park Honan Irvine

THE BOOK, THE RING, AND THE POET: A Biography of Robert Browning

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A capacious literary and biographical study of Browning which represents many years of work by William Irvine (expositor of G.B.S., Victoriana, Bagehot) and -- when interrupted by his death -- completed by Professor Honan, more exclusively a Browning scholar. Thus for a good half of its 500 pages, there is a close reading of the works from their genesis to their frequently unkind reception yet you wonder whether a modern audience will be as attuned to its importance -- there was so much that was grandiose, sentimental, overt. Even if from the first the authors maintain that Browning, emerging from an enclosed Victorian household, was more complex than the confident, robust, outgoing figure who stormed into the stifling sickroom where the ringleted Ba lay on the chaise lounge under the imperious custody of her father and the adoring gaze of her spaniel. The general story is told, or rather tells itself, in their own words starting with the initial expansive exchange of letters on to the time when Browning forced Elizabeth to leave her cosseted climate of illness, the long years abroad, the miscarriages and the birth of Pen (and the disagreements re his upbringing as well as on a few other trotters -- say her penchant toward spiritualism), his real despondency after his mother's death, etc., etc. until the final three decades alone waiting to join her. Browning's biographers are serious but not reverential -- there's even some humor (Browning's ""scrupulous and ritual account of that lifelong trust, his wife's health"") and perhaps there will be more general readers who will want to lave themselves again in that atmosphere of inexhaustible, declarative ardor.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1974
Publisher: McGraw-Hill