BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT (1806-1861)
Lot 69
BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT (1806-1861), AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT, IN EFFECT A DRAFT, OF HER POEM 'LESSONS FROM THE GORSE' SIGNED AT THE END ('EBB'), Torquay, 24 March 1840
Sold for £18,750 (US$ 31,496) inc. premium
Lot Details
BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT (1806-1861)
AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT, IN EFFECT A DRAFT, OF HER POEM 'LESSONS FROM THE GORSE' SIGNED AT THE END ('EBB'), in effect a draft though seemingly a fair copy, 28 lines in four seven-line stanzas, preserving reconsidered readings, dated by her 'Torquay March 24th 1840' in pencil and with her note of publication in ink 'Published in the Athenaeum. [23] Oct. 1841', 1 page, folio, very light foxing, traces of former inlay, Torquay, 24 March 1840

Mountain gorses, ever golden,
Cankered not the whole year long,
Do ye teach us to be strong,
Howsoever pricked and holden
Like your thorny blooms, and so
Trodden on by rain and snow
Up the hill-side of this life, as bleak as where ye grow?...

THIS IS THE ONLY KNOWN MANUSCRIPT OF THE POEM. IT RETAINS NUMEROUS HITHERTO UNKNOWN AND UNRECORDED READINGS. IT WAS IN THE BROWNING FAMILY'S OWN COLLECTION. It was retained by the poet herself and was sold in the Browning Collections sale in 1913. The text in The Athenaeum is substantially different and was doubtless taken from another source. Neither of these texts has the quotation from Lowell at the head which is given in The Poems, 1895.

The differences include the re-ordering of some lines, alterations of single words and the virtually entire revision of four lines. For instance, the last line of the third stanza begins as 'Yet growing there aneer the ground...beside the grasses weak?' in this manuscript; becomes 'Yet grow along the ground, beside the grasses meek' in The Athenaeum text; and ends as 'Yet live low along the ground, beside the grasses meek!' in The Poems.

PROVENANCE: Elizabeth Barrett Browning (in her possession at the time of her death and subsequently owned by her son); Sotheby's, The Browning Collections...the Property of R.W. Browning, 2 May 1913, part of lot 159 purchased by Maggs; Sotheby's, 29 July 1919; Stewart 1919; American Art Association, 30 January 1923, lot 158; David Lowenherz.

REFERENCES: The Athenaeum, no. 730, 23 October 1841, p. 810; Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Volume IV, 1800-1900, Part I, 1990, compiled by Barbara Rosenbaum and Pamela White, BrEB 435; The Poems, 1895; Autograph Prices Current, volume IV, 1918-1919, compiled by E.H. Courville; The Browning Collections: A Reconstruction With Other Memorabilia, compiled by Phillip Kelly and Betty Coley, 1984.
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