BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT. 1806-1861.
Autograph Manuscript Initialed ("E.B.B."), being the working notebook for the poems contained in The Seraphim and Other Poems, 159 pp, including 8 blanks, 8vo, n.p., [1835-1837], with extensive holograph revisions throughout, bound in contemporary half green calf, spine plainly ruled in gilt, gray endpapers (signed "E.B.B/ 1837"to pastedown, and holograph notes to rear), modern folding cloth chemise and red morocco slipcase, internal soiling, loss of upper corner of p. 93, small crack to upper joint of binding, minor scuffing.
Provenance: Sale Sotheby's, July 16, 1984.
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING'S AUTOGRAPH NOTEBOOK FOR THE YEARS 1835-1837, CONTAINING DRAFTS FOR EVERY POEM TO APPEAR IN HER FIRST SIGNIFICANT COLLECTION OF HER OWN POETRY.
The Seraphim and Other Poems, published by Saunders and Otley in 1838, established Elizabeth Barrett as one of the most important poets of her age. "Poetry is essentially truthfulness," she declares in the preface, "and the very incoherences of poetic dreaming are but the struggle and the strife to reach the True in the Unknown." Her first significant work to carry her name (notwithstanding The Battle of Marathon, privately printed when she was only fourteen), Seraphim was in her own estimation "the first utterance of my own individuality." The titular poem (originally called "The Crucified"), a dialogue between two angels at Christ's Crucifixion, was suggested to her while she was translating Aeschylus' "Prometheus Bound", and in some ways represents the anti-Prometheus in its move away from the mythological toward the spiritual.
This working notebook demonstrates how diligently she wrote and rewrote each poem. Her intense minuscule hand fills in the pages and many of the margins (even the back endpapers) with verses and revisions, words, phrases, lines and stanzas extensively altered with sepia ink and pencil and sometimes crossed out. Occasionally she turned the notebook over to begin a new poem on the verso of a sheet. Even with the chunk missing from page 94, she undauntedly turned the leaf and continued writing across the exposed area of p 92.
The extraordinary autograph notebook contains all of the poems in the published collection, as well as eleven others that may remain unpublished. She has initialed the notebook in ink "E.B.B. 1837" (for "Elizabeth Barrett Barrett") on the front endpaper; she did not marry fellow poet Robert Browning until 1846. This significant collection of drafts, with the extensive additions, deletions, and emendations, from the first important collection of the poet's own work, as she seeks and discovers the incipient strength of her developing voice, represents an invaluable resource for Browning scholars, and provides a vital link in the extant collections of Browning's notebooks.