Elizabeth was a child prodigy. She wrote her first verses at the age of 4 and learned Greek and Hebrew in order to read ancient poets and sacred texts in their original version. Poetry is for her the expression of the Truth beyond the Unknown. Deeply believing, she feels the mystical Love.
Preparing at the age of 27 in 1833 a translation of the Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, Elizabeth analyzes in her own right the conflicts and empathies between the hero and the god, seeking the deep root of Love in the pre-Christian sensitivity of the old poet.
She is the eldest daughter of a landowner whose family had made a fortune in the West Indies. Her too possessive father demands celibacy to his many children. Perhaps in reaction against such a restriction to her sentimental future, Elizabeth develops extremely progressive views about the abolition of slavery and the status of women.
On March 9 in New York, Bonhams sells several working manuscripts by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. In her small handwriting close to unreadability, the numerous reworks show her search for perfection : some modifications of the manuscript were indeed subsequent to the published text.
Lot 3, estimated $ 400K, is her handwritten notebook dated 1837 containing about 20 poems, more than half of which will be published in the following year under the title The Seraphim and other poems. In the form of a dramatic poem wishing to imitate Aeschylus, Elizabeth Barrett imagines the observation of the Passion of Christ by the angels.
Lot 4, estimated $ 40K, is a copy of ancient English poems collected around 1840 to suggest some themes of illustrations to a watercolorist friend.
Lot 5, estimated $ 200K, is the preparation in 1850 of her second translation of the Prometheus. Elizabeth considered that her work made in 1833, too literal, did not reflect the poetic impulse of Aeschylus.
Lot 6, estimated $ 180K, is the preparation in 1860 of a collection of poems titled Poems before Congress requiring the independence of Italy where Elizabeth and Robert were living since 1846.
Elizabeth died in 1861 in the arms of her husband after suffering a life-long disabling illness that doctors were unable to identify and cure. Robert reported that her last word in a last smile, the ultimate testimony of a great mind, was "Beautiful".
1850 Prometheus SOLD for $ 215K including premium
Other lots unsold