A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 488 pages of information about A Handbook to the Works of Browning (6th ed.).

My endeavour will, therefore, be to bring the sense of this real continuity into the divisions which I must impose on Mr. Browning’s work; and thus also to infuse something of his life into the meagre statement of contents to which I am forced to reduce it.  The few words of explanation by which I preface each group may assist this end.  At the same time I shall resist all temptation to “bring out” what I have indicated as Mr. Browning’s leading ideas by headings, capitals, italics, or any other artificial device whatever; as in so doing I should destroy his emphasis and hinder the right reading, besides effacing the usually dramatic character, of the individual poems.  The impressions I have received from the collective work will, I trust, be confirmed by it.


[Footnote 1:  I stated in my first edition that Mr. Browning was descended from the “Captain Micaiah Browning” who raised the siege of Derry in 1689 by springing the boom across Lough Foyle, and perished in the act (the incident being related in Macaulay’s “History of England,” vol. iv., pp. 244 and 245 of the edition of 1858).  I am now told that there is no evidence of this lineal descent, though there are circumstances which point to some kind of relationship.  Another probable ancestor is Captain ——­ Browning, who commanded the ship “Holy Ghost,” which conveyed Henry V. to France before he fought the battle of Agincourt; and in return for whose services two waves, said to represent waves of the sea, were added to his coat of arms.  The same arms were worn by Captain Micaiah Browning, and are so by the present family.]

[Footnote 2:  Wiedemann is the second baptismal name of Mr. Browning’s son; and, in his infantine mouth, it became (we do not exactly guess how), the “Penini,” shortened into “Pen,” which some ingenious interpreters have derived from the word “Apennine.”]

[Footnote 3:  And—­we are bound to admit—­the singular literary obtuseness of the England of fifty years ago.]

[Footnote 4:  A distinguished American philologist, the late George P. Marsh, has declared that he exceeds all other modern English writers in his employment of them.]

[Footnote 5:  In “In Memoriam” we have such rhymes as:—­

{now   {curse  {mourn   {good    {light     {report
{low   {horse  {turn    {blood   {delight   {port

In the blank verse of “The Princess,” and of “Enoch Arden” such assonances as:—­

{sun    {lost   {whom   {wand
{noon   {burst  {seem   {hand.
{known  {clipt   {word
{down   {kept    {wood, etc.

I take these instances from the works of so acknowledged a master of verse as Mr. Tennyson, rather than from those of a smaller poet who would be no authority on the subject, because they thus serve to show that the poetic ear may have different kinds as well as degrees of sensibility, and must, in every case, be accepted as, to some extent, a law to itself.]

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