Browning Society

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Browning societies were groups of people who met regularly to discuss the works of Robert Browning. Emerging from various reading groups, the societies were an indication of the poet's fame and, unusually, were actively forming during his lifetime.[1] Browning was not consulted on the foundation of these societies in appreciation of his work, and the idea did not meet with his immediate approval.[2]


The earliest Browning Society, and the longest continuing, was formally constituted in 1877 by Hiram Corson at Cornell University.[3] The Boston Browning Society followed in 1885, which would become the largest and most influential,[1] and by 1900 there were hundreds of such groups across the United States, Canada and Britain.[3]

The most notable Browning Society was that established in London, in 1881, by Frederick James Furnivall and Emily Hickey. Meeting monthly at University College London, the society extended Browning's readership by publishing aids to the study of his works, cheaply produced editions of his work, and encouraging amateur productions of his plays. Although the relationship with the society was often fraught, Browning recognised the society's role in his success.[3] Alexandra Orr who was to become Robert Browning's biographer met Browning twice a week and she joined and donated money to the society.[4] Encouraged by the society she created a Handbook to the Works of Robert Browning[5] assisted by advice from the animal artist John Trivett Nettleship[4] who had written some of the earliest work about Browning.

In fiction[edit]

  • Arthur Conan Doyle (2004) A Duet with an Occasional Chorus Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1-4179-5932-0. Chapter XVI is set around the politics in a Browning Society.


  1. ^ a b Murray, H. (2002) Come, bright improvement!: the literary societies of nineteenth-century Ontario p.142. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-3633-3. Retrieved October 2011.
  2. ^ Drew, p. (1970) The poetry of Browning: a critical introduction P.410. Methuen & Co. ISBN 978-0-416-14470-3 Retrieved October 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Kennedy, S.R. & Hair, D.S. (2007) The dramatic imagination of Robert Browning: a literary life p.365-375. University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0-8262-1691-9. Retrieved October 2011.
  4. ^ a b Elizabeth Lee, ‘Orr , Alexandra (1828–1903)’, rev. Katharine Chubbuck, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 30 April 2017
  5. ^ Mrs. Sutherland Orr (1887). A Handbook to the Works of Robert Browning. Bell.