Talk:Robert Browning

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Biography assessment rating comment[edit]

WikiProject Biography Assessment

The article may be improved by following the WikiProject Biography 11 easy steps to producing at least a B article. -- Yamara 04:33, 15 June 2007 (UTC)


This article needs some love! Too many hyperlinks and what's the reference to "Sordello" that mysteriously pops up in the middle. And what happened to the Wilde/quote link below?

Why the "only a clerk"? -- Charles Lamb was a literary guy, despite being only a clerk. -- Marj Tiefert, Tuesday, July 9, 2002

A relatively low wage compared to "skilled professions" (i.e professors) -- Imran

I hope nobody minds me going through and correcting all this stuff, some of it was wildly erroneous and the full text of the Oscar Wilde quote was imho entirely unnecessary - I've moved that to a link, changed the list of works to a complete and correct one (will be adding links to individual volumes later), and started revising the biography. Fosse8 17:43, 1 Mar 2004 (UTC)

I won't change this, because everyone will disagree, but does the word "British" really sound right as a description of a poet? British is something you call an army, not a poet. I realize that there is a desire to avoid the word "English" because that is the language of American, Canadian, Australian and other writers, but really, is anyone going to get very confused if an Englishman is referred to as "English"? American poets are called American. An Englishman can surely be called English without that looking like an unfairly proprietorial attitude toward the language. Just a thought. Fixlein (talk) 16:22, 25 January 2008 (UTC)


I added some section headers to break up this article into more digestible pieces and to provide a table of contents. If any Browning experts feel it might be divided or labelled differently, please feel free (as always!) to change things. — Jeff Q (talk) 02:18, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)

List of works[edit]

Would it be practical to provide a concise list of Browning's works? That's actually what I had originally come to this article to find. I suspect others would find it useful, too. — Jeff Q (talk) 02:20, 29 Mar 2005 (UTC)

  • I added one of those a long time back with the intention of providing short articles on each of his collections and long poems; I went away for a long time and now the article is (to my mind) much more of a mess. Looking at it, it appears someone vandalised the article and the restoration was a bit patchy. I can't tell if I'm looking at it from a biased perspective but I'd much prefer the text from the old version with the new section headings... I've added the list of works back in from an old edit, and will go through & thoroughly tidy this up over the coming months. Fosse8 03:15, 3 Jun 2005 (UTC)
  • If the list is "complete" why is it missing works mentioned in the body of the article? Where is Bishop Blougram, etc?
  • The list is one of Browning's published volumes. "Bishop Blougram's Apology" is an individual poem in Dramatis Personae. Actually, the list looks fine to me, but people may be misled by the fact that some famous, individual poems are listed inset beneath the volume title and others are not. Things are only complicated by the fact that the titles of some volumes are also the titles of the poems that they contain (e.g. Fifine at the Fair, Ferishtah's Fancies, The Ring and The Book and several others), whereas other volumes contain many shorter poems. It would be impractical in this article to give a complete list of individual poems, but someone could create a separate page and link to it if they've got the time. --Sordel 09:00, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

Pied Piper?[edit]

No mention of The Pied Piper, his best-remembered work? Rhinoracer 10:25, 16 March 2007 (UTC)

  • As mentioned above, the list is a list of published volumes, not individual poems - if it helps, think of it as being like a list of albums, rather than individual songs. The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a poem contained in Dramatic Lyrics (and mentioned in that article). Fosse8 10:36, 16 April 2007 (UTC)

Clarification, anyone?[edit]

Can anyone explain to me what this sentence from the article actually means? "Set against the backdrop of the conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, Sordello was already difficult to understand for a Victorian audience that was accustomed to the annotation in historical fiction." I don't have any idea what 'the annotation in historical fiction' is, that Sordello evidently was lacking, and that other historical fiction of the period had. Marieblasdell 16:47, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

Browning's poetic style[edit]

I really do not like this sentence: Browning chooses some of the most debased, extreme and even criminally psychotic characters no doubt for the challenge of building a sympathetic case for a character who doesn't deserve one and to cause the reader to squirm at the temptation to acquit a character who may be a homicidal psychopath. I think it overstates its case, and projects the reader's response onto Browning's intentions - the phrase 'no doubt' may be no doubt in that particular reader's mind but it certainly has some doubt in this reader's mind. Anybody else think it needs a rewrite?--Guinevere50 02:00, 3 October 2007 (UTC)

I agree; this entire section is distressingly reductive and simple. Yes, "Porphyria's Lover" shows us a killer from the killer's point of view, but the purpose of the poem is not to tackle the challenge of 'building a sympathetic case' for the killer or to make 'the reader squirm'. The poem is a commentary on the impossibility of a poem immortalizing a love affair and a critique of romantic poetics as much as it is a portrait. Similar complaints could be leveled against the reading of "My Last Duchess" and "Fra Lippo Lippi" offered here; the readings lack depth and nuance, presenting extremely complicated and accomplished works as simplistic. One might think, reading this article, that Browning was interested in nothing but shocking his audience. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:40, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

The entire section is a load of uncited tosh, looks like it has been taken from a Eng Lit. undergrad's essay. I feel that the entire section should just be removed. (talk) 21:57, 27 April 2012 (UTC)
I suggest you re-write it and reference it. Span (talk) 22:11, 27 April 2012 (UTC)
I disagree with the line: "The duchess, we learn, was murdered ... not, finally, because of the simple pleasures she took in common everyday occurrences." There is no reason to suggest that her appreciation of everyday things didn't at least contribute to the motivation of her murder. I'm no expert, though, so I won't make the change. User:GKFXtalk 16:58, 23 November 2012 (UTC)

Where is everything?[edit]

This article seems to be missing an awful lot, there is an early life and a later life, but nothing in between. Including information referenced both on this discussion page and in the article itself. Was the middle chunk of the article erased? Was there a reason? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:52, 29 March 2008 (UTC)

It's broken beyond repair, and I've totally given up trying to fix it - have a look at a random version from late 2004 or mid-2005 and compare with what's here now, nothing substantially useful has been added but a lot of good material has been wiped. Fosse8 (talk) 15:35, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

It needs citations in the discussion of "Poetic Style." There are lots of references at the end, but no citations of what is clearly scholarly research in the section itself. -- (talk) 15:42, 15 April 2010 (UTC)

I had a look at a version from 1 Dec 2005. There is a lot of difference, contradiction and extra material, as you say Fosse8. There is 50% more copy in the current version but that maybe mostly non-descriptive content (refs, links, works etc). What is the protocol for re-introduction? None of the 2005 copy is referenced or verifiable. We couldn't just dump in text wily nilly, even though much of it is interesting... Other than sitting down with a stack of biogs - which is probably what the page needs - not sure what to do with the older material n... I'd appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks Spanglej (talk) 05:04, 26 June 2010 (UTC)


I removed a sentence because it looked totally like personal opinion. But I don't know much about poetry so I could have made a mistake. Please take a looky! ReluctantPhilosopher (talk) 12:48, 30 January 2010 (UTC)

Pop section[edit]

I suggest we cut the "pop" section. It is mostly a list of media inspired by Browning's works. Every famous artist has hundreds of people who are inspired by their work. The list is not comprehensive or notable, in my view. WP:TRIV says "Trivia sections should be avoided." Any objections? Thanks


This was rated b-class, but I've re-rated it c-class. It does not meet the b-class standards as per Wikipedia:Version 1.0 Editorial Team/Assessment#grades guidelines. The article is not suitably referenced (the poetic style and legacy sections have no references), and one section is tagged for original research. INeverCry 00:12, 29 May 2012 (UTC)

Where is everything (reprise)?[edit]

For one of the major English poets, this article is totally inadequate. I have added something for which I have the reference. C.S.Lewis, in a passage for which I do not have the reference, puts The Ring and the Book on a par with the Canterbury Tales, the Faerie Queen, Paradise Lost and the Prelude. I am not surprised that the heading recommends using the French version. It is so much better. I came looking for something about his personal appearance, which I vaguely remember being described in some biography as small and neat, and was appalled to find the total inadequacy of what there is. --Martin Wyatt (talk) 22:09, 25 August 2012 (UTC)

I look forward to your translation of the rest of the required text. Span (talk) 23:06, 25 August 2012 (UTC)

I have made a start, but on closer examination, the French Wikipedia is not that reliable, so I have corrected and supplemented it from the only source I have to hand. The real problem is the critical discussion of Browning's achievement. What is in the article at the moment looks more like personal opinion than a verifiable consensus. The French discussion is a lot more extensive, and is referenced. I have not examined whether the references are substantial or up to date. That, I think, is for someone else. --Martin Wyatt (talk) 13:06, 27 August 2012 (UTC)


'The Mrs. Browning of popular imagination was a sweet, innocent young woman who suffered endless cruelties at the hands of a tyrannical papa but who nonetheless had the good fortune to fall in love with a dashing and handsome poet named Robert Browning.'

Does this imply that the real story differed from the popular version? Valetude (talk) 19:37, 18 January 2014 (UTC)

Maybe the quote suggests that the truth is more multi-dimensional than the usual beauty and the beast story. Span (talk) 00:31, 19 January 2014 (UTC)
Encyclopedias should inform, not suggest. Valetude (talk) 00:03, 2 January 2015 (UTC)


A recent edit adds James Joyce to the list of Browning's admirers. The editor cites Joyce's story The Dead. I think the edit is unjustified. Browning is mentioned in The Dead, but not in glowing terms, and in any case The Dead is fiction, not an account of Joyce's views. Unless someone can provide better evidence that he admired Browning, in a couple of days I'll reverse the edit.

MansourJE (talk) 15:27, 17 March 2016 (UTC)

Devil's Smithy[edit]

A black smith works, but this guy is doing dirtier, and kind of nastiness devil involved with.

For more further click this link: — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:56, 18 March 2016 (UTC)

MansourJE (talk) 18:59, 17 March 2016 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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Change to opening section[edit]

For a couple of years the fifth paragraph of the first section has read: "Browning's admirers have tended to temper their praise with reservations about the length and difficulty of his most ambitious poems, particularly The Ring and the Book. Nevertheless, they have included such eminent writers as Henry James, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, G. K. Chesterton, Ezra Pound, Jorge Luis Borges, and Vladimir Nabokov." A recent edit changed "The Ring and the Book" to "Sordello". The explanation for the edit is merely: "Sordello notoriously most difficult." I feel that the original version of the paragraph was better.

It is true that Sordello is famously difficult, but that fact is already mentioned earlier and later in the article. Moreover, the people who have said or written well-known things about Sordello have more often been Browning's haters than his admirers. His admirers have typically passed over the poem as juvenilia, and today it receives comparatively little academic attention.

The Ring and the Book, unlike Sordello, is a work that Browning's admirers have written about at length. But, as the article used to say, they appreciate it with reservations. Chesterton's book on Browning and Henry James's essay "The Novel in the Ring and the Book" are among the touchstones of Browning writing, and both of them express clearly mixed feelings about the poem. James concludes that it would have worked better as a novel. And a similar view was expressed later by Borges. Yet these three regarded Browning as among the greatest English poets. The Ring and the Book's ambivalent reception has a certain significance, and I think deserves the mention that it had in the article before the change. Alluding to its difficulty is also probably helpful to first-time readers of Browning, who may otherwise come away thinking that it is the poem to read first, only to be put off his work entirely when they find that it is so challenging.

Are there any objections to reversing the edit? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:58, 9 January 2018 (UTC)

The Ring and the Book is generally considered Browning's greatest work, and there is actually little difficulty in reading it. Its greatest weakness is Browning's fun with the lawyers, which goes on too long and is tedious. There are a few obscure passages, but not many. Sordello was widely derided as difficult on its first appearance, and is still difficult (impenetrable might be a better expression). --Martin Wyatt (talk) 23:06, 11 February 2018 (UTC)
I have put in a concession to your point about first-time readers. With regard to the point about repetition, the introduction is actually way too long, but I am not about to reconstruct it.Martin Wyatt (talk) 09:27, 12 February 2018 (UTC)
There may be no need to reconstruct it if unverified opinions are removed. E.g., the list of admirers needs to be properly supported by citations. The article's later citation of Ian Jack {"[some of them]...all learned from Browning's exploration of the possibilities of dramatic poetry and of colloquial idiom") does not satisfy me that the term "admirers" is fully justified. Bjenks (talk) 03:22, 14 February 2018 (UTC)

Religious beliefs[edit]

I was surprised to see an apparently reasonable subsection struck out by a bot, seemingly on the ground that a citation may be blacklisted. The content clearly warrants retention and discussion, so I've restored it with some amendment. It's surely unnecessary to argue that Browning's inculcated religious beliefs came under challenge from Darwinian and other scientific advances of the Victorian era. I suspect that this will give rise to significant additional biographical content and related discussion. Bjenks (talk) 11:08, 19 February 2018 (UTC)