Tag Archives: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The_birthday_cake

Twenty-nine. Such an Awkward Number.

The eve of my birthday, I received a comforting e-card from an eleven-year-old friend who said,

I heard that you are turning twenty-nine. That seems like such an awkward number, doesn’t it? But I’m sure you’ll pull it off beautifully.”

It was even more reassuring than the other insightful articles about people who also freaked out when they turned twenty-nine. Some articles were silly, serious, and a combo.  I came across memorable quotes. Actress Helen Mirren wrote some gems:

“The hardest period in life is one’s twenties. It’s a shame because you’re your most gorgeous, and you’re physically in peak condition. But it’s actually when you’re most insecure and full of self-doubt. When you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s frightening.”

I see where’s she coming from.

I haven’t completed the duties one has do before they reach thirty. Like travel. Do something incredibly crazy. Have a successful career Get married. Have a family.

This year might be the most frightening of all. And it’s not just about the pressures to fulfill all twenties expectations. It’s to see if I can survive. The type of attitude winning survivors put on. Some of these survivors are found on this very website.   Some who didn’t live up to their culture’s ideals while they lived their terrifying twenties. Yet, they would shine later on…

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bride-groom-new-testament_1154694_inl by Lyle Beddes

The pressure to produce posterity was perhaps greater for Jewish women in biblical times.

Elisabeth, mother of John the Baptist, had been expected to have children by her twenties. Did others think she did something wrong? But the Bible assures us she and her husband “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” I’d imagine that she had to make the decision if she was going to be faithful young. She had made the choice to keep all the commandments and people looked up to her. She was a sort of mentor when the young Mary stayed with her for three months.

Mary visiting Elisabeth, who was someone she could turn for guidance.

Mary visiting Elisabeth, who was someone she could turn for guidance.

Elisabeth’s life became more eventful as she and her son were on the run during the Massacres of the Innocents. (Luke 1:6-7, 56;Luke 11:51; Matthew 2:16)

 

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rtiist: After Dirk Stoop

At 23, the little Portuguese princess didn’t know the humiliations and scandals that awaited her in England.

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She expressed a desire to go home from early on, Perhaps it was the realization of protecting Portugal that motivated her to stay in England and dodge lurking dangers.

While in her twenties, Catherine of Braganza became queen of England. Despite striving to do the right thing, she never did produce an heir. She became a forty-seven-year old widow but had learned to survive–and she eventually thrived. During the last twenty years of her life, she accumulated more money, returned to Portugal as a hero, ruled as regent, and was a mentor and maternal figure to her nephew who later became king of Portugal.

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Catherine gave herself a new life at 47. She died at 67 and every inch a queen.

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Let’s recall the Barrett sisters, Elizabeth and Henrietta. By the time they were in their twenties, they lost siblings and their mother. How were they supposed to look at the world? They might have  struggled to answer. Elizabeth became a successful poet early on but still faced serious illnesses. Henrietta had loved once, but experienced heartbreak. Such losses and experiences, however, would lead to a more accomplished life.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The possibilities of getting a new last name looked slim, but they wouldn't be Barretts forever!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The possibilities of getting a new last name looked slim, but she and Henrietta wouldn’t be  Moulton-Barretts forever!

We wouldn’t have gotten Elizabeth’s most famous poem “How Do I Love Thee” without the hardships of the Barrett family. She wrote that sonnet among other classics in her late thirties during her courtship to Robert Browning. By age forty, she eloped with him to Italy. She became active in politics and had a child at forty-three.

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Elizabeth with her son Pen whom she gave birth to when she was 43. Henrietta had her last child at 47.

Henrietta, didn’t give up on love either. She married at age forty-one. Between ages forty-two and forty-seven, she gave birth to three children.

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These numbers and accomplishments I’m spurting out motivate me!  I’m less afraid of what I haven’t done and more excited for the future. As C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

I admit I’m still  frightened. My sister pointed out:

“ We are constantly evolving and ever changing. I don’t think a decade defines us. We can always become something new. The gospel is one of progression, so that means we are always working toward something-not limited to our past.”

Dramatic or not, I’m thrilled to adapt plans I’m working on. I’ve decided not only to accept what I haven’t done, but also to celebrate it! Go forward with faith. Not all the best things in life have to be compacted in the twenties package.

I’ll get through twenty-nine.

And I’ll do it beautifully.

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Pictures
Painting of Bride and Groom by Lyle Beddes from lds.org New Testament Student Manuel

La Visitatio by Niolas Labbe 

Catherine of Braganza paintings:
Dirk Stoop
Peter Lely
Benedettp Gennari

Images of Elizabeth Barrett Browning are also public domain.

 

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The Austen Vs. Barrett Sisters

Sisters.

One sister was near marriage but outside forces dashed those hopes. Her writer-sister had a proposal of marriage and….

How will such a story end?

The Austens

Cassandra’s fiance  worked in order for them to get married. He went on a military mission but died after he caught yellow fever in 1797. Cassandra now had some money, but no man to share it with. She never married.

Then we all know Jane.

CassandraAusten-JaneAusten(c.1810)_hiresParties, balls, humor, but never she seemed to find Mr. Right. She briefly accepted a proposal in 1802. The man was financially secured and perhaps it would have been perfect if she loved him. She didn’t and soon declined.  One portrayal of possible romances include Becoming Jane.

The Barretts

Henrietta could have been a character out of an Austen novel—was religious but determined to have fun and find romance at balls and parties. It seemed marriage was in her grasp at one point, but  any suitor was kicked out of her life by her father.

Mr. Barrett would never let his children marry.

Elizabeth couldn’t spend time outside like she used to, but kept contact with her family, friends, and intellectuals through  correspondences and others visiting her.  Her mind was active, but felt close to death till fellow poet Robert Browning showed intense interest in her.Elizabeth-Barrett-Browning,_Poetical_Works_Volume_I,_engraving One of the sonnets she wrote during their courtship starts:

“My future will not copy fair my past.”

The sonnet talks about the new life she feels like she’s been given. She can’t go back to the past where she thought love was lost.

Elizabeth couldn’t make the same mistakes other did. She had to be stealthier than Henrietta. And unlike Jane, Elizabeth had the means to support herself and was in love with a man who loved her. But could Elizabeth back out at the proposal of marriage from Robert? Would she find enough strength to go through with the marriage?

She did. She eloped with Robert Browning to Italy in 1846.. Elizabeth’s father disowned her but she continued to compose poems.

Now what of Henrietta?

Could she find true love? Even if she did, could she find a way to marry?

Four years after her sister eloped, Henrietta married a Captain William Cook.  Like Elizabeth, she too was disowned by her father.

We don’t know much about Henrietta but we know she displayed gumption. Some of that gumption is portrayed in, The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

Though the Barrett sisters could afford marriage, could they be indebted to the Austen sisters who gave some do’s and don’ts when it came to marriage and love?

P.S. And which film is better–Becoming Jane or The Barretts of Wimpole Street?

Sources:

http://www.browningscorrespondence.com/biographical-sketches/?id=977

wikipedia.org
Pictures:
"The Two Sisters" by Henri Fantin-Latour
Portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Engraving September, 1859,      by Macaire Havre, engraving by T. O. Barlow