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?
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.
Parties, 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.
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. 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