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in variety, finish, average excellence of work. To this there is one exception. The Victorian era, with its wider range of opportunities for women, has been illumined by the career of the greatest female poet that England has produced, -nor only England, but the whole territory of the English language; more than this, the most inspired woman, so far as known, of all who have composed in ancient or modern tongues, or flourished in any land or time.

What have we of Sappho, beyond a few exquisite fragments, a disputed story, the broken strings of a remote and traditional island-lyre? Yet, from Sappho down, including the poetry of Southern and Northern Europe and the whole

melodious greensward of English song, the remains of what woman are left to us, which in quantity and inspiration compete with those of Mrs. Browning? What poet of her own sex, except Sappho, did she herself find worthy a place among the forty immortals grouped in the hemicycle of her own "Vision of Poets"? Take the volume of her collected writings, with so much that we might omit, with so many weaknesses and faults, and what riches it contains!

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How different, too, from other recent work, thoroughly her own, eminently that of a woman, a Christian sibyl, priestess of the melody, heroism, and religion of the modern world.


WHAT is the story of her maidenhood? Not only of those early years which, no matter how long we continue, are said to make up the greater portion of our life; but also of an unwedded period which lasted to that ominous year, the thirty-seventh, which has ended the song of other poets at a date when her so far as the world heard her had but just begun. How grew our Pysche in her chrysalid state? For she was like the insect that weaves itself a shroud, yet by some inward force, after a season, is impelled to break through its covering, and come out a winged tiger-moth, emblem of spirituality in its

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birth, and of passion in the splendor of its tawny dyes.

Elizabeth Barrett Barrett was born of wealthy parents, in 1809, and began her literary efforts almost contemporaneously with Tennyson. Apparently, for the world has not yet received the inner history of a life, which, after all, was so purely intellectual that only herself could have revealed it to us,-apparently, I say, she was the idol of her kindred; and especially of a father who wondered at her genius and encouraged the projects of her eager youth. Otherwise, although she was a rhymer at the age of ten, how could she have published, in her seventeenth year, her didactic Essay, composed in heroics after the method of

Pope? Apparently, too, she had a mind of that fine northern type which hungers after learning for its own sake, and to which the study of books or nature is an instinctive and insatiable desire. If Mrs. Browning left no formal record of her youth, the spirit of it is indicated so plainly in "Aurora Leigh," that we scarcely need the letter:

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Books, books, books! I had found the secret of a garret-room Piled high with cases in my father's name;

The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning's dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books!

At last, because the time was ripe,

I chanced upon the poets."

Doubtless this sleepless child was one

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