« AnteriorContinuar »
BROWNING'S own selections from his works supply the general
reader, or the student who intends further complete study, with the most coherent representative short survey or initial presentation of his whole complex and voluminous genius.
The poet has made his selections cover the entire range of his work from 1833 to 1879; the present editors, not presuming to go back over any part of the field from which he has garnered, have added from his later publications a choice handful of short poems, mainly lyrical, beginning with the second series of 'Dramatic Idyls,' 1880, and closing with the final volume, 'Asolando,' 1889, which was published in London on the day of Browning's death in Venice.
Care has been taken to give with accuracy Browning's own latest revised text of 1888, 1889; also, to make the Introduction and Notes rich in small space. In making the æsthetic part of the Notes, the aim has been neither to paraphrase, nor to give comment about the poems, but to epitomize the gist of each one, or, at most, where the poem demanded such treatment, to summarize its leading traits and show its outcome. Such a procedure seemed especially appropriate to this volume which Browning intended should offer the public a representative view of his poetic domain, and the editors hope this part of their work will especially commend itself. They believe the Notes will also be found to shed light on many allusions not before explained.
Finally, they desire to acknowledge with cordial gratitude their indebtedness to the work of their predecessors, especially to Mrs. Orr, Professor Hiram Corson, Mr. George Willis Cooke, Dr. Edward Berdoe, Dr. W. J. Rolfe, and Miss Hersey for help in allusions; and to Mrs. Orr, Mr. William Sharpe, Mr. Edmund Gosse, and Mr. W. G. Kingsland, from whom the materials for the biographical sketch were drawn; also to the Boston Browning Society, whose collection of first editions was consulted in compiling the bibliography.
BOSTON, May 20, 1896.
"A peep through my window, if folk prefer;
But, please you, no foot over threshold of mine."-'HOUSE.'
WHEN some depreciator of the familiar declared that "Only in Italy is there any romance left," Browning replied, “Ah! well, I should like to include poor old Camberwell," and "poor old Camberwell," where Robert Browning was born, May 7, 1812, offered no meagre nurture for the fancy of a child gifted with the ardor that greatens and glorifies the real.
Nature still garlanded this suburban part of London with bowery spaces breathing peace. The view of the region from Herne Hill over softly wreathing distances of domestic wood "was, before railroads came, entirely lovely," Ruskin says. He writes of "the tops of twenty square miles of politely inhabited groves," of bloom of lilac and laburnum and of almond-blossoms, intermingling suggestions of the wealth of fruit-trees in enclosed gardens, and companioning all this with the furze, birch, oak, and bramble of the Norwood hills, and the open fields of Dulwich “animate with cow and buttercup."
Nature was ready to beckon the young poet to dreams and solitude, and, too close to need to vie with her, the great city was at hand to make her power intimately felt. From a height crowned by three large elms, Browning, as a lad, used to enjoy the picturesqueness of his "poor old Camberwell." Its heart of romance was centred for him in the sight of the vast city lying to the westward. His memory singled out one such visit as peculiarly significant, the first one on which he beheld teeming London by night, and heard the vague confusion of her collective voice beneath the silence of the stars.
Within the home into which he was born, equally well-poised conditions befriended him, fostering the development of his emotional and intellectual nature. His mother was once described by Carlyle as “the true type of a Scottish gentlewoman." Browning himself used to say of