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BROWNING STUDIES

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INTRODUCTION.

WHEN the Browning Society was founded fourteen years ago, the works of the great poet were read by comparatively few general readers in England, although they had long been familiar to the American public and had secured a great number of earnest students who united themselves into societies and reading clubs for the discussion of a literature which even then was voluminous. At that time it was considered in England an affectation of erudition to pretend to any wider acquaintance with Browning's works than was involved in knowing the Pied Piper of Hamelin, How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, and having a nodding acquaintance with Rabbi Ben Ezra.

To have owned to familiarity with Paracelsus or The Ring and the Book subjected one to the gibes and sneers of smart people, who thought it clever to call Pacchiarotto a "pack o' rot." To confess that Sordello interested and even delighted one entailed the certainty of having to listen to the ancient wheeze about Douglas Jerrold, who once essayed to read the poem, and having done so took medical opinion about the state of his reason. Everybody had a cheap joke about Browning, and if people knew nothing else of the poet, they could at least raise a laugh against those who pretended to know him.

Reviewers, in the intervals between criticising a society novel and a volume of minor poetry, knocked off a column or so on Browning, and conclusively settled that he could write neither grammatically nor intelligibly, and that having no "form" his works could not possibly be poetry.

There is no more remarkable fact in the history of literature, and no greater disgrace to English criticism, than the treatment meted out to Robert Browning for half a century. Here was the greatest

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