The aim of this bi-centenary exhibition was to relate the places Robert Browning knew and loved to a few of his poems. Browning led a relatively uneventful life, apart from his runaway marriage, but his poetry is full of descriptions of places and people, as he saw them and as they had been in the past. Of no country is this truer than Italy, where he lived throughout his married life. John Ruskin said that no one captured the spirit of the Italian Renaissance better, but he wrote equally well of 17th-century Rome and 18th-century Venice. His evocations of England are justly famous.
Among the manuscripts, first editions and other artefacts included in the exhibition were the sofa on which the sick Elizabeth Barrett spent many of her days in the early 1840s, before her marriage to Robert Browning. The second was a group of bound legal documents, familiarly known as the Old Yellow Book, which Browning bought at a street market in Florence, and which formed the basis for his masterpiece The Ring and the Book. This was very kindly loaned to the exhibition by the Master and Fellows of Balliol College, Oxford.
Curated by Michael Meredith, Curator of Modern Collections and Louise Anderson, Library Assistant.