1812   Born in Camberwell, a London suburb. His father is a clerk at the Bank of England; his family are religious dissenters.

1820   Takes up school, as a weekly boarder in Peckham.

1826   Begins writing poetry, influenced largely by Shelley. Is tutored in French, Italian, Latin, and Greek.

1828   Attends London University for a semester; there he toys with atheism. Returns home, to study, write, and publish (at his father's expense) poetry. He will live at home until his thirties.

1833   Anonymously publishes his first work, the autobiographical Pauline, A Fragment of a Confession. It has almost no sales. Starts work on Sordello.

1834   Travels across Europe to Saint Petersburg, Russia; returns home.

1835   Publishes Paracelsus, which wins literary praise. Begins friendships with Carlyle, poet and critic W. S. Landor, and other men of letters.

1837   Strafford  , the first of a series of unsuccessful plays, is produced and published.

1838   First visit to Italy.

1840   Publishes Sordello, a long narrative poem in dramatic monologue. It gains a reputation as "unintelligible" and "meaningless," establishing Browning as an obscure poet.

1841   Begins publishing a series of books under the title Bells and Pomegranates; composed mostly of plays. Publishes Pippa Passes.

1842   Publishes collection of poems called Dramatic Lyrics, including notably "My Last Duchess."

1843-1844   Production of three now obscure plays. Visits Italy for a second time.

1845   Writes a letter to Elizabeth Barrett praising her poetry. Visits her and declares his love. Her father is against marriage, though. Publication of Dramatic Romances and Lyrics.

1846   Publication of A Soul's Tragedy  , concluding the Bells and Pomegranates; series. Marries Elizabeth Barrett, secretly. They settle in Florence, Italy, where they will live in a happy marriage for fifteen years.

1849   A son is born, Robert Barrett-Browning ("Pen").

1850   Publishes Christmas Eve and Easter Day.

1851-1852   Visits Paris and London. Strikes friendships with literary and artistic figures of the day, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Charles Kingsley, and Tennyson.

1855   Publishes a two-volume poetry collection, Men and Women it includes most of his best works, including "Fra Lippo Lippi" and "Andrea del Sarto."

1861    Elizabeth Barrett Browning dies; Browning moves to London with his son "Pen. "

1864   Publishes Dramatis Personae  .

1868   Publishes The Ring and the Book, a long narrative poem of greed, deception, and murder; based on an Italian story. Though it was a popular success, it is now little read.

1869   Browning proposes marriage to Lady Ashburton, only to be rejected. This proposal, an example of Browning's propensity for social climbing, will continue to embarrass him in society and shame him over his infidelity towards his dead wife.

1871-1887   Publishes over a dozen volumes of poetry during this period, which now reside in near-obscurity. They include narrative poems such as Red-Cotton Nightcap Country and the two collections of Dramatic Idyls, verse plays such as The Inn Album, and translations from Greek such as The Agamemnon   of Aeschylus.

1880   Dr. F. J. Furnivall and others establish the Browning Society in London. They study his works and idolize him.

1889   Publishes Asolando, a last collection of poems, and an edition of his complete works. Dies in Venice of bronchitis; is buried in Poets' Comer of Westminster Abbey.

(Based in part on McGraw-Hill, pp. 158-160)


Victorian Overview R. Browning

Last modified August 2003