Date of Award

1985

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Abstract

To date, the examination of Elizabeth Barrett Brownings' composition and publication history has been hampered by the inaccessibility of the manuscripts and corrected proofs that were sold at public auction following the death of the Brownings' son in 1913. This examination of the "Sonnets" manuscript notebook at the Armstrong Browning Library at Baylor University, then, sheds new light on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's literary interests and activities in the early 1840's as well as on her methods of composition and revision. Each of the twenty-three poems and fragments in the "Sonnets" notebook was written between 1842-1844, years which mark a turning point in Elizabeth Barrett Browning's artistic development. Nearly half the poems in the notebook are unpublished, and examination of the unpublished pieces illuminates the author's later work on the "Sonnets from the Portuguese," Aurora Leigh, and Poems Before Congress. Moreover, the drafts of all the published poems in the notebook vary significantly from the versions published under the author's supervision, and examination of these and other recently discovered drafts illuminates her process of revision and answers a number of questions about establishing a text of her poetry. By far the most significant implication of the present study of the "Sonnets" notebook involves the shortcomings in the existing criticism written without reference to Elizabeth Barrett Browning's unpublished manuscripts. That many of the holographs scattered at the Sotheby auction of 1913 have been located calls for a re-assessment of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's career in light of manuscripts--like those in "Sonnets"--to which critics and biographers have had no previous access. This examination of the "Sonnets" notebook is among the first in which such materials are incorporated, and in it the necessity of consulting Elizabeth Barrett Browning's unpublished manuscripts is demonstrated throughout.

Pages

247

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