Robert Broning was born in a suburb of London in May 1812. His parents were both learned and sensitive intellectual who fervently encouraged their son’s natural inclinations for learning and his profound interest in poetry and natural history, which he manifested at a very early age. In his childhood and adolescence he spent much of his time in his father’s massive library, which amounted to more than 6000 books and included rare texts on esoteric subjects. Young Robert was a rebel at heart and soon manifested a marked dislike for institutionalized education, so he studied at home with private tutors. A fast and able learner, he read widely and at fourteen he could already speak several languages.
In 1845 he met Elizabeth Barret, a fragile and ill woman whose father tried to protect by pratically imprisoning her at home. She already was a famous poetess and Browning greatly admired her work. He courted her passionately and cespite her father’s strong opposition to their relationship, they got married secretly and soon after they left for Italy, where they settled in Tuscany.
In 1861 Browning wife died and he moved back to London, where he worked for five years on The Ring and the Book, a long narrative poem which was published in four seperate volumes from 1868 to 1869. It consists of twelve monologue spoken by the participants in a trial held in Rome in 1698, which allows the reaction to see the facts from different viewpoints. The case is that of an impoverished nobleman, Count Guido Franceschini, who was accused of having murdered his young wife and her parents because he suspected her of having an affair with another man. He violently protested his innocence but in the end he was found guilty and sentenced to death.
Even his last, disperate appeal to Pope Innocent XIII proved useless, which gave the poet the chance to explore the relationship between God and human beings. The book was a huge commercial success and critics finally recognised Browning as one of the leading artists of the period. Among Brownings’ later works the most notable is Asolando, a collection of short lyrics which was published on December 12, 1889, the day of the poet’s death.