Melton prior Institut


Linton- Life in the Collections

Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

7) Casa Guidi Windows. A Poem.

London 1851

140 pages, first and only separate edition.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning became famous for her inwardly poetry, but most of her late publications were criticised for their evident emancipatory political contents. Two of them, Casa Guidi Windows (1848-51) and Poems Before Congress (1860), especially deal with various stages of the Risorgimento. The former reflects proceedings of the Florentine revolution in the form of outlooks from her residency’s windows. “Of the two parts of this Poem,” the author states in her preface, “the first was written nearly three years ago, while the second resumes the actual situation of 1851. The discrepancy between the two parts is a sufficient guarantee to the public of the truthfulness of the writer, who, though she certainly escaped the epidemic `falling sickness´ of enthusiasm of Pio Nono (Pope Pius IX), takes shame upon herself that she believed (...) some royal oaths, and lost sight of the probable consequences of some obvious popular defects.” The royal oaths she refers to were those of “the false Duke Leopold”, who at first had agreed to the Constituent Assembly in Rome in 1848 only to occupy the Tuscany three years later with Austrian troops.

According to the noted Victorian literary critic and bibliographer Harry Buxton Forman, Casa Guidi Windows could not have been written without the example of Linton’s poem Dirge of the Nations. It remains unclear if Barrett Browning actually knew Linton’s revolutionary hymns, but she was friends with Walter Savage Landor and had exchanged views with him long before she and her husband Robert gave him asylum from his familial conflicts in the Casa Guidi. It therefore appears to be more obvious to assume an influence by Landor’s Italics cycle, whose traces can also be found in Linton’s poetry, than to consider Linton’s example behind this extraordinary piece of political poetry. But Barrett Browning’s views were more moderate and, in her monarchical tendencies, partly opposed to those of Landor and Linton. Before she became completely disappointed by the results of the Treaty of Villafranca - a topic she deals with in her Poems Before Congress - she had been a supporter of the Italian politics of Napoleon III. Mazzini in her opinion was an “extreme theorist” whose radicalness she held for being rather dangerous to the Italian cause. Linton doesn’t mention Barrett Browning in his recollections. In 1870 he executed the graver-work for an illustrated edition of Lady Geraldine’s Courtship, a very popular example of her early sentimental lyrics.