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1836-37 the dramatic poem "Strafford" appeared, dedicated to Macready, the great actor of the day; designed for scenic representation, and, in fact, presented on the stage by Macready himself. Too irregular and indefinite to meet with public favor, it ran a course of four or five nights and was withdrawn. In 1840 "Sordello" appeared, justly pronounced by modern critics to be "a chaotic mass of word-building," the errors of which the poet himself, in later years, acknowledged, and yet insisted that with care all difficulties would vanish and its purpose be clearly seen. Between "Sordello" and his marriage to Miss Barrett, in 1846, a higher and more varied form of literary work was accomplished, especially as seen in the two collections, "Bells and Pomegranates," and "Dramatic Romances and Lyrics." Such examples as "Luria," "The Return of the Druses," "Colombe's Birthday," "A Soul's Tragedy," "King Victor and King Charles," "Pippa Passes," "A Blot in the 'Scutcheon," "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," and "How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix" will sufficiently indicate the character of these respective collections. From the completion of this cycle of poems, in 1846, on through nearly two decades, to 1864, his pen was especially busy,

and with more than usual success.

The two char

acteristic collections of these eighteen years are seen in "Men and Women," in 1855, containing half a hundred poems, and in "Dramatis Personæ," 1864, marking the very close of the poetical period. Such well-known examples as "Andrea del Sarto," "Fra Lippo Lippi," "Pictor Ignotus," "Cristina," "Christmas-Eve and Easter-Day," "The Laboratory," and "The Confessional" will illustrate the general topic and character of this verse, produced, as it was, in the author's physical and mental prime. Hence, the comments of Stedman and others upon its high grade of merit are justified. From 1864 on, Browning was busier than ever, and down to the date of his death, December 12, 1889, was a man enthusiastically devoted to his work. Of these later productions, “The Ring and the Book," in 1869, is the longest and most unique. No one but Browning could or would have written it. It is a matter of congratulation to English readers that he wrote it, and wrote but one of its kind-its object, according to Professor Corson, being to show that "art is an intermediate agent of personality." In 1871 "Balaustion's Adventure" appeared; in 1872, "Fifine at the Fair "; in 1873, "Red Cotton Night

cap Country"; in 1875, "Aristophanes' Apology" and "The Inn Album"; in 1877, "Agamemnon"; in 1884, "Feristah's Fancies"; in 1887, "Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in Their Day"; and "Asolando: Facts and Fancies" appeared in the very year of his death, 1889. There is fertility here, if nothing else, scarcely surpassed by any English poet; and while there is a tacit conviction, in many minds, that bulk and brains are in the inverse ratio, it is due to all such voluminous authors to defer such decision till candid examination is made. Dickens, Scott, Bulwer, and Reade maintain their rank as standard novelists in the face of such a prejudice. A priori, as we take up Browning's poetry, we may logically give him the benefit of the doubt, presuming that literary affluence argues literary ability, as it certainly argues the presence of unwonted literary zeal and scope. We are now prepared to examine more minutely the poetry before us, and note,

BROWNING'S POETIC PERSONALITY

He has never been anything else than a poet. For better or for worse, he has never had but one supreme aim. In this, he is one of a few names in English letters so much himself that he is never

confounded with any other. The one who most strongly influenced him was his wife, and yet, in the radical elements of character and in final literary aims, no two British authors have been more unlike. Each sacredly maintained a distinctive personality in poetry, and each was thereby the stronger. One of the main reasons why this English poet has found such a welcome in certain circles, and is named as one of the first authors of Victorian verse, is found in this individuality of soul and art. He has, as a poet, his own theory, and from the outset has pressed it right athwart many of the accepted canons of the schools. So prominent, indeed, is this feature of individualism that we find therein one of the explanations of his partial failure in the higher drama. The personal element absorbed the impersonal; the life of one man that of all men; so that just where Shakespeare, the great cosmopolitan dramatist, succeeded, Browning failed. Even where, according to Professor Corson, this idea of personality takes objective form, as in "Saul," "Luria," and other poems, the individual character is portrayed rather than the generic class of characters of which it is an exponent. Specification takes the place of generalization; the local, that of the universal. He

has thus scorned, and purposely so, all authority, precedent, and suggestion. Though his contemporaries, Tennyson, Swinburne, Morris, Maththew Arnold, Rossetti, and others, have come under the same social and literary influences, he is always himself, and takes pride in his poetic egoism. Hence, as is true of all such independent minds, he may be said to have not only readers and admirers, but followers. Not a few of the younger poets of the Victorian Era keep him in view as they write, and attempt what is quite impossible a reproduction of his mind and method. So cautious a critic as Mr. Stedman concedes to him the honor of having founded a kind of school -"the new life-school" of modern England as distinct from the "still-life" order of earlier days. We are thus justified in speaking of Browning and his school, as of Tennyson and his school. Personality is power. As far as it goes, it always evinces some sterling qualities of soul and purpose, and, if avoiding the unhealthful extreme of eccentricity, enters as a vital factor into the sumtotal of every commanding character. It is thus that Mr. Cooke, in his carefully worded contrasts among Carlyle, Emerson, and Browning, always emphasizes this personal element, as he writes:

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