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John Graham-Clarke owned Jamaican sugar plantations, ships trading between Newcastle and Jamaica, a brewery, flax spinning mills, and glassworks. Her father's parents were Charles and Elizabeth Moulton —who had married in Jamaica on 28 August Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett's fortune came not from his father, who soon separated from his wife, but from his maternal grandfather, Edward Barrett —owner of Cinnamon Hill, Cornwall, Cambridge, and Oxford estates on Jamaica's north side: more than 10, acres in total Barrett Edward Barrett's income was ' fifty thousand a year ', his great-granddaughter told fellow poet Robert Browning —during the courtship recorded in their famous love letters Correspondence The desire to hand down the family's patronymic together with its wealth explains the doubled Barrett in the poet's maiden name.

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By all three of Edward Barrett's sons had predeceased him, making his two grandsons by Elizabeth MoultonEdward and Samuel Barrett Moulton —his principal male heirs. A clause in the will of his son George Goodin Barrett — had made legacies for the Moulton sons conditional on their adding and bearing ' the Surname of Barrett ' on turning twenty-one.

In they successfully obtained a royal licence to do so. Their grandfather then added a clause to his own will stipulating that all heirs to his Jamaican estates ' use the surname of Barrett '. The poet's father customarily shortened his name to Edward Moulton Barrettwithout hyphenation; his descendants adopted the hyphenated form after his death in Barrett37, 44, x.

The poet herself customarily retained the forename Barrett and dropped the surname Moultonusing Elizabeth Barrett Moulton Barrett only for legal documents like her marriage certificate. When she did not refer to herself as Bathe pet name family members and close friends called her by throughout her life, she ed her letters and poems during her maiden years with varying forms of Elizabeth Barrett Barrettoften simply using ' EBB '. She used ' Elizabeth B. Barrett ' for The Seraphim, and other Poemsher third published collection and the first to bear her name.

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In the two-volume Poems that established her international fame and prompted Browning to write to her on 10 Januaryshe identified herself, more resoundingly, as ' Elizabeth Barrett Barrett '. As the courtship progressed, Browning happily noted that, in marrying him, she would remain ' EBB ' Correspondence After their marriage on 12 SeptemberElizabeth Barrett Browning maintained her characteristic use of her ature initials. A charming instance appears in a fair copy of the anti-slavery poem 'The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point'dating from autumn Here the ature ' EBB ' in her hand is enclosed in brackets added in Browning's hand and preceded by his underlined word ' my ' Armstrong Browning Library, D Her ature practices have been ignored by biographers and critics, who usually identify her as ' Elizabeth Barrett ', as ' Mrs Browning ', or, since the s feminist revival of interest in her works, as ' Barrett Browning '.

Yet the poet rarely identified herself by the first two names, while the third is an anachronistic formation. Given her own practice and the continuity between her maiden and married identities conveyed by her initials, this article henceforth refers to her as EBB. EBB's explanation of her complicated name to Browning in has provoked some speculation about her ancestry:. Nevertheless it is true that I would give ten towns in Norfolk if I had them to own some purer lineage than that of the blood of the slave! Citing this passage, Julia Markus concluded in that the poet ' believed that she had African blood through her grandfather Charles Moulton ' Markus Although Markus was not the first to contend that EBB had African blood, evidence does not support the speculation.

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There were racially mixed branches of the Barrett family: for example, the children of the poet's great-uncle George with Elissa Petersa slave. He freed these children and directed in his will that they be educated in England and take up residence in countries where ' distinctions respecting colour ' were ' not maintained '; the oldest of these, Thomas Petersvisited Coxhoe Hall in January Barrett36, However, genealogical research has uncovered no indication of African blood in EBB's lineage Marks; Barrett What the poet herself may have believed is another matter. Yet there is no mention of possible mixed ancestry in the hundreds of letters written by EBB and the Barrett family published in part or whole.

Moreover, the poet's remarks imply that the ' curse ' she speaks of does not stem, as Markus infers, from the Moulton side in Norfolk where Moultons date back to the sixteenth centurybut from the Barrett side. Given her reference to the ' Commination service ' for sinners, and her anti-slavery sentiments, it is more likely that EBB was alluding to the Barrett family's complicity in the ' curse ' of profiting from the blood of slaves, as she shared her family history with Browning. His father also had Jamaican ancestors on the maternal sidealthough Robert Browning sen.

Inwhen the Emancipation Act abolishing slavery in British colonies was passed, EBB declared that she was ' glad ' that ' the negroes ' were ' virtually—free! During the courtship she also ironically discussed with Browning the ' infinite traditions ' of her ' great great grandfather ' Samuel Barrett — who had ' flogged his slaves like a divinity ' ibid.

Treppy believed in ' the beatitude of the slaves ', but EBB presents a very different picture in 'The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point'portraying a slave woman who has been whipped, raped, and impregnated cursing her oppressors. The humane attitude that EBB's father and uncle adopted towards their slaves spared them from the worst effects of the Jamaican slave uprising of —2 Barrett Yet a kind of curse did seem to shape the Barrett family's history, manifested in thirty-eight years of chancery litigation among Edward Barrett's various descendants over slaves, cattle, and land beginning inaggravating the financial reverses experienced by his heirs as sugar prices dropped.

In her early years EBB was relatively untroubled by her family's Jamaican roots.

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She passed her childhood and youth at Hope End, an idyllic estate in Herefordshire near Ledbury, where her father had a Turkish-style mansion built to accommodate his growing family. By virtue of her age, force of character, and precocity, Ba reigned over her siblings in the nursery. The result of her irrepressible literary activity is one of the largest bodies of juvenilia produced by any English writer.

She breathlessly records how, at six, she began reading novels; at eight she was enraptured by Pope's translations of Homer ; at ten she began to study Greek with Bro's tutor Daniel McSwiney ; at eleven she began writing her own Homeric epic The Battle of Marathon ; and on her fourteenth birthday in she exulted to see her epic privately printed in fifty copies a gift from her father. Wolstonecrafts system ' ibid.

EBB's 'Glimpses' closes with contracting possibilities on the verge of her fifteenth year, as the girl who had aspired to mount Pegasus mourns the departure of Bro for Charterhouse and the formal education denied to his gifted sister. During this period her life was also transformed by an illness that struck all three Barrett daughters, but left lasting marks on only the eldest, who passed almost a year in a Gloucester spa. Her symptoms, as detailed by Dr William Coker [ sic for Cother ], included head and back pains, loss of mobility and appetite, debility, and regular ' paroxysms ' accompanied by convulsive twitching of the diaphragm.

Dr Cother offered the tentative diagnosis of spine disease, acknowledging ' positive proofs ' were wanting Correspondence1. Evidence indicates that EBB did have a serious illness; she did not bring her suffering on herself, as the story recorded in the Dictionary of National Biography suggests, by falling and injuring her spine while impatiently trying to saddle her pony Moses alone. The symptoms of her adolescent illness also differed substantially from the chronic lung disease that later afflicted her in The treatments she received—opiates, cupping, the use of setons passing thread or tape on a needle through folds of skinand suspension in a spine crib—may also have increased her debility Forster24—5.

She was to become dependent on opiates, a standard medical treatment, throughout much of her life. As Alethea Hayter notes, the effect of opium on ' an integrated personality with a brilliant imagination ' may have contributed to the sensory vividness and metaphoric originality of her poetry Hayter In her mid-thirties EBB recalled the exuberant aspirations predating her adolescent illness in a wryly whimsical sketch of a girl named Beth Correspondence1.

Ten-year-old Beth is a ' warrior ' and a ' poet ', who plans to become Lord Byron's lover, wear men's clothes, ' live on a Greek island ', and become the ' feminine of Homer. Many persons w d. But Beth ' had one great misfortune. She was born a woman. Undeterred by her physical weakness, however, she directed her spirit of conquest to learning and poetry instead.

EBB's long apprenticeship reflects the lack of opportunity she experienced as a woman in an isolated setting, with no access to higher education. Other poems followed, including 'Stanzas on the Death of Lord Byron' in Landon L. Some of this reading is reflected in the title-poem of An Essay on Mind, with other Poemscombining her passion for Byron and Greek politics with an exploration of the human mind's powers. The poem never directly considers how gender influences genius and the prospects for fame. But clearly this is an underlying concern, as it is in 'The Development of Genius'a long Byronic poem that she worked on in —7, only to have it condemned by her father as ' insufferable ' in its hero's ' egotism ', ' most wretched ', and ' beyond [her] grasp ' after he had read less than half of it Correspondence1.

The days were past when Puppy was uniformly delighted with the achievements of the Poet Laureate of Hope End. EBB's correspondence with Price on classical Greek pronunciation was cut short by his death inbut her friendship and correspondence with Boyd lasted from until his death in Boyd was blind, but the two studied Greek together, Boyd drawing on his wide knowledge of classical poetry and EBB working as his amanuensis. Bored with country-house life and knowing no young men who interested her, she embraced this opportunity for intellectual partnership as zealously as Dorothea in George Eliot's Middlemarch embraces the pedantic Casaubon.

And Boyd responded, presenting her with a splendid edition of Homerinscribed in Greek, ' For the nearest and dearest ', words which she inscribed in turn in a diary she kept from June to April Diary The diary reflects her reading of KeatsShelleyand other writers, as well as her complicated feelings for Boyd and the tensions these created with Mrs Boydwhom EBB quietly scorned as ' [e]mpty minded ' ibid.

In the same period EBB emphatically expressed her family's whig sympathies to Boyd in letters about the first Reform Billdescribing Bro's speaking for the reform cause and exulting, when the bill was passed, that the English were ' a freer people ' Correspondence3. Her keen interest in politics had been stimulated by her close relationship with her uncle Samuelmember of parliament for Richmond in Yorkshire from 10 March to Februaryuntil he left England to oversee the family's Jamaican estates. The year was a time of dramatic change for the Barrett family as well as for the nation.

Financial difficulties intensified by Edward Moulton Barrett's legal disputes forced the sale of Hope End. With characteristic secrecy about his affairs, he did not discuss the sale or plans for their new residence with his children, leaving EBB ' haunted ' by the fear the family might move to Jamaica Correspondence2. On 23 August the Barretts left for rented accommodation in Sidmouth, where they lived from August to December She later condemned her translation as a ' Prometheus twice bound ' ibid. Yet the production of an accurate translation of Aeschylus by a young woman with no university training remains an extraordinary feat.

EBB's distinctive voice begins to emerge in the ball she published in periodicals and annuals during the s, including 'The Poet's Vow' and 'The Romaunt of the '. She was encouraged in the writing of these by the older, successful woman writer Mary Russell Mitfordwhom she met in Mayafter her family moved to 74 Gloucester Place, London. Mitfordwho came to act as a literary mother to EBB and became her most regular correspondent, was introduced to her by John Kenyon —a wealthy distant cousin of her father's who shared her literary interests and the Barretts' Jamaican connections.

It was a propitious time for her. The move to London, which became permanent when the Barretts settled into 50 Wimpole Street in Aprilpromised to open up a stimulating world.

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In June The Seraphim, and other Poems appeared, including her ball and numerous other works.

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