June 29, 2017
On this date in 1861 Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in Florence at the age of 55.
Years after her death, her husband Robert Browning found among the posthumously published letters of Edward FitzGerald—author of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám—a letter written directly after his wife’s death. FitzGerald wrote, “Mrs. Browning’s death is rather a relief to me, I must say: no more Aurora Leighs. . . . She and her sex had better mind the kitchen and the children.” Browning sent this poem in to the Athenaeum.”
To Edward FitzGerald
By Robert Browning
I chanced upon a new book yesterday;
I opened it, and, where my finger lay
‘Twixt page and uncut page, these words I read –
Some six or seven at most – and learned thereby
That you, Fitzgerald, whom by ear and eye
She never knew, “thanked God my wife was dead.”
Aye, dead! and were yourself alive, good Fitz,
How to return you thanks would task my wits.
Kicking you seems the common lot of curs –
While more appropriate greeting lends you grace,
Surely to spit there glorifies your face –
Spitting from lips once sanctified by hers.