Children’s letters from EBB

Here is Christel Brouwer’s first blogpost:

While looking through the Browning Letters corpus (Baylor) I found two very interesting children’s letters from Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB). The first letter was written in 1814 by an 8-year-old EBB, and it contains the following message:

Madam I request you to accept this little story for 3s & if you would buy this yourself & write copys to be sold for the public. I am Madam your most obedient humble Servant Elizabeth Barrett  You owe me 8d for other thing.

EBB at about 9 years old (source: Brownings’ Corrspondence)

The letter is addressed to her mother Mary Moulton-Barrett. According to the Brownings’ Correspondence, Mary took pride in EBB’s accomplishments and spent much time copying her daughter’s poems and other literary endeavours. Mary Barrett did not write professionally, but she did write long, chatty personal letters and kept a journal. She put a lot of effort into the schooling of her children, which can be deduced from comments she made on EBB’s childhood writings. It appears also that she played a sort of game with EBB, serving as “publisher” for some of her daughter’s writings. This children’s letter fits in with the alleged publisher-game, as the contents are written as if EBB is talking to a publisher about money.

The second child letter from EBB is from 1816, when she was 10 years old. She wrote it to her grandmother Elizabeth Moulton, and it contains the following message:

I dedicate this little volume to her whose smile ever cheers my endeavours to please, to her who shines an ornament to her sex, and all around her– To her, my dearest Grandmama, these pages are inscribed, with the greatest gratitude and esteem by her affectionate child Elizabeth B Barrett.

The bond between Elizabeth and EBB was strong, and according to Brownings’ Correspondence she gave EBB grandmotherly advice. Though she was occasionally distressed by her granddaughter’s pursuit of scholarly knowledge at the expense of more feminine activities, their love was deep. When Elizabeth passed away, her son Edward found a letter assigning £4,000 “to my darling Elizabeth with all my trinkets I wish it were more for her sake”. The letter above also shows the love EBB had for her grandmother.

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