Elizabeth Barrett Browning (6 March 1806 – 29 June 1861) was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband, Robert Browning, shortly after her death.
Elizabeth Barrett Moulton Barrett was born on 6 March 1806, in Coxhoe Hall, between the villages of Coxhoe and Kelloe in County Durham, England. Her parents were Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett and Mary Graham Clarke; Elizabeth was the eldest of their 12 children (eight boys and four girls). All the children lived to adulthood except for one girl, who died at the age of four when Elizabeth was eight. The children in her family all had nicknames: Elizabeth's was "Ba". The Barrett family, some of whom were part Creole, had lived for centuries in Jamaica, where they owned sugar plantations and relied on slave labour. Elizabeth's father chose to raise his family in England while his fortune grew in Jamaica. The Graham Clarke family wealth, also derived in part from slave labour, was also considerable.
Elizabeth was baptized in 1809 at Kelloe Parish Church, though she had already been baptized by a family friend in the first week after she was born. Later that year, after the fifth child, Henrietta, was born, their father bought Hope End, a 500-acre (2.0 km2) estate near the Malvern Hills in Ledbury, Herefordshire. Elizabeth had "a large room to herself, with stained glass in the window, and she loved the garden where she tended white roses in a special arbour by the south wall" Her time at Hope End would inspire her in later life to write Aurora Leigh. She was educated at home and attended lessons with her brother's tutor. This gave her a good education for a girl of that time; she read passages from Paradise Lost and Shakespearean plays, among other works, before the age of ten. During the Hope End period, she was an intensely studious, precocious child. Her intellectual fascination with the classics and metaphysics was balanced by a religious intensity which she later described as "not the deep persuasion of the mild Christian but the wild visions of an enthusiast." The Barretts attended services at the nearest Dissenting chapel, and Edward was active in Bible and Missionary societies. Elizabeth was very close to her siblings and had great respect for her father: she claimed that life was no fun without him, and her mother agreed, probably because they did not fully understand what the business really was that kept him when his trips got longer and longer.