Robert Browning (7 May 1812 – 12 December 1889) was an English poet and playwright whose mastery of dramatic verse, especially dramatic monologues, made him one of the foremost Victorian poets.
Browning was born in Camberwell, a suburb of London, England, the first son of Robert and Sarah Anna Browning. His father was a well-paid clerk for the Bank of England, earning about £150 per year. Browning’s paternal grandfather was a wealthy slave owner in St Kitts, West Indies, but Browning’s father was an abolitionist. Browning's father had been sent to the West Indies to work on a sugar plantation. Revolted by the slavery there, he returned to England. Browning’s mother was a musician. He had one sister, Sarianna. It is rumoured that Browning's grandmother, Margaret Tittle, was a Jamaican-born mulatto who had inherited a plantation in St Kitts. Robert's father amassed a library of around 6,000 books, many of them rare. Thus, Robert was raised in a household of significant literary resources. His mother, to whom he was very close, was a devout nonconformist as well as a talented musician. His younger sister, Sarianna, also gifted, became her brother's companion in his later years. His father encouraged his interest in literature and the arts.
By twelve, Browning had written a book of poetry which he later destroyed when no publisher could be found. After attending several private schools, he began to be educated by a tutor, having demonstrated a strong dislike for institutionalized education. Browning was a good student, and by the age of fourteen he was fluent in French, Greek, Italian and Latin. He became a great admirer of the Romantic poets, especially Shelley. Following the precedent of Shelley, Browning became an atheist and vegetarian, both of which he gave up later. At the age of sixteen, he attended University College London but left after his first year. His mother’s staunch evangelical faith prevented his studying at either Oxford University or Cambridge University, both then open only to members of the Church of England. He had substantial musical ability and composed arrangements of various songs.