Friday, April 23, 2010


The Sonnets from the Portuguese were published in 1850 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. They comprise 44 poems largely written during the courtship of Elizabeth and her then suiter, Robert Browning. As such, they express first love, confusion and trepidation. Though Elizabeth did not want these poems to be published, Robert convinced her to do so which strengthened her position as a talented poet. The reasons behind the naming of the book have been the subject of much conversation. Some say that Portuguese was Robert’s pet name for Elizabeth, due to her dark skin. Others say that Elizabeth wanted to disguise the true subject of the poems, thus conforming to Victorian morals. Still others say Elizabeth wanted the poems to appear to be translated, so the title “from” reflects that they are not original works. Whatever the case, Sonnets from the Portuguese are now widely regarded as her masterpiece work. The Sonnets contain one of the most famous love poems ever written, sonnet 43, which asks the question “how do I love thee?”


This edition of the Sonnets was published in 1902. By this period in time, printing had largely lost its novelty and books were available and largely affordable to the masses. New technologies had created ways for pages to be printed more efficiently than in the past. Developments like self inking machines and larger presses allowed for more elaborate work.