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Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Politics of Childhood

Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Politics of Childhood BEVERLY TAYLOR mazed that despite her prolonged invalidism and two previous miscarriages she was able to bear a child at age forty-three, Elizabeth Barrett Browning viewed her son, Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning--nicknamed Pen--as something akin to a fairy changeling, and her prolific letters document a remarkably indulgent attitude toward the behaviors and capacities of children. She believed that children should never be forced to study, that they would come to all that is needful in their own time. She admonished her sister Henrietta, herself the mother of a young son, not to rush the boy's studies, for "a child learns most when he plays."1 Rather reluctantly, she began teaching Pen to read at age four only "because he chose it himself," and "to give him the opportunity of amusing himself with story-books, fairy tales and the rest"--but she emphasized, "not as a beginning to his education!--the fairies forbid it. I have not forgotten my liberty-plans."2 Her educational philosophy was decidedly non-utilitarian--when she planned to teach Pen something "useful," she realized with amusement that she was thinking of mythology.3 Pen himself sometimes demanded more practical skills: nearly six and envying his male cousin's accomplishment, he asked his mother to http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Victorian Poetry West Virginia University Press

Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Politics of Childhood

Victorian Poetry , Volume 46 (4) – Jan 24, 2008

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Publisher
West Virginia University Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 West Virginia University
ISSN
1530-7190
Publisher site
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Abstract

BEVERLY TAYLOR mazed that despite her prolonged invalidism and two previous miscarriages she was able to bear a child at age forty-three, Elizabeth Barrett Browning viewed her son, Robert Wiedeman Barrett Browning--nicknamed Pen--as something akin to a fairy changeling, and her prolific letters document a remarkably indulgent attitude toward the behaviors and capacities of children. She believed that children should never be forced to study, that they would come to all that is needful in their own time. She admonished her sister Henrietta, herself the mother of a young son, not to rush the boy's studies, for "a child learns most when he plays."1 Rather reluctantly, she began teaching Pen to read at age four only "because he chose it himself," and "to give him the opportunity of amusing himself with story-books, fairy tales and the rest"--but she emphasized, "not as a beginning to his education!--the fairies forbid it. I have not forgotten my liberty-plans."2 Her educational philosophy was decidedly non-utilitarian--when she planned to teach Pen something "useful," she realized with amusement that she was thinking of mythology.3 Pen himself sometimes demanded more practical skills: nearly six and envying his male cousin's accomplishment, he asked his mother to

Journal

Victorian PoetryWest Virginia University Press

Published: Jan 24, 2008

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