ERIK GRAY he two most prominent topics of Robert Browning's Men and Women (1855) are love and art. The former receives less critical attention, even though, as Wendell Stacy Johnson notes, "the specific subject of love between men and women is the major one of this collection. Of the fifty-one pieces in the two volumes of Men and Women, more than half are about love and marriage."1 The conspicuous role of art and artists, on the other hand, has always attracted comment; while the volumes were still in preparation, Browning wrote to a friend, "I am writing ... `Lyrics,' with more music & painting than before," and Elizabeth Barrett Browning informed her sister Arabella that "there will be in them a good deal of Italian art . . pictures, music."2 The two topics are explicitly brought together in the final poem of the collection, "One Word More," which serves as epilogue. Here Browning, speaking in propria persona, directly addresses the relation between art and love, and in particular he considers which of the arts is best capable of expressing human passion. Yet the question of the differing relations between love and the different forms of art is not
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
Published: Jan 19, 2012
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