Happy Birthday Greetings
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
207th Anniversary of Her Natal Day
Rather than a letter today I offer a description of Mrs. Browning by Nathaniel Hawthorne written in Florence, June 9, 1858:
"Mrs. Browning met us at the door of the drawing-room, and greeted us most kindly - a pale, small person, scarcely embodied at all; at any rate, only substantial enough to put forth her slender fingers to be grasped, and to speak with a shrill, yet sweet, tenuity of voice. Really, I do not see how Mr. Browning can suppose that he has an earthly wife any more than an earthly child; both are of the elfin-race, and will flit away from him some day when he least thinks of it. She is a good and kind fairy, however, and sweetly disposed towards the human race, although only remotely akin to it. It is wonderful to see how small she is, how pale her cheek, how bright and dark her eyes. There is not such another figure in this world; and her black ringlets cluster down into her neck, and make her face look the whiter by their sable profusion. I could not form an judgement about her age; it may range any where within the limits of human life, or elfin-life. When I met her in London, at Lord Houghton's breakfast-table she did not impress me so singularly; for the morning light is more prosaic that the dim illumination of the great tapestried drawing-room; and besides, sitting next to her, she did not have occasion to raise her voice in speaking, and I was not sensible what a slender voice she has. It is marvellous to me how extraordinary, so acute, so sensitive a creature, can impress us, as she does, with the certainty of her benevolence. It seems to me there were a million chances to one that she would have been a miracle of acidity and bitterness."
Elsewhere Hawthorne noted that her speaking voice was, "...as if a grasshopper should speak."
Happy you could stop by our world, Mrs. Browning.