BROWNING, Elizabeth Barrett (1806-1861). Aurora Leigh. London: Chapman and Hall, 1857 .
8° (181 x 118mm). (Preliminaries and final leaves slightly dampstained.) Contemporary vellum gilt, gilt edges (lightly soiled), morocco-backed blue cloth case. With autograph copy of the dedication to John Kenyon, one page, 8°, signed 'from your unforgetting EBB,' inscribed in a different hand at head and dated 39 Devonshire Place, October 17 1856, tipped onto dedication leaf (frayed at edges). Provenance: Charlotte Cushman (signature on title and bookplate) -- pencil note of purchase at sale of Miss Cushman's effects, Newport, 1909 -- Roderick Terry (bookplate), sold in part II of his sale, American Art, New York, 7 November 1934, lot 38, for $42.50 (£8 10s) -- purchased from James F. Drake, New York, 11 December 1941, $90.
FIRST EDITION, WITH A HOLOGRAPH COPY OF THE DEDICATION TO KENYON. Actually published on 15 November, 1856, Elizabeth's poem sold rapidly and drew enthusiastic responses from Ruskin, Leigh Hunt and the Rossettis among others, though the published reviews expressed some puzzlement over its length, earnestness or 'fantastic images.' John Kenyon (1784-1856), the dedicatee, was a philanthropist and minor poet who knew everybody. Elizabeth Barrett was his distant relative and soi-disant cousin. Meeting RB at a dinner party, he found him to be the son of a school fellow at Fort Bristol. 'The cupid of the courtship,' Kenyon first suggested that Robert meet Elizabeth on Holy Saturday in 1842, though in fact Browning's first letter to her was not written until January 1845, and it took 18 weeks and 27 letters to achieve a first meeting at 50 Wimpole Street on 20 May. The Brownings stayed with Kenyon at 3 Parade, West Cowes, Isle of Wight, from 6-22 September, 1856. Elizabeth's dedication first mentions that she finished Aurora Leigh under his roof. Judging it to be 'the most mature of my works, and the one into which my highest convictions upon Life and Art have entered,' she expresses her gratitude for a friendship 'far beyond the common uses of mere relationship or sympathy of mind.' Kenyon died at West Cowes on 3 December, leaving Elizabeth £4500 and Robert £6500, the investment of which gave them £700 a year and financial security. Kelley & Hudson p. :157 note the existence of another holograph copy of the dedication at Harvard. Barnes A11.