[BROWNING, Elizabeth Barrett (1806-1861)]. -- EURIPIDES. Tragoediarum -- PORTUS, Aemilius. Breves notae in omnes Euripides Tragoedias. [Heidelberg: Hieronymus Commelinus, 1599].
Volume 2 (of 3) only, 8o (167 x 103 mm). Parallel Greek and Latin text. (Title loose with Browning's manuscript notes on separate leaf tipped at head, first gathering sprung, some spotting and occasional pale browning.) Contemporary calf, spine gilt-ruled (losses at spine ends, rear cover nearly detached); red quarter morocco slipcase.
"ROBERT & ELIZABETH BROWNING EORUM LIBER": THE YOUNG ELIZABETH BARRETT'S COMMENTARY ON HER READING OF EURIPIDES
An exceptionally interesting annotated volume, attesting to the young poet's close reading of the Greek dramatists. The front pastedown and two attached leaves are entirely filled with notes by Browning, totalling some 350 words. The text of the volume contains brackets or underlines on some 60 pages, plus comments or notes by Elizabeth on 20 pages, totalling about 150 words. On the top corner of the front pastedown is a joint ownership inscription in Elizabeth's hand: "Robert & Elizabeth Browning Eorum Liber," followed by a one-line inscription in greek, probably in Robert Browning's hand, with the note underneath "R.B. '63." Below, Elizabeth has added an index of the 10 plays contained in the volume, with the page on which they appear, and the dates on which she read them. The first, Rhesus, she notes, was "read...finished in Jany. 1832." The next nine record that she read steadily until the last play, the Danae was "read on the 12th of Feby. 1833." (She has written over the date in a different ink, to note that she read it at Hope End, the Barrett's family home near Ledbury).
On the bottom half of the same pastedown and on two pages of a now detached blank, Browning has recorded critical reactions to Euripides's works. Five of these are signed--presumably at a later date--with her initials ("EBB"). Of the Electra, she writes, "I thought it very inferior to the [illegible] of Aeschylus & the Electra of Sophocles. I did however extremely admire the last scene." She is more unimpressed by the Danae: "There is nothing in it, to be admired--or remarked." The Cyclops, read "early in April," at Hope End, she "did not like...In sentiment he is delicate: in wit he is coarse, and offers an instance, among the thousands, of nature, when outraged, turning round upon the outrager...I never will read the Cyclops again." At the bottom she explains that she finished the Keraclidae "on the 15th of April, &, I believe, liked it better than I otherwise should have done, from the circumstance of my having immediately before, read the Cyclops which I did not like at all. However, & in spite of the occasional turgidity...& want of dramatic effect, this composition does abound in noble & shining sentiments."
"I finished the Helena early in May. Some of the choruses are very picturesque & harmonious. And the scene between Helena Menelaus and Theonoe, is dramatic & noble. The intercession of the chorus with Theoclymenus, is extremely animated; where the change of meter to the tetrameter, produces, as in other places, a remarkable degree of effect. EBB." In another paragraph, she extols the Hercules furens: "It has delighted me very much; much more than anything in this volume. I will read it again, & remember it, in the meanwhile, with pleasure indeed. Few things in real life are as affecting as to see a man shed tears." At the end of her discussion of the Troades, she explains that "the speech of Andromache at page 99 exquisite--and I have marked other beautiful things. EBB." True to her word, on pages 99-100 she has carefully bracketed the speech in question, and added the note " all this is exquisite."
Her comments in the text, adding during her reading, are often of considerable interest: on page 83 in the Troades, she notes in the margin: "The change of metre beautiful"; opposite line 886, she comments "a remarkable passage." In the Helena, on pages 315-316, she brackets a lengthy section and adds in the margin "harmonious & very poetical." On page 515 of Hercules Furens is a 16-word allusion to Shakespeare.
Provenance: Elizabeth Barrett Browning (notes on pastedowns, annotations); -- Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (inscription) -- R.W. Barrett Browning (sale, Sotheby's, 6 May 1913, lot 660 -- Quaritch (Catalogue 326 (1913), item 43; [Gabriel Wells], New York; Douglas Maxwell Moffat (bookplate).
Adams E-1037 (pt. 1 only); Brunet II:1096; The Browning Collections, ed. Kelley & Coley, A895.