BROWNING, Robert (1812-1889). The Ring and the Book. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1868-1869.
4 volumes, 8° (170 x 102mm). (Occasional light spotting, volume III without blank R6 called for by Wise.) Uncut in original green cloth, blocked in black, spine lettered in gilt, brown endpapers (some inner hinges slightly split), each volume in cloth chemise, cloth slipcase. Provenance: presentation copy to Alfred Tennyson (title inscribed at head 'Alfred Tennyson -- from RB'). Exhibited: Grolier Club (1950s exhibition label).
FIRST EDITION of Browning's 'Roman murder story,' the fruit of five or six years' gigantic effort. The 12-canto poem was based on the criminal case brought against Guido Franceschini in 1698 for the murder of his 13-year old bride, Pompilia, and includes Pope Innocent XII -- Antonio Pignatelli -- as one of its outstanding characters. This PRESENTATION COPY TO ALFRED TENNYSON, who was reading the book at Farringford in February 1869, is tangible evidence of the warm friendship subsisting between the two poets, one that also extended to their wives, Elizabeth and Emily. At the christening of Tennyson's son, Hallam, in 1852, Elizabeth was not present but Browning 'held the baby and tossed it in his arms' (M. Ward Robert Browning, 1968-69, I, p. 203). It was at the Brownings on 28 September 1855 that Rossetti executed his memorable sketch of Tennyson, reciting aloud from Maud, Elizabeth occupying the other end of the sofa. Elizabeth's death in 1861, seven years before publication of The Ring and the Book, left Browning with a sense of loneliness memorably expressed in his poem through the character of Caponsacchi, the young canon who helps Pompilia fly from her husband, only to lose her forever as a result of the murder. His convivial friendship with Tennyson endured, and twenty years after publication of The Ring and the Book, the poet laureate commended the 'genius and geniality' of Robert Browning in the dedication to Tiresias and Other Poems (1885). Broughton A73; Wise Browning 12. (4)