The collection of manuscripts, photos and ephemera was offered in a Somerset books and manuscripts sale in 13 lots on September 8. It came for sale from a descendant.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, née Moulton-Barrett, was born in County Durham, the eldest child of a well-to-do family of Jamaican plantation owners. With 10 adult siblings, hers was a large family – as evidenced by a Moulton-Barrett family photograph album sold at £5400 (estimate £300-500).
Containing 120 portraits, many captioned on the mount or verso, these included carte de visites of Elizabeth Barrett Browning dated May 27, 1861, and another (with her son Robert known as Pen) dated Rome 1860. The 46-page album retained its original oak boards carved with the initials MEMB for sister Maria Elizabeth Moulton-Barrett.
An evocative pencil sketch attributed to another of her younger siblings, Alfred Price Moulton-Barrett (1820-1904), sold way over hopes at £4600 (estimate £100-200). This unfinished 7 x 5in (17 x 12cm) rendering of the poet seated on a couch holding her dog Flush is inscribed May 1845 – the month Elizabeth met Robert Browning and began one of the most famous courtships in literature. When the couple were secretly married the following year, they moved to Italy and Elizabeth was disinherited.
The most valuable element of this family archive, much of it available online via The Brownings: A Research Guide, was a group of original manuscripts. These included the Young Thucydides published as part of An Essay on Mind, With Other Poems in 1826 and several cantos with revisions and corrections of The Enchantress, a poem not published until 1913. Estimated at £5000-7000, they sold at £26,000.
The first of the publications printed after Elizabeth Browning’s death was The Greek Christian Poets and the English Poets… published in 1863 by Chapman & Hall. The copy offered here was a first edition in original cloth that was presented by Robert Browning to his sister in law. Inscribed to the title page To Octavius - with RB’s kindest love. March 13 63, it sold at £1900 (estimate £100-150). A buyer’s premium of 25% was charged.