"Different Planes of Sensuous Form": American Critical and Popular Responses to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh and Last Poems: Annotated Bibliography, American Periodicals, 1856-62
In her dedication of Aurora Leigh to John Kenyon, Elizabeth Barrett Browning described her book as ‘‘the most mature of my works, and the one into which my highest convictions upon Life and Art have entered.’’2 Throughout her lifetime, from the publication of her first book in 1826, An Essay on Mind, through the publication of Poems Before Congress, the final volume of which was released before her death in 1861, she maintained her high poetic aspirations, often challenging poetic conventions with her diction, choice of subject matter, unconventional philosophies about women and their roles as poets and artists, and her stance on social, economic, and political issues of the day. The year 2006 marks the bicentennial of Browning’s birth, and it seems an opportune time to examine and to amplify, in some modest way, the bibliographical research done on Browning and her poetry. The purpose of this introductory essay and annotated bibliography is to examine previously undocumented reviews and essays of Aurora Leigh and Last Poems which appear in American periodicals during the years 1856-62. A second purpose is to record, through an explanation of the resources and methods utilized, how access to a new electronic database, the American Periodicals Series (APS) available from ProQuest, may augment the scholarship and bibliographic study of numerous nineteenth-century authors including Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Christina Rossetti, and Charles Dickens.