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Inscribed by Elizabeth Barrett to an Early Rival of the Heart, “That Miss Hurd”


London: Moxon, 1844

Turn of the century full navy morocco gilt, top edge gilt, others untrimmed. Original cloth bound in at the end. A near fine copy in a lovely binding.

FIRST EDITION of the book that brought Barrett fame. Presentation copy, inscribed by Elizabeth Barrett, “To Miss Heard, with the author’s regards, August 1844.” 

In the early 1830s, during the period of her infatuation with the blind classicist Hugh Stuart Boyd, Elizabeth jealously railed against various “young ladies in the neighbourhood [who] seem to me in the habit of going to see that poor man.” In an 1831 diary entry, Barrett singled out Miss Heard: “The society of that Miss Hurd [i.e. Heard] is as much valued as mine–as much! At least as much” (Forster, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: The Life and Loves of a Poet, pp. 56-57). Two of the poems in this volume were inspired by Boyd, whose first reaction was to deprecate the ABAB rhyme scheme of “Wine of Cyprus,” which was addressed to Boyd. Browning wrote back to defend her rhymes, adding, “I hope Miss Heard received her copy.”

The book that made the author famous, the Poems of 1844 inspired Robert Browning to write his first letter to her in January 1845: “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett … into me it has gone, and part of me it has become, this great living poetry of yours … I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart–and I love you too.” Elizabeth told a friend the next day, “I had a letter from Browning the poet last night, which threw me into ecstasies.” The two were secretly married the following year.

This is a delightful presentation copy of Barrett’s Poems, the book that brought her fame and inspired Browning to write to her.