Elizabeth Barrett Browning
'How do I love you, let me count the ways'.
The poet who penned one of the most popular love sonnets in the English language died in Florence on June 29th, 1861.
Sonnet 43 is part of the collection Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-61), which was first published in 1850. The curious title of the book is a homage to her husband, and fellow poet, Robert Browning, who called Elizabeth 'his own little Portuguese', on account of her olive complexion.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning is buried in Florence's 'English' Cemetery, which, in the month of April, is awash with irises. Her tomb was designed by the English artist Lord Leighton and created by the Italian sculptor Francesco Giovannozzi.
In 1846, Elizabeth Moulton-Barrett, then forty-years old, eloped with Robert Browning, who was six years her junior. The couple honeymooned in Paris before settling in Florence where they mostly lived until her death.
Robert Browning left Florence a month after his wife’s death, never to return. He never saw his wife's tomb, which doesn't bear her name, only her initials. There is no inscription, no lines from her verse, and the bas-relief of the woman's head, with its coronal of laurel leaves, represents not the poet, but an idealised image of Poetry.