Manuscript Address Book of Robert Browning containing 600 names

Robert Browning
A map of late 19th century British cultural life and a guide to Robert Browning's huge network of literary, artistic and personal friends, as wel… Read more
Published in 1875 by -.

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Manuscript Address Book of Robert Browning containing 600 names by Robert Browning

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A map of late 19th century British cultural life and a guide to Robert Browning's huge network of literary, artistic and personal friends, as well as family members and the professional connections which nourished one of the most renowned literary figures of his time. 

Small black roan-bound notebook (8.5x13.5cm) with a gilt panel to each of the covers, gilt horizontal lines to the flat spine and the words: ‘Where is it?’ to the upper cover; small patch of rubbing to the roan above. Marbled endpapers, small chip to the marbling at the lower, outer corner of the first pastedown. Tabbed index along the fore-edge of pages in alternating black and red letters which shows heavy wear. 4 leaves per letter of the alphabet, so 92 leaves in all, printed with blue lines. First leaf of ‘A’ with heavy finger marking towards foreedge and some finger-marking throughout - this book has been heavily used. 

This manuscript dates from Browning’s time living in London at 19 Warwick Crescent and then 29 De Vere Gardens in west London, between around 1875 and his death in 1889. Unpublished, it is referred to as Manuscript AB6 by the editors of Robert Browning’s Correspondence and is the last of 4 known Address Books owned through his life by the poet, the others being held at Yale, University of Texas and the British Library whose address book for the period 1863-’75 this succeeds. In total, Browning has entered the names and addresses of 600 people, continuing to add names and to alter addresses right up until his death: the entry for Madame Darmesteter which records her move to Paris cannot be earlier than 1888, a year before he died. The 600 entries are spread over 50 of the book’s pages with an additional 4 blank pages to the rear also pressed into service for non-alphabetical entries including his son, Pen. Most entries are in ink with occasional pencilled additions, notably on the rear blanks. 

After Browning’s death the Address Book was inherited by Pen Browning who subsequently gave it to The Robert Browning Settlement in London where it formed part of their museum from around 1900 to 2022. The Settlement’s collection of personal items, photographs and paintings of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning was dispersed this summer. Laid in is Browning's visiting card from 29 De Vere Gardens and the Settlement's typed museum display label: 'ROBERT BROWNING'S ADDRESS BOOK'. 

By the 1880s Browning had become one of the most famous writers in the English-speaking world, and this document reflects the breadth of his personal friendships and professional connections. Its 600 individual names and addresses map the social network that sustained Browning during his last two decades and provide a map of British cultural life in the late 19th century: this after all was a man of immense acquaintance and social energy living in the most populous city on earth. Placed on one of the final blank endpapers is the copious entry for Browning’s complicated, beloved son with Elizabeth Barrett Browning: ‘Pen. Studio, 117 rue Notre Dame des Champs [crossed out] Hotel Maison Larenne, 1 rue du Depart, Gare Mont Parnasse. Paris Studio 15. Rue Campagne. Premiere Boulevard Mont Parnasse. Venice: Casa Foratti, S. Vio 373’. The poet’s extended family runs through the book with many entries for Brownings and an equal number of entries for the Moulton-Barretts at home and abroad who include ‘George Gordon, Moulton Barrett, Reform Club - Cercle Massena, Nice’, Henry Moulton-Barrett, Mrs Alfred and George Goodin Moulton Barrett who seems to have moved around repeatedly from Browning’s scrubbed out addresses. 

All of the major intellectual figures from Browning’s maturity are present. On the first page appears ‘Matthew Arnold’ with subsequent entries for ‘Thomas Carlyle, 5 Great Cheyne Row, Chelsea’ (a friend since 1839 G K Chesterton records that ‘Browning was, indeed, one of the few men who got on perfectly with Thomas Carlyle’). Here are Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his brother William as well as ‘W[illia]m Morris, 26 Queen’s Square, Bloomsbury’ and Browning’s major poetic contemporaries, Swinburne over on Putney Hill and ‘Alfred Tennyson, Farringford, Freshwater, I. of Wight. Aldsworth, Blackdown, Haslemere’ as well as his son, Hallam. Even Browning’s entry for his erstwhile suitor Lady Ashburton does not quite suggest the sundering that is usually attributed to the couple after her marriage proposal: ‘Lady Ashburton, Kent House.’ 

The proportion of women recorded among Browning’s friends is striking - the ratio is about 1 woman to every 2 men listed. Among these are many figures of distinction such as ‘Bessie Belloc, 11 Great College St. Westminster’ (editor of the first feminist British periodical) and Britain’s first qualified woman physician - ‘Mrs Garrett Anderson, M.D. 4 Upper Berkeley Street, Portman Sq. S.W.’ It is noticeable that Browning frequently records a wife’s name before that of her husband, so his friendship with the Arab horse breeder Isabella Blunt comes first: ‘Lady Anne Isabella & Sir Wilfrid Blunt, 10 James St. Buckingham Gate, S.W.’ Browning does not seem to have known George Eliot, though her philosopher partner George Lewes - ‘G.H. Lewes, The Priory, 21 North Bank, Reg.ts Pk’ is here. There are also very many lesser known entries for women friends - ‘Miss Tyson Amherst’, ‘Miss Astley and Beatrice Astley‘ etc - who will certainly repay further investigation. 

Among intellectuals and artists Browning’s address book verges on the comprehensive. Here is the whole of the pre-Raphaelite movement working outwards from the movement’s central figures like ‘John Everett Millais, R A. Palace Gate, K[ensingto]n’, ‘William Rossetti, 56 Euston Square’ and ‘5 Endsleigh Gardens’ as well as ‘Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Tudor Lodge, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea’, Edward Burne-Jones and Alma Tadema to the more peripheral members of the group such as Valentine Cameron Prinsep, ‘Mrs Higford Burr 23 Eaton Place’, the English watercolourist who worked with Rossetti and ‘Mad.[am]e Darmesteter, 9 rue Bara, Paris’ who had run a salon for the Pre-Raphaelite movement before she moved to Paris in 1888. Here too are Sir Henry Irving, Fanny Kemble (at several addresses), the artist Richard Doyle, Edmund Gosse, Frederick Locker Lampson, Leslie Stephen at ‘22 Hyde Park Gate, S.W.’ (where the infant Virginia Woolf was probably already living) and Darwin’s bulldog, T H Huxley. Although the major cultural figures of early nineteenth century London were no longer alive, their descendants do appear in entries for Henry Dickens, Lord Coleridge and Sir Percy Shelley. 

As befits this notably well-travelled poet, his address book is nothing if not cosmopolitan. More foreigners appear in the book’s pages than people living in the English provinces - this is a profoundly metropolitan document that indexes the primacy of London in these decades. There are Germans, Italians and Americans in London such as the poet ‘James Russell Lowell, 31 Lowndes St. S.W.’ (presumably from his time in the early 1880s as Minister to England). And there are Americans in America who included Browning’s soon to be daughter-in-law: ‘Miss Fannie and Miss Marie Coddington 42. Fifth Avenue, N.Y.’, ‘Mrs Fitzgerald, 51 Fifth Avenue, N.Y.’, ‘Mrs Elliott Roosevelt, 29. East 38th Stret, N.Y.’ and a couple of New Englanders. 

And then there is Italy with the names of numerous ex-patriate Britons and Americans there, from ‘Mrs Bronson, Ca[sa] Alvise Canal Gr. Venez[iana]’ (this was Katherine Dekay Bronson, the dedicatee of Asolando) to the author of A Garden in Venice, ‘Fred[erick] Eden, Palazzo Barbarigo, Venezia in addition to ‘Violet Paget, 5 via Garibaldi, Florence’ who wrote supernatural stories as Vernon Lee. Finally the British establishment forms the backbone of this manuscript with its lawyers, medics, Members of Parliament and many milords and ladies as well as several of the most significant political figures of the time, including (as he moved into and out of the seat of power) ‘W.E. Gladstone 10 Downing St. Whitehall, S.W. [crossed out] 73 Harley St.W. [crossed out] Hawarden Castle, Chester’ and Joseph Chamberlain.

Full details

Publisher -
Date published 1875
First edition Yes
Signed Yes
Product code 7888

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