|UND, Baylor scholars discover earliest known manuscript of Browning's most celebrated poetry|
UND scholar, writer, and Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor Sandra Donaldson, widely credited as one of the top experts on the work of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, recently unearthed a previously unknown manuscript of “Sonnets from the Portuguese.” Donaldson is general editor of the forthcoming “Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.”
“We identified a rough draft of one of the sonnets in a manuscript notebook that had been in private hands since 1915. This unique document is the author’s draft of ‘Sonnet Five,’ which opens, ‘I lift my heavy heart up solemnly,’”said Donaldson, who is a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of English and the Women Studies Program.
"No other draft of any of the sonnets has previously come to light, which makes this the discovery of the earliest known manuscript of the sonnet sequence," said Donaldson
The notebook was acquired at auction in 2008 by the Armstrong Browning Library of Baylor University. Library director Rita Patteson and Donaldson were transcribing the contents of the notebook when they noticed that lines at the conclusion of the last poem, “Ode to America,” were substantially different from previous stanzas. The key to the discovery was the appearance of a phrase from the end of “Sonnet Five,” “Stand off farther then! Go.”
“Sonnets from the Portuguese” was composed by Barrett Browning during her courtship with Robert Browning, which began in January 1845 with a letter from him and resulted in their marriage in September 1846. Forty-three sonnets in the sequence were first published in her Poems (1850). “Sonnets from the Portuguese” appeared in its final form when a forty-fourth sonnet was added in her fourth edition of Poems in 1856.
Publication of a transcription of the poem in the forthcoming “Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning” (Pickering & Chatto) will make this draft widely available to readers and scholars.
Donaldson’s work is funded in part by the Division of Research Programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
-- Juan Pedraza, Writer/Editor, University Relations, email@example.com, 777-6571