AURORA LEIGH. 'Aurora Leigh,' a narrative poem or "novel,p as Mrs. Browning herself termed it, was begun in Italy, and com pleted in London in 1856. This romantic auto biography in blank verse tells, in nine books, the story of its half-Enlish, half-Italian heroine; of her struggles to live by and for her art; and of the final triumph of her love for her cousin, the reformer Romney Leigh.
As a novel, 'Aurora Leigh' was immedi ately and enormously popular. But the poem holds other appeals to modern readers. Those who find its action undramatic, its characters unconvincing, its scenes unreal, its style too often that of rhetoric, not of poetry, will still turn to it as an inexhaustible mirror of its age. For in it lives mid-Victorian, England: its complacent wealth and appalling poverty; its ladies of fashion and its prostitutes; Its Fourierists and its Christian Socialists. It is in depicting the failure of Romney's reforms that Mrs. Browning voices the conviction that gives the poem its theme: "'Tis impossible To get at men excepting through their souls.
And poets get dif ectlier at the soul Than any of your economists." And some readers will prize 'Aurora Leigh' as the record of the heart and mind of Eliza beth Barrett Browning: her keen satire on the English social order; her fearless sympathy with its victims; her recognition of the poet as the true interpreter of modern life; her exaltation of the creative power of love. Such readers will find in 'Aurora Leigh,' the poem into which Mrs. Browning's "highest convictions upon Life and Art have entered," the record of a woman greater than her poem. For full bibliography, see 'The Cambridge History of English Literature' (Vol. XIII, Ch. 3). Con stilt also Montegut, Emile, 'Ecrivains moderns de l'Angleterre> (Deuxieme serie, Paris 1889) ; Texte, Joseph, 'Etudes de litterature euro peenne) (Paris 1898).