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Robert Browning was born in 1812 in London, the son of a scholarly Bank of England clerk. He was largely home-educated, reading widely in his father's library and briefly attending the newly-established University of London. He began to write poetry at an early age, initially much influenced by Shelley. Early works including the drama Strafford (1837) attracted little attention from either critics or the public. A series of pamphlets under the collective title Bells and Pomegranates (1841-6), however, saw Browning develop the form of the dramatic monologue, a psychologically revealing self-contained speech by a dramatic character, with which he is chiefly associated, and includes many of his best-known poems. Browning's admiration of Elizabeth Barrett's 1844 Poems led to correspondence and eventually marriage in 1846, the couple settling in Florence and having a son in 1849. 1855's Men and Women, though poorly reviewed, was well-received by a group of readers including what would become the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. After Elizabeth's death in 1861, Browning settled in England. The Ring and the Book, a 'murder-story' told from ten different viewpoints in turn, was published serially in 1868-9; it is considered his masterpiece and finally won Browning critical and popular acclaim. Browning's output, though often critically undervalued, was undiminished in later years. He died in Venice, visiting his son, in 1889.
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