Reading in 2011 a compilation of 44 sonnets by perhaps the most essential Victorian woman poet, written in around 1846 and published in 1850, evokes much interest and introspection, especially when these poems have been subject to a great many amount of valuation, devaluation and criticism. Initially Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnets from the Portuguese” had seen as collection of heart-melting love sonnets, making apt use of the Petrarchan form. The passionate autobiographical content of these sonnets made them stand out and receive critical appreciation. But later on in the later half on the 19th and early 20th century, the publication of the series of love letters between the poet and her spouse Robert Browning, covering the span of their 20-month courtship devalued the compilation and glorified Elizabeth Barrett Browning as more of a complete woman than a poet. 20th on the other hand distinguished her poetic consciousness from her real-life persona and revaluated the poems. Now, after transcending a history of 150 years of criticism, it can be questioned that how would the reading of these poems in today’s world be.
The sonnets are no-doubt enriched in poetic substance- they are deeply romantic and stirring. The compilation can be seen an articulate description of the journey of love from first acquaintance to courtship to union and beyond. In the sonnets compiled earlier in the collection, we see a hesitant young maiden, pining for love yet lacking the confidence to pursue it. The very first sonnet “I thought once how Theocritus had sung” introduces the impulsive yet irreversible notion of love, whose manifestation with time and acquaintance is reflected in the sonnets thereafter. Number 3, one of the popular ones focuses on the cons that might arise out of cerebral incompatibility and revolve only with death. But number 13 testimonies the poet’s elevation