Robert Browning Collection
Robert Browning (1812-1889) first met Benjamin Jowett in June 1865 when he was making enquiries about the possibility of sending Pen to Balliol. Jowett wrote to Florence Nightingale, clearly impressed with his new acquaintance: "I thought that I was getting too old to make a new friend, but I believe that I have made one- Mr Browning the poet, who has been staying with me. It is impossible to speak without enthusiasm of Mr Browning's generous nature and his great ability and knowledge." Although Pen failed to meet Jowett's exacting standards in Greek and eventually went to Christ Church rather than Balliol, his father and Jowett enjoyed a long friendship. As a mark of his respect for Jowett, Browning presented him with several volumes of his poetry, now part of the college's Browning collection. Browning also joined one of Jowett's reading parties at Trummel Bridge in Scotland which was also attended by Swinburne. Jowett's lukewarm appreciation of some of Browning's poetry, which on one occasion he described as "extravagant, perverse" and "topsy turvy" appeared to do nothing to mar their relationship.
In 1867, partly as a result of his connection with Jowett, Browning became Balliol's first Honorary Fellow. He was granted rooms in college in 1868 and was often Jowett’s guest at college occasions. He took part in the banquet of Lent Term 1877 when the new Hall was opened. In June 1880 he attended the performance of the "Agamemnon" of Aeschylus in the college Hall, the first public performance of a play in Balliol. In 1890, after the poet's death, Jowett wrote to Florence Nightingale that there was to be a performance of Browning's Strafford at Balliol.
Browning himself started the donation of Browningiana to the college. In 1886 he presented his portrait painted by his son, which now hangs in the Library. After Browning's death Pen and Fannie Browning presented the college with more of his effects such as the Old Yellow Book, given by Pen, and Browning's Doctor of Civil Law gown, given by Fannie.
Correspondence relating to the acquisition of items can be found within the collection and is recorded below. Donors of items have been stated where known; the information being taken from the item itself, from a handwritten catalogue of the collection by Mynors or from Vincent Quinn's card index to parts of the collection. (Mynors' and Quinn's lists are kept together in the grill containing the Browning collection on the middle shelf near the window.)
I. Manuscript material by R.B., Browning family and others.
II. Relics connected with R.B. including works of art and photographs.
III. Published works by and about R.B. and E.B.B. including books given by R.B. to Jowett.
Many of the items in Balliol's collection of Browning material have been recorded in:
The Brownings' Correspondence: A Checklist . Kelly and Hudson. Browning Institute and Wedgstone Press. 1978.
The Browning Collections: A Reconstruction. Kelly and Coley. Baylor and Wedgstone Press. 1984.
Kelly and Hudson’s [KH] and Kelly and Coley’s [KC] references have been placed in square brackets for items described below.
R.B. Robert Browning
E.B.B. Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
A number of autograph manuscript items by and relating to Robert Browning are recorded in RAB Mynors' Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Balliol College, Oxford:
MSS 387 - 392 Original holograph texts of the later poems of Robert Browning (honorary fellow of the College 1867), written out on quarto paper with a varying amount of subsequent correction, and used as printer's copy. Contents:
387. Robert Browning, Balaustin's Adventure (published 1871) ff.1-104; f 105 blank; Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society (published 1871) ff 106-175; Fifine at the Fair (published 1872) ff.176-264. 6 blank + 264 ff.[condition: good] digital images available on request
390. Robert Browning, Pacchiarotto: and How he worked in Distemper (published 1876) ff.1-113; La Saisiaz: The Two Poets of Croisic (published 1878) ff.114-191. 6 blank + 191ff. [condition: good] digital images available on request
391. Robert Browning, Dramatic Idyls (published 1879) ff.1-51; Dramatic Idyls, second series (published 1880) ff.52-105; Jocoseria (published 1883) ff.106-183. 183ff. [condition: good]
[K.C E:4- 5, 13, 15, 18, 25, 27, 32, 35, 41, 48, 50, 61, 73, 87, 90, 92, 94, 105, 107, 110, 114, 125- 7, 131- 2, 138, 143, 156, 168, 173, 194, 199- 200, 210, 212, 220, 239, 242-3, 249, 258, 265,281- 3, 286, 265, 281- 3, 286, 289, 305, 309, 330- 2, 334- 5, 337- 8, 341, 351, 355, 359, 377- 8, 389- 91, 399, 426, 435, 437, 439, 455, 466, 473, 477- 8, 486, 500].
MS 393. A small volume bound in pigskin. Presented by TJ Wise in 1926. Original autograph letters and papers relating to Robert Browning: thirty letters of the years 1887-9, for the most part written jointly by the poet and his sister Sarianna to his son Robert Wiedemann Barrett Browning, jointly with his daughter-in-law Fannie; 9 letters from Sarianna to Fannie; 2 from Benjamin Jowett to RBB Browning after his father's death, and 1 from him to Miss Browning, giving the history of a suggestion that her brother should stand for the Oxford Professorship of Poetry; 2 letters and a 'newspaper' in Italian written by RBB Browning when a small child. Detailed description of contents here.
[K.H. 87:181-2, 87:213, 87:214, 27:229, 87:246, 87:255, 88:28, 88:34, 88:39, 88:77, 88:80, 88:85, 88:92, 88:99, 88:144, 88:152, 88:168, 88:174, 88:176, 88:222, 89:33, 89:64, 89:75, 89:175, 89:190, 89:204, 89:239, 89:241, n.d.:65- 8.]
[K.C. K:110-1, K:116, L:50,]
MS 394 includes 1 ALS from R.B. to George Eliot. (Mynors p364).[K.H. 78:124]
MS 420 includes 1 ALS from R.B. to Professor Campbell. (Mynors p369)[K.H. 68:124]
MS 421 includes 3 ALS from R.B. contained in MS 421 .
1 ALS from R.B. to Felix Moscheles. 30 Nov. 1887 [sic for 1883]. 1l. Donated E.Howlett 1942.
1 ALS from R.B. to Major Gillum. 17 June 1863. 1l. Donated J.N.Bryson. [K.H. 63:67]
1 ALS from R.B. to Lady Pollock. 18 Mar. 1874. 1l. Donated Charles Knapp. [K.H. 74:37]
The items below were previously kept in a box labelled "Lady Berwick" by EV Quinn. Quinn's list of the contents is reproduced below.
In addition to the items noted by Quinn the box also contains:
Some of the letters given by Lady Berwick mention the Brownings.
According to Quinn's list the box also originally contained the photograph of the catafalque of R.B., Nov. 1889 which is kept with the other photographs (see relics.)
The items below were previously kept in a marbled box file labelled "Browning" by Quinn.
Detailed description of contents here
The items below were previously kept in a second marbled box file labelled "Browning" by Quinn.
Detailed description of contents here
Contains papers relating to the FitzGerald family. Donated by Miss Mabel Purefoy FitzGerald:
Detailed description of contents here
Containing further material acquired from Miss FitzGerald:
The information below has been obtained from Quinn's cards in the brown index box, Mynors' handwritten catalogue of the collection, Meeting the Brownings, the exhibition catalogue produced by Baylor University and The Browning Collection: a Reconstruction. Some items were recorded in none of these guides.
Contains the following books some of which belonged to R.B.
Containing further books connected with the Browning family.
The material was previously kept in a box labelled "Relics" by Quinn. Contains:
The material was previously kept in a box labelled "the ring and the book" by Quinn. Contains:
(See below for photographs of the ring, book and portrait.)
Portrait of R.B. The entry for the portrait in John Jones The Portraits of Balliol College. A Catalogue (p9) is reproduced below. Presented by R.B. 1886. [K.C. K:34].
Bust of R.B. The entry from p 10 of Jones catalogue is reproduced below.
The following photographs, negatives and prints have been identified using Mynors catalogue, Quinn's index of "Relics", comments written by Quinn on envelopes containing photographs and Kelly and Hudsons' checklist. Details and locations of the photographs can be found on the photograph database. To facilitate use of the database the database code used for each album or box containing photographs has been given in square brackets.
Photograph album belonging to R.B. Oak cover with R.B's initial. Inscribed by Fannie Barrett Browning. Contains "cartes de visite" of his friends, relatives and himself. Given by the Rev. A.J.Whyte, 1924. The album was presented to Professor Knight by Fannie Barrett Browning; Knight bequeathed the album to Whyte.
A copy of the album is kept beside the box containing the original. The copy of the album also contains the photographs in the album in box "Browning 2." Negatives kept by Thomas Photos, Oxford.
[K.C. H:169]. [Dbase BP1].
Photograph album with leather cover. Memorial volume of photographs of those who took part in the centenary celebration at Westminster Abbey, 7 May 1912. Enclosed: 2 ALS from William Knight to Strachan Davidson re the service. 12 and 25 Sept. 1912.
[K.C. H:171]. [Dbase BP2].
Contains: Photograph of Hope End. The envelope in which the photograph was previously kept was labelled "Hope End. Original photo." by Quinn and contained a piece of paper with "Photograph of Mrs Browning's home at Hope End. (Given to Balliol College Library by Dr A.J.Whyte)" written on it by Mynors. [K.C. L:220].
Print or original photograph labelled on reverse "Camera occupata for Robert Browning in Asolo- ore hore posta una lapide che recorda le sua visite."
Photograph of R.B.'s catafalque. Presented by Lady Berwick 1967.
Photograph of Sarianna Browning, sister of R.B. Presented by Marchesa Fossi.
Photograph of Hope End garden entrance. Location: hanging on wall in annex between bays F and G. [K.C. L:220]. [Dbase BP4].
Contains: Negatives of: 4 portraits from R.B.'s photograph album described above (glass); photograph of Hope End (glass); Hope End sketch (see relics); photograph of Sarianna Browning described above; photograph of R.B.'s catafalque described above; MS 387 (see above); the ring; the title page of the old yellow book; the portrait of Guido Franceschini; bronze medallion of R.B. (see relics for the actual ring, book, portrait and medallion.)
Prints of: portrait of Guido Franceschini; the title page of the old yellow book; Sarianna Browning, R.B.'S catafalque; the ring; bronze medallion of R.B.; 2 portraits from R.B.'s photograph album; photograph of Hope End.
[LIBRARY BNPP in the NEGLOC field of the PHOTO database refers to negatives kept in this box.]
Photographs elsewhere in the collection:
Box: "Browning: Lady Berwick." Photographs of Robert Barrett browning, Fannie Barrett Browning and Miss Isa Blagden, friend of the Brownings. [Dbase BLB].
"Browning 2." Album compiled by Miss F.C.Carey. Photograph of R.B. from a magazine. [Dbase B2A].
"Browning: FitzGerald 1." Print of Miss Mabel Purefoy FitzGerald from R.B.'s album (see above.) Carte de visite photograph of [FitzGerald]. [Dbase BFITZ1].
"Browning FitzGerald 2." 2 carte de visite photographs of [Mrs FitzGerald]. [Dbase BFITZ2].
"Relics 1: Books." Photograph of the portrait of R.B. (see above.)
Listed in brown card index book by Vincent Quinn. The index has not been updated with more recent acquisitions. The index is divided into sections to cover the following categories:
The collection of published works includes Browning Society publications, articles on R.B., newspaper cuttings relating to R.B. (some from the 19th century pasted into a scrapbook), publications by the Baylor Library, Waco, Texas, exhibition catalogues, auction catalogues, papers relating to R.B.'s centenary (1989) and The Browning Newsletter.
The auction catalogues include:
Hobson Geoffrey Dudley. Preface to Browning Collections. Typewritten draft presented to A.C.R. Carter, correspondent to the Daily Telegraph. 5 pages; signed and dated 3 Apr. 1913. Bound with Carter's annotated and interleaved copy of Browning Collections. The catalogue is bound in black leather with "The Browning and Pembroke Sales" on the spine in gold lettering. [K.C. L:123].
All dedicated to Jowett in R.B.'s hand. Numbers prefaced by the initials J.L. refer to the class mark used for the books in Jowett's library. NB links below are for reference to the texts, and are not links to images of Balliol's copies of these works.
E.B.B. The Greek Christian Poets and the English Poets. London: Chapman and Hall. 1863. J.L. 5 d2 (J.L. 14 a 23 crossed out.) [K.H. C:37].
E.B.B. A Selection from the Poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. London: 1866. J.L. 5 d1. Located on opposite side of the grill from the other books presented by R.B. [K.H. C 148].
R.B. Dramatis Personae. Second edition. London: Chapman and Hall. 1864. J.L. 5d 3. [K.H. C:303].
R.B. The Ring and the Book. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1868. 4 vols. only the first vol. is annotated by R.B. J.L. 5 d3- 7. [K.H. C:528].
R.B. Balaustion's Adventure: Including a Transcript from Euripides. London: Smith, Elder and Co.. 1871. J.L. 5 d8 (J.L. 8a 14 crossed out.) [K.H. C:212].
R.B. Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society. London: Smith, Elder and Co. J.L. 5 d9 (J.L. 8a 15 crossed out.) [K.H. C:498].
R.B. Aristophanes' Apology. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1875. J.L. 5d 9 (J./L. 8a 9 crossed out.) [ K.H. C:196].
R.B. Agamemnon of Aeschylus. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1877. J.L. 5d 11. [K.H. C:182].
R.B. Dramatic Idyls. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1879. J.L. 5d 12. [K.H. C:262].
R.B. Dramatic Idyls. Second edition. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1880. J.L. 5d 13. [K.H. C:276].
R.B. Ferishtah's Fancies. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1884. J.L. 5d 15 (J.L. 8a 16 crossed out.) [K.H. C:309].
R.B. Asolando. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1890. J.L. 5d 16. [K.H. C:202].
R.B. The Poetical Works of Robert Browning. London: 1868. 6 vols. only the first vol. is annotated by R.B. Purchased 1952. [K.H. C477].
You do not need to request permission to download or print one copy of any of the images on these pages for your personal private study or research purposes.
The archives and manuscriptss of Balliol College are open by appointment to enquirers in person at the Historic Collections Centre in St Cross Church, Holywell.
Enquiries should be sent in writing (email or post) to the Archivist.
There is no charge for Archive enquiries, but donations for Archive purposes are always appreciated.