Although perhaps best known for “Sonnets from the Portuguese” (1850), Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote poetry that was often of a political nature, earning her a wide audience throughout the 19th century. Her first publication, a long poem in the style of Homer, The Battle of Marathon (1820), reflects the scholarship and talent of someone much older than her fourteen years at the time. The first collection of her work, An Essay on Mind, with Other Poems (1826), featured a long poem in the style of Alexander Pope’s essay poems. Having determined that writing was her calling, she subsequently published new collections titled after their lead poems, Prometheus Bound, and Other Poems (1833) and The Seraphim, and Other Poems (1838).
The work that won her recognition as an influential poet at the time was titled simply Poems (1844). Its two volumes contained “Lady Geraldine’s Courtship,” the most popular of the volumes’ poems; her revision of Paradise Lost, “A Drama of Exile”; a number of sonnets; the influential poem on child factory workers, ”The Cry of the Children”; and “Catarina to Camöens,” the poem most admired by her husband and reflected in “Sonnets from the Portuguese.” EBB substantially revised and added to these works, publishing editions of Poems again in 1850, 1853, and 1856. The 1856 edition, in three volumes, is the last of these that she had a hand in revising and serves as the copytext for the majority of poems in this project.
The last collection published in her lifetime was Poems before Congress (1860). Poems published subsequent to that volume and others left unpublished at her death in 1861 but that she indicated she wished to see published were collected by her husband, Robert Browning, in Last Poems (1862).