Dearest Isa: Robert Browning's Letters to Isabella Blagden

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Robert Browning's friendship for Isabella Blagden was almost as remarkable as was his love for Elizabeth Barrett. After Elizabeth's death (June 1861), Browning went to England to educate their son, but he hoped eventually to return to Italy, principally so that he might be near his friend Isa. He asked her to write to him once a month on the twelfth, promising to answer her letter on the nineteenth. The fulfillment of this obligation resulted in a correspondence which is remarkable from the standpoint of continuity. Most collections of letters suffer from their fragmentary form; there are no continuing threads of interest which hold them together. Not so the letters which Browning wrote to Miss Blagden. They are not in the great English letter writing tradition, being obviously written for Isa rather than for posterity, but they are filled with the most intimate and interesting sort of gossip and informal exchanges of ideas which give them a character all their own. One hundred and fifty-four letters from Browning to Isabella Blagden are known to be in existence; all of them are included in the present volume, together with copious explanatory notes and an illuminating introduction. Edward C. McAleer has approached every detail of his editorial task with thoroughness, imagination, and skill. His notes will add immeasurably to the pleasure of reading the letters, in addition to making a substantial contribution to the world's knowledge of Browning and his associates.