Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Aurora Leigh” as Want to Read:
Aurora Leigh
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Aurora Leigh

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  1,520 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
Backgrounds and Contexts" includes thirty letters or letter excerpts by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning that trace Aurora Leigh s inception, evolution, and publication Seven contemporary documents on the "woman question," prostitution, socialism, and poetic theory place the text historically "Criticism" collects twenty-five assessments of Aurora Leigh from t ...more
Paperback, 584 pages
Published November 17th 1995 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1856)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Aurora Leigh, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Aurora Leigh

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Bookdragon Sean
May 17, 2016 Bookdragon Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jane Eyre Fans
What do you say to someone who tells you to stop being yourself? You love him and you want to marry him, and he comes out with that. He tells you to stop writing poetry; it’s something women can’t do well apparently, and he tells you to give it up. Essentially, he tells you to stop being you. Here is Romney’s ignorant argument to his Aurora:

“We get no Christ from you- and verily
We shall not get a poet in my mind."

Aurora does the right thing, she says the right things, and she walks away. She do
Actual rating is closer to 3.75 stars.

Ah, Aurora Leigh, how do I review thee?
Shall I recount the ways in which you made me cry,
the nights of frustration, the days of recluse,
since I had a dissertation to finish,
and you were just so damn unreadable?

Aurora Leigh is a weird book.

With that, I reworked my basic sigh of desperation while I was writing into the opening line of my dissertation, because this book is just fucking weird, man.

I regularly doubted if I should keep that introduction, but my
Kara Brockett
Nov 04, 2011 Kara Brockett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Maybe this poem fascinates me because I go to Baylor. Maybe these words excite me because I can stroll through the Armstrong-Browning library and see early drafts of Aurora Leigh in the author's own handwriting. Maybe EBB's living room furniture releases some abundance of curiosity in my mind that pops the words off the page. Maybe I like this poem because I know that EBB and I have read many of the same books and this produces some type of brain kinship.

I'm not really sure.

All I know is that I
Nov 26, 2007 Melanie rated it really liked it
I'm normally not a huge poetry fan (especially English poetry), but I make an exception for *Aurora Leigh.* A verse novel, an urban epic, a working wife and househusband: there's too much paradox here not to love it.
Feb 13, 2016 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm teaching this epic poem in my Victorian Poetry class this month, which has given me a chance to read it again for the first time in several years. I first read Aurora Leigh as a first-year college student in 1994 and was utterly blown away by the fact that a Victorian poem addressed so frankly the kinds of questions I was thinking about as a young woman in the late twentieth century. What kind of work should I do in the world? What kind of work did the world need? Could a poet help make the ...more
Aug 17, 2010 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I needed a break from my Gothic teen novels so decided to read this epic poem by one of my favorite poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I thought it was beautiful. It was a feminist story to some extent and a good attempt to describe what it is to be an artist/poet. I was touched by much of the imagery and eloquence in the writing. Was it an easy read, no. It took me a while to get through simply because I really had to concentrate on what I was reading. I guess it was a good thing I moved away fr ...more
Nov 14, 2008 Christin rated it it was amazing
I think I have always secretly wanted to be EBB/Aurora Leigh and that is why this text about the profound power of writing and the staggering beauty of reading gives my soul hope. Plus, it's a novel in verse. Could YOU write a novel in verse?
Nov 10, 2007 Aileen rated it liked it
I am surprised to say that I really liked this. I think if asked before I read it if I would enjoy Victorian feminist epic poetry, I would have answered with a definitive no. The plot of this is a bit predictable, but there are some really lovely images in here. And I was also a bit shocked by how violent it all was - mostly in metaphor, though not entirely. Which I think is pretty interesting when you hold it up alongside the idea of poetry as a feminine thing - both gendered female, if a poem ...more
Apr 01, 2016 Lucy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know that moment when you read a book and think, I would give anything to meet the author....Aurora Leigh is one of those books. It's an absolute tour de force, an amazing work of epic poetry while still retaining a cracking plot and enough ideas to deal with every ill in Victorian society. Seriously, this is a truly terrific piece of writing.
Sep 17, 2007 Joanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Readers should be greeted with a warning that this is a longer narrative poem than Paradise Lost. That being said, it's also a great story full of intrigue, references of Italy versus England, feminism, and literature. The love story, albeit very Jane Eyre, is also touching (although I'd like to imagine they're slightly more distant cousins than described). Aurora is a great female character and a wonderful individual in her own right. Her search for truth and poetry is admirable, as is the stor ...more
Katy Wilmotte
Oct 17, 2015 Katy Wilmotte rated it really liked it
"Aurora Leigh, be humble. Shall I hope/
To speak my poems in mysterious tune/
With man and nature?"
Here in this question is the novel's entire theme. It is Aurora's one desire to write poems beautiful and true. Poetry awakens her orphaned heart, poetry sets her soul on fire. This lengthy novel-poem is the story of a soul, a soul made beautiful by its love for art.
Lecturers and professors will pull out many other elements of the work: its feminist leanings, its reaction against socialistic movemen
Lynnee Argabright
This is epic poetry in narrative, which Elizabeth Barrett Browning attempted to give attention to in the Victorian novel-interested audience, and it was very successful. It also nicely gave details about the current culture, focusing for most of the book on life in the mid-nineteenth century. This follows the narrator, Aurora Leigh, from birth to age thirty, from her childhood in Italy to her move to "frosty" England, and back to Italy, from her denied proposal with Romney Leigh to her life with ...more
JoAnn Jordan
Dec 31, 2010 JoAnn Jordan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great novel in verse. Though long the story is well told. I had missed this masterpiece earlier in life and am quite glad to find it now.

I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy love stories or poetry.
Apr 22, 2007 Cody rated it really liked it
You'd think I'd eventually tire of reading about the plight of the struggling artist. Well, I guess I kind of have...but this is in verse...and gorgeously written!
Dec 25, 2011 Diana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So much fun to read. Elizabeth Barrett Browning takes "the narrative" to the next level, while suggesting some revolutionary ideas for the 19th century.
Sep 05, 2014 McKenzie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vic-lit, prose
“A cheerful genius suits the times, / And all true poets laugh unquenchably / Like Shakespeare and the gods.”

An ambitious and lovely book about a Victorian woman author struggling with her identity while attempting to balance her love interests.

This was an enchantingly well=painted picture of Victorian life. No matter how artfully conversant we can be, there are still more than ample opportunities for misunderstanding and missed chances. The tension of these human foibles is wonderfully rendere
Joseph Tepperman
so masterfully written! moreso than anything i've seen from her husband bob.
Aurora Leigh is a beautiful, sublime poem written in blank verse. The language, however, is not the only strong point of the poem. The character of Aurora is fierce and compassionate, as she adapts to her new life in Britain despite her stern aunt. Aurora is born to an English father and an Italian mother and happily spends her childhood among the mountains in Italy. When Aurora's mother dies when she is only four, her father continues to raise her in Italy among her mother's people. When Aurora ...more
This is not the edition I read, which was in library binding (that bluish stuff that's used to bind serials), and definitely didn't have annotations or critical comment. I might like all that, if I got it, but I didn't have it when I read the book.

I find that I remember the contents very poorly. I do remember (now that I'm reminded) that there were parts about Italy. Enough description, in fact, to convince me that I never want to go there, at least the part she describes. I've always been of th
Casey Harvey
Cited as both a novel and verse, Browning's modern epic Aurora Leigh raises everyday life into the ranks of other epic tales such as King Arthur or Hercules, arguing that a true epic poem mirrors reality and not some grandiose, mythic character and/or story. Following the story of the titular character in a true kunstlerroman, Browning highlights specific issues certainly central to the Victorian age of her writing and applicable to the current period: the role of the (female) artist, class bias ...more
Nov 15, 2011 Leslie added it
Shelves: college-books
Aurora Leigh is to Elizabeth Barrett Browning as the Prelude is to William Wordsworth--thus is the poetry class description. That statement has much truth though, since Aurora Leigh Browning's version of the poet's journey. However, her poetic journey is markedly different from Wordsworth's in that she focuses on the woman's journey and presents her story as an epic narrative in novel format. Aurora Leigh, the poem's heroine, struggles with what she feels is her calling to poetry, for she has to ...more
from BOOK ONE:

A book in one hand,--mere statistics, (if
I chanced to lift the cover) count of all
The goats whose bears are sprouting down toward hell.

I read books bad and good--some bad and good
At once: good aims not always make good books;
Well-tempered spades turn up ill-smelling soils
In digging vineyards, even; . . .
The world of books is still the world, I write,
And both worlds have God's providence, thank God,
To keep and hearten: with some struggle, indeed,
Among the breakers, some hard swimmin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 18, 2013 Falina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This very long poem revolves around the creation of a woman poet in the Victorian period and does include a central love story, but by the time I got to the romantic climax I was so overwhelmingly tired of it all that I didn't even get a little thrill, whereas a good angsty romance usually leaves me writhing on the floor, grinning like an idiot. Also, AL is a devout Christian, and there is a lot of stuff about god taking care of things, etc., which I, as an atheist, find excruciating. There are ...more
Rachel C.
Feb 05, 2016 Rachel C. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Karen
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . "It is rather when
We gloriously forget ourselves, and plunge
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's profound,
Impassioned for its beauty and salt of truth--
'Tis then we get the right good from a book."

A Gothic novel in blank verse. Reminded me a bit of "Jane Eyre." I thought the language was simply gorgeous, like a medieval tapestry.
Helen Walton
Jan 21, 2014 Helen Walton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's kind of Jane Eyre in verse with the hero a strange mixture of Mr Rochester and St John Rivers. But the plot - enjoyable as it is - is the least of pleasures of this book. The way she sustains the rhythm of poetry while telling the narrative is unsurpassed and their vision of the New Jerusalem between men and women at the end is just astonishingly beautiful. I own it in a lovely old 19th century edition and I adore it.
Moorhead Public Library
This is actually one of the only "Classics" I really enjoyed reading in school. It's a verse-novel about a woman writer in 19th century England and has everything: politics, religion, philosophy and most of all, great language.

Reviewed by: deb
The footnotes for the Oxford World Classics edition left much to be desired—I often felt that allusions or terms I already knew and/or thought were common knowledge were glossed, while more obscure moments were let pass without a note.
Oct 07, 2014 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure that everyone would be into this book, but I do. I love a strong female protagonist especially from the Victorian Era when they seemed so hard to come by.
May 29, 2007 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: victorian
I wrote a paper on this "verse-novel":

Potentialities of Alternated Color: Race and the Problem of Representation in Aurora Leigh.


It's a slog, no doubt, and some of it does not live up to modern feminist standards. (Or does it? The battle rages on.)

Has some truly wonderful moments:

We get no good
By being ungenerous, even to a book,
And calculating much help
By so much reading. It is rather when
We gloriously forget ourselves, and plunge
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's profound,
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Complete Poems
  • The Ring and the Book
  • In Memoriam
  • The Complete Poems
  • Hester
  • Selected Poetry (Poetry Library)
  • Dover Beach and Other Poems
  • The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins
  • The Green Dwarf: A Tale of the Perfect Tense (Hesperus Classics)
  • The Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne
  • The House of Life
  • Astrophel and Stella
  • Selected Poems
  • Hauntings and Other Fantastic Tales
  • The Complete English Poems
  • The Nether World
  • Spring Essence: The Poetry of Hô Xuân Huong
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the most respected poets of the Victorian era.

Born in County Durham, the eldest of 12 children, Browning was educated at home. She wrote poetry from around the age of six and this was compiled by her mother, comprising what is now one of the largest collections extant of juvenilia by any English writer. At 15 Browning became ill, suffering from intense head an
More about Elizabeth Barrett Browning...

Share This Book

“Earth's crammed with heaven...
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”
“Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret room
Piled high with cases in my father’s name;
Piled high, packed large,--where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning’s dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
My books!”
More quotes…