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Aurora Leigh

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  1,347 ratings  ·  59 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)
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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis CarrollWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeBleak House by Charles DickensVanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Nineteenth Century British: Victorian List
34th out of 77 books — 25 voters
Frankenstein by Mary ShelleyDracula by Bram StokerDubliners by James JoyceWuthering Heights by Emily BrontëThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Norton Critical Editions
163rd out of 235 books — 41 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,661)
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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
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
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.
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
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?
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
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
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
"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
JoAnn Jordan
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.
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!
So much fun to read. Elizabeth Barrett Browning takes "the narrative" to the next level, while suggesting some revolutionary ideas for the 19th century.
“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.
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.
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
Helen Walton
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
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.
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,
It's a bit too precious. I wondered at her: Both traditional and wise, she wants to be adored.
I'm no poetry fanatic so this rating is pretty crazy for me.
Aurora Leigh is a text that looks at the accessibility of women in the Victorian era. Not only is Aurora Leigh campaigning her right to write, but also to subconsciously defy her gender conventions. She fights the love she has for Romney Leigh to pursue her successful career, admittedly while she suffers for dismissing this love, without it she would not be able to meet the characters along the way which ultimately determine her ending. Whilst the ending of Aurora Leigh does not follow a determi ...more
Another case of the absent .5 star increment stifling my creativity and expression.
This is a great example of thoughtful and scholarly publishing making an old work relevant and accessible. High fives to Norton for moving beyond biography and getting into the meat of EBB's writing and not just harping on her personal life. The inclusion of relevant contemporary criticism as well as more recent scholarly essays made me sit up a bit straighter and get as much out of this work as I could. A refresh
J. Alfred
Barrett Browning's first published work (she was 14) was a long poem on the battle of Marathon in imitation of Pope. This, one of her last works, is her take on the epic: it is a brooding, Romantic thing, full of anxiety about the place of art in society and the place of the woman writer in the artistic tradition. It's The Odyssey mixed with Pride and Prejudice (sort of), and it is very much worthwhile, especially if one likes her Sonnets from the Portugese (one should!).
I am not very good at appreciating poetry, which is why I was so shocked to discover that I really liked this book. Then I realized that Aurora Leigh is a Victorian Novel in blank verse, so of course I would love it. Passions, drama, noble heroes redefining the meaning of the gentleman, the unending struggle with being a woman and a person.
Yep, Aurora Leigh is Jane Eyre in verse. And it was awesome!
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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
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“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!”
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