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Aurora Leigh

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,174 ratings  ·  119 reviews
This verse-novel tells the story of a female writer, balancing work and love. It is and based on Elizabeth's own experiences.

Excerpt from Aurora Leigh: A Poem in Nine Books
Aurora Leigh.
First Book.
Of writing many books there is no end;
And I, who have written much in prose and verse
For others' uses, will write now for mine, -
Will write my story for my better self,
As when
Paperback, Oxford World’s Classics, 361 pages
Published September 17th 1998 by Oxford University Press (first published 1856)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,174 ratings  ·  119 reviews

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Sean Barrs
May 15, 2016 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 d
Ruby Granger
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
I did very much enjoy this -- especially the first two books. Aurora Leigh grows into such a strong, enlivened character. Barrett Browning shows that she is not just intellectually equal, but intellectually superior to the men in her life, and her moral/philosophical beliefs (which are kind of Stoic?) provide much food for thought. A great proto-feminist novel.

This is an Epic Poem, but the plot is far from the kind of thing you find in Homer and Milton. It's a bildungsroman, following the progre
Czarny Pies
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Whimsical readers.
Shelves: english-lit
I am surprised how much I enjoyed this odd-ball work. It is feminist from a time when the word did not exist. As a verse novel it was highly experimental. As I am not aware of any other verse novels having been written since it would appear to be trial balloon that failed rather than an innovation.

Perhaps some versifier might consider a second attempt. As a reader I felt that the approach worked very well particularly in the first half. The events in the novel are banal and the characters are of
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 m
Kara Brockett
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
I believe / In no one's honour which another keeps, / Nor man's nor woman's.

Do we keep / Our love to pay our debts with?
It is rather pathetic, what is encouraged to soar and what is denied that extra gust of wind beneath its wings. More pathetic yet is when the status quo suckers bend over backwards to excuse the artificiality as if, pound for pound, the more neglected demographic did not meet the demands, layer by layer, pillar by pillar, defined by such vaunted categories as the e
Feb 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, uni
I mean... I liked the writing style but anything not furthering the plot seemed like poetically written bullshit tho... that is to say, I understood roughly 50% of this book lmao
Jun 25, 2017 marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: Dagny, Wanda
Free download available at Project Gutenberg. ...more
R.K. Cowles
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry-epics
3 3/4 stars
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
Courtney (courtney & books)
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-in-2017
This is a Victorian epic poem that I had to read for my Victorian Literature class. While it was rather long and at times opaque, I really did enjoy it. I'm not a quote person, but I found myself underlining passages and connecting with this book. This book is rather fascinating, especially because of the cast of characters who are quite complex. I even wrote my final paper on this, so you know I enjoyed it. I would love to come back to this in the future and really enjoy and tear apart this tex ...more
Nov 26, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brit-lit, victorian
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. ...more
Maan Kawas
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this verse-novel by Elizabeth Barrett Browning! The language is beautiful and flowing and the plot is engaging. The book addresses various themes and points, such as gender and stereotypes, social class, love, culture, and compassion.
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it
"Aurora Leigh" was meant to be Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB)'s crowning masterpiece. Whether it is or is not a masterpiece is up to the reader, I think. It is undoubtedly ambitious and unique. I think "Aurora Leigh" is a remarkable if imperfect epic poem about the value of the artist in society, the place of women in Victorian England, and Aurora's struggles to balance both those roles.

At 20, passionate, idealistic, and orphaned "Aurora Leigh" does the unthinkable--she rejects her wealthy cou
Liz Santiago
Aug 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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? ...more
A Mig
Feb 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
A recent friend of mine told me, back in 1910, that "There is an infinitely finer English novel, written by a woman, than anything by George Eliot or the Brontes, or even Jane Austen, which perhaps you have not read. Its title is 'Aurora Leigh,' and its author E.B. Browning. It happens to be written in verse, and to contain a considerable amount of genuinely fine poetry. Decide to read that book through, even if you die for it. Forget that it is fine poetry. Read it simply for the story and the ...more
Mary Mithrilil
Nov 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
First time I read an epic poem written by a woman: achievement unlocked. And what a journey this one is.
''I read a score of books on womanhood
To prove, if women do not think at all,
They may teach thinking.''

A study in womanhood, poetry, and art, set in Victorian society but with a diverse European character, Aurora Leigh is a catapult of revolutionary ideas that follow a young girl throughout her life as she discovers her passion for writing and disregard of societal norms, especially regarding
Apr 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had planned to take quarantine as a time to read more slowly and therefore give myself the opportunity to THINK.
Still, I enjoyed this novel-in-verse too much to make a labour of it, even when the labour is to my benefit. A grand defence of poetry and aestheticism against its fiercest rival...Socialism? Barrett Browning writes wholly of the 19th century, of her time. Of course, the past is neither dead nor past, and her themes have left me ponder, her style inticing me to read more and again. W
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is undoubtedly an important work, loaded with meaning, interesting as a female künstlerroman/bildungsroman or a feminist epic poem, but, Heavens, it was an awfully hard read.
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why more people haven't read this.

(I mean, I know why.... It's a Victorian novel in iambic pentameter.... But still...)
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
I would have given this five stars, if the story had ended after the girls eloped to Italy together
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Exquisite imagery and beautiful language. The first book in particular was magnificent! Unfortunately, the last ones did not create the same impression.
Oct 28, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
JoAnn Jordan
Dec 29, 2010 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.
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! ...more
Joseph Tepperman
so masterfully written! moreso than anything i've seen from her husband bob. ...more
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
So much fun to read. Elizabeth Barrett Browning takes "the narrative" to the next level, while suggesting some revolutionary ideas for the 19th century. ...more
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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!”
More quotes…