Title:Elizabeth Barrett Browning's (re)visions of slavery.
Source:English Language Notes, June97, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p29, 20p
Author:Stauffer, Andrew M.
Abstract:Presents an in-depth analysis into the works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Manifestations of Browning's involvement with American abolitionists in her works; Authority of the published texts of Browning; Historical genres in Browning's works; Specimen of anti-slavery themes in Browning's pieces.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's (re)visions of slavery

In order to read Elizabeth Barrett Browning's abolitionist poems accurately, we must first sort out their publication histories, which have often been neglected by her critics. Scholars of Barrett Browning's work have been eager to connect "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" and "A Curse for a Nation" to the transatlantic abolitionist cause, recognizing that these poems first appeared in Boston, in a gift-book called the Liberty Bell, published annually (beginning in 1839) and sold at the National Anti-Slavery Bazaan.[1] This fund-raising event, organized by a committee of female abolitionists headed by Maria Weston Chapman, raised money to support the distribution of anti-slavery propaganda, particularly the National Anti-Slavery Standard.[2] However, Barrett Browning's critics invariably turn to texts of these poems that were published in England, in Poems (1850) and Poems Before Congress (1860).[3] This introduces problems, for the Liberty Bell texts of both poems show substantial differences from the later versions, involving not just words and punctuation, but entire stanzas. In addition, most of Barrett Browning's critics have asserted or implied an erroneous date of original publication for both poems, arising from the practice of dating Christmas annuals for the coming year. Sorting out these textual matters is crucial to any coherent consideration of the poems.



The poems' first venue, The Liberty Bell, found its place on the bazaar tables with items of a less political nature, including "ladies' aprons, cloaks, cuffs, bags, purses," "knitted quilts," "inkstands," "Ohio cheese," and "dolls in hundreds of every size, price, material, and costume."[4] Orchestrated to appear during the Christmas season, the Liberty Bell was a kind of abolitionist stocking-stuffer. Its sponsors (Chapman specifically) reflected in January of 1848,



The purpose of this little annual volume, commenced in 1839, and now published for the ninth time, is, the promotion of the cause through the promulgation of its principles in an attractive form....Hence it is that no mere indifferent literati, however intellectually gifted, nor any known enemies of the cause or of its advocates, have ever been permitted to occupy these pages?



Apparently, ideological purity, as well as an adequate sense of the aesthetic, was required for contributors to the annual.[6]

Barrett Browning's "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" appeared in the Liberty Bell dated 1848, and "A Curse for a Nation" appeared in the one dated 1856. Yet Ralph Thompson explains that "Only the first issue is dated with the actual year of publication; the others, in accordance with a custom common enough at the time, are dated with the year 'for' which they were intended."[7] Thompson's study seems to have been ignored or misconstrued by Barrett< Browning's critics, almost all of whom have assumed that these poems were published in December of 1848 and 1856, respectively.[8] But since, like other Christmas-season annuals, the Liberty Bell was dated for the upcoming year rather than the one that was ending, "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" was actually first published in December of 1847, and "A Curse for a Nation" in December of 1855.[9]



An examination of the National Anti-Slavery Standard, published in New York as the weekly organ of the American AntiSlavery Society, confirms Thompson's report and sheds more light on Barrett Browning's involvement with the American abolitionists. Advertisements for the yearly anti-slavery bazaars, and retrospectives on them, appear frequently in the pages of the Standard. In the January 20 edition for 1848, the Standard printed the following:



The Liberty Bell was thought to be this year more than ever beneficial to the cause... The noble poem of Passion and Power, by Elizabeth BarrettBrowning, will do more than scores of essays, to make the hard-hearted and luxurious feel the terrible nature of the evil on which their luxury is founded.[10]



The next week, the Standard printed "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point," stating that it was taken "From the Liberty Bell."[11] Similarly, in the January 5 edition of 1856, we find another discussion of the Liberty Bell:



The appearance again of this valuable and pleasant book, which, for so many years, constituted almost the whole anti-slavery literature of the country, out of newspapers, will be welcome to all the old-line Abolitionists... We copy this splendid poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, with which the book opens, as a specimen.[12]



"A Curse for a Nation" follows. These commentaries, not catalogued by Sandra Donaldson in her excellent bibliography,[13] demonstrate that our first-publication dates for the Barrett Browning poems need to be adjusted. We see also that her poetry was readily adopted by the American abolitionists; both the Standard and the Liberator reprinted many of her poems in the 1840s and 1850s.



The earlier dates make more sense in light of the composition histories of both poems. We know, for example, that Barrett Browning had sent "The Runaway Slave" to America by February 8, 1847, on which date she wrote to Mary Russell Mitford,



just finished my rough sketch of an antislavery ballad & sent it off to America, where nobody will print it, I am certain, because I could not help making it bitter. If they do print it, I shall think them more boldly in earnest, than I fancy now.[14]



The imagined delay in publication (from January of 1847 to December of 1848) has led some critics to assume erroneously that Barrett Browning's poem was indeed "too ferocious," as she called it in an 1846 letter to H.S. Boyd,[15] and was thus "held over."[16] Similarly, David DeLaura's helpful suggestion concerning the occasion for "A Curse for a Nation" acquires more force when one considers the poem's actual publication date. Working from a letter by Robert Browning which cites the "Ostend Assemblage" as the reason for the inclusion of "A Curse" in Poems Before Congress, DeLaura posits that historical event as the occasion of the poem's composition. As DeLaura says,



The Manifesto had urged that the United States should attempt to buy Cuba, and if that failed, that it should consider taking it by force. Southern political leaders wished to annex Cuba as another slave state .... The notorious 'Ostend Manifesto' was in fact signed by the chief American diplomats... October 15, 1854."[17]



The poem appeared in the Liberty Bell in 1855, and therefore would have been written in more immediate protest of that October 1854 event; as Robert Browning writes, the poem was an admonition to the Americans "to set their own house in order."[18]



Published in the Liberty Bell, both "The Runaway Slave" and "A Curse" are quite different poems from the ones that appear later in Poems (1850) and Poems Before Congress (1860). Not only their linguistic structures, but their meanings as abolitionist poems, change as they migrate from these American periodicals back to England. For example, when "A Curse for a Nation" was published in Poems Before Congress -- a volume espousing Italian liberation and criticizing England's policy of non-intervention -- many English readers assumed that the "curse" was directed at their own "nation," and condemned it as "hysterical" and "unpatriotic."[19] "A Curse for a Nation" becomes a chameleon poem, taking on the political coloring of the texts that surrounded it. For contemporary readers, its new context (in Poems Before Congress) effectively removed coherent political moorings and silenced its abolitionist message.



A more thorough study of Barrett Browning's manuscripts is necessary in order to better determine the authority of these published texts. However, the versions of "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" and "A Curse for a Nation" that appeared in the Liberty Bell have undeniable bibliographical significance as the texts through which Barrett Browning raised her voice in concert with the American abolitionists. In addition to these Liberty Bell texts, I have appended a partial collation presenting the more substantive alterations made to the poems for their appearance in the later volumes. Keen attention paid to Barrett Browning's revisions of her abolitionist poems helps to illuminate her struggles with the curse of slavery.[21]

"The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point"


Liberty Bell text (pub. 1847) Poems text ("New Edition,"
pub. 1850)

3.2 ye knelt 3.2 I knelt

-- 7 Indeed we live beneath the
sky.

That great smooth Hand of
God, stretched out

On all His children fatherly,

To bless them from the fear
and doubt,

Which would be, if, from this
low place,

All opened straight up to His
face

Into the grand eternity.

7.6 whippoorwill 8.6 weep-poor-will

8.6 Slave looked so at another
Slave,-- 9.6 Could a slave look so
at another slave?--

10.5 trembled, he sate 11.5 shook, he smiled

11.3 Backward and forward I
sang it along, 12.3 Upward and downward I
drew it along

11.4 With my sweetest
notes, it was still 12.4 My various notes; the
same,

12.7 Thou wilt not speak
today! 13.7 How wilt Thou speak
today? --

13.3 ours was cast to wrack? 14.3 if each turned to lack?

13.5 him--why, I 14.5 him...where?..I

14.4 stifle the sob in my
throat thereby. 15.4 strangle the sob of my
agony.

17.7 his master's right. 18.7 his master right.

18.5 like a mother mild, 19.5 and made him mild--

24.7 rise 25.7 sit

25.6 fine finger in 26.6 sharp finger from

26.7 I told yon of, for good. 27.7 I learnt in my
maidenhood.

28.5 first faint 29.5 earliest

29.4 a noisome thing! 30.4 snakes that sting!

30.2 seven abreast, 31.2 five a-breast,

30.3 grace 31.3 joy

32.5 My own child after. 33.5 My very own child! --

35.6 deep black death
where our kisses 36.6 death-dark where we may
kiss

"A Curse for a Nation"


Liberty Bell text (pub. 1855) Poems Before Congress text
(pub. 1860)

"Prologue"

-- 7 For love of freedom which
abates Beyond the Straits:

For patriot virtue starved to
vice on

Self-praise, self-interest,
and suspicion:

7.2 classes rent. 8.2 bribes well-meant.

10.3 There are women who 11.3 Some women

"The Curse"

1.4 chain 1.4 brand

1.6 This is the curse -- write! 1.6 This is the curse.
Write.[20]

5.3 whole world's 3.3 old world's

3.5 On babes and women -- 3.5 In strangling martyrs, --

5.5 Shall ye bless 5.5. Shall favor

7 Ye shall watch while rich
men dine, 7 [delete stanza]

And poor men hunger and pine

For one crust in seven;

But shall quail from the
signs which present

God's judgment as imminent

To make it all even.

This is the curse -- write!

9.3 And sicken afar; 8.3 As if carried too far.

10.1 write taunts on 9.1 cast taunts at

10.5 Strike back 9.5 Explode

11.1 Go! while 10.1 Go, wherever

11.2 Plant on 10.2 Go, plant

11.5 the witnessing universe, 10.5 God's witnessing
Universe

from The Liberty Bell, by Friends of Freedom, for 1848: (published December, 1847 in Boston for the National Anti-Slavery Bazaar)

The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I.

I STAND on the mark, beside the shore,

Of the first white pilgrim's bended knee;

Where exile changed to ancestor,

And God was thanked for liberty.

I have run through the night -- my skin is as dark --

I bend my knee down on this mark --

I look on the sky and the sea.

II.

O, pilgrim-souls, I speak to you:

I see you come out proud and slow

From the land of the spirits, pale as dew,

And round me and round me ye go.

O, pilgrims, I have gasped and run

All night long from the whips of one

Who, in your names, works sin and woe!

III.

And thus I thought that I would come

And kneel here where ye knelt before,

And feel your souls around me hum

In undertone to the ocean's roar;

And lift my black face, my black hand,

Here in your names, to curse this land

Ye blessed in Freedom's, heretofore.

IV.

I am black, I am black,

And yet God made me, they say:

But if He did so -- smiling, back

He must have cast his work away

Under the feet of His white creatures,

With a look of scorn, that the dusky features

Might be trodden again to clay.

V.

And yet He has made dark things

To be glad and merry as light;

There's a little dark bird sits and sings,

There's a dark stream ripples out of sight;

And the dark frogs chant in the safe morass,

And the sweetest stars are made to pass

O'er the face of the darkest night.

VI.

But we who are dark, we are dark!

O God, we have no stars!

About our souls, in care and cark,

Our blackness shuts like prison-bars!

And crouch our souls so far behind,

That never a comfort can they find,

By reaching through their prison-bars.

VII.

Howbeit God's sunshine and His frost

They make us hot, they make us cold,

As if we were not black and lost;

And the beasts and birds in wood and wold,

Do fear us and take us for very men;--

Could the whippoorwill or the cat of the glen

Look into my eyes and be bold?

VIII.

I am black, I am black,

And once I laughed in girlish glee;

For one of my color stood in the track

Where the drivers' drove, and looked at me:

And tender and full was the look he gave!

A Slave looked so at another Slave,--

I look at the sky and the sea.

IX.

And from that hour our spirits grew

As free as if unsold, unbought;

We were strong enough, since we were two,

To conquer the world, we thought.

The drivers drove us day by day:

We did not mind; we went one way,

And no better a liberty sought.

X.

In the open ground, between the canes,

He said "I love you," as he passed:

When the shingle-roof rang sharp with the rains,

I heard how he vowed it fast.

While others trembled, he sate in the hut

And carved me a bowl of the cocoa-nut,

Through the roar of the hurricanes.

XI.

I sang his name instead of a song;

Over and over I sang his name: Backward and forward I sang it along,

With my sweetest notes, it was still the same!

But I sang it low, that the slave-girls near

Might never guess, from what they could hear,

That all the song was a name.

XII.

I look on the sky and the sea!

We were two to love, and two to pray,

Yes, two, O God, who cried on Thee,

Though nothing didst thou say.

Coldly thou sat'st behind the sun,

And now I cry, who am but one,--

Thou wilt not speak today!

XIII.

We were black, we were black,

We had no claim to love and bliss --

What marvel, ours was cast to wrack?

They wrung my cold hands out of his --

They dragged him -- why, I crawled to touch

His blood's-mark in the dust -- not much,

Ye pilgrim-souls, --though plain as THIS!

XIV.

Wrong, followed by a greater wrong!

Grief seemed too good for such as I;

So the white man brought the shame ere long

To stifle the sob in my throat thereby.

They would not leave me for my dull

Wet eyes! -- it was too merciful

To let me weep pure tears, and die.

XV.

I am black, I am black!

I wore a child upon my breast,--

An amulet that hung too slack,

And, in my unrest, could not rest!

Thus we went moaning, child and mother,

One to another, one to another,

Until all ended for the best.

XVI.

For hark! I will tell you low -- low --

I am black, you see;

And the babe, that lay on my bosom so,

Was far too white -- too white for me.

As white as the ladies who scorned to pray

Beside me at church but yesterday,

Though my tears had washed a place for my knee.

XVII.

And my own child -- I could not bear

To look in his face, it was so white:

So I covered him up with a kerchief rare,

I covered his face in, close and tight!

And he moaned and struggled as well as might be,

For the white child wanted his liberty,--

Ha, ha! he wanted his master's right.

XVIII.

He moaned and beat with his head and feet--

His little feet that never grew!

He struck them out as it was meet

Against my heart to break it through.

I might have sung like a mother mild,

But I dared not sing to the white-faced child

The only song I knew.

XIX.

And yet I pulled the kerchief close:

He could not see the sun, I swear,

More then, alive, than now he does

From between the roots of the mangles -- where?

I know where! -- close! -- a child and mother

Do wrong to look at one another,

When one is black and one is fair.

XX.

Even in that single glance I had

Of my child's face,--I tell you all,--

I saw a look that made me mad,

The master's look, that used to fall

On my soul like his lash,--or worse,

Therefore, to save it from my curse,

I twisted it round in my shawl.

XXI.

And he moaned and trembled from foot to head,--

He shivered from head to foot,--

Till, after a time, he lay, instead,

Too suddenly still and mute;

And I felt, beside, a creeping cold,--

I dared to lift up just a fold,

As in lifting a leaf of the mango fruit.

XXII.

But MY fruit! ha, ha! -- there had been

(I laugh to think on 't at this hour!)

Your fine white angels,--who have seen

God's secret nearest to His power, --

And gathered my fruit to make them wine,

And sucked the soul of that child of mine,

As the humming-bird sucks the soul of the flower.

XXIII.

Ha, ha! for the trick of the angels white!

They freed the white child's spirit so;

I said not a word, but day and night

I carried the body to and fro;

And it lay on my heart like a stone -- as chill;

The sun may shine out as much as he will,--

I am cold, though it happened a month ago.

XXIV.

From the white man's house and the black man's hut

I carried the little body on;

The forest's arms did around us shut,

And silence through the trees did run!

They asked no questions as I went,

They stood too high for astonishment,--

They could see God rise on his throne.

XXV.

My little body, kerchiefed fast,

I bore it on through the forest -- on --

And when I felt it was fired at last,

I scooped a hole beneath the moon.

Through the forest-tops the angels far,

With a white fine finger in every star

Did point and mock at what was done.

XXVI.

Yet when it all was done aright,

Earth twixt me and my baby strewed,

All changed to black earth,-- nothing white,--

A dark child in the dark,-- ensued

Some comfort, and my heart grew young;

I sate down smiling there, and sung

The song I told you of, for good.

XXVII.

And thus we two were reconciled,

The white child and black mother, thus;

For, as I sang it,-- soft and wild,

The same song, more melodious,

Rose from the grave whereon I sate!

It was the dead child singing that,

To join the souls of both of us.

XXVIII.

I look on the sea and the sky!

Where the Pilgrims' ships first anchored lay,

The great sun rideth gloriously!

But the Pilgrims' ghosts have slid away

Through the first faint streaks of morn!

My face is black, but it glares with a scorn

Which they dare not meet by day.

XXIX

Ah, in their stead their hunter-sons!

Ah, ah! they are on me! they form in a ring!

Keep off,-- I brave you all at once,--

I throw off your eyes like a noisome thing!

You have killed the black eagle at nest, I think;

Did you never stand still in your triumph, and shrink

From the stroke of her wounded wing?

XXX.

(Man, drop that stone you dared to lift!--)

I wish you, who stand there, seven abreast,

Each for his own wife's grace and gift,

A little corpse as safely at rest,

Hid in the mangles! yes, but she

May keep live babies on her knee,

And sing the song she liketh best.

XXXI.

I am not mad,-- I am black!

I see you staring in my face,--

I know you staring, shrinking back,--

Ye are born of the Washington race!

And this land is the Free America,--

And this mark on my wrist,-- (I prove what I say)

Ropes tied me up here to the flogging-place.

XXXII.

You think I shrieked there? not a sound!

I hung as a gourd hangs in the sun;

I only cursed them all around

As softly as I might have done

My own child after. From these sands

Up to the mountains, lift your hands

O Slaves, and end what I begun.

XXXIII.

Whips, curses! these must answer those!

For in this UNION, ye have set

Two kinds of men in adverse rows,

Each loathing each! and all forget

The seven wounds in Christ's body fair;

While He sees gaping everywhere

Our countless wounds that pay no debt.

XXXIV.

Our wounds are different -- your white men

Are, after all, not gods indeed,

Nor able to make Christs again

Do good with bleeding. Wewho bleed,--

(Stand off!) --we help not in our loss,

We are too heavy for our cross,

And fall and crush you and your seed.

XXXV.

I fall,-- I swoon,-- I look at the sky!

The clouds are breaking on my brain:

I am floated along, as if I should die

Of Liberty's exquisite pain!

In the name of the white child waiting for me

In the deep black death where our kisses agree,--

White men, I leave you all curse-free,

In my broken heart's disdain!

ENGLAND.

from The Liberty Bell, by Friends of Freedom, for 1856: (published December, 1855 in Boston for the National Anti-Slavery Bazaar)

A Curse for a Nation
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
PROLOGUE.

I heard an angel speak last night,

And he said, "Write!

Write a nation's curse for me,

And send it over the western sea."

I faltered, taking up the word --

"Not so, my lord!

If curses must be, choose another

To send thy curse against my brother.

"For I am bound by gratitude,

In love and blood,

To brothers of mine across the sea,

Who have stretched out kindly hands to me."

"Therefore," the voice said, "shalt thou write

My curse to-night!

From the summits of love a curse is driven,

As lightning from the tops of heaven."

"Not so!" I answered. "Evermore

My heart is sore

For my own land's sins! for the little feet

Of children bleeding along the street.

"For parked-up honours, that gainsay

The right of way!

For almsgiving through I door that is

Not open enough for two friends to kiss.

"For an oligarchic parliament,

And classes rent.

What curse to another land assign,

When heavy-souled for the sins of mine?"

"Therefore," the voice said, "shalt thou write

My curse to-night!

Because thou hast strength to see and hate

An ill thing done within thy gate."

"No so!" I answered once again --

"To curse, choose men;

For I, a woman, have only known

How the heart melts and the tears run down."

"Therefore," the voice said, "shalt thou write

My curse tonight!

There are women who weep and curse, I say,

(And no one marvels) night and day.

"And thou shalt take their part tonight --

Weep and write!

A curse from the depths of womanhood,

Is very salt, and bitter, and good."

So thus I wrote, and mourned indeed,

What all may read;

And thus, as was enjoined on me,

I send it over the western sea.

The Curse.

I.

Because ye have broken your own chain

With the strain

Of brave men climbing a nation's height,

Yet thence bear down with chain and thong

On the souls of others,-- for this wrong

This is the curse -- write!

Because yourselves are standing straight

In the state

Of Freedom's foremost acolyte,

Yet keep calm footing all the time

On writhing bondslaves,-- for this crime

This is the curse -- write!

Because yourselves are standing straight

In the state

Of Freedom's foremost acolyte,

Yet keep calm footing all the time

On writing bondslaves,-- for this crime

This is the curse -- write!

Because ye prosper in God's name,

With a claim

To honour in the whole world's sight,

Yet do the fiend's work perfectly

On babes and women -- for this lie

This is the curse -- write!

II.

Ye shall watch while kings conspire

Round the people's smouldering fire,

And, warm for your part,

Shall never dare -- O shame!

To utter the thought into flame

Which burns at your heart.

This is the curse -- write!

Ye shall watch while nation's strive

With the bloodhounds -- die or survive,

Drop faint from their jaws,

Or throttle them backward to death,

And only under your breath

Shall ye bless the cause.

This is the curse -- write!

Ye shall watch while strong men draw

The nets of feudal law

To strangle the weak;

Ye shall count the sin for a sin,

But your soul shall be sadder within

Than the word which ye speak.

This is the curse -- write!

Ye shall watch while rich men dine,

And poor men hunger and pine

For one crust in seven;

But shall quail from the signs which present

God's judgement as imminent

To make it all even.

This is the curse -- write!

When good men are praying erect

That Christ may avenge his elect

And deliver the earth,

The prayer in your ears, said low,

Shall sound like the tramp of a foe

That's driving you forth.

This is the curse -- write!

When wise men give you their praise,

They shall pause in the heat of the phrase,

And sicken afar;

When ye boast your own charters kept true,

Ye shall blush! -- for the thing which ye do

Derides what ye are.

This is the curse -- write!

When fools write taunts on your gate,

Your scorn ye shall somewhat abate

As ye look o'er the wall;

For your conscience, tradition, and name

Strike back with a deadlier blame

Than the worst of them all.

This is the curse -- write!

Go! while ill deeds shall be done,

Plant on your flag in the sun

Beside the ill-doers;

And shrink from clenching the curse

Of the witnessing universe,

With a curse of yours!

This is the curse -- write!

Florence, Italy, 1854.

NOTES

1 Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point," The Liberty Bell, by Friends of Freedom (Boston, 1848 [Dec. 1847]) 29-44; and "A Curse for a Nation," The Liberty Bell, by Friends of Freedom (Boston, 1856 [Dec. 1855]) 1-9.

2 See, for example, the National Anti-Slavery Standard, 11/25/47; v.8, n.26, p.103; and the Liberator, 1/30/57; v. 27, n.5, p.1.

3 See Helen Cooper, Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Woman and Artist, (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1988) 110-123; Deirdre David, Intellectual Women and Victorian Patriarchy (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1987) 138-41; Angela Leighton, Victorian Women Poets: Writing Against the Heart (Charlottesville: U of Virginia P, 1992) 97-102; Dorothy Mermin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning: The Origins of a New Poetry (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989) 5762; Ann Parry, "Sexual Exploitation and Freedom: Religion, Race, and Gender in E.B.B.'s 'The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point,'" Studies in Browning and his Circle 16 (1988): 114-126; and Marjorie Stone, "Cursing as One of the Fine Arts: Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Political Poems," Dalhousie Review 66 (1986), nos. 1-2: 155-73.

4 National Anti-Slavery Standard, 12/16/47; v. 8, n.29, 115. For the importance of American anti-slavery bazaars perseas vital to the development of a transatlantic network of feminist abolitionists, and thus as an important species of political action, see Karen Halbersleben, Women's Participation in the British Antislavery Movement, (Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen P, 1993) 172ff.; and Clare Midgley, Women Against Slavery: The British Campaigns 1780-1870, (New York: Routledge, 1992), 127ff.

5 National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1/20/48; v.8, n.34, 134.

6 Accounts differ as to the success of the annual. Ralph Thompson, in his "The Liberty Bell and Other Anti-Slavery Gift-Books," New England Quarterly 7 (March 1934): 154-68, observes, rather too uncharitably, that "throughout the fifteen volumes of the series there is hardly to be found one creation of aesthetic value"(163). He also doubts its use as propaganda, for "like all unadulterated reform literature, the Liberty Bell circulated among those people who already knew and accepted the tenets it upheld... it could hardly have made many converts"(163). However, see Clare Taylor's recent reevaluation of the Liberty Bell in Women of the Anti-Slavery Movement: The Weston Sisters (New York: St. Martin's, 1995). Taylor calls it "a good magazine .... Its standards were high, and items were convincing, for the anti-slavery movement relied on propaganda to win support"(88). Taylor goes on to claim that, "From the outset the Liberty Bell was the most significant anti-slavery annual in America"(89) and "made a real contribution to the anti-slavery movement"(98). Yet her description of the articles in the annual reveals Taylor's dissatisfaction with their overall quality. She disparages the "sentimental tales of terror which filled every issue"(96), and the "silly sensationalism" of many of the pieces, concluding that "their methods were crude and simplistic, even if their intentions were good"(93). In fact, Taylor determines that "the best contributions were by Elizabeth Barrett Browning"(97).

7 Thompson (op. cit.) 156.

8 Clare Taylor (op. cit.), and Jean Yellin, in her Women and Sisters: The Antislavery Feminists in American Culture (New Haven: Yale UP, 1989), both recognize the dating scheme; see Taylor, 88, and Yellin, 125. However, both mention Barrett Browning only in passing, as their real interests lie elsewhere.

9 The first edition, dated "1839," is an exception; it did appear in December of 1839. This is why no "1840" edition exists; the 1840 volume is dated "1841."

10 v.8, n.34, p.134. The Liberator, another American abolitionist newspaper under Garrison's aegis, also prints this passage, written by Maria Weston Chapman, in their issue for January 7, 1848 (v. 18, n.1, p.6).

11 Standard, 1/27/48; v. 8, n.35, 140.

12 v. 26, n.33; no pagination exists in these later editions of the Standard.

13 Elizabeth Barrett Browning: An Annotated Bibliography of the Commentary and Criticism, 1826-1990 (New York: G.K. Hall, 1993).

14 Meredith B. Raymond and Mary Rose Sullivan, The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford, 1836-1854 (Winfield, KS: Wedgestone P, 1983) v. 3, 203.

15 Barbara P. McCarthy, ed., Elizabeth Barrett to Mr. Boyd (New Haven: Yale UP, 1955), letter of December 21, 1846, 282-83.

16 For example, Parry (op. cit.), 116.

17 David J. DeLaura, "A Robert Browning Letter: The Occasion of Mrs. Browning's 'A Curse for a Nation,'" Victorian Poetry 4 (1966), 211.

18 DeLaura 210.

19 See Leonid M. Arinshtein, "'A Curse for a Nation': A Controversial Episode in Barrett Browning's Political Poetry," Review of English Studies ns 20 (1969), 38-39; and Gardner B. Taplin, The Life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (New Haven: Yale UP, 1957) 372-79.

20 This variance of the sixth line is replicated in each stanza of "The Curse."

21 In preparing this article, I benefitted from discussions with Herbert Tucker, Warwick Slinn, and Marjorie Stone.

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