leven of Edward Moulton-Barrett's dozen children survived to adulthood; and eight were left behind when the eldest escaped to Italy with Robert Browning in 1846 (two sons, including the father's namesake, had died six years earlier). Moulton-Barrett did not attempt to hoard girl-children only, although the legend surrounding his daughter's elopement has sometimes suggested that. The sex of the oldest Barrett child doubtless encouraged her confinement as an invalid; but on the question of marriage, at least, Edward Moulton-Barrett appears to have tyrannised all his children. He is famous for refusing to acknowledge Elizabeth ever again after she eloped with Browning, but he also disowned her sister Henrietta and her younger brother Alfred when they in turn chose to marry. Not surprisingly, the rest of his offspring managed to stay single during their father's lifetime; two sons seem to have consoled themselves in the interlude with women on his Jamaica estates, and three took wives after his death. As the one daughter who never married, Arabella Barrett remained longest and most intimately connected to the domestic world Elizabeth Barrett Browning had left behind. Before the flight to Italy, she had slept on a couch in her invalid sister's bedroom in Wimpole Street; in the years that followed, Elizabeth's 'beloved Arabel' served as her principal link to the old house and the affections that inhabited it.
LRB 9 October 2003 | PDF Download