reluctant cricket widow
One of the best loved romantic poets is Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose own story is highly romantic and has been the subject of stage and screen. As a young woman of talent and sensitivity, she lived a reclusive life in the semi-invalid mode that was either fashionable or imposed on women in those more repressive times. But when she published a volume of poetry in 1844 (the year by the say in which the first international cricket match was played, between USA and Canada) it so impressed the young Robert Browning that he wrote to her in admiration. Letter followed letter, then secret meetings and eventually they eloped in 1846 getting secretly married before eventually settling in Italy.
It has long perplexed scholars as to whether Robert Browning, himself a poet of some stature, was a cricketer. Evidence has proved elusive, however FB has unearthed this original manuscript of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s celebrated Sonnet XLIII which suggests that he may well have been. Could her reluctance to be a cricket widow explain why they went to Italy?
Some of FB’s diminishing worldwide readership will recognise that, on the basis of this verse, there appear to be some parallels in the Barratt-Browning relationship with that between FB and Mrs FB. FB is unable to explain this and must put it down to coincidence.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee though you throw your cricket kit
In just the place I must trip over it
Why must you strew it all around the place?
The cupboard ‘neath the stair has lots of space
With room to house those many ancient bats
Those pads, those gloves, those bags and umpteen hats
Why then d’you drop it on the stair case?
I love thee; and so I fully share your mind
And although the words mean nought to me
I’m sure the ball hit you outside the line
The ump was mad to give you out LB
Yes! Unjust! A cruel trick of the divine!
And put that damn kit somewhere. Tidily!