Edited by Philip Kelley and Sandra Donaldson; associate editors: Scott Lewis, Edward Hagan, and Rita S. Patteson.
The Indian-born novelist Isa Blagden (1816?–73) held a unique place in the Brownings’ circle by virtue of her intimacy with both poets. No other friend saw as much of them during their married life in Florence, and, according to one contemporary, no other friend was “admitted into the mysteries of their inner thoughts.” Florentine Friends presents the 232 letters the Brownings wrote to Isa over a twelve-year period. EBB’s letters, which constitute the greater share of this correspondence, reveal her intellectual and emotional commitment to the Risorgimento, Italy’s struggle to become an independent nation. Of particular interest are her thoughts on Napoleon III and his role in Italy’s fate. Also discussed are some of the Brownings’ most significant works: RB’s Men and Women and EBB’s Casa Guidi Windows, Aurora Leigh, and Poems Before Congress. Both poets comment freely on Isa’s first novel, Agnes Tremorne. RB’s letters to Isa, though few in this volume, display a warmth and spontaneity, that, in his correspondence, he reserved for her alone. The editors have provided: an introduction; a provenance of the letters; a chronology; comprehensive annotations; a family tree of Isa and her relatives the Brackens; and a bibliography of Isa’s works, manuscripts, and letters.