Comparing Elizabeth Barrett Browning's own life with the views of the working classes in Aurora Leigh, shows how difficult it can to move between art and life and one can never easily extrapolate one from the other. Robert Bernard Martin points out that

While she was writing the concluding section, where the reader is led to expect some solution of Marian's problem, Elizabeth's personal maid Wilson, who had been with her eleven years and had become her closest friend, announced her engagement when she was four months pregnant. Rather than showing her the compassion that Aurora Leigh was concerned with, Elizabeth forgot that Wilson had taken on herself all the arrangements of her mistress's elopement, had accompanied her to Italy and had never been given a rise in salary. All she could remember was that Wilson's baby would be a grave inconvenience for herself. Wilson finally had to leave the child in England for four years, and when she returned to Italy, she was replaced by another maid.

Martin quotes her recent biographer, Margaret Forster, to the effect that "Elizabeth failed Wilson as Wilson had never failed her," and he adds, "Even Elizabeth could see how selfish her behaviour was and how inconsistent with the tenor of the poem she was writing, so that she was unable to conclude properly the part of the plot dealing with Marian."


Martin, Robert Bernard. "A Valetudinarian and Her Values," Times Literary Supplement (August 18-25, 1988): 900.

Last modified 1998