According to Robert Bernard Martin, Browning asserted her own identity amid a large family by adopted the roles of

resident poet and, more dangerously for her own stability, that of family invalid. . . . Her symptoms are so carefully recorded that it is easy to see that she suffered from some form of lung trouble, which finally killed her, as well as psychosomatic illnesses including anorexia nervosa that led her to believe in physical causes for which her doctors could find no evidence. At thirteen she decided she had 'natural ill health' and set about fulfilling her own diagnosis. When she was sent to Gloucester for extended treatment, she mentioned trouble with her spine, but her doctor could find nothing wrong with it. In later years it was explained that as a girl she had had a fall or other riding accident that caused all her trouble, but there was no mention of it at the time. When she was fifteen she had begun the opium habit for relief of pain and sleeplessness that dogged her for the rest of her life. Her need to escape from the family to which she clung so tenaciously is indicated by her neglecting to inform them for nearly half a year after she was told that there was no medical reason to postpone her return to Hope End.


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

Last modified 1998