Clyde Ryals's masterful account explores Browning's work from his earliest published poem, Pauline, to his last volume, Asolando. It is the first biographical study for 50 years to examine chronologically and at length his entire literary output, and the result is an assured biography which sets Browning firmly within the context of his poems and his times. Browning has always been regarded as a dramatic poet who stands at an objective distance from his writing. Professor Ryals, however, proposes a radically different view, and presents him as a writer who was both objective and subjective. He shows how each poem is indeed, as Browning termed it, a performance in which the poet plays a part - as producer, presenter, or actor, and sometimes all three. We discover the role each poetic performance played in Browning's own 'self-fashioning' and learn how the principle of endless becoming stood at the very heart of his thought and practice as a poet.
Clyde Ryals's knowledge both of Browning and of the nineteenth century is unequalled, and enables him to offer us a life of this major figure in English literature that is both meticulously researched and eminently readable, and makes an invaluable contribution to its subject.
The author is Professor of English at Duke University. He has written many books on Victorian literature, including Browninga s Later Poetry 1871--1889 (1975), Becoming Browning: The Poems and Plays of Robert Browning 1833--1846 (1983), and A World of Possibilities: (Romantic Irony in Victorian Literature (1900). He is editor of The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Walsh Carlyle (1970-- ).