At the age of twenty-four, Browning attracted public attention by his poem of "Baracelus." Considering the age of the author, it was a remarkable poem. In 1837 his tragedy of "Stafford" was brought on the stage. His next work was brought out in 1841. "Sordello" was a thin volume, but is esteemed the richest puzzle to all lovers of poetry which was ever given to the world.
His next works were in dramatic form, the most popular being "Pippa Passes." "Pippa is a girl from a silk factory, who passes the various persons of the play at certain critical moments, in the course of her holiday, and becomes, unconsciously to herself, a determining influence on the fortunes of each." Of his eight plays, the one given above, and "A Blot on the Scutching," "King Victor and King Charles," "Colombe's Birthday," "Luria," The Return of the Druess," are the best.
He wrote the two dramatic sketches, "A Soul of Tragedy," and "In a Baloony." The plays and sketches mentioned are superior productions both in conception and execution.
In 1855 he added greatly to his reputation by publishing a volume of fifty poems, entitled "Men and Women." Another volume of character sketches entitled "Dramatis Personae," appeared in 1864. The most extensive of all his works, "The Ring and the Book" was published in 1868. This poem is in four volumes of blank verse. It is an Italian story of the seventeenth century. Its merits and faults are equally great, and yet it amply repays the reader for all time given to its perusal. In 1871 appeared "Balaustion's Adventure, including a Transcript from Euripides;" 1871, "Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Savior of Society;" 1872, "Fifine at the Fair;" 1873, "Red Cotton Night-Cap Country;" 1875, "Aristophanes' Apology, including a Transcript from Euripides, being the last Adventure of Balaustion;" 1875, "The Inn Album."
Obscurity, and eccentricities of style and expression are Browning's chief defects. In spite of these defects, the pure poetic gold predominates in his writings, and he has proven strong poetic powers alike in thought, description, passion, and conception of character. While his extended poems are marred by obscurity, most of his shorter poems are particularly happy and beautiful. Among these may be mentioned, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," "A Child's Story," "How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix," "Evelyn Hope," "My Lost Duchess," and numerous descriptions of the sunny South. These are among the very best of their kind.
Robert Browning stood at the head of what is known as the psychological school of poetry. Latterly his merits have been more readily acknowledged in his native country; and for nearly forty years he has been recognized by the world as one of our most original and intellectual poets. He died in Venice, Italy, December 12, 1889.