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Victorian Literature and Finance$
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Francis O’Gorman

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199281923

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199281923.001.0001

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‘Vulgar needs’: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Profit, and Literary Value

‘Vulgar needs’: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Profit, and Literary Value

(p.73) 4 ‘Vulgar needs’: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Profit, and Literary Value
Victorian Literature and Finance

Alison Chapman

Oxford University Press

This chapter on Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) considers the matter of what made literary writing valuable — and how money could be involved without compromising aesthetic significance — from an unusual angle. The starting point is a specific, local question: why did Elizabeth Barrett Browning agree to publish thirteen poems in the American periodical, The Independent, between March 1860 and November 1861 when she had been previously suspicious of printing her work in serials? She was well paid for them, but she was not in the habit of simply writing for money. This chapter explores how Barrett Browning's political commitment to the unification of Italy was expressed financially and argues that profits from The Independent need to be seen in the context of her support for the Risorgimento. International politics licensed a different viewpoint at this moment of Barrett Browning's involvement with a modern media culture whose borders were not merely national ones.

Keywords:   finance, Victorian literature, Britain, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, profit, literary value, poetry, money, politics, Italy

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