Book Chapter

'Not death, but Love': The unmaking of sonnets in the night and the making of sonnets from the Portuguese



Blair K & Stone M (2020) 'Not death, but Love': The unmaking of sonnets in the night and the making of sonnets from the Portuguese. In: Tyler D (ed.) Poetry in the Making: Creativity and Composition in Victorian Poetic Drafts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 99-122.

In 2009, a long-unlocated notebook—MSS, by ElizabethBBarrett—re-entered the public domain, including among its contents a sequence titled Sonnets in the night and a previously uncatalogued and unknown draft of ‘Sonnet V’ of Sonnets from the Portuguese, predating all extant manuscripts of this much studied work. The first section of this chapter (Kirstie Blair) analyses the making and unmaking of Sonnets in the night, considering its intricate ordering and EBB’s disassembling of an elegiac sequence which, if published in its notebook form, might have anticipated Tennyson’s In Memoriam in its thematic motifs (voice, song, silence, tears, work, consolation). Section II (Marjorie Stone) further analyses this unmaking in exploring the complicated relations between EBB’s elegiac sequence and Sonnet V of Sonnets from the Portuguese, arguing that composition of the amatory sequence may have begun with the tangled, turbulent draft of this pivotal sonnet, connecting smouldering grief to newly awakened love.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning; sonnet sequence; elegy; Alfred Tennyson; creative process; contexture

FundersUniversity of Strathclyde
Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online19/11/2020
PublisherOxford University Press
Place of publicationOxford

People (1)


Professor Kirstie Blair

Professor Kirstie Blair

Dean of Faculty of Arts and Humanities, AH Management and Support Team