Edwards, Suzanne Ozment External Nature In The Poetry Of

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Edwards, Suzanne Ozment External Nature In The Poetry Of

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EDWARDS, SUZANNE OZMENT EXTERNAL NATURE IN THE POETRY OF ROBERT BROWNING

8228841

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

PH.D.

1982

University Microfilms
International 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106
Copyright 1983 by
EDWARDS, SUZANNE OZMENT
All Rights Reserved

External Nature in the Poetry of Robert Browning

Suzanne Ozment Edwards
A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Greensboro 1982

Approved by

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Tssertation Adviser

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EDWARDS, SUZANNE OZMENT. External Nature in the Poetry of Robert Browning. (1982) Directed by: Professor H. T. Kirby-Smith. Pp. 158.
Robert Browning is best known as a writer of poems which dramatically reveal human character. Unlike the Romantic poets, Browning seldom writes about nature as an isolated entity, yet significant natural description figures in much of his poetry. Instead of composing poems about nature, Browning typically uses details of external nature to create a setting which establishes mood and reveals character. While natural description is admittedly a subsidiary facet of Browning's art, it is of consequence because it supports his primary purpose—character portrayal.
This study of Browning's use of external nature is organized around the poets, artists, and aesthetic movements that influenced him. Chapter I documents Browning's love of external nature and establishes the perimeters for the analysis of his poetry which follows. Chapter II examines the in­ fluence of Gerard de Lairesse, an eighteenth-century Dutch painter whose treatise on art Browning read as a child. Chapter III discusses charac­ teristics of the picturesque and the sublime which surface in Browning's landscapes and natural imagery. Chapter IV explores the effect of Ro­ manticism on Browning's treatment of nature. Grotesque natural detail is the subject of Chapter V. Chapter VI compares Browning's poetry to that of selected Victorians to ascertain the extent of contemporary influences. The final chapter, Chapter VII, attempts to account for Browning's eclectic and oblique method.

Approval Page
This dissertation has been approved by the following committee of the Faculty of the Graduate School at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Dissertation Adviser IcLJ \{JLn

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Committee Members

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Date of Acceptance by Committee
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Date of Final Oral Examination

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I wish to express my appreciation to Dr. Randolph Buigin for his guidance in my early work with this topic; to Lenoir-Rhyne College and the Lutheran Church in America for financial assistance which facilitated the completion of the project; and to the members of my advisory committee for their valuable suggestions. I am especially grateful to Professor H. T. Kirby-Smith, director of my dissertation, for his thoughtful reading of numerous drafts, his insightful criticism, and his continual support and encouragement.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
APPROVAL PAGE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION ENDNOTES TO CHAPTER I
II. THE INFLUENCE OF GERARD DE LAIRESSE . . . . ENDNOTES TO CHAPTER II
III. THE INFLUENCE OF THE PICTURESQUE AND THE SUBLIME ENDNOTES TO CHAPTER III
IV. THE INFLUENCE OF THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT ENDNOTES TO CHAPTER IV
V. THE INFLUENCE OF THE GROTESQUE ENDNOTES TO CHAPTER V
VI. THE INFLUENCE OF BROWNING'S CONTEMPORARIES ENDNOTES TO CHAPTER VI
VII. CONCLUSION ENDNOTES TO CHAPTER VII BIBLIOGRAPHY

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CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION
Robert Browning was once asked, "You have not a great love of Nature, have you?" He responded, "Yes, I have, but I love men and women better."^ Browning's poetry attests to the truth of his statement. This study will show that although he is remembered, as he would have wished to be, for his brilliant portrayal of character through the dramatic monologue, Browning did compose passages of nature poetry that aided him in this pur­ pose. Study of these passages reveals much about his conception of nature— and of the art by which nature was to be depicted.
Natural detail abounds in Browning's poetry, and it is striking in its variety. Some of his poems are set in grassy meadows; some on snowtopped mountain peaks; some in parched deserts. He is fond of water: glittering waterfalls, quiet brooks, stormy seas, summer rains. But Browning is especially fond of the tiny plants and animals and insects that fill the landscape. He writes of brightly-colored flowers—violets, poppies, cyclamen, daisies, tulips, sunflowers, and fennel--and of wild vegetation—lichen, ferns, and toadstools. He particularly delights in describing the tiny creatures who live among these plants—beetles, crickets, snails, mice, caterpillars, lizards, wasps, spiders, and firef1i es.
Still, one cannot claim for Browning the overmastering adulation of nature felt by a Wordsworth or even the intense reponse to the beauties of nature felt by a Keats. In fact, it is typically through the eyes and
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