Elizabeth Barrett Browning (6th March 1806 to 29th June 1861)


Here I am in Torquay where the romantic poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning lived for 3 years. She was such a prolific writer over four decades that she rivalled the more well-known poets like William Wordsworth and Lord Alfred Tennyson. She lived in the Victorian era but if she was alive today shed be on all kinds of media with her bionic brain and works about child labour in the mills of England, poverty, slavery abroad and social reform.


Though she was a tour de force she was a sickly adult. Aged 13 she suffered a spinal injury after being thrown from her pony and suffered intense head and back pain for the rest of her life. She took an opium called laudanum for the pain which was likely to have contributed to her frail health. She was often ill with a lung condition - possibly tuberculosis - which was treated with morphine.


She was quite wealthy due to an inheritance from an uncle but she couldnt buy good health. Her doctors never diagnosed her illness which presented itself in general exhaustion, migraines, heart palpitations and extreme reactions to cold. As weak as a rag doll she couldn't even sit up straight for meals. She came here to live on the south coast on the advice of her doctor. It was the Bath Saloons when the 32-year-old arrived but its now the Regina Hotel. Sadly her stay here resulted in the death of her brother who accompanied her. He was drowned in a sailing accident in Babbacombe Bay two miles away. Elizabeth herself was never destined to live long and died in Italy aged 55. Shed moved there with her family and died in her husband arms in Florence.


The blue plaque bolted to the wall faces out onto the ocean which is just a few metres away. There's a cracking view across the harbour. Elizabeth came here as the cold made her ill and the south coast offered slightly higher temperatures. I looked up at the windows and guessed she sat writing as she looked out. Every window affords a terrific view of the harbour and ocean though Torquay was probably much barer in the 1800s. I did a salute and left.









The view from the hotel nowadays...