Case Study

The British poet Robert Browning was born in Camberwell, South London. He was the son of Robert Browning, a wealthy clerk in the Bank of England, and Sarah Anna Wiedemann, of German-Scottish origin. In 1846, Browning married the poet Elizabeth Barrett and settled with her in Florence. When Elizabeth Browning died in 1861, he moved to London with his son Robert Barrett Browning. In 1866, after his father died, Browning lived with his sister, generally spending the season in London, and the rest of the year in the country or abroad. In 1871 he published two books: Balaustion's Adventure and Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society.

I decided to look him up in the 1871 Census. A quick name search at website for the London 1871 Census gave me the following result:

Surname: Browning; Forename: Robert; Age: 58; Area: Kensington, St Mary Paddington; Piece Number: 13; Folio number: 72b.

Robert Browning
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Armed with those details, I then browsed through British Data Archive's London 1871 census CD set and found the following entry on Folio 72b of the Piece Number 13:

Census Extract showing Robert Browning

The census entry indicates that Robert Browning was living at number 19, Warwick Crescent with his son and his sister. His age and place of birth are also consistent with the details I gathered from his biography and leave me in no doubt that I have found my man...

Full page census

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Life in a Love - a poem by Robert Browning

Escape me?
While I am I, and you are you,
So long as the world contains us both,
Me the loving and you the loth,
While the one eludes, must the other pursue.
My life is a fault at last, I fear:
It seems too much like a fate, indeed!
Though I do my best I shall scarce succeed.
But what if I fail of my purpose here?
It is but to keep the nerves at strain,
To dry one's eyes and laugh at a fall,
And baffled, get up to begin again,—
So the chase takes up one's life, that's all.
While, look but once from your farthest bound,
At me so deep in the dust and dark,
No sooner the old hope drops to ground
Than a new one, straight to the selfsame mark,
I shape me—

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