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Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Book 5

Here we are once again at the Aurora Leigh readalong, hosted by me, Alice, and this week I read only Book 5, but it was yet again really gay and a mix of genius and wtf, so lots to talk about here.

We left off in Book 4, with Aurora and Romney parting ways again after he has been dumped by Marian Erle. Romney talked about Aurora "break[ing] the mythic turf where danced the nymphs," and in my epic poetry I love that, but if he said that to me in real life I would be like

Elizabeth Barrett Browning makes her case in Book 5 for people writing about the world right now. She makes some great points, but also it is a lot and maybe write an essay. MAYBE WRITE AN ESSAY, ELIZABETH. But she doesn't want to, and this is her book, so fine.

There is a consistent feeling through Aurora Leigh of Browning peeling back the curtain of Being Literary in the Victorian Age and just talking about life as we all know it. It's weirdly juxtaposed with verbal flights of fancy that soar to epic lofts and then come crashing down again as she keeps talking about ladies' boobs. She also uses the phrase "sexual passion"??? I keep going BUT YOU CAN'T DO THAT, and the last time that happened, I was reading A.S. Byatt's Possession, which is a fun coincidence, as the good main characters in that (not the other two) are based on Robert Browning and Christina Rossetti.

omgggg let's all watch Possession and skip the Eckhart/Paltrow parts

All of Book 5 is the aforementioned push to describe the age in which a writer lives, and more particularly, the people in it, and then also Romney is getting married AGAIN so of course Aurora runs off to Italy but first France for some reason? Then at the beginning of Book 6, she runs into — MARIAN ERLE. 

But to the gay stuff!

Aurora talks about boobs as "breasts, Which . . . Throb luminous and harmonious like pure spheres." So there's that first. Then there's her "My Nemesis" relationship with Lady Waldemar, which is always one of my favorite tropes. Here is Aurora observing Lady Waldemar at a party:

she missed, though, a grey hair,
A single one,–I saw it; otherwise
The woman looked immortal. How they told, 
Those alabaster shoulders and bare breasts,
On which the pearls, drowned out of sight in milk, 
Were lost, excepting for the ruby-clasp ! 
They split the amaranth velvet-boddice down
To the waist, or nearly, with the audacious press 
Of full-breathed beauty.

Then this guy comes up to Aurora at the same party and is like "oh hey, there's a real pretty fan of yours here and I said I'd bring her to you for 'a woman's kiss,' but I don't have to" and Aurora is like NO WAIT DO IT.

Then — then — Aurora has to pass by Lady Waldemar and she's like ugh she's being so mean to me

and after they talk, Aurora says (I KNOW I KNOW, context, but it's still hilarious):

Sweet heaven, she takes me up
As if she had fingered me and dog-eared me
And spelled me by the fireside, half a life!


This book is the gayest and also really well written, and I hope there's even more gay talk (if possible) in Books 6-the end. I'm pretty sure there will be based on things I have heard


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