As a young man, Robert Browning was tutored at his prosperous family’s home near London. He spent much of a sheltered adolescence reading eagerly and eclectically in the fine library there, absorbing philosophical, artistic, and historical lore that would later emerge—sometimes rather obscurely—in his plays and poems. Devoted always to a literary career, Browning lived for many years dependent on his indulgent parents. They exerted a deep personal influence: the father intellectually, the mother religiously. In literature, the works and example of Percy Bysshe Shelley were Browning’s first and most enduring inspiration, though in drama itself the constant model would be, wisely and otherwise, William Shakespeare. The privately published verse and plays of Browning’s early maturity were eccentric and poorly received. Most of the drama in particular was ill-suited to theatrical production, and in disappointment, he turned increasingly to a new type of poetry, the dramatic monologue, in order to fuse the variousness and objectivity of plays with the subtle effects of poems. Yet even after 1846, when elopement and marriage crowned his long, ardent courtship of Elizabeth Barrett Browning , she was still the better-known writer of the two. The blithe years of his wedded life were spent mostly in Italy, where Browning’s fascination with the rich and enigmatic sociocultural heritage of the Mediterranean bloomed and reflected itself in the great new poems collected in Men and Women. Mrs. Browning’s sudden death in 1861 ended this golden era and was personally devastating for her husband. Thereafter, Browning resided in both England and Italy, continuing to write poetry—notably The Ring and the Book—and gradually winning a wide and appreciative audience for all of his work. This late adulation, including the international Browning Society’s admiration of his religious and philosophical outlook, was in striking contrast with the humiliation he had felt during the early years. In 1888, he saw the publication of the first volumes of what would become a seventeen-volume collection of his dramatic and poetic canon.