The Robert Browning Settlement, a charity set up in Camberwell, south London, after Browning’s death, is selling the very personal archive through saleroom Stacey’s in Raleigh, Essex, in the hope of replacing funds lost during the pandemic.
The Settlement – an evangelical charity once closely associated with the non-conformist York Street Chapel attended by the Browning family – was publicly inaugurated in 1895 by church elders with support from the Browning family. Robert ‘Pen’ Barrett Browning (1846-1912), Robert and Elizabeth Browning’s only child who was a moderately successful artist, became president in 1906, presenting the charity with a marble bust of his father (included in the sale with a guide of £2000-3000).
His widow, Fanny Barrett Browning, gave many other items including notebooks, letters, photographs and a series of family portraits.
While the Georgian church was demolished in the 1970s, the Settlement, based on Walworth Road, maintained a museum and library that was open by appointment only. However, it has recently closed.
Rev Clive Dunnico, the honorary warden of the charity, said: “The pandemic had a severe effect on our financial resources. With a heavy heart, we are now selling our collection of Browning memorabilia and historical records to enable us to continue our services to those who seek our help.”
The archive will be offered for sale on June 10 in 114 lots, most with modest estimates.
Robert Browning’s address book containing the names and addresses of several Victorian luminaries – including Lord Tennyson who is buried close to him in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey – is offered at £50-80, as is Browning’s initialled fedora hat and horn-handled cane.