Christmas Eve and Easter Day: by Robert Browning.
Robert Browning's Christmas Eve and Easter Day is a long,
octosyllabic, irregularly rhymed poem in two parts. "Christmas Eve" is a
narrative which combines visionary and realistic elements. It presents
denominational religion as an imperfect medium for divine truth, and
emphasizes the necessity of choosing one's own best method for worship.
"Easter Day" is a dialogue which explores the difficulties of maintaining
the Christian faith and argues that doubt is essential to faith. The poem
was published on April 1, 1850 and sold for six shillings. 200 copies (out
of approximately 1000) were sold before April 15, but sales slowed
tremendously, in spite of William Michael Rossetti's praise, and the
publishers, Chapman and Hall, were left with a great many copies on their
While William Rossetti was not alone in praising the volume, most
reviews were ambivalent (offering guarded or back-handed compliments) and
some were openly hostile:
- The Athenaeum. April 6, 1860, pp 370-1: "Nor can higher praise be
awarded to his serious vein than that of saying it enables us to forget his
- The Critic (London). April 15, 1850, NS ix. 193-4.: Mr. Browning
is a poet; spite of an affectation of whimsicality in expression
which he unfortunately mistakes for the originality of genius, there is
poetry of thought in everything he writes. Therefore he is read and
admired, notwithstanding his own efforts to disfigure himself."
- The English Review. September, 1850 xiv 65-92 (Reviewed with
Tennyson and Henry Taylor)
- The Examiner. May, 1850 xxv. 403-9.
- The Prospective Review. "New Poems by Baily and Browning." 1850.
In his introduction to the 1901 facsimile of The Germ, William
Michael Rossetti comments on his review of Browning:
"The only observation I need make upon this review-- which was merely
intended as introductory to a fuller estimate of the poem, to appear in an
ensuing number of 'The Germ'-- is that it exemplifies that profound cultus
of Robert Browning which, commenced by Dante Rossetti, had permeated the
whole of the Preraphaelite Brotherhood, and formed not less than some other
ideas, a bond of union among them" (27).