Euphrasia Fanny Haworth

Euphrasia Fanny Haworth (1802–83)

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 3, 314-315.

Euphrasia Fanny Haworth, daughter of Thomas Haworth (d. 1830) and his wife Euphrasisa (d. 1856, aged 76), was born on 27 May 1802 at Elstree, Hertfordshire. The Latin name of the herb called “eyebright” is Euphrasia officinalis. So when RB referred to “My English Eyebright” in Sordello (III, 967), he obviously meant Euphrasia Fanny Haworth. Already a close friend of RB when Sordello appeared in 1840, Miss Haworth was destined to become a favourite of EBB as well. She was a neighbour of William Charles Macready (q.v.), and RB first met her at the actor’s Elstree home. A still-extant copy of RB’s Paracelsus (1835) is inscribed to her as a gift from Macready. Later, RB added his own inscription as evidence of a new friendship: “Now the author wishes he had presented this book to Miss Haworth!” (See Reconstruction, C431.) The recipient made her own additions to the copy: five pen sketches illustrating RB’s poem. Presentation copies of later works, starting with Strafford in 1837 (Reconstruction, C583), were inscribed to Miss Haworth by RB himself. Miss Haworth, meanwhile, had paid tribute to RB in “Sonnets to the Author of ‘Paracelsus’,” appearing in The New Monthly Magazine of September 1836 (see Reconstruction, L121–122). Fanny Haworth clearly was someone of much interest to RB during his early years. His letters to her show more playfulness, more tendency to self-revelation, than do many of his others. Note for example the description of his own intense “love for flowers and leaves” in the letter dated 24 July 1838. He referred freely to poetical works in progress or being planned. Whatever EBB may originally have thought about this early confidante of her husband, shared enthusiasms drew the two women together from the time of their initial meeting in 1851. Their common interests (besides RB) included spiritualism, mesmerism, and the philosophy of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). Still existing are more than 50 letters that EBB, in the final decade of her life, wrote to Fanny Haworth. Miss Haworth not only saw the Brownings during their sojourns in England, but also visited them in Italy. A letter which EBB wrote to her sister Henrietta from Florence at the end of December 1857 reported that Fanny Haworth “dined with us” on Christmas Day. Though not regarded as a professional writer or artist, Miss Haworth mingled comfortably with literary people and showed considerable evidence of literary and artistic talents. She was present at the Ion supper given by Thomas Noon Talfourd (q.v.) on 26 May 1836. As previously noted, her 1836 sonnets honouring RB proved acceptable to The New Monthly Magazine. She published a volume of stories entitled The Pine Tree Dell and Other Tales in 1827, and a volume of verse, St. Sylvester’s Day and Other Poems, 20 years later. Her Stories for Idle Afternoons (Reconstruction, A1150) appeared in 1875. She produced at least 3 portraits of the Brownings’ son, Pen (Reconstruction, H10, 69–70), and numerous drawings to illustrate scenes from RB’s dramatic works. Miss Haworth died on 6 February 1883 at her London residence, 24 Pembroke Square.

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