Alfred Moulton-Barrett

Alfred Price Barrett Moulton-Barrett (1820–1904)

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 1, 293–294.

Nicknames were commonplace in the Moulton-Barrett family. The origin of Alfred’s, “Daisy,” and his feelings about it, are not known. Born at Hope End, 20 May 1820, he was the tenth child and sixth son of Edward and Mary Moulton-Barrett. He was the godson of Miss Caroline Price of Foxley. The year of his birth was also that in which EBB’s The Battle of Marathon appeared. In disposition as well as age, a sizeable gulf existed between the boisterous Alfred and the scholarly EBB. He is said to have been largely in the background of EBB’s life. While the latter was in Torquay, from 1838 to 1841, most members of the Moulton-Barrett family visited her. Alfred may have gone, but there is no record of his having done so. It should be noted, however, that he was at University College, London, during at least a part of this time. He didn’t lack artistic and literary talent. A number of his sketches of family members survive, as does a seventy-two-stanza epic concerning his sister Henrietta’s 1850 elopement. Living as an accepted member of the Moulton-Barretts’ Wimpole Street household was Georgiana Elizabeth Barrett, a close cousin, thirteen years younger than Alfred. (Her nickname, “Lizzie,” was more conventional than Alfred’s.) He became attracted to her, and they were married in Paris on 1 August 1855. EBB and other family members objected to the marriage on account of the mental instability of Georgiana’s mother, plus the poor state of Alfred’s finances. He was immediately disinherited, as EBB and Henrietta had been after their earlier marriages. He did, however, eventually receive £5,053.12.5 from his father’s English estate, most going to settle debts. It is interesting to note that in the 1840’s Alfred was a close friend of Surtees Cook, the cousin who married Henrietta. There is evidence of considerable contact between EBB and Alfred in the 1850’s. In a letter to Alfred dated 23 June 1855, EBB quoted her son, Pen, as having told her that he liked Alfred “nearly as much as you & papa.” Details on Alfred’s occupational activities are hazy. Jeannette Marks lists him among the five Moulton-Barrett sons present in Jamaica at one time or another. He was at the offices of the Great Western Railway in the 1840’s, though his connection with that company and his time of leaving it are not clearly known. He went to France “on Her Majesty’s Service” early in 1855, possibly in connection with Crimean War troop movements. He travelled to Madeira, presumably on government business, in 1856. In a letter to Arabella Moulton-Barrett dated 4 October of that year, EBB reported that he was hoping to receive a consulship. There was also a trip to Hong Kong in 1857. In the absence of a steady occupation during Alfred’s later years, the family lived mainly by borrowing against Lizzie’s inheritance, in trust for her mother who lived to an advanced age, although incapacitated shortly after Lizzie’s birth. As this situation developed, relief was finally provided by Lizzie’s brother, Edward George Barrett, who gave them an annual income from his Jamaican estates, in lieu of her inheritance. Edward George never married, and willed his estates to his nephew, Edward Alfred Moulton-Barrett, son of Alfred and Lizzie. Alfred had no close association with RB after EBB’s death, and—despite earlier affection—his later feelings toward Pen are indicated by a caricature depicting the latter as a pig (reproduced in Maisie Ward, The Tragi-Comedy of Pen Browning, 1972, p. 102). Lizzie and Alfred had two sons and two daughters, born in the years 1859 through 1867. Their financial situation improved in 1895 on account of a bequest by Alfred’s brother George. Alfred died at St. Jean-de-Luz, France, on 24 May 1904, and was buried there. Georgiana survived until 18 April 1918, when she died in London.

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