London: Saunders and Otley, 1838. First edition. Finely bound by "Randeynes" in Paris in three-quarter purple calf over marbled boards, top edge gilt. Internally an excellent, clean copy.
An early example of her devotional poetry, The Seraphim presents its readers with angels' witnessing and debate over the Crucifixion and other earthly occurrences. At its release, male reviewers attacked Browning, suggesting that "religion, or what is exclusively understood by 'sacred subjects' is not fit for poetry except on very rare and brief occasions" (The Examiner) -- this, despite Milton's Paradise Lost being considered one of the most successful and important epic poems in the English language. Browning herself had been influenced by Milton's work, as well as her own views on the sinfulness of slavery; and these shape The Seraphim. Modern critics have returned to these devotional works recently with aplomb, taking a feminist view of what Browning achieves: undercutting the authority of Christianity by pointing out its misogyny. "If Barrett uses Christianity to clim authority for her poetry, can she do it without simultaneously undercutting this authority?" (Straight). Indeed, "Critics today have made real progress in accepting Barrett's religious subject matter," examining how she and other women of the period appropriated and modified the typically male- dominated world of the Church. A lovely example of her early work, and the ability to inspire thought and debate that shaped her literary career. Fine (Item #2868)