“Seeing these things that they touched _ even though we are seeing it on the screen _ has much the same effect as being able to see and touch the manuscripts,” she said.
“When you look at the transcriptions, it’s cold, black and white. It’s nothing like these letters,” she said of the handwritten online manuscripts.
In her last letter to Browning, dated Sept. 18, 1846, she says she had to take them with her.
“I tried to leave them, & I could not _ That is, they would not be left: it was not my fault _ I will not be scolded,” she wrote.
Henry Durant, who founded Wellesley College in 1870, admired the Brownings and considered Barrett Browning to be an example of a strong, educated woman who would be a good role model for the young women of Wellesley. Durant gave his large personal library to the college, including many first editions by both poets.
Former Wellesley President Caroline Hazard purchased the collection of Browning letters, and in 1930, donated them to Wellesley, where they have remained.
The library even has the actual mahogany door to the Barrett house in London, where Browning’s letters to Elizabeth passed through a brass letter slot. The slot was screwed shut by a Wellesley librarian more than 40 years ago because students slipped through letters of their own to pay homage to the Brownings. Rogers said she is considering re-opening the slot.
The digitized letters are being made available free online through Baylor’s digital collections.
Baylor transformed 1,723 raw digital images from Wellesley into more than 4,200 edited page and envelope images, said Darryl Stuhr, manager of digitization projects for Baylor’s electronic library. Baylor also digitized more than 800 other letters written by or to the couple by friends, family and other literary greats of the era.
Stuhr said Baylor needed 107 gigabytes for the love letters alone.
“It is giving worldwide access to the collection, where somebody can actually see what the letters look like without having to travel, from the comfort of their own homes,” Stuhr said.