this formidable collection of Robert Browning’s major works is a selection of “courtship correspondence”, beginning with the giddy fan letter Browning wrote to fellow poet Elizabeth Barrett and the communications the couple shared right up to the moment she became his wife. They’re dense, poetic but intensely reassuring things that demonstrate how even great writers are wracked by self-doubt, low self esteem and grumpy about the critical reaction to their work. In other words, entirely human. The couple are also touchingly incapable of explaining exactly how they feel for fear of ruining their friendship, codifying their fondness until, presumably after having met, they’re finally capable of putting them into words. And such words. When a single noun “friend” is dropped from its usual prefixing adjective “dearest” as happens between 30th August 1845 and the 12th September, something has irrecoverably changed.