Rhyme and Reform

Victorian Working-Class Poets Elizabeth Barrett Brownings "The Cry of the Children"

Digital Map and Timeline for Cry of the Children

  Navigate this interactive digital map to see how Cry of the Children fits into EBB’s Victorian world—and yours today. This map, created by Calle Coleman, uses COVE, a new digital platform for producing digital literary maps, timelines, and scholarly editions. Take this digital journey to see how EBB’s poem and the events and items in this…

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What was it like to be a child working in British factories and mines in the nineteenth century? Click the links below to watch these videos to find out. The White Slaves of England: Nineteenth-Century Child Miners Video created by Caroline Lunsford John’s Journey: A Day in the Life of a Nineteenth-Century Child Laborer Video…

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VII: “May the Children Weep Before You”: The Echoing Cry

Working children in the United States faced similar conditions to those Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB) describes in her poem about child labor. In particular, today’s McLennan County was a hotspot for child occupations in the early 1900’s, such as the image of a newsboy seen above (photo courtesy of Louise Hine, Library of Congress) and the…

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VI: Justice Loves Company: The Cry of the Children perceived in Poems (1850)

When first published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in 1843, The Cry of the Children was preceded by a satirical poem, Jolly Father Joe, affecting readings of EBB’s poem.  Blackwood’s was a politically conservative publication, so perception of Cry would have been determined mainly by the magazine’s readership. A year later, in the second edition of her collected…

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V: The Cry of the Children Goes Public: August 1843

The first official publication of The Cry of the Children was in 1843 in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. This is of particular significance when considering Elizabeth  Barrett Browning’s (EBB) choice to allow this poem to be published in what was a politically  conservative magazine. EBB herself was more commonly associated with the liberal Whig party. This…

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IV: Rock Me Softly, Let Me Rest in Peace: Outlooks of Oppressed Victorian Children

A year before The Cry of the Children’s first publication in 1843, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB) penned a brief poem, Rock Me Softly – Softly Mother. Now an obscure Victorian artifact collecting dust, aspects of Rock Me Softly drifted into Cry of the Children. Prior to finishing Cry of the Children, EBB’s creative processes likely started…

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III: Liturgy, Lamentation, and a Prayerful Precedent

Upon first glance The Cry of the Children may appear as if, in the midst of such abuse, Elizabeth Barrett Browning scorning Christianity altogether. Read stanza 11 (located below). What impression do you get of Browning’s religious views from these lines? XI “But, no !” say the children, weeping faster, ” He is speechless as…

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II: ”Who is God that He should hear us?”

While the Industrial Revolution meant that England underwent a great deal of innovation, ranging from agriculture to a boom in manufacturing, industrialization also had an insidious effect: the rise of child labor. Until 1842, it was legal and widely accepted for children as young as 5 to work in coal mines, with virtually no regulations….

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I: Who Will Represent England’s Laborers?

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (EBB) opens The Cry of the Children by imploring her “brothers” to pay attention to the crying children: Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers Who are these “brothers”? Perhaps EBB is especially thinking of men who can vote. When EBB was writing this poem in 1843, the majority of…

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