Romanticism - with its various aesthetic and philosophical, social and political dimensions - is a notoriously problematic phenomenon to define. ‘Hope’ and ‘desire’ and ‘something evermore about to be’. Romantic psychology and metaphysics of the imagination turn on a principle of desire for absolute unity, and yet it is the principle of desire which reveals the inner contradictions of that psychology and metaphysics. Robert Browning was born in the London suburb of Camberwell on 7 May 1812; his mother, Sarah Anna, of Scottish-German extraction; his father, Robert, a clerk in the Bank of England. In Pauline Browning has his speaker reveal radical doubts about just such an idealism. A literary celebrity and social lion, Browning continued to write copiously throughout these last twenty years and such works as Fifine at the Fair reveal intriguing flashes of brilliance.