If Thou Must Love Me- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

About the Author:

  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861) was one of the most famous and prolific poets of the Victorian period, with a career spanning four decades.
  • During this time, she established herself as a woman who was never afraid to express her views on contemporary social and political issues, a position which often marked her out as unconventional and combative.
  • While more conservative women poets wrote about nature, pious religion or the domestic space, she wrote about industrialization, slavery, political leadership, religious controversy, the problems faced by women in society, and what it was like to live in the modern world.

 She questioned and judged conventional views and was never concerned that she might offend readers by what she had to say


  • If Thou Must Love Me is sonnet no.14 of the collection Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861). Sonnets from the Portuguese is a collection of 44 love sonnets published in 1850. In the sonnets Elizabeth Barrett Browning shows her love for her future husband Robert Browning, who himself was a great Victorian poet.
  • In this poem the poet wants her lover’s love to be pure and not affected by her looks, imperfections and her actions, she wants unconditional love
  • She criticizes those who love only for the for physical aspects and looks down upon the people who only love her for what they can see.



  • This poem shows her suggestion to her lover about how he should love her. 
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning was disabled and had incurable diseases; therefore she was afraid that Robert Browning would leave her.
  •  That is why she says that her lover must not love her for her smile or gentle voice as these qualities fade with time.
  •  She wants Robert Browning to love her forever and such kind of love can only exist when he would love her as a person and not for her looks.

Women Rights:

  • Elizabeth browning lived during a time where women had no role in society and were seen only as wives or maids, they could not vote or have a say in society.
  • She was against these practices and used her writing to bring awareness to these issues
  • Her sonnets give importance to the thinking of women and not to the male-dominated society.


The poem begins with the speaker declaring that she does not wish to be loved for any reason other than for love’s own sake. She does not want her lover to love her for selfish reasons like her “smile” or her looks as these things are liable to change over time. She would rather not be loved, than to lose love later in life. The speaker then hopes that her lover will love her simply because he does, as she feels that it is the only way for their love to last forever.


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