The Poet and the Minister – Sidmouth’s untold story!
Written and Directed by Christine Hardy
United Reformed Church, Chapel Street, Sidmouth 4-7 July 2012 7.30pm
In 1830s Sidmouth an unlikely friendship develops between a privileged poet, daughter of one of England’s richest men, and a poor non-conformist minister with the gift of inspired oratory.
Elizabeth Barrett-Browning was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. In 1832, when she was 26, her family moved from Herefordshire to Sidmouth, first to Raferel House, now 8 Fortfield Terrace, and later to Bellevue, now Cedar Shade, in All Saints Road.
While living in the town Elizabeth was inspired by the eloquent sermons of the Reverend George B Hunter, minister of Marsh Independent Chapel which was situated on what is now the Ham car park. They became friends and she sought his opinion of her work over the next 13 years until she secretly married fellow poet Robert Browning in 1846.
Elizabeth & Mr Hunter reveals their dramatic friendship, Hunter’s increasing intolerance of her success and his jealousy over her burgeoning affair with Browning.
The play includes extracts from letters written by Elizabeth with beautiful descriptions of 1830s Sidmouth, its inhabitants and charming glimpses of her life in the town.
"An extremely well-staged production" - Sidmouth Herald click to see Herald review
Cast in order of appearance
Elizabeth's father owned a sugar plantation in Jamaica, but had to sell the family home in Herefordshire when his fortune was vastly reduced by the impending abolition of slavery. A very private and religious man.
Edward's eldest and favourite daughter. Extremely intelligent and widely read, she began writing poetry at the age of six. She was chronically ill as a teenager, and was dependant on laudanum for the rest of her life.
Elizabeth's younger sister was sociable, lively and full of fun, in contrast to her sisters.
Reverend George Hunter
A highly educated man from Yorkshire with strong religious beliefs and a talent for oratory. He was much admired by both Elizabeth and her father but jealous of her relationship with Robert Browning.
The first maid Elizabeth confided in and depended upon. A strong, practical character who took control of Elizabeth's day to day routine.
Elizabeth's second maid. Following Crow was hard for reserved Elizabeth Wilson but her quiet manner earned her Elizabeth's confidence. She was a witness at the secret marriage to poet Robert Browning.
Inspired by Elizabeth's poems, Browning wrote to her, asking to meet, and so began one of the most famous courtships in literature. They married secretly and eloped to Italy.