Henrietta Moulton-Barrett

Henrietta Barrett Moulton-Barrett (afterwards Cook, 1809–60)

As published in The Brownings’ Correspondence, 1, 290.

Born on 4 March 1809 at 10 Upper Berkeley Street, London, she was the third child and second daughter of Edward and Mary Moulton-Barrett. Nicknames included “Addles,” “Daddles,” “Harry” and “Ta.” Of the young Moulton-Barretts who survived early childhood, Henrietta ranked just above Sam in age, while EBB and Bro came first and second. The close ties which developed between Henrietta and Sam were somewhat like those between the elder two. So just as Bro bombarded EBB with letters during his 1820–26 Charterhouse school years, Sam did much the same with Henrietta while he was at the same school from 1822 to 1828. Henrietta has been described as one of the most religious of the Moulton-Barrett children, yet she was also fond of music and dancing, and, while with EBB in the resort town of Torquay, greatly enjoyed its social opportunities. She met the usual family obstacles in efforts at romance. In a letter to RB dated 15–16 January 1846, EBB describes “dreadful scenes” between Henrietta and her father. Ironically, it was Henrietta who had to give Mr. Moulton-Barrett his first news of EBB’s elopement. Finally, in 1850, four years after EBB’s marriage, Henrietta married a cousin, Army Captain William Surtees Cook (usually called Surtees), and was of course immediately disowned by her father. (It is believed that the pair had been secretly engaged for some time.) Henrietta was more fortunate than EBB, receiving, in general, the sympathy of the other Barrett children. EBB kept in contact with Henrietta through correspondence, and the Brownings visited the Cooks’ Taunton home while in England in 1856. Two sons and a daughter were born to Henrietta and Surtees through the years 1851 to 1856. In 1859 the family moved to Thurlbear, Somersetshire. There Henrietta, after prolonged suffering, died of cancer at their home, Stoke Court, on 23 November 1860. She was buried at Thurlbear Parish Church. Her illness and death deeply distressed EBB and may well have contributed to the latter’s final decline in health and her own death in 1861.


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