The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Browning and Browning, Inc.

Browning and Browning. Now there's a company I would like to have worked for. It exists only in my imagination of course, but still having the two fellows I'm discussing today as my bosses would have been most interesting...
Over the 40 years I spent in academia, I developed a taste for some, not all, poetry. One of the poets I came to admire was Robert Browning (1812-1889) an English poet and playwright whose mastery of dramatic verse, especially dramatic monologues, made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. He had a famous romatic relationship with a woman poet (Elizabeth Barrett) who later became his wife (not the second Browning in my title btw). There's a lot of info about him all over the Google, so I won't pick any specific article to link to.

In a dramatic monologue, which is like a long speech lifted from a play script, a single character speaks. Browning had skill as a writer and as a psychologist and so these monologues are like portraits that reveal a person's true character through his or her language whether they intend to or not. One of Browning's most famous dramatic monologues (and my favorite) is "My Last Duchess" in which an Italian Duke, who's speaking to an emissary of the family of a young girl he may marry, reveals himself to be a jealous monster who murdered his last wife. The wife in question, his last Duchess, was a quite young, innocent girl with a bright and cheerful disposition. Here's a quotation from that famous monologue.

She had
A heart--how shall I say?--too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favor at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace--all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least....Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together.

Now I ask you, what kind of guy is jealous of the attention his wife pays to the sunset or a white mule? Let's hope the emissary from the family of the girl he's now considering marrying rushes back
and warns them that the Duke is a jealous monster who murdered his last wife.

The second Browning in the imaginary company in my title refers to John Moses Browning (1855-1926), said by the Wiki to be "the world's most prolific firearms inventor." Most of his designs were so successful that they've been "manufactured by other companies, Winchester, Colt, Remington, Fabrique Nationale de Herstal of Belgium, and Miroku."

Browning's most famous pistol design is arguably the M1911 (although I'm sure others might argue for the famous Browning Hi Power). Wiki says the M1911 "is a single-action, semi-automatic, magazine-fed, and recoil-operated handgun chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. It was designed by John M. Browning, and was the standard-issue side arm for the United States armed forces from 1911 to 1985, and is still carried by some U.S. forces. It was widely used in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Its formal designation as of 1940 was Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911 for the original Model of 1911 or Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911A1 for the M1911A1, adopted in 1924. The designation changed to Pistol, Caliber .45, Automatic, M1911A1 in the Vietnam era. In total, the United States procured around 2.7 million M1911 and M1911A1 pistols in military contracts during its service life."

The innocent young wife in "My Last Duchess" is a fictional character of course, and she lived before John Moses Browning's time, but had she packed a 1911 45 caliber, Robert Browning might have written a different poem, one entitled "My Last Duke."

Two Brownings. Browning and Browning, Inc. Like I said, it would have been an interesting company to work for. They could get after you with either poetic rhetoric or ammo.


  1. Reflex response. The first Browning that came to my mind was your second, as I owned a Browning over/under 12 gauge some 40+ yrs. ago. "The Last Duke" reminds me of your definition between a DemocRAT, Repub., & Southerner. I still have my poetry book 101, I'll read somethin' tonight from that thick green covered paperback...maybe Poe's, Eldorado now, who was my poetry instructor at VSCC?

  2. Browning's most famous pistol design is arguably the M1911...

    I know you said "pistol" and I absolutely, positively agree. Firing a 1911 is an unforgettable experience. I wish I owned one.

    My FAVORITE Browning design is the Ma Deuce... still on active duty after all these (77) years. THAT'S A design!

    I wish I were equally acquainted with Robert Browning to offer a comment... but I'm not. Alas.

  3. I was just thinking about "My Last Duchess" a few days ago. Like all the poems I memorized in school, I can still recite it. Kids don't have to memorize anything nowadays and, as a result, have too little self-discipline.