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Sample of an Explaining Essay

Updated on September 30, 2012
View of the Baylor Armstrong Browning Library from the outside
View of the Baylor Armstrong Browning Library from the outside
View of the Baylor Armstrong Browning Library from the inside
View of the Baylor Armstrong Browning Library from the inside
One of the stained glass windows in the Baylor Armstrong Browning Library
One of the stained glass windows in the Baylor Armstrong Browning Library

“History of the Armstrong Browning Library”

Walking into the Armstrong Browning Library is like taking a portal back in time. The minute you walk through those two front doors, and step into the room, you will wonder if you did actually go back in time. Looking around, you’ll notice the countless amounts of history that exist in the Armstrong Browning Library. It can even overwhelm you for a second, at least it overwhelmed me the first time I entered it. I think its awe and wonder can catch anyone off guard, though. But, that’s one of the best things about this particular library. Its simple utter awe and wonder is what makes it special. Though to an unknowing person, the library may appear simple; but in fact, it has a grand story, a story that began with two people. Those two people are Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, and as a young child aspired to be a poet. He wrote poetry for many years but never gained acclaim; but ever true to his vocation, he carried on. And in 1868-1869, his book, The Ring and the Book, finally gave him the appreciation he had been longing for. The Ring and the Book, a 21,000 line narrative poem, challenged most people. But, nonetheless, it was filled with beauty and psychological insight. His loving parents supported his endeavor until he married his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in his thirties. His wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, was born on March 6, 1806. She grew up in a wealthy family, whose money came from Jamaican sugar plantations. She herself was seen as quite a clever child, just as Robert himself had been seen as. She was even considered a child prodigy, but like her husband she was determined to become a poet. By the young age of 12, she had written her first poem, The Battle of Marathon, which her father privately published. As a young child she was often lonely and frustrated though, and this might have predisposed her to her physical illness. She began writing poetry at an early age, but it was when she was at the age of 20 that she began to interest wider literary circles. Unfortunately, due to her illness, she was forced to stay indoors because of London’s polluted air. But, it was in her sick room that she met Robert Browning, and it was there that they fell in love. Like Robert’s parents, her dad was adamantly against their marriage, but Robert and Elizabeth eventually secretly married and moved to Italy, where the air was better for Elizabeth. It was in Italy that Elizabeth’s health started to get better, and also where she gave birth to her first and only child, Pen Browning. Despite her better condition though, her sickness eventually overwhelmed her and she died at the age of 55. It was after his wife’s death that Robert Browning returned to London and eventually died also. [1]

The man that eventually founded the Armstrong Browning Library was Dr. A. J. Armstrong, who became interested with Robert Browning at an early age, and as such, began to collect any books and articles associated with him. But, it was when he met Pen Browning in 1909 that his intent to pursue and acquire anything concerning the author started. Sadly, because Pen didn’t leave a will when he died, the Browning heritage was dispersed during a six day sale. Once Armstrong heard of this, he decided to seek out the items and buy them, but he had trouble finding out exactly who bought each item. Strongly determined though, Armstrong eventually obtained a list of the items on sale and a list of who bought each item. It was this guide that served as a starting point for Armstrong, and made it quite easier for him to locate the buyers of the Browning items. After he found the buyer, he would beg them for the item or simply purchase the item in hopes that he could own it himself. After seeking out items from the six day sale and begging for or purchasing them from the original buyers, he eventually decided to donate his collection. And in 1918, he donated his small collection of Browning books to Baylor University. During the rest of Dr. Armstrong’s life, he worked on finding funds so he could expand Baylor’s Browning Collection. Initially, the collection originally was housed in Carroll Science, but after an unfortunate fire, it was decided that a library would instead be built for the Browning collection. And it was on May 7, 1948, that the ground breaking for the Armstrong Browning Library began. According to the official Baylor Armstrong Browning Library website, the library was to serve a dual purpose: house the Browning collection in the top two floors and provide space for English Department classrooms and offices on the ground level. After twenty-one months, the library finally had its grand opening on February 25, 1950. The library went under major renovations in 1995, though; and it was during this time that the English classes and offices were moved to provide space for the growth of the collection and expanded service to the general public.[2]

The library today is still around, and still in its prime. Though, this was in part due to the refurbishment that took place in 2001. Now, the Armstrong Browning Library not only houses the Browning collection, but is also home to sixty-two stained glass windows that illustrate the poetry of Robert and Elizabeth Browning. According to the official Baylor Armstrong Browning Library website, most of the windows represent themes from Robert Browning's poetry, while twelve are based on Elizabeth Barrett Browning's well-known Sonnets from the Portuguese. This collection of stained glass windows is believed to be the largest array of secular stained glass in the world. The library is also now a popular place for Baylor students to get married. It’s so popular that it’s said that people have to book years in advance for a date for their marriage ceremony in the library.[3]

Honestly, I thought that after I found out about the history of the Armstrong Browning Library, the building would lose all the awe and wonder that it first held for me, but it didn’t. Instead it now seems to hold more awe and wonder, actually. It’s after I learned about the history of the library that I have become to appreciate it more. And maybe it doesn’t hold the same kind of awe and wonder it first held for me, but that’s okay, because in its place is a new kind of awe and respect for two great poets and a man who sought to preserve their legacy

[1] Information in this paragraph is from the official Baylor Armstrong Browning website

[2] Information from this paragraph is from the official Baylor Armstrong Browning Library website

[3] Information in this paragraph from the official Baylor Armstrong Browning Library website


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