Reviewing her career as a professional poet, Aurora Leigh describes her dubiously successful beginnings:
My ballads prospered; but the ballad's race
Is rapid for a poet who bears weights
Of thought and golden image ….
Barrett Browning's ballads had prospered too, and like Aurora she did not find their success particularly creditable, a judgment that has been emphatically shared by twentieth-century critics. But when Robert Browning told her in his first letter that he loved her poems, these were the ones he meant. The ballads are almost the only works of hers that he mentions in their correspondence, and he mentions them often. Gracious Lady Geraldine, bold and selfimmolating Duchess May, the lady disguised as a page who dies defending her husband from the Saracens - such heroines charmed a large and diverse company of Victorian admirers, including Mary Russell Mitford, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Martineau, Thomas Carlyle, and most of Elizabeth Barrett's friends and reviewers, in the years before her marriage when her reputation was made.