Browning's early career began promisingly, but collapsed. The long poems ''Pauline'' and ''Paracelsus'' received some acclaim, but in 1840 the difficult ''Sordello'', which was seen as wilfully obscure, brought his poetry into disrepute. His reputation took more than a decade to recover, during which time he moved away from the Shelleyan forms of his early period and developed a more personal style.
In 1846, Browning married the older poet Elizabeth Barrett, and went to live in Italy. By the time of her death in 1861, he had published the crucial collection ''Men and Women''. The collection ''Dramatis Personae'' and the book-length epic poem ''The Ring and the Book'' followed, and made him a leading British poet. He continued to write prolifically, but his reputation today rests largely on the poetry he wrote in this middle period.
When Browning died in 1889, he was regarded as a sage and philosopher-poet who through his writing had made contributions to Victorian social and political discourse. Unusually for a poet, societies for the study of his work were founded while he was still alive. Such Browning Societies remained common in Britain and the United States until the early 20th century.