The life of Fannie Coddington Browning
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Slavik, Sherrell A.
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Fannie Coddington was born in New York on September 6, 1853. Her father, Thomas B. Coddington, was a wealthy metal merchant with locations in both New York and London. In 1868, Fannie moved with her family to London where she became acquainted with the poet, Robert Browning, and his family. Pen Browning, Robert's son, was attracted to Fannie and after a few years proposed marriage. The Coddington family disapproved of the match and in 1875, Fannie returned to New York. There, she dedicated herself to religious and charitable work with Grace Church. After the deaths of her father, mother, and elder sister, Fannie traveled to England with her younger sister, Marie. She was reunited with Pen Browning and on October 4, 1887, the couple were married. They purchased the Palazzo Rezzonico in Venice as their home. The poet, who had the greatest love and admiration for his daughter-in-law, was visiting them when he became ill and died on December 12, 1889 . Although the couple had many friends and were socially active in Venice, their life was unhappy. Fannie was unable to bear a child and suffered frequently from disabling physical pain as well as from the resulting emotional strain. Pen hired a beautiful Venetian nurse/model who aroused Fannie's jealousy and eventually caused a separation. In 1893, after six years of marriage, Fannie left for New York where she spent the next few years in philanthropic endeavors. In 1899, at the encouragement of her friend Enid Layard, Fannie agreed to meet Pen to try to reconcile their differences. In May, she returned to Venice and her husband but left again in January of 1900 to live at Enid Layard's until she finally acquired her own apartment in March of that year. She lived independently, boarding nurses and working with various charitable organizations. In 1906, Fannie chose to leave Italy and to make her home at Oxford in England. In July 1912, Pen died and because he left no will, an auction of the Browning estate was held the following May. Fannie moved to America, making her home in Washington, D.C. in 1914. In 1928, she published Some Memories of Robert Browning. In 1931, Fannie returned to England to Hayward Heath, London. There, in 1933, she hired Miss Dorothy Ivatt, an employee of Hayward Heath Hospital whom she had come to know and trust; she consequently dismissed her companion of twenty years. Miss Louise Vincent. Shortly afterward, she tried to break the trust fund of almost $400,000 which she had established a few years earlier, but lost the case because the judge ruled that she was influenced by Miss Ivatt. Fannie lived with Miss Ivatt in Anchorhold cottage in Hayward Heath until her death on September 20, 1935.