Long before the women’s movement, British poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning lamented in her seminal work Aurora Leigh the roadblocks facing women who wanted to pursue a career. The mahogany desk at which Browning is said to have written that poem has been donated to the University Library by Peter Heydon ’62, a lifelong collector of memorabilia from the poet and her husband, poet Robert Browning. Heydon also donated Robert’s Northern Italian walnut table and the couple’s silver-plated tea kettle.
Heydon spent two decades as a professor of English literature at the University of Michigan. He often would show the Brownings’ desk and table to his students and say to them, “Put your hand on that. Aren’t you inspired?”