By John Hitner
A vertical study of Robert Browning’s poem The Inn Album presents a close scrutiny. The study may provide a basis for an investigation of Browning, which will, if not restore his onetime popularity, at least render that popularity less enigmatic than it is now generally felt to be. According to the present image, Browning, often reckless and frequently guileless, was a self-convinced and not very convincing optimist. But The Inn Album verse, a poem of dark pessimism, reflects his mood after the great Panic of 1873 in England.
Some modern criticism of Browning has been devastating in its emphasis upon negative aspects like obscurity, conflict and fragmentation. Why not accentuate the positive features of clarity, harmony and wholeness? Browning possessed these poetic principles, too, and there can be no harm in exploring them…Browning’s Analysis of a Murder is an attempt to do justice to an underrated piece of literature.
(Source: Foreword, pages vii-xi of Browning’s Analysis of a Murder: A case for The Inn Album.)