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In London of 1845, renowned poet Elizabeth Browning lives quietly as an invalid with her tyranical, pious father Edward and her six younger brothers and two younger sisters, Henrietta and Anabel. Although nearly forty years old, Elizabeth is so dominated by her widowed businessman father that she is unable to refuse even his most trivial command. By denying them parental approval to court men, Edward, who believes that romantic love is a sin, also controls Henrietta and Anabel, and only allows Elizabeth to correspond with fellow poet Robert Browning because he believes the relationship is strictly professional. When Robert finally visits the bedridden Elizabeth, however, he reveals that, through her letters and poetry, he has fallen in love with her. Elizabeth tries to dismiss Robert's proclamations, but he is adamant and declares his intention to see her often. Three months later, Elizabeth's physical condition, which previously had been diagnosed as terminal, improves so greatly that her doctors recommend that she spend the winter in Italy. Buoyed by the news, Elizabeth descends the house stairs by herself and thrills Robert with her love-induced rejuvenation. After Robert announces that he, too, is going to Italy, Edward arrives and, soundly chastizing Elizabeth for over-extending herself, instantly deflates his daughter's resolve. Edward then refuses to grant Elizabeth permission to go to Italy and calls her selfish and ungrateful for suggesting the separation. Although Elizabeth briefly defends her right to live and be happy, she once again gives in to Edward and tells Robert the trip to Italy is cancelled. Determined to free Elizabeth from her father, Robert forcefully proposes to her, but while admitting her love, Elizabeth maintains that she is too ill to marry. Later, however, Elizabeth learns that Edward, who has been apprised of Robert's true feelings, is buying a house in Surrey in order to separate her from the poet. Sobered by the seriousness of Edward's actions, Elizabeth promises Robert that she will give him a decision regarding their marriage before her father returns from Surrey. To the surprise of Elizabeth and Henrietta, who has been been courting Captain Surtees Cook in secret, Edward returns home early and catches his daughters entertaining the officer. Outraged by Henrietta's confession of love, Edward demands that, unless she swears on a Bible that she will not see Cook again, he will disown her. Henrietta reluctantly makes the vow, after which Elizabeth condemns her father and, through her maid Wilson, sends a letter to Robert in which she accepts his proposal. Overjoyed, Robert tells Wilson that Elizabeth and he are eloping to Italy that night. Elizabeth is terrified by the immediacy of Robert's plan and at first balks, but when Edward clearly reveals the unnatural, clinging nature of his love for her, she regains her courage and prepares to leave. After Elizabeth sneaks away with Wilson, Henrietta, who has vowed to break her pledge regarding Cook, informs her father of her departure. Stunned by his loss, Edward vindictively orders one of his sons to destroy Elizabeth's dog, but is told that the animal is safe with his mistress. While Edward fumes at his defeat, Elizabeth weds Robert.