Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s second cousin and brother-in-law, known by his middle name, William Surtees Cook was born on 24 March 1813 at Pilgrim’s Hatch, near Brentwood, Essex. He was the second son and fourth child of John Cook and Elizabeth, daughter of Aubone and Mary Surtees (née Altham). Mary was one of five sisters that included EBB’s maternal grandmother, Arabella Graham-Clarke (née Altham). This kinship on the mother’s side would allow Surtees to be a frequent visitor at 50 Wimpole Street. Much of what we know about Surtees comes from the extensive journals he kept from about 1835 up until just before his death. The journals prior to October 1844 and those covering the period September 1845 to October 1847 are missing.
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