Sonnets from the Portuguese chronicles one of the most famous romances in history. The renowned Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett wrote the sonnet sequence during her courtship by Robert Browning, and later presented them to him as a wedding gift. Robert was astounded by the quality of the poetry, and encouraged her to publish, but Elizabeth objected on the grounds that the content was too personal. At last, Robert prevailed, and Elizabeth published her sonnets.
The title of the book comes from a joke between Robert and Elizabeth Browning. Elizabeth was too embarrassed to publish the sonnets as a personal chronicle, so she decided to pretend they were a translation from a foreign language. Robert's nickname for her was "My Little Portuguese" due to her dark hair and olive complexion, and so the sequence was forever known as "Sonnets from the Portugese."