1843 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Felicia Hemans

William Wordsworth, 1843; Prose, ed Grosart (1876) 3:193-94.



Mrs. Hemans was unfortunate as a Poetess in being obliged by circumstances to write for money, and that so frequently and so much, that she was compelled to look out for subjects wherever she could find them, and to write as expeditiously as possible. As a woman she was to a considerable degree a spoilt child of the world. She had been early in life distinguished for talents, and poems of hers were published whilst she was a girl. She had also been handsome in her youth, but her education had been most unfortunate. She was totally ignorant of house-wifery, and could as easily have managed the spear of Minerva as her needle. It was from observing these deficiencies that one day, while she was under my roof, I purposely directed her attention to household economy, and told her I had purchased scales which I intended to present a young lady as a wedding present; pointed out their utility (for her especial benefit), and said that no menage ought to be without them. Mrs. Hemans, not in the least suspecting my drift, reported this saying in a letter to a friend at that time, as a proof of my simplicity. Being disposed to make large allowances for the faults of her education and the circumstances in which she was placed, I felt most kindly disposed towards her and took her part upon all occasions, and I was not a little afflicted by learning that after she withdrew to Ireland a long and severe illness raised her spirit as it depressed her body. This I heard from her most intimate friends, and there is striking evidence of it in a poem entitled ["Sabbath Sonnet"?]. These notices of Mrs. Hemans would be very unsatisfactory to her intimate friends, as indeed they are to myself, not so much for what is said, but what for brevity's sake is left unsaid. Let it suffice to add there was much sympathy between us, and if opportunity had been allowed me to see more of her, I should have loved and valued her accordingly. As it is, I remember her with true affection for her amiable qualities, and above all for her delicate and irreproachable conduct during her long separation from an unfeeling husband, whom she had been led to marry from the romantic notions of inexperienced youth. Upon this husband I never heard her cast the least reproach, nor did I ever hear her even name him, though she did not forbear wholly to touch upon her domestic position; but never so as that any fault could be found with her manner of adverting to it.