1848 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Felicia Hemans

Rufus Griswold, in Sacred Poets (1848; 1866) 461.



MRS HEMANS was born in Liverpool on the 21st of September, 1795. Her history is well known. An unhappy marriage embittered the larger part of her life, and after an illness singularly protracted and painful, she died, in Dublin, on the 16th of May, 1835. The most remarkable characteristics of Mrs. Hemans's poetry are a religious purity and a womanly delicacy of feeling, never exaggerated, rarely forgotten. Writing less of love, in its more special acceptation, than most female poets, her poems are still unsurpassed in feminine tenderness. Devotion to God, and quenchless affection for her kindred, for friends, for the suffering, glow through all her writings. Her sympathies were not universal. They appear often to be limited by country, creed, or condition; and she betrays a reverent admiration for rank, power, and historic renown. Yet as the poet of home, a painter of the affections, she was perhaps the most touching and beautiful writer of her age. The tone of her poetry is indeed monotonous; it is pervaded by the tender sadness which forever preyed upon her spirit, and made her an exile from society; but it is all informed with beauty, and rich with most apposite imagery and fine descriptions. Many editions of the works of Mrs. Hemans have appeared in this country, of which the best, indeed the only one with any pretentions to completeness, is that of Lea and Blanchard, in seven volumes, with a preliminary notice by Mrs. Sigourney.