1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Felicia Hemans

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 447.



Felicia Dorothea Browne was the maiden name of Mrs. Hemans. She was born in Liverpool, September 25th, 1793, and died May 16th, 1835, aged forty-one. Her father, who was a merchant, having experienced some reverses in fortunes, removed his family to Wales. In 1812 she married Captain Hemans, but the union was not a happy one: in 1818 he went to Italy, and they never met again. Mrs. Hemans remained in Wales, her time being fully occupied by her poetical labors, and the education of her five boys. Ill health, however, pressed upon her, and she prematurely experienced decay of the springs of life. She died at the house of her brother, Major Browne, in Dublin. She had begun to publish her poetry as early as her fifteenth year. She wrote several long poems of merit, and The Vespers of Palermo, a tragedy; but it is in her short lyrical pieces that she is happiest. Some of these compare not unfavorably with the best in the language. It has been the fashion among youthful critics of late to undervalue her productions; but not a few of these have a charm, a tenderness, and a spirit which must make them long dear to the hearts of the many. Over the grave where her mortal remains were deposited were inscribed these lines, from one of her own poems:

Calm on the bosom of thy God,
Fair spirit, rest thee now!
Even while with us thy footsteps trod,
His seal was on thy brow.

Dust to its narrow house beneath!
Soul to its place on high!
They that have seen thy look in death
No more may fear to die.

The complete works of Mrs. Hemans, with a memoir by her sister, were published in six volumes.