1836 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Felicia Hemans

Rose Lawrence, in "Recollections of Mrs. Hemans" The Last Autumn at a Favourite Residence" (1836) 314-16.



Her language and imagery in speaking were studiously correct and beautiful, — hardly less so than in her poetry. What I first knew her, her spirits were of the finest and gayest flow: there was too much effort in their brilliance latterly, — at least those would think so who knew what this over-exertion cost her, and how she suffered (in languor and silence) afterwards. She was strongly excited by society, and (what was almost the same thing to her) by admiration. At all times when we were alone, I never knew the being who could equal her.

I always feared that she should write a novel, — that the opinion of her friend Miss Jewsbury, and the success of one of her brilliant and poetically-gifted contemporaries, might have induced her to do so, — for it did not appear to me that her talent lay that way. She possessed not that knowledge of the world which is necessary and effective for such a purpose: she had seen little of that society where "les plaisirs deviennent des peines par leur multiplicite," — where individual character is so closely veiled, and common foibles so unsparingly exhibited. Her empire lay within the bounded but beautiful horizon of the regions of imagination that surrounded her. Self-occupied and absorbed, she had no skill in the analysis of character; no address in the management of that powerful weapon, ridicule, so feared both by the worldly, and the enthusiastic, — which so often checks what is absurd, but which not unfrequently "smothers or represses that which is noble." I could not bear that she should risk such high celebrity as hers, or profane her graceful and poetical imagination by any misapplication of it.