1828 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Felicia Hemans

William Cullen Bryant, "Mrs. Hemans" Philadelphia Album 3 (3 December 1828) 212.



Were it not entirely superfluous, we should like to express; in full, our opinion of this lady's productions; but when there is an universal acknowledgment of her lofty imagination, of the depth and clearness of her thought, and of her surprising facility in embodying her conceptions, an acquiescence to the public voice is all that can be required of us. Her lighter efforts, those which have been thrown off to comply with the solicitations of Magazine Editors and manufacturers of Souvenirs, are familiar to every reader. They are seized upon greedily by the proprietor of every newspaper, however obnoxious some of them may be to criticism — are read, and studied, and treasured up in the heart, as are the verses of no other man or woman now living. It is certainly true that Mrs. Hemans is the only writer whose words are upon the tongue of every reader, be he but the mere seeker out of ship news, or the searcher after advertisements of bales of cotton and quintals of cod-fish. But her character as a poet dues not depend upon those flashes of inspiration, the light of which is scattered so widely. It is in her larger poems, her laboured efforts, that her glory beams forth — that her masculine strength is developed. These are indeed offerings meet for the acceptance of Apollo. In them she tells us of the high purposes of patriotic souls, of the passing love and firmness of woman, of the agony of the broken heart, and the triumph of the proud one, even in death itself. She accomplishes her purpose in everything she attempts; not with the aid of artificial, unmeaning flourishes of language, but by her intimate acquaintance with the human mind. Its secret workings she traces out, its darker meanings she translates, its dimmest visions she interprets.

To the honor of the age which may justly boast of its Hemans, we believe she could with safety say, that she has never written "one line which, dying, she could wish to blot."