The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Hemans, Felicia Dorothea

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HEMANS, Felicia Dorothea, an English poetess, born in Liverpool, Sept. 25, 1794, died near Dublin, May 12, 1835. Her father, a merchant named Browne, was a native of Ireland, but her mother was of Venetian descent. When she was five years of age commercial disasters compelled the family to remove to an old mansion at Gwryrch, in Denbighshire, Wales, where her childhood was passed. A collection of her juvenile poems was published in 1808, under the title of “Early Blossoms,” and met with harsh treatment from the critics. A second volume, entitled “The Domestic Affections,” published in 1812, was more successful. In the same year she married Capt. Hemans, by whom she became the mother of five sons. Incompatibility of tastes and temperaments rendered the union unfortunate, and after Capt. Hemans went to Italy in 1818 to recover his health they never again met, although letters frequently passed between them with reference to the education of their children. Mrs. Hemans now rejoined her mother in Wales, and commenced an active literary life. She studied German and the languages of southern Europe, translated from Camoëns and Herrera, and contributed numerous pieces in prose and verse to the magazines and annuals. About this time she published “Tales and Historic Scenes,” “Modern Greece,” “Dartmoor,” a prize poem, and “The Skeptic.” At the suggestion of Reginald Heber she wrote her play of “The Vespers of Palermo,” which failed on the London stage, but was well received in Edinburgh. Her works gained her the friendship of many distinguished men. She visited Scott at Abbotsford and Wordsworth at Rydal Mount. In 1831, after a temporary residence near Liverpool for the benefit of her children, she removed to Dublin, where one of her brothers was living. Her last poem was “A Sabbath Sonnet,” dedicated to her brother. In 1839 appeared the first collective edition of her poems, with a memoir by her sister (7 vols. 12mo), followed in 1848 by one chronologically arranged (1 vol. 8vo), and by another in 6 vols. in 1850. In 1836 were published “Memorials of Mrs. Hemans,” by H. F. Chorley (2 vols. 12mo). Her popularity in the United States dates from 1826, when an edition of her poems, accompanied by a notice of the authoress, was published by Prof. Andrews Norton. Numerous other editions have been published here, one (1850) including an essay on her genius by H. T. Tuckerman. Freiligrath has published an admirable German version (Das Waldheiligthum) of her “Forest Sanctuary.”