HEMANS, Felicia Dorthea

Born: September 25, 1793, in Liverpool, England

Died: May 16, 1835, in Dublin, Ireland

Felicia Dorthea Hemans was an English Romantic poet. Her prolific writings, like the Victorian poetry that would follow, targeted the domesticity of her female audience. Her works, full of the theme of love, concentrate on values of home, hearth, family, country and God. She is most noted for her shorter pieces, such as Casabianca and The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers.

Her father, Irish-born George Browne, was a wealthy merchant who retired while his daughter was very young. She was the fifth of seven children who were educated primarily by their mother, Felicity Wagner Browne. When her father retired, the family moved to Wales and lived at Gwrych in Denbighshire. Because her letters don't mention her father, it has been assumed that he left the family after two business ventures failed in England.

Felicia began reading Shakespeare by the time she was six years old. With her intelligence and love of literature, she could recite poems and dramas from many writers, including Shakespeare. In 1808, Poems, a collection of her writing from the ages of eight to thirteen, was published. This was the first in a series of twenty-four volumes published until 1834. One or more volume appeared every year after 1816.

One of her favorite authors was Lord Byron. Although she declined his offer of correspondence, she wore a piece of jewelry that contained a locket of his hair. However when she read about his marital indiscretions, and the rumors of his incestuous relationship with his half-sister, she removed the locket never to wear it again.

When she turned nineteen, Felicia married a well- respected man named Captain Alfred Hemans, her elder by fifteen years. However, her husband moved his post to Italy, leaving his wife behind in North Wales to raise their family. She separated from her husband in 1819.

To support her family, she started writing for various journals, such as the Edinburgh Review in 1820 and she won many prizes for her work. Even with five children, she was an extremely productive writer, establishing herself so well, that she often met with other writers such as Wordsworth, Maria Jane Jewsbury, Mary Howitt, Joanna Baillie, and Sir Walter Scott. She was offered an editor's position in Boston, but turned it down in order to remain in Wales.

Hemans' aptitude for languages helped her to easily learn German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Consequently, she was able to study literature in many languages, but took a particular interest in the German writers Schiller and Goethe. She is known for her translations of works such as Translations From Camoens and Other Poets.

Later in life, Hemans moved to Dublin, where Hymns for Children, National Lyrics, and Songs for Music were published. Near the end of her career, her restlessness and ill health caused her to shorten her works.