The Biography of Felicia Hemans:

            Felicia Browne Hemans was born in Liverpool, England on September 25th, 1793 to parents, George Browne and Felicity Wagner. Her father was a wine merchant and her mother was the daughter of the Austrian and Tuscan consul to Liverpool. The French Revolution broke out during the same year, causing financial panic in England, and her father’s merchant business was ruined. As a result, the Browne family was transplanted from Liverpool to Northern Wales, where Felicia spent the majority of her life. Having been tutored by her mother, Felicia was a child prodigy. She was fluent in Latin, German, French and Italian and had developed a liking for William Shakespeare. Felicia also developed a very talented writing habit and, after spending two successful winters in London, she published her first two volumes of poetry in 1808 at the age of fourteen. The first volume, Poems, was well written but faced harsh criticisms. Her second volume, England and Spain; or Valour and Patriotism, was a celebration of Britain’s re-engagement with republican values and may have been inspired by her brother’s association and service in the Army.

            Following Felicia Hemans’s first publication, she began receiving flattery from Percy Shelley because he was attracted to her poetical prowess. Felicia’s mother abruptly cut off his communications because she didn’t approve of Shelley. It did not matter, though, because Felicia fell in love with Captain Alfred Hemans, a veteran of the Peninsular Campaign. At 19 years old, Felicia married Captain Hemans in 1812. She published The Domestic Affections and Other Poems prior to her marriage with Hemans, which analyzes the place of domesticity in a world focused on war. During the next six years, Felicia published three additional solid works of poetry, including The Restoration of the Works of Art in Italy (1816) and also gave birth to five sons. In 1818, however, Captain Hemans deserted Felicia and their children and ran away to Italy under the pretense of being “ill.” It is speculated that the couple privately decided on a separation because Felicia rarely corresponded and never visited her husband. Ironically, when Felicia was young, her father also deserted his family. Left to support her five young children by her writing capability alone, Felicia and her sons lived with her mother in Wales. With the assistance of her mother and brothers to help care for her children and a lack of wifely obligations, Felicia focused on her writing and poetry for the next nine years.

            Although her attempts at drama were unsuccessful, her career as a poet was extraordinarily successful. Critic Frederic Rowton gave a critical assessment of her work in The Female Poets of Great Britain (1853). He said, “I think there can be no doub that Mrs. Hemans takes decidedly one of the most prominent places among our female poets.” George Eliot deemed her poetry as “exquisite.” Although she received much acclaim for her poetry, there were quite a few critics opposed to her success as a woman poet. Lord Byron, for example, was quite jealous of his “competition” and stated, “I do not despise Mrs. Hemans-but if [she] knit blue stockings instead of wearing them it would be better.” Other critics, like Scott, criticized her poetry fro being too political. Hemans is, indeed, very political with her poetry, especially in “The Child and Flowers” (1828). Her commentary involves criticism of the working environments in factories, poverty, child labor and the role of women.

            Mrs. Hemans uses a vast collection of metrical effects and narrative structures, which contribute to the emotional rhythm of her poetry. This effect, coupled with the wording Hemans uses, sometimes gives the reader feelings of sorrow, anger, frustration or pride. She has a specific quality of writing emotional verses that correspond to the events of the time. The majority of her poetry, however, responds the sentiments and concerns of women during the nineteenth-century in Britain. She is specifically known to idealize and romanticize a woman’s role in the household and her relationship with her husband. She also focused on the increasing child and mother mortality rates in the world. Poems, such as “To the New Born” and “The Better Land” were viewed as a means of solace for survivors with religions beliefs. Hemans strongly supported family ideals and many contemporaries accepted her as a loving mother and daughter. In fact, the public had a sympathetic view of her separation with Captain Hemans. Through her poetry, Hemans sent the messages that, although intellectuality is highly honored, strong family relationships, love and faith are ultimately more important in life.

            In 1827, Felicia’s mother passed away and, from that point until her own death, Felicia became an invalid. Her two eldest sons moved to Italy to be with their father and she returned to Liverpool, where she had few relationships with her neighbors on account of differing personalities. She finally moved to Dublin in 1831 to be closer to one of her brothers and she died on May 16, 1835 of a weak heart, believed to be possibly attributed to rheumatic fever.