Felicia Dorothea Hemans

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Felicia Dorothea Hemans
English Poetess and Dramatist
1793-1835

 

Felicia Dorothea Hemans was and English poet who produced a large number of books of verse of all kinds including love lyrics, classical, mythological, and sentimental. She was regarded as an epitome of feminine charm during her lifetime, and is probably best known for her poem, “Casabianca”, better known as ‘The boy stood on the burning deck…’.

Felicia Hemans was born Felicia Browne at Liverpool on September 25, 1793 . Her father was George Browne, a Liverpool merchant of Irish descent and her mother, Felictiy Wagner Browne , was of mixed Italian and German descent. She was the fifth of seven children. Felicia was distinguished by her beauty and genius. She began to read at an early age and did so insatiably from the family’s well-stocked library. At an early age she manifested a taste for poetry, in which she was encouraged by her mother. When her father’s business failed around 1800, the family moved to Wales , first living in an isolated seaside house in Gwrych and then in 1809 to St. Asaph. Here the young poetess obtained a strong passion for nature, read books of chronicles and romance, and gained a working knowledge of the German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese languages. She also cultivated her excellent musical taste.

Her first book, “Poems” was published in 1808, when she was only fifteen years old. It was a remarkable work for a girl of her age, but the critics gave her some harsh reviews. Her second title was “The Domestic Affections”, which was published in 1812. In that same year she married Captain Alfred Hemans, whom she met in 1808 while visiting he was visiting in her neighborhood from Spain , where he was stationed with her brothers who served in the kings army. She fell in love with him and that love did not wane with his absence. Upon his return in 1811, the relationship continued to develop until it ended in marriage. Their marriage, however, was not a happy one and in 1818 Captain Hemans went to Rome and left his wife and family behind. They never saw each other again. Felicia, though poor in health, now devoted herself to the education of her five sons. She also devoted much of her time to reading and writing, spending the rest of her life in North Wales , Lancashire , and later in life in Dublin .

Her most famous works were, “The Vespers of Palermo”, a tragedy which proved a failure when acted at Covent Garden; “The Siege of Valencia”, “The Forest Sanctuary”, “The Songs of the Affections”, “Hymns for Childhood”, and “Scenes and Hymns of Life”.

Felicia Heman’s work was without great originality or force, yet it was sweet, natural, and pleasing. But she was too fluent and wrote much and hastily. Her lyrics were her best productions and her poems the most ambitious. She was a woman of true genius, and some of her poems are perfect in sentiment and will live on as long as the English language. She died on May 16, 1835 while living in Dublin .

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