Virginia Lucas Poetry Scrapbook

Biography of Felicia Dorothea Hemans

                                             Felicia Dorothea Hemans: A Short Biography

Felicia Dorothea Hemans was born on September 25th, 1793 in Liverpool, England to Felicity Wagner and George Brown.  Hemans began writing poetry as a child to assist with the financial burdens incurred from the abandonment of her father, and by age 14, Hemans published her first volume of poetry; four years later, she published her third volume of poetry.  At age 19, Hemans married Captain Alfred Hemans, for whom she bore five sons.  The eldest child was approaching six years of age when Captain Hemans left on a voyage to Rome, never to return.  Hemans, whose marriage was now a reflection of her parents’ marriage, decided to live with her mother in Wales where she now was able to make time to write poetry.

Hemans was “one of the most widely read, widely published, and professionally successful poets of the nineteenth century” (Wolfson 128).  Many of her poems, such as “Casabianca” and “The Homes of England,” are well known and were often recited in classrooms.  Hemans wrote several dramas and novels, but it was her poetry that engulfed and captivated the citizens of her time and continues to captivate scholars today.  She had an aptitude for giving the domestic woman a national voice, one which echoed the social distress of women torn between domestic responsibilities and the desire to pursue intellectual rigor.  

Hemans’ work analyzed the socially distressing conflicts that were experienced by nineteenth century women: the balance between domestic responsibility and public aspiration.  In Hemans’ poems, there is a “persistence that demonstrates how unsettling the conflict,” for women during the Romantic era, “is to [Hemans’] psyche” (Kim).  Hemans’ personal distress provided the avenue into an intellectual exercise of self-reflection that is demonstrated within her poems and has resonated amongst the general public.  Hemans’ reflection lead the narrator in some of her poems towards a “strong support of familiar ideals,” whereas other poems have the female protagonist take her own life so as to free herself from being domestically caged, prohibited from intellectual freedom of expression.  Hemans’ ability to effectively portray both sides of a woman’s dilemma in the nineteenth century is how she was able to financially provide for her five sons, her mother, and herself.

Overall, the underlying theme of Hemans’ poems is that “love, strong familial relationships, and faith are ultimately more important and lasting than fame” (Ockerbloom).  After her mother’s death, Hemans’ health and poetic ability waned.  She became distraught and it is believed that the emotional strain of her mother’s death led to Hemans’ own early death on the 16th of May, 1835. 

                                                                               Works Cited
Kim, Lisa. “Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans (1793 - 1835).” SJSU. Mar. 2006.  1 Oct. 2016.

Ockerbloom, Mary Mark. “Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans (1793 - 1835).” Felicia Hemans. A
          Celebration of Women Writers. 1 Oct. 2016. <>

Wolfson, Susan J. “’Domestic Affections’ and ‘the spear of Minerva’: Felicia Hemans and the
Dilemma of Gender.”  Re-Visioning Romanticism.  Ed. by Carol Shiner Wilson and Joel Haefner.  Philadelphia: U Penn P, 1994. 128-166. 1 Oct. 2016.  Access article here.

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