Felicia Dorothea Browne Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Felicia Dorothea Hemans was born Felicia Dorothea Browne in Liverpool, England, the fifth of seven children. When she was six years old, her family moved to northern Wales, where Felicia spent her childhood. Educated at home by her mother, with access to the Browne family’s extensive library, she knew Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and, most likely, Latin and Welsh. She began writing poetry by the age of eight and published her first volumes in 1808: The first, Poems, contained poems of birds, flowers, fairies, and the seaside, and the second, England and Spain, contained patriotic poems influenced by her brothers’ service in the Peninsular Wars.

By 1812, she was publishing regularly in magazines and annuals, and she frequently brought out new verse collections. In 1812, she married Captain Alfred Hemans, but in 1818, he left for Italy, leaving her to care for five sons. However, it was an age when a woman could earn an income by writing poetry. Unlucky in the failure of her marriage, she was nevertheless fortunate in other matters: A wide circle of family and friends were supportive of her career. In addition, she was published by John Murray and by William Blackwood, two of the most significant publishers of her time. By 1825, an edition of her poems had been proposed in the United States, and she was invited to move to Boston to edit a periodical, but she declined this offer.

These professional successes...

(The entire section is 434 words.)