Felicia Dorothea Hemans 

Portrait of Felicia Dorothea Hemans

Felicia Dorothea Hemans was an English/Welsh Romantic poet and playwright known for the “The Stately Homes of England”. She was born on 25th September 1793 in Liverpool, England and died on 16th May 1835 in Dublin, Ireland aged 41.

Major Works

“Poems by Felicia Dorthea Browne” (1808)
“Coeur De Lion at The Bier of His Father” 
“Casabianca” (1826)
“The Homes of England” (1827)
“Records of Women” (1828)

Biography Timeline

Felicia Dorothea Hemans was born on 25th September 1793 in Liverpool. Her father was George Browne, who worked for his father-in-law’s wine business and later became Consul to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in Italy. Her mother was Felicity, daughter of Benedict Paul Wagner also a wine importer from Liverpool and Consul for the state of Venice. She was the fourth of six children who survived infancy. Her father’s business meant they soon moved to Gwrych Castle grounds near Abergele, Denbighshire in North Wales a country where she was to spend her youth until she was sixteen and always felt she was more Welsh than English. 

1808: She publishes “Poems” written between the ages of eight and thirteen and dedicated to the Prince of Wales. The book catches the eye of Percy Bysshe Shelley who writes to her about it. It is the first in a series of twenty-four volumes of her poetry. Her second book is a narrative poem called “England and Spain, or, Valour and Patriotism”. It describes her brother’s service in the Peninsula War in Spain and calls for an end of the tyranny of Napoleon Bonaparte.

1809: The family move to Bronwylfa, in St Asaph in Flintshire, Wales. She has a broad education and becomes fluent in Welsh, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

1812: On 30th July she marries Captain Alfred Hemans, an Irish army officer who is much older than her. The couple move to Daventry in Northamptonshire and whilst there her poetry helps support a growing family of five sons. She publishes “The Domestic Affections and Other Poems” by Felicia Dorothea Browne.

1816: John Murray, the publisher of Jane Austen, Walter Scott and Lord Byron takes on her works. She publishes “On the Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy” which runs to two editions.

1817: She publishes “Modern Greece”.

1818: She publishes “Translations from Camoens; and Other Poets, with Original Poetry”.

1819: She separates from her husband but continues writing as a single parent as she moves in with her mother who looks after the household. She publishes “Tales and Historic Scenes”.

1823: She publishes her play “The Vespers of Palermo”.

1825: She publishes another major poetry collection which includes the popular “The Forest Sanctuary”.

1826: In August her famous poem “Casabianca” is published in Volume Two of “The Monthly Magazine”. (It is often known as “The boy stood on the burning deck” due to one of its lines). The ballad is about Captain Luc-Julien-Joseph Casabianca and his thirteen-year-old son, Giocante who both get killed on board the ship the “Orient” during the Battle of the Nile in 1798 when the ship’s magazine explodes.

1827: On 11th January her mother dies and Felicia sends her two oldest boys to join their father in Rome and moves back to Liverpool herself with the rest of her family. She publishes “The Homes of England” which coins the phrase “stately home”.

1828: She begins writing “Records of Women” where she examines the lives of women, both famous and anonymous, who portray heroism, rebellion or resistance. She publishes the pamphlet “The Sceptic” where she asks for an Anglicanism more attuned to other religions and women’s real-life experience. By now she is a literary celebrity, admired by the likes of William Wordsworth and Walter Scott

1830: She publishes “Records of Woman and Songs of the Affections” which becomes very popular.

1831: She moves to Dublin in Ireland as her doctors recommend it as healthier than Liverpool. Despite the move her health does not improve.

1834: She publishes her last books “Scenes and Hymns of Life” and “National Lyrics, and Songs for Music”.

Felicia Dorothea Hemans died on 16th May 1835 in Dublin, Ireland. The cause was either scarlet fever, oedema or rheumatic fever according to different medical interpretations. She was buried in St Ann’s Church, in Dawson Street, Dublin Ireland. At the time of her death she was as popular in the United States of America as in Great Britain. Her sister Harriett edited her complete works in seven volumes in 1839.