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Author photo. Courtesy of the <a href="http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?1251429">NYPL Digital Gallery</a> (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

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Felicia Dorothea Browne was one of six children of George Browne, a wine merchant, and his wife Felicity Wagner, herself the daughter of the Austrian-Tuscan diplomatic consul. She was born in Liverpool and grew up North Wales, where she spent most of her life. Felicia came to consider herself Welsh, later referring to Wales as "land of my childhood, my home and my dead." She was tutored by her mother and became somewhat of a child prodigy, fluent in Latin, German, French, Spanish, Portugese, and Italian. She began writing as a child and published her first two collections of poetry at age 14, attracting praise from the poet Shelley. In 1812, she married Captain Alfred Hemans, an older man and a veteran of the Napoleonic wars, with whom she had five children. The couple settled in Daventry, Northhamptonshire; however, the marriage was not happy, and the couple separated in 1818/1819. Felicia Hemans returned to Wales. During this time, she published several of her major works, sometimes using the pen name Egeria. They included The Restoration of Works of Art to Italy (1816), Modern Greece (1817) and Translations From Camoens and Other Poets (1818).
Her classic poem Casabianca (1826) is remembered for its famous lines, "The boy stood on the burning deck," and "the stately homes of England." Mrs. Hemans was a friend of Sir Walter Scott, who wrote the epilogue for her play The Vespers of Palermo (1824), which was produced in Edinburgh, and of William Wordsworth. Her collections of verse, The Forest Sanctuary (1825) and Records of Woman (1830), were immensely popular. Felicia Hemans was a true 19th-century celebrity writer, with a devoted following on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1831, in ill health, she went to live in Dublin, where her younger brother had settled.
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