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FELICIA DOROTHEA HEMANS.
THE MOST FEMININE WRITER OF THE AGE.
WO generations of English-speaking women found in the poetry of Mrs. Hemans the harmonious expression of their own emotions and sentiments. Her poems have for some years been less read, but many of them are known by heart by multitudes of people who learned them from the school readers in their youth.
Felicia Dorothea Browne was born in Liverpool, in 1793, but passed her childhood and youth in Wales. She was early noted for her "extreme beauty and precocious talents," and at the age of fourteen published her first poems. At eighteen she made an unhappy marriage with Captain Hemans, of the British army, who went abroad six years later, leaving to her the care of their five sons. Mrs. Hemans took up her residence in Rhyllon, Wales, where most of her literary work was done. In 1829 she visited Sir Walter Scott, whose admiration for her did not extend to her poetry. He thought her verses bore "too many flowers and too little fruit," while the great critic, Jeffrey, thought her "beyond all comparison the most touching and accomplished writer of occasional verses that our literature has yet to boast of." Wordsworth also admired her greatly, saying that "in quickness of mind she had, within the range of his acquaintance, no equal.' Before her death, in 1835, she had published eighteen separate volumes. Her last years were spent in Dublin, at the house of her brother, where she was the center of a brilliant circle of literary people.
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.
MOST MELODIOUS OF POETS AMONG WOMEN.
HIRTY years ago the poems of Mrs. Browning were everywhere read. The sweetness and beauty of her verse, the wide range as well as the accuracy and completeness of her mental grasp, her devotion to the cause of civil freedom and moral elevation, made her one of the most popular poets of the time. Elizabeth Barrett was born in Durham, England, in 1809, and passed her childhood in her father's country house in Herefordshire. She was very remarkable for the precocity of her mind. It is said that she could read Greek at eight years, and at seventeen she translated the "Prometheus" of Eschylus, and published an "Essay on the Mind." In her day little English girls did not receive the broad and somewhat free education given to their brothers, but Elizabeth Barrett was exempted from the restrictions of her sex and given the education of a boy. Her friend, Miss Mitford, has thus described her:
"She certainly was one of the most interesting persons I had ever seen. Everybody who then saw her said the same, so that it is not merely the impression of my partiality or my enthusiasm. Of a slight, delicate figure, with a shower of dark curls falling on either side of a most expressive face, large tender eyes richly fringed by dark eyelashes, a smile like a sunbeam, and such a look of youthfulness that I had some difficulty in persuading a friend, in whose carriage we went together to Chiswick, that the translator of the 'Prometheus' of Eschylus, the authoress of the 'Essay on Mind,' was old enough to be introduced into company -in technical language, was out."
When she was twenty-eight she ruptured a blood-vessel in her lungs which did not heal, and which made her for nine years a confirmed invalid whose life was constantly despaired of by her friends. In the meantime, however, in her darkened room, she pursued her labors, at study and in composition, and published two small volumes of verse, and later a collection of all her poems which she thought worthy of preservation. This collection contained the following lines, which led to her meeting Robert Browning:
Or at times a modern volume: Wordsworth's solemn idyll,
Howitt's ballad verse, or Tennyson's enchanted reverie;
Or from Browning some "Pomegranate," which if cut deep down the middle,