Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“The breaking waves dashed high”: The life and afterlife of Felicia Hemans’ ‘The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England’ (1825)

Felicia Hemans was an English poet and literary celebrity whose immense popularity rivalled any writer of the early nineteenth-century, even Lord Byron. Born in Liverpool, her family life was disrupted by the Napoleonic Wars, but her father’s wealth as a wine merchant provided Hemans with a good education at home. Her exceptional talent was noted by a tutor who lamented her gender meant she could not be ‘borne away to the highest honours at college!’.[1] Her first volume of verse Poems (1808), published when Hemans was just 15 from poetry written during her childhood, gained her early notoriety and was to be the first of 24 volumes she would publish in her lifetime. Later, she would find lasting fame on both sides of the Atlantic for her poem ‘The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in New England’ (1825).

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