Ideology and Textuality in Hemans’s Records of Woman

  • Terence Allan Hoagwood
  • Kathryn Ledbetter


A memorializer of Felicia Hemans’s Records of Woman (1828) writes that, “to use her own words, ‘there is more of herself to be found’ than in any preceding composition. … [The “beautiful legends”] were not things of meditation, but imagined and uttered in the same breath”; the poems in which “her individual feelings are eagerly put forth” include those “wherein aspirations after another world are expressed, or which breathe the weary pining language of home sickness, or in which she utters her abiding sense of the insufficiency of fame to satisfy a woman’s heart”; these poems are “genuine out-bursts of feeling.”1 In such descriptions, the recipe for enjoying the poem is to pretend that it is a person and not a printed work deliberately put on the market. Hemans’s contemporaries Francis Jeffrey, Lydia Sigourney, and Henry Chorley write of her poetry as if the materials of which it is made were personal feelings, sanctified by patriarchal deity, and as if its destiny were personal feeling in the sensibility of its customer.2 These nineteenth-century critics express no doubts about the author-function, about texts being made of other texts, or about the materiality of the text in real time and space. One could substitute a supposed personal feeling, which is not really present, for the text, which is present, and enjoy the illusion without doubts about its conventional unreality.


Personal Feeling Textual Supplement Woman Writer Narrative Module Professional Reputation 
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  1. 5.
    Among many examples of critical work which has moved discussion beyond the illusion of personal feeling, I will mention Jerome McGann’s The Romantic Ideology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), which influentially called into question the traditional (and personalistic) illusions of Romanticism.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    One valuable account of Hemans’s business practices and sales success is Paula Feldman, “The Poet and the Profits: Felicia Hemans and the Literary Marketplace,” Keats-Shelley Journal 46 (1997): 148–76.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Susan Wolfson, “‘Domestic Affections’ and ‘the spear of Minerva’: Felicia Hemans and the Dilemma of Gender,” in Re-Visioning Romanticism: British Women Writers, 1776–1837, ed. Carol Shiner Wilson and Joel Haefner (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), 144.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Sweet and Melnyk, “Introduction: Why Hemans Now?” in Felicia Hemans: Reimagining Poetry in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Sweet and Melnyk (Houndmills and New York: Palgrave [St. Martins], 2001), 6; Armstrong, “Natural and National Monuments—Felicia Hemans’s ‘The Image in Lava’: A Note,” in Felicia Hemans, ed. Sweet and Melnyk, 219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 12.
    Stuart Curran, “Romantic Poetry: The ‘I’ Altered,” in Romanticism and Feminism, ed. Anne K. Mellor (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), 189.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    An excellent account of commodity-poems in the period is Daniel Riess, “Letitia Landon and the Dawn of English Post-Romanticism,” Studies in English Literature 1500–1900 36 (1996): 807–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 14.
    Alaric Alfred Watts, Alaric Watts: A Narrative of His Life. By His Son, 2 vols. (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1884), 1:250.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    On Heman’s and de Stael’s Corinne, see Nanora Sweet, “Corinne and the Woman as Poet in England: Hemans, Jewsbury, and Barrett Browning,” in The Novel’s Seductions: Stael’s Corinne in Critical Inquiry (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1999), 204–20.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    Charlotte Smith, The Emigrants (1793), in The Poems of Charlotte Smith, ed. Stuart Curran (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), Book 1, ll. 280–81, 145.Google Scholar
  10. 19.
    For a different development of the originally Hegelian metaphor of the “enemy within,” see Tricia Lootens, “Hemans and Home: Victorianism, ‘Internal Enemies,’ and the Domestication of National Identity,” PMLA 109 (1994): 238–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 21.
    On Hays’s The Victim of Prejudice, see Hoagwood, Politics, Philosophy, and the Production of Romantic Texts (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1996), 122–39.Google Scholar
  12. 22.
    Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists (1568), tr. Julia Conaway Bondanella and Peter Bondanella (1991; rpt. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 439–44;Google Scholar
  13. and Laura Marie Roberts Ragg, The Women Artists of Bologna (London: Methuen, 1907), 167–87. See also Feldman, Records of Woman With Other Poems, 171.Google Scholar

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© Terence Allan Hoagwood and Kathryn Ledbetter 2005

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  • Terence Allan Hoagwood
  • Kathryn Ledbetter

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