The Sceptic: A poem for its time?

The Sceptic: A Poem For Its Time?

Barbara Taylor

  1. Despite being published in 1820, The Sceptic more properly belongs to 1819 and takes its place among the vast number of literary works written during that year, many of which were published much later.[1] Hemans sent the manuscript to her publisher in November of that year, stating firmly that the poem was "appropriate to the present state of public feeling, if it were brought out promptly."[2] Her remarks were echoed by John Taylor Coleridge in the Quarterly Review, who noted that it ''undoubtedly…owed its being to the circumstances of its time."[3] Thus both poet and critic deliberately identify the poem with its historical context and unknowingly foreshadow Sweet's contention, in the first part of this introduction, that it was a poem for an occasion.

  2. While we could dismiss Hemans's remarks as part of an attempt to persuade Murray to publish the poem quickly, her statement encourages us to ask what was happening just at that particular time. What could call forth this poem and would encourage Murray to rush into print?[4] Coleridge provides a partial answer by attributing the genesis of the poem to "a laudable indignation at the course which literature in many departments seemed lately to be taking in this country." Thus he places Hemans's work firmly within a literary context where the major voices were those of Byron and Shelley. And this might be a sufficient explanation, given Murray's interest in fostering the debate between Byron and Hemans (for he was also Byron's publisher and he sent him copy of The Sceptic).[5] (Read Byron's letter)

  3. However, the letters that Hemans wrote concerning the publication of The Sceptic and the reviews the poem received provide a distinct topical perspective to the poem. This perspective demands that we look carefully at the wider context in which the poem was written and also the predominately male publishing market where Hemans, a middle class woman, was offering her work. Therefore this second part of the introduction begins by focusing upon Hemans's letter introducing her poem to her publisher. Here her carefully worded approach not only promoted the poem's swift publication but also helped to foster the approving stance of the Quarterly Review and diminish the possibility of accusations of "blueness." After investigating the context into which The Sceptic was published and the debates where Hemans wanted her voice to be heard, I conclude the essay by glancing backwards to an earlier poem, "The Domestic Affections," to provide an insight into Hemans's determination to take part in the debate concerning infidelity and life after death.

    The Sceptic under review

  4. As Sweet noted in the first part of this introduction The Sceptic has received comparatively little attention because much of the writing on Hemans has concentrated upon The Records of Woman, some of it searching in vain for a feminist voice, while others find it.[6] Despite Kaplan's remark that Hemans is at her best in her public and patriotic verse, the earlier long poems are largely forgotten except in the work of Sweet, Trinder, Lootens and Wolfson and the later religious poetry has, until very recently, gone unregarded.[7] Even Wolfson's new edition of Hemans manages to omit her late but impressive ode, "Despondency and Aspiration" and The Sceptic itself.[8] When Hemans's predilection for topical subjects is mentioned, it is sometimes suggested that this tendency stemmed from the necessity to earn from her publishing and that she wrote on such subjects because they were "fashionable," a term which both trivializes and contains her in an appropriately female mode.[9] Such gender-biased description frees interested readers of the 1819 scene from taking Hemans seriously or even including her in their pantheon of authors. Butler's Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries fails to mention her as does Lucas's contentious England and Englishness, which concentrates entirely on writers of the male gender.[10] I also note that Chandler's recent England in 1819, while extending the range of writers included within the canon, perceives Hemans merely as a contributor to the annuals and journals and not as a serious commentator on the political scene.

  5. In his unpublished dissertation, Derek Furr proffers a limited and limiting reading of Hemans's The Sceptic as a sentimental poem that marks her first entrance on to the public platform as a pious mother of the nation. By focussing upon the events which followed the poem's 1820 publication, the Cato Street conspiracy and the trial of Queen Caroline, he provides a reason for the poem's successful reception. But at the same time he ignores the possibility that there may have been more to the poem's conception than Hemans's ambivalent fascination with Byron.[11] We could, perhaps, excuse him for this, as the date of publication is a very blunt instrument to use when untying the knot of a poem's inspiration. And it is only recently that we have had access Hemans's letters to her publishers, which allow us to date the poem more accurately. However, published work on the letters, notably by Feldman, focuses upon the poet's negotiations within the literary marketplace rather than exploring the wider context surrounding those negotiations.[12] And this is where, in its attempt to read The Sceptic through the lens provided by those letters and the contemporary reviews, this essay properly begins.

    "Your much obliged F. Hemans"

  6. Hemans had been publishing her work regularly with Murray since 1816, and the small collection of 29 letters housed in the Murray Archive makes fascinating reading; they show the poet writing directly to the publisher to negotiate the sale of her poetry, sharing the literary gossip of the day and, on occasion, arguing with him.[13] She is a business-like but, at times, an assertive and even combative correspondent. This surprisingly different voice of the poet, together with the apparent sincerity conveyed by the semi-private form of the letter, encourages us to accept them at face value. We thus forget that, even within a letter, a writer can frequently adopt a persona. A more careful analysis demonstrates Hemans's skill in handling her publisher.

  7. There are 5 letters in the collection which refer to The Sceptic: the first, dated 17th November 1819 provides Murray with "an extract from a little poem I have by me" (read Hemans's letter of 17th November 1819). Another written on December 4th reminds him that he has not replied to her previous letter, (read Hemans's letter of 4th December 1819) while on December 18th she writes enclosing the corrected proofs of the poem. In this letter she remarks
    have the goodness to present my thanks to Mr. Gifford for the trouble he has kindly taken in correcting the proofs, and to say that I have, I believe, attended to all his suggestions.
    (Read Hemans's letter of 18th December 1819)
    In this same letter she specifies, "I wish to be Mrs Hemans in the title page of the poem" (read the note "MRS. HEMANS"). In her letter dated January 1820 she says "I shall be glad if you will let me know the price of the poem, and the terms upon which it is published" [14] (read Hemans's letter of 15th January 1820). A much later letter records Murray's intention to publish a second edition of the poem together with her elegy on the death of George III, "according to my wish in one small pamphlet."[15] But it is the first of this group of letters that provides a lens through which we should read the poem.

  8. This letter introducing The Sceptic to her publisher is unique among this collection for this time she addresses herself to William Gifford, Murray's literary advisor, rather than the publisher himself, presenting herself as a suppliant in search of advice[16] (read Hemans's letter of 17th November 1819). Hemans tells Gifford that she encloses "a few extracts from a little poem I have now by me which would, I should think, be appropriate to the present state of public feeling, if it were brought out promptly." Look very carefully at her chosen words. As Sweet noted earlier, all the criticism she reviewed on The Sceptic agreed that it was "the work of a young woman unusually well-prepared to enter a public debate in a highly charged topic." And yet Hemans underplays her work by describing it as "a little poem I have now by me," allowing her reader to infer that the poem just happens to be there, rather than suggesting that what she is offering is a serious scholarly piece of work which may have occupied her (blue-stocking fashion?) for several weeks. It is almost as if she anticipated not only the Quarterly Reviewer's comments upon women's education, but also those of another reviewer in the Edinburgh Monthly Review who commented that the "verses [of Mrs Hemans] appear the spontaneous offspring of intense and noble feeling."[17](Read the Edinburgh Monthly Review) This same anxiety that writing poetry should be work for women is still evident much later in Gilfallen's comments (read also Note 25 in Sweet's "A darkling plain"):
    Mrs Hemans's poems are strictly effusions. And not a little of their charm springs form their unstudied and extempore character. This, too, is in keeping with the sex of the writer. You are saved the ludicrous image of a double-dyed Blue, in papers and morning wrapper, sweating at some stupendous treatise or tragedy from morn to noon, and from noon to dewy eve - you see a graceful and gifted women, passing from the cares of her family, and the enjoyments of society, to inscribe on her tablets some fine thought or feeling, which had throughout the day existed as a still sunshine upon her countenance, or perhaps a quiet unshed tear in her eye.[18]
    All too aware of the dangers for herself and her publishing career if she appeared to be positioning her work in a controversial political arena, she further reassures her gentleman reader that the poem is
    entirely free from political allusions, and is merely meant as a picture of the dangers resulting to public and private virtue and happiness from the doctrines of Infidelity.[19]
    Thus she confirms that what she is offering is not part of
    the free and intrepid course of speculation of which the boldness is more conspicuous than the wisdom, into which some of the most remarkable among the female literati of our times have freely and fearlessly plunged
  9. so feared by the Edinburgh Monthly Review. (Read the Edinburgh Monthly Review, also go to Hartman's "Hemans, Hume, and Philosophical Scepticism") This same review notes that
    a coarse and chilling cento of the exploded fancies of modern scepticism, done into rhyme by the hand of a woman, would have been doubly disgusting.
    Instead Hemans is "advocating the cause of religion"[20]—a role that was approved by the Quarterly Review, which notes that "she is always pure in thought and expression, cheerful, affectionate, and pious."

  10. Having therefore carefully positioned herself within an appropriate frame, she then steps out with tentative daring to mention that she has called her poem "the Sceptic"; only to retreat strategically by continuing, with apparent innocence, "but perhaps if a more suitable title should occur to you, you would have the kindness to suggest it to me."[21] By this cautious ploy she manages not only to inform Gifford that her poem is part of the current controversy about Scepticism but also seeks to disarm him by suggesting that his greater knowledge of the literary world would enable him to provide "a more suitable title" than that chosen by the poem's author. And, of course, by inviting him to comment upon her work she ensures his complicity as becomes obvious in a later letter where she asks Murray to assure Gifford that she has "attended to all his suggestions."[22] (Go to Hemans's letter of 18th December 1819)

  11. Her final apologies, "for thus frequently troubling you, for which I can only apologize by pleading my inexperience and want of literary friends," stress her reliance upon him. In this double voiced letter Hemans has overtly presented the appearance of feminine dependence, flattering Gifford by asking for his advice; while covertly, but very clearly, signalling her intention to intervene in the masculine world of politics.[23]

    "The present state of feeling"

  12. This letter of November 1819, describing The Sceptic as a poem "appropriate to the present state of feeling, if it were brought out promptly," locates Hemans's poem very clearly within its historical context. Her comments remind us that the autumn of 1819 was a period of profound social unrest. The preceding years had seen the end of the long war with France and the return and decommissioning of much of the army; many soldiers had lost their occupation and tramped throughout the countryside looking for employment.[24] It was also a period of poor harvests and consequently high bread prices and starvation. Hill describes the period from 1815 to 1820 as "one of the grimmest in modern British history, years of distress and class hatred, darkened by sullen discontent and periodic riots in the industrial areas and by a savage policy of repression by the government."[25] These years were characterised by large public meetings and harsh government response: the Spa Fields riots in London and the suspension of Habeas Corpus in 1816. 1817 saw the introduction of the gagging acts forbidding unlicensed public meetings and the "March of the Blanketeers," a small group of cotton workers who marched from Manchester to London carrying their blankets to sleep on the way. 1817 was also the year of the Derbyshire Insurrection: "a pathetic outbreak of unemployed framework knitters, deliberately stirred up by Oliver the spy an agent provocateur; three poor men were hanged and eleven other transported for life."[26] Shelley's essay, "An address to the people on the death of the Princess Charlotte," commemorates this execution rather than the more natural death of the princess.[27]

  13. And August 1819 itself saw the Peterloo massacre, a peaceful reform meeting attended by thousands that was broken up by a military charge.[28] The actions of the armed yeomanry, who murdered eleven demonstrators and injured several hundred others, created immediate and widespread outcry (Read Shelley's Sonnet "England in 1819"). The realisation that two women were among the dead and over a hundred women injured fuelled public feelings. These victims were the very ones who should have been able to rely upon the protection of the army.[29] The anxiety created by this ferment of working class protest was heightened by extreme right wing Tories like Eldon and Sidmouth who "conjured up the horrors of jacobinism."[30] And for a time it seemed that England was on the brink of revolution. Lucas, followed by Chandler, notes how it is easy to dismiss this notion now but in 1819 and 1820 the possibility of fighting in England seemed very real.[31] Both Shelley and Byron foresaw the prospect of returning from exile to take part.[32]

  14. The noticeable presence of women at political demonstrations exacerbated the fear felt by contemporary literary commentators (who in writing for the politicized literary journals of the day were always more than literary commentators) about dangerous ideas in poetry and particularly those expressed by women writers, who themselves were a source of anxiety.[33] For a woman poet to write into this politicised space was to enter a potential minefield--just look at the splutterings of the Edinburgh Monthly Review which speaks of the "revolting exhibition of a female mind shorn of all its attractions, and wrapt in darkness and defiance." (Read the Edinburgh Monthly Review) However Hemans, because of her careful presentation of herself and her poem, was seen to be ranging herself on the side of the angels against "the most dangerous writer of the present day" whose work demonstrates both "sedition" and "audacious profaneness." Thus she was able to secure both speedy publication and a favourable reception for her work.

    "Doctrines of infidelity"

  15. The best known exposition of Scepticism had figured in the opening stanzas of Canto II of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (see Childe Harold's Pilgrimage). Published in 1812, this poem had seen Byron rocket to fame; the initial print run of 500 copies was sold out in one morning and Murray sold a further 4,500 copies in the following six months.[34] Here, as in The Sceptic, Byron's focus is on the possibility of life after death, but this materialist focus of scepticism was not confined to literature. It was paralleled by an intense flurry of lectures and pamphlets from the scientific community who sought to prove or disprove the possibility of life after death through speculative theory and dissection. Their investigations were disseminated not only through the press but also through public lectures, notably the Hunter Orations. This annual series was named after John Hunter (1783-1861), a respected surgeon and anatomist who had developed a theory that the principle of life differed in human beings and animals.[35] This gave credence to the belief in life after death, the focal point of the debates. Hunter's pupils, William Lawrence FRS and John Abernethy, themselves both respected surgeons, disagreed with him. In his 1918 lecture Lawrence argued that "the phenomenon of life and mind result entirely from the bodily structure, and consequently, that death, which destroys the bodily structures, destroys the whole of man."[36]

  16. This lecture was discussed in the Quarterly Review in July 1819 in a long review that commented on "the evil consequences arriving to society from the unguarded adoption" of Lawrence's views.[37] And the echoes of this last phrase in Hemans's own letter to Gifford-- "the dangers resulting to public and private virtue and happiness from the doctrines of infidelity" suggest that she was aware of the review. It is quite possible that it had been a topic of conversation among the Anglican clerics who formed Hemans's literary advisors at this time, particularly as the review also covered Remarks on Scepticism by one Thomas Rennell, Christian Advocate at the University of Cambridge, the alma mater of the Bishop of Asaph, John Luxmoore.[38] Heman's poem was written, or so her sister would have us believe, under the influence of Luxmoore.[39]

    So here at the end of the eighteen-teens, we have a group of influential scientists questioning the very foundations of Christian orthodoxy. Their work is widely accessible because it is publicized and reviewed in all the popular journals of the day. We have political unrest, as seen in the gatherings of crowds of working class men and women demanding representation and political reform. Their demands for political change paralleled the ongoing struggles for religious liberation by both the Dissenting Protestant groups and the Roman Catholics of the day. This was a long standing battle because, although the 1688 Act of Toleration had given Protestant Nonconformists the right to worship as they wished, they were still excluded from national and local government as well as from educational and social opportunities.[40] During the 1790s the Dissenting sects had joined together to crusade with increasing militancy against this discrimination. Ryan, writing in The Romantic Reformation, notes that their "campaign for liberation from the tyrannies of prescription and privilege put religious freedom at the top of the national political agenda."[41] The pressure tactics they employed provoked a hostile reaction from the Established Anglican community, and the ensuing disturbances, the "king and church" riots of 1791, seemed to threaten social stability. This social unrest was compounded by the evangelical revival, which although it later became a conservative force that protected Britain from radical political change, was at this point profoundly disturbing as it uncovered and stimulated disaffection from the Established Church.

  17. In addition, we may need to remind ourselves that Britain has a long history of reform and revolution beginning with religious unrest. Ryan writes "The crucial formative events in modern British history—the Elizabethan Settlement, the Civil War, the Revolution of 1688, and the Hanoverian Succession—were religious crises whose resolution contributed essential components of what is called the British Constitution in Church and State."[42] Therefore this open questioning of Christian orthodoxy, which we have seen in the work of both the scientists and the "most popular poet of the day" was profoundly unsettling. And particularly so for the members of the Established church.

  18. Thus we could expect that Hemans, who dedicated her poem to the Bishop of St Asaph and was well aware of the influence that these Anglican Clergy had upon her publisher, should produce an innocuous poem supporting the status quo.

    "Doctrines of Infidelity" II

  19. However The Sceptic does not merely portray an orthodox Christian response to the denial of life after death but rather Hemans's own personal recognition of the desolation of life without this promise, a desolation peculiarly applicable to women. This recognition springs from her own acute analysis of the gender politics of the male dominated society in which she lived. To feel the force of this we need to look backwards to her early poem, "The Domestic Affections." Here she clearly demonstrates that, while the male of the species can achieve fame and fortune and still find repose within a domestic space created by the loving labour of the women folk, the woman herself is denied this apotheosis until after death. Wolfson's astute reading of the poem demonstrates the gender specific nature of the comforts of home where "Domestic bliss has fix'd her calm abode" so that "what is projected as a refuge turns out to be very worldly, a reflexive ideal premised upon female restriction."[43] The only answer to Hemans's question about a mother watching over her dying child, "But who may charm her sleepless pang to rest?" is faith.[44] And the mother's ascent to heaven is couched in language, which as Wolfson notes echoes the earlier flight of masculine genius.[45] Thus Hemans demonstrates that the mother's, and implicitly all women's, compensation is deferred until after death, and the whole economy of domestic affections is premised upon a belief in the afterlife.

  20. It is this perception of emptiness and waste that informs the earlier part of The Sceptic. As the Quarterly Review says it simply rests the "truth of religion upon the necessity of it, on the utter misery and helpless of man without it." But although the nineteenth-century reviewers were quick to praise the poem's orthodoxy they were perhaps too quick. They did not notice the curious turn in the poem as it moves without a pause from Christ's sacrifice upon the cross to the death of Princess Charlotte, presenting it as an equivalent sacrifice. In her 1994 reading of the poem, Sweet suggests that Hemans thus claims that woman's suffering is equally foundational (or anti-foundational?)[46]. The progress Hemans then conducts throughout the idyllic English hamlets depicting maternal figures teaching the scriptures to their children shows that the suffering princess and the mothers are the twin pillars that support the peaceful and productive domestic economy. Hemans's poem places woman right at the centre of the debate on scepticism and reveals the chasms that lurk beneath society. Thus the poem, while seeming to endorse the status quo, is in fact subversive.

    In conclusion

  21. Although The Sceptic received favourable contemporary reviews, it has led to Hemans being characterised as a Tory apologist and, in this current post-Christian age, having her work dismissed because of its piety.[47] Perhaps, realizing that, in part at least, these ideas stem from perceptions of Hemans drawn from her nineteenth-century memoirists (most notably her sister, herself a woman much praised for her piety) we could put them aside and look more closely at what she is doing.[48] Other poems Hemans had produced during 1819, in Tales and Historic Scenes, demonstrate her acute analysis of social and gender politics; notably her perception that in every society under strain women and children are the chief sufferers.[49] Quite obviously in 1819 society was under considerable stress; the most famous writer of the day was questioning the possibility of life after death and scandalizing the reading public with Don Juan. And in the clergy households Hemans frequents they are reading the Quarterly Review where it is apparent that scepticism is not confined to liberal thinkers but is rampant among contemporary scientists. Given the immediate audience she was writing for—the conservative established Anglican clergy of St. Asaph and her similarly conservative gentleman publisher, is it so very surprising that she should choose to clothe her critique of contemporary gender politics in apparently orthodox Christianity?


1. James Chandler in England in 1819 comments on the "extraordinary array of literary work from a particularly momentous year" (p.3) and lists among those works Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind," "England in 1819," Prometheus Unbound and The Cenci; the first two cantos of Byron's Don Juan; Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale," "On a Grecian Urn," "To Autumn," The Fall of Hyperion, "Lamia," "The Eve of St Agnes," and "La Belle Dame Sans Merci."

2. Hemans's letter to Murray dated 17th November 1819 (Murray Archive, London).

3. Article 5 of the Quarterly Review for October 1820 was headed as follows: 1. The Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy by Felicia Hemans. 2. Tales and Historic Scenes in Verse by Felicia Hemans. 3. Translations form Camoens and Other Poets by Felicia Hemans. 4. The Sceptic: A Poem by Mrs Hemans. 5. Stanzas to the memory of the Late King. By Mrs Hemans. Quarterly Review, October 1820. Jonathan Cutmore identifies John Coleridge as the author of this review on the evidence of a letter from Coleridge to Gifford, which is lodged in the Murray Archive. In this letter Coleridge seeks Gifford's comments on the review.

4. Hemans first introduced the poem to Gifford in November 1819 and it was published in January 1820. Her earlier Modern Greece took 4 months, from presentation to publication (February to June 1817), whereas The Forest Sanctuary, her final publication with Murray, took over a year.

5. Byron's letters to their shared publisher comment on these actions, for example that of April 12, 1820, where he requests "no more modern poesy—I pray—neither Mrs Hewoman's—nor any female or male Tadpole of the Poet Turdsdworth's—nor his ragamuffins" (Marchand, VII, 158). Reiman, in his introduction to the Garland facsimile editions of Hemans's works, suggests that Byron construed Murray's gift of The Sceptic as an attempt "on the part of Murray and his envious knot of parson poets to convert him from skepticism to Christianity" (1978, ix).

6. For example, Anthony Harding in his essay, "Felicia Hemans and the Effacement of Woman," finds Hemans's failure to display a feminist stance "disappointing." However Paula Feldman's recent edition (Lexington 1999) proffers a coherent feminist reading of the poems. Hemans's Records of Woman feature in the collections of nineteenth-century poetry by Angela Leighton (1995), Isobel Armstrong (1996) & Duncan Wu (1998).

7. Cora Kaplan comments approvingly about Hemans's long poems in Salt and Bitter and Good p. 95. Tricia Lootens's essay, "Hemans and Home: Victorianism, feminine 'Internal Enemies', and the Domestication of national Identity" refers to Hemans's 1812 poem "War and Peace." Peter Trinder's monograph, Mrs Hemans, comments favourably on Hemans's longer poems, including The Sceptic and "Despondency and Aspiration." Nan Sweet's essay, "History, Imperialism, and the Aesthetics of the Beautiful: Hemans and the Post-Napoleonic Moment," explores The Restoration of the Works of Art To Italy (1816) and Modern Greece (1817) while her unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Bowl of Liberty: Felicia Hemans and the Romantic Mediterranean, investigates Hemans's poetry up to 1824.

8. Susan Wolfson's new edition: Felicia Hemans, Selected Poems, Letters, Reception Materials (Oxford and Princeton: Princeton University Press), 2000.

9. St Clair in Lord Elgin and the Marbles (London, 1967) referred to her as "the fashionable Mrs Hemans" (p. 284) while Stephen Larrabee describes her as "Felicia Hemans, that dependable barometer of taste" (p. 259). Peter Cochran, in his 1995 essay "Fatal Fluency, fruitless dower; the eminently marketable Felicia Hemans," describes her as an "unscrupulous poetic parasite on events political and literary."

10. Marilyn Butler in Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries: English Literature and its Background (Oxford, 1981) and John Lucas, England and Englishness (London, 1990).

11. The poem initially did well, selling 739 of the 750 copies immediately and Murray's ledgers show a reprinting of a further 750, the normal run for poetry at this time. Byron's poetry was now published in print runs of around 5,000. Hemans requested a 2nd edition of the poem together with Stanzas to the late King in 1823 and, according to the British Library index, it was published. However, Murray's archive holds no records of it, neither the number printed nor its sales.

12. Paula Feldman, "The Poet and the Profits: Felicia Hemans and the Literary Marketplace" Keats-Shelley Journal 46, Spring 1997, 148-176.

13. One example of Hemans disagreeing with Murray is in her letter dated February 26th 1817, where she says: "Had I been more fully aware of the very limited taste for the Arts which you inform me is displayed by the public, I should certainly have applied myself to some other subject; but from having seen so many works advertised on Sculpture, Paintings, &c, I was naturally led to imagine the contrary," Letter in Murray Archive, London.

14. Despite the universal assertion that Captain Hemans left England for Rome in 1818, Hemans's remarks concerning him in this letter suggest that he was still in England at the time and may even have negotiated the details of publication with Murray. (Read Hemans's letter of 15th January 1820)

15. Letter dated May 17th 1821, located in the Murray Archive.

16. Letter dated November 17th 1819 in the Murray Archive.

17. Marlon Ross provides a detailed analysis of this review in The Contours of Masculine Desire (Oxford, 1989), p. 242-3.

18. Gilfallen in Tait's Magazine, 1847, quoted in Angela Leighton's Victorian Women Poets: Writing Against the Heart (Brighton 1992), p. 29.

19. Hemans's letter to Gifford November 17th 1819, Murray Archive, London

20. The first quotation is from Edinburgh Monthly Review, April 1820, and the second from the Quarterly Review, October 1820.

21. Hemans's letter dated November 17th 1819, Murray Archive, London.

22. Hemans's letter, dated 18th December 1819, Murray Archive, London.

23. In Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poetics and Politics (London, 1993), Armstrong has remarked on the "doubleness" women's poetry during the nineteenth century, which makes the affective conventions and feelings associated with a feminine modality problematic even though the writer may be working within these conventions (pp.341-2). A similar "doubleness" is operating within Hemans's letter: she conveys her desire for publication, even in the masculine sphere of politics, under the very proper guise of an acceptable feminine and submissive woman seeking advice and support.

24. Captain Hemans was one of those who lost his employment but at least he could retreat to his wife's family home (Memoir, 1839, p 25).

25. From C. P. Hill's British Economic and Social History 1700-1975 (London, 1977), p. 68.

26. ibid.

27. Shelley's Prose 162-9.

28. Varied accounts of the Peterloo Massacre can be found in Europe between the Revolutions 1815-1848 by Jacques Droz (1967), and Eric Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution; McCord's British History 1815-1906, p.16-19. Chandler's England in 1819 details the plans for the reform meeting on p.19-20. You can also read about the Peterloo Massacre on the Spartacus Educational website.

29. Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, p. 276.

30. Droz, p.131.

31. Lucas, p.7 and Chandler, p.20-22.

32. Chandler quotes from Shelley's letter to Leigh Hunt written on December 23, "I suppose we shall soon have to fight in England," p. 21.

33. See Marlon Ross, The Contours of Masculine Desire (1989).

34. Doris Langley Moore's Lord Byron : Accounts Rendered (London, 1974), p.181.

35. The contemporary interest in anatomy and dissection is reflected in Hilary Mantel's recent novel about John Hunter, The Giant O'Brien.

36. A Review of "An Enquiry into the probability and Rationality of Mr Hunter's Theory of Life, being the subject of two Anatomical Lectures delivered before the Royal College of Surgeons of London by John Abernethy and Remarks on Scepticism being an answer to the views of Bichat, Sir T. C. Morgan and Mr Lawrence by the Rev Thomas Rennell A.M. Christian Advocate at the University of Cambridge," Quarterly Review, July 1819, p. 6.

37. ibid.

38. John Luxmoore, Bishop of St Asaph and his son Charles, then Dean of St Asaph were both graduates of Cambridge University.

39. Harriett Hughes, Hemans's sister, wrote the influential 1839 Memoir which was the first volume of a seven volume edition of Hemans's poetry. Her own piety is recorded in Samuel Hall's A Book of Memories (first published 1871). See note 48.

40. See Chapter One, "A Sect of Dissenters," in Robert Ryan's The Romantic Reformation (Cambridge University Press, 1997) for a more detailed account.

41. ibid p.20.

42. ibid p.3.

43. Hemans, "The Domestic Affections" (London, 1812), p. 149, and Susan Wolfson's 1994 essay, "'The Domestic Affections' and 'the Spear of Minerva'," p.142.

44. "The Domestic Affections," p.167.

45. Wolfson, 1994, p. 144.

46. See also Nanora Sweet, The Bowl of Liberty: Felicia Hemans and the Romantic Mediterranean (unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan 1993), p. 339.

47. Derek Furr claims that The Sceptic was Hemans's "first attempt to define herself as a poetical arbiter of conservative, Christian and Political values" in his unpublished doctoral dissertation, p. 55.

48. Samuel Hall in his volume A Book of Memories (first published in 1871), admits that he knew "her sweet sister, Mrs Owen" better than Hemans herself whom he had met only once. He quotes extensively from the tablet underneath Mrs Owen's memorial window which notes amongst other eulogies that "For sixteen years she fulfilled indefatigably all the duties of a country clergyman's wife, and was unceasingly occupied in furthering deeds of charity and loving kindness" (p. 371). Hemans's sister married twice and is more usually known as Harriet Hughes.

49. Hemans's analysis of gender politics is continued in her Records of Woman as Wolfson notices in her 1994 essay, p. 145.