Book submission: The Poetical Works of Mrs. Felicia Hemans

Title: The Poetical Works of Mrs. Felicia Hemans
Author: Felicia Hemans
Publication date: Philadelphia, 1843
Library: Alderman Library, University of Virginia
Call number: PR4780.A1 1843
Submitted by: Andrew Stauffer
The book carries various annotations made in pencil – mostly check marks and lines indicating favorite poems and passages. Most striking, however, is the inscription on the rear free end-paper, again written in pencil in Ellen’s hand:

Sing mournfully, sing mournfully
Our dearly loved is gone.
The gifted and the beautiful
Is from our sight withdrawn.
Then let us sing her requiem now
In this her parting hour
And softly breathe her name, who was
Our fairest, loveliest flower
Mary, Mary, Mary

Apparently composed in 1862 – that is, sixteen years later than the first inscription – these lines were written by Ellen (now Mrs. Minor) for her third daughter Mary Montague Minor, who was born in 1855 and died at age seven. In a halting yet moving pastiche of Hemans’s style – adapting lines from “The Nightingale’s Death Song,” and “Burial of an Emigrant’s Child in the Forest” – Mrs. Minor has transformed her copy of Hemans into a memorial site, and also into a collaborative anthology. Like a family bible, the book bears witness to stages and losses across many years; and like a sourcebook of feeling, it seems to have offered an idiom to its owner, having lost her child: – as Amy Hempel puts it, “fluent now in the language of grief.”

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