« AnteriorContinuar »
rural haunts and amusements—the nuttery wood, the beloved apple-tree, the old arbour, with its swing, the post-office tree, in whose trunk a daily interchange of family letters was established, the pool where fairy ships were launched (generally painted and decorated by herself,) and, dearer still, the fresh, free ramble on the sea-shore, or the mountain expedition to the Signal Station, or the Roman Encampment. In one of her letters, the pleasure with which she looked forward to her return home, was thus expressed in rhyme.
WRITTEN FROM LONDON TO MY BROTHER AND SISTER IN
Happy soon we'll meet again,
Or talk beneath the arbour's shade;
Happy, happy shall we be ! Some things, however, during these visits to London, made an impression never to be effaced, and she retained the most vivid recollection of several of the great works of art which she was then taken to see. On entering a gallery of sculpture, she involuntarily exclaimed — “Oh! hush!- don't speak;" and her mother used to take pleasure in describing the interest she had excited in a party who happened to be visiting the Marquess of Stafford's collection at the same time, by her unsophisticated expressions of delight, and her familiarity with the mythological and classical subjects of many of the pictures.
In 1808, a collection of her poems, which had long been regarded amongst her friends with a degree of admiration, perhaps more partial than judicious, was submitted to the world, in the form (certainly an illadvised one) of a quarto volume. Its appearance drew down the animadversions of some self-constituted arbiter of public taste, and the young poetess was thus early initiated into the pains and perils attendant upon the career of an author ; though it may here be observed, that, as far as criticism was concerned, this was at once the first and last time she was destined to meet with anything like harshness or mortification. Though this unexpected severity was felt bitterly for a few days, her buoyant spirit
VOL. I. 4
soon rose above it, and her effusions continued to be poured forth as spontaneously as the song of the skylark. New sources of inspiration were now opening to her view. Birthday addresses, songs by the seashore, and invocations to fairies, were henceforth to be diversified with warlike themes; and trumpets and banners now floated through the dreams in which birds and flowers had once reigned paramount. Her two elder brothers had entered the army at an early age, and were both serving in the 23d Royal Welsh Fusiliers. One of them was now engaged in the Spanish campaign under Sir John Moore; and a vivid imagination and enthusiastic affections being alike enlisted in the cause, her young mind was filled with glorious visions of British valour and Spanish patriotism. In her ardent view, the days of chivalry seemed to be restored, and the very names which were of daily occurrence in the despatches, were involuntarily associated with the deeds of Roland and his Paladins, or of her own especial hero, “ The Cid Ruy Diaz," the campeador. Under the inspiration of these feelings, she composed a poem, entitled “England and Spain,” which was published and afterwards translated into Spanish. This cannot but be considered as a very remarkable production for a girl of fourteen ; lofty sentiments, correctness of language, and historical knowledge, being all strikingly displayed in it.
The very time when her mind was wrought up to this pitch of romantic enthusiasm, was that which first brought to her acquaintance the person who was destined to exercise so important an influence over her future life. Captain Hemans, then in the 4th, or King's Own Regiment, whilst on a visit in the neighbourhood, was introduced to the family at Gwrych. The young poetess was then only fifteen; in the full glow of that radiant beauty which was destined to fade so early. The mantling bloom of her cheeks was shaded by a profusion of natural ringlets, of a rich golden brown; and the ever-varying expression of her brilliant eyes gave a changeful play to her countenance, which would have made it impossible for any painter to do justice to it. The recollection of what she was at that time, irresistibly suggests a quotation from Wordsworth's graceful poetic picture:
“ She was a phantom of delight,
To haunt, to startle, and waylay." That so fair a being should excite the warmest admiration, was not surprising. Perhaps it was not more so, that the impassioned expression of that admiration should awaken reciprocal feelings in the bosom of a young, artless, and enthusiastic girl, readily investing him who professed such devotion, (and who, indeed, was by no means destitute of advantages either of person or education,) with all the attributes of the heroes of her dreams. Their intercourse at this time was not of long continuance; for Captain Hemans was called upon to embark with his regiment for Spain ; and this circumstance was in itself sufficient to complete the illusion which had now gained possession of her heart. It was hoped by the friends of both parties, that the impressions thus formed might prove but a passing fancy, which time and distance would efface; but the event proved otherwise, though nearly three years elapsed before they met again.
In 1809, the family removed from Gwrych to Bronwylfa, near St. Asaph,' in Flintshire. Here, though in somewhat less of seclusion than during the previous years of her life, her mind continued to develope itself, and her tastes and pursuits to embrace a progressively wider range. The study of the Spanish and Portuguese languages was added to the already acquired French and Italian. She also read German, though it was not until many years later that she entered with full appreciation into the soul and spirit of that magnificent language, and wrote of it as “having opened to her a new world of thought and feeling, so that even the music of the Eichenland, as Körner calls it, seemed to acquire a deeper tone, when she had gained a familiarity with its noble poetry.”
The powers of her memory were so extraordinary, as to be sometimes made the subject of a wager, by those who were sceptical as to the possibility of her achieving, what she would, in the most undoubting simplicity, undertake to perform. On one of these occasions, to satisfy the incredulity of one of her brothers, she learned by heart, having never read it
* This place was purchased, some years afterwards, by Mrs. Heman's eldest brother, Colonel Sir Henry Browne.
• Land of Oaks.