1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hannah More

Anonymous, in Biographical Dictionary of Living Authors (1816) 240-41.



This distinguished ornament of her sex was one of the five daughters of a village school-master in the parish of Hanham, near Bristol. Her parents were so meanly situated as to be incapable of giving her that education which she desired. The casual reading of an odd volume of Richardson's Pamela, excited a thirst of knowledge which could not be allayed, and the kindness of some ladies in the neighbourhood enabled her to gratify her inclinations. Her improvement was so rapid as to attract general notice, and among others who distinguished themselves as her friends, was the late Dr. Stonhouse of Bristol, who interested himself so zealously in her behalf as to enable her to set up a school, which prospered greatly under her management and that of her sisters. By the Doctor's kindness, she was introduced to the acquaintance of Mr. Garrick, who encouraged her to write for the stage. Her performances in this line became very popular, but after some years the religious views of Miss More took so serious a turn as to produce a declaration in the preface to the third volume of her works, that she did not consider the stage, in its present state, as becoming the appearance or countenance of a Christian, on which account she thought proper to renounce her dramatic productions in any other light than as mere poems. Having realized an independence by an honorable profession and the fruits of her pen, this lady, with her sisters, retired, about twenty years ago, from Bristol to Mendip, where amongst the colliers and the laborers in the lead works, they have effected a wonderful alteration, by erecting and superintending charity schools. Even this good work, however, could not escape opposition, and sorry we are to record, that the attack came from a quarter which ought to have provided the most prompt and zealous support to the disinterested and Christian undertaking. A sharp controversy was carried on by a neighboring clergyman against the schools, and several others in their favor: but, to the honor of the founder herself, she took no part in the strife, leaving the fruits to justify both her motives and her conduct. When the education of the Princess Charlotte became an object of serious attention to her illustrious friends, Mrs. Hannah More was consulted by the first lady in the kingdom, on which occasion she published a work which was deservedly stamped with the royal approbation, as well as that of the world at large. For some years past, this valuable woman has been confined almost wholly to her bed, by an excruciating illness, notwithstanding which writing is her chief delight, and in this condition she has actually produced some of her most esteemed performances, particularly a religious novel, calculated to render that species of literary amusement more serviceable to the diffusion of sound principles and virtuous practice than seems generally to have been consulted in works of fiction. The following list of the writings of Mrs. More, is a permanent testimony of the purity of her sentiments, the strength of her understanding, and the versatility of her powers [omitted].