HANNAH MORE was born on the 2nd of February, in the year 1745, at Stapleton, in Gloucestershire. She was the youngest but one of the five daughters of Mr. Jacob More, who was descended from a respectable family in Norfolk. As he had been originally intended for the church, he had received a learned education, but in consequence of the failure of a lawsuit, by which considerable property went from his into another branch of the family, he quitted that part of the country for Gloucestershire, where he obtained a foundation school. He afterwards married a young woman, the daughter of a respectable farmer, who, though she had herself received but a plain education, was endowed with sound sense and judgment; and to her care in bringing up her daughters, their success in after life has been deservedly attributed.
Mr. More was himself a Tory and high churchman, but his mother had been a Presbyterian, and was of a zealous nonconformist family, who, in former days, and in troubled times, had boarded a minister at their own house, and had often assembled at midnight to worship God according to their own way of thinking, whilst one of the party kept watch at the entrance, with a drawn sword in his hand.
This may, perhaps, in some degree, account for the subsequent bias of the subject of this memoir, whose political sentiments differed considerably from her religious ones, which were considered by some to tend towards Calvinism; and, indeed, her precepts and principles partook certainly, in some degree, of the austerity of the old puritanic doctrines and practice.
At an early age she evinced a great aptitude for learning, and a desire for information. When her mother first began to think of teaching her to read, she found her infant Hannah had already made considerable progress, from attending to the instructions bestowed on her elder sisters. Her nurse having lived in the family of Dryden, the inquisitive mind of the intelligent child was incessantly prompting her to ask for stories about the poet; and to her father's excellent memory (for he had lost most of his books in the removal from Norfolk) she was indebted for loner stories from the Greek and Roman histories. Whilst sitting on his knee, he would, to gratify her ear by the sound, repeat speeches of her favorite heroes, in their original language, afterwards translating them into English.
Mr. More imparted to his daughters the rudiments both of Latin and of the mathematics, and was afterwards, it was said, alarmed at the proficiency of his pupils. Mrs. More, however, highly approved of Hannah's wish for information, and joined with her in her entreaties to be allowed to prosecute her studies.
From her earliest infancy, she was fond of scribbling a moral essay or poem on any scrap of paper she could obtain, which she afterwards concealed in the dark corner allotted for the housemaid's brushes and dusters; and the greatest wish her imagination could then frame, was, that she might be one day rich enough to have a whole quire of writing-paper to herself! Her little sister, with whom she slept, was the usual confidante of her nightly effusions, and one of the sports of her childhood was making a carriage of a chair, to ride to London to see the bishops and booksellers.
As it was intended that their children should be qualified for the establishment and superintendence of a boarding-school, the eldest sister, Miss More, was sent by her parents to a French boarding-school, to acquire the requisite accomplishments, and under her tuition, each week when she returned from thence, did Hannah learn the French language, in which she afterwards became a great proficient.
The projected plan was put into execution, and the boarding-school was opened at Bristol, in 1760, when the eldest Miss More was not yet quite of age. Her sister Hannah was confided to her care for the benefit of masters in the modern languages, and here soon commenced her first acquaintance with books and with persons of celebrity.
Hannah was not fifteen when Mr. Sheridan's lectures on eloquence, at Bristol, gave rise to a copy of verses, which led to an introduction to the object of her admiration. About the same time she became acquainted with Ferguson, the astronomer, Dr. Stonehouse, and soon afterwards with Dr. Langhorne, with whom she subsequently corresponded, and with whom she first met at Weston-super-Mare, whither she had resorted for the benefit of her health, which was generally delicate.
At sixteen, she wrote her pastoral drama, The Search after Happiness, which generally pleased, and greatly increased her reputation. Fortunately for her, she now had access to some of the best libraries in the neighbourhood, so that she was enabled to continue her studies in the Latin, Italian, and Spanish languages, from which she made numerous translations and imitations. The greater part of these were, however, subsequently destroyed, excepting Metastasio's opera of Regulus, which, after it had lain by for years, she worked up into a drama, under the title of The Inflexible Captive.
When about twenty-two years of age, she received and accepted an offer of marriage from a Mr. Turner, a gentleman of large fortune, but considerably her senior. Their acquaintance had commenced in consequence of some young relations of Mr. Turner's being at the Misses More's school, who generally spent their holidays at their cousin's beautiful residence at Belmont, near Bristol, whither they were permitted to invite some of their young friends; and Hannah and Patty More, being near their own age, were generally among those invited. The affair was so far advanced that the wedding-day was actually fixed, and Hannah, having given up her share in her sister's establishment, had gone to considerable expense in making her preparations, — when Mr. Turner, who appears to have been of eccentric temper, was induced to postpone the completion of his engagement; and as this was done more than once, her friends at length interfered, and prevailed on her to relinquish the marriage altogether, though this was against the wishes of the capricious gentleman.
To make some amends for his thus trifling with her affections, Mr. Turner insisted upon being allowed to settle an annuity upon her, which she at first rejected, but subsequently, through the medium of her friend, Dr. Stonehouse, who consented to be the agent and trustee, she was at length prevailed on to allow a sum to be settled upon her, which should enable her hereafter to devote herself to the pursuits of literature.
She had soon after another opportunity of marrying, which was declined, and from this time she seems to have formed the resolution, to which she ever afterwards adhered, of remaining single.
The desire, so natural to all young persons of talent, of becoming acquainted with persons of celebrity, appears to have been early and strongly felt by Hannah More; and about the year 1774, when she must have been twenty-eight or twenty-nine years of age, she seems to have had her wish fully gratified. The good-natured vanity of Garrick, pleased with a letter of hers he had casually seen, in which she eulogised his acting, induced him to seek her acquaintance; and at his house, where she was afterwards a frequent inmate, she was by him introduced to, and soon became intimate with, all the literati that visited him. She there first met the celebrated Mrs. Montagu; and at Sir Joshua Reynolds's took place her first introduction to Dr. Johnson, who was touched with the enthusiastic feelings of the young authoress, of whom it is recorded, that, at her first visit to the great moralist, during his absence, seeing a great chair in his room, she immediately installed herself therein, "hoping," as she said, "to catch from thence a ray of his genius." He laughed heartily, when told of the circumstance, as it happened to be a chair on which he never sat!
She has herself described, in a letter to her friend Mrs. Gwatkin, the rapture she felt when she first visited "the immortal shades of Twickenham, the haunts of the swan of the Thames," — the ardour she had ever had to see the sacred spot, and the many times she had "created to herself an imaginary Thames."
Speaking of letter-writing, she used to say, "When I want wisdom, sentiment, or information, I can find them much better in books. What I want in a letter is the picture of my friend's mind, and the common-sense of his life. I want to know what he is saying and doing." She added, "that letters among near relations were family newspapers, meant to convey paragraphs of intelligence, and advertisements of projects, and not sentimental essays."
Hannah More again visited London in 1775, and in the course of this year the eulogiums and attention she had received induced her, as she observed to her sisters, to try her real value, by writing a small poem and offer it to Cadell. The legendary tale of Sir Eldred of the Bower was, accordingly, composed in a fortnight's time, to which she added The Bleeding Rock, which had been written some years previously. Cadell offered her a handsome sum for these poems, telling her if he could discover what Goldsmith received for the Deserted Village, he would make up the deficiency, whatever it might be.
Thus commenced Hannah More's acquaintance with Mr. Cadell, who was, by a singular coincidence, a native of the same village with herself; and her connexion with his establishment was carried on for forty years.
The reception her poems met with was most flattering, and on her return to town, in 1776, where she now made an annual visit, her society was more than ever courted. Engagements multiplied upon her; carriages waited at her door; Sir Joshua Reynolds carried her to see pictures; Dr. Johnson conveyed her home to her lodgings; Mrs. Garrick took her to Westminster Hall to the trial of the Duchess of Kingston, and invited her to Hampton; and occasionally the sisters (for one of her sisters was generally with her) had a little reunion of friends at their own lodgings.
On one of these latter occasions, Dr. Johnson, after one of the sisters had been describing their way of life, exclaimed, "I love you both — I love you, all five. I never was at Bristol — I will come on purpose to see you. What! five women live happily together! I will come and see you. I have spent a happy evening. I am glad I came. God for ever bless you! You live lives to shame duchesses."
At another time he told Boswell "he had dined at Mrs. Garrick's, with Mrs. Carter, Miss Hannah More, and Miss Fanny Burney; three such women are not to be found, I know not where I could find a fourth, except Mrs. Lennox, who is superior to them all."
Hannah More was this year introduced, by her friend Mrs. Boscawen, to Mrs. Delany. She was afterwards occasionally at Mrs. Delany's select little parties, never exceeding eight in number, where, besides the venerable hostess, she frequently met the Duchess of Portland, Prior's "noble, lovely, little Peggy," the friend and correspondent of Mrs. Montagu, and the grand-daughter and heiress of Harley, Earl of Oxford, minister to Queen Anne; Horace Walpole; the Countess of Bute, daughter of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu; Lady Wallingford, the daughter of Mississippi Law; Mrs. Dashwood, the Delia of Hammond, and many other celebrated characters.
It was not till the end of June, in this year, that Hannah returned to Bristol, after a six months' residence in and near the metropolis, more than half of which had been spent with her kind friends the Garricks.
In the following year she went into Norfolk, to see some of her connexions who resided there; and whilst there she paid her sister poetess, Mrs. Barbauld, a visit, of whom she says, "Mrs. B. and I have found out, that we feel as little envy and malice toward each other, as though we had neither of us attempted to 'build the lofty rhyme;' though she says, this is what the envious and malicious can never be brought to believe."
In the November of the same year, 1777, Hannah More returned to town, where she spent five months; during which period her tragedy of Percy was brought out at Covent Garden. The reception of this drama exceeded her most sanguine expectations. Mr. Garrick and the Lord Chancellor Bathurst exerted themselves greatly in its behalf, and its success was extraordinary.
But the period was now arriving when she was to be deprived of the friend who had introduced her to the literary world, and who had so flatteringly interested himself in her welfare. On the 20th January, 1779, after a short illness, Garrick died; and, at the express desire of his widow, Hannah More rose from the bed of sickness to set out for town, to attend her unhappy friend.
Garrick's death made a considerable difference in the position of Hannah More, as Mrs. Garrick, with whom she spent a great deal of her time, lived in the utmost retirement. But very few persons were admitted into the house that had so recently been the abode of so much gaiety, and reading and meditation appear to have occupied the greater part of their residence at Hampton. It was now, to use her own words, "very clean, very green, very beautiful, and very melancholy."
The Fatal Falsehood, a tragedy Hannah More had written at the desire of Mr. Garrick, and which was completed before his death, was brought out this season, and though it did not meet with so much success as Percy, it was received with considerable applause.
In the summer of this year, Hannah More paid a visit to Dr. Kennicott, Bishop of Oxford, with whom she had become acquainted in the preceding year, at Mr. Wilmot's, where also she had met the Chancellor Bathurst's family.
Here she was introduced to Dr. Horne, afterwards Bishop of Norwich; and to his daughter Sally was addressed the Heroic Epistle, which was first written in the blank pages of Mother Bunch's fairy tales, and presented to her when she was but a child of three years old. Her Essays on various subjects, principally designed for young ladies, had previously made their appearance in 1777, with a dedication to Mrs. Montagu.
It was about this time that Hannah More's distaste to the pomps and vanities of the world, the theatre, and other public amusements, which amongst all the great and gay society with whom she had lately associated, had been gradually increasing upon her, began to be very decided. In 1777, when, singularly enough, she was occupied with writing and bringing forward plays, Garrick had one Sunday playfully addressed her at Mr. Wilmot's, when sacred music had been proposed, with "Nine," (an appellation he generally gave her, alluding to the number of the Muses,) "you are a Sunday woman; retire to your room; I will recall you when the music is over."
The deaths of Garrick and Mrs. Dashwood, in 1779, and of several of the coterie in which she was intimate, and where she was so great a favourite, appear to have made a deep impression upon Hannah More; but the awfully sudden decease of Mr. Thrale, in 1781, must have made the most frivolous thoughtful. Herself and Mrs. Garrick were dressing for a great party at his house, when the intelligence was brought that he was dead!
In 1782, Hannah More's "Sacred Dramas," together with her poem on Sensibility, made their appearance, and produced compliments from royalty, and from several even of the bench of Bishops. The good Jonas Hanway told her, he began them with fear and trembling, fearing it was an undue liberty with the Scriptures; but no sooner had he finished them than he ran off to the bookseller, bought three or four, and carried them to a boarding-school, where he had some little friends.
In one of her letters to her sister, she thus describes the parties at Mrs. Vesey's, which gave rise to her poem entitled The Bas Bleu, written in the summer of 1783, where, under classical names, she described several of the stars that often sparkled in that horizon.
"I believe I forgot to mention Mrs. Vesey's pleasant Tuesday parties to you. It is a select society, which meets at her house every other Tuesday, and of which I am invited to be an unworthy member. It assembles on the day on which the Turk's Head Club dine together. In the evening they all meet at Mrs. Vesey's, with the addition of such other company as it is difficult to find elsewhere."
She sent half of this poem, under two franks, to each of her friends, Mr. Pepys, the Laelius of the writer, the father of the late Lord Chancellor, and Miss Hamilton, by whom they were to be transmitted anonymously to Mrs. Vesey, who was in Ireland. It was at first circulated only in manuscript, and she had the honour of transcribing a copy with her own hand for the King, who desired to have one. Dr. Johnson told her, "There was no name in poetry that might not be glad to own it." It was published in 1786, with Florio, another of her poems.
On her return to town in 1784, she continued to be overwhelmed with kind and flattering attention, though she seems no longer to have entered into the spirit of that society. She now evidently preferred her quiet visits to Bishop Porteus's parsonage, at Hunton, in Kent, and to Mrs. Montagu's, at Sandleford, in Oxfordshire.
This year she was elected member of the French Academy, proving that her fame was no longer confined to England. She likewise became acquainted with, and greatly interested herself in, the Bristol milkwoman, Mrs. Yearsly, whose verses, published under her inspection, obtained for their author a sum exceeding £600, for which Miss More and Mrs. Montagu became trustees. Her charitable intentions were, however, repaid by so much ingratitude, that she was at last induced to abandon her protegee altogether.
After having thus sparkled in the fashionable and literary world for more than ten years, where she had received such great and flattering attentions, she began to put into practice her long-projected plan of gradually retiring to "a little thatched hermitage" as she termed it, which, in 1785, she had built for herself, when about forty years old, at Cowslip Green, at Wrington, ten miles on the Exeter road from Bristol. She, however, still continued to pay visits annually to Mrs. Garrick and her other friends, but she now spent much more of her time at her own home, in her little garden, in the morning, as she states, "employed in raising dejected pinks, and reforming disorderly honeysuckles;" in the evening, riding through the delicious lanes and hills in her neighbourhood."
Her friends, however, paid her frequent visits in her retirement, where, in 1790, her sisters, having realized enough to enable them to give up their school, joined her little establishment. Here, and in a house they had built for themselves in Bath, they projected henceforwards spending their time, and passing the rest of their days in the society of each other.
An acquaintance Hannah More had formed in 1777 with Newton, the friend of Cowper, perhaps may have in some degree contributed to the more serious way of thinking which led afterwards to the production of so many valuable works on religious subjects.
Her Thoughts on the Manners of the Great, first appeared in 1788, and soon passed through several editions. A fellow-feeling with Mr. Wilberforce on the subject of slavery, led to an introduction, and a little poem with that title appeared in 1789. The mutual interest they felt upon this and many other subjects, produced a friendly intercourse; and "The Red-cross Knight," as Mrs. Montagu termed him for his crusade in behalf of the suffering blacks, took equal pains in assisting Hannah More in return, in her endeavours to establish Sunday-schools at Cheddar, where the spiritual ignorance of the inhabitants was most deplorable.
In all her schemes, Hannah More had an able and energetic coadjutor in her youngest sister, Martha, — and the sisters soon had schools and various little institutions over a tract of country of ten or twelve miles, with nearly five hundred children in training. They met, however, in their benevolent schemes, with many difficulties and impediments, arising from the clergy as well as laity; and probably, the account of the rebuffs with which Mrs. Jones meets, described in the Cheap Repository Tracts, is but a faint description of those they themselves encountered.
Mrs. Martha More has given, in an unpublished Journal, the following account of the origin of the Sunday Schools at Cheddar. At the period in question, the vicar was non-resident, and the curate, who lived at Wells, nine miles distant, visited the parish only on Sundays.
"In the month of August, 1789, Providence directed Mr. Wilberforce and his sister to spend a few days at Cowslip Green. The cliffs of Cheddar are esteemed the greatest curiosity in those parts. We recommended Mr. W. not to quit the country till he had spent a day in surveying these tremendous works of nature. We easily prevailed upon him, and the day was fixed; but after a little reflection he changed his mind, appeared deeply engaged in some particular study, fancied time would hardIy permit, and the whole was given up. The subject of the cliffs was renewed at breakfast; we again extolled their beauties, and urged the pleasure he would receive by going. He was prevailed on, and went.
"I was in the parlour when he returned. With the eagerness of vanity (having recommended the pleasure) I inquired how he liked the cliffs? He replied, they were very fine, but the poverty and distress of the people was dreadful. This was all that passed. He retired to his apartment, and dismissed even his reader. I said to his sister and mine, I feared Mr. W. was not well. The cold chicken and wine put into the carriage for his dinner were returned untouched. Mr. W. appeared at supper, seemingly refreshed with a higher feast than we had sent with him. The servant, at his desire, was dismissed, when he immediately began — 'Miss Hannah More, something must be done for Cheddar.' He then proceeded to a particular account of his day, of the inquiries he had made respecting the poor; there was no resident minister, no manufactory, nor did there appear any dawn of comforts, either temporal or spiritual.
"The method or possibility of assisting them was discussed till a late hour; and it was at length decided in a few words, by Mr. W.'s exclaiming, 'If you will be at the trouble, I will be at the expense.'
"Mr. Wilberforce and his sister left us in a day or two afterwards. We turned many schemes in our head, every possible way; at length those measures were adopted which led to the foundation of the different schools."
Mr. Wilberforce adhered to his offer, and furnished the necessary funds for beginning an attempt at a reformation, the Misses More undertaking to subscribe attention and industry: and to them Mr. Wilberforce observes, "Your labour can only be equalled by Spenser's Lady Knights, and they seem to be much of the same kind too — I mean, you have all sorts of monsters to cope withal."
In the same year her Bonner's Ghost was printed at the Strawberry Hill press; and in 1790 appeared An Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World, which met with great success.
Having thus exerted herself to reform the rich, she shortly after wielded her pen with equal spirit to attempt to amend the morals of the poor. Village Politics, by Will Chip, was her first performance in this line, which was published in 1794. Its popularity induced her to commence operations on a more enlarged scale. The establishment by Mr. Raikes of Sunday-schools, having enabled multitudes of the lower orders to read, she deemed it advisable to provide something for them, which they might peruse with safety and advantage to themselves; she accordingly, with the assistance of one of her sisters, and two or three friends, began the publication of these tracts every month, at a price far below what they originally cost. They consisted of stories, ballads, and Sunday readings. They were called "The Cheap Repository Tracts," and had an amazing sale; two million of these were sold in the first year; — a circumstance perhaps unprecedented in the annals of printing.
The Bishop of London (Porteus) interested himself greatly in the circulation of these tracts, and sent off ship loads to the colonies. One having found its way into the hands of the Rajah of Tanjore, through the medium of the missionary Gericke, he declared "he preferred it to the Rambler, and liked Miss More's books better than any of the English books he had ever read."
About the year 1793, Hannah More's benevolence induced her to exert herself in behalf of the French priests, who, at the time of the French revolution, emigrated to England in vast numbers, and were in great distress. The profits of a little work, entitled Remarks on the Speech of M. Dupont, made in the National Convention, on the subjects of Religion and Public Education, which amounted to forty pounds, were dedicated to the fund raised for their relief; for which she received the thanks of the committees of the subscribers.
Hannah More now withdrew almost entirely from her former intercourse with the literary coterie in town, confining herself, in a great degree, to what has been termed the religious world; and when in London, she divided her time between the houses of Bishop Porteus, Lord Teignmouth, and Mr. Thornton; and, besides an annual visit to Lord Barham, in Kent, she was also frequently at Tringwell, the residence of the Bishop of Salisbury, afterwards Bishop of Durham.
In 1799, the Strictures on Female Education were published. These volumes were read by royalty and approved by bishops, by some of whom they were even recommended from the pulpit; and, in spite of a little censure cast on them by those who deemed them over strict, they eventually found their way into most libraries in the kingdom; the elegance of the style recommending them to many of her former gay and fashionable friends, who might otherwise have felt but little interest in the subject.
It might have been thought that the decided loyalty of Hannah More's political sentiments would have saved her from the imputation of disaffection to church and state. She now had to sustain, however, a violent persecution from those who, calling themselves the High Church School, set themselves in array against what is now termed the Serious, or Evangelical party, to which she belonged. Some violent attacks were made upon her character, and every attempt was made to put a stop to her schools and Sunday Readings, where, it was reported, blasphemous and seditious principles were inculcated. The cry was raised that "the Church was in danger;" the clergy and farmers in that part of the country too generally set themselves in opposition to her; and at last she was induced to appeal to the bishop of the diocese, Dr. Beadon, who, in answer, expressed his full approbation of her attempts to do good by instructing the poor.
In consequence, probably, of the anxiety and annoyance occasioned by these attacks, she had a very serious illness about this time, which lasted seven months, during which apprehensions were entertained for her life. She lived, however, to shame her persecutors by farther deeds of benevolence. Her friends, and all the Evangelical party, took up her cause warmly, and she continued to receive marked attentions from persons of the highest rank, among whom was the Duchess of Gloucester, with whom she frequently corresponded on religious subjects.
In 1802, Hannah More and her sisters came to the resolution of parting with their house in Bath, and of exchanging Cowslip Green for a more comfortable abode at Barley Wood, which they henceforth intended to make their sole residence, amusing themselves with laying out the grounds and gardens in the intervals between their acts of charity. It was now that she composed, at the request of a dignitary of the church, her Hints towards forming the Character of a Young Princess, which was published in 1805, and which was most graciously received by the royal family.
In 1806, Hannah More, now more than sixty years of age, was attacked by a dangerous illness, from catching cold in returning from one of her schools. A twelvemonth elapsed ere there were hopes of her restoration to health, and two years before she was thoroughly re-established, so as to be competent to literary exertion.
In December, 1809, appeared one of her most popular works, under the title of Coelebs in Search of a Wife. Within a few months this work ran through twelve editions; and thirty editions, one thousand copies each, were printed during her lifetime. It was at first published anonymously, but the real author was soon discovered, and she was again overwhelmed with panegyrics, and compliments by her friends.
In 1811, Hannah More produced her Practical Piety, which she began about a year after the appearance of Coelebs. In 1813 appeared her Christian Morals. Both these works were deservedly popular, and had a great sale.
Soon after the publication of the latter work, the sisterhood, who had lived together for the space of fifty years, began to be broken up by the hand of death. Mary More, the eldest of the five sisters, was the first to pay the debt of nature. She died in April, 1813. In June, 1816, followed Elizabeth, the second; and in the spring of 1817 Sarah was taken off; so that Hannah, now past seventy, began to feel that universal penalty of long life — the seeing her family and her friends fall fast around her.
In 1815, her Essay on the Character and Writings of St. Paul, was published. But just before it was completed, a termination was almost put to her life by her clothes catching fire when alone in her apartment. The flames were extinguished by the courageous kindness of Miss Roberts, a lady staying with her, who was herself considerably injured, while preserving her friend.
Hannah More had now lived so long that her legal right to her Sacred Dramas was expired, and to preserve the rights of her publishers, Cadell and Davies, she consented to make some few additions to a new edition in the press.
In 1817, a committee being formed for the sale of pious tracts, she again exerted herself in the cause, and produced several, both practical and experimental. Her Village Politics, which first appeared in 1794, was now republished under the title of Village Disputants. Of these, in September 1817, she tells Mr. Wilberforce she had scribbled thirteen in about six weeks. "Pretty well for a septuagenary," as she observes.
In the following year, she mentions, in a letter to Lady Tryphena Bathurst, that the greater part of her Cheap Repository Tracts had been translated into Russ by the Russian Princess Metschersky, and were widely circulated in her country. Coelebs, and Practical Piety, were also much read, the former in Sweden, the latter in Iceland.
Thus the labours of this excellent woman were, at the same time, diffusing good in the regions of the frozen North, and in those under the sultry line; for many of them had been translated into the Cingalese and Tamul languages, through the instrumentality of Sir A. Johnstone.
In the autumn of this year, both Mrs. H. More and her surviving sister Martha were seized with alarming illness. "Her own," she says, "was partly caused by too great excitement, from an influx of company, chiefly strangers, but who were recommended by friends." Among these are mentioned, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Miss Vansittart, the Bishop of Salisbury, Dr. Chalmers, Drs. Henderson and Paterson, northern missionaries, Persian noblemen, &c.
In the autumn of the following year, (1819,) Martha, the sole surviving and the best beloved of H. More's sisters, was taken from her, after an illness of only four days. The Wilberforce family were staying at Barley Wood at the time, and she seems to have over-exerted herself in attending on them. Thus, at the age of seventy-four, Hannah More, the last of a sisterhood who had lived so long and so happily together, was left to finish her worldly course alone; and she survived the loss of this, the last of her sisters, for yet many years.
A month previous to her sister's death, Hannah More's last original work made its appearance, in one thick volume. It was entitled Moral Sketches of Prevailing Opinions and Manners, Foreign and Domestic, with Reflections on Prayer. Of this work, she mentions in a letter to Mr. Wilberforce, "Though consisting of more than five hundred pages, it was first thought of in January, and was entirely printed, and published at the end of August." It was equally popular with her other works, and appears to have been composed to counteract what she terms "the epidemic French mania." She says, "The rage for a Paris excursion has spread such a general infection, that curates, and even farmers in our part of the world, have caught the malady. A clergyman with ten children has been twice, and his wife is now left there, with a house full of children, that they may bring home the Parisian accent to a little country village."
On the night of the 12th of August, Hannah More had so violent an attack of illness, that, as she had already kept her chamber all the preceding spring and Summer, her end was thought approaching; but, through the vigorous measures of Dr. Lovell, in copiously bleeding her, after twice appearing to be dead, she was called back to the world. But though broken in health, the powers of her mind seem at this period to have been as elastic as ever. In 1821, she wrote for the use of young people, a little work called Bible Rhymes; and notwithstanding several equally alarming attacks of illness, one in May 1822, and another in 1824, she executed a plan, to which she had often been urged when in tolerable health — that of extracting from all her later works, each of which contained a chapter on prayer, her thoughts upon that all-important subject. This work, with some additions, appeared in 1824, under the title of Spirit of Prayer, and was the last of her numerous publications.
A young friend, Miss Frowd, appears latterly to have devoted herself entirely to Hannah More's service, and was, as she says, "her domestic chaplain, secretary, house-apothecary, knitter, and lamp-lighter; missionary to her numerous and learned seminaries, and without controversy the queen of clubs," — alluding to the charitable institutions, where she took the place which her aged friend could no longer occupy.
In December 1825, Hannah More writes from Barley Wood: "I have now been confined seven years and two months to my apartments, consisting of two rooms, having opened a communication to the adjoining one, which I have made a drawing-room, so that I have room for exercises; it is no want of strength which confines me, but my friendly physician will not allow me to walk out, as a cold has so often threatened to be fatal to me."
But though she had left the world, the world could not consent to resign her as yet, for the retreat of the veteran in literature was still besieged by persons of rank and celebrity; and still she continued to be overwhelmed with letters from numerous correspondents. She says of herself, "think I never was more hurried, more engaged, or more loaded with cares than at present; I do not mean afflictions, but a total want of that article for which I built my house and planted my grove — I mean retirement — it is a thing I only know by name. I think Miss Frowd says that I saw eighty persons last week, and it is commonly the same every week. I know not how to help it. If my guests are old, I see them out of respect; if young, I hope I may do them a little good; if they come from a distance, I feel as if I ought to see them on that account; if near home, my neighbours would be jealous of my seeing strangers, and excluding them. My levee, however, is from twelve to three o'clock, so that I get my mornings and evenings to myself, except now and then an old friend steals in quietly for a night or two."
Twenty years before this period, she had been deprived by illness of both her smell and taste, which, however, she considered as a mercy, from her being afterwards obliged almost to live upon medicine, instead of food. Indeed, such was her general ill-health, that she says her seventy-fifth year was the only one in her life. in which she had not been confined during some part of it to her bed. She retained, however, to the last, what she terms "her intellectual senses," her sight and hearing, which amply made up for her other privations — the doctrine of compensation being a favourite theme with her.
She now frequently occupied her leisure hours in the fabrication of linen articles, for fancy bazaars, for the benefit of the Missionary and Jews Societies, and in the composition of rhymes, which were sold for a considerable sum; whilst her private charities continued, on perhaps an even more extended scale than ever.
Now, however, came a severe trial to her, in the discovery, that either from her too easy indulgence, or from her having been so long unable to superintend her domestic concerns, her household had become in a terribly deranged state. By quietly submitting to the waste and misconduct of her servants, she was told, she might appear to be the patroness of vice, or, at least, indifferent to its progress, and thus lessen the beneficial influence of which her writings had been productive. She therefore came to the decided resolution of breaking up her establishment, and of parting with her beloved Barley Wood. It was disposed of to William Harford, Esq., and on the 18th of April, 1828, at the age of eighty-three, she removed to Windsor Terrace, in Clifton, still accompanied by her kind friend Miss Frowd.
Having now no garden, and having parted with her carriage and horses, her house expenses were considerably diminished, and instead of eight pampered minions, she kept four sober servants.
After selling Barley Wood, she soon after parted with the copyright of her later works, to the number of ten volumes, to Cadell, and thus was enabled to maintain her schools and enlarge her charities. The former alone, with clothing, rents, &c., stood her in £250 per annum.
From the time Hannah More removed from Barley Wood to Clifton, her health was constantly in a precarious state, and she seldom continued many days without severe attacks of illness. She had at all periods of her life been subject to dangerous affections of her chest, and though these were warded off by the unremitting care of her friend Miss Frowd, who had the entire management of her family, she was ever liable to them, and each now promised to be the last. Latterly, also, the powers of her mind, as well as of her body, began to give way, imperceptibly at first, though towards the end of 1832, a considerable alteration was observable.
The illness and death of her friend Miss Roberts, which took place in September, possibly contributed to produce a farther deterioration in Hannah More's mental faculties; and she now continued gradually to decline till, on the afternoon of the 7th of September, 1833, she placidly yielded up her spirit into the hands of her Creator, at the age of eighty-eight years.
Search After Happiness; a Drama, 1773.
Sir Eldred of the Bower, and the Bleeding Rock, 1775.
The Fatal Falsehood, 1779;
The Inflexible Captive.
Essays on Various Subjects, for Young Ladies, 1777.
Sacred Dramas and "Sensibility," 1782.
The Bas Bleu and Florio, 1786.
Thoughts on the Manners of the Great, 1788.
Poem on Slavery and Bonner's Ghost, 1789.
An Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World, 1790.
Cheap Repository Tracts; Village Politics, by Will Chip, 1792.
Remarks upon the Speech of M. Dupont, 1793.
Strictures on Female Education, 1799.
Hints Towards Forming the Character of a Princess, 1785.
Coelebs in Search of a Wife, 1808.
Practical Piety, 1811.
Christian Morals, 1813.
Essay on the Character and Writings of St. Paul, 1815.
Village Disputants, and other Tracts, 1817.
Moral Sketches, &c., 1819.
Bible Rhymes, 1821.
Spirit of Prayer, 1824.