1847 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hannah More

Joseph Cottle, in Reminiscences of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey (1847) 39-42.



The reader will not be displeased with some further remarks on Mrs. Hannah More, whose long residence near Bristol identified her so much with that city.

Mrs. H. More lived with her four sisters, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, and Martha, after they quitted their school in Park-street, Bristol, at a small neat cottage in Somersetshire, called Cowslip Green. The Misses M. some years afterward built a better house, and called it Barley Wood, on the side of a hill, about a mile from Wrington. Here they all lived, in the highest degree respected and beloved; their house the seat of piety, cheerfulness, literature, and hospitality; and they themselves receiving the honor of more visits from bishops, nobles, and persons of distinction, than, perhaps, any private family in the kingdom.

My sisters having been educated by them, and myself having two intimate friends, who were also the friends of the Misses More; the Rev. James Newton, and my old tutor, John Henderson, they introduced me to the family in Park-street, and the acquaintance then commenced was progressively ripened into respect that continued to the termination of all their lives. Hannah More gave me unrestricted permission to bring down to Barley Wood, any literary or other friend of mine, at any time; and of which privilege, on various occasions, I availed myself.

Many years before, I had taken down, then by express invitation, Mr. Southey, to see these excellent ladies; and in the year 1814, I conducted Mr. Coleridge to Barley Wood, and had the pleasure of introducing him to Hannah More and her sisters. For two hours after our arrival, Mr. C. displayed a good deal of his brilliant conversation, when he was listened to with surprise and delight by the whole circle; but at this time, unluckily, Lady — was announced, when Mrs. Hannah, from politeness, devoted herself to her titled visitant, while the little folks retired to a snug window with one or two of the Misses More, and there had their own agreeable converse.

Hannah More's eminently useful life manifested itself in nothing more than the effort she made to instruct the ignorant through the medium of moral and religious tracts, and by the establishment of schools. These were made blessings on a wide scale, whilst their good effects are continued to this time, and are likely to be perpetuated.

It is here proper to mention, that after superintending these various schools, either personally or by proxy, for more than a quarter of a century, and after the decease of her four benevolent and excellent sisters, Hannah More found it necessary to leave Barley Wood, and to remove to Clifton. Here her expenses were reduced one half, and her comforts greatly increased. The house she occupied, No. 4 Windsor Terrace, Clifton, was even more pleasant than the one she had left, and the prospects from it much more enlivening. I remember to have called on her with the late Robert Hall, when she discovered a cheerfulness which showed that Barley Wood was no longer regretted. She brought us to the windows of her spacious drawing room, and there, in the expanse beneath, invited us to behold the new docks, and the merchants' numerous ships, while the hill of Dundry appeared (at the distance of four miles) far loftier than her own Mendip, and equally verdant. From the window of her back room also, directly under her eye, a far more exquisite prospect presented itself than any Barley Wood could boast; Leigh Woods, St. Vincent's Rocks, Clifton Down, and, to crown the whole, the winding Avon, with the continually shifting commerce of Bristol; and we left her with the impression that the change in her abode was a great accession to her happiness.

In a letter to Mr. Wilberforce, Hannah More thus rather pleasantly writes:—

"4, Windsor Terrace, Oct. 20, 1828. "MY VERY DEAR FRIEND,

* * * I am diminishing my worldly cares. I have sold Barley Wood. I have exchanged the eight 'pampered minions,' for four sober servants. As I have sold my carriage and horses, I want no coachman as I have no garden, I want no gardener. I have greatly lessened my house expenses, which enables me to maintain my schools, and enlarge my charities. My schools alone, with clothing, rents, &c., cost me 150 a year."

Mrs. H. More was sometimes liberally assisted in the support of these schools (as I learned from Miss Martha More) by three philanthropic individuals, the late Mr. Henry Thornton, the late Mr. Wilberforce, and the late Sir W. W. Pepys, Bart.

Mrs. H. More, in a letter to Sir W. W. Pepys, acknowledging the receipt of one hundred pounds, says, "My most affectionate respects to Lady Pepys. The young race, of course, have all forgotten me; but I have not forgotten the energy with which your eldest son, at seven years old, ran into the drawing room, and said to me, 'After all, Ferdinand would never have sent Columbus to find out America if it had not been for Isabella: it was entirely her doing.'" How gratifying it would have been to H. More, had she lived two or three years longer, to have found in the round of human things, that this energetic boy of seven years, had become (1837) the Lord High Chancellor of England! and now again in 1846.

All the paintings, drawings, and prints which covered the walls of the parlor, on Hannah More's quitting Barley Wood, she gave to her friend, Sir T. D. Ackland, Bart., with the exception of the portrait, by Palmer, of John Henderson, which she kindly presented to myself.