History of Literature







English literature




 


Hannah More



born Feb. 2, 1745, Stapleton, Gloucestershire, Eng.
died Sept. 7, 1833, Bristol, Gloucestershire

English religious writer, best known as a writer of popular tracts and as an educator of the poor.

As a young woman with literary aspirations, More made the first of her visits to London in 1773–74. She was welcomed into a circle of Bluestocking wits and was befriended by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, and Edmund Burke and, particularly, by David Garrick, who produced her plays The Inflexible Captive (1775) and Percy (1777). After Garrick’s death in 1779 she forsook writing for the stage, and her strong piety and Christian attitudes, already intense, became more marked.

Through her friendship with the abolitionist philanthropist William Wilberforce, she was drawn to the Evangelicals. From her cottage in Somerset, she began to admonish society in a series of treatises beginning with Thoughts on the Importance of the Manners of the Great to General Society (1788). In the climate of alarm over the French Revolution, her fresh and forceful defense of traditional values met with strong approval.

Her Village Politics (1792; under the pseudonym of Will Chip), written to counteract Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, was so successful that it led to the production of a series of “Cheap Repository Tracts.” Produced at the rate of three a month for three years with the help of her sisters and friends, the tracts sold for a penny each, 2,000,000 being circulated in a single year. They advised the poor in ingeniously homely language to cultivate the virtues of sobriety and industry and to trust in God and in the kindness of the gentry.

Like most of her educated contemporaries, More believed that society was static and that civilization depended upon a large body of the poor, for whom the best education was one that reconciled them to their fate. Hence she established clubs for women and schools for children, in which the latter were taught the Bible, catechism, and skills thought to befit their station. She persevered in her efforts in spite of much opposition and abuse from country neighbours, who thought that even the most limited education of the poor would destroy their interest in farming, and from the clergy, who accused her of Methodism.

Her final popular success as a writer was her didactic novel Coelebs in Search of a Wife (1808). The feminist movement in the second half of the 20th century revived interest in her Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, 2 vol. (1799; edited by Gina Luria, 1974).

 

 

 
 
 
 

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