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The World Of Hannah More

The World Of Hannah More

Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: 1
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The World Of Hannah More
    Book Description:

    History has not been kind to Hannah More. This once lionized writer and activist -- the most influential female philanthropist of her day -- is now considered by many to be the embodiment of pious morality and reactionary anti-feminism. Largely because of her belief in separate spheres for men and women, More has been vilified by modern-day feminists. The first biography to examine the complete range of her life and work,The World of Hannah Moredepicts the author as a forceful voice in her own day and one who, from the point of view of plain justice, today deserves a more nuanced treatment. Without denying the problems More presents for modern readers, Patricia Demers has produced a balanced revisionist study of a woman enormously influential in late-eighteenth-and early-nineteenth-century England. By examining the career of this cultural warrior, situating her major texts in relation to contemporaries, and addressing her published writing, philanthropic activities, and voluminous correspondence, Demers anchorsThe World of Hannah Morein the work itself -- an appropriate and just response to a woman who took pride in living to some purpose. Trying to deal justly with More and her female moral imperialism requires admitting both the expansiveness and the limitations of her charity, methodology and vision. Without venerating or trivializing, Demers pursues the doubleness and contradictions of More's largely neglected or superficially mined works, from the determined experiments of the earliest plays to the poignantly revealing essays on practical piety, Christian morals, and Saint Paul.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4820-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. 1 More Is Less
    (pp. 1-23)

    On a sparkling June day, I walked up the steep drive from the Wrington Road to visit Barley Wood, the home Hannah More built and occupied for more than twenty-five years. Having pored over the early engravings, prints of which the American Board of Missions marketed to help pay for its girls’ school in Ceylon—also called Barley Wood—I tried to superimpose mental transparencies of additions and expansions to the original two-story, double roofed, thatched, rectangular house. I was prepared for the rolling grassland sloping up the wooded hillside and for the considerable architectural changes that subsequent owners had...

  7. 2 The “Complicated Temptation” of the Theater
    (pp. 24-47)

    Hannah More wrote five separate dramatic works, whose influence and portents this chapter will explore. A popular teacher in her sisters’ school, she composed the pastoral drama,The Search after Happiness,first published in 1773 and running through thirteen editions, for performance by their female students. Having made a present of the proceeds to her sister Patty, More expressed some surprise that more than ten thousand copies had been sold by the time of the ninth edition, in 1787.¹ Her free translation of Pietro Metastasio’s Attilio Regolo:The Inflexible Captive,premiered at the Theatre Royal in Bath on May 6,...

  8. 3 Poetics of Beneficence: Practice and Patronage
    (pp. 48-75)

    Hannah More and William Blake were writing poetry at the same time; yet they appear to live in totally different worlds. In contrast to the prophecies and visions of Blake exploring woman’s socio-sexual dilemma and the more general corruption of human potentiality, the intellectual matrix of More’s couplets is still deeply influenced by Augustan poetics and ethical considerations. Throughout her poetry she accents or underscores the Augustan humanist enterprise, which Paul Fussell has characterized as “deducing a stable ethics from the actual nature of man tenderly but no less rigorously considered,”¹ with a distinctive biblical consciousness of peccant fallibility. More’s...

  9. 4 “That which before us lies in daily life”: Social Discourse
    (pp. 76-98)

    To attempt to compress more than three decades of More’s essay writing in a single chapter may seem both trivializing and impossible. The authorial voice does become more resonant, moving from the neophyte’s offer of “a few remarks on such circumstances as seemed to her susceptible of some improvement, and on such subjects as she imagined were particularly interesting to young ladies”² to the authoritative clarion call to “British ladies” and “what they themselves might be if all their talents and unrivalled opportunities were turned to the best account.”³ But many of the informing ideas—fromEssays on Various Subjects...

  10. 5 Schools and Tracts: Consuming Zeal
    (pp. 99-118)

    In his sermon for the Sunday following the funeral of Hannah More, “this woman ... full of good works and almsdeeds” (Acts 9.36), the Reverend Henry Thompson elevated her as “altogether a practical believer” who was “no dogmatist, no controversialist.”¹ In fact, the practices of the schools she established and supervised in her own day and the deliberate fictionalization of popular culture reprobated by readers of her tracts today make More an intensely dogmatic controversialist. As a result of the Sunday and day schools that she and Patty started at the very time of the More sisters’ retirement from teaching,...

  11. 6 “The language of sympathy rather than of dictation”: The Unread Hannah More
    (pp. 119-128)

    In her sixties and seventies and on into her eightieth year, More published four major distillations of her religious principles.Practical Piety; or, The Influence of the Religion of the Heart on the Conduct of the Life(1811),Christian Morals(1812),An Essay on the Character and Practical Writings of Saint Paul(1815), andThe Spirit of Prayer(1825) are invariably dismissed as the pathetic rambling effusions of an old “saint” who, with no firm understanding of theology or philosophy and in her “widowhood of the heart,”² had withdrawn into the “fat complacency” of her own “narrow doctrine.”³ Ironically this...

  12. EPILOGUE: The Georgian Britomart
    (pp. 129-132)

    On the face of it, no one could be worse suited to the errancy of Arthurian romance than Hannah More. Her writing suggests that she never raised her visor or endorsed serendipity. Securely oriented in moral space, her work stayed focused on national, local, and domestic issues. Although she presented herself as operating on the side of the apostles, one of their agents, such affiliations did not shield her from charges of stiffness and intransigence; in fact, they may have contributed to her amazing (for detractors, completely predictable) naivete. Despite the phalanx of her supporters, More shunned direct confrontation, preferring...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 133-160)
  14. Works Cited and Consulted
    (pp. 161-174)
  15. Index
    (pp. 175-178)