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NEW SERIES- No XXXVII.
ART. I. - Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Mrs.
Hannah More. By William ROBERTS, Esq. In 2 vols.
Harper & Brothers. 1834. 12mo.
HAPPILY for his readers, the compiler has left Mrs. More in these pleasant volumes to speak chiefly for herself. And if in books, as in law, the maxim holds “ Quod facit per alium facit per se," — what we get done by another is as if done by one's self, Mr. Roberts is entitled to no small commendation for furnishing a biography, more than usually interesting and instructive, composed of letters, journals, and sayings of that distinguished personage, to whom the world has been indebted for more than half a century for no small share of its edification and pleasure. Of the extent of their obligation for his good sense in adopting this method, our readers may form an idea from the specimen of what the work might have been, had the worthy compiler thought proper frequently to introduce himself. Indeed, we owe him much for his forbearance in this regard, seeing that he has found it in his heart to offer the following as a meet introduction to the work.
“ In the twilight of the old, and in the dawn of the new era, Mrs. More accomplished her date here, - succeeded, it may be, by ladies more talking and talked about, but probably by none so capable of making the voice of instruction echo from the cottage to the saloon, from the house of clay to the hall of cedar. To embody the likeness and perpetuate the remembrance of such a person is to preserve the best specimen of the past to be contrasted with the present generation, and in some VOL. XVIII. N. S. VOL. XIII. NO. I.
sort to repress the rising fancies, fopperies, and excesses,
So much has already been known of this remarkable lady, from her numerous writings and the biographical notices, which long before her death were in general circulation, in America as well as in England, that scarce any memoirs, that should now be written, could add much to her celebrity ; though they might present, as do these, many interesting facts. They who have read, - and we grieve for those who have not, —- “ The Search after Happiness," “ The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain,” “'T is all for the Best," “ Tom White, the Post-Boy,” “Celebs in Search of a Wife," “ Village Politics, “ Strictures on Female Education,” or “ Thoughts on the Manners of the Great,” — need not be told, or, if they do, let these volumes instruct them, that Hannah More was the youngest but one of five sisters, all of whom dwelt together from their infancy in one family, and died unmarried in a good old age, she with a fame that heroes might envy, and they highly esteemed for their exemplary and singularly useful lives. Their father, Mr. Jacob More, was educated at Norwich with a view to the church, by a brother of the celebrated Dr. Samuel Clarke; but, disappointed in his professional prospects, he became master of a seminary for boys at Stapleton in Gloucestershire, where, in the memorable 1745, Miss Hannah was born. When she was twelve years old, her parents removed to Bristol, intending that their daughters should receive such an education as should qualify them to procure a respectable independence by the establishment of a boarding-school. Such a school was first opened by the eldest Miss More, who was not then twenty-one. She took charge, among her other pupils, of Hannah, who was then scarcely twelve. Thus, by the excellent character and good sense of Miss More, the eldest of the family, was laid the foundation of a seminary, which afterwards flourished greatly,
and enabled the sisters, at the end of thirty years, to retire and enjoy together a moderate independence, the fruit of their affectionate coöperation and honorable exertions.
Several interesting incidents are recorded of the childhood and youth of Miss More ; of the precocity of her genius, of her sportive wit, of her lively spirits, always chastened by her piety; of her tendency also from childhood to a morbid sensibility of constitution, which at intervals throughout the whole of her long life subjected her to acute sụfferings. In 1762, when she was in her seventeenth year, she wrote the “ Search after Happiness.” At twenty, she had successfully cultivated the Latin, Italian, and Spanish languages, imitating and translating with spirit and elegance favorite pieces in each of these. Among the earliest literary friends her talents acquired, was Dean Tucker of Gloucester, celebrated for his spirit of freedom, and for his writings against the American war. The Dean was accustomed to submit to his young friend his political pamphlets ; and when she represented to him that such subjects were out of the reach of her comprehension, he would answer, “Pish, no such thing ! common sense will ever appeal to common sense.”
There is a passage in the youthful history of this honored lady, of such importance in itself, and so certain of exciting the intense interest of our readers, that we cannot prevail upon ourselves to overlook it. To multitudes of her sex, and of ours, nothing touching her history will probably be regarded with deeper solicitude than the fact, that notwithstanding all her wit, genius, and fine temper, Hannah More still lived and died a single woman. At about the age of twenty-two, she received the addresses of a gentleman of fortune, but more than twenty years older than herself
. Her biographer represents him as a man of strict honor and integrity, who had received a liberal education, had cultivated a taste for poetry, as well as his large estate, and was esteemed within the circle of his friends. It is, however, very obvious that he was also a nervous old bachelor, wanting a composed temper, and had acquired, as is natural to his caste, a world of wants, and whims, and petty habits, which he hated to give up. Lingering, therefore, on the very brink of matrimony, afraid to venture ; his fancy, meanwhile, distracted by a dread, not absolutely unpardonable in one who had so long been free, of subjection to a literary lady; he did what multitudes have
done, before and after him, — some with apparent impunity and others to their visible hurt, - broke off the engagement.
. A letter of recent date addressed to the executrix of Mrs. More soon after her decease, written by an intimate friend, personally acquainted with the whole course of this delicate transaction, is here given. And we are the more particular in adopting so authentic a statement, because we have reason to believe, that this early disappointment, sustained as it was throughout by the young lady with a dignity and sweetness of conduct worthy of her 'maturest years, was perverted to the occasion of a slander, which could dishonor no one but its base or inconsiderate authors.
“Keynsham, near Bristol, Feb. 10, 1834. "My Dear MADAM, "I knew the late Mrs. Hannah More for nearly sixty-four years, I may say most intimately; for during my ten years' residence with her sisters, I was received and treated, not as a scholar, but as a child of their own, in a confidential and affectionate manner; and ever since the commencement of our acquaintance, the same friendly intercourse has been kept up by letters and visiting. I was living at her sister's when Mr. Turner paid his addresses to her; for it was owing to my cousin Turner (whom my father had placed at their school) that she became acquainted with Mr. Turner. He always had his cousins, the two Misses Turner, to spend their holydays with him, as a most respectable, worthy lady managed and kept his house for him. His residence at Belmont was beautifully situated, and he had carriages and horses, and every thing to make a visit to Belmont agreeable. He permitted his cousins to ask any young persons at the school to spend their vacations with them. Their governesses being nearly of their own age, they made choice of the two youngest of the sisters, Hannah and Patty More. The consequence was natural.
She was very clever and fascinating, and he was generous and sensible; he became attached, and made his offer, which was accepted. He was a man of large fortune, and she was young and dependent; she quitted her interest in the concern of the school, and was at great expense in preparing and fitting herself out to be the wife of a man of large fortune. The day was fixed more than once for the marriage ; and Mr. Turner each time postponed it. Her sisters and friends interfered, and would not permit her to be so treated and trifled with. He continued in the wish to marry her ; but her friends, after his