English Authoress and Philanthropist
Hannah More was distinguished for her talents and the noble manner in which she exerted them. She was famous for her work as an author, which was kept alive until near the middle of the nineteenth century. While she was undoubtedly one of the most well-known and influential English woman of her day, today the name of Hannah More is virtually unknown.
Hannah More was born in Stapleton, Gloucestershire, near Bristol , on February 2, 1745 . Her father, Jacob More, was a schoolmaster who made sure his daughters were well educated. While still in their teens the three eldest daughters of the More family founded a girls’ boarding school in Bristol , which soon became well known. Hannah received her education at this seminary, which shaped the rest of her life.
At the age of sixteen, Hannah composed a pastoral drama, “The Search After Happiness”, which was later published and widely read. In 1774 her tragedy of the “Inflexible Captive”, and in 1775 two legendary poems, “Sir Eldred of the Bower”, and “The Bleeding Rock”. Garrick, the great actor, directed her successful play, “Percy” in 1777.
Around 1779, religious impressions convinced Hannah to stop writing for the stage and she increasingly turned to more distinctly Christian work. With Pastor John Newton, author of the hymn “Amazing Grace”, as her spiritual mentor, she went on to pen such works as “Sacred Dramas”, a satirical tale, “Florio”, and “Religion of the Fashionable World”. All of Hannah’s writings were infused with strong moral purpose. She wrote a series of popular essays encouraging Christian leaders to establish moral laws as well as a series of tracts to counter the rationalism of her time.
In 1787, dismayed at the depravity and poverty of mining towns, Hannah and her sister began establishing Sunday Schools in many area villages. She moved to Cheddant and founded several schools in the area and soon extended her charitable efforts for the education of the poor into all the surrounding country. Within ten years she was supporting and administering over sixteen schools, teaching destitute children how to read, learn Christian morals, and acquire life-skills that they would keep with them forever. Hannah wrote many of the books used in the schools because she felt that Christian teaching should be the foundation of all education.
In 1795 she began a monthly journal while living in Bath called the “Cheap Repository”, consisting of short moral tales that she composed. This periodical attained a very large circulation and one of her most popular stories was “Shepherd of Salisbury Plain”, which went through many editions and was translated into several languages.
In 1828, Hannah moved from Barleywood in Gloucestershire, where she had lived for several years with her sisters, to Clifton . Her writing brought her much personal fame and financial success. She was able to save about $150,000 from her writings, one third of which she bequeathed for charitable purposes. Hannah More died in Clifton on September 7, 1833 at the age of eighty-eight. Her writings and benevolence strongly influenced the public mind and social character of her day.