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WOMEN, MORALITY AND ADVICE LITERATURE

Manuscripts and Rare Printed Works of Hannah More (1745-1833) and her circle from the Clark Library, Los Angeles

Part 1: Manuscripts, First Editions and Rare Printed Works of Hannah More

Part 2: Gift Books, Memoirs, Pamphlets and the Cheap Repository Tracts

Part 3: Writings by The Eminent Blue Stockings

Publisher's Note

Women, Morality and Advice Literature focuses on the life and works of Hannah More (1745-1833), one of the best selling and most influential women authors of her time, in England. Through her writings, philanthropy, political activities, and personal relationships More set out to lead a moral revolution of the nation’s manners and principles. Writing in different literary genres and styles her printed works span a period of some five decades. Plays, poetry and prose written in different styles, were aimed at all levels of society – from the aristocracy to the lower-class reader.

This major collection of books and autograph letters by Hannah More is held in the Special Collections of the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, at the University of California Los Angeles. In recent years, with the benefit of the Ahmanson Foundation, the library has been collecting materials from the later eighteenth century to the early 1800s, and is now recognised by scholars as one of the great centres in the world for seventeenth and eighteenth century studies.

Our Consultant Editors are Professor Patricia Demers, Department of English, University of Alberta, Professor Anne Mellor, Department of English, UCLA, and Janice Devereux from Otago, New Zealand.

‘Hannah More’s Public Voice in Georgian Britain’ by Patricia Demers is a biographical essay introducing Hannah More, her work and times. Anne Mellor concentrates on religion and education, two key aspects of More’s life and work, in ‘Hannah More, Revolutionary Reformer’. Janice Devereux provides a transcription of More’s personal notebook entitled, ‘Reminiscencies’ (1827) containing anecdotes and table talk with personal friends and acquaintances to Barley Wood, including tales about Johnson, Mrs Garrick and Lord Monboddo.


The ambition of Women, Morality and Advice Literature is to provide scholars with a broad body of materials for studying the work of Hannah More and her circle. It is a major resource to understanding More as playwright, poet, moralist, abolitionist and Evangelical reformer - her thoughts, feelings and emotions. We also offer a selection of material by her contemporaries, revealing current views and ideas on More’s outspoken writings, opinions and actions, including her admirers, her critics, her biographers and the Blue Stockings. Among her admirers were Dr Johnson, David Garrick and William Wilberforce, while her critics included Peter Pinder (John Walcot) and Archibald MacSarcasm (William Shaw). William Roberts was the first More biographer. Eminent Blue Stockings include Elizabeth Montagu, Anna Laetitia Barbauld and Elizabeth Carter.

Part 1: Manuscripts, First Editions and Rare Printed Works of Hannah More, and works inspired by her. The manuscripts held at the Clark Library represent a significant collection of More’s correspondence in existence – and contain some 180 autograph letters from Hannah More, and over 100 letters written to her, and as such represent an important primary source. As Patricia Demers states, ‘Here are the letters before [William] Roberts chopped and sanitised them!’

Correspondents include: Sir Thomas Ackland, John Hiley Addington, MP, Henrietta Maria Bowdler, Cadell and Davies, Hester Chapone, Joseph Cottle, David Garrick, Ann (Lovell) Gwatkin, Sarah Martha Holroyd, Mrs Ann Kennicott, Alexander Knox, Zachary Macaulay, Elizabeth Montagu, Sir Robert Peel, Sir William Weller Pepys, Lady Olivia Sparrow, James Stephen, Lord Teignmouth and Henry Thornton.

Also covered in the manuscript collection is the small pocket book (1794) containing More’s religious thoughts, and written with her characteristic pithiness of self-reproach. She says, ‘When shall I gain more self-possession?’ and ‘When shall I be able to do business with the world without catching the spirit of the world?’ Another important item is the notebook entitled Reminiscencies (1827) written by More in her later years. It contains thirty-seven pages of conversations with visitors to Barley Wood, and mentions some forty people including Sir Richard Hill, Rowland Hill, Elizabeth Carter, the Duke of Clarence, Robert Southey and Sir Joshua Reynolds. To aid readers we include a complete transcription of this manuscript by Janice Devereux.

The printed works cover a selection of first editions, rare printed works and works inspired by More. We also include later revised editions to understand how More responded to contemporary opinion and advice. For example, we include the first edition of Sir Eldred of the Bower as well as the second edition containing a stanza rewritten by Johnson. More’s works were available in other countries and we have selected some titles published in America and France.

Hannah More’s first writings to be published were her plays. These include Search after Happiness, 1773, a pastoral drama for student performers; The Inflexible Captive, 1775, a blank verse translation of the opera Attilio Regolo by Pietro Metastasio; Percy,1777, written with Garrick’s sponsorship and guidance, and Sacred Dramas, 1782, a closet drama for young ladies. In 1779 The Fatal Falsehood ran for only four nights, and More was accused of plagiarism by Hannah Cowley. We include Cowley’s play A Tragedy, by Mrs Cowley for readers to assess the charge of plagiarism.

While enjoying success as a playwright More began to publish her poetry. We include The Bleeding Rock and Sir Eldred of the Bower, 1776, two ballads about unrequited love; Ode to Dragon, 1777, Dragon was Garrick’s house dog; The Bas Bleu, 1786, a celebration of Mrs Elizabeth Vesey’s conversation parties with the Blue Stockings; Florio: A Tale for Fine Gentlemen and Fine Ladies, 1786; Slavery: A Poem, 1788, inspired by the abolitionists William Wilberforce and John Newton; and Bishop Bonner’s Ghost, 1789.

Early in her literary life More began to write essays on the reform of morals, and her first published essay, in what was to become an important crusade was titled, Essays on various subjects, principally designed for young ladies, 1777. More’s idea for moral reform was to start with the aristocracy as role models for the young and lower classes. Two such essays include: Thoughts on the Importance of the Manners of the Great, 1788, and An Estimate of the Religion of the Fashionable World, 1791. Essays on female education include: Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, 1799 and Hints Towards Forming the Character of a Young Princess, 1805. Other important essays are also included in the publication.

Coelebs in Search of a Wife, Comprehending Observations on Domestic Habits and Manners, Religion and Morals was More’s only novel, and was first published anonymously in 1808. In the first nine months eleven editions were printed, and the work inspired some contemporaries to write their responses, for example Celia in Search of a Husband, [Medora G Byron] 1909, and Coelebs Deceived, [Harriet Corp] 1817. We also cover later editions of More’s novel, as well as further works in response to it.

Part 2: Gift Books, Memoirs, Pamphlets and the Cheap Repository Tracts. Part 2 begins with a selection of Gift Books containing collections of writings by Hannah More and others. These include: The Poetical Works of Hannah More, 1835?, and The Amulet; or Christian and Literary Remembrancer, 1828, containing the first publication of two More poems, The Petition of the Negro Boy and The Bazaar.

Hannah More was a popular figure with Victorian biographers. William Roberts was the first More biographer, and he published the Memoirs of the life and correspondence of Hannah More in 1834, just one year after her death. The four volume biography has been criticised by some for heavy editing with a neglect to chronology, a misdating of letters and the distortion of More’s character by the ‘bowdlerizing of harmless colloquialisms’. Readers will be able to compare the biography with More’s original letters. Other biographers included are Henry Thompson, the resident clergyman at Barley Wood, Arthur Roberts, Thomas Taylor, S G Arnold, Helen C Knight, Anna J Buckland, and Charlotte M Yonge.

More attracted critics as well as admirers. The Blagdon Controversy between More and Thomas Bere concerned the issue of the value of educating the poor, and the question of whether it would lead to the insubordination of the lower classes. The controversy resulted in the publication of numerous pamphlets including the thoughts of William Shaw, Rector of Chelvey and ally of Bere, who wrote The Life of Hannah More. With a critical review of her writings, by the Revd Sir Archibald MacSarcasm, Bart.

The bitter dispute between More and her protégée Ann Yearsley, known as the ‘Bristol Milkwoman’ is also covered. We include Poems on several occasions by Ann Yearsley, 1785, and the fourth edition of this work, 1876, containing the indignant ‘Autobiographical Narrative’ of Yearsley attacking More for undue meddling in her life.

The Cheap Repository Tracts were an important and successful part of More’s moral and religious campaign ‘to improve the habits and raise the principles of the common people’. The tracts promoted a Christian middle-class ideology as normative for all classes of society. The stories and ballads are equally critical of the morally irresponsible aristocracy as of the working classes, with tales of all social types, upright and criminal. Tales included are Two Wealthy Farmers, or the History of Mr Bragwell, The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain and The History of Mary Wood, the Housemaid. Between 1794 and 1797 some one hundred tracts were issued, with a claimed circulation of two million. The tracts were printed bi-monthly in London, Bath, Edinburgh and Dublin, and collections of the tracts later became available in bound volumes, such as Stories for the Middle Ranks of Society, and Tales for the Common People, 1818, and Tales for Young Persons, 1839. We also include the pamphlet by Henry Thornton outlining A plan for establishing by subscription a repository of cheap publications, on religious and moral subjects: which will be sold at a half-penny, or a penny, and a few to exceed two pence each, nd (c.1794).

We know that More was also involved in the origin of the cheap repository tract series, and it used to be thought that publications marked ‘Z’ were the work of More. This has since been disputed, and it is now known that many marked ‘Z’ were probably not written by More, while some not marked ‘Z’ probably were. We also know that More helped to correct and revise other tracts. This microfilmed collection will help scholars to investigate these authorship disputes, and to understand the history of this series of publications. Patricia Demers describes this complete series of cheap repository tracts as a ‘treasure trove’ for scholars.

Part 3: Writings by eminent Blue Stockings. Finally we include a range of rare printed material by a number of More’s contemporaries: friends and fellow members of the Blue Stockings. The gatherings of the Blue Stockings were open to both sexes, however, it was the women who presided and set the tone. Elizabeth Montagu was ‘Queen of the Blues’, and was acknowledged as one of the great conversationalists of her age. In her correspondence she wrote of the polite learning, good manners and elegant conversation that marked the ‘blue stocking Philosophy’.

Among the Blue Stockings we feature are Elizabeth Carter, a former journalist and renowned classical scholar, with letters, poems, translations from Epictetus and printed correspondence with Catherine Talbot. Hester Chapone, an essayist, with miscellanies in prose and verse, A letter to a new-married lady, 1777, and Letters on the improvement of the mind, addressed to a young lady, 1787. Works by Elizabeth Montagu include An essay on the writings and genius of Shakespeare, 1777, and The Letters of Mrs Elizabeth Montagu, bound in four volumes, and published between 1809 and 1813. Catherine Talbot Essays on various subjects, 1772. Anna Laetitia Barbauld, poet and educationalist, whose works include Devotional pieces, compiled from the Psalms and the Book of Job, 1775 and Hymns in Prose for Children, 1821, 22nd edition. Also covered is Mrs Barbauld and her contemporaries; sketches of some eminent literary and scientific Englishwomen, 1877, plus her memoirs, pamphlets and other works. The works of Hester Thrale Piozzi includes Letters to and from the late Samuel Johnson, LLD, 1788 and Observations and reflections made in the course of a journey through France, Italy and Germany, 1789, as well as a sketch of her life, and passages from her diaries, letters and other writings. Associated works include A later Pepys, 1904, containing the correspondence of Sir William Weller Pepys, Bt, Master in Chancery 1758-1825, with Mrs Chapone, Mrs Hartley, Mrs Montagu, Hannah More and others.

The manuscript and printed works of Hannah More and her contemporaries covered in this publication will be an invaluable resource for scholars of English, History and Women’s Studies. More’s writings, personal relationships, philanthropic schemes, and political actions allow exploration and understanding of the culture of society during the later eighteenth century to the 1800s, including the education of women, Evangelical moral reform, sensibility, the short novel, the Blue Stockings, and abolition of the slave trade.

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