Page images
PDF
EPUB

Detraction ever loves a lofty mark :
It saw her soar a flight above her fellows,

And hurl'd its arrow to a glorious height,

- To reach her heart, and bring her to the ground.* Her writings shone not in native beauty alone; they diffused a' reflected lustre from the mirror of her life. To cast a stain upon the latter, therefore, might dim the splendour of those works, whose searching light discovered the hideousness of infidelity and vice. With this view a most iniquitous rumour was propagated, in connexion with the above transaction, which Mrs. More treated with the calmest and most dignified contempt. And we only notice it here to observe that“ Talus," although, of course, discrediting the story for himself, does not scruple to mention, without a syllable of indignation, that some " celebrated poet” of his acquaintance“ would rather have paid 1000l. than have lost so choice a piece of scandal';" and complained, that “ his happiness was injured," and " his peace of mind disturbed,” by the loss of “ so precious an anecdote !" Verily we wish the writer joy of his sentiments and his friends, Charity " rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;" what shall we call the quality which rejoiceth in iniquity, but rejoiceth not in the truth? Perhaps we are to term it " Liberality.”

Miss More received two other offers of marriage, which were declined; the parties, however, living in sentiments of mutual esteem. Like her own Janthe,

Averse to hear, yet fearful to offend,
The lover she refus'd she made a friend;
Her meek rejection wore so mild a face,
More like acceptance seem'd it than disgrace.t

In the year 1774, Miss More brought out on the Bath stage, her “ Inflexible Captive," a drama, founded on the “ Attilio Regolo" of Metastasio. Her literary reputation now obtained for her extensive introductions to the circles of letters and art: Dr. Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and David Garrick, were among her intimate friends and admirers. On her return from London in the latter part of the year 1775, she told her sisters, jestingly, that she had received so much flattering attention in town, that she was resolved to try her real value, by writing some trifling piece, and offering it to Cadell the publisher. In a fortnight afterwards she had completed the legendary tale of " Sir Eldred of the Bower,” to which she added the little poem of“ The Bleeding Rock," composed some years previously on a current Somersetshire tradition. Mr. Cadell offered her a very liberal price, informing her that, if she could discover what Goldsmith received for the “ Deserted

+ The Bleeding Rock,

* Percy, Act II. VOL. XVI. NO. I.

Village," he would make up the sum. Such was the beginning of Mrs. More's connexion with Mr. Cadell, maintained for nearly forty years. It is a curious circumstance that they were natives of the same village, although wholly unknown to each other before this transaction.

Mrs. More was naturally an admirer of dramatic literature. Before she had reached her twentieth year, she had composed, beside the “ Search after Happiness,” one, if not two, of her “ Sacred Dramas;" her acquaintance with Italian literature produced, as we have seen, “ The Inflexible Captive;" and her admiration of Garrick amounted to enthusiasm. While visiting Roscius (with whom, and his lady, till their deaths, she maintained the closest intimacy) at the Adelphi and Hampton in 1777, she sketched, with his assistance, the outline of the tragedy of Percy, which she filled up at Bristol the same year, and, in November, it was brought out at Covent Garden Theatre, her gifted friend sustaining the principal part, and writing the prologue and epilogue. The success of the play was almost unprecedented. Mrs. More witnessed the first representation, and she writes to her sister from " Mr. Garrick's study, Adelphi, ten at night,” that “ nothing was ever more warmly received." In a letter to Mr. Gwatkin, dated March 5th, 1778, Mrs. More states that “ the author's nights, sale of the copy, &c. amounted to near 600l.” The play was even translated into German, and performed with great success at Vienna. She was thus encouraged to proceed in her dramatic career, and composed a tragedy intituled “ Fatal Falsehood ;" which came out at Covent Garden in 1779. But the master-spirit, which was to have given a living existence to her conceptions, was, before that time, summoned from the corporeal world. The death of Garrick was a severe shock to Hannah More.

She never visited the theatres afterwards. To use her own expression," she could not bear it.” Even when her “ Percy" was revived, when Mrs. Siddons played the heroine, and a brilliant array of her friends and admirers attended, she could not be prevailed on to witness the representation. Ultimately, she held opinions adverse to theatrical entertainments.

For the next two years Mrs. More spent her winters for the most part, with her friend Mrs. Garrick, at Hampton and the Adelphi. In this time she greatly extended the circle of her acquaintance, and cultivated a particular intimacy with Dr. Johnson. In 1782 she published a volume containing her “ Sacred Dramas,” a poem called “ Sensibility," and a metrical version of the song of Hezekiah. This volume is one of her most popular productions.

About this time Mrs. More's benevolence was exerted in favour of two objects of a very different description :—the poor maniac, commonly

known by the designation of “ The Maid of the Haystack,” and Ann Yearsley, the Bristol milkwoman and poetess. Of the former of these persons nothing is known except her appearance at Flax Bourton near Bristol, where she made her abode under a haystack. Her manners were eminently ladylike, but she appeared acquainted with no other language than German. Her connexions, or the manner of her arrival in England, could never be distinctly traced. But circumstances too prolix for detail make it probable she was the daughter of an illustrious personage. Her name, it was discovered, was Louisa. By the exertions of Mrs. More, the case was brought before the public, under the title of " A tale of wo,” in the Morning Herald, and a large subscription raised. She was placed in Mr. Henderson's lunatic asylum at Hanham; but was never recovered. She died in Grey's hospital. The case of Mrs. Yearsley is one of the blackest in the records of ingratitude. This woman had attracted Mrs. More's attention by several poems of extraordinary merit, considering her condition and education; and Mrs. More obtained for her the patronage of Mrs. Montagu, and other eminent literary characters. Her poems were published with a preface and recommendation by our authoress, and considerably more than 500l. collected for her use, which it was Mrs. More's design to invest to the best advantage. The foolish and ungrateful object of all this beneficence, however, conceived that her patroness, envious of so much talent, and not without considerations of a more sordid kind, intended to appropriate the money! She therefore demanded, with the grossest insults, the restoration of her 5001., which of course was paid to her. When her kind benefactress would have given her ten guineas, which remained uninvested, the wretched woman literally cast the bounty at her head! Mrs. More only replied, “ May we never meet again, till we meet in heaven!”

The mind of Hannah More was not disconcerted or soured by events like these. Acquaintance with the actions of mankind seldom advances our respect for the species collectively. But the Christian works not for human reward. The gratitude and the applause of the world are to him very subordinate considerations. In this spirit did Hannah proceed to do good, and forget not. Her pen was actively employed in the interests of religion and virtue ; and, although her sincerity could even thus be scarcely questioned, as much that she wrote was any thing but calculated to win the applause of the classes it sought to amend, she shortly evinced the purity of her intentions, by what might seem an act of heroic self-denial and exertion; retirement from the brilliant galaxy of which she was no mean luminary, from the homage of genius, from the commerce of intellect, from the refinements of the polite society which she adorned and enjoyed, from the endearments of friendship, for which none could have a keener relish, to rural solitude and contemplation ;

such contemplation, however, as suits with action the most laborious and the least congenial to one whose habits were so refined, whose delicacy so true, and whose bodily constitution so tender. But she could do all things through Christ who strengthened her; and thus even the extraordinary task of the evangelization of the Mendip peasantry was not beyond her power to accomplish.

Before this event took place, Mrs. More published “ Florio, a Tale for fine Gentlemen and fine Ladies," and " Bas Bleu, or Conversation ;" A Poem on the Slave Trade followed.

The spot selected by Mrs. More to prosecute her plans of studious retirement and benevolent exertion was a situation eminently beautiful. Cowslip Green is not, as stated by Mr. Roberts, in the parish of Blagdon, but in that of Wrington, being in the midst of the picturesque valley which derives its name from that village, classical before as the native place of Locke, and now rendered an object of additional interest to the traveller as guarding the ashes of Hannah More. From a simple thatched cottage did the favourite of nobility, of royalty, of genius, set out to encounter, in all a woman's feebleness, the fiercest opposition of ignorance and prejudice. But the weapons of her warfare were not carnal; and she found them“ mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." The night of ages fled before the lamp of the gospel in her hand; and piety and virtue reared their dwellings in scenes which before had been considered the irreclaimable heritage of vice and misery

(To be continued.)

ART. II.-The Great Mystery of Godliness Incontrovertible; or, Sir

Isaac Newton and the Socinians foiled in the Attempt to prove a Corruption in the Text, 1 Tim. iii. 16. Ocòs épavepúón év gapki. Containing a Review of the Charges brought against the passage ; an Examination of the various Readings ; and a Confirmation of that in the received Text on Principles of General and Biblical Criticisin. By E. HENDERSON, Professor of Divinity and the Oriental Languages at Highbury College London : Holdsworth & Ball. Pp. viii. 96.

The existence of a few various readings in the original of the New Testament on important doctrines has led to some very extraordinary conclusions. The Papist infers from this the uncertainty of Protestantism; and a modern champion of Popery whom we have lately ventured to encounter, exults in it, as it exhibits the foundations of the Protestant's belief, one after another, giving way beneath the pressure of his own footsteps,—while both Testaments might be swept away and leave Rome in possession of all her claims. There is a little too much assumption in this; for, first, if all doubtful readings were given up, there would still be enough of indisputable text whereon to ground every essential doctrine. Take, for instance, Jones's invaluable little Manual on the Trinity, and see how far that work is affected by doubtful texts. Let every questionable text be struck out and the argument is still irresistible. So much for the weakness of the Protestant cause. And now for the strength of Rome. Are there no various readings in the Vulgate? And though Rome might hold her claims without the Scriptures, (and we do not dispute that she would maintain them much more easily and conveniently in the absence of that awkward witness,) still, as the Scriptures do exist, and exist in versions of her own too, how is it that she has not preserved an infallible text? But, further still, how is it that the “ Catholic Church,” as she arrogantly styles herself, should ever have found a version of the Scriptures necessary ? It will not be pretended by her that the Apostles wrote in Latin. She who could preserve the oral traditions of the Apostles with perfect accuracy, how is it that she could not preserve the exact text of their writings ? Why do we hear of corruptions in the text at all? Why does not she step forward and authoritatively declare the true reading, as she authoritatively pronounces on the genuine tradition? She dares not. There is a great difference between dealing with witnesses, and dealing with matters where there is nothing to testify, and a bold front and a credulous auditory are all that are needed. The Jesuitical Protestant who replies by a continuation to the work above alluded to draws from the existence of various readings an inference not less absurd than the former. He holds, that, as some of these readings affect essential doctrines, it is impossible to prove that any passage affecting such doctrine is not an interpolation. The genuineness of a passage in an ancient author is not capable, certainly, of mathematical demonstration ; but if MSS. be numerous and consentient, there is every proof that the case can admit.-Grant that the corruption of os or ő into Geòs should be proved in 1 Tim. iii. 16: must it follow that Rom. vii. 5, where all MSS. agree, is interpolated too? The application of such a canon to the copies of a profane author would cover a critic with ridicule. The genuineness of a text is a pure question of evidence; and where no evidence of corruption is tendered, no corruption can fairly be presumed. Let the doctrine of the Trinity, or any other essential article of belief be fairly referred to this simple canon, and we are not afraid that the orthodox Protestants will have wherewith to answer the Papist and the latitudinarian.

The lover of truth, and especially the inquirer after divine truth, will not be alarmed by popish or “liberal" sophistry. He will seek to “ read his Bible as 'tis written," and however firmly he may hold the

« PreviousContinue »