« PreviousContinue »
perfect Talus, or iron man" (he informs the readers of Tait in a note that Talus is a character in “ The Fairy Queen"!) “ as to equity,– and as to logic (which is, in fact, equity in the intellect), I could not, without great affectation, feel any weakness or fears in the presence of one who had really no masculine power about her.” We cannot help thinking that there is more brass than iron after all in this Talus of logic and equity. This may have prevented him from feeling any “ weakness or fears" in the presence of Hannah More. Yet we cannot but suspect that his self-conceit has received her castigations, although it may have been too impenetrable to have felt them. Mrs. More had a kind, considerate, and christian heart; but this hinders not that she may sometimes have switched a puppy in self-defence; and curs have good memories.
In the brief sketch of Mrs. More's life which we are enabled to present our readers withal, we do not pretend to achieve (what is yet a desideratum) a life of that eminent lady. We only enable our readers to possess on their shelves a short summary of facts, on which they may fully depend, relative to one who was not only the ornament of ber sex, but of her country, and of the world.
Hannah More was born at the Fishponds, in the parish of Stapleton, in Gloucestershire, about three miles from Bristol, February 20, 1745. She was the fourth of five sisters. Her father, Mr. Jacob More, conducted an humble but respectable foundation school. He had been originally designed for the church, and with that view had been educated at the Grammar School of Norwich, under the brother of the celebrated Dr. Samuel Clarke; but his expectations failing through domestic disappointments, he obtained, by the patronage of La Bottecourt, the mastership of the school above mentioned. Soon after his settlement at Stapleton he married the daughter of a respectable farmer, by whom he had the subject of the present memoir.
As if to confute the popular opinion that precocious talent is the least durable, that of Hannah More was discovered in her third year; when her mother, intending to instruct her in reading, found that she had already made some progress, by observing the instructions afforded to her sisters. In the same year she repeated her catechism in the church, “ in a manner," says Mr. Roberts," which excited the admiration of the minister of the parish, who had so recently received her at the font." When about four years old, she composed verses on the subject of the road to Bristol, on which her father's house was situate. One couplet we hope we may repeat without offence to our Bristolian friends :
“ This road leads to a great city,
Which is more populous than witty." " In her days of infancy," as Mr. R. expresses it, "it was her delight to scribble little moral essays or poems on scraps of paper; and when, by her mother's indulgence, she attained to the possession of a whole quire, she filled it with letters to supposed depraved characters, and their replies. One of her favourite childish sports was making a carriage of a chair, and “riding to London to see bishops and booksellers”! Surely here the girl was the mother of the woman!
When Hannah was twelve years old, the sisters put in practice their long projected plan of establishing a young ladies' school. For this purpose, with the assistance of a lady, they engaged a house in Trinitystreet, Bristol. So successful were the exertions of the sisters, that they maintained their parents, and could afford to provide for them two servants. Here Hannah soon became acquainted with several distinguished characters; among whom were Dr. Stonhouse, Dean Tucker, Mr. Sheridan, Dr. Woodward, and Mr. Ferguson, the astronomer. Nor must we omit to mention a highly cultivated linen-draper of the name of Peach, to whom she acknowledged herself eminently indebted for correct principles in taste and criticism.* Her father instructed her in Latin and mathematics. The latter she never prosecuted to any extent; but she always continued to cultivate an acquaintance with the Latin classics. French she acquired from her eldest sister, and so well improved the acquirement, that when some French officers on parole called at her father's occasionally, she always acted as interpreter. To these accomplishments she had added, at the age of twenty, Spanish and Italian. Her facility in the latter language was so great that she once translated off hand several parts of an Italian concert to gratify a friend. The paper was taken from her, and inserted in the principal magazine of the day.
In her seventeenth year Hannah first appeared in the character of authoress. The production which obtained for her this title, was a pastoral drama, intituled, the “ Search after Happiness." This piece was not intended for publication ; but as numerous copies were obtained by friends, she was induced to publish it. It appears to have obtained for her the friendship of Dr. Langhorne, a poet less known at the present day than he deserves to be. The following anecdote is well known, but a repetition of it may be expected here. The Doctor, perceiving Hannah walking upon the beach at Uphill, wrote, with his cane, the following lines on the sand:
Along the shore
Walk'd Hannah More;
Sooner shall ye,
Proud earth and sea,
• This man was able to supply a chasm of two years in the life of David Hume, which no other person could account for. The historian was then in a countinghouse in Bristol.
To which Miss More immediately replied by writing with her ridingwhip
Some firmer basis, polished Langhorne, choose,
And be thy tablet lasting as thy verse. Hannah's acquaintance with Langhorne has given rise to an exceedingly elegant effusion of his pen, for which, as we are not aware that it has been before printed, we doubt not Mr. Roberts and ourselves will receive the thanks of our readers :
STANZAS WRITTEN IN THE AUTHOR'S GARDEN, ON THE PROMISE OF A VISIT
FROM A LADY.
Blow, blow, my sweetest rose !
The course of our narrative now brings us to an event of some importance to the fair subject of our memoir. Edward Turner, Esq., a gentleman of handsome property, resident at Belmont, about six miles from Bristol, had two cousins at Miss More's boarding-school, whom he permitted occasionally to invite their school-fellows or friends to his house. The two youngest governesses (Hannah and Patty) being
permitted occasil two cousing aty, ?
• The Inflexible Captive.
nearly of their age, were often thus invited. Mr. Turner conceived an attachment to the former, and made an offer of marriage, which was accepted. Thus far we have proceeded on unimpeachable authority;
years; who was her scholar for ten; who was living at Mrs. More's when the transaction occurred ; and who is connected by marriage with Mr. Turner's family. We now proceed on more romantic, but less veracious testimony. The speaker is the hero of Tait. “ I have received the following as the true fact from a clergyman of great respectability, and a fervent friend of Mrs. H. More's. The morning was fixed for the marriage ; Miss More's friends were all in attendance ; and, after breakfasting together, had actually proceeded to the church, where, by appointment, they were to meet the bridegroom. They actually waited above an hour in the porch, looking out for his arrival, and, as yet, with no suspicion of his dishonourable intentions. At length a single horseman was seen approaching; he advanced to the steps, dismounted, and presented to Miss More a letter, in which the gentleman pleaded simply, as a reason for receding from his engagements, that he could not bring his mind, at the hour of crisis, to so solemn and so irrevocable a contract. He offered, however, to inake such reparation as could be made, in a pecuniary sense, to Miss More; but this intention, if he really had it at the time, would, no doubt, have died away, as soon as the immediate difficulty was overcome. The friends of Miss More, aware of that, pressed him vigorously, and would grant no delay. The sequel was, that, rather than stand a prosecution, he settled on Miss More a handsome provision, my informant believed, not less, but rather more, than 400l. per annum for life." This story is exquisitely touching—the outline bold—the colouring vivid. A fairer vision never presented itself to brain imparadised in opium. One inconsiderable quality it wants—but then that quality would annihilate the picture TRUTH. The anxious hour of the bridal party--the palpitating heart of the bride—the porch (for by some unfortunate accident, the church door appears to have been closed) thronged with white robes and favours, and countenances as white; the horseman, first a doubtful speck on the horizon, and soon a breathless messenger, reining his impetuous courser at their feet, then bounding from the saddle, and presenting to the trembling bride the craven message-here is a subject which (the romancer of Tait, of course, excepted) nothing less than Scott's pen, or Westall's pencil, ought to have approached. But, alas ! never did Scott indite, or Westall paint, a purer fiction. No churchno horseman-no letter existed—save only in the sublimated brain of Mr. Tait's correspondent. The day of the marriage was, indeed, three times appointed ; but Mr. Turner in every instance deferred. Miss More's friends (particularly Sir James Stonhouse) and sisters then
interfered, and insisted that the connexion should be renounced. Mr. Turner, however, continued to express his wish to marry her, but her advisers kept her to her determination. She had, in consequence of her intended new connexion, abandoned her share of the school, and incurred great expense in preparing to become the wife of a man of large fortune. Aware of these circumstances, Mr. Turner offered to settle an annuity upon her. This proposal she firmly rejected, and the intercourse was supposed to have ceased. But the wayward lover was not easy until he had obtained an interview with Dr. Stonhouse, to whom he stated that he intended to abide by his original design of securing to Miss More an annual gratuity in acknowledgment of the wrong he had committed, at the same time averring that he had never intended to relinquish the idea of their union. Dr. Stonhouse consulted with the friends on both sides, who agreed that a part of the sum offered might be fairly accepted, and the arrangement (for 2001. per annum) was made without the cognizance of Miss More: nor was it until some time after that the importunities of her friends could prevail on her to become a party to it. Mr. Turner, at his death, bequeathed her 10001. So much for the “ prosecution,” which is thus unhappily fated to vanish along with the church porch, horseman and billet-the morning light of truth dispersing the poetical creations of the sleeping draught. Mr. Turner, indeed, always, whether alone or in company, made it a point to consecrate his first glass of wine daily to “Hannah More.” Twenty years and upwards after this transaction he visited her at Cowslip Green, and attended the last festival she gave to the children on Mendip. “ There certainly was some story of a delicate nature," says the ingenious dreamer, " in the belief of Mrs. More's best friends, connected with the rupture of her marriage engagement." After what has been exhibited from that gentleman's pen, no very great importance can be attached to any assertion from that quarter; we shall therefore simply content ourselves with affirming most positively that “ in the belief," and, indeed, in the KNOWLEDGE “ of Mrs. More's best friends," there was nothing which his assertion implies—nothing that could give rise to the most flimsy shadow of imputation against Mrs. More in any way whatever. The utmost that could be said was, that she had visited at his house. This she did always in company with her sister, Martha (who always maintained a friendship for Mr. Turner), and with Mr. Turner's cousins. If these were any matters of “delicacy," they were such as had not the slightest reference to her. Her conduct throughout the transaction was that of a Christian and a lady.
To calumniate Hannah More was, of course, a favourite amusement of the vicious and profane. Unable to elevate themselves to her standard, they had no alternative but the hopeless attempt to lower her to theirs—