The Letters of Hannah More: A Digital Edition
Introduction to the Project
The Letters of Hannah More: A Digital Edition brings together for the first time the fascinating letters written by the celebrated playwright, poet, philanthropist, moralist and educationalist Hannah More (1745-1833).
More was one of the most important voices of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At the heart of a complex and extensive network of politicians, bishops, writers, and evangelical Christians which included figures such as William Wilberforce, Samuel Johnson and Elizabeth Montagu, More sought to redefine and reshape the social and moral values of the age.
Though More’s fame and influence were considerable throughout her fifty-year literary career, she has remained a peripheral figure in later assessments of the literary culture of the period. In part this is because some of her views are unappealing to modern tastes (she argued strongly against women becoming more involved in political life, for instance, and she was fiercely opposed to Catholic emancipation), but it is also because she has acquired a reputation for dour, dreary earnest religiosity. That her evangelical Christian beliefs were central to More’s life and works is undeniable, but she was also playful and light-hearted, and she especially delighted in the company of children. More’s cheerless reputation developed after the publication in 1834 – just a year after her death – of William Roberts’s four-volume edition, Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Mrs. Hannah More, in which More’s cheerful and teasing voice was deliberately and ‘primly’ edited out. So badly did Roberts misrepresent More that her goddaughter Marianne Thornton begged correspondents not to ‘judge of Hannah More by anything […] that Roberts tells you she said or did.’
The publication of More’s letters for the first time in a reliable and scholarly edition (which will also be fully searchable) will enable a much-needed reassessment of her significance, in addition to revealing the complexity and nuance of her character.
The edition is currently under construction: a small collection of letters (to Lady Olivia Sparrow) is currently available, and this will be added to gradually over the next six months. It is hoped that all 1,800 of More’s surviving letters will be available within the next four years.
You will find on this site:
- Twelve letters from More available as transcripts (diplomatic or xml)
- Search and browse facilities to filter the letters by theme, topic, people or places mentioned
- Fully scholarly annotations on the letters and calendars of correspondents, both of which enable you to navigate via hyperlinks to helpful contextual information
1 Anne Stott, Hannah More: the First Victorian (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. viii.
2 Marianne Thornton, quoted in Stott, p. ix.