Hannah More

Hannah More - Playwrite, Poet and Philanthropist

Hannah more was born in 1745 at Fishponds in Bristol. Hannah and her four sisters were educated by their father who was a school teacher. When he decided that their education had been completed Hannah and her sisters started a school for girls at Park Street in Bristol. While teaching at the school Hannah started to write poems and plays.

 

Hannah became to William Turner, a wealthy local landowner but he twice broke off the engagement and some years later Hannah finally rejected his offer of marriage and accepted an annuity of £200.  

 

This money enabled Hannah to pursue her literary career and she travelled to London with her sisters to meet David Garrick, the famous actor. Garrick introduced to literary high society in Lindon and sponsored the performance of her plays at the Drury Lane Theatre and at theatres in Bristol and Bath. Hannah was overwhelmed with grief by the death of David Garrick and this together with accusations of plagiarism caused Hannah to stop writing for the theatre.

 

Hannah moved back to Bristol and met Ann Yearsley a local milk woman and amateur poet who became Hannah’s protégé. Hannah successfully a subscription volume of poems although they later had an argument about money and their relationship ended acrimoniously.

 

Hannah was staunch Christian and she became involved with campaign for the abolition of the slave trade in Bristol through her friendship with evangelical clergyman John Newton, the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace” and the abolitionist Member of Parliament, William Wilberforce. Hannah’s poem “Slavery” was published in 1788 to coincide with the first parliamentary debate on the slave trade.

 

In 1789, at Wilberforce’s instigation Hannah and her younger sister Patty founded a Sunday school in Cheddar. This was the first of nine schools for the children of agricultural labourers and miners in the Mendip area of Somerset.  

 

Hannah played an important part in the conservative reaction to the French revolution. In 1793 she published “Village Politics”, a short popular tract designed to counter the arguments of Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man”.  

 

She brought together her two roles, loyalist politics and concern for the labouring poor in publishing “The Cheap Repository Tracts” a series of stories to promote good morals among the poor. She also continued her lifelong interest in the education of women and in 1799 she published a seminal book on the subject.

 

In 1800 Hannah bought some land to build a house at Barley wood, about half a mile from Wrington near Bristol. At Barley Wood Hannah and her sisters kept open house for variety of visitors including the future Prime Minister William Gladstone, the quaker prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge and Thomas de Quincy.  

 

When Hannah became old and frail when had some trouble with her servants and was persuaded by her friends to leave Barley Wood and move to Windsor Terrace in Clifton, a fashionable suburb of Bristol withn views over looking the Avon Gorge.

 

Hannah died in 1833. The funeral cortege passed through Bristol and went to Barley wood where the village of Wrington was in mourning. She was buried in a corner of the churchyard alongside her older sisters. On her death it was found that she had earned £30,000 from her books and plays. She was one of the most successful writers and perhaps the most influential woman of her day.

 

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