Hannah More to William Wilberforce


MS: Weston Library, University of Oxford, MS Wilberforce d. 17, ff. 6-7
Published: Undetermined

Dear Sir

Tho this is but a romantic place as my friend Matthew well observed /yet/ You wou’d laugh to see the bustle I am in. I was told we shou’d meet with great opposition if I did /not/ try to propitiate the chief Despot of the Village, who is very rich and very brutal; so I ventured to the Den of this Monster, in a Country as savage as himself, near Bridgewater. He begged I wou’d not think of bringing any religion into the Country, it was the worst thing in the world for the poor, for it made them lazy and useless; in vain I represented to him that they wou’d be more industrious as they were better principled, and that for my own part, I had no selfish views in what I was doing; he gave me to understand that he knew the world too well to believe either the one or the other. Somewhat dismay’d to find that my success bore no proportion to my submissions, I was almost discouraged from more visits; but I found friends must be secured at all events, for if these rich savages set their faces against /us/, and inflamed the poor people I thought nothing but hostilities wou’d answer. So I made Eleven more of these /agreeable/ Visits, but I was by this time improved in the Arts of canvassing and had better success. Miss Wilberforce wou’d have been shocked had She seen the petty Tyrants Whose insolence I stroaked and tamed, the ugly children I praised, the Pointers and Spaniels I caressed, the cider I commended, the wine I drank, and the brandy I might have drank; and after these irresistible flatteries I enquired of each if he cou’d recommend me to a house; /said/ that I had a little plan which I hoped wou’d secure their orchards from being robbed, their rabbits from being shot, and their game from being stolen /and might lower the Poor Rates./ If effect be the best proof of Eloquence then mine was a good Speech; for I met with the hearty concurrence of the whole people, and their promise to discourage or favour the poor in proportion as they were attentive or negligent in sending their Children. Patty, who is with me says she has good hope the hearts of some of these wealthy poor wretches may be touched; they are as ignorant as the beasts that perish, drunk every day before dinner and plunged in such vices as make me begin to think London a virtuous place. By their assistance I procured immediately a good house, which when a partition is taken down, and a Window added will receive a great number of children. This house and an excellent Garden of almost an Acre of ground, I have taken at once for Six Guineas and a half Pr. Year. I have ventured to take it for seven Years, there’s courage for You! It is to be put in order instantly; for the night cometh, and it is a comfort to think that, tho I may be dust and ashes in a few weeks yet by that time this business I hope will be in actual Motion. I have written to different Manufacturing Towns for a Mistress but can get nothing hitherto; as to the Mistress for the Sunday School, and the religious part I have employ’d Mrs. Easterbrook, of whose judgment, (Demons out of the question) I have a good opinion. I hope Miss W. wont be frightened but I am afraid she must be a Methodist.

I asked the Farmers if they had no Resident Curate; they told me they had a right to insist on one, which right they confessed they had never ventured to exercise for fear their Tythes shou’d be raised. I blushed for my Species. The Vicarage House is remarkably grand.

The Vicarage of Cheddar is in the gift of the Dean of Wells; the value nearly /£/50 Pr. Ann: the Incumbent a Mr. Rabone, (I dont know whether I spell his name right.) he has something to do, but I cannot here find out what, in the University of Oxford, where he resides. The Curate lives at Wells 12 Miles distant They have only service once a day, and there is scarce an instance of a poor person being visited or prayed with.

The Living of Axbridge is in the gift of the Prebendary of Wivilscombe in the Church of Wells; the Annual Value about /£/50. The name of the Incumbent Gould, about 60 years of age; the Prebend to which this Rectory belongs, is in the Gift of the Bp of Bath and Wells. Mr. Gould is drunk about Six times a Week /has kept a Mistress in his House/ and very frequently /is/ prevented from preaching by the black Eyes got by fighting – Mr. Rabone is a middle aged man of his character they know nothing. The Curate a sober Young Man [letter ends abruptly]