To Lady Olivia Sparrow, 23 June [1819]

To: [In another hand] The Lady, Olivia Barnard Sparrow
Address: Brampton Park/ Huntingdon
Postmark: FREE28JU281819
Seal: Red wax
Watermarks: Undetermined

June 1819 [and, in the same hand as the address] Gambier/ Uxbridge twenty six June 1819

MS: British Library, Egerton 1965 f. 73-5
Published: Undetermined

My dearest Lady Olivia

I am ashamed to have received such a kind and interesting letter from you, tho’ I had not put myself in the way to deserve it, by my delaying to thank dear Miss Sparrow for hers. I will account for my silence before I close. I must say that not any of your friends, warm and numerous as they are, took a deeper interest in your feelings on your first appearance in the world, after so long and sad a seclusion from it. And its being the first entrée of your beloved daughter added not a little to that interest. I cordially congratulate you both, your Ladyship on the end of your fatigue, and dearest Millicent on her passing through the fiery ordeal unhurt, and because unhurt, therefore brighter than she went in. I bless God that through his grace she is enabled to maintain such a steady consistency of conduct under circumstances so peculiarly trying, especially at her age. God has bestowed on her all that this world has to give, partly to shew her that all is nothing, but as it is connected with eternity, as it furnishes her with more and higher opportunities of glorifying her heavenly father, and enables her to shew that the Christian religion is a reality; that divine grace operates on the practice as well as /on/ the heart and is the same glorious principle which directs in difficulties, sustains in calamity, and sanctifies in prosperous circumstances.

I suppose you are by this time seated in your own Bra /m/ pton. We had heard with equal concern and indignation of the conduct of your Episcopal neighbour. This must not a little lessen the satisfaction of your return to your beloved home. Such arbitrary and cruel proceedings are disgraceful. I had hoped that you, on every account would have been exempted by that spirit by which so many dependent persons have suffered by his injustice.[2]

Mr. Daniel Wilson spent a day with us last week and was delightful. Our present guests are Mr. Inglis and the 4 elder Thorntons. Our comfort in their company is lessened by poor Isabella’s being seized with the Measles.[3] She has already been in bed two days, and very ill; but things look more favourably to day. The night was very bad.

Two days ago Lady Elgin[4] spent the day with us. I knew nothing of her before. She is a sensible woman, and seems desirous of improving in religion of which she has a good deal of knowledge. She has it seems been a most kind Mother to Lord Bruce, the son of her unworthy Predecessor.[5] Dr. Chalmers wrote me a very favourable account of this lady. By the way I have not yet seen Chalmers’ Sermons[6] of which I hear a high report.

I think your three Rules for your London residence were framed with great wisdom, and observed with great fidelity. Health as well as higher things have been promoted by this measure I hear there are many Candidates for the favour of your dearest daughter. May Divine Providence direct her in her selection! It is an object of unspeakable importance not only to herself but to many. We must pray that she may be rightly guided, and I know she prays for herself. I wish the opportunity could occur for discussing some of those points which are too delicate for any thing but personal communication. She is so superior to others in /all/ the good points, even among the best; so superior in the cultivation of her mind as well as her principles, to the foremost, that she has a higher standard to act up /to/ and I trust a higher destination to fill. At the same time her attractions of a worldly and popular kind, makes her situation require all the prudence and discrimination and piety of her wise and tender Mother. Her example will be looked up to, and the conduct of many may be determined by hers. I confidently trust her high tone will never be lowered to theirs; but that by her influence she may lead theirs to be raised to hers.

I am going to do a most impudent thing. But if you will, by your generosity, spoil people you must abide the consequences. Your Ladyship gave me 4 Volumes of Clarke’s Travels, which I have had handsomely bound. I hear there is a fifth. Perhaps you will have the goodness to compleat my set [7] – Any time will do, for at present I have little time for reader – and now I will proceed to tell you why

I fear I have been doing a very foolish thing I thought I had as compleately made up my mind to hang my harp upon the willows[8] as you had to keep your three rules. But in my case, as in Hamlet’s Mother 'the lady did protest too much'.[9] I have been so struck with the French Mania in all classes almost of our people of the desertion of our country in the time of its deepest distress, and of the importation of French Manners, that I felt it a sort of duty not to hold my tongue. On the other hand, the Mischief done by the [unclear]ders, and its probable fatal consequences, I thought called for notice. Then the errors of religious people I think require a gentle hint; as well as the prevalence of high profession and low practice &c &c &c – to all this I have added a pretty long dissertation on prayer, and some of the errors which hinder its efficacy. In about four Months I have written (at an age when I ought to have rested) as many hundred pages. I expect to give offence to many of my friends especially by shewing the dangers of foreign association, and neglect of religion in the education of the great, but I have delivered my own Soul, and I must soon stand at a higher bar than that of this world’s judges. I have kept it so secret that I have not yet named it even to Wilberforce, but as it is now going to press I shall relax a little of my strictness. [10] Pray for me that it may be made useful, to a few at least.

My Sister joins in all that is affectionate – respectful and grateful to your Ladyship and dear Miss Sparrow, with my dearest
Lady Yours most entirely
H More.

Tell M. I thank her a thousand times for her letter, and hope to answer it

[Inserted upside down between the salutation and the first line of the letter proper] Kindest regards from both to Mr. Obins – P. sends her [sic] to you both


The letter is dated using the postmarks.


More makes reference in a number of letters to Lady Oliva’s difficulties with local episcopal authorities. The Bishop of Ely at this time (in which see Huntingdon sits) was Bowyer Sparke (1759-1836), though it has not been possible to identify whether Sparke was the person in question, nor the nature of the difficulties.


The four eldest Thorntons were Marianne, Henry Sykes (1800-1881), Lucy (b. 1801) and Watson (b. 1802), but More’s letter makes clear that their younger sister Isabella (b. 1803) was visiting.


Lady Elizabeth Oswald Bruce (1790-1860), wife of Thomas Bruce, earl of Elgin and Kincardine (1766-1841).


Thomas Bruce had divorced his first wife, Mary Nisbet Bruce (1788-1855) in 1807 (England) and 1808 (Scotland) for adultery. She went on to marry the man cited in the divorce, Robert Fergusson (1768-1840). Lord Bruce, George Charles Constantine (1800-40), was the eldest son of Lord Bruce’s first marriage.


Sermons Preached in the Tron Church, Glasgow (Glasgow, Edinburgh and London: Smith and Son, Whyte and Company, and Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1819). (Read at Google Books)


Edward Daniel Clarke, Travels in various countries of Europe, Asia and Africa (1816) There would ultimately be six quarto volumes, the last being published in 1823. More later left her complete set to Thomas Scandrett Harford in a codicil to her will.


From Psalm 137:2: ‘We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof’ (KJV).


Spoken by Gertrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, III:ii.


More published her last major work, Moral Sketches (London: Cadell and Davies, 1819) at the end of June. In it she expanded upon a theme that had run through many of her letters since the declaration of peace after the Battle of Waterloo: that the hurry of British families across to the Continent was morally suspect in itself (More particularly criticised the reports of loose conduct by the British abroad), and that it tended to damage morality at home. In Moral Sketches, More wrote that the well-to-do had abandoned their stations at home, and had misused the peace. Instead of ‘an increased residence in our respective districts, and an endeavour to lighten the difficulties of government, by the continued contribution of its rightful supplies; instead of using it to mitigate the distresses, and to restrain the crimes of the lower orders, by living in the midst of them, each at its natural and appropriate station, and thus neutralising the spirit of disaffection’, the British had flown ‘with unrighteous speed, to the authors of our calamities’, pp. 462-3. (Read at Google Books)