Hannah More to William Hayley, 31 August 1811

To: Wm. Hayley Esqr/
Stamped: None
Postmark: None
Seal: Red wax
Watermarks: None


MS: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: Henderson Album, p. 17
Published: Undetermined

My dear Sir

Allow me to offer You a plain and simple, but sincere and cordial assurance of my gratitude for the great honour you have done me, and the great gratification you have given me, by your elegant and beautiful Poem [2] . Tho I feel myself, (and there is no affectation in declaring it) very unworthy of the kind and flattering things it contains, yet I feel a considerable addition of pleasure in perusing it, from the idea that it is your approbation of the serious Spirit in the little work[3] which you are so good to commend which disposes You to overlook any defects in the composition; defects multiplied by bad health which indisposes, and partly incapacitates me from correcting coolly, tho it does not yet always prevent me from writing rapidly, and therefore I fear, carelessly.

As the friend of Cowper I concluded your ‘ear was patient of a serious song’[4] ; as his Biographer[5] I have had experience of your candour in judging. How my heart rises when I hear that exquisite poet condemned, that holy Man misrepresented! tho I trust he can be misrepresented only where he is misunderstood. I never read a page of him either in prose or verse without as much affection as admiration; and I often feel my heart overflowing with gratitude to God for having united such piety to such talents, and by this means made way for his acceptance to readers who forgive the one for the sake of the other, and to whom his religion would not have made its way without this splendid accompanyment. Every lover of genius, virtue and true taste are indebted to you Sir for his life and letters. The ease the grace the spirit the temper of those familiar compositions set at a disgraceful distance the elaborate periods, and over done efforts of more studied compositions.

I have had /great/ pleasure in shewing your fine Verses to one of the nearest survivi[ng] [tear] relations of Cowper, the daughter of the pious Major and Mrs. Cowper to whom his more devout letters are addressed.[6] They have also afforded a great treat to the excellent Mr. Gisborne with whom I am now on a visit. I need not tell You he is the Author of some of our best Modern Sermons [7] ; of two valuable treatises on the ‘Duties of Man /&/ duties of women’[8] ; and his ‘Walks in a Forest[9] enable him to appreciate Mr. Hayley as a Poet.

With my best wishes for your health and comfort I remain my dear Sir
Your much obliged and
faithful Servant H More

I inclose this to Mr. Wilberforce


The letter is dated on the basis of the reference to Hayley’s publication of a poem about More, which appeared in 1811.


William Hayley, Epistle to Mrs. Hannah More: On Her Recent Publication--Practical Piety. June 1811. The poem was first published in Poems on Serious and Sacred Subjects (Chichester: W. Mason, 1818). Read online.


More’s Practical Piety, published by Cadell and Davies in 1811.


Adapted from Edward Young's Night Thoughts, IV.3: 'Thine ear is patient of a serious song'. More reused this phrase in a letter to Sarah Siddons, 14 December 1811, which Thomas Campbell printed in his Life of Mrs Siddons (London: Eppingham Wilson, 1834), vol. 2, p. 332. (Read online.)


William Hayley published The Life and posthumous writings of William Cowper, Esq. in 1803, and in an enlarged edition in 1806 (London: J. Johnson). (Read online.)


Likely Maria Judith Cowper (c. 1752-1815), daughter of Major William Cowper and his wife Maria Frances Cecilia Madan. Hayley published letters between Cowper and his family in his editionof Cowper’s writings.


Thomas Gisborne published a number of books of sermons, including Sermons; principally designed to illustrate and to enforce Christian Morality (London: Cadell and Davies, 1809). (Read online.)


An Enquiry into the Duties of Men (London: Cadell and Davies, 1797) (Read online), and An Enquiry into the Duties of the Female Sex (London: Cadell and Davies, 1797). (Read online)


Walks in a Forest (London: Cadell and Davies, 1801), was a book of poems describing the scenery of Needwood Forest, which bordered Gisborne’s estate at Yoxall. (Read online)