To Lady Olivia Sparrow, 16 March [1815]

To: The Lady Olivia B. Sparrow
Address: Brampton Park/ Huntingdon
Postmark: B18MR181815
Seal: Red wax
Watermarks: Undetermined

March 16. 1815

MS: British Library, Egerton 1965 ff. 34-5
Published: Undetermined

My dear Lady Olivia

Conceiving that you will be glad to hear from time to time a word from me respecting your Son, I resolve to scribble a line, tho yesterday was a peculiarly bad day . Mr. Sparrow his Tutor and Mr. Hensman spent a long day here lately. I took Mr. H. as usual into my room; we had a very long discussion, and I required an explicit account of their goings on, which he very minutely gave me. I have the satisfaction of reporting that every thing seems very promising; if the improvements are not rapid they are at least progressive. At my request he has begun to attempt composition. He reads Watts’s Logic[2] and Mr. H. makes observations on their joint perusal both of that and whatever else they read together. As the days lengthen he rises earlier which gives him more time for the Greek Testament before breakfast. He is translating some passages from Demosthenes[3] which will help to form his Style. I suggested that here after he should learn and recite some fine passages in Burke’s Speeches.[4] He reads by himself more than he did, and I lent for that purpose Plutarch’s Lives ;[5] and Travels thro Germany .[6] I have also presented sent him with the Saint Paul of Barley Wood ,[7] which he has promised to read; I told him that being written by one who had the honour to be his Mother’s friend, it might interest him more. Mr. H. says that tho he cannot say he sees as yet any decided piety, yet he has great pleasure in seeing that he [has] not the slightest prejudice against religion or religious people. This is /a/ great point for ‘a Harrow fellow’.[8] But what I rejoyced at as the most gratifying circumstance, was that he told me he possessed great purity of mind. This is a blessed thing at an age when boys have commonly their minds tainted. May God’s blessing preserve it to him! I think Clifton a very fortunate situation for him. I think now he is getting a step towards manhood he would hardly endure the dullness & total want of society of an obscure Village, where he woud probably be too solitary, or led into inferior company. Now at Clifton their little social intercourse is entirely among religious, and well mannered people, and his Sunday’s Instruction sound and good. It was Providential for poor distressed Hensman to get Hudson to fill at once the Niche so fortunately vacated by Cowan,[9] or he might have forced himself into it again at his return. There appears to subsist a pleasant affection and confidence between the Tutor and Pupil and Hensman says the latter has easy access to his house where he often calls, and where he will get nothing but good. I have said so much about this interesting youth that I have left myself no room for other Subjects.

I have just got a long letter from dear Mary Gisborne replete with sorrow, affection and the deepest piety. How stupid, in Bowdler’s prejudiced bigoted father[10] to obstruct the very desirable plans of Ld. Calthorpe and Mr. Inglis to write a Memoir of the dear departed! I have written to Harriet Bowdler to try to soften her brother Bartlett’s-Buildings heart. [11] Poor Mrs. Thornton I hear looks sadly, has a pain in her chest and drinks Asses Milk. I tremble for her life. Her letters rather increase in sadness, but it is a sanctified sadness. – I forgot to say that Mr. H. and I agreed that nothing would so much contribute to give Mr. S. a habit of application as to give him a slight tincture of Fractions, and Algebra; not to make him a Mathematician but to tie down his attention – I know of no person likely to suit Lady Gosford’s friend as a Governess . You ask how I like W. Scott’s new Poem.[12] I have not seen it, but do not hear it thought equal to its predecessors. A friend has sent me Eustace’s Tour thro Italy .[13] It is classical & elegant in a high degree – but has too much Republicanism too little of the Manners of the people, and I think a disposition to overrate their Virtues – God be praised for the peace![14] – but what Peace so long as the Witchcrafts of Bonaparte are so many. P. is in very poor health. We all join in kind remembrances to Yr. Ladyship and Miss S.

Ever my dearest Lady Olivia
Your faithful
H. More


The letter is dated based on references to Mrs Thornton’s health, placing the letter in 1815.


Isaac Watt’s Logic, or the Right Uses of Reason in the Enquiry after Truth with a Variety of Rules to Guard against Error in the Affairs of Religion and Human Life, as well as the Sciences, first published in 1724.


There were multiple editions of Demosthenes’s orations available at this time, with modern versions accessible alongside editions from the sixteenth century.


The speeches of Edmund Burke, Member of Parliament for Bristol from 1774 until 1780, featured in many editions of contemporary politicians’ oratory published throughout the second half of the eighteenth century.


Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. It is likely More was lending Dryden’s translation, first published in 1688. More mentions Plutarch several times in Hints towards Forming the Character of a Young Princess as a key text for the development of the young Princess: ‘The preceptor of the royal pupil will, probably, think it advisable to select for her perusal some of the lives of Plutarch. This author teaches two things excellently - antiquity, and human nature’ (Works, p. 140).


Possibly Travels through Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Sicily by Frederic Leopold, Count Stolberg, translated by Thomas Holcroft and published in 1797.


A reference to More’s own Essay on the Character and Practical Writings of St Paul, recently published by Cadell and Davies.


In an earlier letter to Lady Olivia Sparrow on the same head More had lamented Robert Sparrow’s descriptions of spending his time at Harrow in a ‘frivolous’ and ‘trifling’ way. Harrow was an all-male boarding school, founded in 1572 and located to the north west of London, in the town of Harrow. (See also, 'To Lady Olivia Sparrow, 22 February 1815')


Thomas Connolly Cowan, curate at St. Thomas’s in Clifton until his secession from the Established Church as part of the ‘Western Schism’ of 1815. Cowan was a member of the ‘Baring Party’ which practised itinerant preaching and espoused ‘unorthodox doctrines’ which had the appearance, for some, of ‘heresy’ (Grayson Carter, Anglican Evangelicals, p. 111). As a result of the ‘party’s’ origins within evangelicalism the Schism threatened to reverse the gains recently made by evangelicals towards acceptance by the Church of England. Consequently, many evangelical Christians, including Hannah More, reacted with bitter, even vehement, condemnation towards the secessionists.


John Bowdler had died in London on 1 February 1815. A prominent member of the Clapham Sect, Bowdler died just two weeks after Henry Thornton, a circumstance which caused considerable shock and distress amongst the surviving members of the Clapham Sect. John Bowdler the elder published his own memoir of his son’s life in 1816, Select Pieces in Prose and Verse, in two volumes.


A reference to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, also known as the Bartlett’s Buildings Society, which was based at these buildings in Holborn, London. More and her evangelical friends had come to regard the Society as rather stuffy and High Church when compared with the more dynamic and inter-denominational Bible Society.


Sir Walter Scott’s poem The Lord of The Isles was published in 1815.


Tour through Italy, by John Chetwode Eustace (1761-1815), was first published in 1813 in two volumes. The book was immediately popular and became the standard guide for tourists to classical Italy in the nineteenth century.


The peace, which followed Napoleon’s abdication on 6 April 1814, would not last much longer; as More wrote this letter, Napoleon was on his way to Paris (he would arrive on 20 March 1815), having escaped his exile on the island of Elba.