Hannah More to Marianne Sykes Thornton, February 1815 [copy, presented to EM Forster by his great aunt, Marianne Thornton]

Stamped: None
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Seal: None
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MS: Cambridge University Library, Add.7674/1/L6 ff. 144-9
Published: Undetermined

Yes my dear friend I must write a few lines, though doubtless you are oppressed with the kindness of friends whose sympathy shares in your sorrows without being able to mitigate them . Truly do I mourn with you over this second very deep wound . Both are most mysterious – we must adore now & we shall understand hereafter. Mr. Stephen & Lord Teignmouth most feelingly communicated to me the last sad intelligence. Written a fortnight ago! Very pleasant were they in their lives, & in their death they were not divided I had looked to dear Bowdler as one of the principal stays you had to lean upon, a counsellor & comfort to yourself & a monitor & example to your children.

But Gods Ways are not as our Ways. Poor dear Mary Gisborne[2] may He comfort her – no one else can What an effort my dear friend did you make to write me those few kind lines. Mr. Melville – Whom I take to be a son of Lord Leven’s[3] , finished the letter in a way that has made him Stand high in my opinion. It was written in a fine spirit, & will you thank him for me It would give you a sort of sad consolation to see how every one who writes to me expresses themselves on the Subject of your beloved Husband. Sorrow makes even Lord Gambier eloquent. Mr. Dunn who has been staying with us is always sublime . From men like these who could judge & feel his Merit one expected it but I was pleased with an expression of the General feelings in more ordinary Men living in the turmoil of trade which is apt to blunt the feelings, but whose Shop is crowded with the first sort of Men. I mean my bookseller, Cadell, who writes thus ‘The death of your distinguished friend has excited a sensation of grief, more general & distressing than we remember to have witnessed’ This was said of the feelings of the world at large – my other letters being from religious men. Said no more than was expected of them. I am truly anxious about your health. Grace may enable you to subdue your mind but I fear Your body will not be so submissive. Every time you look on your sweet children, this duty will be pressed homeward to you – in a way you will not be able or willing to resist. I know not yet whether you have returned to Clapham. The events of these last three Weeks form the Chief Subject of our conversation. I think much of you – at a time when I hope you are not thinking of yourself – in the dead of night – for my nights are in general bad. We have paid to our departed friend the tribute of wearing mourning – it is nothing to the dead, but may testify to the living who are about us, our reverence for exalted piety & virtue. Though our friends have been very kind, they are naturally so full of their own sorrows that it is some time since I have heard especially of you.

Will you let one of the little ones Send a line to say ‘Mama is better or worse’ Poor Wilberforce he has lost a great part of himself – his right-hand in all great & useful measures, heavily indeed will he go down to the House of Commons without his ‘own peculiar friend’.[4]

We all unite in prayers for your peace & comfort. May you continue to enjoy those divine consolations which you have so graciously & so largely experienced – is the Earnest prayer of my very dear friend

Your ever affectionate & sympathising
H More


The letter is dated based on the reference to John Bowdler’s death, which occurred in February 1815.


Mary Gisborne had been John Bowdler’s fiancee.


Lord Leven was uncle to Marianne Sykes Thornton’s children through his marriage to Jane Thornton, Henry’s sister. Mr. Melville (there were five Melville sons) was a first cousin to the Thornton children.


Wilberforce and Thornton had been close friends for many years, having lived together as bachelors and helping each other find and develop their Christian faith. After their respective marriages they and their families had remained emotionally as well as physically near.