To Lady Olivia Sparrow, 23 August [1815]

To: The Lady Olivia B. Sparrow
Address: Beaumains/ Anglesea
Postmark: D16SE161815
Seal: Red wax
Watermarks: Undetermined


MS: British Library, Egerton 1965 ff. 20-3
Published: Undetermined

My dearest Lady Olivia

If this were a world in which every one had their due, you would long ere this have received my cordial thanks for your truly kind letter, a letter so interesting in a variety of ways! I read good part of it to dear Wilberforce who was here when it arrived he was shewing his eldest son[2] the West of England. He slept here a night or two both going and coming [deletion]. But his visits were in that hanging way which diminishes the pleasure of seeing him so that the chief comfort I had was that of finding him, for him, very well in health to which I hope the relaxation from business and constant change of air much contributed .

I congratulate you on your very triumphant Bible Meeting, and subsequent festivity. I had a very satisfactory account of it in a letter from Miss Powys to her Sister,[3] who came down here on purpose to bring poor Lady Southampton [sic] children,[4] whom she was very desirous I should see as the little Lord was at home and she was too ill to come herself; she seems to be very suffering in body, but more cheerful in spirit . I grieve that the fine little boy is to leave Mr. Wind’s[5] – some Calvinistic counsel I fear.

I was indeed surprised at this sudden journey to Ireland: but the motive was too good not to be approved. I take a warm interest in your account of Lady Gosford. If ‘ this vile body[6] some times presses down the Soul, it does also some times exalt and ennoble it, and leads its immediate companion to look down with more indifference on whatever is perishable. My judgment of Lady G. was always a favourable one, her strong sense, her willingness to read awakening, and heart-searching books; her sincerity in fearing [deletion] to be thought better than she was, and therefore affecting to make light of things which I at the very time believed she was seriously weighing – altogether led me draw conclusions which her present turn of mind fully justifys I heartily bless God for a state so decidedly pious as you give me reason to believe is the case. I hope it may please the Almighty to grant the restoration of her health, for the sake of her children ; and I trust she may become a powerful instrument in a still more extended Sphere by employing the influence which her rank and /fine/ understanding give her, in bringing others to see the same great truths in the same clear light. May God strengthen, comfort, direct, sanctify her!

But to return for one moment to your Bible Gala – How I should have delighted to have made an unworthy guest at this hallowed festival! What did your Neighbour say to your muster roll of Peers and Peeresses? What honour would he have done himself by joining it! A propos of Bible Meetings – Our excellent Bishop of Gloucester rode over Mendip one broiling Morning to invite P. and I to spend the week at Wells and attend a B. Meeting at Glastonbury of which he is President . I should have liked it much but we were to /expecting/ Wilberforce at home, who after all never came till it was over. I regretted it the less as the Assembly met in the Abbot’s Kitchen of that vast and venerable ruin; which was damp and dreary.[7] What a contrast between the good cheer once proposed on this now deserted spot and the holy purpose to which it was on this day dedicated! Tho my own health has rallied much from the dry Atmosphere of this pleasant Summer, I have declined all visits, but believe I must go next week to the two Bishops at Wells if P. is better. Her health I fear is declining, and she thinks /ill/ of herself. I pray God to avert this blow. In spite of all my endeavours to avoid it by giving no invitations, and returning no visits, we are sadly overdone with company but as every body is gone or going to France[8] I suppose we shall live to pine in Solitude

Poor Mrs. Thornton and five of her children spent ten days with us. We would gladly have kept her longer as it seemed to do her good. She tries to be cheerful, and exhibits a striking evidence that Christianity is indeed a reality. Nothing short of this divinely powerful principle could thus tranquillize a spirit so deeply wounded. [9] Marianne is a charming girl, frank, lively, sensible, and to her poor Mother tenderly affectionate.

I agree with you in your opinion of Owen He is certainly not only a wonderful instrument, but a very superior man in himself; and ‘let him, that is without fault’ cast the first stone .[10] His danger lies on the side of popularity and acclamation, but I doubt not he prays and strives against these perils formidable even to good Men.

This is the first letter I have written you for a long time without having your son for a topic. Is he returned to Clifton? I suppose Mr. Hodson is too modest to bring down his bride till the appearance of his pupil shall seem to furnish him with a justifying Motive. I heard with pleasure of the high satisfaction he afforded by his Sermon at the Charitable Clergy Meeting at Bristol . I heard it commended by different Classes of characters. He is sometimes said (but not on that occasion) to want a little energy of manner: but this objection [deletion] I believe is made by those who are accustomed to the vehemence of his Predecessor.

Jebbs Sermons [11] are beautifully attractive, sweetly elegant and highly polished as to style, and exhibiting Religion in her most amiable dress, and her most lovely lineaments, but certainly not abounding in the prominent exhibition of certain important doctrines. They abound however with invitations and incentives to holiness and from a pleasing transcript of his own pure mind. They are, I think, best suited to those who have already made a progress in religion as they by no means take in its grand scheme and scope. I greatly love the Man, and was much disappointed that his sudden recal on the death of his brother stopped him on his journey hither. [12] Pray see all the interesting Society at Bellevüe, especially Mr. Knox, but take especial care that your ears do not run away with your heart, for he has a most fascinating eloquence. With great mutual regard we disagree on some very momentous points. As a teacher of holiness, and an inspirer of contempt for the world he has scarcely an equal. He is a good deal of a Mystic. You see how openly I write to you even respecting my real friends and favorites. I know my confidence in you is not misplaced. Letters which are not written in that confidential skein are not worth having, but the general habit would be dangerous.

By a hint you drop I do not quite despair of catching you here for a little while on your return, if you can make the Geography reconcileable, I trust you will bestow that gratification on my dearest Lady

Your ever faithful
and attached
H. More

Best love to dear Miss Sparrow.

Almost the only day I have been from hom[e] [tear] Saint Whalley came here – to take his final leave he said ,[13] but I hope not so, as he was at Glastonbury Meeting. I trust he will finish his vol: of Sermons before he finishes his earthly career. –

Antinomian /ism/ [14] is growing in a most formidable manner in some friends of whom I had hoped better things. I am much alarmed at its pestilent progress. I think an open division will take place; and the religious World consist of two doctrinal classes. – pray write soon

I have just received from a stranger a new book called ‘the Invisible Hand’ – I have read but a small part, but it seems well written and pious – tis a Tale. [15]


The letter is dated by evidence of Mrs Thornton’s state - she was grieving her husband so the letter must have been written in 1815.


William Wilberforce’s eldest son was also William, born in 1798.


The Honourable Emily and the Honourable Anne Powys, daughters of Thomas Powys, first Baron Lilford. [xref]


Lady Frances Isabella Seymour Fitzroy (d. 1838) was the second wife and widow of George Ferdinand Fitzroy, second Baron Southampton (1761-1810). She had three young children: Anne Caroline; Charles, 3rd Baron Southampton, who was five when his father died; and Henry.


It has not been possible to identify this school.


From Philippians 3:21. There are also echoes of a 1732 sermon by Charles Wesley in which he speaks of how ‘The corruptible body presses down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weighs down the mind.'


The Kitchen may have been cheerless, but it is one of the few intact medieval kitchens in the world. It has eight sides and four fireplaces, each of which had a separate culinary function. It is now considered an architectural treasure.


The final defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo meant that Europe, and France in particular, was open for the first time since the Peace of Amiens in 1802. Over the next three years More’s opposition to British tourism in France would crystallize as Moral Sketches (1818).


Marianne Sykes Thornton’s health had been in decline all year since the death of her husband, Henry. She would die just a few weeks after this letter was written.


From John 8:7.


Jebb’s Sermons on Subjects Chiefly Practical was published in 1815 by Cadell and Davies. (Read on Google Books)


It was in fact Jebb’s cousin who died in July 1815: Jebb was raised for a time by his widowed paternal aunt, Mrs. McCormick, and became very close to his cousins. Jebb’s biological brother, Richard - the elder by nearly ten years - died after Jebb. See The Life of John Jebb (1837) (Read on Google Books).


Richard Chaple Whalley was in ill health, but he would not die until 1816.


More, like other evangelicals, believed in justification by faith, but antinomianism (or, those considered antinomian) took this further, and held that the saved were not required to follow moral law.


The Invisible Hand by W. Clayton was published in 1815 by Cadell and Davies. (Read at The Hathi Trust It received mixed reviews, with The British Critic objecting to its heavy-handed parable of God’s works in every-day events: the tale was labelled ‘heavy’ and ‘sombre’ (see The British Critic 5 (1816), p. 331).