To Lady Olivia Sparrow, 27 March [1817]

To: The Lady Olivia B. Sparrow
Address: Sidmouth
Postmark: [Partial] 28MR28
Seal: Red wax
Watermarks: Undetermined


MS: British Library, Egerton 1965 f. 57-8
Published: Undetermined

My dearest Lady Olivia

You would, were you not candor itself, think me a strange Animal, not to have thanked you, both for your kind letter and interest/ing/ present of books. But in this seeming/ly/ quiet spot I can hardly give you an idea what a scanty commodity time has been with me; the continued bad state of my two Sisters , company very frequently, and every interval filled with scribbling half penny and penny compositions . Tho I would have you to know, I am now rising in dignity and importance, having just finished (what I hope may be my last) a work that will be very costly three half pence, if not actually two pence, The Death of Mr. Fantom the new Fashioned Reformist.[2] If not a very learned composition, I hope it may be of some little use.

And now let me thank you for my book as Patty desires to do for hers. Chalmers has indeed numberless passages of great splendor, and and a general richness of language which one does not often meet with.[3] As to /the/ Jesuit Book ,[4] I would that every Member of both Houses of Parliament were compelled to peruse it before they ventured to give a vote on the tremendous question which I suppose will soon be brought forward, and which, in my humble opinion, if carried as I fear it will be carried, threatens more evil to this country than all the Hunts and Cobbetts and Cockraines in it.[5] The single Chapter which relates to Lancashire makes me tremble.[6]

Mr. Dunn jilted us again, and put me off with a letter instead of a visit, his old practice; but he knows that in whatever shape he appears he must always be acceptable.

We lately crammed in six Gisbornes; but such was the uncomfortable state of our family, that we could only keep them two or three days. Indeed it was as much as they could spare us. Poor Mary looks the picture of silent woe. She is indignant both at the Memoir and the picture which are prefixed to the two Valuable Volumes, and deeply hurt that no kind of notice is taken of herself. [7]

Our dear Bishop – need I say of what see? breakfasted with us yesterday in his way to the great Missionary Meeting at Bristol , for which he preaches to morrow[8] and has half promised to take us in his way back to Wells. He talks of not returning thither for a year, which cuts off our hope of meeting! I must not complain however, as he is going to what is more decidedly his post. I fear he will be worked to death. 7 Charity Sermons during the next Month, he is to preach in London!

I should regret your absence too, but that Mr. Wilkes told me yesterday what great good you were doing where you are. Of that indeed I was persuaded bef[ore] [tear] A propos of Wilkes. Have you seen his 'Christi[an] [tear] Essays'.[9] They only reached me last night, so that I have had only time to read the last Essay in the first Volume which is an excellent Review of the character and death of my dear old friend Dr. Johnson.[10] If you approve the work after reading it, I hope you will recommend it. I hear Lord C– goes abroad next week, and that he has been again much indisposed – I am truly sorry, but cannot help feeling nhow on this, as on all other occasions, all things work together for good to them that love God.

I hope you will write to me sooner than I deserve. My best love to dear Millicent. The Bishop told me he was not without hope that You would spend the Passion week[11] at the Deanery My Sisters desire their most affectionate respects Patty is very proud of her Book,[12] both for the sake of the donor, and because it coincides so exactly with our own views of the Subject

Ever my dearest Lady
Yours faithfully HM


The letter is dated based on the reference to the tract in the letter.


More's Cheap Repository Tract, 'The Death of Mr Fantom, The Great Reformist, who Departed this Life, March the 20th, 1817'. Ian Haywood gives an overview of the tract, its origins and targets in The Revolution in Popular Literature, p. 92. (Preview on Google Books).


More is perhaps referring here to a publication by Thomas Chalmers: the fifth edition of The Evidence and authority of the Christian Revelation was published in 1817.


A History of the Jesuits; to which is prefixed a reply to Mr. Dallas's defence of that order by John Poynder (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1817).


Henry 'Orator' Hunt (1773-1835), William Cobbett (1763-1835) and Andrew James Cochrane-Johnstone (1767-1833). Hunt was imprisoned in 1800 for challenging to a duel his superior officer in the Marlborough yeomanry: there he encountered radical ideas for the first time, and soon began reading the works of William Cobbett. Hunt later invested in the Jacob's Well brewery in Clifton, just outside Bristol. Difficulties there required Hunt's residence in the city, and in 1807 he founded the Bristol Patriotic and Constitutional Association. He twice contested Bristol in elections, inciting the public in a way disconcerting to the establishment. In the wake of the poverty which struck Britain after the end of the Napoleonic wars (on which More commented frequently in her letters of this period), Hunt became involved with workers' movements, and was present at the Spa Fields Meetings of 1816 and 1817. He was delegated by the Hampden clubs at Bristol and Bath to petition members of parliament in the area in 1817. Though Cobbett had, early in the Napoleonic wars, held conservative views, he became an increasingly vocal critic of the Pitt administration and its pervasive use of sinecures and similar usually-accepted corruptions. In 1816, in the aftermath of the widespread social upheaval following the end of the wars, he established the Political Register, which Cobbett used to urge working people to campaign for parliamentary reform. The paper sold for tuppence, leading it to be jeered as 'two-penny trash' by its detractors. Its enormous popularity caused grave concern in government, and measures were passed by the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, early in 1817 to limit its effects. Fearing arrest, Cobbett fled to America in May 1817. His friend Cochrane-Johnstone had been involved in a stock-exchange fraud, where in 1814 word had been spread in the south-east that Napoleon, and France, had been defeated. As shares soared, Cochrane-Johnstone benefited to the tune of nearly £5,000. He was tried and convicted of fraud in 1814.


The chapter to which More refers is entitled 'The Jesuits in England', p. 332. (Read at Google Books)


Mary Gisborne (b. 1789), daughter of Thomas Gisborne and Mary Babington Gisborne, had been engaged to John Bowdler the younger. He died in February 1815 from consumption before they could be married. In 1816 Bowdler's father, also John, published his son's Select Pieces in Prose and Verse, 2 vols (London: Cadell and Davies, and Hatchard, 1816). The fourth edition (1820), includes both portrait and journal. (Read at the Hathi Trust)


Henry Ryder was vice-president of the Church Missionary Society, and was a regular contributor to the meetings of the Bristol branch.


Samuel Charles Wilks (1788-1872), newly-appointed editor of the Christian Observer. His Christian Essays, 2 vols (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, and Hatchard, 1817), was dedicated to More. (Read on Google Books)


Wilks's discussion of Johnson is found between pp. 237-64 of Volume 1, in a chapter entitled 'True and False Repose in Death'.


The week between Passion Sunday and Palm Sunday, which in 1817 fell between 23 March and 30 March (Easter fell on 6 April).


It has not been possible to identify this book.