To Lady Olivia Sparrow, 2 October [1817]

To: The Lady Olivia B. Sparrow
Address: to the care of/ Messrs. Gosling and Sharpe/ Fleet Street/ London
Postmark: C4OC41817
Seal: Black wax
Watermarks: Undetermined

Octr. 1817. Mrs. H- More

MS: British Library, Egerton 1965 f. 68-9
Published: Undetermined

My dearest Lady Olivia

A thousand thanks for your very kind letter from London. I cannot but feel rejoyced whenever I see your hand writing and yet I rejoyce with trembling, when I reflect what an expense of health and strength it may have been to you. Great as the gratification is, I must beg you not to use your own hand when you indulge me with any communication. I am sure you have those feeling friends about you who would at once gladly save you the pain and give me the pleasure. To dear Mr. Obins I am already much indebted on this head. I do love him.

You have I presume already been some time at Sea, exposed to an element which whatever benefit it may afford to your beloved patient is not I fear good for your own delicate health. An Object which it is more than ever your duty to consult and of which I hope your [sic] are very careful. I shall feel anxious to know the result of this new Voyage on the beloved Object of your attention[2] You did right not to delay your setting out, as it is at present extremely cold here; but blessed be the giver of every good gift the weather is very dry and has been so for near a Month. I say we ought to live upon our knees in continual praises for this seasonable relief. The fruits of the earth are abundant, and trade reviving every where but in my two poor Mining Villages[3] whose very existence depends on the Brass Trade, the only species of Commerce which is totally dead.

You have doubtless heard of Mr. Cowan’s Eccentricities. He has formally renounced the Church, and is setting up a religion of his own, if it can be called his own which is so identified with the doctrines of Baring & Co .[4] He has published his ‘Reasons for quitting the Church,’ in an ill written inconsistent Antonomian Pamphlet.[5] I am glad at any rate to get such doctrines out of the Church, but I am sorry for this misguided Man. His principal friends have forsaken him. His inferior Adherents are getting Subscriptions for building him a Chapel, but are not so successful as they expected.[6] They came to me and I had an hour’s conflict in justifying my refusal to subscribe. I assured them it was not to save a few Guineas for I had a personal kindness for Cowan, but I could not answer it to my Conscience to give any support to a plan which was intended to be subversive of the Establishment, and to propagate doctrines hostile to her principles.

I am engaged in the very vapid and dry employment of revising some of my own Works, ‘Cœlebs and Practical Piety’ for New Editions;[7] rectifying commas and colo[n]s [tear] and correcting points and particles suits not my impatient pen, tho I am thankful for the success which imposes on me such dull work.

I believe I wrote to you since the Bishop of Salisbury and his family were here, and the interesting conversation I had with him respecting his Royal Pupil and her valuable Consort. God grant they may persevere as they have begun or rather that they may go on to perfection[8]

I think you would be pleased with Buchanan’s Life.[9] I have the satisfaction to hope that Patty is a little better. She is a decided Invalid, but I am thankful for any improvement. The Harfords have been to us since their return, overflowing with accounts of His Holiness, and their friends the Cardinals &c. I hope they will now after two years wandering sit down quietly and become a blessing to their neighbours, to the rich by their example and to the poor by their bounty.[10] Not a day of so uncertain a thing as life is to be lost. May the Holy Spirit quicken us all in our respective duties, support us under our respective trials, and direct us to look for peace and rest where alone it is to be found. You my dearest lady have been deeply exercised; God gives to you the same tokens of his love in a /great/ degree which he gave to the Saints of old, exercises of patience, submission and holy acquiescence in his Will. Kindest love to your dear Companions

ever Yr
H More


The letter has been dated based on the postmarks and context.


Lady Olivia’s only son, Robert, was by this time ill with consumption, and had been sent abroad for his health. Around this time Lady Olivia had built a villa on the south coast of France, near Nice at Villa Franca. Robert Sparrow died there in March 1818.


Shipham and Rowberrow. The brass trade in the Mendip villages was hard hit by the end of the Napoleonic Wars. See Anne Stott, Hannah More: the First Victorian, p. 311.


Thomas Connelly Cowan had broken with the Church of England and joined what was known as the ‘Baring Sect’, which had formed around the famous banking family. Suspected of adopting unorthodox doctrines including, apparently, antinomianism, their fame meant that considerable controversy surrounded their circle. See Grayson Carter, Anglican Evangelicals (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp 105-51. (Preview on Google Books)


Thomas Connolly Cowan, A brief account of the reasons which have induced ... T.C. Cowan ... to secede from the established Church, addressed to those who composed his congregation ... in the parish church of st. Thomas, Bristol (1817). (Read on Google Books)


Cowan mentions in his Brief Account an attempt by Baring to purchase for him a chapel in Manchester, which was unsuccessful (see p. 44). No evidence has been found of Cowan obtaining a chapel elsewhere.


An edition of More’s complete works would be published by Cadell and Davies, in eighteen volumes, in 1818.


John Fisher (1748-1825), as Bishop of Exeter, had been the dedicatee of More’s Hints towards forming the Character of a Young Princess, 2 vols (London: Cadell and Davies,1805): Fisher had been appointed in March 1805 Preceptor to Charlotte Augusta, Princess Royal (1796-1817), and had corresponded with More about the education of the young princess. The previous year Princess Charlotte had married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, and was at this point heavily pregnant with their first child. Tragically she would die on 6 November 1817, after giving birth to a stillborn son.


Hugh Pearson (1776-1856), Memoirs of the life and writings of the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, 2 vols (1817), which was dedicated to Wilberforce. (Read on Google Books)


John Scandrett Harford and his family had, with the outbreak of peace after Waterloo, travelled to the Continent, as did many wealthy families. More was in general appalled at the notion, but was also dismayed by the reports that came back of the manners of British families whilst abroad. Here, More’s anti-Catholic sentiments mingle with her sense that travelling to France was indicative of a broader moral decline in British sensibilities.