To Lady Olivia Sparrow, [March 1820]

To: The Lady Olivia B. Sparrow
Address: The Orchard Niton/ Isle of Wight
Postmark: None
Seal: Black wax
Watermarks: Undetermined

March 1820 [In More’s hand on the address leaf] It will be too late to get a frank

MS: British Library, Egerton 1965 f. 85-86
Published: Undetermined

My dearest Lady Olivia

A kind, agreeable, long and interesting letter from dear Miss Sparrow should be answered directly but that I am in deep arrears to your Ladyship. Nothing can be more obliging than her little details, than which nothing makes letters so pleasant. Public events are just now of so complicated & overwhelming a nature that even to touch upon /them/ would fill my paper and occupy your time to little purpose. I truly pity the K–[2] How surely does God at one time or other visit our errors and bring our sins to remembrance! How he will get extricated the wisest seem not to know. I have just got a letter from a friend whose habits lay open much information to him. He tells me that a Gentleman of his acquaintance on whom the firmest reliance may be placed is lately come from the Continent. Passing through a small town in Italy he stopped at an Inn and desired to see a good bed. On being shown one, he said it was not large enough for him and his Wife –"Not large enough," said the Mistress of the Inn, "why the Princess of Wales and the Baron her Chamberlain Slept in it last week, and so they have done twenty times before and they never complained that it was too small." You don’t mean that they slept together said the gentleman? Yes replied the woman I do, as they have always done." One or two such testimonies woud be proof positive. But then in what a distracted state would it place this poor country.[3] – I fear we are emulating France in all its parricidal horrors! What a Providential escape of the Ministers I grieve to think what a flood of drunkenness, idleness and perjury this premature Parliamentary election will introduce, – A propos. I am desired to request your vote and interest for Lord John Russel who is canvassing your county. I know nothing of him, but that I fear he is what I call, on the wrong side. They speak well of his talents [4]

I have been honoured by a kind, I had almost said affectionate letter from your friend the Duke of G. He spoke of you and of his visit to Brampton con amore, I have had two letters from Princess Sophia full of kindness and written with her usual good sense. She was staying with the Dss. at Bagshot Park.[5]

Our admirable friend at K. Gore[6] wrote on his Son’s marriage desiring me to invite them both to Barley Wood, as he said he and his wife had come hither immediately after their wedding 22 years ago.[7] I could refuse nothing to such a petitioner So they came from Bath and staid a day and night. He is gentlemanly and agreeable in his manners, mais, voila tout. She is handsome but I thought her vapid and uninteresting. It is /all/ very well now that they are visiting about, and the days are all halcyon; but what is to become of them I cannot guess, nor can their dear father. Il faut manger dans ce pauvre Monde. And how that father is to provide a separate Establishment for one, /who/ neither can, nor probably will do nothing I cannot guess.[8] It goes to my heart as I know he has nothing to spare, and even the youth’s education is not finished. I shall be agreeably disappointed if he ever takes to business. When he returns to town too he will meet with his old associates, Alas!!

I have the kindest message to give you from Miss E. Powys who was here the other day with Lady Louisa de Spaen, daughter of my old friend Lady Kington. [9] [As] [tear] far as I can judge both Mother and daughter [are] [tear] become religious in earnest. The latter is mod[est] [tear] and diffident, but Lady Lilford’s family to whom I introduced her at Clifton think very well of her. She takes kindly to the husband and daughter of her late unfortunate Sister, who lived and died a fine Penitent.[10] She gave what is to me the most unequivocal sign of repentance, that of never desiring to be received or to come into the world.

Give me leave to recommend to You a little Poem called ‘the Sceptic’.[11] It is written by a young Woman who is living in great Obscurity and almost poverty in Wales. She wrote two Years ago a Poem ‘on the Restoration of the fine Arts to Italy’,[12] a little work of great merit, but which I fear never made its way. It abounds in fine taste, elegant diction and great harmony of numbers. She is married to a poor Officer:[13] The ‘Sceptic’ is less splendid; but is not only extremely well written, but in a fine Spirit of piety It is too much to hope that dear Mr. Dunn will be a Bishop What an Archbishop of Them [unclear]! God send more such!

I have not seen Dodwell’s Greece,[14] and shall be very thankful for it, as you so kindly offer it.

I am still at the end of two Months a close prisoner in my chamber. My Medical friend will not allow me to quit it till the weather changes. My most affectionate love to Miss S.

ever yr. Ladyships faithful &
most obliged H More


The letter is dated on the basis of the endorsement.


George IV. King George III had died on 29 January 1820.


After his accession as king, George IV had reports sent him of the behaviour of his estranged wife, Caroline of Brunswick, whose travels in Europe with her steward Bartolomeo Bergami had provided much material for gossip. George IV intended to divorce his wife. However, as a result of the king’s own legion infidelities, a parliamentary Bill of Pains and Penalties was the only way of obtaining a divorce. Caroline’s conduct left her vulnerable to a charge of treason.


John Russell, first Earl Russell (1792-1878), would later be prime minister. He was returned in the election of 1820 for Huntingdonshire.


Bagshot Park in Surrey was the home of Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, (1776-1857) fourth daughter of George III, and her husband, William, second Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh (1776-1834).


William Wilberforce the elder lived at Gore House, Kensington Gore, in London between 1808 and 1821.


For an account of the elder William Wilberforce's trip to Barley Wood as a newly-wed, see letter to William Wilberforce, 29 May 1797 (publication forthcoming)


William Wilberforce the younger (b. 1798) had got into considerable debt whilst an undergraduate at Cambridge, and his behaviour would continue to distress his father.


Lady Louisa King (d. 1870), daughter of Robert, 2nd Earl of Kingston and his wife Caroline FitzGerald (1754-1823). Lady Louisa married in 1803 Alexandre, Baron de Spaen, a Dutch nobleman and diplomat. Lady de Spaen was active in the Church Missionary Society.


Lady Mary Elizabeth King (c. 1779-1819), whose widower was George Galbraith Meares (1784-1849), with whom she had three sons and two daughters.


The Sceptic, by Felicia Hemans (London: John Murray, 1820). (Read online.)


Hemans (1793-1835) had published The Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy first in the Edinburgh Annual Register in 1815, before the second edition appeared under John Murray in 1816. Byron was one reader who praised and admired the work. (Read online.)


Felicia Browne married Captain Alfred Hemans (b. 1781), a soldier, in 1812. They had separated in 1818.


Edward Dodwell (1776/7-1832), A classical and topographical tour through Greece, during the years 1801, 1805, and 1806, 2 vols (London: Rodwell and Martin, 1819). (Read online)