Hannah More to Marianne Thornton, November 5th 1823

To: Miss Thornton
Address: Battersea Rise/ Clapham
Stamped: None
Postmark: 4EVEN4 NO 7 1823 and 12 NOON 12 NO 7 1823
Seal: Red wax
Watermarks: J GREEN 1822


MS: Cambridge University Library, Add.7951/7
Published: Undetermined

My dearest Marianne

What is become of you? Where are you? What are you doing? It would indeed be more ‘germain to the Matter’ to put these interrogations to me, as I have long been in your debt for a delightful letter . There is another reason for your not asking where I am, as I am sure to be found in the bow window in my bed chamber. It is now about two years since I have been down stairs, and I think four years and a quarter since I have been in any house besides my own. It is not at present that my locomotive powers are not equal to travel down stairs, but that this unmannerly summer – as Charles Hoare calls it, made my good Dr. Carrick order me to run no risque . I have however a pleasant prison, and am not anxious for a jail delivery. My health is much /better/ , thro the great mercy of God, than there was any human probability would ever be the case; with frequent solitary interruptions of bad nights. This is necessary to remind me that this is not my rest, and that this short reprieve is granted me for the great work of repentance and preparation. I see a good deal of company in the middle of the day, too much my Doctor thinks, but have yet had no one to sleep but the Hoares,[1] and another friend. But the Post occupies and fatigues me much /more/ than my guests. If you saw my table most days, you would think, if I were not a Minister of State, I was at least a Clerk in a public Office and these pretty businesses it is, that so often prevent my writing to those dear friends with whom it would be my delight to have more intercourse I find however a good deal of time to work with my hands, while Miss Frowd reads for the entertainment of my head. The learned labours of my knitting Needle are now amassing to be sent to America to the Missionary Society[2] who sell them there, and send the produce to the Barley Wood School at Ceylon .[3] So you see I am still /good/ for something.

You gave me some hope in the Summer that I might get a sight of you and the dear Booker [unclear], in a little visit you thought of making at Blaise Castle .[4] I should have much rejoyced to have seen you both . The Harfords however have been very little there, her[5] delicate health requiring the Sea Coast. It must be a great sacrifice to leave their Elysium for so long a time . There are so many interesting things about which I should like to talk with you, that I wish I could dilate upon some of them The Protestant Church however which is erecting over the very Ashes of that Archfiend Voltaire[6] is too wonderful not to be just hinted at. That /he/ whose constant way it was, il faut ecrasez l’Infame,[7] should have the Gospel of the Saviour he vilified and whose very name he swore he would exterminate /should be preached over his Grave;/ that the printing press which was for so long the fountain whence his abominations were published, is an instance of the Antidote following the poison the most striking!![8] How I honour the Baron de Staël! Had his unhappy Mother employ’d her talents, unrivalled by any Woman certainly, in the way her Son is doing, she would have been as much the object of love and esteem, as she always must be, of admiration.[9] A propos of illustrious Women, I have lately had a visit from the Mrs. Fry.[10] We were ready to devour each other. Greatly as I honour the memory of Howard[11] , I think she is as superior to him as the Soul is to the body.

I hope dear Lucy is grown stout and well. I have not heard of her progress lately.

Our most excellent Macaulay I really fear will work himself to death. It is indeed in the best of causes; but we cannot afford to lose such an instrument. I have grieved much for him.[12]

I am /in/ daily expectation of /our/ darling of Killerton;[13] Lady Acland’s approaching accouchement has delayed him.[14]

My most affectionate respects to Sir Robert and Lady Inglis, and my love to all the Thornton’s in the world, not forgetting Aunt Robert who I hope goes on with tolerable health.

Dreadful floods in this neighbourhood; many families nearly rescued. While I deeply feel for them, I feel for myself the comfort of living upon a hill. I look down on a Watery World[15]

Pray remember me to the singular but agreeable Patty Smith. I met with her letter yesterday. I keep it as a Monument of her fidelity in proclaiming the true cau[se] [tear] why our ladies are so passionately fond of going abroad.

Adieu my dear Marianne
May God bless you and all at your home with the best of his blessings
Prays your very affectionate
[Signature cut out]


Likely Charles Hoare and his wife Jane Isabella Holden Hoare (d. 1874), and perhaps some of their seven children.


The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, founded in 1810, had recently begun to send missionaries to east Asia, including Ceylon.


The school, which educated girls, was founded in Ceylon in the early 1820s.


Blaise Castle was the home of John Scandrett Harford.


Louisa Davies Harford, who had married John Scandrett Harford in 1812.


Voltaire (1694-1778) had complex views on religion, but was consistent in his writings in his hostility towards church authorities, the power of the clergy, and the belief in the presence of the divine in the structure of the social order. Such views were anathema to More. See Voltaire§Skepticism at the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


Meaning ‘to crush the infamous’: Voltaire took to signing his letters with his phrase.


After his death in 1778, Voltaire’s remains were buried in Champagne. In 1791, during the French Revolution, they were moved to the Pantheon, the former church which had been turned by the Revolutionary government into a mausoleum for great French thinkers. After the end of the Revolutionary wars the Pantheon reverted to being a church. More seems to have enjoyed this historical irony.


Ludwig August Stael von Holstein, a Protestant, was a close friend of Zachary Macaulay’s. He was a key member of the French Bible Society, and was extremely active in promoting its work in France, sometimes at great personal risk. The Baron de Stael was also a campaigner for the abolition of slavery. See Ian Whyte, Zachary Macalay 1768-1838: The Steadfast Schot in the British Anti-Slavery Movement (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2011)


Fry visited More with her brother, Joseph John Gurney. More had admired Fry long before this visit, however, describing in Moral Sketches (1819) how she had ventured ‘unprotected and alone’ into prisons and other inhospitable places (p. 295): More sent Fry a copy of that work (see Stott, Hannah More: the First Victorian, p. 323). More’s admiration was amplified by her recognition that ‘If she stole some hours from her family to visit the prison, she stole some hours from sleep to attend to her family’ (Moral Sketches, p. 213). As Stott notes, More acknowledged that Fry had ‘no devoted sisters to keep house for her’, and had, in contrast to More, ‘to juggle her public and private roles’ (Stott, p. 323).


John Howard (1726?-90), penal reformer. A man of moderate social standing, Howard was appointed high sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1773, in which role he had responsibility for the county’s jail. In the course of his duties Howard was appalled at the jailers’ practice of extracting fees from prisoners, and sought to have jailers paid a salary instead. The unsanitary state of prisons became a second cause. From 1774-6 Howard visited almost every prison in Britain, and visited many on the Continent, including those in France, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. In 1777 he published the fruit of these journeys as The State of Prisons in England and Wales, with Preliminary Observations, and an Account of some Foreign Prisons. The book was sold cheaply to enable a wide circulation. Howard was indefatigable in his efforts to learn about jails across the country, continuing with a gruelling schedule for a number of years. Despite this hard work, further publications and despite a number of appearances before committees of the House of Commons, Howard secured few legislative changes to the ways prisons were run in this period.


In 1823 Macaulay established the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery, and became editor of its in-house publication, the Anti-Slavery Reporter. Macaulay also published a series of pamphlets in 1823 rebutting claims made by pro-slavery commentators.


Killerton House, near Exeter in Devon, was the family home of Thomas Dyke Acland. The estate was bought at the beginning of the seventeenth century, with a house (still standing and owned by the National Trust) built in 1778 by Acland’s grandfather. Acland's copy of Pickersgill's portrait of More still hangs at Killerton. See the National Trust Collection, NT922269


A son, John Barton Arundell Acland, would be born on 25 November 1823.


The Congresbury Yeo flows through Wrington to the Severn Channel.