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OF THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
In presenting to the American people a new edition of the works of an authoress, who has so long contributed to their instruction and delight, a few remarks respecting her, can neither be inappropriate nor unacceptable.
Mrs. Hannah More was born in 1745, and is the daughter of a clergyman whose residence was at Hanham, near Bristol. Her love of knowledge early displayed itself, and induced her, after exhausting the slender domestic library, to have recourse to borrowing from her village friends. She removed in the year 1765, with her four sisters, to Bristol, where they jointly conducted a boarding school for young ladies, with great and deserved celebrity. Some of her earliest productions, which were in the dramatick form, owed their existence to a desire of furnishing her pupils with proper poetical recitations. Her talents and virtues gained not only the patronage of men of taste and science, but the firm friendship of some of the most illustrious names which the present age has inscribed on the annals of Great-Britain. After continuing for many years in the interesting work of education, the sisters retired to Barley-Wood in Wrington, near Somersetshire, where a beautiful cottage and grounds were arranged and ornamented by their united taste.
By those who attach value to the minutest circumstances connected with genius and piety, we shall be forgiven for adding that almost every tree in this delightful retreat has been planted by Mrs. H. More's own hand, and that a little cabinet-table, from whence has issued many a sheet for the edification of mankind, is elegantly inlaid with small diamond-shaped pieces of wood, from the trees of her own rearing
In various works of charity, particularly in the establishment of schools for the poor, these excellent sisters co-operated, bringing to the relief of ignorance and penury, the unwearied energy of congenial spirits.
In this hallowed seclusion, the three elder inmates paid the debt of nature, in the order of their birth, each having attained her 75th year; and in the autumn of 1819, the youngest was taken,
at the age of 67, leaving the beloved survivor to pursue a solitary pilgrimage. This utter bereavement of relatives serves to place in stronger relief the consolations of that religion which she has so often recommended to others, while the patient magnanimity which she opposes to the inroads of time, sickness and sorrow, evince her strength and solace are not of this world. She still continues to exercise hospitality, and to charm by the vivacity of her conversation, the multitude of guests who seek the honour of a personal interview. The youngest visitant finds her condescension of manner suddenly dispelling the awe which her talents had inspired, and the stranger who approaches Barley-Wood, with the thrill of undefined apprehensions, leaves it cheered by the benevolence of an angel. The following graphic description of her, is from the pen of an American gentleman, who visited her habitation in the spring of 1824.
“Mrs. More is rather short, but otherwise of an usual size, with a face that could never have been handsome, and never other than agreeable. She has the brightest and most intellectual eye that I ever saw in an aged person ; it was as clear, and seemed as fully awake with mind and soul, as if it had but lately opened on a world full of novelty. The whole of her face was strongly characterized by cheerfulness. I had once thought the world was deficient in a knowledge of the means of rendering old age agreeable, and it crossed my mind that I would suggest to Mrs. More, that she might better than any person supply this deficiency. But it was better than a volume on this subject, to see her. I understood the whole art of making old age peaceful, tranquil, happy, at a glance. It is only to exert our talents in the cause of virtue as she has done, and in age be like her. It was a strong lecture, and I would not forget it.”
In tracing the literary course of this distinguished personage, from her first production, the “Search after Happiness,” to her last, the
Spirit of Prayer,” embracing a period of nearly half a century, it is impossible not to be impressed with that spirit of benevolence which pervades the whole.
Those who have tasted the sweetness of fame, will best know how to estimate that strength of principle, which led her to renounce the exercise of her dramatick powers, after they had won the fascinating meed of popular applause, from a doubt whether a “Christian might safely countenance the stage."
In the perusal of her writings, we are surprized both at their di