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married the daughter of a neighbouring farmer, a young woman of plain education, but endowed like himself with a vigorous intellect, who appears to have bestowed much care and pains on the culture and regulation of her numerous children. This inestimable advantage was by one, at least, to be turned to speedy and lasting account.
Hannah, the fourth out of five daughters, was born in 1745, and early began to show dawnings of that bright genius which was afterwards to distinguish her. Between the ages of three and four the little girl contrived to teach herself to read, or at least to advance so far on this path to Parnassus as completely to amaze her parents, who were just beginning to contemplate the idea of the alphabet; and this she achieved solely by listening to the instructions imparted to her elders. Before she was four, her repetition of the catechism struck mute the respected clergyman of the parish, to whom it seemed but the day before that he had received her at the font. And so on.
Next began the restless craving for knowledge inseparable from such a nature. To satisfy this, the father, albeit a foe to female pedantry, was fain, from dearth of other sources, to ransack his own memory and brain for tales of ancient heroes, Greek and Roman, and would recite to his small auditor-whom we can picture listening with sage and severe attention—their speeches and orations; first, we are told, in the original, to gratify her ear with the sound, and afterwards in English, that she might pay heed to the sense. Further, he would, after this fashion, dwell upon the parallels and wise sayings of Plutarch; and these recollections, says her
biographer, "made Hannah often afterwards remark that the conversation of a wise parent constitutes one of the very best parts of education."
Jacob More had, however, as we have said, no love for over-much learning in a woman; and, in fact, the progress made by his precocious little one in Latin and mathematics, in which directions his desultory teaching presently ran, not only disconcerted, it actually frightened him. Mathematics were stopped at once, and Latin ere very long, but even the rudiments so obtained of each proved subsequently of such value to the brilliant conversationalist and correspondent, that she frequently affirmed nothing she had ever acquired had stood her in like stead.
Her next tuition came from the lips of her eldest sister, an earnest, painstaking, and talented young woman, who was, by diligent study and application at a French school in Bristol, qualifying herself to open a similar establishment on her own account presently, and who, on her weekly return home, took upon herself to impart to Hannah what Hannah what she had gained during the six previous days-with such success, moreover, that some French officers on parole in the neighbourhood, and much sought after there by reason of their cultivated minds and polished manners, invariably solicited Mr More's little daughter to be their interpreter when possible, the little lady possessing, even at that time, considerable command of the language, of which she was afterwards to have such "free and elegant use."
There appears to have been nothing worthy of record about the More family as a family, and but little is said about them in the
voluminous biography of the one who alone played a prominent part before the world. Even from infancy it would seem to have been recognised that she was above and apart from the rest, and from first to last they plainly united in an affectionate and tributary homage, not altogether inexplicable.
Writing was not in those days the universal resource it has since become, and the mere fact that a child of eight was laying her hands upon every odd bit and scrap of paper she could find, in order to scribble thereon the products of her own busy little brain, would be sufficient to mark her out; and we cannot wonder at the mother's indulging her desire for one whole quire, as the greatest treasure her imagination could frame. But how curious was the use to which the quire was put! Even at that age the foreshadowings of the moral and didactic Hannah More-the Hannah More of sixty or seventy, not of an earlier and livelier period, be it noted-betrayed themselves in the breathings of little miss in her pinafores. She covered the whole, we are told, with letters seeking to reform depraved characters, and with return epistles full of contrition and promises of amendment. Good little girl! How delightful it must have been to pen those eloquent persuasions and fluent responses! We wonder how soon she learned, as she must have learned in years to come, that it takes more than a letter to reform a life.
In justice to the youthful moralist, however, we must record that the satisfaction thus obtained was for herself alone, and that her affecting counsels and instructions were- -sad descent-committed to a housemaid's closet, to be hidden among dust-pans and brushes; and though we cannot but think they
had as well been left there, we must sympathise with the affectionate zeal of her younger sister and bedfellow, who, in the secret, stole down at night to rescue, and commit the precious documents to safer keeping.
It was some time ere any of Hannah's effusions were submitted to other inspection than that of this very young and very easily pleased critic, but that the next performance was really fraught with promise is testified by its effect upon one neither too ready to praise nor to flatter. Sheridan had come to lecture in Bristol, and his subject was eloquence. So eloquent was the speaker, and inspiring the theme, that his words set on fire enthusiastic sixteen, and drew from one auditor of that tender age a copy of verses which were then and there presented to him, and led, not only to his seeking the acquaintance of their author, but to his subsequently pronouncing himself honoured by having formed it.
That Hannah possessed, even at this early date, uncommon powers of fascination and conversation, is apparent from an anecdote of a certain Dr Woodward, a physician of eminence, who, having been called in to attend her during a somewhat serious illness, one day entirely forgot the purport of his visit while talking with and interrogating his charming patient, until, suddenly recollecting himself when half-way down-stairs, he cried out, "Bless me! I quite forgot to ask the girl how she was!" and hurrying back to the room, exclaimed, "How are you to-day, my poor child?"
In her seventeenth year Hannah More first made a real venture into the realms of literature in a pastoral drama entitled 'The Search after Happiness,' and we can form
a tolerably accurate guess as to what such a production would be like. We can almost hear its lofty tones and long-winded paragraphs; but it is probably due to the discretion of her biographer that the only information we obtain about this early effort resolves itself into "the attempt succeeded as it deserved." Nor shall we be so cruel as to inflict upon our readers criticisms upon and quotations from any of Hannah More's works. We will endeavour briefly to recall the extraordinary impression they produced at the time, and leave it to those who will, and to those who can, to study them, if so minded, for themselves.
We frankly own that this is a task beyond our powers. They are so hopelessly fine, so grandiloquent, so entirely to the taste of the age she lived in as opposed to our own, that we doubt whether any reading and thinking man or woman of to-day will be persuaded to undertake their perusal, even though enlightened for the first time as to the number
of editions through which they passed, and the hosts of intellectual admirers they obtained. For another thing, they are hardly to be got. People have them, it is true, but only by inheritance. They are to be found on the topmost shelves of dust-bound libraries, in the back-shops of old collectors, and in "job lots" at auctions. Practically they are defunct, lifeless. Even the famous "Percy," which, when played by Garrick and Mrs Barry, took the town by storm,-who plays it now? Who quotes "Sir Eldred "? Who gets lost in "Cœlebs"?
Hannah More will be Hannah More to the end of time; but how she came to be one of the chief women of her day, and that a very great day-great in its pro
duct of philosophers, poets, painters, and musicians-can only be understood by reference to the life she lived, the friends who sought her, the great who courted her, and the power she wielded over the world of thought at large.
A new generation which knows her not has sprung up,-one whose sole idea in connection with her name is that she was a prim maiden lady of the conventional type, with a pious and literary turn of mind. Such a record as the following, for instance, sounds strangely in their ears :—
"I dined at the Adelphi yesterday. Garrick was the very soul of the company, and I never saw Johnson in more perfect good-humour. After all had risen to go, we stood round them for above an hour, laughing in defiance of every rule of decorum and I believe we should Chesterfield. never have thought of sitting down, nor of parting, had not an impertinent watchman been saucily vociferous. Johnson outstaid them all, and sat with me half an hour."
Next from her sister's pen :—
"On Tuesday evening we drank tea at Sir Joshua's with Dr Johnson. Hannah is certainly a great favourite. She was placed next him, and they had the entire conversation to themselves. They were both in remarkably high spirits, and it was heard her say so many good things. certainly her lucky night: I never The old genius was as jocular as the young one was pleasant. You would have imagined we were at some comedy had you heard our peals of laughter. They certainly tried which could pepper the highest,' and it is not clear to me that the lexicographer was really the highest seasoner.
It will be gathered that this little scene took place some time after that with which our sketch opens. By this date the great Doctor had had time to become
closely familiar with his "little fool," his "little love," and his "child"-and there had also been time for her and her sister to tell him without reservation all about their birth, parentage, and education; "showing how they had been born with more desires than guineas, and how, as years had increased their appetites, the cupboard at home had grown too small; how they had found a great house with nothing in it, and how it had been likely to remain so, till, looking into their knowledge-boxes, they had happened to find little larning there, by giving out which they had got some share of gold in return,"-all -all of which garrulity and volubility would appear to have enchanted the rough but honest man of letters.
"I love you both," cried he. "I love you all five. I never was at Bristol. I will come on purpose to see you. What! five women live happily together! I will come and see you. I have spent a happy evening. I am glad I came. God for ever bless you! you live lives to shame duchesses."
And thereupon he took his leave for that time with so much warmth and tenderness, that the pair were equally affected and
touched. On another occasion we hear that Dr Johnson and Hannah had a violent quarrel (mock), till at length laughter ran so high that, says her sister, argument was confounded in noise, and finally at one in the morning the two were reconciled, and "the gallant youth" (Johnson) "set us down at our lodgings."
"To enjoy Dr Johnson properly," Hannah herself thought, "C one must have him to one's self, as he seldom speaks in mixed parties. Last night our tea was not over till nine; we then fell upon 'Sir Eldred.' He read
it through, and did me the honour to add one whole stanza; but in the 'Rock' he would not alter a word.
Though only a tea visit, he stayed with us till twelve. I was quite at my ease, and never once asked him to eat (drink he never does anything but tea); while you, I daresay, would have been fidgeted to death, and would have sent half over the town
for chickens, and oysters, and asparaYou gus, and madeira. see how frugal it is to be well-bred, and not to think of such vulgar renovation as eating and drinking. I had the happiness the other night to convey him home from Hill Street, though Mrs Montagu publicly declared she did not think it prudent to trust us tion on both sides. She said she was together, with such a declared affecafraid of a Scotch elopement. I shall not tell you what he said of my 'Sir Eldred'; to me the best part of his flattery was that he repeated all the best stanzas by heart, with the energy, though not with the grace, of a Garrick.'"
Garrick himself comes next Nothing can be upon the scene. warmer than the terms in which he is spoken of and written about. His character was admired, his genius adored, and both he and his charming wife received into Hannah More's heart of hearts. Even his selling the patent of Drury Lane Theatre called forth from her pen an invocation to the Muses to shed tears.
"He retires," she cries, "with all his blushing honours thick about him, his laurels as green as in their early spring. Who shall supply his loss to master-key of the human heart? who the stage? who shall now hold the direct the passions with more than magic power? who purify the stage? and who, in short, shall direct and nurse my dramatic muse?" Again it is
"I'll tell you the most ridiculous circumstance in the world. After dinner, Garrick took up the 'Monthly Review' (civil gentlemen, by the by, these monthly reviewers), and read
'Sir Eldred' with all his pathos and all his graces. I think I never was so ashamed in my life; but he read it so superlatively that I cried like a child. Only think what a scandalous thing to cry at the reading of one's own poetry! I could have beaten myself; for it looked as if I thought it very moving, which I can truly say is far from being the case. But the beauty of the jest lies in this: Mrs Garrick twinkled as well as I, and made as many apologies for crying at her husband's reading, as I did for crying at my own verses. She got out of the scrape by pretending_she was touched at the story, and I by saying the same thing of the reading. It furnished us with a great laugh at the catastrophe, when it would really have been decent to have been a little sorrowful." Again
"We have been passing three days at the temple of taste, nature, Shakespeare, and Garrick-where everything that could please the ear, charm the eye, and gratify the understanding, passed in quick succession. From dinner till midnight he entertained us in a manner infinitely agreeable. He read to us all the whimsical correspondence, in prose and verse, he had carried on for years with the first geniuses of this age. I feel I now see him in his mellower light, and he says he longs to enter into himself, to study the more important duties of life, and to regulate his domestique with such order and sobriety as shall be a credit to himself and example to others. On Tuesday, Lord and Lady Pembroke dined with us: the countess is a pretty woman, and my lord a lively, chatty, good
humoured man; but Roscius was, as usual, the life and soul of the company, and always says so many home things, pointed at the vices and follies of those with whom he converses, but in so indirect, well-bred, and good humoured a manner, that everybody must love him, and none but fools are ever offended (or would expose themselves to own it, if they were)."
A little later on
"Garrick has acted all his best VOL. CXLII.-NO. DCCCLXVI.
characters for the last time. I have at last had the entire satisfaction of seeing him in 'Hamlet.' I pity those who have not. Posterity will never be able to form the least idea
of his pretensions. I have seen
him within the last three weeks take leave of Benedict, Sir John Brute, Kitely, Abel Drugger, Archer, and Leon. It seemed to me on each occasion as if I had been assisting at funeral obsequies. I felt almost as much pain as pleasure. He, however, is quite happy at his release." Still later—
"It is impossible to tell you of all the kindness and friendship of the Garricks: he thinks and talks of nothing but my 'Percy.' He is too_sanguine; it will have a fall, and so I tell him. When he had finished the prologue and epilogue, which are excellent, he desired I would pay him. Dryden, he said, used to have five guineas a piece, but as he was a richer man, he would be content with a handsome supper and a bottle of claret.
We haggled sadly about the price, I insisting that I could only give him a beefsteak and a pot of porter, and finally at midnight we sat down to some toast and honey, with which the very temperate bard contented himself."
Very temperate indeed! But oh, ye gods! who would ever have con
nected the shade of Hannah More with the offer of a midnight beefsteak and pot of porter, save on her own confession?
It was in the November of 1777 that this tragedy of "Percy" was brought out at Covent Garden Theatre, and, strange as it may seem to us, its reception was all, and more than all, that the great actor had foretold. Its author went to stay with him and his attentive and sympathetic wife for the event, under promise of quiet rest from intrusion, the most comfortable room in the house, a good fire, and "all the lozenges and all the wheys in the world."
On the first night she accom3 F