« PreviousContinue »
LIFE AND WRITINGS
ANNAH, daughter of Jacob More and Mary his wife, was born at the Fish-Ponds, in the parish of Stapleton, in the county of Glocester, and baptized 17th Feb. 1744, as appears by the register of that parish. Her father, who had previously been a domestic in the service of Norborne Berkeley, Esq. of Stoke-House, Glocestershire, and had married his fellow-servant, Hannah's mother, was by his master's interest, appointed teacher of the charityschool at the Fish-Ponds, with a salary of 251. a year, for the instruction of twenty poor boys and ten girls, where all his own children, five daughters still living, and one son since dead, were born, and received their education. At an early age Hannah shewed some signs of genius and great application, having more than the sex's usual share of curiosity to spur her on.
Whatever books came within her reach she shewed an eagerness to peruse, and of those she thought valuable in catalogues she made a list and endeavoured to procure them. Nothing, however, was observed very re
markable about her, excepting a keen, penetrating look, an ambition to shine in some companies, by making a parade of her reading, and a watchful taciturnity in others. That degree of prudence allied to cunning, which has since so much distinguished her, began early to characterize her mind; and she seemed rather formed for, and inclined to, a more desultory life than that she has led the last thirty years.
About the age of fifteen she began to dabble in poetry, and some ordinary verses on the 14th of February were her first essays.
“ Now all nature seemed in Love, “ And birds had drawn their Valentine.” Hannah was a brunette rather than black; but her eyes were deeply black, keen, penetrating, and perpetually wandering and rolling, as if eager to seize on and comprehend the minds and persons of all present. From valentines she advanced to songs, and though she had no voice was ambitious to be tho"ght a singer. What boarding school education, if any, she had, I have not been able to learn; but from her father's contracted circumstances, that probably was not a long time.-She was, however, industrious, and contrived to learn some French and a little Latin. In short, Miss H. More, by her laudable smattering in every study, was now spoken of in her own neighbourhood as an accomplished young lady who knew every thing.
Their father now removed to Stoney-Hill, Bristol, where he still carried on the business of a school, and his girls opened a day school in Trinity-Street. Here our heroine began, on account of her black rolling eyes, and her little pieces of poetry, to be noticed; and by the produce of a subscription, among the charitable people of the wealthy city of Bristol, on which occasion Dr. Stonehouse was, I believe, very useful, they were enabled to open a boarding school for
ladies in Park-Street.
In this improving situation of their affairs, the five sisters, according to their several abilities, contributed to the general interest; one assuming the title of GOVERNESS, moderated the general concern, one marketed, one superintended the refectory part, and the others, with proper masters, taught the
young ladies the usual routine of boarding school education. The scholars multiplied in a few years; and some small publication of minor poetry tended to advertise the school. Like most young women, the Misses More, and particularly Miss Hannah, were much addicted to attendance at the Theatre; and their scholars often accompanied them. It was thus Hannah 'conceived the idea of her being competent for dramatic writing, and at a loss for a subject, undertook to travestie the sacred stories. As, however, her poems are printed without any regard to the date of composition, I will, in my remarks, observe the order of the volumes.
Her first volume begins with detached little poems, of but very inferior merit. The verse is of the Hudibrastic measure, not difficult to write, and of the poetry may be pronounced what Dr. Johnson said of Fingal, when asked if he thought there were in the present age any author capable
of writing such a work, “ Yes, inany men, many women and many children.” That she has read a great variety of books cannot be denied, and from these she has picked and culled whatever suited her purpose, and cast it into verse of easy construction; but there is no poetry. In a preface, written within these three years, to the last impression of her works, and not improbably the last that will ever be worked of them, she herself acknowledges, that she does not presume to hope that she “has added to the mass of general know
ledge, by one original idea ; or to the stock of “ virtue, by one original sentiment. To what is “called learning she never had pretensions. Life " and manners have been the objects of her un“ wearied observation; and every kind of study “and habit has more or less recommended itself
to her mind, as it has had more or less reference “ to these objects.” But she was young and ambitious, and write she must.
“ Morning from noon, there was no knowing,
66 Yet tender was this hen so fair, 66 And hatch'd more chicks than she cou'd rear. She wrote one or more novels, of which one of her sisters passed as the author.
"A foolish foster-father-mother." By reason of her sex, and on account of her circumstances, and perhaps friendship, the fastidiousness of criticism was mitigated, and she was encouraged by Reviewers. The itch for writing was incurable; and she became literally a book maker. The first piece worthy of notice is the “Bas Blue:” or“ Blue-Stockings,” a short poem on “ Conversation.” There was a club called by that name, consisting of ladies of a literary turn of mind, some of whom were persons of rank, talents, and respectable for their character, who met at Mrs. Vesey's and other houses, for the purpose of conversation only, cards not being allowed. She thus sings the praise of conversation:
“ Enlighten'd spirits ! you, who know
Speak, for you can, the pure delight
* Still kindled souls demand alliance." In such poetry the praises of Mrs. Vesey and others are sung; and Aspasia, Alcibiades, Maro,
, Cæsar, and other names of antiquity, mentioned to make a shew.
Bonner's Ghost is made to appear to a modern protestant Bishop, who was pruning a walk through a thicket to a chair which belonged to the popish Bishop. It is a proof of liberality, real or affected. She, however, as she goes on ridicules mystical creeds. Altogether it is a poor thing.
With a dedication to the Hon. Horace Walpole, afterwards Earl of Orford, a poem, entitled Florio, in two parts, next presents itself. In the character of Florio, which is far from well drawn, liberality in philosophy and religious charity are attempted