“If Tenderness Could ever be Supposed Wanting, Good Sense and Good Breeding Supplied Its Place”
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The upper-class Hannah More and her sisters took on the burden of educating the poor in the area of Cheddar by setting up Sunday schools, which were intended to bring Christianity to the natives. More was horrified by the state of the poor: they were dirty, ignorant, and, of course, almost without religion. In fact, she writes to a friend that she has found the poor in these neighborhoods to be “more vicious and ignorant than I could have conceived possible in a country which calls itself Christian.”1 To another friend she writes that “the land is almost pagan…. But how we shall be able to keep up these things [the educational program] with so much opposition, vice, poverty, and ignorance, as we have to deal with, I cannot guess” (ll, 213). In the Mendip Annals, Patty More’s diary of the educational project undertaken by Hannah and her sisters in these poor areas of England, a vignette, illustrates the wonderful progress they have been able to make in civilizing these people and the means used to bring about the changes. There is a tea-party, preceded by a visit to church. More and a group of her friends meet, as planned, with a group of their Cheddar clients. They set off for church,
the ladies in white, and many of the savages in white also; the whole preceded by the Sunday-school children.
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- 2.Martha More, Mendip Annals: or, A Narrative of the Charitable Labours of Hannah and Martha More in their Neighbourhood. ed. Arthur Roberts (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1859), 66–67.Google Scholar
- 3.Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, ed. Claudia Johnson (New York: Norton, 1998), 250. All further references to the novel are to this edition.Google Scholar
- 4.For discussion of these works see Mona Scheuermann, In Praise of Poverty: Hannah More Counters Thomas Paine and the Radical Threat (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2002), passim.Google Scholar
- 5.Naomi Tadmor’s Family & Friends in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) is an elegant study of the relationships among not only family members but friends and acquaintances of the family who could be called upon, indeed were expected to act, in support of those in their family and social circles. Her analysis of the terminology of kinship shows that the responsibilities accepted in these relationships were much wider than we might assume, and that the socially accepted expectation was that any help coming from these sources was legitimate as well as welcome.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
© Mona Scheuermann 2009