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Hannah More and Conservative Feminism

  • Harriet Guest

Abstract

The life and work of Hannah More have been the focus of extensive and energetic debate in the last fifteen years or so, culminating most recently in Anne Stott’s fine biography, Hannah More: The First Victorian (2003). As Stott points out, More is a complex and contradictory figure, who has attracted both harsh condemnation for her political conservatism and anti-feminism and qualified celebration for her ‘counter-revolutionary feminism’, argued for most subtly and persuasively by Kathryn Sutherland and Mitzi Myers,1 and most militantly, most explicitly as an opportunity to counteract what she identifies as ‘a theoretical tradition grounded on Marxist or left-wing socialist ideologies’, by Anne Mellor.2 Stott’s scholarly biography builds on the work of Myers and Sutherland to develop a portrait of More that acknowledges the restrictive implications and effects of her conservatism, but emphasises the extent to which she encouraged middle-class women to ‘dip their toes into public life, to campaign, to organize, to develop expertise’.3 Stott ably explores the complexity of More’s position, in enabling labouring men and women carefully controlled access to education and the means of social advance-ment, and in promoting socially marginalised women to positions of local influence and authority, while affirming the value of a rigidly differentiated social order which resisted mobility and depended on the social and educational privation of women and the working class.

Keywords

Private Individual Ideal Plan Woman Writer Liberal Reform Harsh Condemnation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Kathryn Sutherland, ‘Hannah More’s Counter-Revolutionary Feminism’, in Revolution in Writing: British Literary Responses to the French Revolution, ed. Kelvin Everest (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1991),Google Scholar
  2. Myers’s pioneering essay, ‘Hannah More’s Tracts for the Times: Social Fiction and Female Ideology’, in Fetter’d or Free? British Women Novelists, 1670–1815, ed. Mary Anne Schofield and Cecilia Macheski (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1986), pp. 264–84.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Anne K. Mellor, Mothers of the Nation: Women’s Political Writing in England, 1780–1830 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), p. 15.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Anne Stott, Hannah More: The First Victorian (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003),Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Hannah More, Tales for the Common People and other Cheap Repository Tracts, ed. Clare MacDonald Shaw (Nottingham: Trent Editions, 2002).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Charlotte Smith, The Banished Man. A Novel, 4 vols (London: Cadell and Davies, 1794), II, pp. 111, 134, 132–3; III, pp. 46–7.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Elizabeth Kraft, ed., The Young Philosopher (Lexington: Kentucky University Press, 1999),Google Scholar
  8. Nicola Watson Revolution and the Form of the British Novel, 1790–1825: Intercepted Letters, Interrupted Seductions (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), pp. 58–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Harriet Guest, ‘Suspicious Minds: Spies and Surveillance in Charlotte Smith’s Novels of the 1790s’, in Land, Nation, Culture, 1740–1840: Thinking the Republic of Taste, ed. Peter De Bolla, Nigel Leask and David Simpson (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 169–87.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Hannah More, Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education, 3rd edn, 2 vols (London: Cadell and Davies, 1799), II, p. 27.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    Harriet Guest, Small Change: Women, Learning, Patriotism, 1750–1810 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2000),Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    William Roberts, Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Mrs. Hannah More, 4 vols, 2nd edn (London: Seeley, 1834), II, pp. 87–8.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Charles Daubeny, A Letter to Mrs Hannah More, on some part of her late publication, entitled ‘Strictures on Female Education’ (London: Hatchard, 1799).Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    Anna Barbauld], Sins of Government, Sins of the Nation: Or, A Discourse for the fast, appointed on April 19, 1793. By a Volunteer, 4th edn (London: J. Johnson, 1793), pp. 36–7.Google Scholar
  15. 19.
    Compare Frances Burney’s Brief Reflections Relative to the Emigrant French Clergy (London: T. Cadell, 1793).Google Scholar
  16. 20.
    Anne Janowitz, ‘Amiable and Radical Sociability: Anna Barbauld’s “free familiar conversation” ’, in Romantic Sociability: Social Networks and Literary Culture in Britain, 1770–1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 75.Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    Anna Barbauld, Civic Sermons to the People. Number II (London: J. Johnson, 1792), pp. 7–8.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, ed. Conor Cruise O’Brien (London: Penguin, 1968), p. 315.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, ed. Carol H. Poston, 2nd edn (New York and London: W. W. Norton and Co., 1988), p. 60.Google Scholar
  20. 26.
    T. J. Clark, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), pp. 7–8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Harriet Guest 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harriet Guest

There are no affiliations available

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