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ed, was unbounded in his admiration of the freshness and originality of her powers in conversation, in which her modesty and judgment contended with her fancy and fertility.” What must she not have been, in this respect, in the maturity of her powers, when she was the pride of the fashionable and literary circles of the British metropolis !
In her letters, as introduced into the memoirs of her life, or rather as constituting them, we have a strong additional proof of her great and various talents. Without choosing to point out, here, their particular characteristics, we shall be disappointed in our expectations, if, by general consent, they are not hereafter ranked among the first productions of their kind in English literature. Among her numerous, learned, and ingenious correspondents, she appears not at all inferior to the best ; nay, we fancy, that her epistolary effusions surpass, in the peculiar attributes of that class of writings, the generality of those, which, together with her own, contribute to swell these fascinating volumes. This we know is saying a great deal, considering who her correspondents were. In ease and sprightliness of manner, in cunning turns and winning forms of address, woman-like, she strikes us as superior to all her correspondents, except the females; while in correctness of taste, beauty of allusion, richness of sentiment, and originality of thought, she is behind none of them, male or female. There are, it must be confessed, elegant specimens of the epistolary style, in these volumes, taking the principal contributors. Mrs. Boscawen has ease and humor; Mrs. Montagu is correct and sensible; Garrick, in the few letters of his, which appear in this work, exhibits sprightliness and wit; Walpole pleases us with his playfulness and sagacity ; Pepys is rich in classical allusions, and is a model of classical neatness; Porteus displays the amiability of his temper, and is descriptive and sentimental; and Newton, though careless in expression, is delightfully spiritual and instructive. The several writers in the book, seem to us to have done their best, in their communications to Hannah More, as being aware of the character of the intellect with which they were coming in contact: and if, as some one remarks, we naturally graduate our letters to the intelligence of our correspondents, according to our own conceptions of it, there can be no doubt of the very sincere and profound respect, which they all entertained for her talents and worth. But the published works of this lady, afford the most direct indications in respect to the character of her intellect. They have long been before the public; and the settled and often-expressed opinion of the wise and good, the sway, which, for more than balf a century, she has exercised over minds of every order, in productions designed for every order of minds, has placed her in the foremost ranks of capacity and genius. In a different part of this article, we shall offer a few remarks on her works in general: we will, therefore, only add here, that the circumstances attending their publication, indicated the high estimation in which Mrs. M. was held, as an able and accomplished writer. Not only were the most ardent expectations expressed, in regard to forth-coming works ; not only were compliments most profusely poured upon her, by her literary associates, and scholars of the age, both at home and abroad; (though these, we know, are sometimes only the offerings of friendship
or flattery,) but she had the more substantial proof of favor, in the boundless circulation and innumerable editions of her books. Her popularity, as a writer, was more particularly indicated by those tracts, published under the title of the Cheap Repository, which have probably influenced more minds for their good, than is the case with any other series of modern christian writings.
The mind of Mrs. More, originally so superior, was disciplined, and if not with all the exactness of genuine scholarship, was yet effectually disciplined. It was highly and richly cultivated, with whatever might seem befitting to a female understanding, whether as to ornament or use, in the common walks of life, or in literary composition. She ever modestly estimated her learning, strictly speaking, at a low rate; and though it was not considerable in the classics, and in mathematical science, it was not otherwise small. What she was capable of attaining, even in these branches, may be inferred from the fact, as recorded by her biographer, that her father, who had “a strong dislike of female pedantry, having begun to instruct his daughter in the rudiments of the Latin language and mathematics, was soon frightened by his own success. With the Latin classics she continued to cultivate her acquaintance; nor was her knowledge of mathematics without a sensible benefit to her intellectual progress. Of several modern languages she had a good knowledge. The French she understood perfectly, and spoke with admirable grace. The Spanish and Italian she translated with ease. Her acquaintance with English literature, particularly with criticism and poetry, was uncommonly extensive and accurate. Indeed, her general information was extremely rich and various; derived, as it was, not only from books, but from the living world. Few persons have been more conversant with different modes of life, and mingled to a greater extent among the various ranks of mankind, than Mrs. More. For the charms of her intellect, she was courted by the learned and noble; while her christian benevolence drew around her, for their relief and instruction, the children of poverty and ignorance. As she ranged through the region of fancy, sentiment, and taste, or walked the thorny way of benevolent self-denial, her observant and reflecting mind noticed all the forms of conduct, and every shade of
character, and gathered from a thousand sources the lessons of wisdom and propriety. From her London excursions of recreation, and her Cheddar travels of charity, she returned laden with the ripest fruits of experience, to her own Cowslip Green, or Barley Wood; the latter, above all other spots on earth, the modern mount of the muses. From this varied manner of passing her time, she learned every thing connected with life and manners, and the springs of human action; and this important knowledge she consecrated to the best of purposes. It qualified her for writing on the immense variety of subjects which she undertook, and points of illustration, or proprieties of allusion, which none could furnish, who had not been favored with her advantages, she brought to bear with great effect on the creations of her genius. Her learning, on the whole, connected with her native strength of mind, disciplined taste, and habits of observation, was amply sufficient for the purposes she sought to answer, in the moral productions of
The superiority of the intellect of Hannah More, was particularly indicated by its fair proportions. It possessed both strength and grace. The reader of taste and discernment, perceives a sort of perfection in its structure and developments. Like the Grecian architecture, it unites the qualities of the greatest stability, with the greatest beauty. It possessed an elegant simplicity, and just balance of the different faculties. No one power so predominated, as to mar the appearance, or impede the operations, of the others. All, as they were separately or unitedly called into exercise, seemed to perform their part with perfect ease, and according to the object contemplated, in the highest style of excellence. Whatever it elaborated, was chaste, neat, elegant, and finished. Ardor of feeling, richness of imagery, and facility of composition, seldom betrayed her into carelessness, into faulty constructions, or confused, indefinite, and over-wrought descriptions. If her power of amplification, and her vast materials of thought, tempted her not unfrequently into an unusual variety of views, she was able to make the line of demarkation between them perfectly distinct, and to give to each an appropriate significance and grace. Without descanting, here, upon the particular features of her style, we may advert to this general quality of it, which every one discerns, as an illustration of the fair and elegant proportions of her mental powers.
This characteristic beauty of her intellect was strikingly displayed, if not essentially constituted, by her lively admiration of genius, and the beauty of other minds ; by its congeniality with every kind of excellence, natural, intellectual, and moral; and by its capacity of molding every thing which was admitted into it, into pure and enchanting forms of sentiment and fancy. Her ad
miration of genius, as her biographer remarks, belonged to the structure and constitution of her mind; and we may add, that we have always thought it incident to fine minds, to relish keenly the beauty of other minds. It is one of its earliest, most natural, and spontaneous manifestations. How animated was Mrs. More's participation of the beauties of thought, as they are elicited in the works of elegant genius, we need not tell. Her writings bave always evinced the fact; and now, her correspondence with her intimate friends, in their mutual, unrestricted eilusions of taste and feeling, brings it more fully into view. The congeniality also of her mind with every kind of excellence, shows it in its features of loveliness, in no ordinary degree. Nature and art, mind and morals, in their characteristic perfection, found, in the deep recesses of her soul, a lively feeling mingling itself with that perfection,-an associating principle, by which the most delightful trains of thought were evolved. Her biographer again remarks, that “the fairest forms of truth and sentiment were beautifully inscribed on her mind.” And not only so, but we say further, as another evidence or instance of the beauty of her intellect, that it was capable of molding every thing which was admitted into it, both of sentiment and fancy, into peculiar shapes of loveliness. Every thing on which her mind ruminated, came forth from it sparkling with light: it seemed to be transmuted, as by a moral alchymy, into elemental purity and grace.
There were, indeed, other intellectual characteristics in Mrs. More, such as the refinement of her taste, the exuberance of her fancy, and the sprightliness of her wit ; modes, we may rather say, in which her mental power was developed, that might furnish the basis of extended remarks: but we can only add a thought respecting the last named particular. In regard to the powers of wit, and indeed the general vivacity of her mind, we have received impressions from her correspondence, much in advance of those we have before entertained. It appears, however, that the dangerous faculty of wit was perfectly controlled, by a judgment of the soundest kind, and rendered innoxious, by distinguished good-nature. Indeed, so entirely did she get the better of the propensiiy to employ it in its severity,- in the form of sarcasm and raillery, that the first attempt in which she openly and professedly gave utterance to it, in a review of a cotemporaneous publication, became her last ; since she found so much pleasure which she deemed of a wicked kind, in indulging such a vein, that she determined never again to offend in that manner: a magnanimous determination, to which she rigidly adhered! Her general vivacity of mind, while it imparted an indescribable charm to her social intercourse and correspondence, and furnished many of the lighter beauties of her writings, was tempered and corrected by a welltimed seriousness, proceeding from christian principles ; so that it never degenerated into frivolity and excess.
These attributes of her mind, regulated by the light and love inspired by the holy religion of the gospel, were brought into habitual exercise in those serious effusions of her pen,
which constituted her one of the greatest moral teachers of the age. She chose such a field of exertion, as we could wish a strong, well-disciplined, beautiful, and sprightly intellect, should have selected, to employ its powers in consecrated labors for the good of mankind. Plutarch relates, that Numa feigned, for the purposes of rule and religion, that he was favored with the society of Egeria, a goddess or mountain-nymph, who made to bim important revelations. That king was far more favored, who actually enjoyed, for the good of his subjects, the brighter illumination, and the more sacred influence, of a mind like that of Hannah More. She was the better muse of George's days," heavenly,” by means of a sanctified genius: the other was “an empty dream." It is certain, from the result, that God endowed her with brilliant capacities of mind, that she might be enabled to act an important part, and fill a wide space, in his providential and gracious economy on earth. We have now considered her in the superiority of her intellect.
The excellence, the moral beauty of her character, is a still more important concern. We have necessarily adverted already to some of the qualities of her heart, in conjunction with those of her understanding. But it may be satisfactory and useful, to dwell on several distinct and prominent traits of her character, involving the feelings and exercises of “the hidden man of the heart,” as well as the acts of the exterior life.
She possessed, in no ordinary degree, that enthusiastic feeling, connected with perseverance, which enables one to undertake and accomplish great designs. In her opinion, she was not apt to be sanguine in her expectations. But while this may have been the fact, she manifested that ardor and determined spirit, in whatever she attempted, which are generally the concomitant of a great and vigorous mind. As an indication of this trait of character, it is obvious, of course, to cite the numerous and spirited productions of her pen, continued from the age of seventeen to eighty years, amidst many infirmities, and frequent and severe sicknesses,--productions which have spread to the extremities of the civilized world. Her ardor in composition, seemed scarcely to yield to the effects of age. The results of this spirit of enthusiasm and perseverance, in drawing so largely upon her intellectual resources, for the good of her country and kind, were, in age, only the riper and mellower fruits of experience and wisdom. It was, also, equally in the active labors of benevolence, that this same spirit