With a foreword by Eric Metaxas, best-selling author of Bonhoeffer and Amazing Grace.
The enthralling biography of the woman writer who helped end the slave trade, changed Britain’s upper classes, and taught a nation how to read.
The history-changing reforms of Hannah More affected every level of 18th-Century British society through her keen intellect, literary achievements, collaborative spirit, strong Christian principles, and colorful personality. A woman without connections or status, More took the world of British letters by storm when she arrived in London from Bristol, becoming a best-selling author and acclaimed playwright and quickly befriending the author Samuel Johnson, the politician Horace Walpole, and the actor David Garrick. Yet she was also a leader in the Evangelical movement, using her cultural position and her pen to support the growth of education for the poor, the reform of morals and manners, and the abolition of Britain’s slave trade.
Fierce Convictions weaves together world and personal history into a stirring story of life that intersected with Wesley and Whitefield’s Great Awakening, the rise and influence of Evangelicalism, and convulsive effects of the French Revolution. A woman of exceptional intellectual gifts and literary talent, Hannah More was above all a person whose faith compelled her both to engage her culture and to transform it.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Sold by:||HarperCollins Publishing|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Eric Metaxas is the author of the New York Times bestseller Amazing Grace, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask), Everything Else You Always Wanted to Know About God, and thirty children’s books. He is founder and host of Socrates in the City in New York City, where he lives with his wife and daughter. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Washington Post, Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Marks Hill Review, and First Things. He has written for VeggieTales and Rabbit Ears Productions, earning three Grammy nominations for Best Children’s Recording.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dr. Karen Swallow Prior’s new book Fierce Convictions tells story of Hannah Moore who, in addition to being a noted author and philanthropist, was a key figuring in abolishing the slave trade in Great Britain. Beyond becoming a famous poet and playwright, More used her considerable literary talents to describe in great detail the suffering slaves experienced in their voyages at the bottom of slave ships. Although not as well-known as abolitionists such as William Wilberforce and John Newton, Prior reveals how More influenced such men personally and through her writings. Prior also gives us a window into what is perhaps More’s most compelling quality: her ability to connect personally with great leaders and influencers, as well as with the poor and downtrodden. As Prior writes, “More was a woman of strong convictions, but she kept a plentiful table. She mixed comfortably and enthusiastically with rich and poor, church and unchurched, and all in between.” Brilliant and well-educated, More was nonetheless unapologetically committed to the Bible, “Bible Christianity is what I love…a Christianity practical and pure, which teaches holiness, humility, repentance and faith in Christ, and which after summing up all the Evangelical graces declares that the greatest of these is charity” (p. 155). She added, “I know of no way of teaching morals but by infusing principles of Christianity nor of teaching Christianity without a thorough knowledge of Scripture” (p. 160). Prior makes the case that “If the old, nearly blind John Newton was the soul of the abolitionist movement, Wilberforce its voice, [then] Hannah [was] its heart and hands….” Fierce Convictions is ultimately a book about hope. Everyone who aspires to change the world for the better will be inspired by More’s words and life to hope in God: And Thou! Great source of Nature and of Grace Who of one blood didst form the human race, Look down in mercy in thy chosen time, With equal eye on Afric’s suffering clime: Disperse her shades of intellectual night, Repeat thy high behest-Let there be light! Bring each benighted soul, great God, to Thee,
In order for Hannah More to be truly Hannah More, she had to challenge nearly every aspect of her cultural context. Fierce Convictions is richly historical and rooted deeply in the period straddling the 18th and 19th centuries, because it is impossible to appreciate the impact of Hannah More’s life without knowing the circumstances of her world at the time: •Female education was not only rare, but it was also frowned upon. •Female authors were nearly unheard of and also frowned upon. •Women were trained for marriage and housekeeping only and were expected to marry young. •Novels and religious books barely existed as literary genres. •Outreach to the poor and the concept of foreign missions had gotten lost somewhere in the clutter of English class consciousness. •Slavery was deeply ingrained in England’s social and economic identity. Hannah’s “bright imagination” and commitment to follow God led her to challenge each of these realities, and Karen Swallow Prior has masterfully captured More’s role in her subtitle: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More — Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Poet I’m convinced that if Hannah More had lived in our time, she would have had a blog. It was in her nature to communicate through whatever medium was available, in spite of the general disdain for “the female pen.” Positively prolific, Hannah applied her gift for verse to current events and social situations, making a name and a place for herself among elite circles (in spite of very humble beginnings). The Inflexible Captive launched her career as a dramatic author, and she went on to make a comfortable living and an impact on contemporary culture writing Cheap Repository Tracts (a most unflattering name for short pamphlets on relevant topics at the reading level of the newly literate). If she believed that it would help her message to be received more readily, she wrote anonymously. Her one and only novel broke ground for 19th century novelists such as Dickens, Thackeray and the Bronte sisters. Because her writing so closely reflected her thinking throughout her life, I would suggest an appendix in a future edition of the book with a detailed time line of all her publications and major life events. Reformer Although best known for her efforts to abolish slavery in England, Hannah’s tongue and pen touched on everything from prison reform, crime prevention, and animal cruelty to dueling, Sabbath observance, and philanthropy. With her four unmarried sisters, she established a girls’ school, eschewing the “superficial nature” of women’s education at that time. Income from this and her writing, along with an annuity provided by a suitor (who had jilted her three times), allowed her to be financially independent, thus giving her the freedom to put feet to her convictions. For example, when the hideous living conditions in the impoverished Cheddar Gorge came to her attention, she and her younger sister established themselves in the area, started a Sunday School, and went door-to-door to assess the peoples’ needs. Abolitionist Every gift, every experience, every social contact, and every ounce of confidence that Hannah More had gained as a writer and a reformer were marshaled in her pursuit of emancipation for slaves in the British Empire. At a time when Britain owned more than half the world’s slave ships, Hannah More joined William Wilberforce in the decades-long marathon effort of awakening the social and political conscience of the people through any means available to them. On the home front, Hannah refused to serve West Indian sugar (it “had blood on it” because of it’s dependence on the slave trade). She spoke against slavery at every opportunity, becoming the single most influential woman in the British abolitionist movement. She died less than two months after the Emancipation Bill passed in the House of Commons. Her poem “Slavery” was so widely known and so effective in communicating empathy for the slaves that it later inspired David Livingstone to take Christianity to Africa. Hannah sparkled. She loved and worked with people of different religions and political convictions because, for Hannah, “life was a feast, and the space at her table was abundant.” Even when writing on sober topics, Hannah More, “the first Victorian,” managed to write with humor and an engaging style. I found myself collecting favorite aphorisms as I progressed through the book: “On the whole, is it not better to succeed as women than to fail as men? . . . to be good originals, rather than bad imitations?” We “must never proportion our exertion to our success, but to our duty.” “It should be held as an eternal truth, that what is morally wrong can never be politically right.” To “learn how to grow old gracefully is perhaps one of the rarest and most valuable arts which can be taught to women.” Given her huge impact and her prodigious talent, it would have been easy for a biographer to lionize Hannah More as a plastic and one-dimensional saint. Karen Swallow Prior has avoided this by examining her flesh-and-blood weaknesses and blind spots. For instance, Hannah offset her wild productivity with periods of “illness” in which she would take to her bed, often in conjunction with the inevitable criticism she received for her bold stands and actions. She was very sensitive to the opinions and regard of the “upper class,” and never reached the point where she saw the need for the poor to learn to write. Too, her lack of practical experience did not stop her from weighing in on how wives should conduct themselves and how mothers should raise their children. Having said that, Hannah More is on my list of “Women to Have Coffee (fair trade, naturally) with in Heaven,” and this is mainly because her life demonstrated that there is no station or set of circumstances in life that precludes usefulness to God. Professionally, she was a poet, reformer, and abolitionist. Personally, she was single, serving, and satisfied. Disclosure: This book was provided by BookLookBloggers in exchange for my unbiased review.
I knew nothing about Hannah More before beginning "Fierce Convictions." I've followed the author- Karen Swallow Prior- on Twitter for a few years, and I've read and enjoyed some of her articles on Christianity Today. I knew I wanted to try her latest book, so I was excited when Booklook Bloggers offered it for review. I was even more convinced when I saw that Eric Metaxas wrote the foreword. After reading his biography of Bonhoeffer, I'm willing to trust his endorsements. He goes so far as to say that although it would be wonderful to have another William Wilberforce, what we really need is a crop of Hannah More's. Now if that doesn't intrigue you, what will. Hannah More was a woman of character, who sought to capture hearts and stir them to action through her words. And she succeeded, over eighty-eight years of life. Let me presume that I'm writing this review to fellow laypeople, who haven't read a ton of biographies and who have never heard of Hannah More. Is this book readable? Oh yes. It starts with an scene of Hannah and her sisters, the five More girls, all playing in their father's schoolroom after class was dismissed. Hannah insists that they pretend they're riding up to London, to see "Bishops and booksellers." From the time she was a schoolgirl, she knew that Truth was worth seeking, literature was a vehicle for truth, and ideas made the world go round. As she grew, these perceptions of hers would be refined, words would be her craft, and the pen would be her instrument. Her goal can be summed up in a phrase that is used often in Fierce Convictions, to "captivate the moral imagination." Whether she was writing poetry, plays, novels, or "Cheap Repository Tracts," she wanted to help you see the real world, God's world, and to live in it with dignity and decency. As an avid reader, I was underlining all through the sections on Hannah's views of stories and songs and how they can stir up a soul. The kind of literature we need today won't be exactly like "The Rougish Miller," but we most definitely need something that feeds that "moral imagination" and guides us toward righteousness. Obviously, you're not going to absorb everything in a biography right away. There are dozens of names, dates, and places that all connect to our main character, and it becomes easier to follow as Hannah comes into her own. So many times people will say "Look at how God used so-and-so. What a life, lived for His glory!" I always find it amazing, when I read a biography about one of those great lives, how many other lives touched theirs, and how many experiences they lived through before we hailed them as heroic. I guess it reminds us that a life given over to God's glory will be composed of daily faithfulness. That's how Hannah tried to live, whether she was mingling with high society or riding horseback for miles. It's also clear that the seeds for her legacy were planted in her youth. When the five More girls were between twenty and eight, with Hannah at thirteen, they began a school. At sixteen, Hannah was teaching classes of young girls. The sisters all possessed sterling character, sharp intellects, and sound fiscal sense. And they were just barely "young adults." As a woman, she became a dear friend to Samuel Johnson, John Newton, and William Wilberforce. All three would invest their talents and strength in the fight to abolish slavery. Hannah's character would be further refined by her work, as she acted with conviction and reservation, passion and temperance, kindness and plain-speaking. She clearly desired a holistic Christianity, and she saw the Gospel reaching into every area of conduct, and informing her response to every social issue. (Is this exactly what we need today?) Her campaign for humane treatment for animals, her work in schools for poor children, the village insurance collectives she helped establish, and her boycott of slave-labored West Indian sugar all flowed from the same convictions. In the middle of all these accomplishments, Karen Swallow Prior shows the tensions that Hannah lived with as well. Some of the good work she wanted to do was prevented by the customs and class structure of the age. Do you teach a poor child to read when he's destined to stay a servant? Hannah did not have an answer to every question, but the amount of work she did and effort she expended in so many arenas is remarkable. "A woman of letters" seems like a small thing, but it wasn't. I especially like this description of her character, quoted in Fierce Convictions from an earlier biography: "... the most implicit faith and the most devoted zeal in Christianity could consist with the highest mental attainments; and the most devoted piety was no obstacle to cheerfulness and humor."
This book provides great insight into a woman who broke the conventional mold of women in 19th century England. Hannah Moore established schools for the poor uneducated, unheard of and often resisted in her culture. She embraced the challenges of banning the English slave trade, legislation for more humane treatment of animals, and prolific publication of her writings to bring improved the morals of the populace. This book was recommended to me by a friend, and I will forever be grateful for becoming acquainted with Hannah Moore.
A inspiration to like minded women