ALTHOUGH A CELEBRITY in her own day Hannah More was fated to become a footnote in the biographies of her contemporaries. Today, if she is remembered at all, it is as 'Holy Hannah', the elderly spinster who was the author of books of conduct for girls and a member of the Clapham Sect of Evangelicals. Even when she died in 1833, at the great age of eighty-eight, her reputation was already in decline; one obituary breezily declared that she 'had become. I as an author, posthumous to the present age, long before she quitted life'. A year later, the obligatory worthy biography was published in four tediously dull didactic volumes, and by this time-honoured means of commemorating the great and the good, More was effectively consigned to oblivion.
Why, then, resurrect her? Do we need yet another biography of a long-forgotten woman of moderate talents? The answer is an emphatic yes, and Anne Stott's engaging and highly readable book, Hannah More: The First Victorian, ably demonstrates the reason why. It is not just that More was on I