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When the veil of mortality descends upon splendid genius, that has been long devoted to the instruction and best interests of mankind, the noblest monument that can be erected to commemorate its worth and perpetuate its usefulness, is the collection of those productions which, when separately published, delighted and edified the world.
No writer of the past or present age has equalled Hannah More in the application of great talents to the improvement of society, through all its distinctions. from the humblest to the most exalted station in life. Her works have, indeed, in a very striking manner, and to an extraordinary extent, given a new and most important feature to the moral character of the nation she adorned. They have dil fused vital religion, in faith and practice, over districts where its mere externa, forin was before scarcely to be seen; and, what is still more deserving of admiration, this accomplished lady, by the power of. her reasoning, and the elegance of her compositions, has succecded, if the phrase may be permitted, in rendering pietv fashionable and popular, where even the name of religion was, and that at no very distant period, treated with indifference, if not with absolute contempt.
After establishing her claim to the highest station in the temple of pocícal fame, Hannah More resolved to consecrate her talents wholly to His service from whom she had received them. This determination she carried into effect; and inconceivably great and extensive were the benefits it produceů. When licertious principles began to be promulgated with industrious zeal, and to threaten the foundations of all moral and social order, then did this Christian heroine, armed in the panoply of truth, appear foremost to oppose the inroads of the enemies of righteousness. . The success was unexampled. The tracts which, with uncommon celerity and admirable judgment, came from her fertile pen, operated like a cherm, in confirming the wavering, and appalling the evil mind.
The venerable Bishop PORTEUS, in a charge delivered to the clergy of his diocess in 1798, having noticed the exertions made by different pious writers to excite the spirit of religion, says, “ To these it would now be injustice not to add the name of another highly approved author, Mrs. Hannah MORE ; whose extraordinary and versatile talents can equally accommodate themselves to the cottage and the palace; who, while she is diffusing among the lower orders of the people an infinity of little religious tracts, calculated to reform and comfort them in this world, and to save them in the next, is at the same time applying all the powers of a vigorous and highly cul:ivated mind to the instruction, improvement, and high delight of the most exalted of her own sex. I allude more particularly to her last work, on female education, which presents to the reader such a fund of good sense, of wholesome counsel, of sagacious observation, of knowledge of the world and of the female heart, of high-toned morality, and genuine Christian piety; and all this enlivened with such brilliancy of wit, such richness of imagery, such variety and felicity of allusion, such neatness and elegance of diction, as are not, I conceive, easily to be found so combined and blended together in any other work in the English language. of the above-mentioned little tracts, no less than two millions were sold in the first year ; and they contributed, I am persuaded, very essentially to counteract the poison of those impious and immoral pamphlets, which were dispersed over the kingdom in such numbers by societies of infidels and disaffected persons."
The popularity of Mrs. More's writings, never sensibly diminished, even by the vast increase of excellent and highly esteemed works in every department of literature by which the last twenty years have been distinguished, has been revived to an extent, perhaps, even greater than they achieved in the early period of their existence, by the recent publication of the admirable memoirs of her life and correspondence, prepared with so much skill and judgment by her chosen biographer and literary executor, Mr. Roberts; a work upon which the strongest language of approving criticism has been and still is bestowed by the highest authorities, both in this country and in England. The general acceptation with which those volumes were received, would have encouraged the publishers to follow them with an edition of Mrs. More's writings, even had they not been repeatedly advised and urged to the undertaking, not only by friends and in private, but by the almost united voice of the press throughout the Union. Had they not assumed it, with these inducements, they would have considered themselves as in some measure neglecting a duty, standing as they do in the light of caterers for the literary gratification of the public, whose wishes and opinions they are bound to respect, at least, if not implicitly to follow.
It is hoped and believed that the present collection, which contains all the writings of that eminent lady, in a convenient as well as handsome form, and is published at a very moderate price, will be received with a degree of favour not less cordial and extensive than that which was and still is accorded to the memoirs. To adopt the words of a religious periodical of high character, used in speaking of those volumes, it may be asserted that " it will please the superficial, improve the intelligent, and receive the hearty commendation of the serious reader. The young and the old, the lively and the sedate, will derive from it pleasure and profit.”.
The publishers cannot refrain from quoting the following just and happy expres. sions, from another publication devoted to the interests of religion. “But the view of her influence upon mankind will be excccdingly imperfect, unless we take into the estimate the whole number of individuals who have derived already, and will hercafter derive from her writings, the purest principles of religion, philosophy, and virtue. These can never be numbered, but they may safely be put down at millions. Now if all these readers gain but a single important suggestion, are incited to practise a single virtuc, or to refrain from a single vice—if but one in ten is made wiser or better by her publications, how immeasurable is the gcod effected by her mind !!!
"A soul thus active, spread out upon so wide a range of objects, impressing its own beauties and breathing its own spirit upon such myriads of kindred beings, demonstrates its own immortality, and proclaims in the history of the world the exhilarating truth, that the united acquisitions of piety, intellect, and virtue, centring their operations on that which is immortal, possess a grandeur which renders the con. quests of pride and power insignificant as enipiy bubbles, and is more substantially glorious than the gorgeous enchantments of imperial magnificence."