Two weeks ago, I didn’t know who Hannah More was.
Now I feel like she and I could have been best friends.
Most of the rapid development of our kinship is due to Hannah More’s convictions, passions and ways of thinking. But some of that also has to do with the author Karen Swallow Prior’s skills in producing engaging words that seem to create not a 2-dimensional rendering of the subject of her book Fierce Convictions, but almost a 3-dimensional hologram. At times, I felt like Hannah More and I were sitting on the couch before the fire, discussing not only past and current historical events, but also incorporating a theological discussion woven into and among those events.
Hannah More is delightful.
But her delightful-ness is not that of what can be caricatured as the “typical lady” of her era (she died in 1833). No, rather it seems that she was willing and had the fortitude to both live out her fierce convictions as well as share them through her writings. I think she probably could agree with something I have said so many times in my life: “I can not, not write. I must write.” And write, she did.
Literature is a passion of mine, so I was surprised to find that Hannah was such a prominent figure in the literary world. How have I not known this? Her writings were not just influential–they moved heaven and earth in terms of advancing genres of publishing and in giving women a credible voice in the realm of social and theological literature.
But, Hannah was not flawless. And I think that this is why I am so drawn to her. Prior does not shy away from sharing some of Hannah’s flaws with her audience, and I think that is one of the many, many things that make this book so readable and welcoming. Hannah was real. And that brings me much comfort.
I also thoroughly enjoyed reading of her friendships with such giants as John Newton, William Wilberforce and William Cowper, just to name a few. Their encouragement of her was encouraging to me. And their work together for such things as the Sunday School (not our present-day Sunday School) movement, social reform and the abolition of slavery left me in awe. Well-thought out exegesis of scripture, coupled with bravery, obedience and willingness to work hard, and the powerful tool that words are, can and does create change.
There are a few people who I’d love to sit down and have a chat with. Of course, many from the Bible: Thomas, Joseph, various recipients of miracles, Job, David–so many. But others, too, mostly writers, such as C.S. Lewis. Good gracious, what a treasure it would be to have one hour of his time–the questions I would ask! John Stott and Philip Yancey are two of many others.
I would dare say, though, that Hannah More has made that list as well. Thank you, Karen Swallow Prior, for introducing us.