'Fierce Convictions' Highlights the Forgotten Life of Christian Reformer Hannah More
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- 2014 Dec 05
I’ve talked about a lot of different books on this program. But it isn’t every day I get to tell you about a book for which I played midwife.
Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But the truth is, I’m delighted and proud to have had anything to do with the birth of “Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist.” It’s a wonderful new book by my friend Karen Swallow Prior.
Some years ago, I was visiting Liberty University where Karen teaches, when I discovered that both of us were interested in Hannah More, a friend and supporter of William Wilberforce. While I was researching my book on Wilberforce, More’s name popped up again and again, and I was completely intrigued by her.
So when I heard that Karen was actually interested in writing a new biography of Hannah More, I begged her to do it as soon as possible. And now she has, and I’m thrilled. (In fact I even got to write the foreword!)
You see, Hannah More is one of those people whom history has most unfairly overlooked. To say she was a friend of Wilberforce gives only the smallest inkling of who she was, and of the major role that she played in England’s abolition movement and various other reform movements.
More was actually one of the leading lights in those movements. As an educator and a prestigious writer, she tirelessly promoted the anti-slavery cause. And as a woman who came from humble beginnings, she nevertheless moved effortlessly in the intellectual circles of her day, influencing some of the nation’s most prominent leaders.
As Karen writes, “Throughout her life, More belied the stereotype that equates dourness with devotion. Even after her turn from fashionable society, she exhibited a jubilant wit and encouraged others to live exuberantly.” More’s charm and intelligence won people over; and her piety influenced them for the good. For a Christian, that’s a fantastic combination of qualities to have.
And all this was despite her being a woman in a society that severely limited the role of women. Hannah More was proscribed from going into politics, and yet she did more good than many politicians did.
In my foreword, I put it this way: Karen’s book serves “as a corrective to the idea that the only way to effect change in the world is via political action. Many have put all of their eggs in legislative baskets and the current awful state of things makes plain the mistake of that thinking. . . . It is true that we can always use another Wilberforce (or three), but what we need far more is another Hannah More—and if we could get more than one More, all the better.
“More’s role as a cultural figure and as a woman of letters is precisely what we need as a model for those interested in bringing about social and cultural change.” She spoke the language of her culture with ease, even as she consistently pointed that hedonistic, self-centered culture toward better things.
It’s not fair that history has forgotten Hannah More, but perhaps it’s understandable. Some of the most important people work in quiet and modest ways, and thus end up getting swept under the rug. But Karen Swallow Prior’s book helps to correct that injustice in Hannah More’s case, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Please, do yourself a favor, whether for a Christmas gift or whatever. Get yourself a copy of “Fierce Convictions.” You can come to BreakPoint.org and get it at our online book store. But please get it. She is one of the most fascinating people in history, and this book is wonderfully well-written. I recommend it.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: December 5, 2014