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Hannah More

3 of 11 portraits of Hannah More

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Hannah More

by Henry William Pickersgill
oil on canvas, 1822
49 1/2 in. x 35 1/4 in. (1257 mm x 895 mm)
Purchased, 1875
Primary Collection
NPG 412

Sitterback to top

  • Hannah More (1745-1833), Religious writer. Sitter in 11 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Henry William Pickersgill (1782-1875), Portrait painter. Artist or producer associated with 111 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The writer and reformer Hannah More was in her seventies at the time this portrait was painted. In her letters, More described her objections to sitting for this portrait: 'Morally and physically it is grievous to me ... I object, in a moral point of view, that so much time out of my little fragment of life should be so spent'. The letter on the table is addressed to William Wilberforce, the friend who inspired her support for anti-slavery after they met in 1787. The most striking part of her outfit is the layered 'van Dyck' ruff collar and high-crowned, frilled muslin cap tied under the chin and trimmed with abundant silk ribbons. These were a popular form of indoor head wear. With them she wears a simple silk day dress with a high waistline, smooth ungathered shoulders and muslin frills at the wrists. Over the top of this is wrapped a shawl of silk or fine wool with fashionably patterned borders and ends. In her right hand she holds a scent bottle.

Related worksback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 50 Read entry

    The influential dramatist, religious writer and Evangelical social reformer Hannah More (1745-1833) was born a schoolteacher’s daughter, near Bristol. Both a successful promoter of female activism and a conservative feminist, she was a prolific author; her first published play was The Search for Happiness (1773). On moving to London in 1774, she joined the Bluestocking circle, after which she wrote two more plays, Percy (1777) and The Fatal Secret (1779), for actor-manager David Garrick. Following her retreat from London society, for reasons of faith, she continued to write. Her campaigning moral tales Village Politics (1792), written under the pseudonym ‘Will Chip’, and Cheap Repository Tracts (1795-8), inexpensively produced, populist and anti-radical, sold more than two million copies in less than two years. Many were circulated by the middle classes in their communities in the hope that their homilies would encourage an awareness of poverty and the need for charitable work among the poor. In the wake of its success, the Religious Tract Society was founded in 1799. Educated at a school run by her sisters, More expressed her reforming zeal for women’s education in Strictures on the Modern System of Female Education (1799).

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  • Eger, Elizabeth; Peltz, Lucy, Brilliant Women: 18th Century Bluestockings, 2008 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 13 March to 15 June 2008), p. 115
  • Holmes, Richard; Crane, David; Woof, Robert; Hebron, Stephen, Romantics and Revolutionaries: Regency portraits from the National Portrait Gallery, 2002, p. 141
  • Ingamells, John, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, 2004, p. 346
  • Ross, Josephine, Jane Austen and her World, 2017, p. 69
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 440

Events of 1822back to top

Current affairs

Lord Castlereagh (the Marquis of Londonderry) commits suicide after a blackmail campaign against him.
Tory cabinet joined by liberals George Canning and Robert Peel. Canning is appointed Foreign Secretary.

Art and science

John Nash completes the remodelling of the King's villa, the Brighton Pavilion and begins plans for the new layout of Regent Street and Regent's Park.
The Caledonian Canal opens to link eastern to western Scotland.
The Sunday Times is founded.


David Wilkie exhibits celebrated Chelsea Pensioners at the Royal Academy to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo. It proves so popular a rail has to be erected to protect it.
First major failure of the potato crop in Ireland. A large-scale public works programme is implemented to provide employment.

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