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In her own time and in ours, Hannah More (1745-1833) has been seen as a benefactress of the poor, writing and working selflessly to their benefit. Mona Scheuermann argues, however, that More’s agenda was not simply to help the poor but to control them, for the upper classes in late eighteenth-century England were terrified that the poor would rise in revolt against Church and King.
As much social history as literary study, In Praise of Poverty shows that More’s writing to the poor specifically is intended to counter the perceived rabble rousing of Thomas Paine and other radicals active in the 1790s. In fact, her Village Politics was written by request of the Bishop of London as a direct response to Paine’s Rights of Man. The much larger project of the Cheap Repository Tracts followed, and More was still writing in this vein two decades later. Scheuermann effectively, and perhaps controversially, places More in the context of her period’s debate about the poor, proving More to be not a defender of the poor but of the conservative upper-class values she so wholeheartedly espoused.
"Emphatically shows that thinking of her solely in terms of gender distorts our understanding of her and of the broader outlines of eighteenth-century paternalism."—Age of Johnson
"Scheuermann has read her texts carefully and the student who wishes to be guided through them will find this book provides an admirable course in critical reading."—Albion
"Provides a clear, thorough outline of More’s conservative politics—a Burkean quietism meant to confute Thomas Paine, William Godwin, and the whole army of revolutionary ‘radicals.’"—Choice
"Provides us with a much needed corrective to the majority of work that for the past twenty-five years or so has focused almost exclusively on the radical movement that emerged in the wake of the American and French Revolutions."—East-Central Intelligencer
"Her exposition of Hannah More’s writings is commendable."—History
"A useful addition to this neglected area of scholarship."—History of Political Thought
"An intriguing and scholarly reappraisal of a writer to whom too little attention has been paid."—H-Net Reviews (H-Albion)
"Scheuermann’s subject matter resonates with current political discourse, especially with regard to welfare reform. In that sense it not only illuminates our understanding of the past, but also provides perspectives relevant to today’s social issues."—Maryland Historical Magazine
"Bringing to her study of Hannah More a wide knowledge of the political ferment during the 1790s, Scheuermann has written a work which sees More’s writing in terms of the upper-class reaction against the ideas of the English Jacobins. With considerable irony, Scheuermann suggests that recent attempts to transform Hannah More into an icon for the feminist movement have been misguided."—Max Novak
"Scheuermann’s brilliant study of the long ignored Village Politics and Cheap Repository Tracts is an important contribution to our knowledge of Establishment propaganda in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and Hannah More’s place in the anti-radical movement."—Paul J. Korshin
"This valuable account of More’s writings for the poor . . . will ensure that her significance ‘as a public spokesman in the trying and dangerous political atmosphere of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries’ is given due attention."—Women’s History Magazine
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Hannah More, Thomas Paine, Poverty, Conservatism, Village Politics
Literature in English, British Isles
Scheuermann, Mona, "In Praise of Poverty: Hannah More Counters Thomas Paine and the Radical Threat" (2002). Literature in English, British Isles. 77.