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 is specifically 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.
Mona 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.
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