Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hanna More - Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist
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Thomas Nelson / 2014 / Hardcover

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Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hanna More - Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist

Thomas Nelson / 2014 / Hardcover

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One of the few female leaders within the Evangelical movement of the nineteenth century, Hannah More was instrumental in an astonishing number of reforms in her day: education for women and the poor, reform of morals and manners in high society and low, and especially--along with close friend William Wilberforce--the abolition of Great Britain's slave trade. Little known today, she was once a household name--bestselling poet and playwright, friend of the famous, practical philanthropist, and moral conscience of a nation.

Karen Swallow Prior's insightful biography shines new and fascinating light on Hannah More and the times in which she lived--introducing a new generation to the life and works of the woman who changed history with the power of her pen and her personality. Hardcover.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 272
Vendor: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2014
Dimensions: 8.38 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 1400206251
ISBN-13: 9781400206254

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Publisher's Description

With a foreword by Eric Metaxas, best-selling author of Bonhoeffer and Amazing Grace.

The enthralling biography of the woman writer who helped end the slave trade, changed Britain’s upper classes, and taught a nation how to read.

The history-changing reforms of Hannah More affected every level of 18th-Century British society through her keen intellect, literary achievements, collaborative spirit, strong Christian principles, and colorful personality. A woman without connections or status, More took the world of British letters by storm when she arrived in London from Bristol, becoming a best-selling author and acclaimed playwright and quickly befriending the author Samuel Johnson, the politician Horace Walpole, and the actor David Garrick. Yet she was also a leader in the Evangelical movement, using her cultural position and her pen to support the growth of education for the poor, the reform of morals and manners, and the abolition of Britain’s slave trade. 

Fierce Convictions weaves together world and personal history into a stirring story of life that intersected with Wesley and Whitefield’s Great Awakening, the rise and influence of Evangelicalism, and convulsive effects of the French Revolution. A woman of exceptional intellectual gifts and literary talent, Hannah More was above all a person whose faith compelled her both to engage her culture and to transform it.

Author Bio

Eric Metaxas is the author of the New York Times bestseller Amazing Grace, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid to Ask), Everything Else You Always Wanted to Know About God, and thirty children’s books. He is founder and host of Socrates in the City in New York City, where he lives with his wife and daughter. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, Washington Post, Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Marks Hill Review, and First Things. He has written for VeggieTales and Rabbit Ears Productions, earning three Grammy nominations for Best Children’s Recording.

Product Reviews

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Displaying items 1-5 of 10
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  1. lisa
    Winnipeg, MB
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Very Worthwhile Read
    April 15, 2015
    Winnipeg, MB
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    More than just a chronological biography, this book reached far to try to give a complete picture of the times in which Hannah More lived. What a complicated time it was. Not just about abolition of the slave trade alone- but about emancipation for women from worthless "education", for animals from cruelty, for the poor from illiteracy, for the church from lifeless ritual, for the rich from soul-killing leisure. how important it is for a person to give careful thought to their own ways, to look to God for direction and purpose, and to use ones abilities - in spite of disabilities - to intentionally make a difference with ones life.

    The book is organized by topic, and then follows Hannah More's understanding and influence in each separate area chronologically. This means that for each new topic, education of girls, for example, or poetry, the French Revolution, or the need for a society like the SPCA, the reader might feel they are repeatedly going back to the beginning of the timeline. While this sometimes seemed onerous, I can see that because the times in which Hannah More lived were so different in many ways than ours, and the issues so complex, it is necessary to back up in order to give a more complete picture. I learned a great many things about that time period, and was able to see the interweaving of many figures (political, literary and artistic) whose names were familiar, but of whom I had only very limited knowledge.

    I read this book on my iPad, and made frequent use of the internet while reading to look up images of paintings and landmarks which the author mentions. This was very interesting as well! We are in debt to the painters of the time for using their craft to do for us what we can so effortlessly do with a camera these days!
  2. An Avid Reader
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Not as good as I hoped
    January 16, 2015
    An Avid Reader
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    Quality: 3
    Value: 3
    Meets Expectations: 2
    I really wanted to like Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior. I had been introduced to Hannah More in the movie Amazing Grace, and was interested and excited to learn about her as a person and about her contributions to society. But sadly, the story of Hannah's life is buried in detailed descriptions of society, opinions, and life in her day and age. I believe that at least some of that is necessary to set the stage and make the life story understandable. But there is such a thing as too much.

    Hannah More was an extraordinary lady and a woman of deep faith. And someone that I believe everyone should know about. So do some research, and maybe even read this book. Maybe I just haven't read enough biographies and this is typical for how one goes. But I still feel that even a biography should draw you in and entice you to keep reading.
  3. Smoothie71
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Not my cup of tea
    December 31, 2014
    Age: 18-24
    Gender: female
    I must say that I had a hard time getting through this book, and didn't finish it. :/ I tried, but for some reason I could not stay interested.

    Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior is a book that tells the story of Hannah More - a woman who was a reformer, abolitionist, and a poet. She came from a family of quite a few women, which could be why she was such a passionate, unordinary one. She had good people pouring into her and good came out, though not at first.

    This book is written very historically and factually based. It's not told from a story-type perspective (I've read a few biographies that were and tend to enjoy them more), rather, the author who happens to be a teacher, I think wrote it from a more teaching based mindset which means this would be a great book for home schooled children or bold teachers who want to include more in their classes.

    This book wasn't my cup of tea, but it may very well be yours. If you enjoy exciting stories, I think you'll like this one. If you like history, you might enjoy it. Like I said, I think this would be great to use for teaching purposes because it is filled with so many facts and discussion starters.

    Note: I received a free copy of this book for reviewing purposes.
  4. Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    An Exuberant Life
    December 27, 2014
    Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    In order for Hannah More to be truly Hannah More, she had to challenge nearly every aspect of her cultural context. Fierce Convictions is richly historical and rooted deeply in the period straddling the 18th and 19th centuries, because it is impossible to appreciate the impact of Hannah Mores life without knowing the circumstances of her world at the time:

    Female education was not only rare, but it was also frowned upon.

    Female authors were nearly unheard of and also frowned upon.

    Women were trained for marriage and housekeeping only and were expected to marry young.

    Novels and religious books barely existed as literary genres.

    Outreach to the poor and the concept of foreign missions had gotten lost somewhere in the clutter of English class consciousness.

    Slavery was deeply ingrained in Englands social and economic identity.

    Hannahs bright imagination and commitment to follow God led her to challenge each of these realities, and Karen Swallow Prior has masterfully captured Mores role in her subtitle: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist.


    Im convinced that if Hannah More had lived in our time, she would have had a blog. It was in her nature to communicate through whatever medium was available, in spite of the general disdain for the female pen. Positively prolific, Hannah applied her gift for verse to current events and social situations, making a name and a place for herself among elite circles (in spite of very humble beginnings). The Inflexible Captive launched her career as a dramatic author, and she went on to make a comfortable living and an impact on contemporary culture writing Cheap Repository Tracts (a most unflattering name for short pamphlets on relevant topics at the reading level of the newly literate). If she believed that it would help her message to be received more readily, she wrote anonymously. Her one and only novel broke ground for 19th century novelists such as Dickens, Thackeray and the Bronte sisters. Because her writing so closely reflected her thinking throughout her life, I would suggest an appendix in a future edition of the book with a detailed time line of all her publications and major life events.


    Although best known for her efforts to abolish slavery in England, Hannahs tongue and pen touched on everything from prison reform, crime prevention, and animal cruelty to dueling, Sabbath observance, and philanthropy. With her four unmarried sisters, she established a girls school, eschewing the superficial nature of womens education at that time. Income from this and her writing, along with an annuity provided by a suitor (who had jilted her three times), allowed her to be financially independent, thus giving her the freedom to put feet to her convictions. For example, when the hideous living conditions in the impoverished Cheddar Gorge came to her attention, she and her younger sister established themselves in the area, started a Sunday School, and went door-to-door to assess the peoples needs.


    Every gift, every experience, every social contact, and every ounce of confidence that Hannah More had gained as a writer and a reformer were marshaled in her pursuit of emancipation for slaves in the British Empire. At a time when Britain owned more than half the worlds slave ships, Hannah More joined William Wilberforce in the decades-long marathon effort of awakening the social and political conscience of the people through any means available to them. On the home front, Hannah refused to serve West Indian sugar (it had blood on it because of its dependence on the slave trade). She spoke against slavery at every opportunity, becoming the single most influential woman in the British abolitionist movement. She died less than two months after the Emancipation Bill passed in the House of Commons. Her poem Slavery was so widely known and so effective in communicating empathy for the slaves that it later inspired David Livingstone to take Christianity to Africa.

    Hannah sparkled. She loved and worked with people of different religions and political convictions because, for Hannah, life was a feast, and the space at her table was abundant. Even when writing on sober topics, Hannah More, the first Victorian, managed to write with humor and an engaging style. I found myself collecting favorite aphorisms as I progressed through the book:

    On the whole, is it not better to succeed as women than to fail as men? . . . to be good originals, rather than bad imitations?

    We must never proportion our exertion to our success, but to our duty.

    It should be held as an eternal truth, that what is morally wrong can never be politically right.

    To learn how to grow old gracefully is perhaps one of the rarest and most valuable arts which can be taught to women.

    Given her huge impact and her prodigious talent, it would have been easy for a biographer to lionize Hannah More as a plastic and one-dimensional saint. Karen Swallow Prior has avoided this by examining her flesh-and-blood weaknesses and blind spots. For instance, Hannah offset her wild productivity with periods of illness in which she would take to her bed, often in conjunction with the inevitable criticism she received for her bold stands and actions. She was very sensitive to the opinions and regard of the upper class, and never reached the point where she saw the need for the poor to learn to write. Too, her lack of practical experience did not stop her from weighing in on how wives should conduct themselves and how mothers should raise their children.

    Having said that, Hannah More is on my list of Women to Have Coffee (fair trade, naturally) with in Heaven, and this is mainly because her life demonstrated that there is no station or set of circumstances in life that precludes usefulness to God. Professionally, she was a poet, reformer, and abolitionist. Personally, she was single, serving, and satisfied.

    Disclosure: This book was provided by BookLookBloggers in exchange for my unbiased review.
  5. Janet53
    Gender: Female
    2 Stars Out Of 5
    Well-written, and well-researched, but not very interesting
    December 14, 2014
    Gender: Female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    This book is a biography of Hanna More, a writer, who lived in the late 1700s and early 1800s, dying in 1832 (a few weeks after England ended slavery).

    In the foreword, written by Eric Metaxas, who wrote the book, "Amazing Grace", he says that Hannah More did as much as William Wilberforce did for the abolitionist movement (ending the slave trade). I did not find proof of this in "Fierce Convictions". I was disappointed in the book.

    There is a lack of substance concerning the abolitionist movement, and very little excitement. Hannah More seems to have led a rather quiet life, whose highlight is writing letters to somewhat important people of the day, publishing books and treatises anonymously, and starting a school for poor children, along with her sister. She seems to me, to have only been an onlooker around the fringes of the abolitionist movement.

    The best part of the book is in chapters 1 on Hannah More's life as a child, and then 8, 9, and 10, which discuss the people actually involved in the abolitionist movement, and Hannah More's writings, and the school she started. Based on this book, I would say that Hannah More's greatest accomplishment was starting a school for the poor, who would otherwise not have had any education. This is a wonderful thing to have done, and I wish there had been more about this in the book. I may be in the minority to be critical of this book, but I am giving my own honest review. I had difficulty finishing the book.

    I did receive a free copy of the book from the publisher, through BookLook Bloggers, in order to do a review. This is my honest opinion and my own comments on the book.
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