19 02

The Courage of Hannah More by Isabelle Hendrich

The wind whistled over the top of Hannah More’s carriage as she looked out across the rolling green hills of England. The streets of London had faded away hours ago, but More still had further to travel before she arrived at her new home. While still grieving the recent loss of her father and the two dear friends, it was not the only reason for More’s departure from London in 1785. More’s second motivation for leaving her budding playwright career was the recent revival of her Christian faith, which opened her eyes to the frivolousness of the city. Because she chose to follow God, More is an ideal role model for journalists today as they attempt to apply the Bible to news reporting and commentary. Although she was not a journalist, More can teach reporters today perseverance since she kept writing, despite the many trials she faced during her life. In her book Fierce Convictions, Karen Prior details the life of Hannah More, from which all of this essay’s information is derived.

While More considered herself a Christian for most of her life, it was not until she read John Newton’s Cardiphonia in 1780 that her faith began to deepen. Because of her renewed belief in God, More realized London was filled with many superficialities, especially the theater. As mentioned by Prior, More wrote her older sister Martha a letter saying that the theater contradicts ‘“the spirit of that religion whose characteristics are charity, meekness, peaceableness, longsuffering, gentleness, forgiveness.”’ Instead of pursuing her own selfish ambitions to become famous as a theater playwright, More made a courageous decision. She decided to follow God’s calling by leaving London and writing mostly abolitionist and evangelical works. A few of her later works include The White Slave Trade, Practical Piety, Christian Morals, and Character and Practical Writings of Paul. Chrisitan journalists today can learn from More that it takes bravery to follow God’s will when it would be easier to seek fame and fortune.

Due to several controversies, More suffered from depression and self-doubt for most of her life, which often led to her being physically ill. The famous abolitionist, William Wilberforce, was a close friend of More’s. According to Prior, in a letter to him concerning a controversy she went through, More wrote ‘“I have been so batter’d daily and monthly for the past two years about the wickedness and bad tendency of my writings, that I have really lost all confidence in myself, and feel as if I never more cou’d write what anybody wou’d read.”’ After losing her confidence, More even found writing to be tiresome but eventually became re-energized to write again. Prior states she was convinced by many petitioners to keep writing, but More must have been convicted by God, for most of her works after her largest controversy, which occurred in 1800, were evangelical.

Journalists today can learn from More because they can sympathize with her self-doubt. Even great writers like More at one time or another face the fear of failure. What defines an author is what they decide to do with their fear. They can either stop writing or put aside their fear and trust in God. While most journalists may not win a Pulitzer or be remembered in 100 years, they can use their talents of writing, editing, design, or a combination of all three to follow God’s calling.

As More’s breathed her last, one of her two final words was “joy”. The brilliant abolitionist and evangelical author died peacefully, knowing she was going to see her Savior soon. Looking to More as a role model, all journalists should strive to do what is right, no matter the cost.

[This essay won an honorable mention in the Essay competition hosted by WJI Network]