London: T. Cadell in the Strand, 1793. First edition. A tall, wide-margined and surprisingly fresh copy measuring 210 x 130mm (pages) and collating complete: xv, [1, blank], 48. Bound in modern burgundy cloth with gilt to spine, bearing the bookplate of J.O. Edwards to the front pastedown. Internally unmarked. A scarce and assertive work by the famed Bluestocking, the 1793 first edition is reported at no institutions and has not appeared at auction.
Across her involvement in abolition, women's education, and integration movements, Hannah More adeptly learned to use chapbooks and cheaply distributed publications like the present work to disseminate ideas. "As an independent woman writer, much of her work was directed to the female sex, but her desire to see women play a more constructive role in society came into conflict with her own fear of certain revolutionary ideas. Consciously aware of the techniques of propaganda that she saw being used in radical literature...[she sought] to alert British women to the serious social and political dangers inherent in those forms of radical propaganda" (Hole). Such tension shaped her Considerations on Religion and Public Education, which was directed in its first appearance "to the Ladies &c of Great Britain and Ireland" (she would revise the work to include American women, in the more common 1794 Boston edition). "More's opposition to the threat she believed the ideas of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution posed led her to popular propaganda that was directed first to the poor, then to women of the rising middle class. Her urgent campaign against the way women were represented in literature during this time led her both to her most sucessful and vigorous polemic" (Hole). Of the present work, Professor Claudia Johnson notes "On Religion and Public Education is straight propaganda: it is not contrived in a bluffy vernacular dialogue form for working class audiences but speaks directly to an elite readership with an unmediated critique" of ideas about the separation of religion from education and the rise of secularism. Arguing against Dupont's remarks at the National Convention of France, More encourages her female readers to hold fast to ideas and practices related to religious morality, including sacrifice and humility. And she exhorts her readers to remember the English beliefs about God's relationship to sovereigns, discouraging the impiety of overthrowing such leadership. Near Fine (Item #4034)