Kenyon College

Hannah More


Gilbert Stuart
(American, 1755-1828)

Hannah More, n.d.
Oil on canvas.
30 x 24 3/4 inches.
Kenyon College Collection; Purchase of Kenyon College.

On Public View: Kenyon College, Ransom Hall, Norton Room

Hannah More, born near Bristol, England, in 174, began her working life as a teacher at a school in Bristol founded by her elder sisters. At the age of thirty, she went to London to persuade the actor-manager David Garrick to produce one of her plays. The career that developed from that point – playwright, bluestocking, Evangelical reformer, political writer, and novelist – saw her become one of the most influential women of her day. In many ways a contradictory character, More was born into a High Church family but fervently embraced Evangelical Protestantism. An apparently “natural” conservative, she was accused of subversion by both political and religious leaders of the day. And although an antifeminist – or so it was claimed by such Victorians as George Eliot – she opened up new opportunities for activism by women, particularly through her advocacy of their role in philanthropy. She lent her personal fortune to causes as disparate as the Clergy Daughter’s School (which the Brontë sisters attended, and which Charlotte Brontë made famous as Lowood School in Jane Eyre), infirmaries, orphanages, poorhouses, and missions at home and abroad.

More met Philander Chase in 1824, the year he founded Kenyon College. Chase spent several months in England that year, raising funds for his fledgling institution on the American frontier. His first meeting with More may well have taken place at the home of her friend Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, at the time a member of Parliament from Devon, who also became one of Kenyon’s early benefactors. More and Chase would have had much in common, not least their shared Evangelical beliefs. She must have been persuaded that his college would be a bulwark against High Church encroachments in the New World.

The portrait of More, acquired by the College in 2003, is by the renowned artist Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), perhaps best remembered for his iconic portrait of George Washington.

Text from the Kenyon College Publication “Treasures of the Norton Room”