Hannah More was an accomplished and gifted author and philanthropist best known for opposing the slave trade and promoting education for women in 18th-century British society. Karen Swallow Prior’s Fierce Convictions is a crisply written, rigorously researched biography that charts More’s “extraordinary life” through the events, works, and relationships by which her legacy was made.
From her youth to her elderly years, More devoted her gifts and talents to serving others. In tracing the various chapters of More’s life, Prior consistently highlights More’s admirable traits—her intelligence, wit, eloquence, and compassion. This is a woman who counted literary giants and historical icons such as Samuel Johnson and William Wilberforce among her closest friends and whose poetry, novels, and plays were praised for capturing “the vitality of the moral imagination.”
But Fierce Convictions is no glossy, idealized portrait of a historical figure. Prior embraces the complexities of More’s personality, including her vices and biases, and the rejections and hardships she suffered alongside her victories. By doing so, she allows More’s biography to serve as a beautiful testament to what God can accomplish through us—imperfect as we are—when we entrust our unique giftedness to the work of advancing justice and mercy.
Perhaps some readers will finish Fierce Convictions eager to read Hannah More’s literary works and find out more about her historical context. More importantly, however, this book will likely reinvigorate readers in their own faith-led journeys by showing that our “facts and our wishes can produce great stories when serving things much grander than ourselves. And that the stories we tell ourselves and others matter.”