SYDNEY SMITH ON HANNAH MOORE
[From The Edinburgh Review, April, 1809]
Caelebs in Search of a Wife; comprehending Observations on Domestic Habits and Manners, Religion and Morals. 2 vols. London, 1809.
This book is written, or supposed to be written (for we would speak timidly of the mysteries of superior beings), by the celebrated Mrs. Hannah Moore! We shall probably give great offence by such indiscretion; but still we must be excused for treating it as a book merely human,—an uninspired production,—the result of mortality left to itself, and depending on its own limited resources. In taking up the subject in this point of view, we solemnly disclaim the slightest intention of indulging in any indecorous levity, or of wounding the religious feelings of a large class of very respectable persons. It is the only method in which we can possibly make this work a proper object of criticism. We have the strongest possible doubts of the attributes usually ascribed to this authoress; and we think it more simple and manly to say so at once, than to admit nominally superlunary claims, which, in the progress of our remarks, we should virtually deny.
Caelebs wants a wife; and, after the death of his father, quits his estate in Northumberland to see the world, and to seek for one of its best productions, a woman, who may add materially to the happiness of his future life. His first journey is to London, where, in the midst of the gay society of the metropolis, of course, he does not find a wife; and his next journey is to the family of Mr. Stanley, the head of the Methodists, a serious people, where, of course, he does find a wife. The exaltation, therefore, of what the authoress deems to be the religious, and the depretiation of what she considers to be the worldly character, and the influence of both upon matrimonial happiness, form the subject of this novel—rather of this dramatic sermon.