During her lifetime, More was an assiduous collector of her own and her friends’ papers, although not a particularly methodical one in her later years: Mary E. Roberts, writing to Lady Olivia Sparrow, observed that
our dear Friend Mrs Hanh More has a considerable number of your letters to her, in her possession; these letters, as well as those of many other of her valued correspondents, she has been fond of looking over, but being no longer capable of exercising the same care & caution as formerly, she suffers them to lie scattered on her Table, liable to the inspection of any person who may have more curiosity than honour. 1The earliest surviving reference to More’s literary acquisitiveness is dated 1776: she wrote to David Garrick, who was then poised to retire from the stage, asking him for the ‘least scrap, printed or manuscript, paragraph or advertisement, merry or serious, verse or prose’ which ‘will be thankfully received and hung up in the temple of reliques’. 2 Later, when visiting Eva Maria Garrick at Hampton in 1781, and finding her own letters among Garrick’s literary remains, More had an instinctive desire to reclaim them but considered it ‘a breach of trust to take them till they are all finally disposed of’. 3 Another of More’s correspondents, Horace Walpole, referred light-heartedly to ‘the archives of Cowslip Green’, and More’s own letters to him, which his executors found ‘carefully preserved’, were returned to her in 1797 in accordance with the terms of his will:
I so request that all such Manuscript Letters which shall be in my possession at my death that shall not contain or relate to my Estate or Effects and shall be written by any person who shall be living at that time may be returned to the person or persons by whom the same were written. 4Of More’s letters to Walpole, however, Charles H. Bennett observes that ‘None of the manuscripts of the letters … printed by Roberts have yet come to light or 2been found in sale catalogues, but one original and copies of three others which he omitted have been recovered’. 5 The original letter (More to Walpole, 20 July 1788) remained untraced until it was auctioned at Sotheby’s, 13 February 1928, lot 119. It was purchased by Maggs for William Zimmerman, Jr., and was acquired subsequently by W.S. Lewis in June 1952. 6 More was clearly anxious to recover her letters to Walpole. On 6 September 1797, she expressed her impatience to Mrs Bouverie that ‘Lord Frederick Campbell and Mrs Damer have not yet returned me my own letters’ and confessed that ‘I shan’t feel quite easy till they are in my possession, nor will all the civil things they say content me till I have the letters to put into the fire’. 7 Whether or not More carried out her threat of burning her letters, the fact remains that the majority of her letters to Walpole are missing.