Henry More



Conway Letters: The Correspondence of Anne, Viscountess Conway, Henry More, and their Friends, 1642-1684, ed. Marjorie Hope Nicolson (New Haven, 1930).


The Cambridge Neo-Platonist philosopher Henry More appears to have left no autograph manuscripts of any of his formal writings. Neither can any other notable manuscripts of any works by him be recorded except possibly for an unfinished and unpublished treatise called The Sure Guide ascribed to him in a verse miscellany (MoH 3). In his will (*MoH 26, More bequeathed, inter alia, to his nephew, Christopher Coleby, Dean of Middleham, Yorkshire, ‘my whole study of Books whether printed or Paper-Books, except Dr [Samuel] Collins works Dr of Physick in two volumes wch I bequeath to Dr Clark of Grantham once my pupil’, as well as ‘my Picture draw[n] in black lead by mr Loggens’. It is not known, however, what became of this legacy.


Instead, a considerable number of original letters by More — usually discussing religious and philosophical matters — are known to survive, as well as letters addressed to him by members of his influential circle. By far the greatest collection is that among the Conway Papers in the British Library, Add. MS 23216. This includes some 157 letters by More, the great majority to Anne (née Finch), Lady Conway, written between 1650 and 1679 (*MoH 4). A number of other known letters by More to other correspondents — the majority the autograph originals — are also given entries below (*MoH 5-23).

It is also recorded, in R.W.B. Crocker's An Intellectual Biography of Henry More (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Oxford, 1986), that a collection of letters and papers exchanged between More and various correspondents, including F.M. Van Helmont and C. Knorr von Rosenroth, relating to More's contribution to Kabbala Denudata (Frankfurt, 1684), including his autograph manuscript of his article before it was translated into Latin for the publication. This collection is reported as being in the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, Germany (Cod. Guelph 30.4). [For this information I am indebted to Ron Heisler].

More's old college of Christ's, Cambridge, possesses (MS 21) thirty-seven original letters addressed to More between 1651 and 1686 by, variously, Anne, Lady Conway (9), Edmund Elys (14, plus one to Dr Davies), Henry Hyrne (2), Henry Hallywell (6), Ann Mallett, Giles Aleyn, Dr John Covel, Edward Fowler, Walter Garrett and William Stone. This collection was originally sold by Sotheby's, 21 July 1831 (William Hamper sale), lot 492, to Thorpe.

In addition, copies of some of More's correspondence with Henry Hyrne, between August 1671 and 11 March 1671/2, are found in a contemporary quarto notebook in Cambridge University Library (MS Gg. 6. 11, ff. 1r-32r). Modern transcripts of much of More's correspondence, as well as other research materials relating to him, are also among Dr F.S. Darrow's Collection of Helmontiana — relating to the Belgian mystic and physician François Mercure Van Helmont (1614?-99), who attended Lady Conway in the 1670s — which was acquired in 1930 by Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio.

An autograph letter to More by Joseph Glanvill, from Bath, 13 March [1666/7], is at Harvard (fMS Eng 855). An exemplum of Glanvill's Choice and Useful Treatises (1682) allegedly bearing More's ‘copious Annotations’ was offered in the sale catalogue of Willis and Sotheran (1862), p. 223.


A printed exemplum of More's Philosophical Poems (Cambridge, 1647) bearing on the flyleaf a four-line verse inscription on ‘Harry More’ beginning ‘Thro sundry ages that afore did pass’, was offered in Maggs's sale catalogue No. 550 (1931), item 1097.

More's old college, Christ's, Cambridge, possesses (MS 20) the original manuscript, on 146 folio pages, of Some Account of Dr. More's Works, the unpublished second part of a Life of More by his friend Richard Ward, the first part of which was published in 1710.

An anonymous manuscript life of More, written on fourteen octavo pages as a letter to Sir Robert Southwell, from Farley Castle, 14 January 1687/8, was offered in Quaritch's sale catalogue ‘English Books before 1701’ (October 1983), item 33a. The concluding five lines of verse on the transmigration of souls (beginning ‘In hidden ages wch long since did pass’) also occur in a version beginning ‘Through vnknown ages yt of old did pass’ on a slip of paper at the University of Nottingham (Portland MS Pw V 316).

Some notes on Henry More by the Rev. Joseph Hunter (1783-1861) in his Chorus Vatum Anglicanorum (Volume IV) are in the British Library (Add. MS 24490, ff. 235r-6r).

Peter Beal