1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/More, Henry

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MORE, HENRY (1614–1687), English philosopher of the Cambridge Platonist school, was born at Grantham in 1614. Both his father and his mother, he tells us, were "earnest followers of Calvin," but he himself "could never swallow that hard doctrine." In 1631 he was admitted at Christ's College, Cambridge, about the time Milton was leaving it. He immersed himself "over head and ears in the study of philosophy," and fell for a time into a scepticism, from which he was delivered by a study of the "Platonic writers." He was fascinated especially by Neoplatonism, and this fascination never left him. The Theologia germanica also exerted a permanent influence over him. He took his bachelor's degree in 1635, his master's degree in 1639, and immediately afterwards was chosen fellow of his college. All other preferment he refused, with one exception. Fifteen years after the Restoration he accepted a prebend in Gloucester Cathedral, but only to resign it in favour of his friend Dr Edward Fowler, afterwards bishop of Gloucester. He would not accept the mastership of his college, to which, it is understood, he would have been preferred in 1654, when Cudworth was appointed. He drew around him many young men of a refined and thoughtful turn of mind, but among all his pupils the most interesting was a young lady of noble family. This lady, probably a sister of Lord Finch, subsequently earl of Nottingham, a well-known statesman of the Restoration, afterwards became Lady Conway, and at her country seat at Ragley in Warwickshire More continued at intervals to spend "a considerable part of his time." She and her husband both appreciated him, and amidst the woods of this retreat he composed several of his books. The spiritual enthusiasm of Lady Conway was a considerable factor in some of More's speculations, none the less that she at length joined the Quakers. She became the friend not only of More and Penn, but of Baron van Helmont and Valentine Greatrakes, mystical thaumaturgists of the 17th century. Ragley became a centre not only of devotion but of wonder working spiritualism.[1] From this, his genius suffered, and the rationality which distinguishes his earlier is much less conspicuous in his later works. He was a voluminous writer both in verse and in prose, but his works, except the Divine Dialogues (1688), are now of little interest. This treatise, animated and sometimes brilliant, is valuable for modern readers in that it condenses his general view of philosophy and religion.

Henry More represents the mystical and theosophic side of the Cambridge movement. The Neoplatonic extravagances which lay hidden in the school from the first came in his writings to a head, and merged in pure phantasy. He can never be spoken of, however, save as a spiritual genius and a significant figure in British philosophy, less robust and in some respects less learned than Cudworth, but more interesting and fertile in thought, and more genial in character. From youth to age he describes himself as gifted with a buoyant temper. His own thoughts were to him a never-ending source of pleasurable excitement. This mystical elevation was the chief feature of his character, a certain radiancy of thought which carried him beyond the common life without raising him to any artificial height, for his humility and charity were not less conspicuous than his piety. The last ten years of -his life were uneventful. He died on the 1st of September 1687, and was buried in the chapel of the college he loved.

Before his death More issued complete editions of his works, his Opera theologica in 1675, and his Opera philosophica in 1678. The chief authorities for his life are Ward's Life (1710); the prefatio generalissima prefixed to his Opera omnia (1679); and also a general account of the manner and scope of his writings in an Apology published in 1664. The collection of his Philosophical Poems (1647), in which he has "compared his chief speculations and experiences," should also be consulted. An elaborate analysis of his life and works is given in Tulloch's Rational Theology, vol. ii. (1874); see also R. Zimmermann, Henry More und die vierte Dimension des Raums (Vienna, 1881). (For his ethical theory, as contained in the Enchiridion Ethicum, see Ethics.)

  1. The place and its religious marvels are glanced at in the romance of John Inglesant (ch. xv.).