Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview

§23 Sarah Ewing Hall
(1761–1830)

Sarah Ewing Hall, born and raised in Philadelphia, had little formal education, but her father, the Reverend John Ewing, was a scholar. He was Provost of the University of Pennsylvania and pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Sarah Hall thus had access to the academic world through her father and the guests who frequented the Ewing home. Hall read broadly and developed a taste for literature and history as well as astronomy. By listening to her brothers' Greek and Latin lessons, as well, she became familiar with the subject matter of classical works and frequently stayed up late at night to read and study.

After her marriage to John Hall, the son of a Maryland planter, Sarah Hall moved to Maryland. Later she returned to Philadelphia where she became acquainted with the city's literary figures. Hall contributed letters to the editor and poetry to Port Folio, a literary journal founded in 1800. Conversations on the Bible was her only major work. It paraphrases and comments on the Old Testament using the form of a conversation between a mother and her three children (Catherine, Fanny, and Charles). Hall's book went through three American and one British edition.16

The following excerpt from Hall's Conversations examines the second wife-sister story in Genesis 20. Unlike Trimmer, who did not recommend meditation on this passage, Hall gave the details without justifying Abraham's behaviour. Hall's "Mother" astutely said: "It is not for me to soften or disguise the characters I present to you. The scriptures have not done it." Like King,

16 The first edition was published in 1818, and a second enlarged edition in 1821. The
third edition was published in England without Hall's knowledge. The fourth edition was
updated in style and content.

-119-

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