February 27, 1833
I am much amused with your humility about asking a question which no one can answer. No one knows when, or why, these signs were invented.
Frances is deep into research on the signs of the zodiac and names of the stars and constellations. As yet, she has not determined when they were invented and named. That will come later. Meanwhile, she answers her young friend's question in this way:
Sir Isaac Newton thought perhaps the ancient Chiron, if indeed he ever existed and was only a good horseman and not a fabulous monster, might invent them; but Josephus says they were on the stones of the High Priest's breastplate centuries before the Trojan War, and many learned Jewish writer have said that they were borne on the standards of the tribes of Israel.
I have now before me an ancient Rabbinical commentary on the blessing of Jacob, referring most of it to '"King Messiah;" and other Rabbins identify the Bull to Joseph, and the Lion to Judah; the Serpent or Scorpion to Dan, and a Wolf to Benjamin, rest also on ancient Hebrew authorities.
Is it only simple curiosity that spurs her on in her research? No, it is something richer. Her letter continues:
This inquiry has led me to such glorious testimonies of the faith of the ancient Jewish Church in the Divinity and Mediatorial Office of the Blessed Redeemer, that I am fully repaid for years of labour. I find that they attributed all, and even more, of the prophecies to Him, than we have ever done, and their views of "King Messiah" are magnificent.
February 20th, 1860
The excitement of the brain of which I complained seems to have yielded to the counter-excitement of the Psalms. There is a young lady here, a real Hebrew scholar, who reads them for me, and is a judge of their accuracy.
Hebrew and poetry were two of FR's passions. They came together as she spent many hours translating the poetical passages of the Bible into poetic meter. This letter was written in her 80th year, and she was finding the work on the Psalms reviving to her. Her plan was to begin with Lamech's poem in Genesis and go right through to the Gospels to include the song of Mary and the prophecy of Zacharias.
My object is to keep as close as possible to our admirable E.V., only making it verse, not prose, and generally finding an obscurity in each Psalm, that I alter. I also wish to preserve Hebraisms as often as I can . . . Mine are not paraphrases, but the very closest translation I can give.
FR admired Milton and believed that he thought and wrote Hebraically, and that the meter he used was right for her work.
I find the eleven syllabled line, so often used by Milton in "Samson," is the natural tendency of all long Hebrew lines: ten seldom will hold them, twelve should only end a verse or subject.
FR's Metrical Versions of Early Hebrew Poetry was finally published three years after her death.
February 15, 1828(?)
My dear Henry,
I am very much gratified by your taking so much interest about my present hobby.
Frances Rolleston had four close friends named Henry: Henry Thompson, Henry Smedley, Henry Townley and Henry Crowther.
The first three of these were family friends and fellow students in their teens and early twenties, Henry Smedley also tutoring her in languages.
Henry Crowther, twenty-three years younger, was FR's student in astronomy. Although he was blind, she was able to teach him by using plates and string.
In other letters FR referred to adventures and discoveries she and the Henrys had together. They shared their poetry with each other, and they shared their faith. FR called on them for help in her scholarly research.
She was not immune to their attractiveness. She praised Henry Townley as elegant in mind and amiable in temper, having the sweetest face ever seen in youth, preeminent in arts, chess and literature.
Yet, although they corresponded or otherwise stayed in contact as long as they lived, none of these friendships ever blossomed into romantic love. They seemed to simply be four Henrys among many other close friendships of FR's life.