Tomorrow is the anniversary of the passing of James Montgomery, poet and writer of hymns. Frances Rolleston admired him, as did many others, especially those in Sheffield, England where he lived. A number of streets and public buildings are named for him.
Twice Montgomery was imprisoned for "sedition," the first time in 1795 for writing a poem celebrating the fall of the Bastille. The authorities' fear, of course, was that revolution would spread from France to England. Montgomery was imprisoned the next year for criticizing a magistrate for using force to break up a protest. Montgomery managed to profit from this experience by publishing a collection of poems written during the imprisonment.
Montgomery's activities in social issues extended to the anti-slavery movement, and this is how Frances Rolleston connected with him. They were both asked, along with others, to write hymns for an anti-slavery gathering in Sheffield. Montgomery admired Frances' hymn as the jewel of the collection—his own excepted. In appreciation, she wrote a poem addressed to him.* Montgomery wrote 400 hymns, many still in use today. More about Montgomery's hymns.
*This poem is in Appendix C of Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth.
As a child, I thought slavery was ended with the American Civil War. As a teenager I read in The Revelation (or, Apocalypse, in the Bible) about the day when merchants would weep and mourn since no one bought their goods anymore. The list of goods, ends with "and slaves, that is, human souls." So I figured that some day slavery would come back.
Little did I know that it never ended. It is a world-wide business, and today human traffickers' profit $150,000,000,000 every year. It is the second fastest growing "business" after illegal drugs.
Frances Rolleston fought slavery in Great Britain and saw it outlawed. But she soon discovered another kind of slavery—that of greedy factory owners who enslaved entire families, including children. She wrote, "The abolition of African slavery which we have lived to see, and in which many of us joyfully labored heart and hand, encourages us to hope that the scarcely less iniquitous factory slave-trade will yield in time to public reprobation."
One source of information about slavery today is the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Read about it here.
155 Years ago this month, Frances Rolleston said, "My object now is to make my book known." That book, Mazzaroth, took 50 years to finish. Now Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth is finally finished and on sale, and now it is up to me to make my book known! This is the happiest announcement I have made in a long time! Please read more about the book here.
April 7th, 1840, Frances writes to friends upon learning that they are expecting a child, "in the prospect of which I cordially rejoice, and that even on selfish grounds,—so few of my very dearest friends have little ones for me to love."
She wrote further, "I often regret that all my love of children is obliged to expend itself on the children of strangers." She is referring to the children in the infant schools she has started in various parts of England.
At the time of writing she is enjoying a new school in Kirk Ella while staying with the relatives who took her in as a child when her mother died. They have "built, endowed and entailed" the school for her, she says, and "therefore she is as happy as life in this world of sickness and of death permits."
Frances often mentioned her love of little ones. She suffered terribly when one of them died—and death to babies was frequent in those days. There is a chapter in Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth titled "Loving and Losing Infants."