On this day 1794, William Whewell, was born. He was to become a philosopher, science historian, writer, poet, and Anglican priest.
In September 1854 an acquaintance brought Frances Rolleston a new book by Whewell, The Plurality of Worlds, an Essay. After reading it, she responded thus:
"The most horrid and detestable book I have seen for many years—it almost made me ill."
And what was so horrid about Whewell's essay? Why, he believed that the solar system consisted entirely of matter—Jupiter water, Saturn cork, Venus bronze, and Mercury silver! And Frances, along with many of her day, believed that these worlds were filled with living beings.
It's hard for us to imagine that only 150 years ago intelligent, educated people believed that life existed on the planets of our solar system. Even the sun was thought to be inhabited. Solar spots were universally admitted to be openings in the luminous stratum, not opaque scoriae floating on its surface. Even Sir William Herschel, who we consider a big name in astronomy, suggested that the light of the sun issues from an outer stratum of self-luminous material, beneath which is a second stratum of clouds designed to protect the solid body of the sun, and its inhabitants, from the intense heat and brilliancy surrounding them.
So Frances is not to be considered ignorant in her horror at Whewell's proposal.
In May 1855 Frances received some writings by or about Emmanuel Swedenborg at the time she was entertaining a guest who followed Swedenborg's teachings. Frances' comments to the person who sent them were a lovely example of a Christian spirit.
Swedenborg was a scientist and philosopher whose teachings on the Scriptures attracted a following and eventually led to the establishment of several denominations.
The extracts Frances received, though not uncomplimentary to the man (the Swedenborgian visitor read them with pleasure) were accompanied by a comment that must have seemed so. Frances replied, "You were quite right about his not being sane, but he had a fine feeling and a Christian heart."
Frances had a loving way about her by which she pointed out error, or what she considered error, without putting down the person—a trait we would all do well to emulate.
May 6th, 1862 Frances wrote to her friend Miss Rigby, who had helped Frances think through some points in her writing. Miss Rigby was perhaps planning to have some printing done since Frances closed the letter with this: "I will enclose specimens of the women printers, they execute beautifully—Miss E. Faithfull and her female 'staff'—pray show them."
Emily Faithfull (1835-1895) worked for women's interests toward their improved status, employment and education. Most interested in the employment aspect, she was a member of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women.
One occupation she felt was suitable for women was that of compositor (typesetter). This idea upset the London Printers Union which held that women did not have the intelligence or physical skill for that work.
Emily, nevertheless, set up the Victoria Press in London which soon gained a reputation for excellent work, so much so that Emily was appointed printer and publisher in ordinary to Queen Victoria.
Even Frances far north in Keswick was aware of that reputation.