Today in 1833 William Wilberforce died. He worked many years to have the British slave trade outlawed, finally seeing success in 1807, and then more years to end slavery itself. He died days after learning that that piece of legislation was sure to succeed.
Of course, Wilberforce did not do this singlehandedly. Frances Rolleston was one of those recruited into the cause in 1826 by "a deputation of influential Quakeresses" because, they told her, the gentlemen would not stir. The anti-slavery people were told that they could do nothing, that Parliament disregarded petitions. But the overwhelming number collected could not be disregarded.
Remember, they did not have the Internet or even the telephone. Every petition signer had to be contacted by letter or in person. In Sheffield alone, Frances reported, the ladies collected 17,000 men's signatures and 24,000 women's.
Each petition held 150 to 200 signatures. Frances was present when all the petitions were combined into one. The movie Amazing Grace (Bristol Bay Productions 2006 and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment 2007) has a climactic scene showing Wilberforce unrolling the combined petitions before Parliament. PG, worth watching.
On this day in 1643, Cromwell won the battle of Gainsborough. The English Civil War had begun the year before. Charles I had fled London with his family to Hull in Yorkshire, but being ejected from there, had set up in Nottinghamshire. The Rollestons of Nottinghamshire, who had in earlier times held royal office, now as simple squires raised a regiment in support of the king. This Frances Rolleston remembered as part of her family history.
Not all gentry supported the king, and not all commoners supported the war against the king. The situation was far too complicated for that. It included matters of religious freedom (especially concerning the Scottish Presbyterians and Charles I's efforts to formalize the Anglican liturgy) and political freedom (Scotland, Ireland and England were all involved) and the organization of the English government (changes to limit the king's power).
Two hundred years after the English Civil War had passed into history, Frances found it interesting enough to read about—for fun. This from a letter of 1856:
"For relaxation I am deeply engrossed, in my usual fashion, with two books at once, Carlyle's and Merls D'Aubigné's 'Cromwell,' one mad first-rate, the other pious, calm, second-ratism."
Here's a link to the Wikipedia article on the English Civil War.
On this day in 1834, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge died. Frances Rolleston mentioned Coleridge several times in her letters. We learn that when Frances bought that first volume of William Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads, Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner was included. She read the Rime constantly "with ever increasing delight," and thought it eclipsed all the ballads as poetry. This is significant, since it was Wordsworth who was ever her favorite poet.
In a later letter, Frances recommends Coleridge's "exquisite poem," Lesson to Fathers," to a young mother. This was in response to her young son's remark, "If he was not to have gunpowder, why did they give him a cannon?" Frances complimented the boy as "a great philosopher" and suggested the poem because it agreed with the old proverb, "never say A, if you don't mean to say B."
Here is a link to the Wikipedia article on Coleridge.