Yesterday was the anniversary of Napoleon leaving Egypt. In addition to his military army, Napoleon had taken a second army of scientists, scholars, technicians, artist and, engravers. His expedition included the discovery of the famous Rosetta Stone, which became the key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphics. The stele ended up in the British Library where Frances Rolleston and her friends pondered it and she first saw the link between the Sphinx and Virgo.
About that time, Frances was staying next door to Dean Vincent, headmaster of the Westminster School. Ancient geography was his chief area of study, and he sometimes had Frances translate old Italian for him. His great work, The Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean, was admired by Napoleon, who had it translated into French. Napoleon, perhaps in appreciation, sent Description de L'Egypt to the Dean.
This gorgeous book was produced by Napoleon's second army—those scholars and artists. The old Dean invited his young friend, Frances, to view and puzzle over it with him, and she had the feeling that some day those magnificent must be explained.
On this day in 1809, according to Frewin's Book of Days, Alfred, Lord Tennyson was born. However, other sources disagree and say it happened on August 6. In spite of that, I will continue with this blog.
Tennyson was made Poet Laureate in 1850. He was popular with the general public, and Frances Rolleston in particular, who stated in 1851 that he would certainly found a school of poetry. She called herself an Anglo-Saxon enthusiast and loved ballads and epic poetry based on legends of ancient heroes. As to that, Tennyson's Idylls of the King, a series of twelve poems telling the story of King Arthur certainly gave her joy. He published the first four in 1859 (the remaining ones not until after Frances had passed away.)
While reading Tennyson's Idylls in late December 1859, Frances was suddenly struck by the idea that "Canticles" (The "Song of Solomon" in the Bible) was the true idyll of the true king. She had recently been engaged in putting poetic parts of the Bible into metrical form and now felt she must do so with "Canticles." The idea was so strong that she immediately began working, continuing even on a Sunday. She normally would not have broken the Sabbath with such work, but "quieted my conscience with the idea that was God's word that had got hold of me."
Although the English Bible read poetically, Frances decided that the poetry in it could only be truly represented in poetry. She spent many happy hours rendering the Psalms, Canticles and other parts of the Hebrew Bible into metrical poetry. Metrical Versions of Early Hebrew Poetry was published before 1867.
This is the day, in 1847, that J. R. Hind discovered the seventh asteroid.
Bode's mathematical expression indicated that a planet should exist between Mars and Jupiter, and so around the turn of the century astronomers were racing to find it. They found tiny bits of rock instead. The first asteroid was discovered in January 1801, four total by 1808. The fifth, however, wasn't found until 1845. After Hind's first find in 1847, he went on to discover nine more.
Frances Rolleston kept up with astronomical discoveries—like "aerolites" as asteroids were called. She also noted astronomical disappearances. In 1862 she mentioned in a letter that J. R. Hind had announced that a nebula that he discovered in the constellation Taurus in 1852 was no longer there, and he asked that people with telescopes keep an eye on that part of the sky. It turned out that Hind had found a variable nebula, one that becomes brighter or dimmer depending on changes in its nearby star.
Exciting days of discovery!
On this day in 1798, five years after Great Britain had entered the wars of the French Revolution, Horatio Nelson led the attack that destroyed the French fleet. Frances Rolleston was 17 years old, and although this event is not mentioned in her letters, she was certainly learned about it. The French Revolution terrified the English upper classes who feared revolution would spread to England. French aristocrats who escaped the guillotine fled to England. Frances' father welcomed them to his table.
Horation Nelson was a most interesting character with a brilliant military career. Here is an overview of his life.