The image of the silent ruins of the church at Newstead Abbey brings to mind how short life is. I think of George Gordon Lord Byron, his life lived vigorously, yet soon gone. His body lies in a small grave at Hucknall Church which stands on ground once owned partly by the Byron and partly by the Rolleston families.
One day Frances Rolleston visited Hucknall Church and had this to say afterwards:
"No one can venerate Sunday schools more than I do, but what I know of the tears and blows that now corrupt the institution, made me shrink from the hubbub that weekly invades Byron's sepulchre." She thought "hubbub" inappropriate for a gravesite.
Frances had already urged Colonel Wildman (owner of Newstead Abbey at that time) to bring Byron's coffin to the Mausoleum at Newstead, and after this visit to Hucknall Church, she was ready to urge him again.
Silence was a way of respecting the dead. Even knowing the soul was no longer present, this respect for the bodily remains continued. Much later in her life when a child she had a special relationship with died, Frances reported that she hardly ever passed his grave because "I have had an awfully materialistic feeling from the first, that my step would disturb him."
Frances Rolleston's own grave is very near little Lewie's. One hundred fifty-two years have passed since she was buried. She finished this life with complete faith that she would continue forever in the Lord's presence.
On this day in 1832, Sir Walter Scott, poet and novelist, passed from this life. Scott was famous for his poetry before trying his hand at novel writing. Since poetry was held in high regard, and novels considered to be of less importance, he endeavored (unsuccessfully) to keep his novels anonymous.
Scott wrote about historical traditions of the kind that appealed to Frances Rolleston. She considered herself an "Anglo-Saxon enthusiast." Ivanhoe, which portrayed the cruel Normans lording it over the Saxons, would certainly have pleased her. She recommended Scott's works as good reading for children.
So, although Frances feared, while still young, an old age of novel reading, she did later see value in novels.
On this day in 1851, James Fenimore Cooper, prolific American writer, died. He was more popular in England than in the United States. Frances Rolleston was certainly familiar with his work. In 1847 she was looking for the woman who had borrowed Prairie and Water Witch to return them to her.
Cooper had joined the merchant marine at age 17, and soon after became a sailor with the United States Navy. He wrote a history of the Navy and other nonfiction books on that subject, as well as some novels about sea life.
Frances recommended Jack Tier—"Captain Spike" she called it—to a friend for her son, John. It "would give him an idea of the sufferings of a sea life," she said. Perhaps the child's mother was concerned because John had already voiced a desire to make his living by going to sea.
Frances further recommended any and all of Cooper's books as "safe." By "safe" I suppose she meant that they were suitable for a young boy being reared as a Christian, so that his mind would remain pure, for Frances goes on to give suggestions to the mother for training her boy to keep the Sabbath.
7 September 1833, Hanna More, writer and social reformer, died. She was a woman who had two careers. Frances Rolleston was one of her many admirers.
Hannah's first career was as a writer, poet and playwright. Her play, Percy, was staged successfully by David Garrick. She was one of the Bluestockings, a group of literary intellectual women.
In her forties, Hannah became more serious in her outlook, and her writing reflected it. In association with William Wilberforce and Zachary Maccaulay, she became a strong opponent of the slave trade.
Through Wilberforce, Hannah was made aware of the desperate needs of the poor in the Mendip area, and by 1800 she had opened twelve schools there. This was her second career, and it was through this connection with the Clapham Sect that Frances Rolleston would have become acquainted with Hannah. Twenty-four years later Frances started her own first school.
In 1834, two years after Hannah's passing, William Roberts published the first two volumes of the four-volume Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Mrs. Hannah More. This was followed by a one-volume Life by Henry Thompson, a good friend of Frances, and she wrote to him to say, "Every body will read your neat, polished, and condensed one volume, instead of the four,—valuable but unreadable memoirs." To her friend Irons she wrote, "Have you seen Henry Thompson's "Life of Hannah More?"—a capital hit, and raising her far above the impression left by the lengthy affair of Roberts."
Many years later, Frances told Henry Thompson that his Life of Hannah More should be reprinted. Such was the impression that Hannah More left on those who knew her.