Wehaven't long until autumn turns to winter, so I thought I'd share a few lines of poetry by Frances Rolleston to celebrate autumn. These lines are taken from a poem she wrote to honor James Montgomery, well-known hymn writer of her time.
A few more days, these voices shall be mute,
Now singing in the branches, eve and morn,
And in the azure noon, the song of hope;
For now the sun descends, the year declines,
. . .
Sweet birds, I prize each failing note the more,
For coming silence; mute the many then,
And I shall listen for the wind above,
Among the murmuring boughs, or the faint tone
Of rippling streams among the broken stones,
Smoothed by the gliding waters, or at eve
To one lone songster from the distant hill,
More valued for its soleness;
. . .
That autumn songster has beheld the fall
Of his sweet summer bower, his hopes of spring,
And sadness mingles with his notes of joy.
1834 (while working with her infant schools) "Health . . . which I am the more thankful for as every hour of my strength and spirits is called for in active exertion."
1837 (after a move) "Thankful that the Lord has brought me in health, peace, and safety to this place."
1847 (out sightseeing on a mountain) "I was daringly climbing it alone when a most gentlemanly young tourist took me in tow, up and safe down again, for which I was most thankful."
1854 (on the happy resolution of a financial difficulty) "I desire to be thankful, how thankful no one can know who does not know that suspense has always been the evil that all my life I have found worst to bear."
1861 "Suffering from excited nerves, which I am thankful to tell you is now gone."
1863 (after a bad storm) "Thankful . . . not a tile or anything shaken in this house, and the warm and sheltered spot where I seem at anchor."
1863 "The hankering after slavery, that I attacked in 1824, I am thankful to know exists no longer in England."
November 15, 1738 William Herschel was born. Although his accomplishments in astronomy range beyond this, he is most remembered as the discoverer of the planet Uranus.
Frances Rolleston liked to point out, however, that the true discoverer was not William but his sister Caroline. As an artist and writer, Frances was sensitive to the prejudice against women's accomplishments.
"Caroline Herschel discovered the Uranus, Mrs. Somerville has written well on science, but still a woman's name is a great detriment to any work except a novel." (1862)
"Remember Caroline Herschel's discovery of the Uranus, by mapping out the stars of Virgo, and, said her brother, 'one too many,'—she persevered, and he was convinced. Many a lively anecdote have I had of that pair, from her German friends, how she got up at 8 p.m. and made short breakfast, and after that both flanneled up for the midnight happy occupation, and went to bed at morning dawn." (1863)
Here is an article on Herschel that gives more credit to Caroline than we usually hear of.
On this day in 1859, flogging in the British army was abolished—at least by law. Frances Rolleston credited Victoria's reign with more humane laws. The "blessed ameliorations of our cruel laws, the lessening of the punishment of death, we owe greatly to having a woman there."
Frances became aware of violent methods of correction when she herself was "knocked flat on the floor for crooked stitches." Afterwards she wrote a little book on reformed education and printed 750 copies, which "did its duty" in that young ladies were no longer treated such. School boys were not so lucky.
On the first of November 1793, Lord George Gordon died in Newgate Prison, London. Frances Rolleston was twelve years old. Did she know or care? Her father probably did, and if her mother had still been living, she would have cared.
Thirteen years previous to this, Mrs. Rolleston's first child, Robert, was a babe in arms. He was very ill with "disease of the mesenteric glands." At that moment in London, Lord George Gordon was leading a large crowd to present a petition to Parliament. They wanted to repeal the Catholic Relief Act of 1778, which was an effort to relieve the longstanding repressive legislation against Catholics.
Gordon's crowd got out of hand and riots broke out. Much person property was destroyed, though no human life was lost, and Gordon was arrested. He was acquitted of responsibility for the riots and released, however, thirteen years later he died in Newgate Prison of typhoid fever where he was being held on other charges.
During the riots, many Londoners had to flee their homes, including Margaret Rolleston with baby Robert. The baby died in her arms. Then, only ten years later, Margaret herself died giving birth to her sixth child.
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