On November 8, 1674 John Milton died—one hundred seven years before Frances Rolleston was born. Today we might consider a writer of one hundred years ago to be hopelessly old-fashioned, but not so in Frances' day. Life was still as slow as it had been for a hundred years (although she saw the beginning of the industrial revolution), and people still read and wrote poetry.
Frances held Milton in high regard, but that was not always so. She read Paradise Lost when she was ten years old, and thought it was a "wild story." But then it became dull to her. She thought she ought to like it, would not admit to herself that she did not, but kept reading it from time to time. Finally, as a young lady, she realized that to appreciate Milton one must have much more general knowledge than she did as a child. She wrote in her day book: "Every book I read, every day I live, gives me more insight into, and greater admiration of Milton."
She believed anyone who read at all could enjoy Shakespeare because everyone has feelings and Shakespeare speaks to the heart. But few, she felt, have imagination and intellect to the level required to appreciate Milton.
As Frances advanced in her Hebrew studies, her teacher loaned her a famous old book titled Martini Pugio Fidei which held extracts from the old "Rabbins." Apparently, they were Milton's source of the conversations in heaven.
In later life when Frances was working on her Metrical Psalms (putting the Psalms of the Bible into verse form), she said, "I wish to preserve Hebraisms as often as I can. Milton is my only justification; he thinks and writes Hebraically, and his is the only meter justifying mine, especially his Samson Agonistes. . . . I find the eleven syllabled line, so often used by Milton in Samson, is the natural tendency of all long Hebrew lines."
So, those of us who don't read Milton, may find here a reason or an excuse!