From a letter she wrote February 2, 1863 we learn that Frances was donating copies of her book Canticles to help with the cotton famine.
The book was her translation of and commentary on The Song of Solomon in the Bible, and it departed some from the Authorized Version. She wanted to be sure that William Caddell, to whom she was sending the copies and who would be selling them, was free from any doubt of the correctness of the translation.
He had asked her how she explained the phrase, "His lips are like lilies," which she answered in this letter. Her answer was, "not in colour but in form, as we talk of the lip of a vase or anything that laps over. We talk of the lip of a cup or other vessel, referring to the form in pottery, gold or silver cups; if you look in the concordance you will find it so."
What delights me in Frances' work is her devotion to detail. She believed the Bible to be totally inspired by God, and thus every word important. And I love how her art and poetry contributed to and derived from her love of the Bible.
I've heard people claim that the Bible is full of contradictions. If those people examined it carefully, they would find that this assumption is untrue. The more minutely one studies it, the more beautifully it all fits together.
In a letter dated September 8, 1859, we learn that Frances Rolleston made the decision that many modern writers make:
After long delays in the attempt to find a publisher who would help with expenses, I have resolved, at a considerable pecuniary sacrifice, to print for myself.
The book in question is The Book of Canticles, or, Song of Solomon, according to the English Version, Revised and Explained from the Original Hebrew. It is only 20 pages long with an additional 12 pages for the "Metrical Version of the Canticles to which is added, Psalm XLV."
One might wonder why Frances should make a financial sacrifice for such a small book. She explains in the September 8 letter:
I believe it to be a Missionary service. I have long been made to feel that the translations of the Canticles gave a handle to infidels, and pain to lovers of the Bible. I knew the original was open to no such objections, and though some spiritually minded Christians have found edification in this book, the majority of Christians have passed it over in 'reverential forbearance.' One minister said to another in my hearing, "She has made it what can be read aloud." Only one verse of my translation meets with hesitation from the great Hebraists to whom I have submitted the work, the eighth verse of the sixth chapter; I enclose you a paper concerning it, and would be very glad for your opinion. I have no "authority" for my translation except the Hebrew text lying before me, with the change of one point, an easy corruption.
In a later letter Frances speaks of her hope that this translation of the Canticles will be an evidence of her expertise with Hebrew, thus adding credence to her great work, Mazzaroth: The Constellations.
155 Years ago this month, Frances Rolleston said, "My object now is to make my book known." That book, Mazzaroth, took 50 years to finish. Now Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth is finally finished and on sale, and now it is up to me to make my book known! This is the happiest announcement I have made in a long time! Please read more about the book here.
I'm interrupting TODAY BACK THEN to say something current. March 30 is the expected date Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth will be available. I am happy about that but also a bit sad.
The book as I imagined it is not the book that is. Speaking of format and design. I envisioned a hard cover, cream paper, sepia headers and footers, and photos of sepia and muted colors. A book that would be a joy to hold.
Instead, it is paperback, black and white.
To get what I wanted would have made the price over $30. I know that is not uncommon these days. However, prices and people's pocketbooks don't much agree, and it is more important to me that people read this book than that they admire its design. (The cost will be about $13, if you're wondering.)
Keep you eyes open for the announcement!
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.
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.
July 24, 1849
Frances Rolleston had been living in Keswick of the Lakes District for a year. Already she knew the names of all the mountains. Even some long time residents asked her for information. She wrote in this letter that she amused herself by talking to tourists, telling them not only the names of the mountains, but the stories associated with them as well.
One such story was that of the mountaineer Mary Green. Mary at age seventy-seven had never been in a church nor heard the name of Christ except as a curse. But at this advanced age she began to think that she had heard of having a soul. The missionary from Keswick was able to lead her to faith in Christ, and she died soon after, happy.
IN 1859 Frances published a book called Lights and Shadows on the Sunny Side of Skiddaw. It is a guide to the Lakes District, written in verse—one I would like to have. A copy is in the British Library, but want to find one I can buy. I saw one when I was in England in 2002(?), and if I had known how hard it was to find one later, I would have bought it then.