On this day in 1842 William Hone passed away. His passing was sad news for Frances Rolleston because they had been friends and correspondents.
Who was William Hone? I suppose everyone who read newspapers in 1817 knew his name, for although his printing, book selling and publishing businesses were small, his writing loomed large. His weekly newspaper, The Reformist’s Register, was only one avenue for his biting satire against excessive taxation, corruption in government, and neglect of the poor. He and the caricaturist George Cruikshank together took on no less an adversary than the Prince Regent. When Hone utilized the conceit of religious parodies for some anti-government pamphlets, the Crown had its excuse to arrest him. He was accused of “printing and publishing an impious and profane libel, upon The Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer, and The Ten Commandments, and thereby bringing into contempt the Christian Religion.”
Hone’s obvious intent was political, not religious, which I’m sure the Prince Regent understood. Nevertheless, Hone was jailed. Over three long days he defended himself in court by presenting examples of religious parodies from antiquarian books and pamphlets. His case was wildly popular and the courtroom was crowded with onlookers and supporters. His acquittal did much for securing freedom of the press in England. He continued to write on political matters, influencing other changes in England’s policies, policies such as execution for forgery.
Between 1830 and 1835 Frances Rolleston lived in her own house at Champion Grove where her garden adjoined that of William Hone. Frances did not know who he was, her servant having reported the name as Stone, but she was impressed with his kindliness, his concern with eternal truth, and his care of his large family. Longer and longer conversations through the garden lattice ensued, but Frances still did not know his identity until one day a lady came to visit her with the following question:
“Do you know who is your next door neighbour?”
“A Mr. Stone,” replied Frances.
“Hone,” said she, as if she had said Guy Fawkes or Napoleon Buonaparte.
“I believe it may be Hone.”
“The Hone,” persisted the visitor.
“Who is ‘the Hone’?”
“The author of the House that Jack built.”
Rather than being shocked by this revelation, Frances replied, “I am thankful to hear it. He is then a brand plucked from the burning, for he is a true Christian.”
Five years after Hone's passing, Frances published a short biography of Hone. He had suggested beforehand that she do so. While researching Frances' relationship with Hone, I came across strong criticism of her and that biography. It stirred me to her defense, and that defense is a large part of my chapter on William Hone in Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth.
June 22, 1835 Frances mentioned to her friend William Irons that she had picked up a pebble on "Diadem Hill" at Annesley in memory of "my friend in early life, Byron's Mary." Both Byron and Mary were deceased by this time.
"Byron" was George Gordon Lord Byron, heir of Newstead Abbey and the celebrated poet. "Mary" was Mary Ann Chaworth, heiress of Annesley, the estate adjacent to Byron's. Mary was older than Byron, but he fell in love with her when as a child he first saw her. He visited Annesley frequently. However, Mary was in love with John Musters, and when she married him, it supposedly broke Byron's heart. He wrote a famous poem, "The Dream," about Mary and their relationship, and in the poem he mentioned being on "Diadem Hill" with her while she watched for John Musters.
Earlier, Frances had written to Irons, "The 'Diadem' is cut down and universally deplored." Washington Irving had a hand in the "universal" disgust. He had visited Annesley and swallowed the old housekeeper's story that Mary's and Byron's lives were ruined by her marriage to John Musters. Irving's account was widely read, so when Mr. Musters (who was Frances' host about the time she wrote this letter) cut down the trees on Diadem hill, he was thought to be acting vengefully.
Frances and Sophie Musters (John and Mary's daughter) knew better and planned together to have the facts brought to light, but Sophie's marriage prevented the project's completion.
What was the truth concerning Mary's marriage to John? What was the real reason Mr. Musters cut down the trees? That can be found in Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth in the chapter "On Trees and Poetry."
One day while working on my biography of Frances Rolleston, Clementi was on my mind. I had just heard on the radio a sonatina of his that I had once played. Felix Mendelssohn was also on my mind because I was then reading his biography. So, imagine how interested I was to find a letter written by Frances Rolleston in which she mentions both of these musicians!
What occasioned her mention of Clementi was that a friend sent her a copy of his review of Dante's "Purgatorio," and she responded by telling him that Clementi had once sent her a Roman copy of Dante to get her opinion on a disputed passage. (Sadly, she no longer remembered what the dispute was.) Clementi lived in London for most of the years that Frances lived there. They must have been fairly well acquainted for him to consult her opinion.
Frances was also acquainted with Ludwig Berger, a student of Clementi's, who in turn, was one of Mendelssohn's early teachers. I found Frances' acquaintance with Berger particularly interesting because of a suggested possible romance. However, I will leave that for the biography!
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.
June 20th, 1851
"I do not expect you to be able to continue your 'visiting,' nor do I think it the right work for a mother."
Frances Rolleston is the older woman advising a young mother. Even though Frances was never a mother herself, she knows that her young friend will soon wear herself out if she tries to keep on with the burden that has been laid on her by the ladies of her church. She knows that the "visiting" is held up as a duty, that is, guilt is probably employed. And when this young mother no longer can keep it up, she needs to hear . . .
"So when you feel you cannot do it, do not think of yourself as lost or reprobate."
Edith is worried that she may be wrong to feel her children are more important than the church work. (Who put that idea into her head?)
"And do not torment yourself about 'idolizing' your children; they do not stand between you and God, that makes an idol. Your passion for your children is in the law of nature; God made the mother's heart such. Like other passions it will have its woes, but it is right and natural, and I doubt not will eventually be a great blessing to the objects of it."
Now Frances gives Edith a practical reason for not going out visiting, and calls on the children's nurse to confirm it.
"I dread your bringing infectious diseases in your clothes to the children when at home."
She explains the motives of those who are pushing her:
"Other ladies will want to make you work to save themselves."
And she has an alternative:
"Let the maids [unmarried women] and widows do it."
In all her experiences of working with women and children, Frances can say, "I never sent young mothers about on any business of the kind, for that reason."
When you need to get something done, who you know is, and has always been, important. Here's an example from FR's letter dated June 8th, 1847 at Bowness, Windermere in the Lake District:
"How much depends on seemingly trifling circumstances. Here am I in consequence of our decision that summer evening when I came to you so late to advise me whether to go to Hadley or Blackheath. At Blackheath I made acquaintance with Mrs. F___, of Grasmere Lake; through her I got my nephew ____ the curacy of Coniston Lake, and through that I thought of coming here myself. I have found an old Scarborough friend here already, and suppose, as usual, I shall know every body."
By her eighties, Frances had lost all her old friends. The void was partially filled by Mr. Joseph Dallow, a young minister who came almost every day to read Hebrew Bible with her. He was dedicated to the needs of the country people and carried the gospel to places almost inaccessible.
On this day 1861, Frances wrote,
Last Sunday Mr. Dallow, expected home, did not come, and a simple Christian young man did the best he could for the people.* To-day Mr. Dallow has been here, and I found he had done what you and I would have anticipated,—in a poor neighborhood in Kendal a child rushed out of a cottage enveloped in flames and screaming 'Mammy!' he saved its life, rolling it on the ground, but burnt his own hand so badly that he could not travel. The pain, he says, has been dreadful, but no worse effects, and he thanks God he saved its life, and goes back tomorrow to evangelize the people, whose hearts no doubt are touched by his kindness.
What stands out to me in this account is that Frances makes no declaration of Mr. Dallow's heroism. What he did she or her correspondent could have "anticipated" just because that was the kind of person he was. It is daily behavior that shows true character.
*That is, filling in at the chapel where Mr. Dallow preached.
Frances Rolleston's friend James Reddie was engaged in an argument with Darwinists over the matter of "races," specifically, the origin of the negro or black "race." His opponents had proposed that a negro race had developed ages before the Adam of the Bible. In those early days of Darwinian evolutionary theory, churchmen were very much involved in the argument and the Bible frequently consulted.
April 5th, 1964
"I have spent the whole of this day in looking out evidence and explanation for my life-long belief that in Ham was the origin of the negro race. Ham in the primitive and Oriental dialects is, hot, heated, &c.; this seems known and admitted, but that Cush was a degree deeper in what is now called negro blood, and peculiarities, I had not put in evidence till now. Butterworth's Concordance, edited by Adam Clarke, my book being fifty years old, and only just tumbling to pieces, boldly says, 'Cush, Black,'—no more."
Frances continued describing her finds on the subject, ending with, "Now then, what becomes of ante-adamic negroes? and your opponents with them?"
What impresses me about all this is her willingness to help a friend in his battle for the integrity of the scriptures. To spend a whole day doing research for him when her own work regarding the publication of her book was so demanding. And the timing of this was only two months before her death.
James Reddie went on to write a number of papers about Darwinism that were published in the Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute or Philosophical Society of Great Britain.
February 15, 1828(?)
My dear Henry,
I am very much gratified by your taking so much interest about my present hobby.
Frances Rolleston had four close friends named Henry: Henry Thompson, Henry Smedley, Henry Townley and Henry Crowther.
The first three of these were family friends and fellow students in their teens and early twenties, Henry Smedley also tutoring her in languages.
Henry Crowther, twenty-three years younger, was FR's student in astronomy. Although he was blind, she was able to teach him by using plates and string.
In other letters FR referred to adventures and discoveries she and the Henrys had together. They shared their poetry with each other, and they shared their faith. FR called on them for help in her scholarly research.
She was not immune to their attractiveness. She praised Henry Townley as elegant in mind and amiable in temper, having the sweetest face ever seen in youth, preeminent in arts, chess and literature.
Yet, although they corresponded or otherwise stayed in contact as long as they lived, none of these friendships ever blossomed into romantic love. They seemed to simply be four Henrys among many other close friendships of FR's life.