This week in 1861, Frances at 80 years of age was suffering from "excited nerves." This condition prevented her from working on her book—or doing much of anything. Two days later she was completely revived.
This experience was due to a personality trait which Frances called the “poet-element.” To a friend who suffered similarly she wrote, “I cannot tell you what your sympathy is to me, you alone enter into the poet-element which so intensifies reality, every-day life, into over excitement, over depression.” She often gave in to the intense feelings of this poet-element, and found it too difficult to act apart from them.
This particular October, she suffered from “excited nerves,” received “a bracing affusion” from a friend’s note, and had “a complete bath of reviving influence” from a friend’s visit—all in one weekend.
November brought a sudden resumption of work. By December, she was working herself very hard, and believing it the best thing for her. However, before the month was out her spirits were again sinking and her nerves irritated. Every exertion seemed too much.
The Keswick doctor told her that he did not see why she should not live nine or ten years longer, and Frances herself pointed out that many painters, and more Bible students, lived and worked longer than she had. But in spite of this affirmation, Frances seemed unable to overcome that trait which carried her in a cycle from hard work to fatigue to discouragement—sometimes illness—and inability to work, to rest and encouragement and back to hard work.
March 28, 1860
Frances Rolleston, as many people today, drove herself until exhausted. Why people do this is one question (FR thought it was part of her poetic disposition), but the question under consideration today is, How does one recover?
Here is what FR did:
"I know what over-work is, but it is not every one can sleep as I do ten hours after it, besides a short sleep after dinner. My other lulling soporific of strong six-shilling green tea, I am sure you cannot take--but both together have wonderfully set me up this evening."
FR was nearing 79 when she wrote this to a much younger woman.