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."
Tomorrow is the birthday plus 233 years of Thomas Attwood, a leader in the Chartist movement in England.
Attwood was a successful businessman in coal, iron and banking. About 1812 he became involved in politics because he saw that the monopoly enjoyed by the East India Company restricted foreign trade and hurt English businesses. He worked hard to influence economic policies, although without much success.
From 1830 to 1832 he was one of the main leaders for parliamentary reform, and in 1838 joined with the London Working Men's Association to fight for their right to vote. However, Attwood disagreed with the aggressive attitudes of other leaders in the movement, and upon defeat of the first national petition, which he presented to the House of Commons, he retired completely from politics.
Frances Rolleston was a Tory by birth, and while she was living on the Rolleston estate at Watnall, the estate was threatened by the Chartists. Watnall escaped—she had hoped that her charitable Infant Schools would give her favor with the Chartists—but another estate in the area, Colwick Hall, where Frances' childhood friend Mary Chaworth Musters was home alone, was attacked. The rioters burned valuables and tried to burn the building, while Mary cowered with her maid in pouring rain. Mary took ill and died four months later.
I'm sure that Frances felt deeply the turmoil of those years. She had a tender heart for the suffering, as her many charitable efforts demonstrated, and she would certainly have held sympathies for the Chartists. But like Attwood, she would have disagreed with their violent activities.
June 22, 1835
While living in Watnall Cottage, FR makes a visit to Annesley, the ancestral hall of her childhood friend Mary Chaworth. Mary died three years previously, but the time with Mary's husband John Chaworth-Musters and their daughter Sophie delights FR.
"Such a poet's dream as my visit to Annesley! We dined in the ancient marble-paved, weather-stained hall, with immense fires in June, 'for there, even summer days are cold,' and I slept in a haunted chamber with tombstones looking into the window."
FR finds Sophie pious, elegant, and poetical with "an extraordinary understanding and decision of character." Part of the discussion between them concerns the book Abbotsford and Newstead by the American writer Washington Irving after his visit to Abbotsford (home of Sir Walter Scott), Newstead Abbey (home of Lord Byron), and Annesley (home of Mary Chaworth, Byron's first romantic interest). FR and Sophie make a plan: they will write comments on Irving's book and include facts and have a friend submit it for publication. The plan is never carried out due to Sophie's marriage.
If you wish to read Irving's Abbotsford and Newstead online. Click here.