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."
The image of the silent ruins of the church at Newstead Abbey brings to mind how short life is. I think of George Gordon Lord Byron, his life lived vigorously, yet soon gone. His body lies in a small grave at Hucknall Church which stands on ground once owned partly by the Byron and partly by the Rolleston families.
One day Frances Rolleston visited Hucknall Church and had this to say afterwards:
"No one can venerate Sunday schools more than I do, but what I know of the tears and blows that now corrupt the institution, made me shrink from the hubbub that weekly invades Byron's sepulchre." She thought "hubbub" inappropriate for a gravesite.
Frances had already urged Colonel Wildman (owner of Newstead Abbey at that time) to bring Byron's coffin to the Mausoleum at Newstead, and after this visit to Hucknall Church, she was ready to urge him again.
Silence was a way of respecting the dead. Even knowing the soul was no longer present, this respect for the bodily remains continued. Much later in her life when a child she had a special relationship with died, Frances reported that she hardly ever passed his grave because "I have had an awfully materialistic feeling from the first, that my step would disturb him."
Frances Rolleston's own grave is very near little Lewie's. One hundred fifty-two years have passed since she was buried. She finished this life with complete faith that she would continue forever in the Lord's presence.
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.