May 6th, 1862 Frances wrote to her friend Miss Rigby, who had helped Frances think through some points in her writing. Miss Rigby was perhaps planning to have some printing done since Frances closed the letter with this: "I will enclose specimens of the women printers, they execute beautifully—Miss E. Faithfull and her female 'staff'—pray show them."
Emily Faithfull (1835-1895) worked for women's interests toward their improved status, employment and education. Most interested in the employment aspect, she was a member of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women.
One occupation she felt was suitable for women was that of compositor (typesetter). This idea upset the London Printers Union which held that women did not have the intelligence or physical skill for that work.
Emily, nevertheless, set up the Victoria Press in London which soon gained a reputation for excellent work, so much so that Emily was appointed printer and publisher in ordinary to Queen Victoria.
Even Frances far north in Keswick was aware of that reputation.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the passing of James Montgomery, poet and writer of hymns. Frances Rolleston admired him, as did many others, especially those in Sheffield, England where he lived. A number of streets and public buildings are named for him.
Twice Montgomery was imprisoned for "sedition," the first time in 1795 for writing a poem celebrating the fall of the Bastille. The authorities' fear, of course, was that revolution would spread from France to England. Montgomery was imprisoned the next year for criticizing a magistrate for using force to break up a protest. Montgomery managed to profit from this experience by publishing a collection of poems written during the imprisonment.
Montgomery's activities in social issues extended to the anti-slavery movement, and this is how Frances Rolleston connected with him. They were both asked, along with others, to write hymns for an anti-slavery gathering in Sheffield. Montgomery admired Frances' hymn as the jewel of the collection—his own excepted. In appreciation, she wrote a poem addressed to him.* Montgomery wrote 400 hymns, many still in use today. More about Montgomery's hymns.
*This poem is in Appendix C of Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth.
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!
New Years Day 1858, London was divided into ten postal districts—part of an ongoing effort to improve postal service in England.
Before 1840, postal service in England was complex, to put it kindly. The cost of receiving a letter depended partially on the number of pages. People often cross-wrote their letters to cut down the number of pages. The distance the letter traveled affected the cost. The sender’s and the recipient’s addresses also mattered because while some metropolitan areas set a common charge anywhere in the area, many local services charged another penny for letters coming from outside the area. Tolls were added for crossing certain bridges. (Were those bridges so rickety that the toll was hazardous duty pay?)
Yet some things went by post absolutely free. Newspapers, for example, even sent overseas, as long as they were mailed within seven days of publication, were wrapped in a cover open at both ends, and that there was nothing inserted or written on it. Members of both Houses of Parliament received and sent letters without charge. And they could frank letters and even parcels for friends—that is, apply their official mark to indicate that postage need not be paid or had been paid.
Rowland Hill was the hero of the hour. Proposals to improve the postal system abounded, but no action was taken until January 1837 when he published his pamphlet Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability. He suggested a uniform rate and prepaid postage, one penny per ounce, and gave testimony at an official inquiry. In 1838 a private Mercantile Committee was established to organize petitions for reform and publish The Post Circular, a propaganda sheet for reform.
The new uniform postage allowed Frances to write many more letters, two to three times a week to her friend Charlotte Rogers alone. And she certainly wasn’t the only one. The 76 million chargeable letters in 1839 increased to 350 million by 1850. Not that the changes solved all problems. Returning from a journey, Frances wrote, “This is a most uncivilized place for the post,—I got here before my letter.”
Uniform postage enabled easier circulation of petitions and propaganda. During the anti-slavery efforts, difficulties about postage had seemed insuperable. The new system was a definite help in the social reforms and charitable efforts Frances took on.
In her collected letters, Frances Rolleston defended women's abilities as scientists. I'm sorry that Janet Taylor's name doesn't appear in Frances' letters, but perhaps Frances did not know the great contribution Janet made to navigation.
They might have been good friends. They shared a love of the starry heavens (Janet drew and published a Planisphere of the Stars), they were both Christians who honored the Creator, and they also lived in the same areas of London, though at different times.
One of Janet's great contributions to the safety of sailing vessels was to adjust ships' compasses to overcome deviations due to the increasing use of iron in ship building. She developed instruments to improve navigation and diligently corrected charts to reflect newfound hazards throughout the world.
This is one biography I thoroughly enjoyed reading.
Click on the image to go to the Amazon page.
Wehaven't long until autumn turns to winter, so I thought I'd share a few lines of poetry by Frances Rolleston to celebrate autumn. These lines are taken from a poem she wrote to honor James Montgomery, well-known hymn writer of her time.
A few more days, these voices shall be mute,
Now singing in the branches, eve and morn,
And in the azure noon, the song of hope;
For now the sun descends, the year declines,
. . .
Sweet birds, I prize each failing note the more,
For coming silence; mute the many then,
And I shall listen for the wind above,
Among the murmuring boughs, or the faint tone
Of rippling streams among the broken stones,
Smoothed by the gliding waters, or at eve
To one lone songster from the distant hill,
More valued for its soleness;
. . .
That autumn songster has beheld the fall
Of his sweet summer bower, his hopes of spring,
And sadness mingles with his notes of joy.
On the first of November 1793, Lord George Gordon died in Newgate Prison, London. Frances Rolleston was twelve years old. Did she know or care? Her father probably did, and if her mother had still been living, she would have cared.
Thirteen years previous to this, Mrs. Rolleston's first child, Robert, was a babe in arms. He was very ill with "disease of the mesenteric glands." At that moment in London, Lord George Gordon was leading a large crowd to present a petition to Parliament. They wanted to repeal the Catholic Relief Act of 1778, which was an effort to relieve the longstanding repressive legislation against Catholics.
Gordon's crowd got out of hand and riots broke out. Much person property was destroyed, though no human life was lost, and Gordon was arrested. He was acquitted of responsibility for the riots and released, however, thirteen years later he died in Newgate Prison of typhoid fever where he was being held on other charges.
During the riots, many Londoners had to flee their homes, including Margaret Rolleston with baby Robert. The baby died in her arms. Then, only ten years later, Margaret herself died giving birth to her sixth child.
More about this event
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.
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.
On this day in 1832, Sir Walter Scott, poet and novelist, passed from this life. Scott was famous for his poetry before trying his hand at novel writing. Since poetry was held in high regard, and novels considered to be of less importance, he endeavored (unsuccessfully) to keep his novels anonymous.
Scott wrote about historical traditions of the kind that appealed to Frances Rolleston. She considered herself an "Anglo-Saxon enthusiast." Ivanhoe, which portrayed the cruel Normans lording it over the Saxons, would certainly have pleased her. She recommended Scott's works as good reading for children.
So, although Frances feared, while still young, an old age of novel reading, she did later see value in novels.