In May 1855 Frances received some writings by or about Emmanuel Swedenborg at the time she was entertaining a guest who followed Swedenborg's teachings. Frances' comments to the person who sent them were a lovely example of a Christian spirit.
Swedenborg was a scientist and philosopher whose teachings on the Scriptures attracted a following and eventually led to the establishment of several denominations.
The extracts Frances received, though not uncomplimentary to the man (the Swedenborgian visitor read them with pleasure) were accompanied by a comment that must have seemed so. Frances replied, "You were quite right about his not being sane, but he had a fine feeling and a Christian heart."
Frances had a loving way about her by which she pointed out error, or what she considered error, without putting down the person—a trait we would all do well to emulate.
To James Reddie, Esq.
April 14th, 1863
My dear Sir,
I am delighted that my life's delight of pseudo-Lessings finds favor with you.
Frances Rolleston enjoyed the fables of G. E. Lessing, a German philosopher of the 1700s who used animal stories to present ideas, as had the French Jean La Fontaine in the 1600s, and the Greek Aesop in the 500s BC. Such stories are designed to teach life principles to children, but adults seem to enjoy them as much as children do.
Frances wrote many fables herself which she used in teaching children in her infant schools. These fables were the "pseudo-Lessings" referred to in this letter. The following fable she wrote to protest the exploitation of child labor in England's factories.
The Diadem Spider
The gossamer insect, floating in the air one fine summer morning, paused to gaze upon the gigantic and symmetrical web of the Diadem Spider, thrown from shrub to shrub in a flower garden; it sparkled with dew-drops in the sunshine.
“Observe,” said the queen of weavers, “the perfection of my work, the fineness of the threads, the accuracy of the angles, the correctness of the circles.”
“Methinks,” interposed the little aëronaut, “it is sadly disfigured by the quantity of dead and dying that are involved in its meshes.”
“Nay,” replied the spider, “that is part of the system; why dwell on trifling blemishes when the result is so magnificent?”
For the queen of spiders, there was no alternative; she must murder to live. Will the queen of commerce long continue to condemn thousands of wretched children to misery and premature death, that half-a-dozen great manufacturers may wear coronets in the next generation?
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.
December 13, 1862
"I am troubled to-night with a review of Max Müller, 'On the Science of Language,' greatly admiring his views, which in the first place deny that God gave language to Adam, which every one who believes the Bible to be the Word of God must admit."
The development of human language held particular interest for FR because of her unshakable trust in the accuracy of the Bible, and because of how her theory of the original names of the stars and constellations depended on it. This theory was the purpose of her book Mazzaroth. She based the original reason for naming the stars and their figures upon the root meanings of their names.
FR's evidence for all languages springing from one was the explanations for names given to children that are preserved in Genesis. For example, Eve's words at the birth of Cain, her first son: "I have gotten a man"--Cain coming from the root to get.
Believing the account in the scriptures that human beings all spoke the same language until God confused their language and dispersed them from the Tower of Babel , and finding in the Hebrew scriptures evidence that the first language was very like Hebrew, FR was disturbed with current efforts to discredit the Bible's account. She wrote to a friend:
"Beware the delusions of the German school, Müller and Bunsen the most recent of them just now, but there will soon be more springing up like mushrooms, and, like mushrooms, often poisonous."
March 25, 1855
"We here are busy about 'The Plurality of Worlds.' Mrs. B____ has lent me Sir David Brewster's Answer, which I like far better, but object to his making the dwellers in the heavenly orbs men, or very nearly so. I believe every orb has its own peculiar race, though I am inclined to believe all have a general resemblance to the human nature, now in union with the Divine . . . ."
In 1855 intelligent men and women debated the existence of life on the other planets of our solar system. Some even believed the sun had inhabitants shielded from its heat by a protective layer of some sort.
Sir David Brewster was asked by the editor of the North British Review to review the essay Of the Plurality of Worlds by William Whewell (1794-1866). Expecting to find sentiments similar to his own, Brewster was surprised to find that "under a title calculated to mislead the public, the author had made an elaborate attack upon opinions consecrated, as I had thought, by Reason and Revelation." Brewster's review expanded into a 278-page rebuttal, More Worlds than One, the Creed of the Philosopher and the Hope of the Christian.
Scientific and religious beliefs were closely intertwined, and men of science were almost as likely to support their views by the Bible as by scientific instruments. FR's interests included all areas of science, particularly astronomy, and so she followed the news of all astronomical discoveries and theories.
Both the books mentioned above are available to read online free.