Frances Rolleston: "I am sorry the good man you hear, preaches such blind doctrine about the 'Day of Grace.'"
It gave my husband a thrill to stand in John Newton's pulpit. Actually, it was not the same pulpit John Newton stood in, but it was a pulpit in the same position in the same church. (His actual pulpit has been moved to a back corner.)
It is wonderful to have those in church history, like Newton, whose lives were transformed by God and who afterwards lived what they preached.
Sometimes when we hear a preacher say things that do not line up with the Scripture, we are tempted to confuse the man with his views and condemn both. But Frances' statement above is the more Christian attitude. She recognized the incorrect doctrine (which she went on to explain) but she continued to see the preacher as a "good man." Good example to us moderns.
June 20th, 1851
"I do not expect you to be able to continue your 'visiting,' nor do I think it the right work for a mother."
Frances Rolleston is the older woman advising a young mother. Even though Frances was never a mother herself, she knows that her young friend will soon wear herself out if she tries to keep on with the burden that has been laid on her by the ladies of her church. She knows that the "visiting" is held up as a duty, that is, guilt is probably employed. And when this young mother no longer can keep it up, she needs to hear . . .
"So when you feel you cannot do it, do not think of yourself as lost or reprobate."
Edith is worried that she may be wrong to feel her children are more important than the church work. (Who put that idea into her head?)
"And do not torment yourself about 'idolizing' your children; they do not stand between you and God, that makes an idol. Your passion for your children is in the law of nature; God made the mother's heart such. Like other passions it will have its woes, but it is right and natural, and I doubt not will eventually be a great blessing to the objects of it."
Now Frances gives Edith a practical reason for not going out visiting, and calls on the children's nurse to confirm it.
"I dread your bringing infectious diseases in your clothes to the children when at home."
She explains the motives of those who are pushing her:
"Other ladies will want to make you work to save themselves."
And she has an alternative:
"Let the maids [unmarried women] and widows do it."
In all her experiences of working with women and children, Frances can say, "I never sent young mothers about on any business of the kind, for that reason."
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?
April 3, 1837
Frances Rolleston is writing from Watnall where she established several infant schools:
"Snow, snow, snow! Again the weather-wise primroses and violets that would not unclose their eyes, are covered with the warm wintry mantle which preserves them from the nipping frost; but I grieve for the young lambs, and for the poor infants who cannot get to school, and the poor mothers who have to bear all the artillery of crying and teazing, which their own 'old system,' of saying 'No' as long as their patience will last, and then yielding and saying 'Yes,' has taught the children to use."
Violets, lambs and children--three of the small things dear to FR--or Miss R., as the children call her. Violets protected by the snow reveal her interest and awareness of the natural surroundings. Young lambs suffering in the cold show her tender heart for animals. And her love for the children makes her aware of their disappointment in missing school. She also understands how miserable their mothers are in such a situation because they have not been taught how to get their children to obey.
Yet, FR herself is unable to keep order in the classroom.
"In the school-rooms I cannot keep order, and few teachers can keep it when I am present, so excited are the children by the instinctive feeling of the super-abundance of love I bear them, and I suppose also of the deficiency to the talent of preserving order and arrangement. The teachers I employ have the more need to study well that discipline of obedience, through which alone the best instruction can gain the infant attention."
Yet, somehow the little ones listen intently when she leads them outdoors and speaks of the natural wonders around them. Like the little violets suffering in the cold, they spring up to the warmth of her sunshine.
[The accompanying photo is of Johnny-jump-ups; not violets, but similar.]
May 10, 1836 from Watnall:
"I have wintered most happily, sometimes going for a week at a time to old or new friends, sometimes fagging hard with raising two infant schools in our own neighbourhood, both of which I have visited today. . . . I commenced another infant school on Monday, with the expectation of a hundred and thirty children, whom we expect to make happy and hope to make good; by entire gentleness and kindness we have already civilized our children, and through them are making much impression on the parents. . . . Figure me to yourself, leading one beautiful golden-haired rustic, and four or five more holding to my shawl, with hands and baskets full of primrose violet and cowslip heaps, talking of flowers and the cuckoo, in the loneliest village possible, where our infants can toddle a mile on the road with small probability of meeting horse or cart except on market-days. These are my chief companions here. . . ."
Near the schoolhouse runs a brook with the pastoral name of Sheep-wash. A little footbridge crosses it, a long, broad slab of stone. Behind the schoolhouse lie green meadows on the slope of a hill where sit the remains of a castle; a rookery crowns the hill. The shallow brook presents a challenge to teachers and mothers, for the children love to walk in it, especially in warm weather, but fail to remove their shoes.
This afternoon, students emerge from the schoolhouse, and Miss Rolleston follows the last stragglers out. She overtakes the children by the brook. Some are gathering early violets. One group occupies the bridge to dispute the teacher’s passage, clinging affectionately to her. She has the “Violet Lesson” in her hand and three or four children begin at once to read the lines they already know, tracing them with their fingers. One little blue-eyed one repeats
The lily loves the pleasant sound
By running waters made.
As she reads, she glances expressively at the rippling water, turning her ear toward its sound. The teacher is struck by the tiny child’s obvious understanding of the words the pleasant sound, and decides then and there to retain that wording in her little poem, which runs in full as
The violet loves the sunny bank
The primrose loves the shade
The lily loves the pleasant sound
By running waters made.
She had for a while changed the wording of the third line to “The lily of the vale, the sound,” hoping to make it more easily understood. But the little girl obviously felt and understood the original version. Four or five of the little ones now go over the song something in the style of ancient catches and glees, some singing out of the glee in their hearts and catching each other up.
Miss Rolleston observes her little charges closely, and uses their natural learning methods to build her teaching techniques.