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."
June 18, 1815 brought a sigh of relief to FR and all other Victorians. That day the Duke of Wellington effected Napoleon Bonaparte’s final defeat. FR was well aware of Napoleon’s threat to England. She had grown up with French refugees sitting at her father’s table, and no doubt shared all the fears they represented. Even on a pleasure outing it was not far from the mind. In 1805, at age 24, FR toured Cumberland Cavern, and wrote afterwards, “Should the French come, I wonder whether it would be practicable to hide women and children in these caves? or whether the air would become corrupted.”
Twenty years after Waterloo, FR and her cousin reviewed the battle by reading Scott and Byron’s accounts. They followed the action on the pocket-map the cousin’s husband, Colonel Hancox, had used. It was stained with the mud of Waterloo, and showed “marks of the haste and carelessness of the battle-day.” The Colonel himself, “a fine military man,” liked to be led to talk of the campaigns.
For FR, and many others, the Battle of Waterloo divided history into before and after. In 1854 FR wrote of those “born since Waterloo;” and in 1863, near the end of her life, she prefaced a story with, “about the time of Waterloo.”
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.