March 22, 1832 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe died. Although Goethe felt his work as a philosopher and scientist was more important than his literary accomplishments, Frances Rolleston referred to him as "the prince of Continental poets."
Frances recognized the power of poetry (in 1837) for influencing people's minds and thus the future. She saw the "delight with which an image or poetical epithet is met." (Compare to today's memes.) But as a poet herself she knew that writing poetry was not the way to make money. Power, yes, "but as to profit, none."
In fact, she added in her March 22, 1837 letter, "Goethe, the prince of Continental poets, says his poems were and expense to him."
We have many writers of poetry today. My readers may be one and know others. But how many ever succeed at profiting financially from their efforts? (If you do, let me know!)
Frances Rolleston understood the principle of giving. In her letter of January 4, 1828 she considers the possibility of collecting her fables into a book which she would then sell for more income. The purpose of generating income would be to support causes and needs she cared about. This letter shows that while she lived independently, her means were limited. We also see that as a writer, she knew the value of a second pair of eyes looking over her work.
Here is a selection from that letter of January 4:
I am exceedingly obliged to you for the hint about Peneus, and I wish I could get you to look over various other things of the sort, for one's own eye is not to be trusted. I have about twenty more fables like that I send you, and I have sometimes lately thought would they make a volume, and would it be possible to make it profitable as a means of enabling me to do good in various ways now crowding on me, to which my means are utterly inadequate? but I durst not make the attempt without much previous criticism; and few have ever seen any thing I have ever written, though for many years past I have written a great deal."
This week in 1861, Frances at 80 years of age was suffering from "excited nerves." This condition prevented her from working on her book—or doing much of anything. Two days later she was completely revived.
This experience was due to a personality trait which Frances called the “poet-element.” To a friend who suffered similarly she wrote, “I cannot tell you what your sympathy is to me, you alone enter into the poet-element which so intensifies reality, every-day life, into over excitement, over depression.” She often gave in to the intense feelings of this poet-element, and found it too difficult to act apart from them.
This particular October, she suffered from “excited nerves,” received “a bracing affusion” from a friend’s note, and had “a complete bath of reviving influence” from a friend’s visit—all in one weekend.
November brought a sudden resumption of work. By December, she was working herself very hard, and believing it the best thing for her. However, before the month was out her spirits were again sinking and her nerves irritated. Every exertion seemed too much.
The Keswick doctor told her that he did not see why she should not live nine or ten years longer, and Frances herself pointed out that many painters, and more Bible students, lived and worked longer than she had. But in spite of this affirmation, Frances seemed unable to overcome that trait which carried her in a cycle from hard work to fatigue to discouragement—sometimes illness—and inability to work, to rest and encouragement and back to hard work.