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?