Frances Rolleston was almost thirteen years old when the historic naval battle between Great Britain and France known as "The Glorious First of June 1794" took place. The battle was connected to the French Revolution about which the British were greatly concerned.
Since Mr. Rolleston welcomed to his table French nobles fleeing the Revolution, young Frances would have been well aware of this event.
Depending on your interest, here are some links to various aspects of The Glorious First of June:
Today in 1843, Natal was proclaimed a British Colony. I had never heard of Natal, but after skimming the Wikipedia article on Natal, it appears to me that colonizing is simply a slow method of conquest.
Today in 1859, Frances Rolleston was writing to a missionary in China. She was very interested in Christian missions to India, China, and Japan, and had thought of how that might be accomplished. Not by conquest or colonization, she looked to Florence Nightingale and the ladies who went with her to the Crimea as a model.
Travelers had told Frances that women in those countries were requesting that Christian women come visit them. At the time, of London's 650,000 women between the ages of fifteen and forty, 450,000 of them were unmarried. Couldn't the mission societies help them go?
It is true that conquest has been carried out in the name of religion, notably an hierarchical form of Christianity. How different was it to send missionaries than to set up colonies? Missionaries, as Frances thought of them, lived a life of kindness and self-sacrifice. They carried a gospel of hope—reconciliation with God and love for mankind—to be received by faith, not forced. Christian missions also brought health and education.
If only this clear difference had always been maintained, Christianity would have had a better name in the years that followed.
I am reading a letter written by Frances Rolleston on this day, 1840—so not yet 200 years ago—and was struck again by how writing, printing, and publishing have changed over the years.
In her letter she asks to have two sheets of her astronomy book returned to her by post as soon as possible. She also asks for two of her poems, "The Two Harps" and "The Nun" to be returned, or if her friend no longer has them, to tell her who does.
The reason she requests the return of these items is that Frances has "an offer of some fair copies here, and you know how precious such things are." In other words, someone where she is presently located has offered to copy—by hand—some of her work.
Frances likes multiple copies so she can share with friends, and also a "fair copy" is necessary if something is to be printed. The printer must be able to read the work in order to set the type correctly. And Frances' handwriting was notorious (Ch. 39 On Penmanship, in the book).
How thankful I am for my computer!
On this day in 1791, John Wesley passed to his reward, and on this day in 1797, Horace Walpole passed to his. The one left months before Frances Rolleston's birth; the other months before she turned six. Both wrote prolifically; both influenced the culture of their times, but they could hardly be more diverse personally or in their influence.
The differences between them are evident from their earliest childhood and family life.
Of Wesley's childhood, we read this: "As in many families at the time, Wesley's parents gave their children their early education. Each child, including the girls, was taught to read as soon as they could walk and talk. They were expected to become proficient in Latin and Greek and to have learned major portions of the New Testament by heart. Susanna Wesley examined each child before the midday meal and before evening prayers. Children were not allowed to eat between meals and were interviewed singularly by their mother one evening each week for the purpose of intensive spiritual instruction. In 1714, at age 11, Wesley was sent to the Charterhouse School in London (under the mastership of John King from 1715), where he lived the studious, methodical and, for a while, religious life in which he had been trained at home." [Read more here.]
Of Walpole's childhood, we read this:
"Born in England in 1717, the last of his mother’s six children, he was fragile and prone to illness from birth. Two siblings before him had died in infancy, and so in the family order it went: three older children, loud, healthy and opinionated; two grave markers; and then young Horace toddling up behind—half child, half potential grave marker.
Naturally, his mother, Catherine, spoiled him. His father, Sir Robert Walpole, was the King’s prime minister. This often kept him away from home, as did a long-time mistress who acted, more than his wife did, as his hostess and companion. For her part Catherine had her own dalliances. It was that sort of marriage." [Read more here.]
These two lives, I believe, represent the two poles of British life and culture during the lifetime of Frances Rolleston, and by reading the articles (links above) much can be learned about that period.
From a letter she wrote February 2, 1863 we learn that Frances was donating copies of her book Canticles to help with the cotton famine.
The book was her translation of and commentary on The Song of Solomon in the Bible, and it departed some from the Authorized Version. She wanted to be sure that William Caddell, to whom she was sending the copies and who would be selling them, was free from any doubt of the correctness of the translation.
He had asked her how she explained the phrase, "His lips are like lilies," which she answered in this letter. Her answer was, "not in colour but in form, as we talk of the lip of a vase or anything that laps over. We talk of the lip of a cup or other vessel, referring to the form in pottery, gold or silver cups; if you look in the concordance you will find it so."
What delights me in Frances' work is her devotion to detail. She believed the Bible to be totally inspired by God, and thus every word important. And I love how her art and poetry contributed to and derived from her love of the Bible.
I've heard people claim that the Bible is full of contradictions. If those people examined it carefully, they would find that this assumption is untrue. The more minutely one studies it, the more beautifully it all fits together.
In January 1864, Frances Rolleston was doubting if she would ever again be well enough to write, but by February 5th she was enjoying renewed health—although this was to be the last winter of her life. She wrote to a friend about her pleasure at finding herself again able to paint, and she told the story of how for years the money earned from her paintings paid her part in the use of a small pony who pulled her little cart around the Lake District.
Frances became quite fond of this "gentlest of ponies . . . who draws the fairy gig, and looks like a fairy steed in it.” Even with a group, Shelty was strong enough to go eighteen miles two days in a row. Before Frances gained the use of Shelty, the pony had already had a long life of hard work and hard living,
Readers will enjoy the chapter about Shelty in Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth.
December 6th, 1860 Frances wrote to Caroline Dent: "I have been enabled in the last fortnight to explain every one of the figures in the Dendera Zodiac and Planisphere, over which I had been puzzling in vain for the last thirty years. . . . I am now quite encouraged by this remarkable proof that my faculties are not injured, on the contrary, though for a much shorter time can I exercise them--two hours and it used to be six, but I am thankful, and have long prayed to do much in a little time."
Frances' copy of the planisphere was given to her by William Hone, and lately mounted for her on calico by a young American friend. She would be sending a tracing of the planisphere to the printer Rivington as a lithograph frontispiece or map for her life's work, Mazzaroth: The Constellations.
On this day in 1842 William Hone passed away. His passing was sad news for Frances Rolleston because they had been friends and correspondents.
Who was William Hone? I suppose everyone who read newspapers in 1817 knew his name, for although his printing, book selling and publishing businesses were small, his writing loomed large. His weekly newspaper, The Reformist’s Register, was only one avenue for his biting satire against excessive taxation, corruption in government, and neglect of the poor. He and the caricaturist George Cruikshank together took on no less an adversary than the Prince Regent. When Hone utilized the conceit of religious parodies for some anti-government pamphlets, the Crown had its excuse to arrest him. He was accused of “printing and publishing an impious and profane libel, upon The Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer, and The Ten Commandments, and thereby bringing into contempt the Christian Religion.”
Hone’s obvious intent was political, not religious, which I’m sure the Prince Regent understood. Nevertheless, Hone was jailed. Over three long days he defended himself in court by presenting examples of religious parodies from antiquarian books and pamphlets. His case was wildly popular and the courtroom was crowded with onlookers and supporters. His acquittal did much for securing freedom of the press in England. He continued to write on political matters, influencing other changes in England’s policies, policies such as execution for forgery.
Between 1830 and 1835 Frances Rolleston lived in her own house at Champion Grove where her garden adjoined that of William Hone. Frances did not know who he was, her servant having reported the name as Stone, but she was impressed with his kindliness, his concern with eternal truth, and his care of his large family. Longer and longer conversations through the garden lattice ensued, but Frances still did not know his identity until one day a lady came to visit her with the following question:
“Do you know who is your next door neighbour?”
“A Mr. Stone,” replied Frances.
“Hone,” said she, as if she had said Guy Fawkes or Napoleon Buonaparte.
“I believe it may be Hone.”
“The Hone,” persisted the visitor.
“Who is ‘the Hone’?”
“The author of the House that Jack built.”
Rather than being shocked by this revelation, Frances replied, “I am thankful to hear it. He is then a brand plucked from the burning, for he is a true Christian.”
Five years after Hone's passing, Frances published a short biography of Hone. He had suggested beforehand that she do so. While researching Frances' relationship with Hone, I came across strong criticism of her and that biography. It stirred me to her defense, and that defense is a large part of my chapter on William Hone in Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth.
Today in 1736, James Macpherson was born in Inverness, Scotland. He became a poet and politician, but what Frances Rolleston knew him for, and what he is best remembered for even today, was a deception.
Macpherson collected old Gallic poetry manuscripts, and his collection was impressive enough that money was raised to help him with his research. Then at age 25 he announced the discovery of an epic from the 3rd century. He published his own translation of this epic which he called Fingal, an Ancient Epic Poem in Six Books, together with Several Other Poems composed by Ossian, the Son of Fingal, translated from the Gaelic Language.
Since there was no other Gallic work earlier than the 10th century, it gained attention and became an immediate controversy. The Irish historian Charles O'Conor, among others, noted technical errors in chronology and in the forming of Gaelic names, among other questionable things, which Macpherson could not defend. He never produced the "manuscripts" in question.
However, at least one child enjoyed Macpherson's book. Ten-year-old Frances Rolleston discovered the epic in her old cousin's library (she had been sent to her cousin for three years after the death of her mother), and it made a great, impression on her young mind. She "devoured it," she said, for after all, there she was living in Ossianic country (Yorkshire). But her cousin's daughter took the book away from her, saying that the child was too romantic already.
October 20, 1853 an article or a letter by Frances Rolleston about William Blake appeared in London's Patriot newspaper. I would like to have a copy of what she wrote. (Although the source is searchable, I haven't the time today to search.) Blake was a most interesting artist, writer, and poet, considered a lunatic by some, and unappreciated during most of his lifetime. He died in 1827. What did Frances really think of his work? Click on the image for a link to others of his work.