On this day 1794, William Whewell, was born. He was to become a philosopher, science historian, writer, poet, and Anglican priest.
In September 1854 an acquaintance brought Frances Rolleston a new book by Whewell, The Plurality of Worlds, an Essay. After reading it, she responded thus:
"The most horrid and detestable book I have seen for many years—it almost made me ill."
And what was so horrid about Whewell's essay? Why, he believed that the solar system consisted entirely of matter—Jupiter water, Saturn cork, Venus bronze, and Mercury silver! And Frances, along with many of her day, believed that these worlds were filled with living beings.
It's hard for us to imagine that only 150 years ago intelligent, educated people believed that life existed on the planets of our solar system. Even the sun was thought to be inhabited. Solar spots were universally admitted to be openings in the luminous stratum, not opaque scoriae floating on its surface. Even Sir William Herschel, who we consider a big name in astronomy, suggested that the light of the sun issues from an outer stratum of self-luminous material, beneath which is a second stratum of clouds designed to protect the solid body of the sun, and its inhabitants, from the intense heat and brilliancy surrounding them.
So Frances is not to be considered ignorant in her horror at Whewell's proposal.
In May 1855 Frances received some writings by or about Emmanuel Swedenborg at the time she was entertaining a guest who followed Swedenborg's teachings. Frances' comments to the person who sent them were a lovely example of a Christian spirit.
Swedenborg was a scientist and philosopher whose teachings on the Scriptures attracted a following and eventually led to the establishment of several denominations.
The extracts Frances received, though not uncomplimentary to the man (the Swedenborgian visitor read them with pleasure) were accompanied by a comment that must have seemed so. Frances replied, "You were quite right about his not being sane, but he had a fine feeling and a Christian heart."
Frances had a loving way about her by which she pointed out error, or what she considered error, without putting down the person—a trait we would all do well to emulate.
May 6th, 1862 Frances wrote to her friend Miss Rigby, who had helped Frances think through some points in her writing. Miss Rigby was perhaps planning to have some printing done since Frances closed the letter with this: "I will enclose specimens of the women printers, they execute beautifully—Miss E. Faithfull and her female 'staff'—pray show them."
Emily Faithfull (1835-1895) worked for women's interests toward their improved status, employment and education. Most interested in the employment aspect, she was a member of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women.
One occupation she felt was suitable for women was that of compositor (typesetter). This idea upset the London Printers Union which held that women did not have the intelligence or physical skill for that work.
Emily, nevertheless, set up the Victoria Press in London which soon gained a reputation for excellent work, so much so that Emily was appointed printer and publisher in ordinary to Queen Victoria.
Even Frances far north in Keswick was aware of that reputation.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the passing of James Montgomery, poet and writer of hymns. Frances Rolleston admired him, as did many others, especially those in Sheffield, England where he lived. A number of streets and public buildings are named for him.
Twice Montgomery was imprisoned for "sedition," the first time in 1795 for writing a poem celebrating the fall of the Bastille. The authorities' fear, of course, was that revolution would spread from France to England. Montgomery was imprisoned the next year for criticizing a magistrate for using force to break up a protest. Montgomery managed to profit from this experience by publishing a collection of poems written during the imprisonment.
Montgomery's activities in social issues extended to the anti-slavery movement, and this is how Frances Rolleston connected with him. They were both asked, along with others, to write hymns for an anti-slavery gathering in Sheffield. Montgomery admired Frances' hymn as the jewel of the collection—his own excepted. In appreciation, she wrote a poem addressed to him.* Montgomery wrote 400 hymns, many still in use today. More about Montgomery's hymns.
*This poem is in Appendix C of Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth.
As a child, I thought slavery was ended with the American Civil War. As a teenager I read in The Revelation (or, Apocalypse, in the Bible) about the day when merchants would weep and mourn since no one bought their goods anymore. The list of goods, ends with "and slaves, that is, human souls." So I figured that some day slavery would come back.
Little did I know that it never ended. It is a world-wide business, and today human traffickers' profit $150,000,000,000 every year. It is the second fastest growing "business" after illegal drugs.
Frances Rolleston fought slavery in Great Britain and saw it outlawed. But she soon discovered another kind of slavery—that of greedy factory owners who enslaved entire families, including children. She wrote, "The abolition of African slavery which we have lived to see, and in which many of us joyfully labored heart and hand, encourages us to hope that the scarcely less iniquitous factory slave-trade will yield in time to public reprobation."
One source of information about slavery today is the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Read about it here.
155 Years ago this month, Frances Rolleston said, "My object now is to make my book known." That book, Mazzaroth, took 50 years to finish. Now Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth is finally finished and on sale, and now it is up to me to make my book known! This is the happiest announcement I have made in a long time! Please read more about the book here.
April 7th, 1840, Frances writes to friends upon learning that they are expecting a child, "in the prospect of which I cordially rejoice, and that even on selfish grounds,—so few of my very dearest friends have little ones for me to love."
She wrote further, "I often regret that all my love of children is obliged to expend itself on the children of strangers." She is referring to the children in the infant schools she has started in various parts of England.
At the time of writing she is enjoying a new school in Kirk Ella while staying with the relatives who took her in as a child when her mother died. They have "built, endowed and entailed" the school for her, she says, and "therefore she is as happy as life in this world of sickness and of death permits."
Frances often mentioned her love of little ones. She suffered terribly when one of them died—and death to babies was frequent in those days. There is a chapter in Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth titled "Loving and Losing Infants."
I'm interrupting TODAY BACK THEN to say something current. March 30 is the expected date Frances Rolleston: British Lady, Scholar and Writer of Mazzaroth will be available. I am happy about that but also a bit sad.
The book as I imagined it is not the book that is. Speaking of format and design. I envisioned a hard cover, cream paper, sepia headers and footers, and photos of sepia and muted colors. A book that would be a joy to hold.
Instead, it is paperback, black and white.
To get what I wanted would have made the price over $30. I know that is not uncommon these days. However, prices and people's pocketbooks don't much agree, and it is more important to me that people read this book than that they admire its design. (The cost will be about $13, if you're wondering.)
Keep you eyes open for the announcement!
Today is the anniversary of the 1863 wedding of Edward VII, Queen Victoria's eldest son. Frances Rolleston was apparently lacking in enthusiasm for the celebrations that accompanied it.
For one thing, she was working hard (at age 82) for those suffering in the cotton famine (more about that in an earlier blog) and the celebrations were a distraction:
The outrageous folly of the world about the royal marriage has, I fear, given a great check to what was doing for the cotton sufferers.
She refused to donate toward the celebrations—especially the "fire-works," giving what she could instead to the suffering poor who had no share in the dinner, tea and other doings.
I am just now very much interested in opposing the use of fire-works to celebrate the princely marriage. What, when so many are starving, I say to the Keswickers, will you let the committee lay out, as they talk of, £20 in fire-works? What good do they do? Harm they often do.
She goes on to tell the story of a boy, friend of her brother, who was killed by a fire-work.
When the marriage was actually celebrated with fireworks, Frances was much more interested in the fact that the constellation Orion "shone through and beyond the wedding fireworks."
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.