Oct 18 <1>
My dear Henry
I ought to have acknowledged long ago a letter you wrote me from Munich however as it is better late than never I think this may yet find you at Florence. I hope you will not delay longer than you can possibly help from coming here – because you can always see Rome in your way homewards unless you have any design of going beyond Italy to the East or South. Which on my own experience I will not recommend you – I find this place horribly dull in the way of living & there is very little to see in the town – & unfortunately now the weather has just become cool enough to let one visit the country, the stormy season has begun & every thing is losing its beauty. This very day & everyday this last week I have been on the very point of setting out for Pæstum<2>th time today & the storms here are not April showers but torrents & usually accompanied by violent thunder & lightning. I wish very much you would come & keep me company in my lodging it is not very large but as there is a great scarcity of lodgings just now & that scarcity is likely to encrease it might suit you till you find a better – at any rate while you are looking out for a house for the family. I have no news from England except that Giles <3> is going on well & that Jane <4> is coming this way some time in the winter she does not develop her plans very explicitly so if you hear any thing more you may let me know. The garden news interests me very much I find Hart Frampton <5> a capital genius for experimental horticulture – she contrives to make her Callas Agapanthus & other greenhouse plants live flower & flourish in the open air & ground in that cold islet of hers in the river at Moreton <6> & I think deserves great credit for it – I send seeds to her sometimes & if you could do the same if you have any opportunity it would be very well bestowed. There is a botanic garden here which is public & a private one forming in a very pretty spot at the villa of a Count Camaldoli <7> who has a very tolerable collection & is very fond of it. Prince Butera (who was a German & who is married to the Princess Butera<8> who inherited all the fortune which Lady Herbert lost) has a very large one near Palermo the Catalogue is very respectable, he takes great pains & has many tropical plants out of doors, tho there are many other parts of Sicily where the heat is great & more constant than there.
When you answer this which I hope will be soon, begin by telling me what your plans & movements are likely to be – I expect also a long letter from Lily <9> because I am sure she must have a great deal to tell being so fresh from England if she would but tell it & I am very arriéré <10> with regard to home news of any kind. You will see at Rome Mr Rickets & Mr Pentland <11> Geologists & studiores <12> of natural history whom I knew here also Lord & Lady Compton <13> who are people I think you would like to know & will be sure to see –
Pray continue to write to me, a letter now & then from Florence will be a notable addition to my rare & scanty posts, most of my correspondents having left me off & not yet found me out again – I am very sorry you did not go as far as Vienna when once you were in Germany & the road into Italy by Carinthia is as well worth seeing I believe as that thro the Tyrol, & you might have been there at a very momentous & interesting period as we are taught to consider it – & all congresses <14> to be. Have you seen or heard of a tract published in Italian at Milan on the Troad, by Webb <15> whom you know – I have a great anxiety to see it & if you find it at Rome or Florence I should be obliged to you to bring it with you for me. Knowing both the Author & the country, I want very much to see whether his ideas of the Geology, as well as other particulars, agree with mine. There is as you may perceive a great scarcity of paper in my writing case at present – I have just room to ask you a few questions which I want to know. Is the perennial, woody, Ricinus or Palma Christi which you must have seen in Italy, a different species from the Annual you see sometimes in other countries or the same in a better climate? I think they must be the same they are so much alike, tho the circumstance of the Annual always flowering & bearing seed the first year seems as if it was really meant for an Annual. There is a tree mallow here which puzzles me in the same manner – Where do you find the first decided change or improvement of winter climate coming from the North? the Winters of Constantinople & every thing North of the Dardanelles are not a bit milder or shorter than those of England. I have begun Italy at the wrong end for answering this question. What further changes are likely to take place (with due allowance for time) in the stars, garters & other luminaries which now oscillate on the political horizon?<16>
W T H F S
W. H. F. Talbot Esqr
2. The significant ruins of a major Graeco-Roman city, near the coast about 85 km SE of Naples.
3. Giles Digby Robert Strangways (1798–1827), brother of WTHFS.
4. Jane Harriot Nicholl, née Talbot (1796–1874).
5. Harriot Georgiana Mundy, née Frampton (1806-1886), WHFT’s cousin & sister-in-law.
6. Moreton, Dorset: home of the Frampton family.
8. Prince Ercole Branciforte di Butera (d. 1814) of Palermo, Sicily. His widow Ottavia Spinelli, Dowager Princess of Butera (1779-1857), contracted a private marriage in 1814 to Lord Robert Henry Herbert, later 12th Earl of Pembroke (1791-1862). This marriage was annulled in 1818. Caterina Branciforte (1768-1824), daughter and heiress of Prince Ercole, married a Hanoverian officer Lt Georg Wilhelm Karl Wilding, later ennobled (1788-1841). On the death of Prince Ercole, Count Wilding styled himself Prince of Butera. William argues that such fortune as might have gone to the widow of Prince Ercole actually passed to the new German Prince of Butera.
9. Lady Elisabeth Theresa Feilding, née Fox Strangways, first m Talbot (1773–1846), WHFT’s mother.
10. In arrears.
14. A puzzling comment – the Congress of Vienna took place in 1814–1815 following the Napoleonic Wars.
15. Philip Barker Webb (1793–1854), Osservazioni intorno allo stato antico e presente dell’ agro Trojano (Milan: 1820–1821).
16. Stars, garters and other luminaries = people of high rank, appointed Knights of the Garter or given other state decorations.