My dear Mr Talbot
At last we return you your Guercino with a great many thanks - you should have had it sooner had I known how to convey it to you safely for we have indeed kept it a most unreasonable time I thought of Harriet Mundy <1> but then I scrupled incumbering her with so heavy a Book-<2> Our old friend Sadi Ombar Benbey<3> health which I greive [sic] to say is much worse than when you last saw him & he I know I can depend upon & he has promised me to take it over himself to Lacock from the House of a friend of his in your neighbourhood I trust therefore it will reach you safely - We are in the midst of preparations for departure & I am therefore writing in a hurry but I must offer you our sincere congratulations & good wishes, & the assurance that we shall always feel much interested in your happiness-<4> health which I greive [sic] to say is much worse than when you last saw him & he We have been here 2 months for Mr Seymers <5> health which I greive [sic] to say is much worse than when you last saw him & he returns to Hanford<6>much more helpless than when he left it - We all unite in kind regards.
Believe me Sincerely yrs
Harriet Ker Seymer
Henry Fox Talbot Esqre
1. Harriot Georgiana Mundy, née Frampton (1806-1886); WHFT's cousin & sister-in-law; married William Mundy, 1830.
2. By the time of this letter, there were several books on the Italian painter, Giovanni Francesco Barbiere (1591-1666), known as Il Guercino, but none have been traced that would qualify as a 'heavy' book. It seems more likely that she means a bound volume of prints, a common enough item on the Lacock Abbey bookshelves.
3. Although it appears to be a name corrupted by a language game, Sadi Ombark Benbey (1791-1854) was a Moroccan living in England, supposedly brought back by the Scottish explorer of the African continent, Mungo Park (1771-1806), to whom he taught Arabic - see Gentleman's Magazine, v. 195, April 1854, p. 441. However, Talbot de Malahide recalled Benbey's account that "on his way as a pilgrim to Mecca, [he] was stopped in his journey by the French invasion of Egypt. [the invasion lasted from 1798-1801, which fell neatly between Park's two expeditions] He volunteered his services against them, and subsequently became acquainted with many officers of the English army. This led to his visit to England, where he spent the last twenty or thirty years of his life. I knew him also in Dorsetshire, where he was intimate with ... the Seymers, of Handford." Letter on "Irish Language in Africa," The Ulster Journal of Archaeology, v. 7, 1859, p. 347. In 1832, he was presented to the King at a levee and was a frequent invitee to royal functions after that. WHFT possibly knew him through common botanical interests, for Benbey exhibited plants at the Horticultural Society -see, for example, "Horticultural Society and Garden," The Gardener's Magazine, v. 4, April 1828, p. 56.
4. Seemingly a reference to WHFT's marriage to Constance Mundy, on 12 December 1832.
5. Henry Ker Seymer (1782- 12 Nov 1834), JP, MP & High Sheriff for Dorset.