My dear Papa
I am very glad you mentioned the eclipse in your letter, as otherwise I dare say we should neither have thought of it nor found it out, for although it was very dark and the atmosphere dingy yellow during it’s progress, as there was a snow-storm going on the greater part of the time we should have attributed the obscurity to natural causes. As it was we caught two or three momentary glimpses of the sun through gaps in the driving clouds, and could quite well distinguish it’s crescent shape. It is a pity it did not take place yesterday as at that hour the sky was unusually clear. Is it not a satisfaction to have turned the corner of the shortest day? and the days have been unnaturally short lately on account of frequent fogs. I have no very decided news to give you about Goodwin, <1> but his progress is sadly slow. Yesterday he was feeling less well again, and Dr Moir <2> began to think that perhaps there is some other complication which he has not yet discovered, so he brought his assistant again this morning, but I do not think they made out anything very new. He says his pulse is 100 so he must have some internal fever or inflammation, I am afraid.
Did Mama <3> tell you that John turned up again last Monday in quest of ministers, and seemed to be very busy during the single day he spent here.
I dare say they may be all coming into Edinburgh for a few weeks later on, probably in February – I wrote to Charles <4> on Monday hoping he would get it before leaving Weston.
We had no idea, before you mentioned Taunton, where he might be going next. Have you seen in the papers the death of Mr Villiers Stuart <5> in Rutland Square? It was quite sudden, indeed I believe he was found dead in his bed on Monday morng, having been quite in his [illegible deletion] usual health the evening before. We heard it just as we were going to return the visit of Mrs V. Stuart, whom we had not yet seen. Everybody feels for her very much, as she is quite alone, without children.
Sir John McNeill <6> and his new wife, Lady Emma Campbell, are at Cannes, having reached it by a very roundabout journey by Belgium, the Rhine, Innspruck the Bremner, Verona, Milan and Genoa, – They were a whole month on the road, and I don’t know how long letters are in coming. Cannes itself and all those places are quite quiet, but very empty of their usual visitors.
Mama received your letter yesterday, and will communicate with Mr Mushet <7> on the subject of tax papers. He seems to be rather an indolent man who does not do more than he can possibly help. Mama heard from Mrs Roach <8> this morning about the school Christmas trees which promise to be a success. She expresses very warmly their happiness and gratitude at everything having turned out so well for them, and it is a great satisfaction to feel that all your trouble is at last beginning to bring in a good result.
Good bye, dear Papa, everybody sends their love,
Your affect daughter
1. George Goodwin (d. 1875), footman at Lacock Abbey. [See Doc. No: 00455].
2. Dr John Moir (b 1809), French-born to British parents, MD, 52 Castle St, Edinburgh.
3. Constance Talbot, née Mundy (1811–1880), WHFT’s wife.
4. Charles Henry Talbot (1842–1916), antiquary & WHFT’s only son.
5. Charles Villiers Stuart, youngest son of Lord Stuart, died on 19 December 1870, at 20, Rutland Square, Edinburgh. See The Times (London), 22 December 1870, p. 1.
6. Sir John McNeill (1795–1883), diplomat, and his wife Emma Augusta Campbell.
7. John Mushet & Son, property agent, Edinburgh.
8. Mary Roach (b. 1832), wife of Edwin Osmond Roach (1828-1876), Irish-born Vicar at St Cyriac's, Lacock, 1870-1876; Asst Provincial Grand Chaplain, Freemason.