My dear Papa,
You seem to have had quite as severe winter weather at Lacock as we have had here and precisely on the same days. Our heavy fall of snow was on the 1st: on Wednesday it thawed, but froze again that night – On thursday there was a little more snow, which has since gradually disappeared. For the last three days, we have had brilliant sun, and a cutting north east wind, with a most splendid view of the Fife hills, if any body had had courage enough to ascend Calton hill and look at it.
Last tuesday Sir John McNeill <1> was snowed up on his way from Granton to Edinburgh, where he comes every day on business, and stuck so fast in the drift, that twelve men had to dig for a whole hour to cut a passage for the carriage through the snow, which formed a high wall on each side of it. Does not this sound uncommonly wintry for March? But the midland counties have been far worse off. I think snow storms are generally more severe there than any where else.
There are a great many balls just now, as if the people of Edinburgh thought they wanted a little spirited dancing to keep themselves warm this severe weather. Mama and Tilly <2> went to two last week – one at the Assembly rooms, and the other a private ball which they said was a very good one. I did not go to them, as I did not yet feel quite as strong as usual, and wished to reserve myself for the Opera, to which we all went yesterday. We had La Traviata and heard Mlle Piccolomini, <3> who has been so much talked of for the last two years. She is very young and extremely pretty, only she makes too many grimaces in singing. We were in one of the lower stage boxes and had an admirable view of the actors’ faces; but we had also the full benefit of the [illegible deletion] draughts from the stage, which was not so agreable.
Tomorrow, what do you think? – we are going to a wedding – as spectators, in the gallery of St John’s church – Sir John McNeill’s daughter, Ferooza <4> (which means turqoise in Persian) is going to marry a Mr Stewart, <5> who is a lieutenant in the navy, and whose father <6> has a place in Argyle shire, – the climate there is so delightfully mild that myrtles live all the year in the open air: in fact it is, if anything, warmer than Devonshire. Not a particle of snow has fallen in that delightful spot, when all the rest of the country was covered with it. Ferooza McNeill is to have eight bridemaids, all dressed in blue and white, in honour of her name, and she is going to give each of them a turqoize locket. W’ont that be very appropriate?
The change of ministry has made quite a revolution here. The Lord Advocate and so many others are obliged to give up their places. They are all of course very warm opponents of Lord Derby’s <7> cabinet but console themselves with the hope, that at any rate they will not last beyond this session.
It was very unlucky that the night of the eclipse was the very first night cloudy night we had had for a long time. The moon was particularly bright the evenings before.
But I hope we may be more fortunate for the eclipse of the sun, which will be much more interesting. If the weather is fine we mean to go out into the country each provided with a bit of coloured or smoked glass, for from the house we could not see well. – Do not you mean to go to Melksham <8> to see it in perfection? It is not so very far – and you could watch it so well from Mr Kenrick’s<9> garden.
But my paper is come to an end, so goodbye, dear Papa, –
your affectionate daughter
Rosamond C. Talbot.
H. F. Talbot Esqre
1. Sir John McNeill (1795–1883), diplomat.
2. Constance Talbot, née Mundy (1811–1880), WHFT’s wife and Matilda Caroline Gilchrist-Clark, ‘Tilly’, née Talbot (1839–1927), WHFT’s 3rd daughter.
3. Maria Piccolomini, soprano, polular in the 1850s–1860s.
4. Ferooza Margaret McNeill (1834–1871). Her father was British Minister in Tehran 1836–1842, hence her Arabic name. An interesting woman, Ferooza, was only 20 years old when she went to live with cholera infected families at Cnoc na Faire. Despite her legendary immunity she died fairly young.
5. Duncan Stewart (b. 1834).
6. John Lorne Stewart (b. 1800) of Coll and Knochrioch, Argyleshire, Magistrate for Perth and a Deputy-Lieutenant for Argyle.
7. Edward Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby (1799–1869). In 1858, he formed his second ministry on the resignation of Viscount Palmerston.
8. Melksham, Wiltshire: market town near Lacock, 2 miles S.
9. Dr George Cranmer Kenrick, surgeon living at The Grove, Melksham.