Rothay Bank. <1>
October the 16th
My dear Papa,
The letter you forwarded to me from Emily Cockburn, contains a piece of news you never would guess – the marriage of one of our Edinburgh acquaintances, the most improbable person one could think of – in a word Mr Coventry is going to marry a young lady of 28 – a miss Pollen, daughter of an English clergyman, whose acquaintance he seems to have accidentally made at Harrogate. His friends cannot recover from their surprise at this sudden change of life, in one who apparently
ledhad enjoyed such a happy existence, devoted to science and the arts, with every means of indulging his tastes, and who has waited to take such an important step till he is nearly 60. E. Cockburn mentions two other persons, unknown to us, about to follow this example, aged respectively sixty and seventy – She says everyone is quite marrying mad. – Tilly <2> has been to Dabton <3> to meet Mr C.’s cousin, Colonel Clark Kennedy, <4> and his bride, <5> who is the daughter of Colonel Peregrine Cust <6>(brother of the late Lord Brownlow}<7> and niece of the Duke of Buccleugh. <8>– We shall really go to Speddoch <9> on Tuesday, unless the state of the weather or some other cause quite prevent it, in which case you must make up your mind to receive us a day or two earlier at Lacock; But as the plan now stands we mean to leave Speddoch on Monday (tomorrow week) meet Mama <10>, Ela <11> and the rest at Oxenholme, sleep at Crewe, and be home on Tuesday, or Wednesday at latest, should we find it necessary to sleep two nights on the road. You will be glad to hear that Mamie’s <12> face is much better, but she is still far from strong, and we shall be all most happy to find ourselves once more safe and comfortable at home. We have been lately enjoying some lovely days, warm as summer, and the country all so beautiful with autumn tints; – and then we have wished for you so much; but all the time it was raining you [illegible deletion] would have found it very tedious to be shut up in this small house, and at times the air has been as steamy and heavy almost as it can be at Lacock. Sir John Woodford <13> has played us quite false! – not only he never appeared last Sunday when we expected him, but he has never written a word since to explain the reason: So we can only conjecture that he is ill, poor man, or absent, voluntarily or otherwise. Has not reading so much about the Great Eastern <14> given you a great wish to go and see it? but I confess I was much disappointed at hearing that at its greatest speed it is not likely to go more than 18 or 20 miles an hour. They talked so much of it before hand, as to raise one’s expectations to something far more wonderful. And after all instead of its boasted immoveability it seems it can pitch and roll just like another ship. – Major Wake <15> called here a moment on his way to Leamington to take leave of poor Mrs Shakespear, <16> who was to start on her return to India last Wednesday taking her youngest child back with her. Her sister Lady Grant <17> accompanies her to Calcutta, and then will probably have to go on to Hong Kong to join her husband. What an immense journey!
Mama wishes me to say she received your two letters yesterday and today, and will write on Tuesday to tell you if we are gone. – The Lacock grapes were most excellent, and they have lasted till now.
Are you still thinking of Paris, and do you mean to flit before we return? I am so glad to think we shall soon be home to make you comfortable, for I am sure you do not take care of yourself, and do not make sufficiently good fires when it is damp and chilly. So hoping we shall all be snug together again before long,
your very affectionate daughter
H. F. Talbot Esqre
1. Grasmere, Westmoreland: popular summer venue; Wordsworth is buried there.
2. Matilda Caroline Gilchrist-Clark, ‘Tilly’, née Talbot (1839–1927), WHFT’s 3rd daughter.
3. Dabton, Dumfriesshire: home of WHFT’s daughter Matilda
4. John Clark Kennedy of Knockgray (d.1867).
5. Charlotte Isabella Cust (d.1914). They married on 8 September 1859.
6. Peregrine Francis Cust (1791–1873).
7. John Cust, 2nd Baron and 1st Earl of Brownlow (1779–1853).
8. Walter Montagu-Douglas-Scott, 5th Duke of Buccleuch and 7th Duke of Queensberry (1806–1884).
9. Speddoch, Dumfriesshire, 10 mi NW of Dumfries: home of WHFT’s daughter Matilda
10. Constance Talbot, née Mundy (1811–1880), WHFT’s wife.
11. Ela Theresa Talbot (1835–1893), WHFT’s 1st daughter.
13. Sir John George Woodford (1785–1879), Major General. His distinguished military career included serving as aide-de-camp to Wellington at Waterloo in 1815. Between 1821 and 1837, when he retired, he successfully campaigned for wide-ranging reforms within the army, from the systems of military discipline and purchase of commissions, to recreational provision.
14. The Great Eastern was the largest steamship in the world in the second half of the 19th century. It was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Eastern Steam Navigation Company to carry sufficient coal for the entire voyage to Australia, thus avoiding spending valuable time in port re-coaling, and up to 4,000 passengers in luxury. The ship took five years to build and, after an abortive launch in 1858, finally undertook its maiden voyage in 1860.
15. Possibly Charles Hamilton Wake (1808–1874).
16. A relative of Mary Ann Thackeray, née Shakespear (1793-1850); WHFT's cousin. Several of her brothers were employed by the East India Company - see Sir William Wilson Hunter, The Thackerays in India, and Some Calcutta Graves (London: Henry Frowde, 1897).
17. Lady Helen Grant (née Tayler), wife of Sir James Hope Grant (b.1803), Commander-in-Chief, Madras, India in 1862.