My dear Henry
I wish you could have been by at the opening of your parcel to have seen the pleasure caused by its contents in which you so exactly suited our different tastes – the views of Edinburgh are beautiful and Miss Stephens’ <2> is so very pretty a face that I have hung it up in my room to contemplate at leisure – the little Hebrew book I have not yet studied but I think it will be very useful to me – We were all very much entertained with Peter Schlemihl <3> which we read out as all were impatient to hear it – I think some of the sentences as as [sic] obscure in the english [sic] as I suppose they are in the original – Mind you send us any pretty little “Gedichte” <4> you can pick up – Harriet Frampton <5> sent to us for the two you translated for us which we copied for her, as well as [Caton?], – it is odd she should be reading Undine <6> exactly at the same time that we are – I find I had forgotten most of the story so that it interests me again. Mary <7> heard from Kit <8> a few days ago – he was hunting in the neighbourhood of Oxford and said that he could not help smiling at the difference between that & the welsh hunting – Mary went to the cave the other day with the Miss Lucas’s who proved to be very dextrous bone-finders they brought home principally small teeth, of what animals must be left to Mr Buckland <9> to decide when he next comes this way – I hope you will take a great many sketches in your camera obscura <10> particularly if you go to Corsica as I have never seen any views of that island though I believe it is very pretty We are making a rock work up at our gardens – most of it is only the natural rock cleared away a little but we are putting all sorts of pretty plants in the chinks Mama <11> talks of making a new place for the green house plants to stand in the summer just above her garden stretching into the wood it will be a nice sunny place and very pretty too I think, if we can manage the fence well – Jane is coming home soon to see her flourishing seeds – her orchis is in blow and very much like a spider – there are no more of your seeds come up since you heard before of them –
We have just been unpacking a case of curiosities from the north-pole expedition which was given to Sir Christopher by the carpenter of one of the ships who had been at sea with him – they are a very nice collection – there is a head, a sea unicorn’s horn which is beautiful – it had served for a summer tent-pole – a white fox and several ducks & gulls that are very pretty, a white grouse too & a snow-bunting a collection of plants and specimens of rocks very neatly arranged without scientific names of course – and a sort of little trough made of iron pyrites which the Esquimaux used as a kettle or saucepan – they strike a light too with two pieces of pyrites & let the spark drop on dry moss – there is a little bag most neatly sewed together made of duck’s feet and one of their needles made of Ivory – a nail of the same material which I suppose they get from the sea unicorn’s horns – bird spears too & bow and arrows one of which is tipped with stone nicely sharpened – a complete dress of fur and a jacket made of bladder to wear in the canoe [of]<12> which there is a very neat little model – & many other things above all a doll! dressed exactly like the women with funny little hands & feet but no face has been attempted – & some spectacles to keep off the reflection of the snow – which one can very well see through but they do not fit the shape of our head so that I suppose the foreheads of the esquimaux must be very square & flat and their noses very low –
Aunt Susan <13> is still very poorly she is gone back to Stinsford <14> after staying three weeks at Melbury <15> – Aunt Harriet <16> & her daughters are gone to Torquay to see Aunt C. <17> I don’t know how long they mean to stay. They are all very well here except me and I am better than I have been for the last three weeks –
Your affectionate cousin
W.H.F. Talbot Esqr
1. Penrice Castle and Penrice House, Gower, Glamorgan, 10 mi SW of Swansea: home of Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot.
5. Possibly Hariot Georgiana Frampton.
6. Friedrich de la Motte-Fouqué, Undine (1811).
7. Mary Thereza Talbot (1795–1861), WHFT’s cousin.
8. Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (1803–1890), immensely wealthy landowner, mathematician & politician; WHFT’s Welsh cousin.
10. Literally, a ‘dark room’. By the 18th century small boxes with lenses were familiar instruments for draughtsmen – an image of nature was projected by the lens onto a sheet of ground glass, where the artist could place his paper and trace the scene. The first photographers utilized these by adding a sheet of photo-sensitized material.
11. Lady Mary Lucy Cole, née Strangways, first m. Talbot (1776–1855), WHFT’s aunt.
12. Text torn away under seal.
13. Lady Susannah Sarah Louisa O’Brien, née Strangways (1743–1827), WHFT’s great aunt.
14. Stinsford, Dorsetshire, 2 mi E of Dorcester.
15. Melbury, Dorset: one of the Strangways family homes; WHFT was born there.
16. Lady Harriet Frampton, née Fox Strangways (d. 1844) .
17. Lady Charlotte Anne Lemon, née Strangways (d. 1826), WHFT’s aunt.