My Dear Henry
I cannot tell you how shocked I was at hearing yesterday the melancholy fate of Mr Perceval, <2> as I am sure you must have been, who were perhaps playing at Chess with his unfortunate son at the very moment it happened. I believe there could not be a man fitter for sudden death, as his private character was excellent, but it is a disgrace to our Country that England should resemble Italy <3> in malicious & revengeful assassination. I feel much for poor Mrs Perceval <4> whose loss is dreadful. The Prince Regent sent a message to the House of Commons the next day to desire they would provide for Mr Perceval’s family, which was carried of course nemine contradicente, for all political animosities <5> are forgotten in the recollection of his private virtues. The whole House of Commons on all sides were very much affected, Indeed it was an event to strike them with both pity & horror. – You have not told me whether there are any books you wish for now. Would you like Dr Smith’s Introduction to Physiological & Systematic Botany, <6> or shall I keep that for the Holidays. I wish you would not write to me when you are in a hurry because then you do not answer my questions. Lucian <7> for instance. What heaps of Percevals appear by your list to be at Harrow <8>. Is Lloyd the Captain <9> the same I heard speak last year? How I wish I was [illegible] at the Speeches this year!
The Harrow post cannot be stranger or more inconvenient than this. Betty <10> has got a place with Mrs Evelyn Shirley in Warwickshire
Ever yours affly
E T F
Yours is just come. How long did Dr Butler stay away? I am very sorry for his loss in Mr Perceval.<11> What became of you during Dr B’s absence? did the school go on as usual?
W. H. F. Talbot Esqr
Revd Dr Butler’s
Malvern May 14. 1812 <12>
1. Malvern, or Great Malvern, 9 mi SW of Worcestershire.
2. Spencer Perceval (1762–1812), British Prime Minister (1809–1812). He was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons by John Bellingham.
3. There was a growing movement for political unity in Italy (much of the country was under Austrian and Spanish occupations), that resulted in a series of revolts and assassinations against local rulers.
4. Jane Perceval, née Spencer–Wilson.
5. Written off the edge of page.
6. Sir James Edward Smith, Introduction to Physiological & Systematic Botany (London: London : Longman, Hurst, Reese, Orme and White, 1807).
7. Lucian (120-180), Greek rhetorician, pamphleteer, and satirist.
8. Harrow School: WHFT attended from 1811–1815 and his son Charles from 1855-1859.
10. Elizabeth Vickery ‘Betty’, WHFT’s governess. When she died in autumn 1835, WHFT paid to have a gravestone placed at Cutcombe, Somerset, inscribed: 'Erected to the Memory of Elizbth Vickery his kind & faithful nurse by Henry Fox Talbot of Lacock Abbey in the country of Wilts Esqre'; the stone's inscription is still readable - See Doc. No: 03205.
11. Rev George Butler (1774–1853), Headmaster at Harrow. He had enjoyed the patronage of the Percevals. In 1814, Spencer Perceval's brother, the 2nd Lord Arden, had presented Bulter to the Rectorship of Calverton, Bucks.
12. Written in another hand at the back of address panel.