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Document number: 00570
Date: 17 May 1812
Recipient: FEILDING Elisabeth Theresa, née Fox Strangways
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA12-14
Last updated: 19th February 2012

Harrow <1>
May 17. 1812.

My dear Mamma,

Today I have heard one of the best sermons I ever did hear, from Mr Conyngham the clergyman of this parish; he is a very pious man & knew Mr Perceval <2> very well. The sermon was on the fallacy of human life - From your letter I find I heard of Mr Percevals death the day before you did. You can have no idea with what vigour I pursue my favourite science of chemistry here with another who likes it like I do. I get my things at a chemists & druggists here; at present my laboratory consists of very few articles viz -

An iron spoon to melt metals in &c -
A tin pot to boil liquids in &c
A tobacco pipe - A tin spoon to mix things with
An eggcup - A pestle & mortar (lent me)
A large green bottle - And a Seltzer water bottle -


Nitrous acid - Sulphuric acid - Muriatic acid - Potash - Nitre - Flowers of Sulphur - a little Phosphorus - Oil of Turpentine - Strontian - Nitrat of Strontian -

I shall at least double my substances next Wednesday when I shall get what I have sent for to town for. I am much obliged to you for thinking of getting me a book; but I had rather defer it till the holidays. You could not please me half so much in any other way, as by promoting my means of enjoying my favourite science, which at present engrosses all my attention - The other day I wrote to Aunt Louisa<3> to ask her to be so kind as to obtain for me at Accums, <4> two glass stopper bottles, I wonder I have not yet received any answer. What I want most is a small pair of scales with a set of both troy & avoirdupois-weights from a grain to 2 ounces - I do not understand avoirdupois weight. Can you by any means procure me a method of easily obtaining what I want from London? I wish you would try to do so - chemistry is what I cannot get tired of. In Parkes Chemical Catechism <5> I find all Dr Davys <6> new discoveries which are very interesting - I wonder you do not become a convert to chemistry However: quot homines tot sententiĉ: so many men so many minds - There is a word in your letter which I cannot read; you tell me <7> "not to write in a hurry because then I do not answer your questions. L. . . . . . ucian <8> for instance." It seems like lunar or linear: it is thus [illegible] <9> - Do you recollect what it was? Lloyd is captain but you cd not have heard him speak last year. Dawson was captain then.

Yr affte Son (not in a hurry)
W. H. F. Talbot

Pray do not forget to write to me about my chemistry, & try to effect what I wish viz. to obtain an easy method of getting things from London -

Write soon.

Ding dong dell
Ring (ye) wrong bell

I was very much pleased to find Mr F.s <10> name in a subscription towards a new Greek Thesaurus -

Lady E. Feilding


1. Harrow School: WHFT attended from 1811-1815 and his son Charles from 1855-1859.

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. Louisa Emma Petty Fitzmaurice, née Fox Strangways, Marchioness of Lansdowne (1785-1851), wife of Henry Petty Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne; Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria, 1837-1838; WHFT's aunt.

4. Friedrich Accum (1769-1838) a chemist and writer in London and an assistant to Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution. Accum was an influential author, a pioneer of gas lighting, and was especially noted for exposing the widespread and dangerous practices of food adulteration. At this time, he operated a shop supplying chemicals and laboratory supplies, taking in a student, Alexander Garden, who later became his partner in Accum & Garden in Soho. In 1820, Accum was caught stealiing pages from books in the library of the Royal Institution and fled to his native Germany. Garden later became a supplier of photographic chemicals to WHFT - see Doc. No: 04632.

5. Samuel Parkes, A chemical catechism for the use of young people,with copious notes for the assistance of the teacher to which are added a vocabulary of chemical terms, useful tables, and a chapter of amusing experiments (London: printed for the author by H. D. Symonds, 1806).

6. Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829), chemist.

7. See Doc. No: 00569.

8. Lucian (120-180), Greek rhetorician, pamphleteer, and satirist.

9. Word written in imitation of EF's hand.

10. Rear Admiral Charles Feilding (1780-1837), Royal Navy; WHFT's step-father.