Friday March 12. –
My dear Henry
Several of the Russian seeds <1> are already coming up, which is a sign I consider, of their being good. – & gives promise of the others. – but certainly it is splendid weather for vegetation. Humphries <2> is extremely busy, sowing garden seeds & pruning the fruit trees – and two of his men are employed in dressing the Botanic garden – I feel (like the gardeners) quite in an agitation to get my own garden & the children’s <3> in order; & to sow some flower-seeds – but the weather is so fine, it makes me disposed to be idle & to saunter about in search of violets & primroses which are springing up abundantly. I have made some pictures for you, today & yesterday. 6 good Nicholls <4> & 1 overdone. & 2 or 3 of each of the others which you desired to have – Those on the Shutter in Mlle Amélina’s <5> room are all nearly destroyed by the Sunshine. This is a sad pity! you must really invent some other fixing process or some new fixing liquid.<6>
Will you tell Horatia <7> that her row of little tulips on the South terrace is in blow, & that she has some lovely purple crocusses & plenty of yellow ones in her garden – It is a pity she is not here to see them. – I hope she will be able soon to leave her room & enjoy this lovely weather –
2. John Humphries, gardener at Lacock Abbey in the early 1840’s.
3. Ela Theresa Talbot (1835–1893), WHFT’s 1st daughter, Rosamond Constance ‘Monie’ Talbot (1837–1906), artist & WHFT’s 2nd daughter, and Matilda Caroline Gilchrist-Clark, ‘Tilly’, née Talbot (1839–1927), WHFT’s 3rd daughter.
4. Constance was probably making copies of a much admired photographic portrait of Nicolaas Henneman (1813–1898), Dutch, active in England; WHFT’s valet, then assistant; photographer; the portrait was done in one minute on 23 February 1841. For this image see ‘Nicolaas Henneman in the Cloisters of Lacock Abbey’, Schaaf 2559, reproduced in Larry J. Schaaf, The Photographic Art of William Henry Fox Talbot (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), p. 112. [See also Doc. No: 04365].
6. WHFT was alternating at this point between his original fixing methods, using the salts of sodium, bromine or iodine to stabilise the image, and Sir John Herschel's hypo 'washing out' process, which under ideal conditions removed all the remaining light sensitive silver salts. However, neither could cope with extended exposure to a window's sunshine.
7. Henrietta Horatia Maria Gaisford, née Feilding (1810–1851), WHFT’s half-sister.