link to Talbot Project home page link to De Montfort University home page link to Glasgow University home page
Project Director: Professor Larry J Schaaf

Back to the letter search >

Document number: 4423
Date: 12 Jan 1842
Postmark: 14 Jan 1842
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: FEILDING Elisabeth Theresa, née Fox Strangways
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA42-6
Collection 2: PRIVATE
Collection 2 number: FT11419
Last updated: 15th February 2012

[The envelope for this letter is in a private collection:]
Henry Fox Talbot Esqr
Laycock Abbey


[Fragment? Lady Elisabeth often left her letters to her son unsigned.]

Melbury <1>
12th Jany

My Dear Henry

I am put off from Moreton <2> till Friday, I stay there till the Wednesday following so pray direct to me accordingly. I enclose my last Letter from Florence keep it till I come, but write & give me your animadversions upon it. John <3> says the difference between those two constellations is the same as between a pair of Shoes and Boots Is he right? He is on the wing for Margam, <4> & intends assorting at a County ball at Pyle Inn which Ly Charlotte <5> patronizes I intend being with you Samedi en huit <6> - I am tired of wandering & have 1000 things to do auprès de mes Pénates. <7> I see there has been another robbery at Seend what are the Police about? Mary <8> was so importunate I gave her some of my Calotypes, the picture of me in a x band gown, <9> The Soliloquy of a Broom, <10> & the Hayrick with Porter, <11> & also the façade of Carclew <12> & the View of the North Court <13> from my window when the the two tall Elm trees were standing She wanted them for Mr Lewellyn <14> [sic] who takes a great interest & wants to learn. He already does the Daguerrotype but I suppose is disgusted with its clumsiness & want of veracity, turning right things left &c


1. Melbury, Dorset: one of the Fox Strangways family homes; WHFT was born there.

2. Moreton, Dorset: home of the Frampton family.

3. William Thomas Horner Fox Strangways, 4th Earl of Ilchester (1795-1865), botanist, art collector & diplomat.

4. Margam Park, Glamorgan: home of Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot.

5. Lady Charlotte Talbot, née Butler (1809-1846), wife of CRM Talbot.

6. Saturday a week = 22 January.

7. In the presence of my household gods.

8. There are three plausible candidates here: Lady Mary Lucy Cole, née Strangways, first m. Talbot (1776–1855), WHFT’s aunt; Mary Thereza Talbot (1795–1861), WHFT’s cousin; and, less likely, Mary Frampton (1773–1846), botanist & author. See Doc. No: 04413.

9. The cross-barred gown is perhaps the portrait of Lady Elisabeth in a dramatically striped dress, illustrated in Gail Buckland, Fox Talbot and the Invention of Photography (Boston: David R. Godine, 1980), p. 159; although it is attributed to approximately 1844 by Buckland, there is no date on the original negative in the NMeM, Bradford, 1937-3506, Schaaf 1146.

10. WHFT did a number of views of "The Soliloquy of the Broom", culminating in his famous later "The Open Door" in WHFT, The Pencil of Nature (London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, June 1844-April 1846 [issued in six fascicles]); the earlier ones are put in context in Larry J. Schaaf, The Photographic Art of William Henry Fox Talbot (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), pp. 30-31; the image referred to here is almost certainly the one taken 21 January 1841, Schaaf 2548, reproduced on p. 107.

11. For this image see 'Hayrick with Porter', Schaaf 2607, reproduced in Larry J. Schaaf, Sun Pictures Catalogue Nine: William Henry Fox Talbot: Friends and Relations (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr., 1999), p. 15. Charles Porter (b. 1828), a servant at Lacock Abbey, was the frequent subject of photographs, and occasionally also photographic assistant.

12. WHFT took a number of views of Carclew, Cornwall, 3 mi N of Penryn: seat of Sir Charles Lemon, his uncle, but the most likely façade was taken in 1841, Schaaf 2541, and is illustrated in Graham Smith, Disciples of Light: Photographs in the Brewster Album (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1990), figure 129.

13. WHFT photographed the North Courtyard of Lacock Abbey in one of his first calotype negatives, on 14 October 1840, Schaaf 3691; the print of this that he sent to Rev Calvert Richard Jones (1802-1877), Welsh painter & photographer, is illustrated in Larry J. Schaaf, Sun Pictures Catalogue Five: The Reverend Calvert R. Jones (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr., 1990), p. 22.

14. John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810-1882), Welsh photographer, JP & High Sheriff.