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Document number: 2411
Date: 08 Sep 1832
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: BOWLES William Lisle
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA32-40
Last updated: 8th March 2012

Bremhill –
Sepber 8th 1832

My dear Sir

I am much oblig’d to you for your kind letter.

I intended writing a short note on the lines to your Sister,<1> respecting the peculiar fate of Ela,<2> but I found the subject increasingly led me so far, & was in itself so very interesting & affecting & Romantic, that, I said to myself, “I have nothing to do – & will tell her story”.

The incidents you mention are too valuable [illegible deletion] to be omitted – the Particulars of the battle of Damietta, <3> are in Mathew Paris, <4> – the apparition of the Son – I did not know the account had been lately translated, – I apprehend there are no other authentic records of the particulars of this battle, or of the circumstance.

I cannot find out on [sic] what year Ela & William, <5> were married. Her Mother died 1096 – It appears she could not be more than twelve at the coronation of John – 1099. <6>

There is a most valuable M.S. in the Cathedral of Salisbury, the fourth stone of which was laid by William & the fifth, by Ela, written by the Præcentor of the Cathedral, at the very time, and the very day, who describ’d minutely all the circumstances – who was one of the Canons, who met the corpse, in the procession, from Old Sarum, little more than [illegible deletion], five years after he Wm had laid the stone, he being the first there buried.

How long the fit of writing may last, I cannot tell – I have some four or five chapters, con amore <7>

I wish you would let me see you when you come down – for William being on the King’s side, at Runnimede, I should image, the imagine the copy of “magna charta”, in the Tower, at Lacock, was to the one Wm & the Barons signed, on the spot, for the chief attestors, had each, I have no doubt, a copy.

Pray – examine all the papers – I am sure you will find [illegible deletion] some original, if not valuable, documents, & believe me

Yrs most truly
W L Bowles

Oh! that I were on the Edge of Southampton waters, this beautiful day.

H F Talbot Esqr
Isle of Wight


1. WHFT had two half-sisters: Lady Caroline Augusta Edgcumbe, née Feilding (1808- 2 Nov 1881) and Henrietta Horatia Maria Gaisford, née Feilding (1810- 9 Aug 1851).

2. Ela (d. 1261), Countess of Salisbury, who founded the abbey of Lacock in 1232.

3. Damietta in Egypt was seized during the 5th crusade in 1218.

4. A misspelling for Matthew Paris ( ca.1250–1259), Benedictine monk, chronicler and manuscript illuminator. His account is re-told in full in William Lisle Bowles and John Gough Nichols, Annals and Antiquities of Lacock Abbey, in the County of Wilts, with Memorials of the Foundress of Ela Countess of Salisbury, and of The Earls of Salisbury of the Houses of Salisbury and Longspe; including Notices of the Monasteries of Bradenstoke, Hinton, and Farley (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1835), pp. 246–255.

5. Ela and William Longespee, Prince of England (1173–1225).

6. Bowles is mistaken here: the coronation of King John (1166–1216) took place in 1199, and similarly Ela’s mother must have died in 1196 instead of 1096.

7. Out of love.

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