20th Nov 1848
My dear Sir
It is very long since I had the pleasure of hearing from you not since I sent to you some Sicilian & Neapolitan negative Talbotypes, nearly a year ago. - For the last few months I have been hovering around my boy's ship, "Volage"<1> in this part of the world: - profiting by your beautiful art - my portfolio stored with more than 200 of Grecian views & marbles: - Tho' a severe attack of Cholera at Ægina<2> nearly stopd me altogether. I used such sheets of the paper you were so kind as to give me (& which I had carefully preserved for this interesting occasion) - as were good: & it was a large proportion: - but that which I had from your Agent<3> - & all that Lady Georgina Moreton<4> gave me, was very bad: - I have therefore chiefly made us of my own preparation, varying only a little your proportions, to quicken the process - by which means & under this sun, I succeed with the marbles in 1 ½' - ordinary views, &c in 2' or 2 ¼' - & very good portraits sometimes in 30" to 35" in shade. - but after all, for fixed objects your paper, when it is good, is the best. - The paper itself I find great difficulty in procuring - very expensive, &c perhaps out of a quire, I scarcely find 5 good sheets - I should be greatly obliged to you if you would tell me the best - & where to procure it. - Occasionally I have made some of my best & quickest negatives, on the most thin & ordinary French paper -
I will enclose with this, through the kindness of our good friend Sir Ed. Lyons<5> a specimen - The beautiful little Temple of (Wingless) Victory,<6> recently restored - & a marble lately discovered - evidently belonging to it - I think I have copiously illustrated Leape & Wordsworth,<7> & proved the worthless delusions of the pretty engravings in the "Pictorial Greece" of the last - King Otto<8> is much delighted with a few copies I gave to him - given you the title of φιλοκαλος <9>- & your art that of Philiography.
With this quiet place I am delighted - I have these rooms in Acropolis:- use good Sir Edmund as my daily bread - & only regret my approaching return to Malta - for you may believe that I am not vehemently in love with the Society of Valetta - In spite of reports, the Cholera has not yet made its appearance there - tho' probably it will leave its card in proceeding onwards - As my boy's ship winters there, so shall I: - & if I can find any chance of having charge of any young traveller to Palestine & Egypt, shall yet hope to make good that long deferred project of mine - The utter ruin of Jamaica, is mine, - & I am quite unable to make the tour on my own resources<10> - Some 5 months ago I heard from Lord Valletort<11> at Albano - & sent to him a parcel of views which I took when with them at Palermo last spring - I also enclosed some to Lady Mt Edgcumbe<12> at Windsor, in performance of a promise I made & which I had too long deferred - I have never heard whether either parcel reached its destination.
The copying process is, with me, still the most defective - the lines & tones lose their sharpness & precision in the washing & fixing process - Nothing can be more perfect, as they come from the copying press - but I cannot preserve that perfection - With the negative I very rarely fail Any work, or notices which you may do me the favour to communicate to me (at Malta) I shall be greatly obliged for: & I shall, as soon as can, write to your agent for a little more iodised paper<13> that I can depend on - for there are occasions when I cannot repeat my visit to a particular object: - & so, with bad paper, I have lost some good chances - I beg my compliments to Mrs Talbot,<14> & remain Dear Sir
Geo W Bridges
1. Capt. William Wilson Somerset Bridges (1831-1889), RN. The Volage was an 111' ship built in 1825; in 1847, it was designated as a survey ship. Whilst living in the West Indies, Bridges witnessed the tragedy of his wife and all four daughters drowning. After that, he fled with his son, the only remaining child, to the backwoods of Canada. Returning to England in the 1840s, he then followed the travels of his son, who was in the Royal Navy. See Lady Elisabeth's summary of his troubled life in Doc. No: 05482.
2. The Greek island of Aegina (Egina). The year 1848 saw the second of the great outbreaks of cholera in many countries (Bridges would have been no more safe in Britain). The Greek authorities tried, with little success, to block the spread of the disease from Turkey, which was particularly hard-hit.
3. Probably Benjamin Cowderoy (1812-1904), land agent in Reading; business manager for WHFT; later a politician in Australia.
5. Edmund Lyons, Baron (1790-1858), British Admiral and minister to Greece.
6. Temple of Athena Niké on the Acropolis at Athens. Built by Kallicrates, commissioned by Pericles in 448 BC. Also known as Nike Apteros (Wingless Victory).
7. Christopher Wordsworth (1807-1885), Greece: pictorial, descriptive and historical (London: W. S. Orr and Co., 1839).
8. King Otto of Greece (1815-1867), the son of King Louis I of Bavaria. Edmund Lyons took the future King from Brindisi to Greece in 1832 - Otto ruled 1832-1862.
9. Good friend; 'Philiography' greek for 'friend-writing'.
10. The British had ruled Jamaica since 1655, deriving great wealth from sugar and coffee harvested by slaves. The abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire was effected in 1834, but the practical effect was delayed in Jamaica. Other economic forces entered, including free trade, and the economy in Jamaica failed. Bridges had a small pension and other income from the time of his service in Jamaica. Although a man of the cloth, he had argued in support of the institution of slavery in The Annals of Jamaica (London: John Murray, 1828) and especially in his A voice from Jamaica, in reply to William Wilberforce, Esq., M.P. (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1823).
12. Caroline Augusta Edgcumbe, née Feilding, Lady Mt Edgcumbe (1808-1881); WHFT's half-sister.
13. Paper prepared for making calotypes.
14. Constance Talbot, née Mundy (1811-1880), WHFT's wife.