My dear Henry
You cannot think how much pleasure your letter gave me both because it pleased me to hear about you & little Caroline <1> & also because it proved you had not quite forgotten poor Aunt Mary – Ellinor <2> is now getting much better tho’ 3 days ago I quite despaired of her life but the Ague which reduced her has not returned & I hope she will regain her strength as rapidly as she had lost it – Jane <3> is grown so fat so tall & so stout that you would hardly believe she had ever been Ill. Charlotte <4> wishes heartily that she could have a game of Romps with you and Caroline but I am afraid there is no chance of our seeing you in London you must persuade your Mother & Mr Feilding <5> to come & spend the hot weather at Penrice, <6> as the Sea Air and Water is so good for all the party – there has been an Exhibition of Wild Beasts here <7> which I went to see fed & I assure you is [sic] was a most savage sight the Tigers & Leopards growled & roared over their food near a quarter of an hour before they began to eat only now & then tearing it with their teeth – a Lady who went with me told me, her Aunt had been in the East Indies & that once when she was walking (near a river luckily where there was a ferry) she saw a Tiger just making a leap at one of her little Children she had two with her & she immediately snatched them up one under each arm & ran towards the boat, but one Child (being the heaviest I suppose) she dropped but not having the heart to leave it she returned picked it up & jumped into the boat just time enough to save them & the Tiger was in such a rage at missing his prey that he sprung into the water after them & when I heard these monsters growl I could not help thinking how dreadful it must be to be alive in their Clutches. amongst them was an Ursine Sloth a most Extraordinary looking Creature with the figure of a Bear & the habits of a mole. I hear from Penrice that the garden is so beautiful & the Green Peas in Blossom more double violets than they think work while to gather & the Hyacinths enamelling my parterres – Yet here we are neither enlivened by a gay prospect or exhilarated by the Songs of the Birds but sometimes I stop to listen for a quarter of an hour together to a dusty Thrush that hangs in a Cottage about a hundred yards out of the Town where I walk almost every day – I hope when I see you you will teach me those Mathematicks that are so entertaining – pray remember to tell your Mamma [text missing] <8> pray write to me again & tell me all your occupations & amusements we have been picking up a great many Flints with Chrystalizations in the inside they are sparkling & beautiful, I found on Old Sarum two Petrified Echini, one in Chalk & the other in Flint, they have all the marks of where the Spines once grew still marked on them. pray write & tell your Mama to write for to hear about you all I can assure you gives the greatest pleasure to your affte Aunt
Mary Lucy Talbot –
W. H. F. Talbot Esqr
at Charles Feildings Esq
Salisbury Apr 8 1809 <9>
1. Caroline Augusta Edgcumbe, née Feilding, Lady Mt Edgcumbe (1808–1881); WHFT’s half-sister.
2. Ellinore Sybilla ‘Ronille’ Talbot (1801–1810), WHFT’s cousin.
3. Jane Harriot Nicholl, née Talbot (1796–1874).
4. Charlotte Louisa 'Charry' Traherne, née Talbot (1800–1880), WHFT’s cousin.
5. Lady Elisabeth Theresa Feilding, née Fox Strangways, first m Talbot (1773–1846), WHFT’s mother, and Rear Admiral Charles Feilding (1780–1837), Royal Navy; WHFT’s step-father.
6. Penrice Castle and Penrice House, Gower, Glamorgan, 10 mi SW of Swansea: home of Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot.
7. 'Exhibition of Wild Beasts' was the touring exhibition of Stephen Polito (1763/4–1814),on its way to Southampton according to the advert in the Hampshire Chronicle the following day [Most Superb Menagerie. (1809, April 10).
8. The corner of the paper has been rounded off and at this point, cut off and removed from the original letter; probably destroyed at the time.
9. Written at the back of address panel in another hand.