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Document number: 884
Date: 30 Jun 1820
Dating: 1820 by winning of Porson Prize
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: FURSDON Charles
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA20-13
Last updated: 4th January 2011

Fursdon House
Nr Cullumpton

Dear Talbot

If you really have gained the Porson Prize <1> as report says you have, you must allow me to congratulate you most sincerely upon your success: To have floored the Cove I conceive to be no trifling triumph. My friend Coleridge<2> can try again, indeed I think he has no cause to be disappointed this year, as two odes are sufficient for any man, of an ordinate appetite for fame. From the omission you had made one would have thought you had no chance, from whence we may infer now the great weight which those lines that did appear had with the examiners. I dare say you will be so good as to let me know a little of the detail and inform me of some of the circumstances attending the decision, such as a long list of unsuccessful men, but who have done themselves infinite credit by their translations, &c.

I have seen our liberal subscriptions to the Observatory in print; since that I suppose there have been great additions: indeed the liberality of the individuals of the University is a subject of general applause, and it was not a little pleasing to be congratulated on it by a Member in the House of Commons when I was there last week, to whom I was introduced - his name was Gilbert, <3> he is a most scientific man and talked much too deeply for me to follow him, if you or Coddington <4> had been there I doubt not you would have played with him on his favorite subjects and participated in pleasures which I could not by any manner of means whatever understand: I therefore let him have his own way till his [larum?] of science went down and then he began on more rational topics, and I afterwards found him a most entertaining and instructive man. I heard the Scotchman Sir James Mackintosh <5> harangue on the character of Mr Grattan and John Cam Hobhouse <6> declaim against the standing army. From all accounts Her Majesty the Queen <7> has completely succeeded in puzzling the Ministers and making them appear ridiculous in the eyes of the people. It is wonderful what an effect the great question has on the lower orders in this country: they talk and think of nothing but a total change in affairs not only in government but in every department and station in the kingdom. Indeed they think the plans of Spence and the levelling equalizing system will soon be realized:<8> not a carter stops at a pot-house to drink but his second question relates to the downfall of his superiors and the amelioration of himself. So we are, but how we shall be in a few months none can tell. As to the King, <9> he has been mad ever since the Queen came over, nor will he retract an item. As to the Queen, in the words of Fielding, <10> having her being a whore and a rogue nobody can say black's the white of her eye.

Let me hear from you soon and inform me how the commencement went off and the recitation of the Trochaic <11> Tetrameters. Was Arnold <12> one of the successful Epigrammatists? Has Coddington returned? if he has remember me to him sincerely. -

Having now spun out my yarn I must subscribe myself Yours very sincerely
Charles Fursdon.

June 30th

W. H. F. Talbot Esq
Trin: Coll:


1. WHFT won this prize for translating Macbeth, Act 1. last scene, into Greek. [See Doc. No: 00864, and Doc. No: 00885].

2. 'Cove' was Henry Nelson Coleridge (1798-1843), nephew and later editor of Samuuel Taylor Coleridge. In 1820, he won two gold medals, for the Greek and for the Latin Ode.

3. Possibly Davies Gilbert (1767-1839), MP, antiquary, scientist and later President of the Royal Society.

4. Rev Henry Coddington (1798-1845), natural philosopher, fellow & tutor, Trinity College, Cambridge; d. in Rome.

5. Sir James Mackintosh (1765-1832), Scottish publicist.

6. Possibly James Grattan (1783-1854), MP, and John Cam Hobhouse, Baron Broughton (1786-1869), statesman & friend of Byron.

7. Queen Caroline Amelia Elizabeth (1768-1821), of Brunswick. She had recently returned to England to claim her rights as queen after the accession of her estranged husband as George IV. A Bill to deprive her of her title and to dissolve her marriage had been postponed on 10 November, and effectively dropped.

8. Thomas Spence (1750-1814) advocated public ownership of land. The Spencean movement was denounced in Parliament by the witty George Canning and the Spencean Society itself was suppressed in 1820.

9. George IV, Prince Regent, later King of England (1762-1830).

10. Henry Fielding (1707-1754), novelist. The phrase meant nobody could point out a blot in her character.

11. Name of a metre used by the Greeks and Romans in comedies and tragedies. WHFT had to give a public recital of his prize winning verse - see Doc. No: 00887.

12. No, the Rev Thomas Kerchever Arnold (1800-1853), editor & author was not. The winner was Richard Okes (1797-1888) of Kings College, later Provost of Kings.