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Document number: 1436
Date: 22 May 1826
Dating: corrected from 21st
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: HERSCHEL John Frederick William
Collection: National Science and Media Museum, Bradford
Collection number: 1937-4799
Last updated: 30th April 2012

May 22 <1> 1826.

My dear Sir/

I recieved your letter from Ancona <2> for which I beg to thank you & was much gratified by your recollecting me in the interval of a journey so long & so rapid. Your remark on the purity of the air on Mt Cenis is curious. I have observed the same thing at very great elevations. Surely such are the places for delicate astronomical observations and Empedocles <3> was no goose if he had had but a telescope – Laplace in the last Edn of his Systeme du Monde <4> says that the perfection of Astronomy in future will depend on having observatories erected in the on Equatorial mountains of great height – (such for instance as those of India which are habitable & comfortable for Europeans at 15000 feet.) –

I thank you for the trouble you took about my packet to M. Gautier. <5> I hope I have soothed Amicis <6> concern about Cuthbert’s microscope. <7> In the last No of Brewster <8> which I sent him, is an article by Dr Goring about it in which the Glory is duly given to A. <9>

I don’t think 240£ for one of Amicis 11 inch reflectors (mounted & completely fitted up) much out of the way. They are fine Instruments. To enable you to judge in some way, Tulley <10> has just charged the Astronl Society 200£ for merely working into a 12 feet object glass – a disc of Guinands flint glass <11> furnished by the Society for trial – of 7 inches in diameter. I should prefer for 11 French or 12 English inches of aperture, a focal length of 15 or 20 feet, and 20 rather than 15 – my opinion is grounded on my experience of my own which with an aperture diminished to 12 inches acts very beautifully

I communicated your paper <12> to Dr Brewster & I suppose of course it will appear in the next No of his journal. I had an idea of sending also such observns additionally on the subject as I have lately had opportunities of making on the same subject – but want of time has prevented me hitherto from drawing them up. I was in hopes you would have put in the Elegant Expt with the films of glass.

I have not I fear much news that will interest you – Political news you will get from better reporters & our newspapers if you see them will tell you that one half the nation is subscribing to keep the other half from starving which is all just as it should be – In scientific matters there is little of consequence. I do not know if it was before you left England that Lieut Drummond brought out his brilliant lamp of incandescent lime <13> – If not, bring away with you the full impression of an italian sun to compare with it.

I hope you were pleased with Corfu & the other Isles you visited. The confirmation of the taking of Missolonghi <14> at length has created a great sensation of sympathy & admiration and doubtless you will have been in the way of much interesting detail on the subject of that memorable conflict. I had no idea however that you proposed remaining so short a time in the Mediterranean

I envy you Florence now for at this season it is delicious

O Ego Quantus Eram! Gelidi cum stratus ad Arni Murmura – populeumque nemus – qua mollior herba Confere nunc violas – nunc summas carpere myrtos <15>

There is a sweet pretty lonely spot on the right bank of the river below the Cascine <16> where it is paradise itself to lie & listen to nightingales [illegible deletion] at sunrise. I dont like to think of it.

I propose when the summer is a little further advanced to go and ramble over the extinct vulcanos of Auvergne hammer and sketch book in hand. It would give me much pleasure if I thought there were any chance of encountering you in our respective rambles.– I have no present idea however of going farther unless I should find steam at any port in the South of France. [illegible deletion] Wishing you much enjoyment and freedom from malaria

I remain dear sir Yours very truly
J.F.W. Herschel

PS. Should you fall in with Inghirami <17> at Florence will you remember me to him and tell him I have just sent him some books throguh M. Plana of Turin. <18>

H. F. Talbot Esqr
Poste Restante a Florence Italie
“came half an hour after you went away W.F.S. <19>


1. 22 written over 21, by Herschel.

2. See Doc. No: 01409.

3. Empedocles ( ca.490– ca.430 BC), a Sicilian-born Greek natural philosopher whose epic poem in three books on Nature was in agreement with many parts of the system of Pythagoras.

4. Pierre Simon Laplace (1749–1827), physicist and mathematician, first published his Exposition du Système du Monde, in 1796. It was edited and republished numerous times.

5. Emile Gautier, Professor of Astronomy.

6. Prof Giovanni Battista Amici (1786–1868), Italian optician & man of science.

7. Amici was concerned that John Cuthbert, a London optician, was manufacturing reflecting microscopes and claiming the invention as his own.

8. Sir David Brewster (1781–1868), Scottish scientist & journalist.

9. C. R. Goring, ‘Account of the Improvements which have been made in England on the Reflecting Microscope of Professor Amici of Modena’, The Quarterly Journal of Science and the Arts, v. 21 no. 41, April 1826, pp. 34–49.

10. Probably Charles Tulley, instrument maker. Tulley & Sons were prominent London instrument makers. WHFT also owned a ‘Tulley’, as he called it in Doc. No: 01573.

11. Pierre Louis Guinand (1748–1824), Swiss optician, discovered a method of obtaining large discs of flint glass.

12. WHFT, ‘Some Experiments on Coloured Flames’, was published by Sir David Brewster (1781–1868), Scottish scientist & journalist, in The Edinburgh Journal of Science, v. 5 no. 1, June 1826, pp. 77–82.

13. Thomas Drummond (1797–1840), engineer and statesman, used this light to help the survey of Ireland in 1824.

14. Second siege of Missolonghi during the Greek War of Independence. Missolonghi was several times under siege in wars with the Turks from 1822 to 1828. The most famous battle took place on 23 April 1826.

15. A quote from John Milton (1608–1674), in Epitaphium Damonis, translated as ‘Oh, how transported was my mind, when I outstretche’d beside cool Arno’s whispering flow, In poplar glade, where tendered grass doth grow, could violets pluck – or pluck the myrtles high’.

16. A park on the Arno River, once owned by the Medici.

17. Giovanni Inghirami (1799–1851), astronomer and mathematician.

18. Giovanni Antonio Amedeo Plana (1781–1864), mathematician.

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

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