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Document number: 3213
Date: Mon
Dating: possibly Thursday
Harold White: Feb 29 / ?1835
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: FITZMAURICE Louisa Emma, née Fox Strangways
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA35(MW)-11
Last updated: 27th September 2012


Dear Henry

I have to thank you for a most beautifull [sic] collection of Phro-Drawings <2> with which I should become very popular as many acquaintances come to ask for a sight of them. How I envy you being in the Country we have been spending a day here & it will make London more dingy than ever.

Yrs very affly


1. Harold White left us with a tantalising puzzle here. He added a pencil notation "Feb 29" and then below that "?1835". This usually was his transcription of a postmark on an envelope, done in the process of opening the letters, flattening them, and then putting the envelopes en masse into boxes (a separation that is very very slowly being reversed). Transcription errors happened, but even more often he failed to make reference to the calendar, thus mis-dating many letters that were postmarked a day or two later than they were written. If the date was indeed 1835, that would indicate that WHFT shared some of his earliest photographs with his relative, long before the public announcement of photography. This is not impossible but not likely, especially since she said she shared them widely. If the 29 February is correct, the only plausible year is 1836, a likely confusion with 1835. Lady Lansdowne's handwriting was problematic at best, and it is just possible that her dateline could be read as Thursday rather than Monday. If so, the only possible year would be 1844, at a time when WHFT was preparing to issue The Pencil of Nature, and could be expected to be showing photographs to people. Envelopes and postmarks were not in use in 1836, so the source of the date remains a mystery.

2. This is an accurate transcription; it is possible that she mis-heard the word ‘photo’.

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