Aug 31. 1844<1>
Yesterday afternoon, Mr Drury of Shotover Park,<2> near this City, called upon me to say that he had just learned you were in town, and would be happy if you could arrange to accompany me and spend today with him. I did not succeed in finding you. This morning I have had a note from Mr Drury regretting his not having the pleasure of seeing you and desiring me to inform you that whenever you come to Oxford he shall have much pleasure in receiving you at Shotover Park, and shall be glad to send his carriage for you, if you have not a conveyance of your own with you. The place is worth seeing, not only on account of its beautiful scenery – for the demesne is in what was a Royal Forest – but because of its fine collection of portraits by Vandyke.
If I can do anything for your Pencil of Nature,<3> by noticing it in the Oxford Herald I shall be happy to do so – I hope you will favor me with a view of Moore’s<4> portrait, and allow me to shew it to Mr Drury, who is something of an artist himself.
Believe me, dear Sir,
R. Shelton Mackenzie
– Fox Talbot Esq
Fox Talbot Esr
1. Although this is the earliest letter so far traced between the men, there is an empty envelope in the Fox Talbot Collection, the British Library (Acc 22921)postmarked 21 January 1843, addressed to WHFT at Lacock Abbey - WHFT annotated it "Mackenzie".
2. George Vandeput Drury, Bart. (1777-1849), formerly of the East India Company and a critical patron of the Pre-Raphaelite painter, John Everett Millais. Shotover House was 4 miles East of Oxford, and where Milton married his first wife. A tangential connection of Drury to photography was recalled by Millais’s son: “Here, too, in 1846 he made the acquaintance of Mr. Drury, of Shotover, a quaint, benevolent old gentleman, who loved the fine arts and everything connected with them. He made a great pet of the young artist, and insisted on his accompanying him wherever he went in his pony-cart, for being a huge man and a martyr to gout he could not move without his ‘trap.’ … Nothing could exceed his kindness to Millais…. William Millais tells us something of Mr. Drury and his peculiar ways. He says, ‘My brother often went to stay at Shotover Park, and on one occasion I was invited there too for a fortnight. There was no one with Mr. Drury in the huge mansion except his niece…. It is not easy to forget my first impressions there. I was informed by a stately old butler that 'Master Millais was engaged just then with the master.' I entered a darkened room, where the old invalid could just be seen sitting up in bed with a tallow dip in one hand and a square of glass in the other. He was moving the flame of the candle all over the under side of the greased surface of the glass, which was gradually becoming black with smoke; on this sheet of glass my brother had drawn figures of angels in all positions. I had evidently entered at the supreme moment, for our host, catching sight of me, cried out, 'Ah, ah! we've got it; you are just in time to see the New Jerusalem.' Upon examination, there really was a certain fascination about the appearance of this extraordinary 'Kalotype,' as he called it, but which might more appropriately have been called a 'tallow-type.' The dear old man was under the morbid impression that all his relatives wished him dead, so as to inherit his fortune, and for this reason he made a large 'Kalotype' of the subject, which was most ghastly. I cannot describe it exactly, but remember that a coffin occupied the centre of the picture, whilst a regular scrimmage was going on all round. This design was carried out by my brother under his directions.” John Guille Millais, The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais (London: Methuen & Co., 1899), v. 1, pp. 36-38.
3. WHFT, The Pencil of Nature (London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, June 1844–April 1846 [issued in six fascicles]).
4. Thomas Moore (1780–1852), Irish poet, neighbour and friend of the Talbots. WHFT took a calotype portrait of him on 23 April 1844; Schaaf 2778.