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Document number: 5064
Date: 12 Sep 1844
Dating: confirmed by Times 6 Sep 1844 p 7
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: MACKENZIE Robert Shelton
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA44-59
Last updated: 2nd April 2012

Sep 12

Dear Sir

I am very much indebted to you for the Talbotype <1> specimens. I have examined them through a glass and find that through such a medium, they are most wonderful. On Saturday I shall return the portrait of Moore)<2> (which is exceedingly like the portrait prefixed to Galignani’s Edition of his poems, <3> as I wish to shew it to Mr Drury<4> tomorrow.

In term-time, which commences about a month hence, is certainly the time for drawing attention to the Pencil of Nature.<5> The Times<6> had a good notice, not brief, a few days ago.

I should not have troubled you with my communication until Saturday, but the enclosed met my view a few minutes ago, & I think you ought to know how an attempt is made by another to get the credit of your discovery. It is about as impudent a thing as I have ever seen –

I am, with much respect, Yrs faithfully
R. Shelton Mackenzie

H. F. Talbot Esq


1. Many contemporaries chose to honour the name of the inventor with the process, but WHFT preferred the simple term calotype.

2. Thomas Moore (1780–1852), Irish poet.

3. Thomas Moore and J. W. Lake, The poetical works of Thomas Moore: including his melodies, ballads, etc. (Paris : A. and W. Galignani, 1827).

4. 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.

5. WHFT, The Pencil of Nature (London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, June 1844–April 1846 [issued in six fascicles]).

6. ‘The Pencil Of Nature. By H. Fox Talbot, Esq., F.R.S.–Longman and Co.’, The Times, 6 September 1844; p. 7. Drury died 5 years later and his house was sold; the fate of his library, with its Pencil of Nature, is unknown.

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