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Document number: 2416
Date: 13 Sep 1832
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: RIGAUD Stephen Peter
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Collection number historic: LA32-42
Last updated: 26th January 2013

Observatory Oxford
Sept. 13. 1832


I am drawing up [illegible deletion] a distinct statement of the contents of Harriots astronomical papers, and it is painful to me to find that I must contradict almost every particular, that the Baron de Zach <1> has printed about them. It is not my fault that this has not been done sooner. I was particularly anxious to get it out in time, for him to controvert any part of my statement, which he might conceive I see, however, that he to be open to objection. I hear, however, that he is dead and as this makes me doubly careful not to overstate or mistake any thing, I trust that you will forgive me, when, from such a motive, I take the liberty of troubling you. I see from the “Correspondance Astronomique” <2> that you have interested yourself in this question and had communicated with him upon it. I am sure that truth was your object & I can assure you that it is mine. You will, therefore, bear with me, if I cannot admit all your positions, especially if I prove that the letter, which you refer to, was never written by any such person as Henry Earl of Northumberland. <3> On this subject, however, I should not have taken the liberty of writing to you, but it is to request you to look over the inclosed paper <4> and to tell me if, from your intercourse with the late Baron, you find any thing in it, which is deficient or in need of correction There is one point, to which I would more particularly call your attention. I am convinced that the selection, which was sent to Oxford in 1794, had been made by Zach; but in reviewing the evidence it does not appear so clear to me, as it did at first, that the papers were immediately sent by him to the University. I have several inquiries on foot to ascertain this point if I can, and if you happen to have any information, which you can give me upon it, I shall be much obliged to you. I own I do not feel indifferent to the obloquy; [sic] which has been brought upon us, but I can repel the attack & I will do it with as little asperity as I can towards him, who gave occasion for it. I remain

Sir Your humble servant
S. P. Rigaud.

P.S. In the beginning of the paper I have made a mistake with respect to Lord Egremont’s <5> pedigree. He was descended from a daughter <6> not of Henry Earl of Northumberland from from [sic] a daughter but of his grandson Joceline. This, however, in no way affects the argument.

W. H. Fox Talbott [sic] Esqre
&c &c &c

W. H. Fox Talbott [sic] Esqre F.R.A.S. <7>
31 Sackville street
Lacock Abbey <8>


1. Franz Xaver, Baron von Zach (1754–1832), Hungarian astronomer.

2. Correspondance astronomique, géographique, hydrographique et statistique du Baron de Zach (Genoa: 1818–1826).

3. Probably Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland (d. 1408).

4. Probably George O’Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751–1837), famous patron of art.

5. Harriot’s Papers, ‘Reprint of a Lettter to the Editors of the Journal of the Royal Institution’, vol. 11, p. 267, (Oxford, 1 September 1831).

6. Possibly Lady Elizabeth Percy daughter of Joceline Percy, 11th Earl of Northumberland (1644–1670).

7. Address panel written in another hand.

8. Readdressed in another hand.

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