Castle Combe Septr 14. 1855
I know not what your address maybe just now, so direct to Lacock, whence this may be forwarded I hope – I am bound to thank you most warmly, as I do, for your kindness to me previously as well as for your liberality to all the flock of soi-disant Archæologists, (but, for the most part, felicity – hunters of the usual stamp) who followed me on Wednesday last through all the labyrinthine apartments of your interesting Abbey.<1> I Earnestly trust and believe that there was no single instance of abuse of your generous confidence. And you will therefore have the satisfaction of having conferred great pleasure on several hundred of your Wiltshire neighbours at no sacrifice to yourself. The day was made on purpose – Your house and grounds appeared to perfection under a bright sun at mid-day in this charming season.<2> And the admiration excited by its antique & venerable charms, as well as by the taste with which you have made it look so comfortable a residence, was unbounded. We went on to Bowood, which was another intense treat to our folk. And Lord Lansdowne <3> owned he never saw his own place to much advantage as when the slopes & terraces were sprinkled with a crowd of well-dressed & well-behaved visitors in a state of Enthusiastic admiration & enjoyment. He gave a splendid entertainment to near 400 in a tent on the lawn – and it will be a day remembered by all with a white mark.
I had near half of them here yesterday. The day was not so favourable. But we continued to please them, and the meeting terminated as well as it had gone from the beginning. I dug up 5 or 6 ancient Britons from my long Barrow, which as a Cromlech at one end for the Entertainment of the real Antiquarians.
Believe me ever, Dear Talbot,
Yours very faithfully
G Poulett Scrope
I inclose you our Programme of Proceeding, to shew you how we visited you. Excuse its soiled state. <4>
H. Fox Talbot Esqr
Bridge of Allan
to be forwarded
1. Soi-disant = self-styled. The occasion was the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Wiltshire Archæological and Natural History Society. The Wiltshire Magazine reported on their field trip to Lacock Abbey: "The peculiarity of this house consists in its being, in some respects, unaltered since the days when it was occupied by a convent of nuns ... Mr. Fox Talbot and his family were absent from home; but a general order had been left for unlimited range over the apartments and pleasure grounds; and domestics were everywhere in attendance, who, with an unwearied civility, continued for some hours to point out to the numerous visitors, every thing that was worth seeing ... they had however, another, and a most agreeable cicerone in Mr. H. Mereweather, whose residence being close to Lacock, enabled him to undertake the office of interpreter, with a more familiar knowledge of the subject than others could be expected to possess...." v. 3 no. 7, September 1855, p. 8. Henry Alworth Merewether, jnr (1813-1877), was a JP, author and Recorder for Devizes.
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a salt print (46.1.53) of a very sunny view of the Cloisters of Lacock Abbey dated 12 September 1855, the Wednesday that the group visited. It was ascribed to Charles Henry Talbot by Ernst Weil when he offered it for sale in 1946. However, it is clear from the content of the present letter that CHT was not at Lacock that day, so for now, the photographer is a mystery.
3. Lord Henry Petty Fitzmaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne (1780- 31 Jan 1863), MP & noted statesman; WHFT's uncle.
4. Not located.