Ashmolean Museum Oxford. <1>
December 5. 1854.
My dear Sir,
I see nothing in the points you ask me about <2> which I could not assent in the witness-box; <3> Excepting perhaps as regards Mr Fry’s <4> peculiar opposition – I dare say he has been especially your enemy, & probably I may find out good reason for asserting this before the trial comes on, but at present I really know personally so few of the men who take an active part in this affair, that I cannot even say that I know Mr Fry by sight. I very much wish I could be at the Photc Society’s <5> meeting tomorrow – I would, I am sure, bring the majority if not to reason & my view –
I wou at any rate to inactivity. On the former occasion Out of a very large meeting, I think on the show of hands there were not 12 held up either for or against the propositions made on that occasion, though the noise of the meeting had certainly been with your antagonists.
I suspect it is but a very few, & those, individuals who are connected with the management of the Society, who take active part in the attack. I believe they cannot legally use the funds of the Society, at any rate we will look to this point. Percy <6> & I believe Wheatstone <7> intended to take off their names, as I should do if any attempt of this kind had been or shall be made.
It has been a wretched day here, but my Assistant <8> took a couple of pictures of the opposite side of the street sufficiently well to shew that he will succeed perfectly in a better light.
Would you kindly let me know what is the latest day to which my presence in London can be deferred without inconvenience? I am extremely occupied & would willingly gain a day more if I could.
Believe me, my dear Sir Yours very truly
1. Story-Maskelyne lectured on mineralogy and chemistry at the University of Oxford, and had a laboratory in the lower part of the museum building.
3. Story-Maskelyne had agreed to be a witness in the law-suit that Talbot was bringing against a professional portrait-photographer who he claimed was infringing his photographic patents.
4. Peter Wickens Fry, an opponent of Talbot. He was a founder of the Photographic Club [which became the Photographic Society], and a lawyer, whose firm, Fry & Loxley, acted for the defendant, Laroche, in Talbot’s lawsuit against him. [See H. J. P. Arnold, William Henry Fox Talbot: Pioneer of Photography and Man of Science (London: Hutchinson Benham, 1977), p. 200.]
5. This had begun in 1847 as the Photographic Club. It subsequently became the Royal Photographic Society. It spearheaded the attack on Talbot’s patent rights in the lawsuits he brought against James Henderson, photographer, London in the summer of 1854 and Martin Laroche later in the same year. Story-Maskelyne was one of the supporters of Talbot on the otherwise hostile council of the Society.
7. Sir Charles Wheatstone (1802–1875), scientist.