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Document number: 9477
Date: Sat 23 Jan 1869
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: TALBOT Rosamond Constance
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Last updated: 17th February 2012

Janry 23.(Saturday)

My dear Papa,

It is such an enormous time since any of us have heard from you that we should be growing quite uneasy, were it not for a letter Henriette <1> received from Goodwin <2> yesterday, in which he says you are quite well and returned safely to Lacock; & where you found the weather very damp and very chilly. Tilly <3> was very happy to have you at Dabton <4> for Christmas and would have liked to have kept you longer instead of letting you go back to solitude. I hope you do not mean to remain very long at Lacock but will be soon thinking of coming out to see us; and please to let us know at short time before you start as we always have some small commission for Goodwin to do. It will be no use unnecessary to bring out Ruskin’s Stones of Venice, even if you have bought the book, for we have two copies here already – one belonging to the library, an inferior American edition, and the other belonging to the English Consul, Mr Perry, which he has promised to lend us as soon as the person who now has it has returned it to him. At any rate I should have been very sorry that you should encumber yourself with so heavy a book among your luggage. You heard of Charles’s <5> rainy journey which sadly spoiled his sightseeing, although he still contrived to do a great deal. Luckily he arrived here just as we had reached the end of a period of thick fogs, which were very dismal. Since the beginning of January these have entirely ceased, and been succeeded by bright sunny weather but very cold, and each day grows colder and colder. Yesterday we actually had a snow-storm, and this morning at 8 o’clock, the thermometer, at our window, was as low as 26. Ice is reported in some of the small canals, and over the shallow lagune between this and Mestre, so that the boats break it to get along. Here, from our windows, however we have seen nothing of the sort, and I suppose this cold will not last long. Charles goes out regularly exploring twice a day, and has discovered many curious bits of architecture which we had not yet seen; but one cannot stand very long in contemplation with a red nose and frozen fingers & toes! Very different was the state of things when you were here, was it not? Mama <6>keeps pretty well, notwithstanding the frost, I am glad to say; but then she wisely keeps indoors, as she is unable to take sufficient exercise to warm herself when out. This wintry weather does not, however, cool the people’s ardour for Carnaval [sic] amusement. Almost every evening now some masks are to be seen in the streets, and they are beginning a great erection in the middle of the Piazza, a temporary ball-room, where three great balls are to be given on the three last days of the Carnaval. There is also to be a procession of cars or chariots; whether drawn by horses, real live animals, we cannot make out; – and to facilitate the passage of these along the quays, temporary flat wooden bridges are in course of construction over the small canals. This is also a race of Gondolas, relic of the famous regata [sic] of old Venice, along the grand canal on one of the days, and this we shall see famously from our windows. When all the fun is over, and if the weather is sufficiently warm about the middle of February, I suppose we shall be thinking of taking our departure for Florence. But of course until it grows really much warmer. we shall not think of moving. I had an interesting long letter from Mr Abbott <7>last week. They remained six weeks at Florence and are now gone to Rome; and wherever he goes he enjoys himself thoroughly and sees more than, I daresay, many people manage to do in double the time. The Arbuthnots, whom you must have already heard are spending the winter here, have just taken a Palazzo on the other side of the island where the Salute is sit built. That is to say their house looks over the Giudecca canal facing the south, and before them they have the broad open waters, with a distant view of the mountains of Padua. Sir Robert’s eldest son, who is in India, has just sent home his wife with her three little children. They were expected to arrive here this morning, and are to spend some months with her father and mother in law – So they will be quite a family party in their Palazzo.

I have discovered an excellent drawing master and have already taken more than a dozen lessons of him, which I expect will push me on a great deal; for he paints equally well in oil & water colours, and draws beautifully.

The English Consul was looking out for the probable arrival of the Prince & Princess of Wales, but it seems they are to embark at Trieste instead of coming here, and go direct to Alexandria without touching at Athens.

Goodbye, dear Papa; write to us soon – Everybody sends their love. Your affectate daughter

Finished on Sunday 24th
Last night’s post only came in this morning, owing, it is said, to snow on Mt Cenis.

H. F. Talbot Esqre
Lacock Abbey


1. Henriette Sanit, French ladies maid.

2. George Goodwin (d. 1875), footman at Lacock Abbey.

3. Matilda Caroline Gilchrist-Clark, ‘Tilly’, née Talbot (1839–1927), WHFT’s 3rd daughter.

4. Dabton, Dumfriesshire: home of WHFT’s daughter Matilda.

5. Charles Henry Talbot (1842–1916), antiquary & WHFT’s only son.

6. Constance Talbot, née Mundy (1811–1880), WHFT’s wife.

7. Francis Abbott, Secretary of General Post Office, Edinburgh.

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