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Document number: 432
Date: Wed 03 Nov 1869
Dating: see Doc no 09588
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: TALBOT Rosamond Constance
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Last updated: 14th March 2012

Florence –
Wednesday Nov 3d

My dear Papa,

I received your kind letter on Sunday evening; but don’t think us ungrateful for your thoughtful care of us if I say, that as you seem to feel so strongly on the subject of a courier it is a pity you did not write it a few weeks sooner. We ourselves had become though so thoroughly convinced that a courier is nothing but a useless and very expensive appendage, at least as long as we remain in Italy, that we had given up the idea of taking any. Vittoria’s <1> husband had, some little while ago, found been offered a longer engagement, and, as it had been agreed between us that he should do under such circumstances, he closed with it and is now gone off with his family. But as Pagnini’s <2> himself and every body’s else’s [illegible deletion] opinion agreed with our’s, that having already such a competent Courier in the person of Vittoria herself, we couldn’t possibly require any other, we took no steps to fill his place. Vittoria is really most capital in travelling, of which she has had great experience: she is bustling and active, looking after the luggage &c better than many men, and indeed it is the thing she is fitted for, as she is in other respects (though a very excellent woman) not a good maid. We were there when I received your letter all packed up, & at the very moment of starting the following morning, weather fine and every thing propitious however, not liking to go against your strongly expressed desire, we immediately summoned Pagnini, laid the case before him, and asked him to procure us a Courier. He said he knew several he could strongly recommend – The first summoned was engaged: the second had too high pretensions, and we had to argue and bring him to reason; all this has taken time, but I believe now we are about settled with this second man, whose perfect honesty Pagnini vouches for, besides which we shall of course keep a strict eye upon him till we know him well. We have got Pagnini to draw up an engagement between us (the usual course) by which we agree to keep him for two months, – as he would not come for less – at 200 francs a month – but at the end of the 1st month if we do not like him and wish to discharge him, we can do so by paying 250 francs, and his journey back from Rome to Florence besides. This is the best arrangement we could make, but you see it will sadly increase our expenses, which we had hitherto managed with great care to keep so well within the estimated £40 a month; for not only the wages of the man, but the hotel charges become all heavier in consequence of the addition of a Courier, who insists upon being fed &c by the hotel keepers, for nothing. And once arrived at Rome I am sure I don’t know in what possible way we can employ the poor man! We shall settle ourselves in a quiet hotel, (to be taken en pension as hitherto will now be out of the question I fear, ) and resume our usual regular life, going daily weather and health permitting, to the Vatican &c or elsewhere in a cab, & back dto. The days are too short and too cold for country expeditions. I hope you will not be wearied by my long explanations, but I wanted to prove to you that Aunt Caroline <3> could really not judge well of our requirements: had we only had a little English maid, or even Henriette who does not speak the language, the case would have been very different; but with a woman of the country, and especially one so active, willing, & used to do the Courier we were perfectly well provided for & comfortable. Our bad weather came to an end last Friday: since that it has been as gloriously bright as ever; very cold in the nights with slight frosts which have made all the flowers in the Cascine droop, and the sun very warm in the day.

This afternoon the sky is clouding over a little, but I hope it does not foretell a change of weather to cause us another delay in our departure, for the longer a thing is put off the more uncertain it’s execution becomes. I fear you must have been very cold indeed by what we read in Paris and everywhere. I hope Mama <4> has not suffered from it. We were delighted to receive such extremely good reports of her health both from Aunt Caroline & Ernestine. <5> We took a walk in the Zoological gardens the other day. They have a good many curious animals, and Ela <6> would have been delighted with the birds, especially a quantity of little blue Bengalles, yellow, green & all colours for sale, from six to eight francs a pair. What a pity if Tilly <7> is prevented coming to you after all! but it would not do for the children to run the risk of catching the whooping cough at this bad season, and next spring, in finer weather I daresay they would all enjoy their visit much more. We were very sorry to hear of Mrs Nicholl’s <8> illness, which no doubt must cause much anxiety to her family as she is always so delicate. 4 P.M. We have just returned from a beautiful drive by the new road, called Stradone Machiavelli, outside the Porta Romana, from which the view all over Florence & the environs is magnificent. The road zigzags up the hill and in [illegible deletion] expands in several places into wider terraces full of flower beds and benches. I don’t know why we never went there with you. We have made a very agreable acquaintance in Mrs Fanny Kemble, <9> and frequently spend the evening with her in her room. Her stories would interest you much, about Rogers, Sidney Smith, Theodore Hook &c &c &c . She seems to have known everybody & has a wonderful memory. She has pronounced to come & see us some day at Lacock.

Goodbye now, dear Papa, please give you love to everybody. Tell Ela I will write to her next and I hope from Sienna. We found it extremely mild out today, but it looks rather like rain for tomorrow.

Your affectionate daughter

I hope you do not mind an untidy letter, but I have been so often interrupted & disturbed, & have such a shocking pen! Mamie <10> says she means to write you soon a tremendously political letter!


1. See Doc. No: 09588, which dates this document to 1869.

2. Hotel owner. [See Doc. No: 09630, and Doc. No: 06748].

3. Caroline Augusta Edgcumbe, née Feilding, Lady Mt Edgcumbe (1808–1881); WHFT’s half-sister.

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

5. Ernestine Emma Horatia Edgcumbe (1843-1925), WHFT’s niece.

6. Ela Theresa Talbot (1835–1893), WHFT’s 1st daughter.

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

8. Jane Harriot Nicholl, née Talbot (1796–1874).

9. Fanny Kemble (1809–1893), popular actress, daughter of Charles Kemple, actor-manager of the Covent Garden Theatre.

10. Amélina Petit De Billier, ‘Mamie’, ‘Amandier’ (1798–1876), governess and later close friend of the Talbot family [See Amélina's journal].

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