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Document number: 9642
Date: Wed 18 May 1870
Postscript: 19 May
Recipient: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Author: TALBOT Rosamond Constance
Collection: British Library, London, Manuscripts - Fox Talbot Collection
Last updated: 17th February 2012

Wednesday 19th May
Hotel de Russie – Naples

(finished on the 19th)

My dear Papa,

I hope my letter to Charles made you comprehend that we had arrived at Naples, although the pencil with which I tried to inscribe that event was almost illegible. We got here on Thursday 12th and had quiet journey, with the usual stoppage of more than an hour on the frontier, for change of train, custom-house &c, which was all effected in pouring rain which had come on about an hour after we left Rome. This unluckily hid a great deal of the fine mountain scenery through which we passed but no doubt did a great amount of good to the crops. Only fancy the corn in many places being already in the ear! Such lovely woods of Acacia we came through, and forests of broom of all sorts and flowers innumerable, which one longed to be able to stop and gather – The funniest thing is that every thing blooms simultaneously, instead of, as with us, stretching over several months. Arbor Indea, Broom, Acacia, labernum, Gladialus in the fields, and in the gardens Wisteria, Paulonia, Banksia and every other sort of rose &c &c all at once. Since our arrival the weather has been splendid, for the first three days with a very fresh reviving breeze, but now I am afraid it is beginning to grow hot. We intended to go to Pompeia today but the air was too suffocating, so instead of a description of that expedition I will tell you what we have seen in the museum which is extremely interesting, and immensely increased of late years, as all that is discovered in the buried cities is immediately added to the collection. They are beautifully arranged and not at all crowded, a number of handsome large rooms having been recently fitted up some of which are not yet finished. Each class of objects if kept apart, so that you are not the least tired or bewildered: Sculptures; inscriptions, bronze statues, some most beautiful from Herculanum you may perhaps remember: implements & ornaments of bronze, and among other things complete sets of armour for man & horse, such as I thought had only been in use in the middle ages: and above all, three or four rooms full of mural paintings from Pompeia, many in a marvellous state of preservation. These are most interesting, as many of them are large pictures, some mythological subjects and others scenes of domestic life; of such beautiful drawing and colouring as entirely to confute the opinion of former days that the art of painting was still in its infancy whilst those of sculpture and architecture had attained the highest perfection. It must be a work of great delicacy and difficulty to remove these paintings from the walls where they are found to the museum, but it is most admirably performed; the spaces where the colour has peeled off or been destroyed being filled in with plaster to keep the parts together, and not a touch of restoration being allowed so that the work is seen precisely as it was left when buried, and in many cases so brillant that it seems to have been executed yesterday. A very beautiful mosaic has also been recovered, representing the battle of Issus between Alexander and Darius, at the moment when the former pierces with his lance the general of the latter. There is a wonderful spirit and movement in the attitudes of both men and horses, and the tints are as delicately shaded as anything which could be produced in the present day. We have only as yet seen the ground floor, and there are three stories of rooms and galleries equally vast – some human remains discovered at Pompeia last year we have got photographs of – the body of one person dug out entire, has fallen backwards spreading out his hands, evidently to defend himself from the overwhelming shower of ashes. The fingers and even the teeth are still perfect: only one foot has been broken off.

We took a beautiful drive one day by a new road just opened, which beginning at the top of the Strada di Toledo, passes below the Castel St Elmo, and winding round the rocky hill of charming villas and gardens, and commanding at each turn magnificent views of the Bay hills, and islands, comes down at last to the old road at the entrance of the grotto of Pausilippo – This is the new Corso Vittorio-Emanuele, and along it very good houses are springing up. The flat roofs of the houses, and the gardens full of vines and fig-trees, aloes and Indian-figs; the Palm trees and parasol pines, the deep blue sky above and the still bluer sea below, all combine to make a scene the most enchanting and thoroughly meridional. We often say how much we wish you were all here, although poor Mama could not endure the noises which go on all day in the street – the screams of the children, the bawling and quarelling [sic] of the women, and the cries of Vendors of all species of comestibles keep up a perfect babel both night and day; the very horses and donkeys are more noisy here than anywhere else, probably because they lead so hard a life, poor beasts. Our hotel is situated on the Strada Sta Lucia, with the quay merely between us and the sea, and in full view of Vesuvius (which Henriette calls Venus) with an almost imperceptible wreath of white vapour issuing from its crater. It is a very good situation, turned somewhat east, and therefore not nearly so hot as all the other hotels on the Riviera di Chiaja, which on the other side hand enjoy the advantage of being close to the shady promenade la Villa Nazionale, which you remember no doubt is a pretty garden skirting the shore at least half a mile at length. At the further end of the promenade are being erected the buildings for the Esposizione Marittima to be opened in September, and in expected to be fine thing. We are meditating an excursion to the Islands, where it is said to be cooler, so perhaps our next letter may be dated from Ischia, Procida or Capri – There are hotels every where now. The Lancasters with their Baby have been staying above a week at Capri, at the Albergo di Tiberio, where they write that they are very comfortable. The sky is quite overcast today and there is no air, so we hope for rain. The thermometer in our salon is now 78. Please tell Ela, if she is not already gone, that her letter was forwarded from Rome. I also received from her yesterday a packet of hair-nets, rather a perillous [sic] sort of commodity to send in a letter, for the envelope was completely burst and the contents well nigh lost; and the Roman post pleased itself by putting on a very heavy postage as the original stamp had been torn away. I also received Ibbley’s letter, and Mamie one from Tilly; and for all these as well as the newspapers which have been forwarded, the Roman post office has charged extra postage – the only place where such a thing is done in Italy – I suppose to help defray the expenses of the Council. By the way, did you ever read anything more twaddling and worse written than all the letters of the Times’ correspondent in Rome lately? I wonder they can employ such a man and if you remark, he never sees anything worth seeing himself, and either arrives too late, or only hears that such and such a thing has taken place when it is over; or else describes at great length things that are scarcely worth describing at all.

You ask whether the hot-water pipes in Tiberius’ house are in Iron or Bronze? really it is difficult to say as they are grown so dull with incrustations of earth, but in colour they look more like the former. They are fixed to the wall with rivets just like ours, in three tiers, one above the other; and the name Julius, is regularly printed upon them as that of any modern work man’s would be. It is really humiliating to see that they knew everything just as well as we do. For instance in one of the paintings of Pompeia I remarked a collection of white transparent glass vessels upon a table. But to answer Ela’s other question. Our Bishop, according to another authority I hope f more correct than the first, was the Bishop of Liverpool. I am very glad you have so good a clergyman now at Lacock during the Vicar’s absence, and that Mama’s kind thought of lending some furniture has made them all so happy. We were very sorry indeed to hear of the death of poor Agnes Shakespear, <1> which we had missed seeing in the papers. It is a sad return for her parents.

And now, dear Papa, goodbye, as I am sure you have enough of this illegible scribble with very bad pen & worse ink. Mamie sends her best love to you and dear Mama, & so do I, & to Charles if he is the only other member of the family at home. I hope he got my letter which was posted on Thursday night, but they only go at 8 in the morning.

Your affectionate daughter

Do you remember the curious tomb of a Baker outside the Porta Maggiore at Rome, built in the form of an oven, and surrounded by a sculptured of frieze representing the whole process of bread-making?

We have not yet begun upon our new letter of credit, but shall have to do so in a very few days, the old one having come to an end just before we left Rome.

I wrote to Tilly on Saturday 14th.


1. A relative of Mary Ann Thackeray, née Shakespear (1793-1850); WHFT's cousin.

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