Hotel de la Paix Genevè
Friday 18th October 1867
My dear Papa,
We were very glad to hear on our arrival here yesterday afternoon, from your letter to Mama <1> & also one which Henriette <2> received from Goodwin, <3> of your safe arrival at Lacock. Ela <4>wrote to you from Lausanne, and directed to Paris according to your wish, although we thought it more than probable that you would have left by that time. I hope the letter was forwarded, and by it you will have seen that all yours'[sic] from Vevay were safely received; also one from Charles <5> to me, imprudently directed to Berne so long after the date we had given him there, that, had we not been detained unexpectedly by the weather, it ran great risk of being lost. You were very unlucky in having such weather at Paris, but I hope your hotel was comfortable & satisfactory in all respects. We found a good many letters waiting for us here, and learnt several pieces of bad news. First, from Tilly, <6> the death of poor James Fergusson, <7> who has been ill so long. He will be an irreparable loss to them and to Speddoch, so useful and intelligent, and so devoted to his Masters, that I am sure I do not know how they will ever fill his place. Next we saw, in Galignani, <8> the death of Mrs Primrose <9> in Edinburgh. You know she was very ill indeed last year, and after spending the winter at Cannes, returned home very little benefitted; but the last news of her we had from Mrs Abbott<10> was that she had grown a little stronger. What a loss for poor Mr Primrose, <11> and her large family some of which are still so young! - The other piece of unpleasant news is not of so serious a nature, but yet has made us very uncomfortable as we do not know what to do in the matter. It is about our poor old Pussy in Edinburgh, whom you know, at Rosy's ernest [sic] request we confided to her when she married, knowing that Thomas was very fond of her also, & trusting they would keep her at least until we returned home. But Henriette has just heard of their sudden determination to leave Edinburgh & go to London, to seek employment for Thomas, who doesn't know what to do! The most foolish step in the world, - they will starve in London, and not know where to turn for help - and after all we had done for them, and given them, to set up their little household in Edinburgh, where they seemed so comfortable when we left, it is truly disappointing. But the worst is Rosy's conduct about Pussy. She very coolly says - "I don't know what to do with her, and must send her to Gray <12> in Gt Stuart Street until Mrs Talbot says what is to be done." Now she knows as well as we do that Gray can't bear cats, and when the poor thing cries and laments herself at being abandoned by all her friends, she will very likely turn her out of doors, and then forget to feed or take any notice of her - especially as she may now consider her as Rosy's property rather than ours. Rosy ought to have taken her along with them to London, and then sent her to Lacock, where she was sure to be very happy. Now we don't know what to do, and I am sure you will be as sorry as we are to hear of this treatment of our poor old travelling companion. Mama is going to write immediately to Gray to ask if she is still safe & recommend her to be kind. Rosy's letter, unluckily, had been waiting here long - It was dated the 27th September. We had one very fine day at Lausanne - Monday last - quite bright & warm as summer - Walked down to Ouchy; the Lake was magnificent - & then explored all the town, and admired greatly its picturesque situation, old walls, and Cathedral, with which I think Charles would have been as much pleased as I was. But this was all we could do, as next day it began again to rain hopelessly; and although we waited until yesterday for the chance of an favourable change, all we gained was a fair and very mild afternoon for the Journey. But everything looked grey & gloomy. Today pouring rain again, so we have determined especially as the appartments here are extremely dear; 50 francs a day, to continue our journey without delay, and leave tomorrow for Lyons. We shall spend Sunday at Lyons - Monday go all the way to Avignon - a long journey - spend Tuesday there, and then proceed to Marseilles & Cannes. Therefore please direct your next letter to the Grand Hotel Cannes: or post office if you prefer.
The Chambery route was considered unfit for bad weather. Mr Bellenden Ker <13>told us his Father <14> had been a great botanist. Can he be the one you mean? He himself is a florist. Bayer <15> has come for my letter, so goodbye; I daresay I have made heaps of blunders from being in a hurry. Should any letters come here after our departure they will be forwarded. Everybody sends their love.
Your affectionate daughter
1. Constance Talbot, née Mundy (1811-1880), WHFT's wife.
2. Henriette Sanit, French ladies maid.
3. George Goodwin (d. 1875), footman at Lacock Abbey.
4. Ela Theresa Talbot (1835-1893), WHFT's 1st daughter.
5. Charles Henry Talbot (1842-1916), antiquary & WHFT's only son.
6. Matilda Caroline Gilchrist-Clark, 'Tilly', née Talbot (1839-1927), WHFT's 3rd daughter.
7. James Fergusson, gardener at Speddoch, Dumfriesshire, 10 mi NW of Dumfries: home of WHFT's daughter Matilda from ca.1859 until his death in 1867.
8. Galignani's Messenger, a newspaper that had a wide circulation among English residents on the Continent.
9. Frederica Sophia Primrose, 5th daughter of Thomas, 1st Viscount Anson, married 1838. She died 11 October 1867, leaving six sons and 3 daughters.
10. Frances Jane, née Parker, wife of Francis Abbott, Secretary of General Post Office, Edinburgh.
11. Bouverie Francis Primrose (1813-1898), receiver-general of the post office in Scotland and secretary to boards of manufactures and fishery.
12. Elizabeth Gray, housekeeper at 13 Great Stuart Street, Edinburgh, frequent home of the Talbots from 1863-1871 until 1867.
13. Charles Henry Bellenden Ker ( ca.1785-1871), a fellow of the Royal Society, legal reformer and advocate of popular education, helping to establish the Department of Science and Art. He retired to Cannes.
14. John Bellenden Ker (1765-1842), first editor of the Botanical Register, from 1804 to 1823.
15. M J Bayer, courier.